Hanz: Should we spell Fitnesscenter with an -er or -re?
Brain: Hey, it’s noon, let’s go get some xiaolongbao for lunch!
Me: Um, no, it’s 4 a.m. You’re in London, not Shanghai. You can have oatmeal in 5 hours. Let’s kill the time by going back to sleep.
Brain: No, it’s cool, let’s check Facebook.
Me: If you want to stare at a screen, let’s get out the laptop and do some work.
Brain: Oh no, I’m way too tired to do work now.
Me: Then let’s go back to sleep!
Brain: How about we just take a 3-hour nap later this afternoon?
Me: No, the series of long naps sleep strategy only works when you’re in China for 5 days and on holiday. You’re in London now and have to work tomorrow, not to mention run, Skype mom and brown the pork chops before putting them in the slow cooker.
Brain: Did you say pork? Pork xiaolongbao sounds so good right now.
Me: Why do you seriously not have an off switch?
Stephen and I got back from China on Sunday night. It was a quick, but amazing trip, despite the insane amount of time, effort and money that went into getting my passport renewed and a Chinese visa within a three-week period. But now my body is back in London, but my brain is still somewhere in Xintiandi, apparently craving soup dumplings, and I can’t help but wonder if I will ever sleep normally again, or if writing blog posts in my head for 3 hours in the middle of the night is going to be the new norm.
So it turns out, Ylvis, that the fox does not say “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!” or “Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!” In real life the fox screams like a child being murdered outside your window at 2 a.m.
The first time I heard the strange noise a few weeks ago I was convinced it was the screams of a child in trouble. The second time I realized it was probably an animal of some sort. And then after last night’s ruckus I found myself googling “London animal screaming” this morning. The first result? “Foxes make really loud screaming noises like someone’s being murdered.”
And then I googled “foxes London” and this was the first result:
I can see it now: Coming in 2016 — English Sniper: The Most Lethal Fox Sniper in U.K. History.
In all seriousness, I’ve read about London’s fox problem, but since I’m not out and about at night too often, I haven’t experienced it first hand. But now I cannot unhear their screams. January is apparently the height of fox mating season, but thankfully, according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s website, “The problem of fox noise is seasonal and lasts for just a couple of weeks.” Please, please let that be true.
I thought it’d be easier to discuss life lately through a series of photos, many of which are about food.
Last weekend Stephen and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. NINETH, as in 1 away from 10. Insane.
We decided to go to lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus, because I have high hopes of someday visiting all of his restaurants and lunch was reasonably priced … for a Gordon Ramsay restaurant in London.
I knew the place was classy because the first thing the guy did after seating us was bring over a little stool so my precious purse would not have to touch the ground.
At first I felt silly (like an Instagram cliche) taking photos of every dish, but then I realized people at the tables around us were taking photos too. The food was just too pretty! This was my starter, ham hock terrine with crispy quail’s egg, pickles and grilled sour dough on the side. I may or may not have just copied and pasted that from the menu online.
My main was rump of lamb. I can’t give you any more detail because apparently the online menu has already changed since last weekend.
Desert was a chocolate sphere with milk ice cream and honeycomb. It came out as a perfect chocolate sphere and the waiter slowly poured chocolate sauce over it to melt it. Unfortunately I only got a photo of it in its sad half-melted phase.
Here it is after I ate the top.
When I made the reservation a month ago I wrote that it was our anniversary. Apparently they actually remember and take note of that stuff, because they brought us these ice cream truffles on the house to celebrate. We were both pretty full, but one cannot not consume free ice cream truffles. They were amazing, as was all the food.
On the way home we noticed this car parked in our building’s garage. How is this even a spot? And more importantly, how did this car get itself in there?
“Lots of Austin Powering,” Stephen and I both agreed.
The other night I saw Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies was on, and I got all excited thinking it was a new movie. Nope, they just changed the name since British people probably don’t know what White Castle is. They don’t know what they’re missing!(“Those tender little White Castle burgers with those little, itty-bitty grilled onions that just explode in your mouth like flavor crystals every time you bite into one!” … and the subsequent stomach ache)
Perhaps this should have been my lead story, but I saw a corgi in Hyde Park yesterday! Can I start a new style of race that strategically places cute dogs along the course? Because nothing makes me run faster than thinking I spot a corgi ahead. I then tried to slyly take photos as the corgi’s owner eyed me.
I’m slowly getting back into a healthy eating and running routine after being corrupted by the American diet for a while. I’m still obsessed with sweet potatoes, but not this one that fell behind the slow cooker in the back of the cabinet months ago and was just discovered:
You know what I just said about healthy eating and running? I had a really nice run this morning and a healthy breakfast, and it all went to crap when I stopped at Tesco and bought this:
Cookie spreads that are basically just sugar and oil that I say I’m only going to buy to put a tablespoon of which on my oatmeal occasionally but then end up eating 600 calories worth of which in front of the TV with a spoon are my Kryptonite. Tesco bourbon biscuit spread isn’t even as good as Nutella. When I finish this jar in, let’s face it, 3 more 600-calorie servings, I am not buying it again.
Today is a very important day for me — it’s my one-year Fitbit anniversary. On Jan. 13, 2014 my backordered belated birthday gift of a Fitbit Force arrived. As I said in a previous post, 2014 was the year of walking for me — inside, outside and in multiple countries. Since it is my one-year Fitbit anniversary, I took a look at my lifetime stats to get the total number of steps and miles I walked/ran in a year.
Not too shabby! My goal every day is to hit 10,000 steps and 5 miles. I hit my 10,000-step goal 344 times, which means I only missed it 20 times in a year. I would say this year my goal is to never miss it, but I think I may have missed it once or twice already with my traveling.
My best day of the year was on April 22 when I hit 25,563 steps and 11.39 miles. I was in NYC visiting Stephen and practically walked all of Manhattan and then ran on the treadmill. I think my goal for 2015 is to get the 30,000 steps in a day badge.
So I’m back in London now, and coping surprisingly well with the jetlag. Can you guess which day I flew based on my Fitbit sleep data?
I think I slept maybe 10 minutes on the plane and then took a 3-hour nap when I got home. It’s not so much that I can’t sleep on planes as that I can’t sleep sitting upright. And with all the fights over airplane seat reclining that have made the news lately, I didn’t even recline my seat the entire 8 hours. It was not a very pleasant journey — especially in the last 5 minutes when the girl next to me reached over into my seat compartment, grabbed my airsick bag and promptly used it — but I’m back. I do not miss the polar vortex of the US, however London gave me a warm welcome on my first run of the year with a torrential downpour. Of course the sun came back out the minute I got back inside.
I can’t remember what else I was going to write, so here’s a photo of a corgi dressed like bacon:
Have you ever been to the Biltmore Estate? Or, perhaps more importantly, do you even know what or where it is? Up until a year ago I didn’t. It’s the largest private home in America (owned by the Vanderbilt family) and I had never heard of it. But after a friend visited at Christmastime last year and raved about it, my parents and I decided we had to go.
So a few weeks ago we drove nearly 6 hours to Asheville, North Carolina, to see what all the fuss over a giant house was about. Our first stop was the winery where I sampled too many wines like I knew what I was doing.
Then we went to see the aminals! (Yes, that spelling is intentional)
This goat enjoyed munching on my coat.
And this one preferred tree branches.
I was disappointed by the lack of pugs in the farmyard.
Once we got our fill of farm animals, we headed over to the house. And here comes the part where I sound like a spoiled world traveler with impossible standards: I thought this was the back or the side of the house. In fact, I was so convinced that it was that I actually asked an employee how I could get to the front of the house. She simply pointed back the way I came.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was photos like these online that gave me unrealistic expectations:
…but the outside of the house did not blow me away like I thought it would. It was no Versailles or Schönbrunn Palace.
However, the lions were in a festive spirit, so I had to be too.
And once we got inside the house (where no photos are allowed), I took back everything I said about not being impressed. The entire house was impeccably decorated for Christmas, with hundreds of trees throughout and even carolers. This house built in 1895 had an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley! The inside tour was way more impressive and extensive than any European palace tour I’ve done. The Vanderbilts sure knew how to live!
After our evening candlelight tour we had dinner next door at the Stable Cafe, where we dined inside an old stable stall. The food was amazing, as was the ambiance.
And then we got to see the house at night with the tree all lit up. For some expectation vs. reality, compare the photo I took below to the professional ones above.
The next day we headed over to the Grove Park Inn to see the winners of the 22nd Annual National Gingerbread House Competition. The hotel was amazing and had a very impressive fireplace.
The gingerbread houses were also amazing, even if they went by a very liberal definition of both “gingerbread” and “house.”
I couldn’t believe these chipmunks (and the one to the left on them) didn’t win anything!
This was the grand prize winner, a gingerbread chessboard called Pawn Stars.
Then we went back over to the house again since the weather was better. We walked through the gardens, which I’m sure are a lot more impressive in the spring than in December.
Overall we had a great time. The Biltmore Estate is in no way unimpressive, I just went in with impossible expectations. The inside of the house definitely blew me away. A part of me is bummed they didn’t allow photos, but on the other hand it forced me to be present and soak everything in instead of worrying about what angles to capture and how to maneuver around everyone else with their cameras out. I would definitely recommend The Biltmore Estate at Christmastime, or during the spring when all the flowers are blooming. I just hope you get warmer weather than we did — when we went the second week of December it was colder in North Carolina than Kentucky! We were told that was a fluke, of course.