Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gates and front doors...

I've been walking through Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage a lot lately and some of the places, homes and front doors have just charmed me. Here are a few of my favorites.

This one - I love the front gate - the house is adorable (huge too) and through the gate is a lovely garden with daffodils and roses. Just beautiful.

Cate LOVES the lion in the dog house in this house. The lady who lives there is always outside tending to her streetside garden. Also on the side of the house is a beautiful balcony overflowing with flowers.

The blue door and the walkway just charm me to no end in this one.

I love the red door, the brick and the splash of yellow daffodils. It looks like a church but it's someone's home. I think it's just too cute for words.
 All of these say - Welcome - come on in! Which is your favorite?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring fever

We were out back in the garden today. As Cate ran and explored I was taking inventory on what I wanted to plant and where. A vegetable garden is definitely in order, flowers are a must and I"m thinking it would be really interesting to plant fruit.

I'm planning on putting in a herb garden of basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and cilantro here:

And in the back yard I plan to plant loads of flowers. There are daffodils coming up already and I'm sure there are tulips lying low - only time will tell. But right now the bulbs for summer flowers are on sale and I'm drooling over all the gorgeous flowers. Honestly, the flowers here are just stunning. Even the little corner flower stalls offer the most astonishingly beautiful flowers both cut and potted. I want to pull up a lounge chair and sit among all that beauty and drink it all in. So I plan to recreate in our yard. Which currently looks like this (with Fen and Cate):

My dilemma is how to grow fruit  I'm thinking of lemons in a pot. Or berries in the back yard.

We're heading to a few stores this weekend and I'm going to take stock. Expect photos of my successes and failures this summer. Any hints?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting settled

For the past few days I've been trying to get into a rhythm with our new home and life. So far - so good. Our stuff arrives in exactly 15 days - enough time for me to pore over the list of things coming to decide what they are taking away immediately - we don't even want a few large items unloaded off the truck!

However, even though there are loads of things en route, I'm having to buy a lot of new things! The most frustrating thing is paying for everything. We don't qualify for a UK credit card yet so I'm having to use my US ones. The problem with them is they charge a fee for international use! In another five months I will be able to open my own bank account, be added to my husbands checking account, and apply for my very own United Kingdom credit card ! I can hardly wait - the exchange rate I'm paying for buying things is killing me, I'm sure of it. This may seem petty, but I just want to be a UK citizen with all the rights and privileges (minus voting). However, until this sorts itself out I may have to take up juggling in the tube stations - if you see me please toss me a pound or two!

Meanwhile, I need advice - what is the best laundry detergent in the UK? I've noticed that our clothes are looking aged and I can't have that! Also, any suggestions on the best dish soap, cleaning supplies, etc? I'm finding myself reading labels and scratching my head.

This weekend we are heading out to Essex for lunch with George's Mum and family - we can't wait. I've been to the UK dozens and dozens of times but never outside of London - ever! We're driving out and are planning to stop and do a big shop at Sainsburys,Tesco,  Homebase, etc - what's the best place to buy house stuff - like soaps, etc. I need all the help I can get (so I can use my US credit card and grumble about it here!)

Any and all advice is welcome on shopping and procuring a UK credit card or bank account!

Monday, March 22, 2010

We're in!

Hooray and hurrah! We've finally moved in. Still problems but I have a feeling that's going to continue for a long time. But we spent our first night and it was fine. Now the long, long wait for the rest of our stuff. We've already looked around deciding where we're going to put our stuff and what painting/picture/art is going to go where.

However, we have LOADS too much stuff coming to fit in here. We're going to be giving things away as soon as the truck arrives - and this means my books. Keep your eyes open for giveaways coming up soon - from books and DVD's to coffee tables and kids toys. We just don't have the space for it anymore.

But I'm happy we're in. Still doesn't feel like 'ours' but that will change soon enough. Now I can just focus on getting a routine down and setting up house. The cleaning nearly knocked me out - I have sore muscles because of it. Doesn't matter - needed to be done.

More soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The best laid plans...

...of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Robert Burns said it best. We are not moved in. We are half way there and will finish tomorrow. We tried but there were still issues - like the electric sockets not working and the place was so dirty from all the workmen in the place.

I'm heading over in the morning armed with my cleaning supplies and will whip it into shape before Fen arrives with the rest of our stuff.  

We've been here for five weeks now. I just want to settle in already!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Moving Day

Fen just went to get the car so we can take the first load over to the new flat. Hooray! It should take us 3-4 trips, okay, Fen is going to do it, but we're moving! I can't wait to just get in there. We have nothing for two weeks. So first we move our clothes in and then we go shopping. We don't even have pots or plates - nothing. It's all coming in two weeks.

Should be... interesting. I'll be sure to complain about it here soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The flat

So I've figured out the camera - here's a sneak peak at the new flat. I'm so happy things are getting together. The yard is massive - which I'm thrilled about. I can't wait to put my herb garden together. Maybe veggies too?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Okay, things are getting better

Yesterday we went over to the flat and lo! there was electricity, and heat and safety certificates. Also, there was no mould, no wardrobes, no broken window! It's an Easter miracle (is there such a thing?) We can officially and safely move in. And we are - this Friday REALLY.

As I looked around the flat and yard again, I remembered why we took it - it IS small but it's charming, and I'll make it our home. I know my kids are going to love it here and I"m going to do everything I can to make this as memorable and wonderful as I can. X is easy, Cate - she needs more but we'll sort it out.

After visiting the flat we started to wander the streets making our way over to Belsize Park. We sauntered through some of the most amazing streets and just drank in the wonder of it all. I'm really starting to like it here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almost there

Here's good news - I'm not sick anymore - I 'm almost back to normal.This is making a huge difference in everything. Playing with the kids is not a chore and going out in the cold doesn't drain me. So I'm halfway there. The flat is still not ready for us but I'm not even thinking about it anymore. It has to be done by Monday or we cancel the lease and start all over again. I shudder to think.

Next week is going to be busy with school viewings, playdates (that's right!) and I'm having lunch with one of my childhood friends. She's already come over for dinner but we're having a girls lunch and I"m really looking forward to it. X has his immunizations next week which I'm hoping goes as easily as the first round. Poor little fella still has a touch of a cold.

In the meantime, I've been out there exploring London and I've made a few observations of things I like better here and things I prefer in America:

  • I love the towel warmers. They are fantastic. How did I live without them before?
  • I could do without the separate faucets - one hot one cold. Madness! One faucet please!
  • Paper towels - they are so small and useless here. Give me Bounty!
  • Not handicap friendly in the tubes - can't take both kids on the tube. NY has elevators everywhere.
  • Television - we went from 1000 channels and TiVo to six channels and nothing to watch! That should change next week.
  • I love the ready-made meals at M&S, Waitrose and Sainsbury's.
  • The chocolate is considerably better - no competition at all.
  • The beer is much better - too bad I can't drink much of it right now (my time is coming)
  • I love NY but London has much more charm. The buildings and history really fascinates me.
  • No one delivers - it's all take out.
  • I love how they announce when the tube trains will arrive - they are much more frequent in London. But the trains are much bigger in NY.

That's enough complaining/comparing for now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The madness continues

We have not moved in. I tell you - I"m nearing the end of my tether for patience. There was no heat or hot water - so the gas man came but couldn't connect it because the electricity in the storage room was shot and the boiler had a leak. While he was discovering this, Fen and I moved some of the furniture (they are removing all the furniture at some point) and noticed mold on the wardrobes and part of the wall. I flipped.

So they are fixing everything, removing and destroying the wardrobes and painting everything. Honestly, the flat was leased to us as walk-in ready but it is most certainly not. It's still very charming and we still like it - even though I think it's tiny - so we're willing to wait but it's getting ridiculous. I'm STILL sick with a sore throat and my ear is going so I don't need the hassle, frankly.

BUT....there is a silver lining. We've found the most fantastic child minder for Cate for the next six months until she starts nursery school. Once she's in school, X will take her place. We're doing the school walk-arounds and applying to schools in the area. They all look absolutely fantastic. We're waitlisted at two and have five more to view. There's always the state school just up the road which also looks great so we're making headway.

We've also registered at our NHS office and were there today for X who has a little cough but he's fine and the doctors were wonderful, helpful, knowledgeable and we were very impressed.

I've also discovered places to take Cate: Coram Fields, Gymboree, a few different community centres, playgroups at the Heath, etc. So I'm starting to settle in. I"ve met a few mums and everyone is very welcoming, helpful and lovely. Even though the flat situation is rough, at least I'm making headway.

To help with the flat situation, Fen's company extended our corporate housing stay another week so we will not have to live there without a phone, internet or television. Gawd forbid I get cut off from the world again. Just getting Virgin to make a time to come out to the flat to hook us up was a trial -but they're coming next week.

I'm missing NY less but I miss my sister a lot. The sister T who lived next door to us in Brooklyn whose cancer has now spread to her spine. She's back in radiation and will start heavy chemo again. This, too, can be controlled and killed off, but poor T will never be cancer free. I hate that I am not there with her anymore, but she loves to hear my tales and woes from her hospital bed. She misses Cate and X a lot as well. We're going to visit in a few months which is a good thing. She should be home in another week and Cate has mailed off art work for her.

Today there was a tea at Cate's daycare center (which is absolutely fantastic and I'll definitely miss them when we move). Cate was thrilled to have us (X and me) there and presented me with my very first homemade Mother's Day card. It is my single most prized possession now. A glittery hand print of my little angel - better than diamonds!

The cord for my camera is somewhere on a ship in the Atlantic right now. No photos for at least three weeks. The fabulous graveyard is Bunhill Fields, by the way. Daniel Defoe and William Blake are both buried there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Moving week

So we have the keys and the place is ours. MAN - is it small. We'll make do but I'd rather have space now. Oh well. I'm just glad we have a place and can start to settle in. Our stuff doesn't arrive for three more weeks so the wait continues.

I've been so sick lately. I've had conjunctivitis (pink eye) that both Cate and X gave to me (just in time for Mother's day). In addition to that my cold moved into my throat and I've been unable to breathe or eat for days. You'd think the rest of the baby weight would be melting off - hardly!  I can't rest because I have to get up and do things daily so I slog my way through the day and collapse in a heap at night. But I'm feeling slightly better today and hope I'll feel even better tomorrow.

I still don't have daycare set up for Cate yet so that's my latest hurdle. I'm picking away at it and hopefully will have something arranged by the week's end. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Meanwhile, I had a lovely time with George's Mum. What a delightful person! And George is the cutest little tow-headed, blue eyed darling. Unbelievably cute and quite the social butterfly. Made friends with everyone. My little X slept through everything - as usual. He sleeps through everything except the night!

He's 14 weeks today - in two weeks I can start giving him rice cereal - I'll see what the doc says but he's a big boy and wants to eat day and night so I'm thinking he's ready for food. I know I'm ready for some decent sleep!

Anyway, off to buy cleaning supplies. The cleaners are at the flat now but that doesn't mean it will be up to my standards (I'm a clean freak). Lots to do: fridges to buy, sheets to wash, and so on.

Feeling much better about London.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wandering through London

In my daily travels to Cate's daycare I've been looking for creative and new ways to traverse the streets so Cate doesn't realize where we're headed. I've found five different playgrounds between here and her daycare and several different routes.

Yesterday I wandered across an ancient graveyard with a path through it. It's heavily traveled by walkers, bikes, dogs and stroller. People have lunch and there are too many smokers hanging around having a puff than there are folks in the ground - I don't think I have to point out the irony there. Even though it's a graveyard - it's completely alive and fascinating to me. The graves are fenced off by iron gates but the paths are cobblestoned with benches and the living folks mingle quite comfortably with the dead. There is no church - I guess it's long gone.

The gravestones are so old many are unreadable - they're covered in moss and shaded by huge, old oaks and other trees. It's the perfect setting for a Halloween horror flick but I don't find it creepy. The oldest gravestoneI could find was 1692 - a woman who died at the age of 32 - couldn't make out the name. There was another gravestone that was huge and had eight people buried - the first a 28 year old man in 1802 the last a 67 year old man in 1902. Everyone in between  were all related - probably mothers, fathers, daughters son, etc - all the same family - and the later the date the older the age. I just found that interesting.

Today I walked through and there was a caretaker raking  leaves and twigs away so I asked him about the place. The oldest gravestone is marked 1380's and the last is 1912. The little gravestones leaning against the larger one are usually for children (awful!). However, 1380! That's long before Columbus even discovered the Americas - even before he was born. You won't find stuff like this in the US - that's for certain.

Anyway, last night I went to walk through the graveyard but discovered it closed. I had to walk further down the road and past a law school library. Through the HUGE windows I could see all the young future soliciters and barristers toiling away on computers and through the other set of windows on teh other side were rugby and football pitches - beautifully kept with no one on them. I guess lawyers have no time to play sports.

I'm finally starting to appreciate this neighborhood and we're leaving. I'm looking forward to wandering the streets of Hampstead and familiarizing myself with the heath. I'll have to figure out how to download pictures on this computer to accompany my tales.

Tomorrow I'm having tea with Georges Mum. Can't wait!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Beautiful Day in London

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day - the sun was shining - it was a tad cold but it was glorious. We went over the Regent's Park and walked through the stunning manicured gardens. The English can't be beat when it comes to formal gardens - and it's winter. I can't wait to go through the park this summer.

Cate had a great time in one of the playgrounds. She and a little boy named Martin had a blast on the big slide. It was nice to see her back to her old self. She ran through one of the malls with her red ball. There were two dogs who kept a sharp eye on teh ball but never dashed after it - a miracle for certain. The highlight of the park for Cate was the hokey pokey icecream she shared with Fen. I had hot chocolate and X slept through everything.

After the park we hopped on the tube and went down to Westminster - I wanted to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It was crowded but I finally feel like I'm in London. With the pressure to find a place over we can finally relax and have a little fun.

We walked down the embankment of the Thames and then took the tube back up to our flat. It was a lovely, lovely afternoon in London. I'm finally starting to feel at home - ish.