I totally did not expect to be this excited about the Olympics. I was with everyone else in my new country, whining about what it was going to do to my travel plans and getting to and from our friends’ flats. I was with everyone else in my new country thinking something (if not many, many things) were going to go horribly wrong. And while I don’t want to speak too soon: it seems like things are going swimmingly so far. (HA. SWIMMINGLY. I swear I wrote that before realizing it was a pun.)

We started our Olympic journey at a pub on Friday night to watch the opening ceremony. While probably one of the most fun nights we’ve had in London so far, it was also sort of a strange atmosphere to watch what ended up being an extremely cerebral event. We had lots of pints and trouser-dropping and a drinking game happening, while we were being read William Blake poetry by the country’s premiere Shakespearean actor. Cool, Americans! What was strange was how excited we all were—8 of us together—compared to the rest of the Brits in the room. No one clapped. No one cheered. No one made a peep when Team GB came into the arena. We had to cheer for everyone. After all of the crazy patriotism we saw here leading up to and during the Jubilee, I really just didn’t know what to make of that. We stayed for the entire ceremony and the pub didn’t even kick us out and kept serving us. I was shocked.

I should have asked them to mark it: “Reserved: For the loud Americans. You probably don’t want to sit anywhere near this table.”

Still early.

Before Chris spilled a full beer on Katie trying to get to some pickled onions.

Megan tries on Matt’s USA glasses. They are determined to improve vision.

Things are getting more serious. Thanks to our drinking game, we’ve all already stood up and said “God Save the Queen” five or six times, much to the chagrin of our fellow patrons. But I actually think we all really love her maybe more than they do. In typical English fashion, though, no one said a word to us. They all just went home seething, I’m sure, and we have informed another ten years’ worth of of stereotypes, at least.


My man, Kenneth Brannagh.

Jimmy’s USA “pants” which were the biggest hit of the evening.

American ladies in London.

Nice, normal, American lads in London.

Oh, wait.

Matt showing off his amazing knee socks.

Brother and sister.

Guys. We found our people.

It was really hard to understand the significance of so many of the elements of the show in the loud pub. Without hearing the explanations of some of it, we were—frankly—a little confused. I was guessing at the literary references because I only caught half of them, and was so excited when I saw J.K. Rowling pop up that I didn’t even hear that she was reading J.M. Barrie. So the next morning, in our hungover state, Chris and I watched the whole thing again on the BBC website from the couch. So my official ruling after this, is that it was totally awesome. I cried, like, 30 times, because I am pretty sure I live in the coolest city on the planet, in one of the most amazingly historically-rich countries. For a person who is as obsessed with history and literature as I am—I kind of felt like that ceremony was made for me. Voldemort! Anyway. Some “Moments in Buffering” for your enjoyment:

A little interjection: I am loving this P&G campaign with the parents, and can’t get enough of all of the ads with the word “mum” in them. I am so happy it’s happening here in the UK, too, because I saw it sort of launch when we were home in May in the US and I thought it was just absolute genius. Moms love things like dishwasher detergent and hand soap! EXCELLENT brand work, P&G.

So last night we went to our first Olympic event! Team GB vs. Brazil women’s football at Wembley, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waved a flag in my life, of any nation, but I am shocked how quickly I got really into it. Chris picked up a pack of little plastic Union Jacks for £1 yesterday, and I was so pleased. I was downright CHUFFED, as they say here, that he was getting so into it. (Best word for “happy” ever.) So we waved them around and had a great night with our real English friends Colin and Rox, and we WON!

Chris outside Wembley before going in!

All those empty seats. Tsk, tsk, London 2012.

Filling in those obviously empty seats.

Team GB wins!

It feels kind of awesome to be able to genuinely root for two different countries in this thing. There are just so many amazing athletes between the two. Phelps! Lochte! Wiggins! Wieber! Armitstead! The horses!

Speaking of: Chris and I watched an equestrian event on TV the other day and we thought they were just like, being announced and walking around, but it was an actual event. I still don’t understand what happened.

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Some Thoughts on England.

It goes from pouring rain to super sunny so quickly, that it pretty much always feels like you’re at a water park. Sun so bright you’re squinting, while walking through puddles everywhere.

If I still tweeted, this would have made much more sense there.

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

This post title brought to you by the late Chumbawumba. Did you guys all seriously know they were a band until two days ago, still? And they apparently broke up? And now the internetz is going crazy over it.

So, wow, I pretty much let almost an entire month go by without writing here, which is real bad news, but to be fair, the following things have been happening:

1) I have been watching The Bachelorette.

2) I have been reading Game of Thrones.

3) I have been planning trips to Lake Como and Milan (next weekend), Paris (in August, to celebrate ten years of annoying the crap out of each other), Munich in October (yes, exactly what you’re thinking), and Greece in September.

4) We actually kind of have friends now and we’ve been going out a lot. Weird!

5) The weather has been absolute shit. Again. I woke up this morning and there was sun shining into the living room and I felt shock.

6) We’ve been putting together new IKEA furniture.

So what this all means is that A) I have lots of photos to upload and will do so shortly, and B) I think we can finally do a whole house tour!

One last really important thing, is that we finally had all of our shoes delivered to us, which was great. Not that I generally have much use for gold Michael Kors heels, but it’s nice to know they’re there if I want them. But it was also really fun because it was like opening presents! Aside from some knitting, and the shoes, we didn’t expect anything else. So when four boxes showed up, I was sort of worried. But it turns out they were almost entirely packed with things we had meant to arrive here, and didn’t realize were missing. (Which I’d guessed was going to happen, because there was pretty much ZERO way they could have screwed anything up because our house was organized so perfectly for the movers.) So we got our “pretty” laundry basket, for one. Some little mini golf set of Chris’s.  And, possibly the biggest thing that was screwing with my head without me even realizing it: three dish towels. I cannot tell you how baffled I have been about how quickly we’ve been running through dish towels. And I could not figure out why. Turns out it’s cause we only had half of them, and we have been so unsettled I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE THAT. I know what you’re all thinking right now, and no, I am not ashamed that I felt off-kilter because I was missing dish towels, or that I am publicly explaining it.

I swear things have been more exciting and fun than this makes it sound.

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Epic, England-y Weekend

This weekend was the most England-y we’d had in awhile. Meaning, we woke up on Saturday morning and set out for “adventure.” And yes, we completely un-sarcastically use that word in our house.


We took the train out to Kent on Saturday to visit Hever Castle, which is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It’s also home to what I consider some of the most beautiful gardens ever, and is the very first thing I ever did in England, when I visited in the yeeeaarrrrr 2000, so I have some very fond memories. I don’t actually have very “vivid” memories of much in my life (it’s why I take so many pictures), but the images of the intricately carved staircase, the grotto in the Italian Gardens, and somber Jacobean walls, I’ve been able to recall easily and clearly since first seeing them on that trip. I was excited to take Chris.

Chess set of shrubbery. There are no opponents, which doesn’t seem fair or realistic.

Everybody’s getting a piece of the Jubilee pie.

That’s me in my new quilted navy vest from Primark that I bought so I could fit in in this country. I think it’s working.

The website offers two options for getting to the castle from two different train stations. The first option is to alight at a stop three miles away from the castle, and take a taxi. They urge you to book the taxi in advance. The second option is to alight at a stop one mile away from the castle, and walk. Obviously, we thought: “Of course we’ll walk! Why wouldn’t we walk? It’s a mile! N.B.D.” Oh, B.D. BIG. DEAL. It was way farther than we’d anticipated, and we’re pretty sure the “one mile” was in reference to using this completely overgrown, certifiably Lyme Disease-ridden footpath that we did not take, opting instead for the tiniest, thinnest of country roads that the seven cars in total we saw drove way too fast on.

But, we did see this out in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty much the most ridiculous and awesome thing I’ve encountered since moving here:

And we saw some animals:

And some unidentifiable plants:

And a church:

And we thought this was funny at the train station (To France!):

At the castle, we wandered around the house and down through the grounds, and SADLY, the most beautiful part of the gardens (and my favorite) was closed for a wedding. I’m not sure if I was more upset about the fact that we couldn’t get over to the grottoed terrace overlooking the lake at the far end, orrrrrrr if I was just in a blind red rage of jealousy that someone was getting married there. Guess we’ll never know.

The Loggia. Sorta. Chris thought we should try to get our money back because it was closed.

The Italian Gardens at Hever.

Is this a classic Russ Huss move, or what? Chris made me stand still to take the photo, and then brought the camera over to me, giggling.

This guy wanted to be friends with me. I did not want to be friends with him. I didn’t even have any food so I can’t imagine what he thought was in it for him.

We hopped on the train back into London (or, hopped on three transfers’ worth of trains, rather) and made a dinner reservation at a local Italian place on our way. We killed a half an hour at one of our local pubs, The Old Parr’s Head, and then headed across the street to the beautiful Pentolina, where we’d been meaning to go since we stumbled upon it on one of our first discover-our-neighbo(u)rhood walks. We took a chance on this place as we actually rarely have Italian food outside of our home these days, because not as many places as we’d like actually have gluten-free options. Amazingly, we were totally rewarded for our risk. This place seems to be owned by legit Italians, which means they actually know about Celiac and—had gluten-free pasta for Chris! It was a great meal, which we followed with the most devilishly thick panna cotta I’ve ever had. And yes, you’ll note, that I’m something of a connoisseur.

One of the most genius things in all of England: Half pints! Perfect for when you have just a few minutes to sit.

Chris with his half pint of cider at the Old Parr’s Head.

Then we tried to go home and watch Sherlock Holmes, but it didn’t download fast enough and instead we fell asleep on the couch waiting for it some time in the realm of 10 PM. Oops.


But, alas! Sunday was equally adventurous! We met up with our new friends Amy and Jimmy for lunch in Chiswick at Kitchen and Pantry before hopping on the tube out to Kew Gardens, the royal botanic gardens.

So, look… it was totally beautiful and impressive. The massive white, Victorian greenhouses were stunning. But… I wanted some gosh darn flowers. We walked the massive grounds for two hours, aiming our direction at the “Bluebells,” the “Rhododendron Dell,” the “Azalea Garden,” on the map, only to be sorely disappointed. For a country that exists in perma-spring, you’d think there would have been more COLOR.

Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these chairs.

Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these walls.

The pagoda at Kew.

Beautiful greenhouses.

The lion of England.

Chris and Jimmy on the terrifying, swaying, Tree Tops walkway.

Finally, at the end, we found a really beautiful flower garden that sorta satisfied what we were hungry for. So, yes, it was totally amazing, and of course, what the real takeaway here is, is that I am so desperate for something that is not GRAY, I’m going to complain about one of the most renowned outdoor spaces in the world!

Finally: Flowers!

I should note that throughout these two days, Chris is grumpy and mildly cranky and extremely worn down and getting sick. But he actually did not complain very much despite that, so: Good job, Chris.

Chris trying to climb a tree that I say he can’t reach, while two small girls watch, in two parts.

“I always wanted to know what it was like to have a little brother, so I got married.”—Melody “Genius” Jabergson

Last night we went to the OXO Tower Restaurant with friends visiting from NY (former Londoners) and: the view is everything it’s cracked up to be. St. Paul’s lit up at night is really something to see from that angle. It cements the sentiment in the city immediately following the Blitz; That St. Paul’s had to be rebuilt, and quickly, as it was a symbol of the heart of London. With other tall landmarks dotted around the city, and St. Paul’s only really being visible from certain parts of it, it’s easy for it to fall into the shadows. While it sometimes feels like you can see The Shard, the Swiss Re Tower and the Eye from everywhere in London, when you get up to St. Paul’s in the evening and see its dome so brightly lit from below, it reminds you who the real owner of the skyline is. And, the food was good! Scallops with lemon curd, and the most beautifully-cooked tiny yellow tomatoes I’ve ever had. And some kind of marshmallow thing that tasted as though it had been sprinkled with Pixie Stix.

The End.

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Imagine a life where grocery shopping was really exciting. Where it was not one of the most—if not the most—mundane, thoughtless thing you did all week. That is my life. Going to buy the things I will eat for the next few days is truly one of my favorite things to do here.

The first thing to understand is the very European idea of shopping for only what you need that day and maybe tomorrow. It changes how you approach your meals entirely; Changing how often you buy ingredients, what ingredients you buy, and therefore: what you’re actually cooking. There are not scary preservatives in everything that will keep it good for the next three weeks—so we have to be careful not to over-purchase, lest we throw money out the window. I bought “sieved” tomatoes for the first time yesterday (the equivalent of crushed tomatoes, I…think?), which typically would have been such a staple in our household we would have had five cans of San Marzano at any given moment. I finally spent enough time reading all of the labels in the tomato section to find what I needed. Now I can make Angie’s sauce, properly, cause it was gettin’ dicey there for a bit. (Get it?! DICEY?!) (Oy.)

What’s great about England and the anti-preservative lifestyle is that the resulting high-quality produce is just unbelievable. Pears, apples, plums, tomatoes, lettuce—all far superior to what you would have available in a grocery store chain in the states. (Not superior to Medeiros Farm, to be sure, but, better than your average supermarket.) I used to like cauliflower, but now, I’m roasting one at least once a week. It’s like candy!

Buuuuuuut all of that is not nearly as amusing as what I took pictures of yesterday during my shop with the intent of sharing here. For putting up with that boring VEGETABLES-ARE-DELICIOUS set of paragraphs, your reward is now a photo set of the ridiculous, quirky, zany, delightfully-English things I see during these trips:

That is exactly one brand of pretzels. And ironically, they are called “Pennsylvania” brand. Apparently Pennsylvania is known in England for… having… pretzels? And there are only those two kinds. Plain, and some chive flavor to the right. That’s all. I’ve seen the awesome(-ly fattening) Snyder’s pretzels in some bodegas around, but no big bags in the stores. COME ON. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE EAT WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK IF NOT HONEY MUSTARD SNYDER PRETZELS? Ahem. But you’ll notice that everything else around is pretty much as you’d expect. Doritos, Pringles, et al. Oh, except for maybe the “prawn crackers” down in the bottom right there.

Ah, “sultanas”. Golden raisins, I believe you mean. And to the right? “Californian” raisins. These poor people missed out on one of the most genius claymation ad campaigns of all time. I heard it through the grapevine…

See those? Those are eggs. Just out on a shelf. Like nooooobody told ’em there was a refrigerator a coupla aisles down that they had an appointment with. I don’t care: we come home and put them in the fridge immediately. I just can’t leave them out. It does make you think about the ridiculous things you do as a culture that other cultures just don’t do and are completely healthy, though. But that doesn’t mean I’m just going to give up these senseless American habits.

All. Kinds. of. Baked. Beans. Need I say more? One choice of pretzels, but half an aisle’s worth of Heinz baked friggin’ beans. I’m interested to try the “curry” flavor. And if you look carefully up at the top, you’ll see the enormous family-size containers.

Ah, my favorite image from the trip.

Grocery Shopping!

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Norwegian Wood

No, seriously, we saw a lot of wooden stuff. Ships, churches, all kinds of houses!

I’m not going to pretend I had some real desire to travel to Norway before I spotted the £13.99 RyanAir flights (roughly the equivalent of $21), but I’m so glad we went. We just focused on Oslo this time around, which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to spend there. We’ll absolutely go back to visit Bergen and the west coast, and see more of the dramatic fjords on that side of the country, and perhaps even get to Svalbard. I only read the first book of the His Dark Materials series, but if there are seriously polar bears that talk: I’m in.

Our first day consisted of baked goods at a gluten-free bakery called Bakefri around the corner from our hotel, which was Chris’s dream come true. They had real, serious bakery items—not your run-of-the-mill sub-par cupcakes that most places try to play up as a gluten-free selection. He ate some kind of lobster tail thing. I don’t know what it was called, because it was in Norwegian. But he was seriously happy.

Afterwards we walked over to see some museums (obviously). First was the National Gallery where we saw Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and then the Museum of Cultural History where we saw some amazing medieval pieces, including a ceiling from a stave church depicting about 12,000 Bible scenes.

THEN, we had McDonald’s. And I’m not ashamed to say it, because after three years of suffering from Celiac, Chris deserved a gosh-darn Big Mac.

And enjoy it, he did.

Afterward, we walked along the wall of Akershus Castle before heading back to the hotel and getting ready for dinner.

We ate that night at Le Benjamin, which had some “glums and glows” (if I may steal a phrase from my favorite travel blogger, Ms. Sarah Fox). Glows being the lovely service to dumb Americans who are thanking God the menu is at least in French, too, the nice atmosphere, good house wine, and ice cream for dessert. Glums being that they served fried avocados with our steaks, and that it COST $140 USD. Norway is crazy expensive. See what oil money does to people? THEY FRY AVOCADOS. This is clearly messing with their culinary brains. Or maybe it’s that it doesn’t get dark there until almost midnight. (And for those of you out there thinking, “Hm! Fried avocados! Maybe that could be interesting, Marissa!?” I assure you: It was not a good idea.)

The next day was our boat trip out to an area of Oslo called Bygdøy, where we went to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. The Vikingskipshuset was impressive, despite its small size. There are three large ships that take up a wing of the museum each, and a fourth dedicated to items found within the ships, which had all been buried throughout Norway as part of mediaeval burial processes for royalty. Most of them were found, however, already raided. I mean, duh. You can’t really hide that you’re burying an entire ship.

The folk museum was an open air museum that had more than 150 buildings relocated from around the country, separated by the regions they came from. In short, it was totally amazing, and while we didn’t get to tour the entire country, visiting the museum really made me feel like we’d seen more than we would have otherwise.

The highlight, by far, was the Gol Stave Church, which was originally built in 1212, and brought to the folk museum in the 1890s.

Our last day before heading to the airport, we managed to squeeze in a trip to Vigeland Sculpture Park and some gluten-free pizza.

Before heading out to the park, we got to meet up with Chris’s friend and Norway-native Kenneth for coffee. Some of you might remember Kenneth from a show Chris played with him in BK a few years ago at that creepy club with the dolls on the walls. If you haven’t listened to Beezewax yet, get thee to your music portal of choice and start with the following: I’m Not Where I’m Supposed to Be, Your New Town, The Snooze Is On, In the Stands, and When You Stood Up. I promise you will fall in love. Frankly, I can’t get over how amazing it is to be so far from “home” and still be able to have coffee with someone you know in a country you never expected to visit. Life is funny.

For fun, please enjoy a very, very, very old, and very, very very poor-quality video of his band, partly filmed in Chris’s hometown/partly in Manhattan:

And finally, Chris and I rating the trip, in terms of thumbs-upness:

In retrospect, we probably should have picked something that made us feel less like losers in public.

What kind of name is “Tal” anyway?

What. a. week. We traveled to our first new country together in FOUR years! (I’m not counting Mexico and Jamaica. I guess I should.) We had a Diamond Jubilee! IT RAINED A TON! Okay, that last part is not a surprise!

And really, all I have the time to write about right this second is the fact that I turned on the 90s station on Spotify and am just reeling over the song “She’s So High” by Tal Bachmann, which you should all immediately listen to if you haven’t in the past ten years (as I had not). A guaranteed good time.


What an exciting week. We went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time. I got a serious sunburn in Hyde Park on Saturday because we have been having PHENOMENAL weather (as a reward for all the rain, I am certain). I started reading A GAME OF THRONES, for the love of God! And now we’re awaiting the arrival of Chan tomorrow morning, getting ready to leave for Norway on Thursday, and celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday. I get that you guys might not totally understand what exactly that means for the city I live in. And these photos don’t even scratch the surface of what is happening around me, but they are a taste of the patriotic hysteria that is surrounding us:

THERE IS BUNTING EVERYWHERE. I have died and gone to Cutesy English Heaven.

Friday night we went out with one of Chris’s colleagues and it was super fun. We went to a “90s” night at an indie bar and everyone knew every word to every Hot Hot Heat song and it was like we had been transported to some alternate universe. (I put it in quotes because they were a bit generous with their “decade” standards.) But seriously, English people are rad and when they get drunk, it’s kind of something special. Beyond what you can imagine, really. Large groups of typically very conservative people who drink their weight in under two hours and then become an entirely different group of people. Not like in New York where at a “90s” night, everyone would just be standing around trying their best to look cool and playing with their hipster glasses and mustaches without daring to move anything but their right heel and lower right calf. NO, this was a room full of strangers hugging each other, jumping around, spilling booze on each other, and singing at the top of their lungs to songs most people I know have never even heard of. Most. Fun. Ever. Arrived home somewhere in the realm of 3:30 AM.

We did not go here, but it was next door, and because I am sort of a twelve-year-old, I laughed:

I will leave you now with one final bit of Curious-Englishness:

Trouser leggings?

(Yes, that’s Twiggy in the background.)

Come Dine with Me

We have been watching so much Breaking Bad that I haven’t been watching much British television, which I think has sort of become my de facto specialty here on this blog. There is just so much to say about it. It is so good. And so…English. A favourite has absolutely risen to the top in the past few weeks. Come Dine with Me combines everything I love about television and life in general, and, of course, the Brits: dinner parties, hosting, cheeky commentary, and a £1000 prize. I am dying to go on this show.

Here’s the rundown:

Four strangers are chosen. Each of them hosts a dinner party at their home for the group, where they are required to prepare three dishes: a starter, a main, and a pudding. (That’s how they say “appetizer”, “entree”, and “dessert” here, you classless Americans!) At the end of the evening, the three guests rank the experience from 1-10. That night’s host is judged based on the quality of the food, and the quality of the company and hosting, but it’s all rather squidgy. (That’s how they say “squishy” here, you classless Americans!) At the end of the fourth and final dinner, the results are all tallied and the person who has the most points wins the £1000. (That’s $1,550ish you…Ahem. Sorry.) Sometimes there are themes. Sometimes there are weirdos. Actually, there’s always weirdos. It is just so damn entertaining. And it’s on pretty much every day after I finish work and am starting on dinner, which I usually put aside, pour myself a glass of wine, and sink into the couch to watch the madness unfold. There is always someone horrified by someone else’s table manners, always someone who says they are “gutted” after they lose, always some amateur gourmand who is too smug to bear, and always a question of what the spouses of these people are doing and if they’re sad they don’t get to be on television, too?


— Sometimes there are themes, and the host makes them dress up in costume, which they call “fancy dress” here. So don’t show up to a “fancy dress” party in black-tie. As you might guess, sometimes it is just an excuse for the host or hostess to wear something ridiculous and/or slightly revealing. I told you: weirdos.

— There’s one that I can’t tell if it’s a direct spin-off because I have only seen it once, but it’s a dating version. One person goes on three dates throughout the week, and the “contestants” cook for him or her in their respective homes. It really does add something special to the mix. I also don’t remember what it’s called.

— There was one on a few days ago that was filmed in Northern Ireland and I had to change the channel because I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying. And that includes the one American that was on it (a rare case). Some Americans who have lived here for a long time start to take on really strange accents that aren’t really of either land. I don’t get it.

So once I get a better handle on the type of food these people really go for, I am going to get myself on this show, for sure. I would SO win!

Month 4.

Today, we have been in London for four months. That feels, at once, like so long and nothing at all.

I can’t believe how much our lives have changed since we first stepped off the plane in January, lugging all of our stuff through the airport (the first time I’ve ever used one of those wheelie cart things), and chatting with our taxi driver about our move. The next few days were such a blur. Finding the bed bug on one of our bags as we were bringing everything up to our flat, which we didn’t yet know was a studio with a Murphy bed. Unpacking every single item we brought (seven suitcases’ worth) and shaking everything out to make sure we didn’t acquire any more from the plane. (We didn’t!) Waking up at 7 AM, which felt like 2 AM, to get out the door to look at approximately 100 flats in three days. Making dinner in our tiny galley kitchen, running back and forth to my computer for temperature and measurement conversions. Marveling at everything in the grocery store and drinking cider every night.

Now that we’re in our permanent home, things have taken on a feeling of normalcy and we have some routines. We clean our flat on the weekends, and we drink wine and watch bad television on the couch before bed. I have my “shame pile” (the one pile of clothes that inevitably piles up in our bedroom—all mine, of course—that Chris has so dubbed) because I am lazy at night sometimes. I fold laundry and make the bed and buy paper towels when we run out. But that’s where the normal ends. Because the paper towels are different. They’re shorter rolls and not as stout, so they look silly in our tall American paper towel holder. And the milk jugs are rectangular because of the size and orientation of refrigerators here, and they don’t come by the gallon. The tin foil is called aluminium (my computer thinks I’m spelling that incorrectly). They don’t have yellow and blue plastic pieces on their sandwich bags that turn green when you squish them together and prove to you that the bag is really closed. And the grocery store chains make their own brands of wine and cider and they’re not bad. When I go outside, everything looks different. Everything smells different. The people are different. The houses are different, and the cars are different, and the trees and plants are different. We are—undeniably—someplace different.

Last week my Auntie Bea was in town and I got to spend a day with her, which was honestly one of the best days I’ve had since I’ve been here. In my adult life, being so far away from my family, it has always pained me to—in particular—be so far away from my aunts. I was absurdly, abundantly lucky to spend—on average—three days a week with my grandmother’s sisters as I was growing up and they are so much a part of who I am today. To get to spend an entire day with her felt like I’d won the lottery. It also brought into focus, for the thousandth time, how unbelievable what we’re doing is. If you had asked me when I was young, sleeping over at my Auntie Bea’s, making “tea” out of pool water and watching her clean the kitchen, if one day we would spend an afternoon together on a tour bus of London and have lunch in a pub, what would I have said? I’m happy that she does so many amazing things, has been to more countries than I have, and keeps so many long-standing friendships! I am so lucky to have women in my life that I can still look up to.

And with that said, stay tuned: Next up, my review of a reality series on dinner parties with strangers. The fun never ends!

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