Friday, January 25

I'm bringing sexy back


I attend the "sexy" gym. let me explain. I go to a gym class every day of the week, and every day there are the same gym-a-holics there in a new form fitting, color matching, stylish outfit. I am not joking when I say that every single woman in the classes I attend is thin, beautiful, and feels the need to work out in a sports bra and booty shorts. And then there is me. I own only two pairs of gym trousers, and I alternate days of wearing them. These highly unfashionable baggy bottoms match perfectly with one of my many "gym tops" which include (but are not limited to): my USU I AM HERD t-shirt, my USU BE VOCAL choir t-shirt, my Wicked shirt, and my Bust your "A" to Win" Aggies shirt. You can bet your left pinky that I will be wearing mis-matched socks, and my hair will be slicked back in secure pony tail and not curled, straightened, or had anything done that requires a mirror. Needless to say, I stand out a little bit...not only in class, but also at reception. The ladies in the front know me by name, and...here's the worst part, they know my membership number too, and usually which class I am showing up for. I mean honestly, they must of hundreds of individuals coming through there every day, and whenever I walk through the front doors they say "Hi Nicole", type my membership number into the computer and zip me on through usually telling me to enjoy my class on my way through the gate. It's so weird.

Recently I have been doing a trampolining class...which is, in fact, a lot of fun. Because of previous gymnastics training I have been able to zip ahead of most the class on skills and moves, but have still managed to land my name on the "scare list". The scare list, I hear, is not a good thing to be on, because it means you give the instructor a heart attack every time you attempt a trick. Last time I did flips, I was doing them on the floor which, requires much more power than the trampoline does. So I get a nice big jump, shoot into the air, finish my flip and then flop around for a few seconds before landing...which is totally wrong. Not to mention my natural tendency to try and "stick" everything I do on the tramp (when your supposed to just bounce right out of it). I hear that it is really easy to get on the list, and every one in there who can do more than straddle jump is on it, so I guess thats a good thing.... I think.

After an hour of intense bouncing around, I went to spinning. Now this spinning class is by far the hardest one I attend all week. The teacher, we will call her...Mada for names sake, she has been training 2 other people to take over for her. So today one of her pupils took the class, and Mada landed herself on a bike right next to me. I couldn't help but groan a little bit and quickly scan the room for another empty bike to plant myself on... but it was too late. Believe it or not, it was actually worse than I imagined it would be. You see, she is from South Africa and she talks like Rocky Balboa when she is in her "spinning mode". Did I mention that her nickname for me is "Wicked"? because the first day I went to her class I was wearing my wicked T-Shirt, and the name just stuck. Anyways, so she kept shouting "Be Sexy Wicked!"at various times during the ride, and I can't even begin to tell you how un-sexy i looked on that bike after only about 5 minutes. Of course when she would yell this every head in the room turned to see who she was telling to be sexy. By the end of the ride it went from "Be Sexy Wicked" to "Owwwwwwie! Wicked is Sexy!" "Wicked is the sexist one in the room!" (which is code for, wicked is the sweatiest, tiredest, and looks like she will heave on the floor at any moment) It was really great, believe me. So even though I attend a gym where every other woman has had 3 or more plastic surgeries, buys a new fashionable gym outfit every week, and always wears matching socks... I am the one bringing sexy back. Booya.

Tuesday, January 22

blah blah blog

Some days living here, life is just how it would be at home in the States. And then other days, things just seem extraordinary and strange. Sometimes I even find myself laughing out loud, or literally dropping my jaw in amusement or amazement. Most of these moments occur in small things, strange little things that make me wonder what the inventor (or buyer) was thinking at the time. See the picture above for my first example. The tree-wheeled car, or Tri-Car. I have seen about 5 in the past few months, and they all look identical to this one here. I came across one today, and it really took me off guard because it was going around and around in circles in the car park, taking quick turns, and going around poles, altogether having way to much time on only three wheels. I haven't seen a car and driver this happy since... well, I really don't think I have ever seen excitement at this level from behind the wheel of a car. It really made me want go out and blow 100 pounds and get me some hunk-a-metal joy.

Another thing that I find very strange, is their meat flavored crisps--thats potato chips my fellow Americans, and I really do want to meet the fellow (it had to be a guy) that thought this was a good idea. They come in every kind: Worcester Sauce, BBQ rib, Tomato Ketchup, Marmite, Pickled Onion, Prawn Cocktail, Roast Chicken, Chilli and Lemon, Steak and Onion, and the one I find most revolting, Smoky Bacon. What's the point in cooking anymore? A meal can consist of the Roast Chicken crisps, with a side of pickled onion crisps. Meal complete. Now you see my logic in automatically assuming that this was all invented by a man...and I would even bet that he was single, and going through school at the time. It makes perfect sense!

Something else that is different is that you can get your own, un-concentrated juice that you add water to. You can make it as watery or as strong as you like. It's called squash...and its amazing.

A day to day annoyance I find is that all electrical outlets here have a fuse switch, because each one has enough voltage running through it to kill a horse. So you have to remember to flip it every time, it doesn't sound like the big of a deal, but it has been known to cause some minor frustration.

Here is an "english-ism" for you, they call French Toast "eggy bread"... it makes me laugh every time!

Speaking of eggy bread, my friend Marie has an amazing recipe I got on her blog A Year At Oak Cottage for eggy bread with a little twist. Its fab, check it out. Also on this subject is the highlight of my week, where I was able to finally visit the lovely Oak Cottage where this near-famous chef resides. It was a great day that included a gospel study group that I was invited to attend--and loved. Afterward I had the delightful experience of indulging in some of Marie's amazing food (something that was on my "things to do before I die" checklist.) I was so pleased to discover that she put up my 2 favorite recipes from that night on her blog, Marie's Muses. And if you care for someone in any sort of way, you will make them the Caramel Apple Dip on January 20th's blog post. It was the best dip I have ever had in my life. After the gospel study group ended, and everyone else went home, I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Marie and her husband Todd. We went on a walk of the grounds on the manor where the live-which was beautiful even on a stormy day. We got to relax and talk, and I had another chance to eat Marie's food. You would think I was homeless at the rate I was going. Marie whipped something up in no time at all, and it tasted like she spent all day cooking it! This recipe was so good, it's yummy and easy and a sure-fire hit for the kiddies. You can find it on her blog under January 22nd, it's called Redneck Casserole. Don't let the name put you off, it is really fantastic! Also take notice that my name is mentioned on this post...it's my claim to fame.

And since this blog is insanely lacking in the picture department, I thought I would throw these in. I took them about a month ago when I had just returned home from taking the kids to school and got an urgent call from Sarah to go quickly to "the view!" In a matter of seconds I was-- camera in hand--charging out the door full speed to the spot. It was one of those times where you wish the picture could capture exactly what you were seeing, but somehow it's just not enough!

Saturday, January 12

秦始皇陵

It's been a week since my last blog (well, a week and a day...but who's counting?) And this is because the past eight days have been largely uneventful. At least it was that way until Friday when, in a fortunate swing of events the kids were both invited 'round to friends' houses after school-which gave me the whole day free and the chance to go into London. It was a really horrible day here on Friday: rain, wind, freezing temperatures... in other words, a perfect day for a trip to the museum. Since the Terracotta Army was on exhibition at the British Museum, I thought I would drop in and have a look to see what all the hype was about. I made a huge stride today... because... (drum roll please)... I went into London without my camera! Actually, I would have but the battery was dead and my charger sprouted legs and walked off. It's ok though, because they don't allow you to snap photos in the exhibition anyways, so I didn't miss out on too much. I arrived at the museum (without getting lost thank you very much) around 11:00 am, and couldn't get a ticket until 4:30! It is so busy, and they sell out super fast, so I was really lucky to even get in. So, while I had a whole day to kill and no plans,I ran some errands and went "shopping", (i say "shopping" because I wasn't actually looking to buy anything) dodging the rain by running in to shop after shop in Piccadilly and Tottingham Court Road. And in another stroke of luck, the sun came out to shine for about an hour or so, which allowed me to sit out and enjoy the sunshine with a nice scoop of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. You see, when my mom was here with me we went to Leicester Square and ate Ben and Jerry's, so now whenever I am alone in Leicester square I have to grab some... it's sentimental (or at least that is my excuse for buying it!) It was here that I learned that flirting with the ice cream man gets you extra ice cream... I can't believe I never tried that one before! First thing when I walked up he told me my shirt was nice, then went on to ask me where I was from and stuff like that. A few witty remarks later I had myself almost twice the amount of ice cream I was supposed to have, plus some caramel on top for no extra charge. Score!
About 3:30ish I was starting to get bored with going into the shops and not buying anything, so I went back to the museum to go through some of the exhibits. I went into the Egyptian gallery, and clever me, I had my iPod. I immediately pulled it out and jammed my ears with the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, which was oh so very appropriate. Remember last post when I mentioned that I have a tendency to view things in a bit of a "music video" mode? Well...this was another one of those times. It was really great, and though I didn't think it was possible, adding the music to my visit made me love the Egyptian stuff so much more!Finally the anticipated time to enter the Terracotta Exhibition arrived, and let me tell you now, it was well worth the wait. It's really hard for me to explain it on here because it was really an experience that you just have to have for yourself. I found this video on the Museum's website and I think it is really great because it shows a lot of the things inside the exhibition, and explains about it as well.

This archer was on of my favorites, my second favorite in fact, next to one of the Generals of whose picture is on the main picture with the Exhibition promo on it. The detail on this archer is incredible, everything from the hair on his head to the soles of his shoes is done perfectly and precisely. The General that I liked so much, seemed to be breathing when looked at out of the corner of my eye- but then motionless when I looked at him directly (anybody else thinking Toy Story meets Night at the Museum???) It was truly a magnificent experience, and helped me gain both an interest and an appreciation for the Chinese culture. If you want to read about it from the source of all sources, wikipedia, just click here. I will say that one thing I found fascinating was that every one of these 7,000+ clay people were painted at the time of their burial. Some even have traces of colored paint left on them, try to imagine an army of that size draped in the vibrant colors of the Chinese! That must have been an incredible site...until it was covered with dirt. Pity!

Well, that was the highlight of my week here, and I would like to say to my Aunt that I did listen to Sense and Sensibility and I have totally fallen in love with it! You are right it does match England perfectly. I loved all the music everyone told me about it, and have made a point of getting my hands on every last recommendations- and there isn't one I don't like! Hope everybody had a good week!


Friday, January 4

It's a Jolly Holiday...

Rain. That's what I am listening to right now, Rat-a-tat-tat on my window. That's how the weather has been nearly all week! I guess that's what an English winter is: wet, foggy, and cold. No complaints here though, I am just glad to be a part of it! As you may have noticed, I haven't updated this blog since Christmas, which means this is my first blog post being (gulp!) twenty. I am officially not a teenager anymore! I even had a party. OK maybe party is exaggerating a little bit- I think "get together" is a better word. It was me, and my friends Sian-Amy and Louise. We went out to see the movie I Am Legend, followed by a nice picnic in Dunorlan park. We had such a lovely afternoon! Here is a picture of us at the park- we would have taken a picture at the movie, but we were all too terror-struck to think clearly.

The reason for my recent blog neglect and overall absence from the cyber world is a result of my holiday. A lot of people here go away for Christmas or New Year (or both). We went away to beautiful Devon. We stayed near the coast in a place called Tuckenhay Mill (click here to see the exact cottage we stayed in!), and that was extraordinary! Can I just say that I love England? This place was so cute, small country cottages, beaches, rivers with moss covered trees and rocks (really, nicer than it sounds) and old bridges and castles. Talk about fantastic! I took some really lovely pictures there, only some of which I will post right now.

These two pictures are my very favorites I think!

I think the English do it right. They take time out to go on long, relaxing holidays filled with time together, time to lounge, time to clear your head and make all the stress that has been building up disappear. This cozy little cottage tucked away in Tuckenhay was just what I needed to end the year and start a new one. The holiday activities included:
beach time

a wildlife preserve for sea animals and birds



(yes, I was that close!)

This seal was hillarious, it was posing for me-it would hold a pose until I flashed my camera, then it would do another one and hold. Can you say Diva?
old pubs


observing (and at times getting soaked by) huge waves





and some mild sight-seeing.

This is Salcombe castle, and battle grounds for the Civil War.


Looking out from one of the bridges


This bridge is thousands of years old! (so I am told)

This one is not thousands of years old, but it sure looks cool.

And this is my favorite shot. It was an absolutely beautiful day!

We also visited this cute little town called Totnes. It is one of those towns that is so inviting, so warm and small, you could live there you're whole life and be perfectly content. You would go to the butcher to get your meat, the farmer selling his goods for your fruit and veg. Maybe in the afternoon you would drop by the community center for a family craft or a mingle and tea. Basically I am saying that if I ever return someday to live in england, look me up in Totnes.




I apologize, because these pictures do it no justice at all!


Ringing in the new year was also great. We all stayed up and watched Take That perform live on BBC1, and then watched the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen live in London. Click Here if you have 11 minutes and 25 seconds to spare. I highly recommend it, because it was amazing! Definitely a highlight, along with holding hands and singing auld lang sang, breathing English air, writing new years resolutions, and making a "January 2008" folder for my pictures. The beginning of the new year also inspired a lot of thinking. I have been thinking things like, "holy crap I will be 21 this year" (that happens every year), and the fact that both Jared and I could be going on missions this year. Now that's a strange thought! I guarantee that will come quicker than I can say "wait a minute!" I also had time to review last years resolutions, and record what I had done to complete them. This was a first for me because usually I make new years resolutions, write them down, and loose them 4 days later. Last year I was a genius and I typed them on my computer and saved them for now, and it was really great to see what I wrote last year. This years resolution list includes a lot of stuff that I wont tell the world, but other things like this:
read a classic novel
learn a classic piano piece
(see?! CLASSIC is TAKING OVER ME!)
sing for an audience
run a 10k
scrapbook my "European experience"

When I said I had 12 resolutions this year, or goals rather, everyone looked at me like I was crazy...which I very well could be! But why not start out the year ambitious? I decided this was going to be the year Two-thousand and GREAT!
(sorry...too cheesy?)

Well, the time we had flew by like all vacations, but it had to end sometime! The drive back was lovely. We passed Stonehenge both ways, so the next time I want to go the probability of me getting lost and driving in the opposite direction has decreased by roughly 12%. I spent 4 and a half hours driving through England, most of which was countryside (something I never, never thought I would do!). And while I was driving I, being recently inspired by something who knows what, played classical/instrumental music the whole way. Ok maybe all classical is a stretch...there was some Simon and Garfunkel rockin' my car. I put on my favorite soundtrack, Gladiator, followed by the Last of the Mohicans. Now Gladiator distinctly reminds me of Italy-how can it not? When my Parents and I were in Rome staring at the Colosseum I could here Gladiator music playing...well kinda...my Dad was humming it, and I might have joined in with some harmonies. We also listened to Gladiator when we were taking the train through the Italian countryside-the combination making my Mom cry at one point. (sorry mom). So as Last of the Mohicans played in my car and I was zooming over hills and spectacular scenery I couldn't help but notice that it fit perfectly. This music was meant to be played while driving through England (Daniel-Day Lewis running in slow motion through grassy hills coming in close second). It was especially perfect when the music really picked up at the exact moment Stonehenge appeared in the distance... I am telling you, it doesn't get better than that. Ok so maybe I see things in a little bit of a "music video" mode, but it makes for an enjoyable car ride. So I ask you, my friends and family, what is your soundtrack? I am so curious. What music do you hear in your head as you pass that Harmon's or cross over the bridge onto the highway, or look out over the valley from the mountains? I am wondering. If you don't have one...get one! But let me know what it is...and no stealing mine!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Fabulous New Year!