The Nutcracker

Yesterday, James and I went to the Royal Opera House to see the Royal Ballet's version of the Nutcracker. It was so much fun and very relaxing-enough I had to keep poking James so he wouldn't fall asleep! We saw it last year but this year was so much better because we actually had decent seats. We had £5 tickets last year and only saw like half of it, including bits of the stage crew doing scene changes because we were so high up and so far over. This year, no stage crew just beautiful music, beautiful costumes and beautiful dancing!


Christmas in the West Midlands

Every year for the holidays I go to my boyfriend's parent's house in the West Midlands. Its about 2 hours outside of London by train. His parents live in a very old cottage in the middle of the country near Shropshire, Telford and Staffordshire. Its quite fun because as with English tradition we have Christmas pudding for desert and open Christmas crackers (prizes that include a gold crown hat and a joke to tell around the table). The cottage we stay in has two fireplaces and it was very nice to sit next to a fire after a huge meal. Here are pictures from the day:

This is James' parent's house. It is fully functional but the house is 250 years old and in some parts of the house it is 500 years old---OLDER THAN AMERICA!


The christmas Table
Sarah--James' sister and her son Alex (7 months)
James' niece-Hannah (2 1/2 yrs old)

James wearing his Christmas cracker hat!

In England--Holly leaves grow all over the countryside. I thought it would be cool to post what they look like in the wild!
This is the countryside around where his parents live. Its always VERY green!

Countryside houses
Blymhill is a village next to where his parents live and this used to be the old post office. It is now someone's house (they have just left everything this way!)

This is the Village Hall in Blymhill (Like a community center). We sang Christmas carols just outside next to a big tree here and had mince pies and mulled wine.
Blymhill church--this is the church James' parents go to. Some parts of the building date back to the 13th Century.


One of the best things about Christmas

One of the best things I like about Christmas is all of the movies that are on. I love a good holiday flick--the sappy endings and how no matter how many times you watch something it still makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Growing up I spent most of my holidays watching the greats. Here are some of my favorites:

Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer--I have no idea how old this is but I love this show and have watched it ever since I was young.

Charlie Brown's Christmas---Who doesn't love this show? I secretly could relate to Charlie Brown and I love this part where they pick out the tree. Even the small straggly pathetic trees deserve a chance!

The Muppet Christmas Carol----I love anything muppet and particularly with this story I think its a fun show to watch every year.

I get choked up every time in the part where they salute the general at the surprise Christmas party. This is an absolute Christmas classic--The Oldies are always the goodies.

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation--what can I say it makes me always giggle.

A Christmas Story--haven't seen this in a while but I still remember the boys getting their tongues stuck on the pole!
It's a wonderful Life: One of my favorite all time movies---I always cry at the end without fail and surprisingly enough it consistently makes me appreciate my life and my blessings. I think movies that are the best help you grow and are uplifting--this movie does this and every year you can guarantee I will watch it again and again.


The Lion King

Can I just say I loved this? James and I went to see this last night and it was absolutely brilliant. It was very similar to the Disney movie and for this reason would be great for little kids to go. The differences were that all the animals were played by people with fabulous costumes. After a while you forgot you were looking at a person singing but it definately looked like the animal! What I loved the most was the music--such haunting African rhythms and melodies. I believe a chap named Lebo M contributed in this arena- he grew up in Soweto South Africa. (Elton John did a lot of the music too---Circle of Life gave me shivers). The best part of having all of the African music added was that you walked away not only appreciating the Disney movie but feeling like you had visited Africa as well. (Can't wait to go in real life!) The whole thing was well worth the ticket price and seeing it in a theatre I hadn't been in was fun too. The Lyceum is huge and very ornate and the seats are the most comfortable in town. Anyway if you can't tell I had a good time!


Love these to Pieces!

Although it can be the bain of my existence at times, I love the times where I can indulge in really good food. These are some of my favorite at the moment--ah such sweet memories!
Green & Black's dark chocolate-- made from 70% cocoa. Very sweet and you hardly need any to at all to feed those late night chocolate cravings.

Yes, another Green & Blacks's ---but this really deserves a mention because when you think of how vanilla icecream should be this fulfills every expectation. True Bliss especially with fresh fruit in the summer.

This is a brand started by the Prince of Wales and every bit of profit goes to his charity. Every bit of this is perfect and I really love the tarts and short bread biscuits. Can't have them very often because they are so rich!


Happy Thanksgiving

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of long lasting memories.


Borough Market (London Bridge)

These are pictures of Borough Market. Its right near London Bridge and this October it celebrated its 250th anniversary. The section with the colored umbrellas is the organic section, the main part is in an old Victorian pavillion. You can buy nearly everything here including squirrel and shark! The vegetables that are sold each season change obviously --you can see from the pictures that squash is in season now. The animals that are hanging in the pic for sale are rabbit and pheasants --sometimes they even hang deer! I love the smells of this place--there's loads of food stalls selling everything from Kebabs to Wild Boar sausages and today when we went they were selling hot cider. Its always horrendously busy for obvious reasons, but you can get some really good deals on high quality fruit, veg and lots of homemade breads and cakes. Today we bought loads of mushrooms, some organic eggs for a whole 99 pence and a huge homemade loaf of sourdough bread. I love supporting local farmers and its great because when you chat to the sellers you can find out where all the food is grown or made. I think not many people today know where their food comes from which is surprising considering in most under-developed countries they know this and even live with their food (animals, etc). Being informed about simple things like this is important and healthy way to take control over your life. I also believe that food is so much better tasting when you know that there's a story behind it. Anyway--cheers to Good Food!!


A Moon for the Misbegotten

James and I went to see a matinee performance of "A moon for the Misbegotten" with Kevin Spacey this afternoon. It's our third time seeing Kevin Spacey on the stage at the Old Vic and I've never been disappointed with any of these plays. The cast was absolutely amazing and seemed so at comfortable with each other. I had never seen Colm Meany (Star Trek) or Eve Best who played the female lead Josie on stage before. They were fabulous especially Ms. Best--gosh she had a lot of lines to remember! I could really relate to a lot of what her character was going through in trying to figure out her feelings and place in the world. Kevin Spacey--what can you say, every time I see him perform it's like having a good friend over for dinner. He reels you in and very warmly invites you along the journey his characters take. I always love the theatre, but this play was just an absolute pleasure. If your interested check this link out to read more about the play http://www.oldvictheatre.com . Its got some great behind the scenes footage that Kevin Spacey took which is a bit of fun to see as well!


Bonfire Night

"Remember, Remember the 5th of November-Gunpowder, Treason and Plot..."
A big tradition here in England is to celebrate the 5th of November every year. It's officially called Guy Faulkes night, but the nickname is "Bonfire Night". Guy Faulkes was involved in a plot on 5 November 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliment (where Big Ben is) with gunpowder. He was not successful obviously and was burned at the stake for treason. Bonfire Night started off as a celebration every year to act as a reminder to not mess w/the government and that democracy works. Now people don't really think of it this way, only just as a night to enjoy fireworks and probably a few too many pints (what else is new!!).
We went with James' parents up to the "Heath" in Blackheath Village (A huge flat grassy area) for the festivities where we go every year. The fireworks were absolutely amazing and lasted a whole half hour and were set to music. Unfortunately the pictures I've posted don't do the fireworks justice as these were the only ones that turned out and they were a lot more spectacular. Although from the pics you can see how the moon was full! It was darn cold because it was such a clear night but was a great excuse to bundle up with our warm coats and scarves!

Phenomenal Woman
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.


The Rainforest Foundation-TAUT 10K RUN

In my forever long quest to loose weight, I did a 10k (6 mile) run in support of the Rainforest Foundation yesterday in Regent's Park. Regent's Park is in Northwest London, in a very posh part of town near Harrod's and Kensington and Chelsea (I believe Madonna has a house overlooking the park). It was a lovely place to do a run especially on a Sunday morning and consisted of a 3 lap circuit. I did great for the first two laps (nearly 7k) without stopping but then the last lap it hit me and I had to stop a few times. But persistence pays off and I managed to shave off a few minutes from my last run earlier in the month, The Nike 10k. Onward and Upward to Fitness!!

Should you want to check out what the Rainforest Foundation is all about here's there link: http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org



Semi-Finalist in the International Open Amateur Photography Contest 2006.
(Cross your fingers, I may win!!!)
This picture was taken by me in southern Thailand in the Krabi Penninsula. We were spending a couple of glorious days on raft houses in the middle of no where. The boat is a long tail boat which is a common mode of transport in Thailand. As you can see, very quiet on this lake so you can be alone with your thoughts.


Engagement Story

When you think of engagement stories--you tend to expect the romantic, the chivalrous offering of a ring on one knee and of course lots and lots of tears. I never expected that I'd ever have anything like this in my life--but of course my life has never really gone the usual route.

I kind of expected this engagement thing was going to happen for a long time. I wondered about the little comments and the "secretness" James was implying for months before that usually only surfaced around the holidays. Little did I know that my suspicions were obviously correct particularly with what James had in store for me.

James planned a weekend break to Nice, France in December 2005, as a birthday present for my 30 birthday. Nice is in the South of France along the Mediterranean or Cote D'Azure. The Cote D'Azure or the Blue Coast as it's called lives up to its name in every way. One could easily see why the South of France for such a long time was (and still is) the getaway for so many rich and famous as it's just incredibly insanely beautiful. The weather was of course fabulous. Although it was in the middle of the winter, you easily could get away with just a light jacket. I can also just imagine what the summer months would be like--how the sun would be so warm whilst you can hear the gentle lull of the waves.

We stayed in a Boscolo Hotel, very "belle epoque" old style french. I had never stayed in somewhere that nice to that point in my life and our room was nearly the size of our flat (apartment)--Ah such indulgence! For breakfasts we were treated to an array of yoghurts, pastry's, baguettes and meats-absolutely everything you could ask for. After sleeping so soundly on a bed nearly double the size of a standard king bed (who knew they made beds that large!)--the breakfast was a perfect compliment.

Our first two days were fabulous in the city. We looked around the sites and had amazing food. Nice is a combination of french, italian and spanish influence in its architecture which is not surprising as its in the Mediterranean and surrounded by all these countries. The old section of the city has red cobbled rooftops which when the sun sets give such an amazing view and aura and when you see this you can understand why painters paint--beauty like this has to be shared.

On the second night we went out for a fabulous 3 course meal consisting of a very nice bottle of wine, filling pasta of penne pasta and tagliatelle and a typical french dessert. After the meal, we made our way slowly to the beach. The Christmas lights were all strewn all around the city including the palm trees lining the beach which made them stand out in the night. We walked down to the beach and I noticed how bright the stars and the half moon were, how the waves were loudly hitting each other and how cold it was getting as well. It was so peaceful and my heart was full.

James looked me in the eye and said how much he loved me and that you could never really prepare for moments like this. He commented on how we had talked about getting married but never had a ring. James then pulled out a small blue box and got down on one knee. I started crying mostly and my heart was beating because I was nervous and I couldn't believe it was happening. He said Christine Jolley , will you marry me? I said yes and we both burst into tears and of course sealed the whole thing with a kiss. The ring was perfect, the setting amazing and I knew for one brief moment what happiness felt like and what it feels like to be loved so unconditionally. I couldn't have asked for anything better and I didn't want the trip to end.

The rest of the trip was obviously amazing and we were sort of floating on the high of the proposal. I am always very sad to leave places when I travel because it's like saying goodbye to old friends. However, I know with certainty that the South of France will always hold a special place in my heart for the memories it holds. I am very grateful for James and of course love him dearly. You never expect to get proposed to, let alone having someone so amazing and decent loves me the way he does. I truly feel blessed. I look forward to the future and although at times it may be uncertain, I know that my best friend will be right there every step of the way.
Welcome to my blog--sit down, take your shoes off and make yourself at home.