Category: London

Where the Pancakes Are

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”
– W. C. Fields

Today is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day here in Britain, so it is only fitting that you guys hear about a recent breakfast find.

Welcome to Where the Pancakes Are, in Flat Iron Square. Fairly close by to Borough Market and just south of Southwark Bridge, this is another of those delightful little pockets where markets and sellers and food joints are springing up in tandem

 photo pancake1_zpsuiyklbbo.jpg

I’m automatically fond of most areas that contain food trucks but WTPA is charmingly located in a a former trainline archway. A number of these kinds of areas of London have been or are in the process of being redeveloped to shops, restaurants, or other spaces and some of the results are quite fun!

 photo pancake2_zps4sdfry6n.jpg

But you’re not here to read about property schemes, are you, kittens? You want to know about the carbs? I’m here for you!

 photo pancake3_zpsbf3oiqwc.jpg

Where The Pancakes Are is not a large eating joint, but there is a mezzanine to add tables so its apparent small space is a bit of a deception. If you turn up at the weekend, you may have to wait a bit, but get on the list because it’s not too terrible and there are a few shops and market stalls to explore while the minutes count down.

 photo pancake4_zpslglrenda.jpg

Pets and families welcome!

The menu is divided into savory and sweet options and you will have a devil of a time deciding which tickles your fancy. Jeff plunked for the traditional American while I went as wild as I could with the Hummingbird.

 photo pancake5_zpsvyxbs7ie.jpg

 photo pancake6_zpspqrgr0kt.jpg

 photo pancake7_zpsvfvxopsf.jpg

As it transpired, our marriage suffered a major test in the middle of the meal when I excitedly demanded that Jeff validate my enthusiasm for finding a good pancake place. His response was, “Eh, I don’t really eat pancakes.”

My reaction to this was one of outraged shock until he laughed and countered, “We’ve been married for nearly eight years, and you haven’t noticed that I don’t really eat pancakes until now?”

To which…oops? Spousal fail on my part?

 photo pancake8_zpsnnmvu1r9.jpg

Forget Jeff’s poor taste in breakfast carbs. He’s healthy and leans towards the protein, for which we may be understanding, even if he is misguided. If like me you are among the less than virtuous, breakfast wise, this place is a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning!

Weekend Links: The OK Ladies Now Let’s Get in Formation Edition

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

In case you missed it, the Womens March on Washington (and sister marches around the world, including the one I participated in in London) might have made some records. The coverage is still coming in and it’s amazing to see — more amazing to have participated in. You can see some my images here, but this is a story worth following and watching. To say nothing of joining in. Welcome to the Grab Back.

Oh yeah, and the US has a new president who doesn’t seem to be “pivoting” from his campaign persona in any way. Shock, surprise. I watched his inauguration because I’m a citizen and think it’s important to support the process of free government. The new First Lady looked absolutely lovely, and I thought it was gracious and correct for Secretary Clinton to show up in spite of how awful I expect it felt. The speech was Orwellian, but bang on from the tone of his campaign. The next day I laced up my shoes and hit the streets to make it clear that he was not elected with a mandate and I will be supporting the issues that I care about with my time, my money, and my voice. Because again, I think it’s important to support the process of free government. This is how it works.

Here are your links, kittens. Tell me what you got up to this weekend.

 photo 2017-01-21 13.39.12_zpsluz8xezu.jpg

I found this piece at Politico a very timely read. It opines that President Trump’s hostility towards the press may be a blessing in disguise. If the traditional lines of communication between the administration and the media are clipped, the press can and should (this writer argues) fan out to the myriad unofficial lines instead and take up the opportunity to do more and more extensive investigative reporting.

Also, what did the administration do on Day 2? Malign the press in the face of documented facts and figures, and talk a lot about himself in his “reach out” to the CIA.

Don’t let anyone say the Women’s March doesn’t matter. 2.9 million participants is not a “tantrum.”

An interesting piece on the physical logistics of changing over an administration.

An important reminder about some of the realities of race and privilege, especially when it comes to assembly. I for one, know I can do better and I intend to.

This SNL from Asiz Ansari was great and nicely nuanced against hysteria. We’ll be fine and the people ultimately set the tone for change, and if yesterday is any indication…

Shut up and take my money.

A bit more fashion levity and some street style.

STOP. I swear every time I read an article like this, my heart breaks a little. I know there are more important immediate issues, such as the civilian lives in the crosshairs right now, but this hateful and deliberate dismantling of human history is also hideous

Album of the week: Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool

Politics and Money

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
― Albert Einstein

For obvious reasons, politics is on my mind this week.

Something I’ve probably not spent enough time thinking through is how politics affects my money choices. A lot of the “big” purchases normally associated with American politics are simply not part of our lives at the moment. We have only ever bought one car and that was from a family member, we have never bought a house, and the biggest choice we’ve made is to live and work abroad which obviously makes an impact in our taxes and expenses. I know that political policy informs my life day to day, but I’d never really really done an examination as to how or how intimately.

That started to change last year after the Brexit vote. It was a political decision that had and will have enormous consequences for the industry I work in, to the tune of millions and perhaps billions of pounds. Of course I know that every budget the US Congress has passed in my lifetime has affected me, but this was the first time that I felt the financial implications of politics hit my work and wallet directly since the Great Recession. It was sobering and it changed several of our potential futures.

 photo DeathtoStock_Creative Community8_zpsmxybcv1y.jpgimage via Death to the Stock Photo

We love living in London, the idea of ever leaving cracks my heart…but we do occasionally take a look at career opportunities back in the States where we’d be likely to make larger paychecks (Jeff in particular). Meanwhile the exchange rate is now much less favorable to us than it once was, with more uncertainty in the forecast. Given these financial realities, influenced by international and local politics, it’s not inconceivable that we may move back to the States or to another country at some point. If we do our taxation will change, so will other political realities.

As the future of the Affordable Care Act is currently in a state of limbo in the States, I just had the cervical exam I’m entitled to as a person who pays UK taxes that funds the NHS–I won’t call it “free.” I’m also provided access to regular birth control at no additional cost to me and regular dentistry (joke about UK teeth care all you want, I still get mine checked out every six month and it costs a fraction of what it would in the States). On the flip side, there are legitimate critiques for a system that many find bureaucratic and overstretched, and that some people dislike.

Money and politics are a constant trade off for what we have, what we want, what we are able to provide for ourselves, and what we deem that government/society/employers should provide for us. The financial choices I/we have made are personal ones, but they are political as well. As the saying goes, “The personal is political.”

But we’ve not yet really parsed out how politics will affect our desire to invest, to save, to retire. These still feel like “far away” problems, even though I know they aren’t.

So, wiser, older, and more experienced friends, talk to me about how politics has affected your money choices. What decisions did you have to make under the past administration (if you’re American), and what decisions do you think you will need to under the new one? Brit friends, ditto your experiences under recent governments?

The Paradox of Space and Stuff

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts

When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.

In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.

The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.

2016-10-01-10-04-39-hdr

We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.

Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!

In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.

Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.

On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.

As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”

Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.

 

Mudlarking

“TWENTY bridges from Tower to Kew –
Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,
For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told:”
― Rudyard Kipling

Went exploring the north bank of the river for a change and decided to go rouge on a revealed beach at low tide and look for treasure. There’s plenty of junk to be found, but there are also the beams and wooden plinths of old docks, glass and fired stone, and the pulverized remains of an age old city to see if you keep your eyes peeled.

 photo mudlark1_zps6xg8zmz7.jpg

 photo mudlark2_zpsaswv89jp.jpg

 photo mudlark3_zpszwvozci6.jpg

Found a shard of blue and white ceramic, handfuls of seaglass, a bit of pottery, and a clay pipe stem, probably Victorian but might be older. Lots of history on these banks!

Devon

“Country things are the necessary root of our life – and that remains true even of a rootless and tragically urban civilization. To live permanently away from the country is a form of slow death.”
― Esther Meynell

We bid adieu to the summer with a very lovely and generous invitation for a weekend house party in Devon on the coast.  There was minimal communications, croquet, amazing food, and wonderful company–we had a amazing time.
 photo devon1_zps866ri21w.jpg

The weather was very British and temperatures and sunlight varied by the hour, but we got glorious chunks of time in the sun and good enough weather for a long hike on the Saturday afternoon. Mornings were spent at the massive kitchen table or out on the terrace, after a brisk swim in the sea, we played parlour games at night.  The villages we hiked through and stayed in were beyond charming, there is no other word for them. Here, have a photo smorgasbord:

 photo devon2_zpskdb3pn0k.jpg

 photo devon3_zpseisanllo.jpg

 photo devon4_zpsf5fbcsz9.jpg

 photo devon5_zpsku2iqh2q.jpg

 photo devon8_zpsjusbum3x.jpg

 photo devon6_zpsx0lziukt.jpg

 photo devon7_zps2lsvoz7c.jpg

 photo devon9_zpsd1laocvo.jpg

 photo devon10_zps9zqfd3wa.jpg

 photo devon11_zpsuoqcznz7.jpg

 photo devon12_zps2p6igqam.jpg

It was exactly what we needed to round off the summer. Quintessentially British, restful, and invigorating at the same time.  I’m ready for another helping!

 photo devon13_zpsxaug56zc.png

Services at the Tower

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love getting in when or where others can’t. It’s not a noble confession, but it’s an honest one. And if you want a fantastic private peek into what is normally a very public space, make some time in your weekend calendar to attend Sunday services at the Tower of London. The main doors don’t open until after the first of two services (one communion, the other a sung matins), though a side gate admits service attendees without a ticket, and it’s an amazing chance to see this world heritage site nearly free of people. Redcoats excepted.

 photo tower2_zpsbtls6rti.jpg

The Tower still functions as a military fortress, though the vast majority of its activities are understandably ceremonial. The Beefeaters may wear Tudor era uniforms but their assignment is a proper posting and a detachment of the Queen’s Guard stands sentry over the Crown Jewels.

 photo tower1_zps3xgymrd8.jpg

However like all military bases, there’s a cottage community thriving here. Beefeaters live at the Tower, often with families, and there is also a small but famous Royal Chapel still in operation under the pastoral care of a military chaplain. St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains) is a Tudor church famous as the resting place of Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Katherine Howard, Lady/Queen Jane Grey, St Thomas Moore, Margaret Pole, and others.

 photo tower3_zpsuheam9qb.jpg

Attending a service here has been on my list of things To Do since moving to London, but I just never really got around to it. Then I went through the death throes of a faith crisis and didn’t really want to do anything more church-y than Christmas–which I still love and always will–and it fell off the radar. And then a friend friend from the MoFem (Mormon feminist) community invited me to attend on September 11th and it seemed a fitting thing to do.

 photo tower7_zps1xruwvts.jpg

One of the ravens stood by as a small group filed in for services, beak wide open and likely expecting one of the familiar uniforms to provide him breakfast.

 photo tower8_zpsbsewhxcd.jpg

Katie and I attended both the communion service and the sung matins, which I particularly enjoyed. Between the sessions, we wolfed down croissants and chatted about faith, community, expat life, and the nerdy history of the Book of Common Prayer. Totally normal touristy stuff.

 photo tower5_zpslazwzj4h.jpg

The congregation was not large, but we weren’t the only Americans there and as a military brat, it was nice to hear a few words on the day from a chaplain whose career was focused in and around active service. The fact that he managed to tie in references to Poldark and Great British Bake Off, before circling around to familiar parables was just icing on the cake. In spite of the day, and the remembrances of the day, the whole experience felt friendly.

 photo tower6_zpssynanvvn.jpg

It may not be your usual cup of tea, but it’s worth trying, even if just to sit in stillness in a lovely place for a while.

House Hunting

“I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
― Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Ironically, for someone who works in property, a couple of weeks after the Brexit vote (which has rattled the industry in a lot of interesting ways), our landlady dropped me an email informing us that as a result of the vote (amongst other things) she was selling the apartment and we’d have to move. The process should take a few months, and neither she nor the agents thought it would be a quick process and would likely go into next year, but she would keep us updated.

Well, alright then. We made a note, quietly started looking around the neighborhoods we were interested in living in, but not with a major sense of urgency, and figured we’d be moving in a few months. We were happy to help with viewings, provide access upon request, and keep the apartment neat and tidy…with the benefit of advance warning of visits at least.

Needlescratch to a week and a half ago when we got a phone call from the agent informing us that our apartment has been sold. Quite suddenly and without warning, our search kicked into high gear.

There is still a lot behind the scenes work for our landlady but all things considered we’d far rather choose when we go than be assigned a countdown clock by someone else. We spent a couple of days searching, made a list, called the relevant agents and set aside a weekend to do nothing but look at potential options. We ended up paired with a really savvy agent who clearly is good at his job because he both started and ended at properties that were at the north end of our budget, but were both good options. Cheeky. However I’m happy to say that as with our first apartment, the first one we saw was the winner and we made an offer the same day as we knew it would go quickly. Our landlady has approved the earlier move out and we had to pay an advance and deposit to secure it, but come October, we will not be homeless.

We will also, it must be said, be living in a truly adult apartment for the very first time. I could not be more thrilled. We will have a dishwasher for the first time in over seven years of marriage (whose name is not Jeff), a terrace, and a completely new kitchen–I grow misty eyed thinking about it. It’s a great apartment and we’re ready to live in something that is not a shoebox; our current flat is less than 350 square feet. We’re also ready for things like cupboards and wardrobes and blenders, silly as that may sound. We’ve been living without them for years, of course, but I’m really looking forward to things like cooking, laundry, and cleaning being a bit easier thanks to the fact that we don’t have to fight against decay as well as mess.

With an upgrade comes bigger challenges however. We own almost no furniture, only the raw basics of cooking gear, and most of what we own we will be able to fit into suitcases. We will have to build a home from scratch on a shoestring budget–as a significant portion of our expendable money went towards a deposit payment–and literally piece by piece. Starting with a mattress. It will take at least a year.

I’m ready for it.

The hood.
The hood.