Friday, February 19, 2010

Let's Make a Deal

Shopping in Marrakech is an experience....and is a negotiator's dream! Within the souks, everything and anything is up for bargaining, if you can sway the local salesman, who can be quite persistent. 
Ask the price of an item and you will be given a figure about 3 times the final amount you should hope to pay. We had great fun navigating the souks of Marrakech and enjoyed "window" or stall shopping to see the vibrant colors of the berber rugs, the leather goods, scarves, tea sets, lanterns, and more. The continuous hassling from the local salesmen started to wear on us a bit during our trip, but it was all part of the experience and the fun of shopping in the souks. 
Walking through the souks - people and items everywhere. No street signs or arrows in there so I was thankful to have my navigation system with me (aka Scott - he always seems to know where we are without a map!). 
Watch out! A biker might just run you over....they do sometimes sound a horn, but you best move quickly to step out of their way. Better yet, if you are not quick on your feet, a donkey might just run over your foot as they trot through the winding souk streets. 
Navigating our way through the souks - stalls are every which way surrounding you...
All of the items for sale throughout the souks make the stalls vibrant and colorful. It was great fun to shop and bargain for the local treasures we purchased while there! 
Local Berber quality made carpets are for sale.
More spices....

Scott tries to buy some Amber.....little did he know he was being charged about double the amount we should have paid! 
Straw bags....
Handwoven scarves and blankets...
Leather goods...
Traditional tea sets and painted glasses...
More lanterns (my favorite item we saw during this trip)...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shopping for Spring

Shopping for clothes here in the UK is expensive. I often find the prices of clothing are the same in GBP as they are in dollars, thus making them (at the moment) 1.5 times as much more expensive than US items would be. Furthermore the quality is not always the best for middle of the road brands (comparable to Ann Taylor and AT Loft, J. Crew, Banana Republic, etc - my "regular" US stores). And then to add more personal woes to this subject, I find it near impossible to find TALL pants over here, which I need due to my height. 

While I do moan a bit about the lack of clothing shopping I do here, I have found one UK based brand that I have fallen in love with......BODEN. They offer TALL dresses, LONG Pants (Trousers here), size 42 shoes (11 US size women's), and overall offer a preppy but classic look that I just adore. I am hooked! Boden does actually have a US arm now as well so I am very pleased to know that when we return to the US, I can continue my shopping habit with them. 

Last week I was invited to a Boden "shopping party" locally and so of course I attended, ready to make purchases from their new spring line, and ready to scoop up the savings offered at the event. The box of my purchases (3 out of the 4) arrived the other day and I am quite pleased. Boden is one UK clothing company that has made a repeat customer out of me! 
My most recent purchases - a fun print tunic top, long white trousers, and pewter colored sandals. These items are being packed for our Moroccan trip so I am sure they will surface in photos soon! 
These new sandals arrived in a box with this adorable green & pink shoe bag. I love such practical extra makes me a happy customer! 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Love of London

There's no secret that Scott & I both LOVE is one of the most fabulous cities in the world. We try to take advantage of going into London as often as we can (without of course over-doing it because it is VERY expensive!) While we would love to be living in London proper, our bank account is much better off since we are not! At least we are able to visit for a weekend or even just the day, as we did on Saturday. We trained it into the city in the morning to poke around, and then met our friends Beth & BJ for a long lunch, followed by a few afternoon was another lovely Saturday in London...
Scott riding the TUBE as we head to Oxford Street for a little shopping before lunch.

We walked from the Oxford Street shops, through Soho and China town on our way to the Covent Garden area for lunch. The China town streets were colorful and beautifully decorated in honor of the Chinese New Year. 
Lunch for this Saturday was Mexican! Cafe Pacifico is located in Covent Garden, right near the Tube Stop and it was a good find. 
While the margaritas were not quite as good as they are back in the US, they were some of the best we've had on this side of the pond. I can fully endorse the food at Cafe Pacifico......I would say it was even a step up from the Texas Embassy (another mexican restaurant in London). Mexican food is so abundant in the US that I never even thought I would miss it as much as I do over here. Luckily we are close enough to London to get our Mexican food "fix" when we can! 

Monday, February 8, 2010

More on Sandwich Filings....

Last night I was talking to my friend Amy in Chicago about sandwich fillings over here. Amy is currently enrolled in culinary school and just happens to be finishing her sanitation course at the moment. She made the comment that she has learned a lot (more than she probably wanted to know) about food borne illnesses that arise when sandwiches - and their fixings (i.e. mayo, deli meat, etc.) are out in the open for too long. 

Our discussion prompted me to tell her she probably would never want to eat at a sandwich shop over here since so many of their sandwich "fillings" are mayo based. Personally, I do not like mayo. I eat it sparingly - in maybe some chicken salad or dips, and occasionally on a turkey tom sandwich at Jimmy John's. I would much rather have mustard instead. Something about the consistency and processed nature of mayo does not appeal to me. So, these "fillers" over here have little appeal to me since almost all of them are bound with mayonnaise and more mayonnaise.

This morning I went for a shop (as they say here) at my local Sainsbury's. I took this photo of the deli fillers section of the aisle to showcase another angle of this sandwich "filling" normality here. 
Choices of the "deli fillers" section include: Free Range Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich Filler, Deli Melt Tuna & Red Onion Filler, Deli-Fillers Seafood Cocktail, Prawn Mayonnaise Sandwich Filler, Tuna & Sweetcorn Sandwich Filler, Egg & Bacon Sandwich Filler, Cheese & Onion Sandwich Filler, Chicken Tikka Deli Filler, and more....
When I looked up Deli Fillers online, I saw that Sainsbury's is offering over 24 kinds of deli fillers on their website; Morrison's boasts over 20 varieties on their online site; and Waitrose has at least 10 varieties of fillers in their "essential" line alone. 
I suspect there is an ease of preparation for lunch sandwiches when using these fillers. No need to spend a lot of time fixing a sandwich - just slice open the baguette and dump in some deli filling.
This is one part of local living over here that will not become habit for me....I will stick to my club sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sandwich Fillings

One of the small things I miss over here is a good deli sandwich. Some may argue that they exist, however I seem to constantly encounter sandwich "fillings" as the more common lunch sandwich offering in our area of the UK. 

While I do miss a good reuben or turkey club sandwich, I have grown fond of a few of these sandwich "fillings." My favorite is the smoked salmon sandwich on brown bread. In fairness I used to eat smoked salmon on bagels with cream cheese (or lox on bagels) in the US, but I did not find it served as a lunch/deli sandwich as often back there. 
A sandwich with smoked salmon filling on brown bread, as served to me at a little cafe in Stratford. It was tasty! Note, rarely are sandwiches served with crisps (aka chips) in cafes. They always seem to include a side salad or garnish if you may - or more likely you will have a side order of chips (aka fries). 
The smoked salmon filling is usually widely available and has become my preferred choice lately. The other fillings do seem a bit strange compared to my old favorite of a Jimmy John's turkey tom sandwich. I finally took a photo of some of these "fillings" on a menu of an English eatery. And often the "fillings" are available either on sandwiches or on top of a jacket potato (a baked potato - they LOVE potatoes here). 
It also seems they LOVE mayo here. The Prawn Mayo filling is bizarre to me. I am sure if I grew up eating it, I would love it. Same with the cheese & beans. Furthermore, when I see Cheese & Beans on a menu, I would think - "melted cheese with beans...." - thinking along the lines of baked beans and velveeta type cheese. 
It is not. 
Often times when the "fillings" include cheese, it is shredded, and VERY rarely is it ever melted. In fact, it seems the English love cheese sandwiches. Just cheese and maybe some chutney. I enjoy a grilled cheese.....but a non-melted shredded cheese sandwich? I think I'll take a pass. 
Another note on the menu items above here - the bacon is of course what Americans know as ham. Not a deli ham, but more along the lines of a Canadian bacon type of ham. 
And not to miss - the "Tuna & Sweetcorn Mayo" filling is slightly cut off at the bottom of the photo. Very bizarre.

I am positive my stance on the sandwich fillings is purely a reflection of my preferences from where I was raised. I am sure that if Scott & I had both grown up eating beans on toast - or - cheese & beans on a baguette, we probably would find Ham & Swiss on rye a bit strange as well. 
The sandwich I do miss most is a good corned beef sandwich on rye.....but I will leave that topic for another blog post as corned beef has an entirely different meaning over here.....