Touring London’s Parliament Building

If you are the type who could spend hours on any dreary rainy day wandering through Medieval artifacts in someone’s old drafty manor house, amused by ancient oil paintings and threadbare furniture, than you are my kind of person. Keep that in mind when I tell you that Jon and I splurged on the £18 fee on Saturday and took a guided audio tour of Parliament in London (also known as Westminster Palace, as it used to be a palace, which I did not know). On occasion when we tour these sorts of places I am a little underwhelmed. Having grown up on Disney movies and other fairy tales, manors and castles always seemed to be huge in my mind, and in real life most aren’t, and in fact are quite small compared to their American/New World counterparts. England is cozy! But Westminster Palace, and in particular the Great Hall, is huge and mesmerizing. Most of the building you aren’t allowed to take photographs in, but I don’t mind-more time for gaping with my eye holes. And after an hour or two of wandering around the seat of this nation’s government, Jon and I went shopping for awesome Japanese clothes (helloooo Uniqlo) then scored seats on a cushy couch for wine drinking at one of our favorite pubs in SoHo.

Big Ben

parliament great hall london

touring Parliament London

parliament st stephen's chapel

touring parliament

st stephen's chapel

the opera house

A smattering of other historic adventures I have had, for the viewer’s reading pleasure:

Arundel Castle

Anne of Cleve’s House (one of Henry the 8th’s wives!)

The Roman Baths

Shoreham Fort

Salisbury Cathedral

Lewes Castle

Ohio in 2015

Not going home for a solid two years makes a place not feel like home anymore, in a lot of ways.  The varied emotional states of spending extended time with family doesn’t really make me miss living in the same state, if ya know what I mean, nudge nudge. But I miss them! Of course I miss them. The other weird thing about being home is that unlike most children my age  (that would be thirty) who visit their parents for a day by driving to their house in the morning/afternoon and then leaving in the evening, I end up being super infantilized and spending days on end at one of my parents’ houses, sleeping on couches and being cooked for and stuff. It makes me feel young, and dumb, particularly since my last two visits have been without my Jon. But being with friends back in Ohio, checking out places new and old, gives me a weird sense of loss for the life that I’m not living there. The place where I could be living or working or socializing, not just with Jon but with all the other people I love that aren’t living in the UK. A weird parallel life that some other Ashley is living;  a wispy ghost of an existence that could have happened had my life taken a different turn or two, somewhere along the line.

snow in ohio


morrow county sentinel

wolf's ridge brewery


2014: A year that happened

I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry on with my usual “year in review” thing this year-the ebb and flow of blogging for me seems to ebb more than flow, these past few months. But I also figured that come February, or come January of 2016 or 2026 or something like that, I may wish I’d done it, so where’s the harm in a little recap?

This year was a good one, overall. Much better than 2013, really. But it was almost hard to enjoy, in that there were rough times for so many of our loved ones, and really the world in general. And while these events did cast shadows over the lives of our friends, and the shadow was further cast on us- it seemed strange to revel in our good luck. That being said, it is good to remember the wonderful things and reflect on them before plunging into the new.

Jon and I went to Germany, and Spain. I went to a hippy dippy music festival in Wales and camped under a beautiful Welsh sky in the valleys. I got a shiny new Indefinite Right to Remain visa, so I can stay in the Uk for the long-term. We bought our flat (!). Celebrated a year of Bruce owning. I turned thirty, and unexpectedly found myself quitting a still fairly new job to take up a job offer for another position that I love, and that I’ve been doing for about ten months now. Weird! We painted and I worked out and read books and took beach walks and skyped with my family in Ohio and went to live gigs and listened to music and ate weird stuff and celebrated a measly but very good three years of marriage and drank way too many drinks with friends and overall, yeah, it was good. Very good. Thanks 2014.

brandenberg gate berlin

australian terrier

brighton west pier

book of mormon london

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAberlin hofbrauhausbenidorm sangriaharry potter studio tourBritish Embassy Berlin GermanyAshley Benidorm beachgetting my indefinite right to remain visa

Neutral milk hotel at the roundhouse londonjonashleysummer2014fieldsinlancingsussex.JPGshorehambeachboardwalk.JPG

american expat fourth of julyneutralmilkhotelroundhouselondon.jpgman and dog

Green Man Festival Wales 2014

fog in ShorehamShoreham beach

Our first Christmas in Shoreham

Merry Christmas from the positively balmy climes of Shoreham-by-Sea on the day after Christmas! It barely went below 50F yesterday, so it was not a white christmas, whatsoever. But this was the first holiday season in our flat, and it was also spent on our own, so it had a lot of good going on. Today, Boxing Day, we’ll be heading up to see the Norris family and spending time with in-laws, toddlers, and at least one octogenarian, so don’t worry, we aren’t completely escaping the grasp of holiday family time.
Christmas Eve we abided by tradition, opening a single gift (Jon got me corn socks, what a gent) and watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, which is sadly not a holiday staple in this country. But the live action one with Jim Carrey gets annual tv airing? Ugh, seriously England. Taste. Get some.
Christmas Day we slept late, and Jon took Bruce for a walk-where, in life imitating art, he was yelled at by a drunken neighbor from a few floors up, chilling on his balcony with a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, who shouted down “Boy! What day is it?”, to which Jon replied, in true Dickensian fashion “Why, it’s Christmas Day sir!” and then they both laughed and Jon carried on.
While all THAT was happening, I was making cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon. And starting on the mimosas. And that’s how the day went! We eventually opened some gifts, ate more food, drank more drinks, watched movies, and even had a visit from some friends, which was unexpected and joyful. And while I wouldn’t want to spend every Christmas this way-I feel like skipping the rigors of family time is cheating, somehow-it was a good break from the usual travel, cooking, forced banter, whispered fights in rooms of inlaws sort of thing that seems to happen this time of year. And we got to choose what holiday stuff we watched all day instead of begrudgingly watching whatever the old people and/or small children choose, but since we watched-in order-White Christmas, Arthur Christmas, Shrek the Halls, and Downton Abbey, I’m not sure if I fit more in with the children or the old folks….maybe somewhere in the middle? Anyway. Ho ho ho and all that.
Bruce has a gift for you. He’s been watching you all year.

Christmas Bruce


This was going to be our Christmas card, but we went with something else. But Merry Christmas from the (not as angry as we look) Sheets-Norris household nonetheless!

a wasp christmas 2014

No, but really, our Christmas day looked more like all of this. Much less waspy, I think.

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Winter Wonderland 2014 (and Japanese ramen)

winter wonderland london hyde park

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a creature of habit, but it is fair to say that I am a lover of traditions, those both old and new. Anyone who has been reading since I began visiting (and then moved to) England, will know that Jon and I do a lot of the same stuff every holiday season, one of those things being a day in London where we indulge our voyeuristic need to “lick windows”, as the French say. Meaning, we go do a bit of window shopping in the decadent halls of Harrods. And we go to Winter Wonderland just around the corner in Hyde Park. And we drink mulled wine in the coldish weather (it’s never yet snowed when we’ve been at Winter Wonderland, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for next year). And we just have a nice seasonally appropriate time together!

This year we decided to try to beat the crowds at the ridiculously popular Winter Wonderland by going on a weekday, and with both of us having a few days off left in our work banks, we were happily able to spend last Friday doing our Christmas thang and oh man, it is SO MUCH BETTER when you can avert the shoulder to shoulder crowds and actually shuffle around because you’re looking at everything and taking it all in, rather than shuffle around because you can’t move or breathe in the name of Christmas.

winter wonderland 2014winter wonderland london 2014

winter wonderland christmas 2014

winter wonderland 2014 london

We did not ice skate, again, because Jon hates it, but it looked like everyone was having so much fun and I do enjoy watching people who are really bad at things but are having a wonderful time doing them anyway, if that makes sense. We split a bratwurst, that traditional Christmas treat (ha), and also split a trio of mini burgers, which were not good, in any way. Oh well.

winter wonderland 2014 london

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