Wednesday, June 30, 2010

London is bloomin' beautiful (hula hey)!

When I got back home last week, one of the first things I noticed was how green and colourful everything is in London at the moment. I love how beautiful the parks and gardens look when everything is in bloom. The trees are all really leafy green, with bursts of colour from fruits and flowers all over the place.

My garden is looking gorgeous, and it is brilliant to be able to sit out in the sunshine with an ice cream or a glass of champagne, taking in the surroundings.

In between sitting around though, there's also hula hooping, which I love! I can literally stand around, hula hooping for hours, and I am pretty good at not dropping the hoop. I am also gradually building up more skills too, like being able to spin in a full circle whilst keeping the hoop going!

I bought my hula hoop last summer, and it's awesome because it is made up of multiple pieces which slot into each other, making it easier to transport or store.

Now I keep thinking of that hula song in Dirty Dancing that the sister, Lisa, sings at her audition for the final Kellerman's talent show...

Monday, June 28, 2010

I've come home....unfortunately, the football hasn't...

I have been back in London for a week now, and I have to say, it has been amazing coming home to such beautiful hot weather!

Getting back whilst the World Cup is in full swing, meant that I also came home to a refreshing show of patriotism, with a sea of England flags adorning cars, homes, shops, bars and restaurants. I can't remember having seen so many St George's Crosses up, even in previous tournaments, and honestly I have enjoyed the show of support and pride for our country. Americans always seem to display a strong sense of unity, with what appears to be an imbedded patriotic gene present in all US nationals, but I feel as though it has become almost controversial to wave an English flag, with many people projecting a clear lack of faith in everything and everyone representing England, right from the start. With that sort of attitude, how can we be a unified country that thrives?

With that said, I went to watch the England vs. Germany match on Sunday, after a cocktail tasting at Dim Sum bar, The Drunken Monkey, in Shoreditch. A yummy selection of expertly made mojitos, margaritas and cosmopolitans (not to mention, the most delicious little fried chicken wings, ribs and chicken noodles) put us in good spirits ahead of the match, although everyone was already pretty smiley and happy on what was the hottest day of the year so far.

Unfortunately, we lost. The game was so exciting, frustrating and catastrophic that the only thing left to do was enjoy the rest of the sunshine and head to Hoxton Square, where we pooled our minimal resources and indulged in an afternoon of bubble-blowing and outdoor drinking, with a selection of Strongbow and Diamond White cider. Classy.

I was totally sprung by the bouncer at Hoxton Bar and Grill for going in to use their loos twice, although, rather than chastise me for using their facilities sneakily as a non-paying customer, he simply wanted me to 'admit' that, that was what I was doing. So I 'fessed up, and asked him if he would prefer the alternative of me peeing my pants in the park (he wouldn't).

After lazing in the sun, drinking our cider, and spending a fair amount of time watching a small child try (and fail) to blow bubbles with our bubble-blower, I jumped on the tube and headed to Archway to dance to some 1950s rock'n'roll at Hell Kittie Kittie.

This club night is held on the last Sunday of every month, at the Dusk Til Dawn tiki bar and runs from 7pm until around 2-3am. For a fiver, you gain entry, as well as a Sailor Jerry cocktail, and the great thing about this venue (especially in the summer) is that if you work up a sweat dancing, then you can cool off outside at the pub's large array of bench tables.

It was a little quiet this Sunday, but I still had fun and caught up with some friends, and, it was my first time out dancing since I've been back in London!

My journey home was powered by two nightbuses - one did not have many passengers and the other was completely empty, (apart from me and the driver) meaning that it was super speedy as we bypassed all the bus stops! Whoooooooooooooosssssshhhhhhh!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Next plane to London...

Yes, let it be known, that I have now joined the ranks of being that person who is given no choice but to open up her suitcase in the middle of the airport, in front of everyone at the check-in line, to remove items due to exceeding the luggage weight restrictions.


Having queued in a ridiculous line for an hour just to check my bag, hearing that my suitcase - bursting at the seams - was 7lbs over the weight limit, was not something I was prepared for. Plus the fee for a fat bag is $150. So with little time to spare, I took my suitcase to the side, and proceeded to umm and ahh over which pieces of clothing I was least attached to. Talk about airing my dirty laundry in public...

After my initial panic, I chucked a few basic items in the bin, but decided I could not part with most of my stuff, so began layering up my clothes, like a snowman. To say that my mismatched layers of clothing felt rather warm is an understatement - to say that said 'outfit' made me look slightly retarded, is not. Even so, when boarding the plane, I was complimented on my "eclectic style" by one of the other passengers...

So the rest of my flight pretty much cancelled out all of the good karma that I had with upgrades at the beginning of my trip. The entertainment system and tv screen for my seat did not work (yes, that's 10 hours without movies), they had run out of meal choices by the time they got to me, (which I suppose is incidental, given that even if I had been able to have something other than chicken, all the options would have been pretty crappy anyway), and the turbulence was really bad - thanks a lot, United Airlines. I couldn't help but think that this journey was a sign that I should have stayed in San Francisco...

Once back in Blighty, getting on the Underground with my luggage in tow, it felt like I had never been away. I was eager to get home quickly to catch the England vs. Slovenia football match, so I fit right back in with the rush, rush, hurry, hurry mentality on the Tube. When I made it back to sunny Kilburn I took a cab home, and got to hear England's winning goal on my cabbie's radio...

From cars to feets - Mission Streets!

Having spent the final Saturday of my US adventure driving out of town and admiring cars, Sunday afternoon was spent reclaiming the roads with fellow pedestrians at the Mission Streets event.

Before that though, one half of Team Brunch (the other half were out of town) decided to honour our Sunday tradition and eat. This time we stayed within two blocks of my sublet and tried out Andalu. I had never been there before, and whenever I passed it, I always had the feeling it was overpriced and probably mediocre in food deliciousness.

Well, I am happy to report that this was not the case! I had, what was probably one of my favourite brunch meals of the trip - crab cakes benedict with polenta fries, spinach salad and fruit. Oh, and a mimosa, served the way it should be - in a champagne flute!

I have never really been a fan of polenta, and to be honest I can probably count the amount of times I have tried it on one hand. However, these fries were really yummy, and as a bonus, their half moon shape could bring a smile to anyone's face...

Now as if this wasn't enough to make me want to come back, not only were the prices good (brunch plates all $10 and under and champagne cocktails under $5) and the music amazing (soul classics), but they bring you out a bowl of warm, fluffy, cinnamon doughnut holes whilst you wait for your food to be served. Andalu, for this you have won my heart, and I will be back to visit you (and use those complimentary coupons for 2 free mimosas that you gave us) again!

From Andalu, we headed down Valencia for 'walk in the street' day....and walked in the street.

There is something quite novel about being able to roam free when roads are closed off, however the novelty wears off pretty quickly, especially when there is nothing to actually see apart from crowds of people walking or riding their bicycles all over the place.

I have seen plenty of streets closed off for events or carnivals, but when there is nothing actually going on, it is a little less exciting.

The main highlight for me was stumbling upon a group of people dancing to a stereo outside someone's house - now, dancing in the streets is what I call fun!

What's even more fun, is dancing in the streets to the sounds of MJ and then wondering off to eat delicious, creamy bourbon and cornflake Humphry Slocombe ice cream...and then returning to dance to 'Footloose' and 'Dancing in the Street'...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Road Zombies Car Show.

Mention the words 'all you can eat BBQ' and you are pretty much guaranteed to have my attention.

Throw in some hot rods, danceable music and sunshine, and I'm there.

So on Saturday, the 15th annual Road Zombies Car Club BBQ took place at the Elks Lodge in Santa Clara, where I got to check out The Go Getters once again, as well as eat all manner of burgers, pasta salads, fruit and cookies.

Now it has to be said, that as well as the car show itself, I enjoyed the drive there and back too - not because it was scenic (it wasn't) but because the conversation had me in stitches, as well as being educational (I now know what a 'bat wing' is....although I'd kind of rather I didn't). Double dating is fun - especially when you all have a tendency for sarcastic/silly/smutty humour!

So when we arrived the sun was shining and a load of good lookin' cars were lined up on the grass. Everything was outdoors, with the BBQ and music under a sheltered section that was filled with tables and benches so you could sit in the shade and chow down. It was great to be able to spend the whole day outdoors rather than cooped up in some building.

Actually, this was more like how I was hoping Sacramento Swing Time would be. I think I just seem to have an inbuilt programme that makes me want to spend as much time as possible outside when it is sunny and warm (I don't know if this is because living in England, you learn that you must take advantage of every opportunity you have to enjoy good weather) - that and I really love al fresco dancing.

Knowing my penchant for BBQ, and feeling hungry like the wolf upon arrival, I was expecting to really go for it when I saw the plethora of food on display. However, one plate of food later I was full. Weird...

The Go Getters played a set with an interval in between. I have to say, I preferred them here, than when I saw them at Verdi. I'm not sure if this is because I was so impressed with Ray Collins' Hot Club that night, and they just sort of paled in comparison...either way, I enjoyed listening to them and dancing a bit. Also, whoever the dj was, he played an awesome selection of tunes!

Whilst wandering around taking photos of cars, I stumbled upon a fellow Brit - and from Harrow in London, no less! My ears always prick up when I am at an event like this and I hear a British accent floating about in the distance. As it turns out, he is a classic car photographer living in Santa Clara, and after discussing the wonders of California and the difficulties in obtaining a green card, I went and did a little bit of my own classic car photography...

Other highlights from the day included: receiving a beautiful lily hair fascinator as a gift, laying about in the grass (I'm glad we brought a blanket) as the raffle prizes were being called out, and witnessing the consumption of what was, perhaps, the biggest pickle I have ever seen.

Having been to more car shows in the past couple of months, than I have in my whole lifetime, I am starting feel like it really is time for me to learn to drive...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


World Cup fever has truly taken ahold of the, er, world....or at least my Facebook news feed. Every day I scroll down and read multiple updates about who sucks, who is going to win, jokes, disappointment, sarcasm and patriotism, all pertaining to this international sports tournament.

So on the day of the Mexico vs. France match last week, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and check out the match (read: support Mexico) whilst soaking up the sunshine at the outdoor screen by the courthouse at Civic Centre.

I was a little skeptical about how easy it would be to see the screen, with respects to the size of the screen as well as the glare of sunlight. Well, as it turns out, the screen was visible from quite a distance, the sound was good and the atmosphere was great!

Mexico's two goals made the crowd go crazy, and I even found myself joining in with the reverberating calls of 'ME-HI-CO! ME-HI-CO!'

I would definitely have gone there to watch the England vs. Algeria match, if it wasn't for the fact that a) it was windy that day b) Mad Dog In The Fog is full of English football fans, meaning I get to enjoy the chanting and general celebration of Englishness and c) I would not have been able to order a pitcher of cider at Civic Centre.

So Mad Dog was pretty packed, and although I initially resented the $10 cover, the fact that you get two drinks tokens evens it out, given that one drink costs around $5 anyway.

The match itself was pretty uneventful and disappointing, but nonetheless I enjoyed spending the morning with friends, drinking cider, chatting, eating pretzel M&M's and hearing the intermittent loud hoot of a vuvuzela in the room.

My highlight, though, had to be hearing the guy next to me shout "COME ON ENGLAND! How are we supposed to win the World Cup, when we can't even beat Albania?" This tickled me, but given that he bought everyone around him a drink (me included) I refrained from teasing him too much...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot club, hot music, hot dancing!

Last week was filled with some real tail-shaking treats with two consecutive nights of quality live music and dancing.

On Tuesday I finally got to check out The California Honeydrops at Yoshi's. This was definitely a case of do believe the hype - they are fantastic! They are super fun, and really play for the crowd, with many of their songs taking on a real bluesy feel. This makes for some great down and dirty dancing...

I had never been to Yoshi's before, and had no idea what to expect. The band played in the restaurant/bar section, so I didn't get to see jazz club's concert hall, but the area that the band and dancers occupied was huge - although, given the amount of people that turned up for the event, the floor space still ended up being pretty tight. Obviously, as this was not designed with dancers in mind, the floor is not great to spin on, but this is easy to overlook, as the venue itself is pretty cool.

The decor is modern, and the room is sort of split into two, with a diving wall between the restaurant and dining tables, and the lower coffee tables and lounge seating. The stage is in the window, which is quite nice, as you can see the world go by outside, as you watch (you can also see people smooshing their nosey faces up to the window to check out what's happening inside).

The ultra high ceilings also ensure that you don't get tooooo hot and bothered when cutting some rug. Although, saying that, shiny-faced photos of me from this evening that have since surfaced on facebook suggest otherwise...

The night was super fun, and I would definitely return for more awesome nights out dancing here, likewise I would not hesitate to go along to future California Honeydrops shows.

And so, onwards and upwards, Wednesday evening was the opportune occasion to don the glad rags and hit up the Verdi Club for some non-Stompy Jones related dancing. German band, Ray Collins' Hot Club took to the stage before Swedish three-piece, The Go-Getters took over.


Ray Collins' Hot Club were frikkin' awesome! Holy moses, they know how to rock a crowd. They are sort of a crowd themselves, taking up the whole stage, as there are around 50 billiion of them....ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration. But anyway, they were swingtastic and fun and some of the musicians even ventured off the stage with their instruments, to continue playing to the crowd as they weaved their way between all the dancers.

The Go-Getters were very energetic and played rockabilly, with a few classic punk songs by The Clash and The Undertones thrown in. I enjoyed their set, although I felt less inclined to dance to their music, and instead, felt more inclined to sip on a cosmopolitan.

I hear that Ray Collins' Hot Club will be playing in London next month, so I will be sure to check them out and spread the word to my fellow London dancers!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mama said there'll be days like this...

Sunday a week ago was Team Brunch's last brunch, as a complete set, for a while, so we went big and tackled Mama's in North Beach.

We waited for quite a while....

....there was a long line outside....

.....and then we continued to queue when we got inside.

I went for the shrimp and avocado benedict and ate it in our window booth whilst pointing and laughing at the large group of people going past on segways.

Watching them riding over the crosswalk in single file was sort of reminiscent of the album cover for Abbey Road....but on wheels.

Whilst the food was tasty, I would have to say it was not special enough to have me rushing back to wait in line for soooo long. It is very cute and homely inside though, and the yellow decor makes it a sunny and cozy environment. One plus is that because you order and pay up front, canteen style, it makes it quicker to leave once you have finished eating. Although, what if you suddenly got an important mystery phone call, and had to rush off before the food was served to you, but you had already paid?

Before we allowed ourselves to fall into a food coma, we took advantage of the hot weather and headed for China Beach. As we approached the area, we started driving through quite a foggy patch and the temperature really dropped. This made me anxious that we were leaving the hot part of the city to hang out where it was chilly - and I didn't even bring a jacket!

Fortunately once we got there it was super sunny and nice enough to run into the ocean and splash around a bit! This was the first time I had visited this particular beach, and I really liked it! It has a great view of Golden Gate Bridge, and is in fact quite similar to Baker Beach, but less crowded.

On our way home we spotted a friend riding her bike just ahead of us, and proceeded to try and catch up with her. Thanks to all the Stop signs and red lights that we encountered, this turned into a Bullitt-style car chase across the city...

After zig-zagging our way through multiple streets, (trying to keep up with her crazy route) sometimes losing the bicycle, but then seeing it in the distance, we finally caught up with her when she stopped at a shop. We waved as we drove past, in a slightly anti-climactic end to our chase. I don't know what exactly we were expecting to happen when we caught up, but in hindsight it was a lot of palaver for a drive-by wave....

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we ended up dancing the night away at The Knockout where our friend's band Slim Jenkins played their third ever show. They pulled in a great crowd and looked very dapper up on stage, whilst they got the audience dancing and performed a great set. I am looking forward to seeing how they progress, as they have great style and make a very welcome addition to the live music/dance scene - I definitely think they're one to watch.

The Hi-Rythm Hustlers headlined the show and played an awesome set, as per usual. In fact, the first time I ever saw them play was one Sunday at The Knockout last November, and I really enjoyed myself that night too. They are just so much fun, and play the perfect songs to dance to - I am sad that I will miss their CD release party next month! Waah!

Sunday funday ended with a little photobooth action, and a strip of photos that made me nearly pee my pants with laughter. Fun times, fun times...

Football vs. Soccer...

So after much anticipation, the England vs. USA World Cup match took place on Saturday morning. My weeks of umm-ing and ahh-ing over where best to watch the game resulted in us taking a short walk in the glorious sunshine over to Mad Dog in the Fog in the lower Haight. As we approached the venue, the united voices of football fans singing along to 'Three Lions On A Shirt' (which was playing on loop) only served to heighten my excitement - the long queue outside the pub, on the other hand, did not.

So with an hour 'til kick off, we went and had breakfast, and I tried to sit still and eat my croissant and fruit salad before we headed to a nearby pub, where, although we were packed in like sardines, there was no line to wait in, and no cover charge.

Once inside I double fisted a couple of bottles of Magners and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to get used to the constant drone of 'U-S-A! U-S-A!' cheers. I don't know what it is about American football (not to be confused with American Football) fans, but I find them to be highly irritating. Maybe it's because their chants lack the wit and fun (and smuttiness) that you hear from the mouths of English footie fans, or maybe it's because post match you find yourself laying in the park, soaking up the sunshine, and a group of people walk past shouting 'U-S-A! U-S-A!' when they didn't even win the match (I sat up from my sunshine slumber in Dolores park to point this out to these imbeciles). Either way, I was seriously disappointed with the draw, as it was not the required result to get the people around me to shut up.

My disappointment soon subsided when I received these though:

And when I saw the slip'n'slide in Dolores: