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London: Churchill War Rooms
The very last thing we squeezed into our trip to London was the Churchill War Rooms. We almost didn’t make it. We had planned to go earlier in the week, but lines being what they were over the Christmas holidays we didn’t get to see as much as we had intended. Our London Passes had already expired, but Dad really wanted to visit the War Rooms so he, Chris, and I paid the entrance fee anyway and spent our last evening in London below ground in the bunkers while Mom and Rick visited the London Science Museum.
If you read my previous post about Hampton Court, you already know that I love the “slice of life” sort of experiences when it comes to historical destinations. The closer I can get to feeling like I traveled back in time the better (if I could only be granted such a superpower…). The Churchill War Rooms fit the bill perfectly! They were the secret underground headquarters of Churchill and his cabinet during the London Blitz. As soon as World War II ended packed up, turned off the lights, and locked the doors sealing it off exactly as it was the day the war ended (right down to someone’s sugar rations left in a desk drawer). The government understood the significance of such a place and such a moment to Britain’s history and they had the foresight to keep it sealed until it was reopened in the 1970s and converted into a museum for the public to see. So with the exception of some glass walls, information placards and wax war officials, it was as close to being there during the actual war as you could get!
Hitler doodle on one of the maps.
From our current methods of modern warfare with drones, computers and satellites it’s absolutely incredible to think that an entire world war was conducted and won from these very rooms with just little pins on giant maps. It was only three generations ago, but we’ve come such a long way since then! The methods they used back in the 1940s were simultaneously primitive and ingenious and it still blows my mind thinking about it as I review these photos.
So many pin holes!
The daily reported death toll during each night of the Blitz. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for Londoners during that time. I expect it must have been terrifying.
Why hello there Mr. Churchill.
Chris’ favorite part of the experience was the part of the museum dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill. In the US we don’t learn much about Churchill outside of the context of WWII but he was apparently quite a character! It was really amazing to learn about Churchill before he was CHURCHILL (you know, the politician Churchill we always read about). We spent almost as much time in this section of the museum as we did in the rest of the war rooms learning about his aristocratic heritage, his adventures as a war correspondent and heroic POW during the Second Boer War, his daring political career and more. Did you know he single-handedly saved an entire army division, but was captured himself and held hostage, later escaping and traveling almost 300 miles to safety after hiding in an old mine? We sure didn’t! There was way more to Winston than we ever heard about in schools. So much history contained within one short and stout person!
Dad’s and my favorite Churchill quote.
The kitchen that sustained the war.
An officer’s bedroom.

We all left the Churchill War Rooms with a much greater appreciation for England and it’s efforts during World War II.  Overall, London just added fuel to the fire that is my ever-burning desire to be able to travel back in time and see history in person. It was a fantastically exhausting trip for this pregnant lady, but so worth it to be able to spend this time and create these memories with my family. We sure love you guys!

A Very British Romjul

 

 

My mom and dad are recent empty-nesters and while they are mostly loving it, this year when Christmas rolled around they decided that with us in Norway and my youngest brother on a mission, it was a little lame to have a tiny Christmas with just the two of them and my brother, Rick. So they decided a better option was to fly to London. Chris and I happened to agree with them, so the day after Christmas we flew in and met up with them to explore London for 5 days!

 

Mom and I went to London when I was 15 on a band trip (and I had just been back again 3 weeks before), but it was Dad, Rick and Chris’ first time in the city. We got the London Pass and spent 5 full days taking in as many of the sights as we could. We walked Hyde Park and stumbled upon the annual Winter Wonderland theme park  (where this pregnant lady got fairground churros, which pretty much made her entire week!). We toured Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, Hampton Court, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London (which we went back to two days in a row because we didn’t get enough of it the first day).  We visited Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and saw all the primary London landmarks. My family indulged us in waiting in line almost a hour and a half to eat at Pizza Hut (oh how you miss food like this when you live in Norway) and we dragged Rick to see the newest Hobbit with us so we could read the Elvish/Orcish subtitles in English rather than Norwegian. It was a pretty magical trip.
Trafalgar Square
Did you know pelicans were this big? I had NO idea. Hide your small children!
Hyde Park
Westminster Abbey 

 

Walking around London 8 months pregnant started off hunky dory, but after about day 2 I started to feel it in my bones. Literally. I have never been so aware of my pelvis in my entire life. Luckily our hotel room had a bathtub, which was glorious beyond all reason. I’ve sure been missing baths something fierce during this pregnancy! Chris was also the best husband in the world and massaged my poor swollen feet and ankles whenever I needed him to. I don’t think I could have walked as much as we did without him! A little tip for anyone planning to go to London while pregnant: Keep a ready stash of change handy AT ALL TIMES. Most of the public restrooms charge you to get in and the precious moments needed to frantically search for the right coin are murder when the baby decides to kick you right on your bladder! Overall though, it went much better than expected and was the perfect little babymoon!


The Tower of London
Animal art installation at the Tower of London made out of chicken wire.

 

The Tower of London was one of the highlights of our trip. On the first day we went we hardly got to see anything due to the extremely long lines to see the crown jewels (which were totally worth the wait! So cool!) and technically you can only visit an attraction once using the London Pass, but we asked nicely and they gave us a pass to come back the next day. We were so glad they did! There was a lot more to see than we expected! Chris and I took lots of notes on what we liked and didn’t like for when we build our own castle someday.

 

Best picture of Rick ever.
Because Christmas. 
The view of the Thames from the sky walkway on the Tower Bridge.
There were some good views and interesting history, but we decided later that if we were to go back and drop anything from the trip the Tower Bridge Exhibition would be what we wouldn’t miss. The lines were too long and the payoff wasn’t really worth the crowds (unlike Pizza Hut ;) )
Props to Dad for timing this picture perfectly to get Big Ben and the red buses! 
Buckingham Palace

In Norway, the period between Christmas and New Years is called romjul (rom-yool) and this was definitely the best romjul ever!

Sugary Business Trip to London and Birmingham

While Chris was in Naples, I took a little trip of my own to England with my Slikkepotten partner, Katrine, for my first ever business trip! I tell you, there was something surreal about flying to London on a business trip for a company that I own. Life takes you to crazy places, that’s for sure.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold: 1. Take a 2-day cake-specific business class from The Business of Baking and 2: Go to the Cake International convention in Birmingham.

The Business of Baking class was probably the best thing we’ve done for our business all year. By this point Slikkepotten had been open 9 months and we were both completely exhausted and very burned out. I was personally at the point where if I never made another cake again it would be too soon and just the smell of chocolate cake would make my stomach curl (although the latter was probably primarily due to pregnancy…) The class was run by Michelle Green, who is a former bakery owner in Australia who now runs a popular cake industry blog by the same name and Sharon Wee of Sharon Wee Creations, who is a pretty famous cake decorator in the cake world.

In contrast to most cake blogs that focus on tutorials and techniques for decorating cakes, Michelle strictly writes about how to run the business side of making cakes. Katrine and I had been following her posts for a year at this point and her advice proved to be essential to the successful start-up of our company! By this point though, we desperately needed further help  because clearly how things were going weren’t sustainable for us or our families (multiple 80 hour work weeks in a row, anyone?). So, when we found out Michelle and Sharon were coming to London to host their very first international class we jumped on the opportunity.

It was an amazing two days! We learned loads about how to truly run a successful baking business including things like pricing our cakes correctly, managing schedules, dealing with customers, marketing ourselves, getting good systems in place, etc. It was fantastic to interact with other bakers who were all in the same boat as we were and to realize that the problems we were dealing with as a company were pretty universal to the industry. We found out we were actually doing pretty ok for ourselves :) We were able to take what we learned in the class and make some important and much-needed changes in how we run our company. It is definitely still a work in progress and I can’t say it’s even close to where we want it to be yet, but things have been set in motion that will hopefully help us be able to work better hours, have better customer service, spend more time with our families and run a more efficient company. Oh, and to pay ourselves a salary. That will hopefully happen soon :) Thanks so much Michelle and Sharon!

 

We spent two full days in London doing the class and then hopped a train to Birmingham for the Cake International convention. No time for sightseeing!

Cake International was awesome. We went specifically to find new vendors and new products to stock in our shop and get a heads up on upcoming trends (Norway is about 5-10 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to cake trends), but we also watched plenty of demonstrations (some were pretty meh, but some were useful) and ended up getting majorly inspired by the competition cakes. It felt pretty legit to get schmoozed by the vendors who wanted us to stock their products, especially since Norway is such an up and coming market in the cake world and a lot of brands want to expand into it. I felt like such a business owner!

Me the entire 3 days we were there. I had to exercise some serious restraint. Sooooo many cake toys!
^^All made out of sugar!^^
This was one of the coolest cakes in the show! Made by Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes, 8 feet tall, 100% decorated with buttercream. Check out the details of the piping below! 
^^Made out of sprinkles. No joke.^^
The details! The baker in me still geeking out.
Peony demonstration. Time to step up my sugar flower game!
The lovely Sharon Wee signing some books for us for our shop.
I wasn’t very good at taking photos of the progress of my growing baby bump, but here’s one at about 25 weeks that I took for Chris so he could see his baby growing while we were apart. And yes… that was a kissy-face elevator selfie. Don’t judge me.
Buzzfeed famous Katniss Everdeen Mockingjay cake.

 

People are seriously so talented.



Overall, the trip was inspiring and encouraging and made Katrine and I both feel like we might actually be able to pull this off. Thanks Michelle and Sharon and Cake International!