Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Photography Class in London (Part 1 of 3)

Our first assignment was taking a variety of shots along the South Bank of London adjusting to using a camera where we have to adjust the light, aperture, etc (camera things). Pretty cool, except we needed 50 pictures for the assignment and the camera they loaned us only had memory for 60 which made it hard when she said take several pictures of one thing. For the other assignments, I just put the lens from the borrowed camera onto my camera so I could take as many as I wanted.

Anyways, here are my final 6 pictures...

 This is a bottle on the underside of a staircase to a bridge/walkway (lightened a little with photoshop)
This is somewhere along the edge of the South Bank (I believe I lightened the exposure with photoshop)
This is grass along the southbank (darkened the exposure because it was overexposed)
Carousel (no edits)
Somewhere in the bike/skate area of the South Bank (no edits)- I feel like this is my very artsy one! This is also the one I got the most compliments on too
Anyways hope you enjoyed my artsy side, let's hope I can pull off a good job for the next 2 assignments :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dragon Palace (London)

After a long day of walking around (the roomie and I found out after we were on the tube all of our lines were shut down) we were quite starving. We actually basically skipped out on lunch (just a quick croissant at Pret A Manger) because we were planning on eating lunch at Brick Lane (an Indian area) but the market place was so overwhelming and I didn’t have any idea where to go so we just headed to Oxford Circus afterwards. Oxfords Circus is a HUGE shopping street. Because neither of us could really spend a lot of money we headed to this place called PRIMARK which is supposed to be sort of like an equivalent of forever 21 (but it looks like they are actually getting one soon, we saw the building it was going to be in). This place was an absolute madhouse-black Friday kinda mad house. I just bought some tights so I could wear them with my dresses/skirts and be London/European looking.
Anyways, after Oxford Street, we tried to take the tube back, but they had closures on the two lanes that go to us, so we had to walk back from Notting Hill. It was not horrible, but I was not thinking that I was going to have to walk that long so I wore sandals. My feet are KILLING me.

When we finally got back, and after I took a nap (naps are becoming quite crucial here) we decided to wander to Earls Court, which is literally right around the corner from us. Settling upon Dragon’s Palace, we entered the building and were not to sure what to do. I still haven’t gotten the hang on whether or not I need to seat myself or be seated. We were seated but I saw a lot of other people just sit down at an empty table….so confusing.
We both started out with a class of wine, Alyssa got the house white and I got the house red-not bad, but when paired with food, it lost its flavor. I was craving wine, I feel like it has been forever since Carleigh and I have popped a bottle (only 2 weeks!).
Alyssa got the Hot and Sour soup to start out with, and she said it was quite good, this is something I might thinking of taking away on a cold day since its so close, and the vegetarian version is pretty cheap!
I got the Pan Fried Pork Dumpling, excellent! I thought they were awesome, cooked well and had good flavor. I did think that their dipping sauce was a little vinegary so all you needed was just a little sauce.
For my main course I ordered Crispy Beef. Another great dish, the beef stayed true to its name, crispy. The sauce was not at all spicy, which is what the description stated, but still good, although towards the end of the meal, it got a little sweet. I would still order this again though.
 A got Szechuan Chicken. This was an ok dish, I sampled a piece and the flavor was a little bland. The meat was nice and moist (for those who like that…haha I eat my chicken dry). After putting soy sauce on it (which came in this adorable little pitcher) she enjoyed it a lot more.
 We also split an order of Fried Rice. I don’t know if this is how all fried rice is served here, or just this particular restaurant, hopefully I will have a chance to try another place’s. It was pretty white and didn’t seem that fried to me. It was ok, but at that point, I feel like we could have saved a few pence and just ordered the white rice.
Here are our fortune cookies, mine is lame, but my roommates was the good one (i am sure you can tell).

Grade: B

This place was good, I really enjoyed my fried dumplings and crispy beef, but it was a little pricey (prob good for people who don’t have to convert from US $’s). Service was decent for what I have experienced (seems they don’t have to be nice to you if they don’t feel like it).

Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lorenzo's (London)

For dinner, my roommate and I basically just decided to wander to the closest place to our dorms (or so we were thought). Our program only gave us a door of where the majority of the people are. Where we live is right around the corner from Earls Court, host to a variety of restaurants.
My roommate got the Fish and Chips, which was decent in her opinion.
I got some sort of veggie pizza, which was edible, but not good.
We both got cokes, they are made here with REAL sugar, coke with real sugar is like my crack, so addicting.

Grade: D

This place is edible if you have to go here (too expensive for the quality of food, but I guess it is London), but there is a plethora of other restaurants that you should wander around to and try.
Lorenzos on Urbanspoon

London Day 1 & 2

I didn't have internet for the first week I was here, so sadly everything is going to be quite scattered.

The flight started off well! I managed to get a window seat which is my preferred seat-one of the best things is to be able to have an aerial view of the land below you, it just brightens my mood. British people were also all around me so I had the joy of hearing them talk every once and awhile.

I was unable to sleep for more than 20 minutes on my overnight flight, so I ended up watching 2 movies. “Just Go With It,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, and “Hallpass,” with Owen Wilson and some other guy. I thought Just Go With It was very cute, worth seeing but it’s a redbox kind of movie. Hallpass was ok, I didn’t hate it but I won’t be rushing to see it anytime soon.

Landing in London was a little hectic, but I made it alright. From where I got off the plane and got my bag at Customs, I must have walked at least a mile. There were 6 of us from the program so we had a fun ride in. My roommate and I are actually the only ones in our building that are not with the Shakespeare Globe Program, so it is a little awkward, since everyone else in our program is a 15 min walk away. Our rooms are like10x better than the other dorm style apartments. We have plenty of space and our own kitchenette. The other space just has a couple of microwaves and a toaster.
my room, messy I know
kitchenette, and salon 
After unpacking my roommate and I just wandered around, grabbing a bite to eat at Cafe du Coin. After that we wandered around some more until we found a grocery store WaitRose…which is an awesome place but pricier than the others. We got some basics (toilet paper, dish soap and a sponge) and I bought yogurts for the morning and this amazing cheese cake like yogurt thing (that is kinda what I see the consistency as). They were giving out samples so I tried one and fell in love.
Also an interesting fact, Activia yogurts come in so many more flavors here including Fig, Kiwi and Prune (I feel like Prune is a double whammy). I was boring and just picked out the vanilla (which turns out has crushed vanilla beans in it) and strawberry pack.

After that we went to the main housing area and received a tiny tour of Kensington. At the end of the tour, a few of us went to go buy pay as you go phones. We all picked the cheapest option and now have these fancy little pink flip phones. I will admit I am lost with this phone, I am used to a keyboard so it takes me like 5 minutes to send a text. Not having a working phone 24/7 is kinda nice, but I am sure I will be very glad to have it back. 

We just chilled in our room for a few hours, stopped by the boys room who are here for a Shakespeare program and admired their lovely view. We have a brick wall as our view.For dinner we wandered to this Italian place called Lorenzo's (not very good) and then we went back and passed out.

Day 2! It is surreal being around here. Kensington is an absolutely gorgeous borough of London-in fact it’s one of the richest and safest areas!
Fun Fact: Police officers in Britain do not carry guns (except for those at airports, embassies, those protecting the queen etc) although they do have the option to do so. Britain and New Zealand are the only two countries who do not carry guns as a standard.

In between orientation and our tour, my roommate and I stopped to get lunch at a little cafe (which I will get the name of later) and then we walked to get on the tour bus. We had a great tour guide, hilarious and knowledgeable. He showed us a while bunch of cool things/places including Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben and Saint Paul's.
Once of the coolest parts of the trip was when he took us to this mall and we got to see an aerial view of Saint Paul's, gorgeous.
These tents below were started by a guy who has been protesting for like 10 years. Brian Haw, the original protester has just passed away, read more about him here.
Later on my roommate and I both passed out. When we woke up (slept through dinner), we decided we wanted to go to a pub or something and get a drink. I texted one of the girls I had met and she decided to meet up with us. We went to a pub right next to the main house called Builders Arms. It was actually closing so we all got one drink (bars in the nicer areas close early). The bartender was awesome, she let us try a sample of like 4 beers, and we all ended up going with a Pear Cider. We actually ran into some guys from our program so we talked with them and when the pub closed, a couple of us wandered around to try and find a new place.
Someone had mentioned that this place called Arch Angel was open so we decided to go. It was an very interesting place, cherub statues and pictures of Saints and Stuff on the walls, not really the type of place you want to drink at but it ended up being pretty fun.
I had a Becks and a Stella (mmm, one of my favorites). When we left we remembered that there was a place that was open 24 hours called Tesco (reminds me of a 7/11) so we wandered over there to get something to eat (since we had not eaten dinner). I got a crunchie bar (one of my favorites!) and these cute little chocolate candies in the shapes of stars (I know, quite healthy haha). 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mother's Day @ Wildfire

For mothers day (celebrated a week early), I decided to take my mom out to Wildfire: Steaks, Chops and Seafood at Tysons Galleria. I dined there a couple of years ago, and had a very satisfying experience so I thought it would be a nice dinner.
My mom ordered the Aviator $7.50 beer to start off her meal, which was not to bad, she seemed to like it.
They brought us out a slab of cornbread which my mom liked, but I didn't because I am not a huge fan of cornbread.
We started off with two appetizers. Spinach and Artichoke Fondue $9.95 and Baked Goat Cheese $8.95. The spinach and artichoke dip was decent, but I was not very thrilled with the bread that was served for dipping, did not go well with the dip or "fondue". It was bland and not flavorful. The Goat Cheese dip was very tasty. Goat cheese is sometimes a little strong for me, but the flavor was still there without being to overwhelming (I would recommend the Goat Cheese Dip if you like cheese).
We decided to split two meals. The first was the Prime Rib French Dip $13.95 sandwich with Au Jus. I had this last time I went, and it was the best version of the sandwich that I had ever had. Sadly this visit did not hold up to last times expectations. It was edible, but dry, and not the moist, juiciness that this sandwich should be.
The next dish we ordered was the Wildfire Chopped Salad $12.95 (trying to be light after all the other food we consumed) made with chicken, avocados, bacon, blue cheese, scallions corn and tortilla strips served with a citrus-lime vinaigrette. This was a decent salad, nothing spectacular, but tasty.
Overall this dinner was pretty good, not as spectacular as I had hoped (last visits food was better so I went into this meal having realllllly high expectations) but still good enough so we stuffed ourselves.This restaurant is pricey, so save it for a special occasion when you are in the mood for steak, I've heard it is a specialty there.

Grade: B-

Wildfire McLean on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cafe Mogador, Feb NYC trip

This past February (I know, ridiculously late, and I still have more to write about) I visited D in NYC and we ate/drank our way around the city. For lunch, we started out with a Moroccan restaurant, Cafe Mogador. D has been here a few times with her family and they all really like the place. Because there was a Saturday brunch, and it being NYC, the place was packed. Luckily we managed to get a seat in the back corner of the restaurant.

We started out with some Green Tea $4.50/6.50 (sm/lg). AMAZING, I love good tea. And it came in an adorable pot-very authentic (at least in my mind).
Next we started out with Merguez platter $10. It came with hummus (very good), salad (also very good) and the sausage was pretty good. The red sauce on the side was very spicy...but it was good mixed with the hummus.
Then we split an order of Chicken Bastilla $15. This is one of the more original dishes that I have had. Bastilla consists of phylo dough, chicken, eggs, almonds, powdered sugar, herbs and spices. I know you may think that the powdered sugar on it would be weird, but it works with the dish. I have had this dish before at a restaurant in Arlington and I loved it, but I thought Mogador's version was a little dryer than I would have preferred.
It also came with a salad that had beets on it. Very interesting, I am trying to get myself to like beets, but I have not quite gotten there.
Overall I had a good experience at Mogador. It was absolutely packed, a very popular place to eat. I think with all of the restaurants to try in NYC, this one will not warrant a return trip in the near future, but it is definitely worth a try. Look how cute the restaurant is!

Grade: B 

101 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
Café Mogador on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moley Brothers Q-Pit

J and I were on our way to wine tasting on a very windy Friday afternoon and neither of us had eaten. Deciding that eating was the smart thing to do, we used the GPS to try and find somewhere to eat, and ended up settling upon Moley Brothers Q-Pit BBQ in Leesburg.

We both got the Moley Sliders $6.49. I got one with pulled pork, chicken and beef brisket (first pic below). J got 2 pulled pork and a brisket (2nd pic below). They both came with a side of chips and for an extra $ I believe you could add sides.
Overall, our meal was pretty good, satisfied our appetite. It definitely was not the best barbeque I have had-not worth a trip here if you have to go out of the way, but maybe if you were hungry, passing by and craving barbeque.
The inside was very quirky, I loved the tables and organization of the restaurant. 
I enjoyed the lunch I had with J, it was quick, which served our purpose as we were on our way to wine tasting. Like I said, I would not make a special trip here, but if options were limited, I would definitely choose this over fast food.

Grade: C

22034 Shaw Rd Suite 101
Sterling, VA 20164

Moley Brothers BBQ on Urbanspoon