Monday, 25 March 2013

Date Night Review: Mother Mash - London

Sometimes in life, you swear people can read your mind; sometimes those people put your thoughts into  action, and in my case those people open Mother Mash!

In their words:

Those of you who have followed our blog for awhile may remember our post dedicated to the humble spud: if not, read it here!

It is fair to say that we LOVE potatoes in any form, but if I was to pick my absolute favourite way to eat a potato it would be as MASH! So when friends asked if we had tried Mother Mash based near Carnaby Street we were shocked that not only had we not tried it, we had never heard of it!

As soon as we could we jumped online to search Mother Mash, what we found was my ideal restaurant - or upscale cafe! The concept is simple: the food is delicious and the service quick and efficient! We went to visit on a Sunday evening at around 6ish and were surprised to find a seat straight away as we had heard it could be pretty busy.

We took our seats and were handed the menu:

Simple: pick a MASH, pick a type of SAUSAGE or a type of PIE and then finally pick a GRAVY!

Perfection on a plate!!!

It took us less that 10 minutes to eat our whole meals and I don't think we said a word except 'yummmmmmmmm' throughout until this happened:

Tragedy struck
Sarah had CLASSIC mash, Cumberland and pork and leek SAUSAGES and onion GRAVY! The mash was delicious, the pork & leek sausage was so tasty and the onion gravy was yummy and not overpowering.

Laura had CHAMP mash, pumpkin and goat's cheese PIE and farmers GRAVY! The mash was fantastic, the pie was scrummy and the gravy was so good it could have been eaten on its own.

The food was great value, not the cheapest, but it was so filling and we both ate and had a drink for less than £20 - we didn't need dessert! Having said that, had we been less eager to down the meal and paced ourselves, the saucy chocolate pudding and apple and blackberry crumble had caught our eye.

If you want a satisfying, substantial, filling, delicious meal after a day walking around London or you want to warm up or if you just want to find the tastiest mash (outside of our flat) check out this restaurant!

To end the great experience, we were so pleased to received these tweets a few days later - we always appreciated a company that is nice to their customers and even better that I'm now an honourary #MotherMasher

I guess until we are next in the area (which won't be long) I'll head back to kitchen to mash away......

If you get the opportunity to check out Mother Mash do let us know what you think!

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Big Reunion!

Have you heard about it?! If you are based in the UK you can't have missed it! To explain, 'The Big Reunion' is a TV show that has reunited bands from the 90's to form a big giant teenage crush extravaganza tour. The TV show has followed the rise and subsequent fall of seven bands and I (Sarah) am loving it.


To give Laura her dues, she is quietly sitting and enduring me singing along to songs that would never win awards for being 'classic'. For me it is an opportunity to reminisce on my teenage years and remember just how cheesy my music taste is was.

What has been eye-opening for me is the fact that bands that dominated my music collection growing up are bands Laura has never heard of! To list the seven bands I'm talking about:
5ive: My ultimate boy band crush and with songs I still quote today - 5 what you waiting, 4, if you wanna 3, 3, 3, 2 1 lets do it - I loved seeing them back on TV, even if they are missing a member. 5ive bad boys with the power to rock you - hit the music scene in 1997 and had us 'Slam dunk da Funk' -in for 4 years before splitting.


911: These pint-sized pop stars had classic (but completely inappropriate  in Laura's opinion) tunes like 'Bodyshakin' and 'Love Sensation' and spent more time dancing than singing. When they first hit the charts in 1996 I was 13 and thought they were AMAZING!


Atomic Kitten: featuring the once departed Kerry Katona, the girl group are back as their original trio! With hits like 'Whole Again' and 'Eternal Flame' they were first in the charts in 1997 and disbanded in 2004.

B*Witched; (the only band Laura had slightly heard of) an Irish girl group that mixed Irish tunes with pure pop - they had 2 albums and 8 hit songs. Their first single 'C'est La Vie' had an Irish jig that was imitated more than once by me, my sister and our cousins. Active between 1998 and 2000, they may not have had the longest career but they were one of my favourites!

Blue: The man-band! These guys used to have it going on- with tunes you can't help but sing-a-long with, attitude (bad attitude in most cases) and outfits to show off their fit bodies Blue were the band every girl at school wanted to get with. They have technically been back since 2011 - we even saw them on a float at London Pride!!

Honeyz: A band I can't say I have much opinion about and I couldn't name a song of theirs until I heard them on the show and it all came flooding back. Described as an RnB group they were soulful and sexy and prone to not wearing much but they managed 3 different line-ups and plenty of tunes.
Liberty X: way back before X Factor we had 'Popstars' - a show that created a pop band, the winners were called Hear'say! The losers, however formed Liberty X and actually went on to be way more successful and have WAY better songs! My main memory was that they wore a lot of latex and sang 'just a little'! There is no doubt this band can sing though!
Other than the fact that it's a TV show about a time that seems a distant memory, why am I writing this post?! Well as I mentioned, Laura may not be that interested in me reliving my pop past but it turns out my sister is! Well she is more than interested, she's excited - so excited that not long after the second episode aired I got a call asking can we get tickets to see the bands in action?! Well, how could I say NO!!! So on the 12th of May we are road-tripping up to Birmingham to see the Big Reunion arena tour!

And I am SO EXCITED!!!! Probably more than someone my age should be - but these bands came out and toured before I was earning my own money so the only one I've seen is 5ive as I got tickets for a birthday!

The show has brought to light something else though, something that makes you realise that you really do have to be careful what you wish for. Growing up I thought I wanted the fame, the fortune, the dancing and singing for adoring fans but to sit and watch episode after episode of those who got that quickly losing it all is shocking. So many of them have struggled with drink and drug addiction, so many became depressed after it all ended and nearly all of them said they had reservations about returning.

From the outside, it looked like the best career ever from the inside they worked non-stop, didn't have a life and became overwhelmed by the lack of privacy. It makes me count my lucky stars that my voice and dance moves did not set me up for life as a popstar :) On a serious note though it did make me stop and think about how often I see others having 'an amazing life' from the outside and question if it's really the case.

For all the amazing experiences I have had and for all the things I have done, I never want to look back and say it was great but......... - so for that reason I make sure and live every moment to the best of my ability. It's also why we write about the bad as well - it's important to put everything out there, if you're going to at all! To end on that note, I am loving Jason Mraz's lyrics in 'Living in the moment' - it sums up my life right now perfectly!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Celebrating 4 Years With a Trip to the Country!

Four years! I can't even remember a time without Laura-  how crazy is that! These have been the best four years of my life without a doubt, I count my lucky stars for each and every day we have together and this weekend has been no different.

We had decided to have a UK break away so we can save our pennies for the wedding and so that I could convince Laura that the English countryside had plenty to offer. The destination was decided more by accident than deliberate action. We had planned to book a Groupon offer but everywhere they had deals for was fully booked on the nights we wanted (thankfully we thought to check!!!) so we narrowed it down to Suffolk and took to Tripadvisor to find the best rated B&B's, and choose the Long Melford Inn. Located just outside Sudbury in a small village called Long Melford it was perfectly situated for our country break.

Knowing Sudbury was out of the northeast of London, we figured getting through traffic starting from home in from southwest on Friday after work would mean that we wouldn't get to the B&B till late at night. With that in mind we decided to park our car at our friend's flat in Highbury & Islington on Thursday night then head that way after work the next day. The preparation worked and we got to their flat at 6pm ready to head out!

The route was fairly simple- although the lack of petrol stations was slightly nerve wracking - and once we were out of London we had a pretty easy drive out. In just over an hour we had left the straight dual carriageways and were winding our way through the county of Essex before arriving in Suffolk. The darkness really made the journey fun, we were singing and enjoying the ride so much that we had arrived before we realised! Thank you GoogleMaps for saving us from getting lost!

As we drove up to the Long Melford Inn we were relieved, it looked exactly as the picture and was very 'country pub-esque'. What made it even better was the smell of a log fire as we approached the front door and check in. With the pouring rain the warmth was so welcoming and then we met the Landlord - It felt like we were being met by an old friend. 

Our room was in converted stables and on the opposite side of the car park, which conveniently meant we could park the car close by and unload without everything being soaked. Just as we finished unpacking we had a knock on the door and the B&B owner gave us a bottle of wine (on the house) and advised us of what we could do for dinnerr. We opted for takeaway pizza so we could snuggle in and relax.

We slept so well that getting up at 9:30 for breakfast was a struggle but well worth it. The full English set us up perfectly for our day of exploring. With a 'must-see' list from the B&B owner we set out towards Sudbury to start the day. As we arrived, through some very windy roads we found a space in a really tightly packed car park and walked into the local farmers market and craft fair that was going on in the centre. After an hour or so of browsing we spotted the tourist centre and headed in. We discovered that Thomas Gainsborough's - a famous painter who came from the area back in the 1790's - house had free entry so we headed over to expand our minds :) and indulge in a bit of culture and history.

After feeding our minds it was time to feed our tummys and we found an extra comfy couch in 'The Black Boy' and had some seriously good pub grub!

After avoiding the rain and learning a bit more about the area we headed to the riverside to check out the view, and wow - it was beautiful. The town has the river running by on 3 sides and it definitely provides a unique landscape that could be appreciated from the river. The only challenge was the fact that in our city living we have become wimps!

There once was a time that I would stand riverside with a bag of food encouraging the ducks but as soon as we entered the field and were met with ducks running towards us we headed for the bushes!! As for Laura, she understandably more cautious around dogs (after the dog bite incident) but when the ducks came running over she'd let out an 'ARGH!' which would have me jump! (wuss) It meant we ended up with shoes covered in mud but loved it! Well, maybe we loved the dancing in puddles to clean up a little more!

We couldn't leave Sudbury before visiting the Secret Garden Tearoom to warm up. With a tea list that took up a page and fresh warm scones we couldn't resist.

From Sudbury we headed to Lavenham about 20 minutes away to see the Crooked House. It is famous because of a children's nursery rhyme here in the UK. The house itself is defying gravity and if you look at it for too long you start to lean! You can also go inside but be warned - the effect of the lean can make you feel a little queasy.

Once we had ticked off a few more recommendations it was back to the B&B to shower and get ready for our anniversary evening. After fighting the urge to head to bed we managed to get dressed and drive the 5 minutes to Long Melford and visit The Bull. Sat in the corner, but near enough to enjoy the roaring fire we were able to get close, look through our photos and enjoy the most delicious veggie burger and lasagna  It was a such a great way to end such a wonderful day.

Sunday came around way too quick but after another seriously good night sleep and the sound of birds - real ones, not from our alarm!! - waking us up we were ready to spend another day exploring. The plan was to drive to London via Suffolk and Essex towns that seemed interesting. That meant we ended up in Castle Hedingham, Bradfield Combust and Colchester. None of the places had quite the same impact as the day before but it was nice just spending time together.

Loved all the pink cottages, thatched roofs, twisty chimneys and stunning scenery!
If there is one thing we do well together it's travel. I couldn't ask for a better partner to see the world - or my home country- with! Bring on the next 40+ years!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Our Engagement Video!!

As it's only... two days away from our four year anniversary (woo!), and we will be away in the countryside as of tomorrow, we thought it'd be the perfect time to share something very VERY special with you.

As you know, we were lucky enough to have our engagement filmed, one by our good friend Alison, and the other by Laura's wonderful Mum & Dad!

Well, L's been working on it for months, and we've been watching it and re-watching it, and sharing it, and loving it, crying with happiness and now... we're sharing our engagement video with you!!

We debated keeping it private, but we started this blog to share and record our lives, and you all have been so wonderful and supportive, that we really wanted to show you!

SPOILER: We said yes!!

We really hope you enjoy it!

You can view Sarah's Boise proposal to Laura HERE
You can view Laura's McCall proposal to Sarah HERE

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Glue That Keeps Us Together

Guess what?

This weekend, we've been together, official, officially going steady, girlfriend & girlfriend, wreaking havoc upon the world together, for 4 whole years!!

Happy 4 year anniversary to us! (almost)

In honour of this exciting occasion, I want to thank one very special person. 50% of S&L, sometimes even 51%? Miss Sarah, you are fantastic and wonderful and amazing.

(and HOT!)
I want to thank Sarah because without her, we wouldn't have made it here. I'm completely serious - I was a super diva when we got together.

You've read our love story - remember, we didn't like each other at first? If it weren't for Sarah persisting when I told her I liked her but I couldn't marry a girl, warding off Nigerian men one by one in shady bashment/hip hop clubs on Sunday nights, winning me over with her irresistible charm, and once standing outside of my flat throwing pebbles at my window until I let her in (okay, no I didn't, she went home with a friend, but I apologised PROFUSELY later!) .....

(she was like John Cusack from Say Anything)
....I would have never realised that not only could I marry her, but she'd make me the happiest I've ever been, become my best friend, fiancee, and, lets face it - she's my everything.

She's my world in one pretty little British package!
So thank you my darling, for realising back then that I was something worth holding on to.

Thank you for always getting out of bed first in the morning, and not getting too annoyed that I actually take longer to get ready.

Thank you for meeting me halfway on work days for 20 minutes of lunch where I get to see your beautiful face.

Thank you for doing all of the washing up, because wet food is gross.

And for running down 4 flights of stairs to let the takeaway man in when our door buzzer doesn't work.

Thank you for keeping me grounded, but for also not wanting me to stop dreaming big.

Thank you for dragging/bribing me to the hospital when I have something wrong with my eye but don't want to get out of bed with promise of mashed potato afterwards.

And for spending time in 5 A&Es in 4 different countries, because apparently I get dramatic things wrong with me.

Thank you for accompanying me around the world, and making travelling even more amazing than it was before.

Thanks for enabling my dreams of a partner to share everything with, a little family, and a happy home and life, to come more true than I'd ever imagined possible.

Thank you for being my lovely fiancee, and future Mrs. Smith.

(bling bling)
I hope I continue to make the good WAY outweigh the bad.

I love you xxxx

Thursday, 7 March 2013

An Eye For An Eye

Sooooooooo I don't know how to start this post........

Two weeks ago, I noticed a spot on my vision in my left eye that is right above where I focus - things in it are really distorted, like you're looking through a bubble.

Or a beer glass haha
I waited 1.5 weeks thinking it was just dust or something and would go away (typical Laura move) but last Friday, I decided I couldn't take it any more, so I went to the optometrist.

You see, it's affecting my vision so much - I can't really focus on things close to me, reading is difficult because I can see two of each word - I was watching TV the other day and noticed that everyone on the screen had four eyes!!

The optometrist found a spot on my eye, and told me to go to the eye hospital immediately - so I went after work, and Sarah met me there.

We waited for four hours, and S was my little nurse - bringing me food, DC and sweets - we were the envy of the waiting room! When I got in to see the doctor, she looked at me for 5 seconds, said basically 'this is not a new problem, there is scarring, you've probably just started noticing it, you'll probably just have to live with it. I'm referring you back to your GP, you'll get an appointment in the next few weeks.'  I started crying at the thought of never being able to fully focus on things again, but she wouldn't answer any of my questions as to what it was - she just kept saying 'I've referred you to your GP'. She was so rude and dismissive, it was obvious she couldn't wait to get out of there. She didn't even clean the machine before I had to put my face there for her to look at my dilated eye.

Awful. If you ever have an issue, do not go to Western Eye Hospital's A&E in London. Do not.

Luckily, my Mum did some research and found another eye hospital in London - Moorfields. We decided to go there on Sunday to get a second opinion. Poor Sarah had a mission getting me out of bed on Sunday, and she only managed it with promise to visit Mother Mash for dinner afterwards haha!

From the moment we arrived at Moorfields, it was like night and day. The nursing staff really cared, I got to see a doctor quickly, and, shock of shocks, this doctor wanted to find out what was wrong!! She told me I had a hole of sorts in my eyeball - that it would be either a hole or liquid, and had hemorrhaged. She sent me for some scans on Monday.

Bright and early Monday morning, I had some scans done - and was told to come back yesterday to have an ink test done. This is a very long explanation of what is wrong with me, but it's been an ordeal, so I feel like I should tell you about it!!

Yes, I took photos of their screens - how else would I be able to self-diagnose? The left photo is my left eye - the dark patch on both is the retina, and that white halo just below it on the left photo? My hole thing!

Yesterday they injected me with yellow dye, which traveled straight to my eyeball (weirdly) and then they took photos to see if the yellow dye was in my hole - it was bright and painful and turned my face yellow - but they were finally able to diagnose me.

Meet Laura Yellowface Giantpupils
I have Myopic choridal neovascular membrane (CNVM) - basically, my understanding is its a burst vein in my eyeball, which is filled with blood and liquid, and is causing the spot I can see. It is because of macular degeneration, which is common in people age 70+, in fact Sarah used to volunteer with The Blind Association, and macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness. They have no real reason for me that I got it at 24 - its very rare (lucky me), though it may be hereditary.
This is a photo illustration of how painful flashing lights are when your eyes are dilated for the fourth time in one week
Unfortunately, it is likely I will have to live with double vision in reading and not fully being able to focus on my beautiful Sarah for the rest of my life. I have to now get a series of injections straight into my eyeball that will hopefully stabilize the problem, so it won't get worse. With this, there is a 20% chance it will get a lot better, and a 1% chance it will speed up the degeneration so I am blind in my left eye.

And if that happens, there's 100% chance I'm rocking this bedazzled eyepatch.

I'm pretty okay about it, considering - I have moments of sadness at the difficulty of reading books, which I've always loved so much, and having to cover one eye to properly see - but I think it could always be worse. Either way I'll most likely (touch wood) be able to see out of my right eye, so I'll be able to still see my beautiful wife, our wonderful wedding, family, friends, our first child, I'll be able to see all of the wonderful places we travel, and my favourite movie (Rocky Horror Picture Show) for years to come - and I'm thanking my lucky stars for that. And hey, if worst comes to worst and I go completely blind? I'm getting myself the fluffiest guide dog!!

So this is what's going on in our lives at the moment, in case you see some cryptic Tweets or something. I think we're due a bit of good luck in 2013, don't you?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Our Wedding: Meet Our Bridesmaids!!

One of the first things we decided when getting engaged was who we wanted in our bridal party. We are very lucky to have some really amazing friends scattered across the globe, so set about figuring out how to best invite them to be our best ladies!

You may have seen on Instagram yesterday, we made some awesome bridesmaid boxes to give them - full of goodies from Idaho, and information about our wedding. When we are at home over Christmas we solicited Laura's wonderful Mum to help us paint the boxes, decorate them, and Laura's Dad to drive us around town picking up things to go inside them! It was a family effort, and we really think it paid off!!

So now we would love nothing more than to introduce everyone (and record for ourselves) our beautiful and lovely bridesmaids!

We are so happy to have such an amazing group of women by us - and we are so excited that they all said yes!! We're going to have so much fun!!