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Oct 27, 2011

I'm Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille!

Believe it or not, our little impromptu trip to London was not really intended for my birthday. In fact, it wasn't really something we had planned to do this year at all. During my almost 2 month visit back to the states, I stumbled upon a post from a website I follow on Facebook. It caught my attention, mostly because they were talking about Michael Bublé...one of my most favorite singers. The post I speak of was in regards to Michael filming a "Home For Christmas" show in London and this company, called SRO Audiences, needed warm bodies to fill their audience seating for the taping. GASP! I immediately clicked the link, entered my name into the ticket drawing, and crossed my fingers. Then my curiosity got the best of me, so I Googled SRO Audiences to see who and what the heck they were (I know, in hind sight, I probably should have done that PRIOR to entering the ticket contest, but I like to live on the edge).

SRO Audiences is a company that fills BBC and ITV tapings with lively audience members. I mean, what good is a TV show taping without a few amped up celebrity stalkers? As I scrolled through the list of upcoming TV shows they were filling seats for, I noticed big bold letters that read "AMERICANS, WE NEED YOU!" Um, hello!! They needed me. Who can say no to bold typeface...they were practically screaming at me. So, I clicked. What I had clicked on was call for all Americans (who were in London, of course) to be audience members for a taping of an American improv show called Trust Us With Your Life (from the makers of Whose Line Is It Anyway?) to be shown during primetime on ABC. HOLY JACKPOT BATMAN! Can you guess what I did next? Yep, I entered to get tickets to that taping too! No biggy, because it was the exact same weekend as the Michael Bublé thing. I could totally see D and I TVing it up all weekend in London.


So, I waited. Like 4 days. Then, I opened my email and noticed a lovely letter from SRO Audiences offering me 2 tickets to the Trust Us With Your Life taping! Cue squeals! I immediately called D and told him our awesome luck (because this kind of stuff seriously never happens to us). He was stoked and said, "Book it!" That was all I needed to hear to start my fervent search for reasonably priced plane tickets and hotel accommodations. From that moment, we only had 20 days until we left for London. T-W-E-N-T-Y! I haven't been that spontaneous in my entire life. What a rush! Luckily I was able to find tolerable flights and remembered we had some Marriott points to burn, so that was settled. All that was left to do was wait to hear if we had gotten tickets to the Michael Bublé show. Sadly, the closest we got was an offer for stand-by tickets and that just wasn't worth the headache. Nevertheless, the trip to London was happening and we were going to enjoy an evening at a TV show taping! Yippee!

Truth be told,  I've never been on TV. I also hate being videotaped on anyone's camcorder. I will run away if you point that thing in my direction. Now a photography camera, I'll stand in front of all day. But, I digress. I don't know why I thought going to a TV show taping would be a nice, relaxing night of enjoyable performances. With the luck we tend to have, I pictured us sitting in the nose bleed section peeking through the bouffant hairdo of the lady in front of us. This arrangement couldn't have been farther from reality this past Friday night. We sat front row. Front and center. Why? Well, apparently it's because D and I are two of the prettiest American's two shamelessly gay studio producers had ever seen. My smooth complexion, perky hair, and white teeth...and D's "Abercrombie esque" good looks and bulging biceps (seriously, this is what these boy's told us) scored us front row seats. One of the producers also asked D if he was single. HELLO!! Wife standing right here!! Brits are bananas. Walking into the BBC station, all of the British folk were trying to put on their best American accents so they could have prime seating too. This was, after all, a taping for an American TV show.

This is the BBC White City studios. This photo is of exactly where we walked in and went through security.
*By the way, we were't allowed to bring cameras inside, that's why I have no photos of my own!* 
So, they slapped orange wristbands on our arms and shuffled us into the waiting room of the studio. I should have realized what kind of night we were in for when they offered us free wine and beer the second we stepped foot in the door. I could have used 3 glasses of vino when all was said and done. After waiting forever, we finally were led into the taping studio. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting it to look like, but the stage, lights, video screens...it was all what you see on TV! We sat down in our front row seats and some studio lady came and asked us where we were from and if we'd ever done anything like this before. We promptly responded, "America and no way," to which she said, "Oh goodness! You're in for a treat! By the way, you'll likely be on TV. A lot!" Um, ok lady. Way to freak us out! D and I immediately started grooming ourselves like monkey's, picking lint off his head and putting lip gloss on my face. I really didn't know what to do with myself! Finally, the MC of the night came waltzing in (also know as the guy who comes into the studio before the celebrities to get the audience hyped up with stupid clapping games and dancing). He gave us the rules for the evening, did his 'get hyped up' routine, then started introducing the improvisors, the show host, and the guest celebrity for the evening.

Out walks Brad Sherwood (cool!), Colin Mocherie (sweet! love him!), Jonathan Mangum (he's Wayne Brady's right hand man on Let's Make A Deal and a really funny improv guy, awesome!), and...drumroll...WAYNE BRADY (*$&%^ DIED!)!! My hands couldn't clap fast enough! I love all of these guys, especially Wayne Brady! I mean, really. He's Barney Stinson's bro on HIMYM. What's not to love?! Then the host, Fred Willard, and the special celebrity guest, Jerry Springer, made their way on stage.  It was time to start the show!

via google images
The show was insanely funny. It really was exactly like Whose Line?, but with the added component of a special celebrity guest who tells funny and poignant stories about events in their lives while the improv guys act them out. And the stage lady was right, we are definitely going to be on TV. One of the cameras sat right in front of our faces for at least 30 minutes out of the 3 hour taping, with the camera guy looking in the camera and up at us through various times in the evening. Not kidding. At one point, the camera in our faces was completely blocking everything we could see on the stage, so we just continued to smile and laugh with cues from the audience behind us. How bananas is that?! We were totally fake laughing! The MC told us they would be taking lots of footage of the audience clapping, laughing, smiling and just plain enjoying themselves. There was no telling when that footage was going to happen so you had to be ON the WHOLE TIME. Smiling, clapping, and laughing like a nut job in a psych ward. That's exactly what it felt like. Not to mention, the achy neck, back, hands, and face. I've never smiled that much or sat up that straight in my life!! Oh and no water or bathroom breaks. Did I mention that we hadn't had the chance to eat dinner before the show? We had lunch at 1pm then nothing till we ordered room service when we were back at our hotel at 11pm. At the end of the taping, I was pretty much incoherent. Except for when I caught Wayne Brady's attention and it landed me a lingering handshake! Oh, and he called me sweetheart. That moment, right there, made all the pain of being an audience member for a TV show taping worth it!

This is what the stage looked like! You can see Colin Mocherie and part of Wayne Brady! Fred Willard is in the chair in the back.

 This is seriously what we felt like after the show. Death warmed over. SO thankful for 24 hour room service! That burger saved our lives!

In all honesty, I'm glad we did it. First of all, it brought us to London. Second, we're going to be on TV, no doubt about that. And third, we got to be chummy with celebrities for 3 hours of our lives (sitting front row, we got to exchange a lot of looks, laughs, and "seriously, another take?" comments with each other)...and I got to touch Wayne Brady! Worth every minute. I know most of you are wondering when this super awesome TV show is going to air, right?! Well, I've got no clue. We totally forgot to ask before we left the studio. Sorry! I was still shaking the stars out of my eyes when we left! But, I've been in contact with the studio and they said they'd let us know when it will be airing on ABC. So, when I know, you'll know! Believe me, I want to see what kind of idiot I made of myself just as much as you guys do! Did I mention they told us they were filming in HD? Yeah, I may be getting botox after this thing airs, just FYI.

Oct 26, 2011

Jolly Old England-Day 1

*FYI...it's a long, but enjoyable post!*

I. Love. London. There's almost nothing else to say but that! Ok, not really. You guys know I always have lots to say. This series of posts will be no exception! D and I spent 4 days in the greatest city in Europe...dare I say, the world?! Granted, I've really only got the USA, Jamaica, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil and a little bit of Germany to go off of...but so far, London is my most favorite place I've ever visited! I am a MAJOR Anglophile. I love British people, British accents, red telephone booths, spots of tea...the whole nine yards! And, the royal family fascinates the heck out of me. Yes, I was one of those crazy people up at 4am watching the royal wedding this past April. I also made homemade scones. Shut up, I can't help it! I'm also pretty sure Kate Middleton is my sister from another mister, she just doesn't know it yet. It's freakish, but our hair is unnaturally similar. Since living in Germany, I've had not one, but 4 people (who I don't know from Adam) tell me that I kind of look like her. I'm well aware it's only because of the hair (otherwise, I'd think these people needed to get their eyes checked). You think I'm kidding? Take a look:

Color, length, style. Uncanny, no? ;)

We even had the same wedding hairstyle. Sorry, Katie. I thought of it first! But, at least you can say your tiara is real. (Please ignore the over highlighted blonde hair and extra 30lbs of body weight...sometimes I can hardly stand to look at my wedding photos. Blech!)

Now that I've proven my point (and tooted my horn a bit)...on to photos of our first day in London! Actually, these photos are a combo of our first night (we arrived at 4pm on Thursday) and second day (full day-Friday) in London. I must say, the most memorable and best feeling I got while there happened as we emerged from the Westminster Tube Station after our 45 minute journey from the airport. We walked up from the underground to see this:

Yes, it's ok to think the ethereal "AHHHH" sound. I did! And then you look to your right and you see this:

Oh, what's up Big Ben?! How's it hangin', Houses of Parliament?! Talk about having a history book slapped in front of your face! It was breathtaking. Like a kid on Christmas morning, my heart leaped out of my chest and a smile beamed off of my face. I was standing in London. Freaking London. D and I had lots of those kinds of moments. We were constantly reminding each other to "stand still and take it all in!" It wasn't hard to do. I could have stood there and stared for days. That's also probably why I have tons of photos taken of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben right along the Thames River. I couldn't get enough!

In case you were wondering, the large building in the photo of the London Eye (the tallest ferris wheel in Europe) is our hotel. YEP! That behemoth of a building is the Marriott London County Hall Hotel...and our living quarters for our visit. Sure we could have paid a little less and stayed in some hostel 15 minutes from here, but how could I pass up being in the prime location for many of London's greatest attractions?! And with Marriott points to burn, it was a no-brainer. Couldn't have picked a better place to stay our first trip to London! This place was swanky too...concierge, white gloved butlers, and even one of those ridiculous in-room mini bars! You know, the ones where if you move a jar of macadamias off the shelf you're charged your first born child. Yep, it was awesome.

The building where our hotel was housed used to serve as the headquarters of local government for London, also known as the London County Council. It now is home to a Marriott hotel, London Aquarium, restaurants, shops, and the London Eye center.

Not a bad view to wake up to, huh?

Here I am, already living the British life with my morning spot of tea! Ahem...so day one started off with a visit to the infamous Tower of London. You know, where the crown jewels are kept. The largest cut diamond in the world also lays it's head here...and I got to feast my eyes on them all! Ahhh, every girls dream. Happy dance! Too bad for you guys though, photos were not allowed. Wah Wah. But first, our journey to the Tower. 

 This was our view at breakfast each morning. So what if it's from a park bench outside a McDonalds while we scarfed down Egg McMuffins?! Do you know how expensive it is to be a tourist in London? I'm talking £12 per person for breakfast. A good breakfast. That converts to $40...for two people...for eggs and bacon. I know, it's psychotic. So, we opted for the cheaper breakfast and spent our precious pounds elsewhere.

Onward! The closest tube station was across the Westminster Bridge. We walked that bridge like a bagillion times. But with such an amazing view, who can complain? Every afternoon and evening this bridge was bustling with people. Not so fun to navigate through with a large suitcase, but lively none the less.

Why hello Parliament!

Top of the morning' to ya, Benny Boy!

I'm telling you, London is exactly how you see it on TV. From the underground signs to the taxi cabs and red double decker buses. I felt like Joey on that episode of Friends where they went to London for Ross & Emily's wedding. If David would have let me wear a British flag hat, I would have! He was totally Westminster Crabby (thanks, Joey!)

Ah ha! Here we are, the Tower of London. This was taken of the outside palace wall and moat before we entered.

As per the tip from our hotel concierge, we took a guided tour of the Tower of London with one of the Queen's Yeomen Warders, also more commonly known as a "Beefeater." Beefeaters are ceremonial guardsmen of the Tower of London and live on the grounds of the Tower itself. They keep watch over the Crown Jewels, give guided tours, and guard respected Tower attractions. Most Beefeaters are retired members of the Armed Forces with at least 22 years of service and hold the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. And don't ask them why they are called Beefeaters...they've got no clue!

The building to the left is called White Tower. It was build between 1078-1097. Out of the 21 towers that make up the Tower of London compound, it was the most secure, mainly because this is where the Lords of the palace resided. It acted as a royal power base in the City of London. It was also used as a retreat for the Royal family in times of civil disorder. Pictured on the left is the jewel house, where the Crown Jewels are kept...and what an expressive collection they have! Housed here is the First Star of Africa, now mounted at the top of the Sovereign's Sceptre. It is the largest cut diamond in the world. It was ginormous and sparkly. I want THAT for Christmas! Did you know that the Crown Jewels were almost stolen in 1671 by a clever Irishman named Colonel Blood? He knocked the guardsman on the head with a mallet and crushed the arches of Charles II's crown in order to hide it under his jacket. He was barely caught! Now they've got that place locked down like Fort Knox.

 Pictured above is one of 8 ravens the Tower of London keeps on it's grounds. These sucker's are HUGE! I've never seen ravens this big. The ravens are traditionally believed to protect the Crown and the Tower, and as superstition suggests, "If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it." 

Inside a museum housed in the White Tower, you could see all kinds of historic items from the Royal Armories. Here are a few uniforms worn by Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry. Died!

After our history fix, we exited the Tower of London onto the river walk and found this iconic landmark...the London Bridge! As you can see, it's not falling down, and ironically enough, isn't actually called the London Bridge. It's called the Tower Bridge. The London bridge is another 5 minutes down the river and is nowhere near as impressive as the Tower Bridge.

D and I opted out of walking across the Tower Bridge, but instead walked across the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank and right to our next attraction. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see the Tower Bridge in the far back, the London Bridge right in front, and the Millennium Bridge we are standing on.

Right off the bridge we saw the Tate Modern, a famous British museum full of priceless works of art. D and I just had to have our Starbucks fix, so we couldn't go inside. We will save that place for next time.

Right beside the Tate Modern was Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It isn't the original theatre that Shakespeare wrote his legendary plays for, unfortunately. The original Globe stood a few hundred yards from this new site, but was burned down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. It was quickly rebuilt in this new location, but in 1644 was demolished again after England's Puritan administration closed all theatres. It wasn't until 1949 when an American actor named Sam Wanamaker commissioned the rebuilding of the Globe. Building commenced in 1993 and was completed 3 1/2 years later. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was then opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1997. D and I didn't have enough time to go in and explore this open air theatre, but it was sure was nice to be amongst such history.

Our last stop of the day was here, at St. Paul's Cathedral. We had planned to go inside to have a look, but London protestors had another idea. The cathedral was closed due to a bunch of knuckleheads who think camping out in front of a church will rebuild our economy. The knuckleheads I speak of are a part of the "Occupy Wall Street" phenomenon recently sweeping NYC and now, London. Brilliant. This was the only non-campsite photo I was able to snag. Moving on...

Finally, D and I found a legendary red telephone booth! Seriously, neither of us had spotted one yet. Funny thing was, after we saw this one, we saw a thousand. These things are everywhere! And of course, I had to get my touristy photo with it.

And here are a few last photos from our 1st day in London town. We made our way back to our hotel around 3pm because we had a bit of an important event to attend that evening in White City. What was that event you ask?

Well, I'll give you a hint. Improv, The BBC, ABC, and Wayne Brady. Until tomorrow! :)

Oct 24, 2011

That's So Souperfly!

Hi loves! I'm back in Deutschland after an AH-MAZING trip to London this past weekend. London is my new favorite city. For reals. If it wasn't so crowded, I would consider living there. But alas, that is not possible. Germany will have to do. ;) Now on to other things (but I promise to post a recap of our London visit soon!).

Do you guys remember when I told you about my first guest blog on this fabulous slice of the blogger world? Well today, I'm linking up with Jess for Souperfly Soup Day! (So fun, Jess!) 'Tis a wonderful day for soup it is! It's rainy, cold, and all around BLAH today here in Germany. Perfect for a hot bowl of yummy soup! Truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of soup. I never really fancied drinking and slurping my dinner. Plus, it takes me forever to drink hot liquids, and soup is no exception. So dinner, when soup is involved, takes too long and I lose interest. Seriously, give me a sandwich already. BUT, if you can whip me up a soup that's creamy and chock full of veggies, cheese, or meat...I'm likely to eat it.

Can you guess what kind of soup I made for this link-up?! YEP! Broccoli and Cheddar Soup! And it's BETTER than Panera's version. Not kidding. TAKE THAT PANERA! D gobbled it up like it was hot wings...and that's saying a lot. That boy loves hot wings. This recipe will be staying in my fall/winter foods repertoire for years to come! I hope you'll add it to your's too! Here you go fellow foodies!

Mmmm are you drooling yet? 

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Makes 4 servings

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups of half and half (you can use milk if you're trying to be extra healthy, but just for this recipe, I wouldn't!) -
--UPDATE---this is also great when made using fat free half & half. Who'd a thunk it?
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 to 3 cups chopped, lightly steamed fresh broccoli (stick to the 3 cups if you like a chunky soup and use fresh broccoli. The frozen stuff makes for a watery soup, and quite frankly, doesn't taste as good!)

1. In a medium sized pot, steam 2-3 cups of chopped broccoli. (If you're new to the steaming idea, basically just put a 1/4 cup water in the pot, add the chopped broccoli, cover with a lid, and heat on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Your broccoli will steam up nice and bright green and will be crisp-tender. Exactly what you want for this soup!) 

2. After your broccoli is all nice and steamed, set it aside, then simmer the chicken broth and chopped onion for 15-20 minutes in a covered small saucepan, until onions are soft. 
3. Next, heat your half and half up in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, just to take the chill off.
4. In a separate medium-sized stockpot, melt butter then add flour, salt and pepper. Cook together, stirring with a whisk constantly for 2 minutes. (This part is called making a roux. It helps to thicken soups. Look at you, how fancy you're cooking skills have gotten just now! Just in case you need some help, this is what the roux should look like after the 2 minutes is up. Yep, thick, pasty mush...just right!)

5. After your roux is made, slowly whisk in your warmed half and half. Stir and heat together on medium heat until the soup starts to thicken. This might take about 5-8 minutes.
6. Time to add the warmed chicken broth and onion mixture to the pot...pour slowly and continue to stir until well blended.
7. Add the shredded cheeses a few handfuls at a time and stir until completely melted.
8. Then stir the steamed broccoli into the pot. You can add more salt and pepper to taste if need be.

Hello broccoli and cheese yumminess!! Get in my belly! If your's is gooey and creamy like this, then you did it right, at least by my cheesy standards! You really can never have too much cheese.

You can serve this with warm crusty bread or in a bread bowl! We ate ours with fresh pretzel rolls from the bakery. D-VINE! Enjoy and link-up at Jessica Lynn Writes for lots of Souperfly good-ness!! Happy Monday, y'all!

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