Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shaun the Sheep

Forgot to mention...one of the funniest things I have come across in awhile was in England - a television show there called "Shaun the Sheep". It is about Shaun, a sheep, and his life on the farm - no talking, very short, 10 minute episodes, kind of like Wallace and Grommit.  I believe it is meant to be a children's show - however, I came across it on our very good family friend's Tivo, recorded every day. I won't share his age.  The show is very cute though, check it out: http://www.shaunthesheep.com/


Saturday, December 18, 2010


My little sister Kate is all grown up and living in the big city!! She got a job this summer after she graduated from school, and she is now a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.  It was her dream to land a job in the Windy City, she set her mind to it and she made it there, which is pretty impressive!!  She lives in Lincoln Park, a fantastic neighborhood that is about a 5-minute walk to the lake and has a great view of the skyline.  I flew out to visit her during the first weekend in December, so the entire city was decorated in Christmas lights, it was beautiful.  I tried to learn the bus system but failed, and I also have decided that I will never complain that 40 degrees is cold again. EVER. I have never felt cold like I did on the shore of Lake Michigan in December.  It did snow while I was there, and that was so pretty to see!!

I am very proud of my little sister and everything she is doing now that she's in the "real world" - and I can't wait to get back and visit in the SUMMER and head to the beach on the lake!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Wedding of the Year!

My Dad's side of the family is small - he only has one sister and she and mostly everyone else from the McKenna side live in England or Ireland.  So when my aunt called us back in December to let us know that my cousin, Victoria, was engaged, I couldn't wait for the wedding! I knew it would be quite the affair, and trust me, I was not disappointed.  I have been lucky enough to travel over to Engand and Ireland a handful of times to visit my Dad's side of the family, but I hadn't been in 5 years, and so this was the BEST reason to go back over, see my family, and celebrate!

My aunt and uncle live in Bardsey, a village just outside of Leeds, a city about 3 hours north of London.  It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and I love spending time there and visiting my family.  They live in a house on a quiet street that backs up to a horse field, and all you can see for miles is just green fields, with stone walls.  It pretty much fits every stereotype Americans have about England, and I love it!

My brother and sister just recently started new jobs, so it was just going to be me, my mom and dad for the trip over.  It took me 18 hours to get ther from the west coast, but well worth it, of course :)  So, I get to JFK to meet up with my parents to fly over to the U.K. - and imagine my shock to see my brother standing there with them!!! It was the BEST surprise, he ended up having a week off before he needed to start his new job, and so my Dad worked his magic was able to get my brother a flight with us last minute so he could come along as well.  I'm sure my face was priceless when I first saw him, I was so happy because I don't get to see him very often either.  The only thing missing was my sister - wish you could have come Kate!!!!

Fast forward to the wedding day!  Vicky and Rob had their ceremony at St. Edwards church, at beautiful, old Catholic church in a little village called Clifford.  The bride, of course, looked absolutely beautiful - amazing satin dress with beading, full-legnth veil, just amazing.  And the hats!!  The hats were incredible.  The best was the mother-of-the-bride's, in my opinion.  A custom-made "fascinator" - a word I had never heard of until this wedding came around.  They were married by the Bishop in a beautiful ceremony, with a full choir in the balcony. And in the midst of all of this, my brother became quite possibly the most important person to the wedding, besides the bride and groom.  Somehow, the guy who came on the trip last minute was suddenly helping out with last minute wedding details,  riding in the car to the church with the wedding party (I wasn't), riding to the reception with the Lord Bishop, and was the most popular wedding guest on the dance floor.  The location where the reception was held had a strict 80-guest limit, and so John became know as "81", the guy who shows up with less than 24 hours notice, but is the life of the party. Of course.  Typical John.  This whole part was officially labeled as "Johngate".

Once they took off in their get-away car, we made our way to the reception, which was held at a place called Harewood House.  The "house" is really what I think the English call a "stately home", and what we could call a palace, there's no other way to describe it.  The house was built in the 1700's, and the Queen's cousin and his wife currently live there.  It sits on acres and acres of land, has gardens, a courtyard, library, and a gallery, among other things. 

When we walked into the main hall, there was a string quartet (I think that's first time I have ever been to any kind of event with a real, live string quartet), and the champagne was flowing!  Pictures, chit-chat, more champagne, and we moved into The Gallery for dinner...it is an amazing room filled with priceless art and antiques.  I have to say, I probably had the best company in the whole room :) And it was actually pretty fun being the only American at the table...I have decided that just about everything sounds better, and smarter, when spoken in a British accent.

The FAMOUS cupcakes...

Hats! Hats! Hats!

My cousin, the beautiful bride

Vicky and "81"

The Gallery

In England, the father-of-the-bride gives the main toast.  Then the groom speaks, and then the best man.  All wonderful, funny speeches, just perfect! At this point I should say that this was the 2nd time on the trip that I had Yorkshire pudding, and I absolutely LOVE it now.  I can't believe I waited all this time to try it, but it's my new favorite! Apparently very easy to make, so if someone wants to whip that up for me...that would be great, thanks.

From The Gallery we moved into the Courtyard for music, dancing, cupcakes, and bacon sandwiches.  The deal with the bacon sandwiches is, they bring them in late at night, I think to balance out all the wine, beer, champagne...you get the idea.  Just what the English do, I guess.  And of course, I was a big fan.  I also learneda tough lesson - NEVER steal someone else's bacon sandwich AND cupcake in the same night!! :)  There was a live band that was fantastic, and they even played "Sweet Home Alabama", so we loved that. 

It was an amazing day, and fabulous night, and just quite the fairytale...I really can't be bothered paying attention to all this Prince William & Kate business, I really just feel like I have already seen it all done right!!

While we were over there, we of course had to cram in a few of our favorite English activities...Rob took us to a Leeds United game - I have been to college football stadiums that seat 100,000 people, and the 30,000-seat Leeds stadium was the loudest place I think I have ever been.  We also went on a pub crawl, which is always a good thing.

The pub down the street from my aunt and uncle's...the oldest in England (that's what they all say)

Family dinner!

Leeds, Leeds, LEEDS!

Downtown Leeds

Such a wonderful trip, was so hard to leave...already thinking about when I can go back!  Up next...Whidbey Island for Thanksgiving!! Looking forward to my aunt, uncle and cousins coming down from Fidalgo Island, which is up in the San Juans - just beautiful.  Love that my whole West Coast family can get together, I am so fortunate to have them just a drive away!!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Planes, trains and...cowboy boots

My very first post! What's been keeping me busy lately is definitely travel - over the past few months I have had an absolutely amazing time planning and taking trips to visit friends and family wherever and whenever I can.  I think I am taking the "I'm-26-and-when-else-am-I-going-to-be-able-to-do-this" philosophpy to heart, and I couldn't be happier about it! 

One of my favorite places to go is up to Whidbey Island, WA, where my mom's sisters, my uncle and cousins live. It is a beautiful area just north of Seattle and it's so wonderful to have family within driving distance and a place to go to unwind and get out of the city!  They live in a cute little town right on the coast and you have to take a ferry to get to it, it's like a mini-vacation every time I visit, and I love it.  I'll go there for Thanksgiving, and I definitely made the drive a few times this past summer.

In August one of my best friends from Atlanta, Jason, was on business in San Francisco and I decided last-minute to bounce down and see him and make my first trip to the City by the Bay!  We had a ball...Fisherman's Wharf, Nob Hill, trolleys, and we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge! Quick trip, but a fun trip!

I was also lucky enough to make it home to Chapel Hill for a week in August...a much needed vacation from work, and my only decision I had to make all week was what time to head to the pool! Played a little golf, had a few beers on Franklin St., and it was so great to have our whole family together under one roof - with me out on the west coast, my brother moving to Greenville, S.C. and my sister now living in Chicago, that doesn't happen very often and such a great week!

Side note - during this time I also moved! Nicole, one of my best friends in Portland, bought a new house and needed a roommate - and the rest is history!  I loved living in the city, but after 4 years, it was just time for a change, and I love where I live now. It's closer to Nike, has a lot more space, and it's so much fun to live with such a good friend! Pictures to come!

The first weekend in October, I made the trek to Nashville with Nicole and our friend Jackie to visit another friend of ours, Ainsley.  She used to work at WHQ in Portland and moved to TN earlier this year to take a position as a Nike sales rep, so a trip to see her was a MUST!  I loved Nashville - it has all the charm I miss about the South, but also the glitz and glam of being the capital of country music!  We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Jack Daniels Distillery, and the three girls (not me) went horesback riding - I had to catch the Clemson-Miami game :) 

Those were the normal activities.  In typical fashion, we also had our moments - Ainsley picked us up in her sales rep MASSIVE van, Nicole won the bullriding contest IN STYLE, we turned into Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman's driveway and almost got stuck, I become the unofficial flirt of Nashville, we drank moonshine out of a mason jar, got into a fender-bender and didn't eat anything if it wasn't fried. Oh, and Ainsley rented us a stretch Hummer limo as a surprise, and we got cupcakes from the shop that did Carrie Underwood's wedding. Of course.  I could sum the weekend up as: whiskey, plaid and lots of laughs :)

Next up is England in a few days!! I am leaving on Wednesday for a week to go to my cousin's wedding, it's going to be amazing - and yes, I am even wearing a little "hat piece" on my head. The wedding is in an old church, the receptoion is at a palace, and I cannot wait to see my family and enjoy every second of it! Updates once I am back Stateside...