Entries Tagged as 'Other Musings'

Life on a roller coaster



This post is a hard one. As much fun as it can be, being an expat is hard and eventually, a moment will come when you question your decision to move abroad. Its a moment I often think only other expats understand. Little day-to-day things can quickly become an enormous challenge. Tiny insignificant things can be fascinating. You can feel incredibly energized (see: sunny Saturday mornings) and incredibly drained (see: rainy Tuesday evenings). Some friendships are strained or others are surprisingly strengthened. Your view on the world shifts slightly – hard to say for the better or the worse. And it is strange to feel oddly empowered by new possibilities but equally weakened by a lack of familiarity.

All this to say, its been a really hard last few weeks. I angry-ate a burrito last week (it involves shoving Mexican food as quickly as possible into your mouth in an attempt to alleviate aggression – just ask any North American.) Its easier on weekdays when you can throw yourself into work but as the weekend creeps up, that pesky tendency to over-think things often arrives with it…

The good news is: London is full of distractions. And I have been taking advantage.

As such I present you: an expat London weekend survival guide.

Friday evening: Hit a museum.

So many museums stay open late on a Friday evening and while much of the city is out fine dining, you can wander the halls of history in relative calm away from the crowds. Any worries are put into some calming perspective when you stare at an ancient mummy (British Museum) or look at the wooden frame of one of the last houses to survive the Great Fire of London of 1666 (V&A – cafe pictured above).

Saturday: Head out to the countryside.

A dear friend invited me away from the big city and the sunshine accompanied me. We toured the grounds of a property fit for Jane Austen (many of whose characters’ emotions seemed to echo my own), dared to forge flooded roads, had a proper pub lunch and went shopping in an adorable little village. The day ended with a cup of tea, a deer sighting and conversation by an open fire. It could not have been more cathartic. Sometimes the best way to reassure yourself you love a new city is to get out of it, breathe some fresh air and come back.

Sunday: Brunch. A stroll. Bookstores. Waitrose. And a show.

Highly recommended that the brunch involve one of the world’s sweetest friends and copious amount of pancakes. Pancakes will heal many wounds simply through caloric intake. And then convince you to get out for a walk. In my case – and thanks to a Tube breakdown – this happened to take place in Marylebone (pictured above).

It was here that I stumbled on what might be my new favorite location (rated by The Guardian as one of the 10 most peaceful locations in London): Daunt Books.

There are a few Daunt locations in London but I could have easily spent all day in the back room of this one, with its double story wooden bookcases and an older gentleman quietly reading in the middle of the room in a huge wicker chair. He was completely oblivious to people milling about and chatting around him. I was so thrilled with my find, I only took a picture on Instagram.

Then I raided a Waitrose grocery store and bought my weight in nicely packaged houmous…

To round out the weekend, I can only recommend not to sit still on a Sunday night. I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of Fuerzabruta at the Roundhouse. I wish I could describe it, but truth be told, the fact that no one could really explain it to me beforehand (but all raved about it) is precisely what made me want to go in the first place. Its like an odd/beautiful performance art piece, Brazilian carnival, interactive aquatics, prankster-theatre-in-the-round, and amazingly-staged party. I hope you can catch it at some point as it continues to make its rounds around the world.

So there you have it – how to fight the expat blues, should they ever strike you in London.

Quite simply: get out there.

*In retrospect, you may realize afterwards that this is a very busy weekend and that you should have rested a bit. Either way, it was still worth it :) 

A wintery walk in Walla Walla (pt 2)



I have already talked about my recurring desk envy. But Walla Walla, WA is a town made for house envy of the Western American kind.

I did not know anything about the American Craftsmen architecture style before my parents moved there and the city is full of it. Beginning in the late 19th century in Britain and continuing into the 1930s, it was developed as a sort of revolution against the ornate and stuffy “Victorian” architecture and proved very popular in West Coast America. It encouraged handicraft and functionality, often featuring large front porches, open living spaces with connected kitchens (as opposed to separate servants quarters in Victorian houses) and built-in closets and cabinets.

The last photo here is an example of Craftsmen style. The rest show how much variety you can find in small town America vs the “suburban America” like you see in the movies.  If you are ever in Eastern Washington or Oregon State, pop into Walla Walla and have a look around. If not for the architecture, then for the WINE… (post to follow tomorrow.)

A Merry Limerick Christmas



Christmas at the Henderson household has always been amazing. We are a one-present-on-Christmas-Eve (ok, last night we cheated and opened two) all-others-on-Christmas-morning kind of family. Fires in the fireplace. Padding around the house in slippers. No alarm clocks for days. Bowls of green and red M&Ms scattered about the house. Long midday walks and massive cooking sessions in the kitchen. Amazing Beef Wellingtons and experimental desserts. The cat jumps in the wrapping paper and the dog gets so overexcited he has to rest his face wherever he can find a spot.

But this year’s highlight was undoubtedly the limericks my Mom wrote on all of our packages which had us in stitches.

For a pair of gloves:

“I really think these are so awesome
And the moment that I saw some
I was smitten I confess
And so I bought them for our Jess”

For a shirt my brother requested:

“You’ll feel joy and never anger
When you see this upon a hanger
It will be a perfect fit
because I did not order it!”

And another shirt:

“This is a present that you chose
On your computer, I suppose
If I’d known how, I would have hacked it
So Christmas wouldn’t be so anti-climactic!”

And a lovely new coat:

“Some warmth against the London cold
In colors that are not too bold
And also Shoreditch – apropos -
From Steve your dad and your mom Mo”

A new Christmas tradition has been born! Merry Christmas, everyone :)

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