Thursday, April 29, 2010

Friends and Acquaintances

This past weekend I went for a picnic on the Heath with a long time friend - we've known each other for decades having spent our childhoods in the Bahamas. She is British and has lived here on and off most of her life. She also spent 4 years in Manhattan getting her Master's Degree so we've maintained our friendship happily for years. Now we're in the same town again -which is great. She's lovely.

I mentioned to her that I was having a difficult time meeting people. I have always been outgoing and make friends easily. I've met several people in my building and have had nice conversations with most of them - I said to two different neighbors, 'We should go and have a drink sometime.' They were both enthusiastic but it's never happened and I never asked again - they are still delightful when I run into them and it's all good. But I really would love to get to know them better.

My friend Tonya said, "That's not how the British do things. My father put this in prospective for me - Americans cannot differentiate between friends and acquaintances. In the US if you meet someone you invite them in and all is good. In Britain it takes more than that. You meet, you see each other a few times, and eventually you can have dinner - THEN you can be friends. It's not instantaneous."

I can see that it's somewhat true. I've made a few British 'friends' so far who have been very welcoming and delightful. But most of the people I'm meeting are American - which is great but I'd like to have more than the ex pat society as my circle of friends. I also would like to have dinner parties and get togethers sooner rather than later.

So I ask you - is this true? I'm trying not to be too eager but I sure would like to get out there more.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I love about my children

This morning I watched my daughter eating her breakfast and just loved the way she held the next spoonful of cereal to her mouth as she chewed the last one. I know all parents think their children are adorable wonders but in this case, mine really are ;-)

Here are a few of the many, endless things I love about them:

How my daughter wants to wear a tutu every day and asks in her little sweet voice, 'Tutu, mommy?' EVERY day.

When my son catches my eye when nursing or having a bottle he smiles. Sometimes he laughs but he's always ready with that precious, innocent smile.

How my daughter says things like, 'Wow, nice!' when we walk into Homebase. She has a little lisp so it sounds like 'Niy-sch'

My son in his jolly jumper - cutest thing ever

How my son gets SO excited for his rice cereal - he dives for the spoon.

When my daughter meets a new child she reaches for their hand and says in a cheery voice, 'Hi, I'm Cate.' Then leads them off to play.



My daughter's never ending curiosity and fearlessness (like stealing the 'Keep off the Grass' sign at Hever Castle - note the abandoned Peppa Pig doll in the background).

My daugher's curls

My son's surprisingly white blond hair

Their laughs

My son's feet - they are ridiculously huge for his age. And his little grabby hands - always wanting a handful of something.

When Cate say, 'I love you, Mommy' - it's the greatest sound in the world. Can't wait to hear X say the same.

I could go on forever. Sometime they drive me crazy (ususally in the wee hours of the night) but I love them unconditionally. Best thing that ever happened to us!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting to know you...

As we settle in (or attempt to settle in  - found another spider lurking in the corner) I try to get accustomed to the way things run 'round here. Here are a few of my hurdles:

Celsius versus Farenheit - I had a vague idea of the difference but when I arrived it was painfully obviously I knew nothing. I'm finally at the point where when the weather comes on I can guestimate what to wear outside. Of course I can always step out into the yard but that would require effort (and I don't think the neighbors would cotton to me stepping out in my jammies).

The pound versus the dollar - I was doing currency exchanges in my head for the first two months - just so I could get a handle on whether things were a good buy or not. Now I'm good with it - and seeing how we're not really using our US cards or accounts it doesn't really apply. I still say dollars when I price things in my head - one day I'll get it... one day.

Portion sizes: I've lost quite a bit of weight (I can't say how much because I can't figure how to switch it from pounds to kilos - another issue). I prefer the portion sizes over here. I could never finish a meal at a restaurant in the US - no matter where I was. Now I can. And for some reason I swear the food tastes better. How is that?

NHS - I've always had insurance, picked my doctors, made appointments at my leisure and never thought about it. Now I'm not sure what I'm doing. And I don't have to pay - it makes me suspicious. I haven't had to go to a doctor myself yet - thank heavens. I'm not even sure how to do it. I did get a number but they spelled my name wrong - can't even deal with that right now.

The tube versus the subway. In New York City - you pay one price and you can ride anywhere the subway goes. I always had a monthly pass - one price and I rode everywhere at any time as much as I wanted. And you only had to swipe your metrocard on entry. The tube is expensive - even with an Oyster card. And I still never remember to pull out my card upon exiting, I'm the annoying one holding up traffic while fumbling for my card in my oversized purse which is a black bottomless pit of tissues, wet wipes, dummies, baby toys and lint.I have to say NY wins this one.

Washing machines and ovens - haven't a clue how to work either of them but have cooked quite a bit and washed load after load of laundry. I brought an oven thermometer and just fiddle with the oven until it's the right temperature and then I cook away. We're getting a  new oven and a new washer/dryer that will have manuals so I plan to use the new ones correctly!

I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting - but I'm wading my way through and I'll figure it out. I have to say, I've been laughing at myself a lot lately. It's like I'm having to learn everything all over again.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

And the winner is...

Damien Edwards! Congratulations - you have won the crochet creature kit. Please email me at jollyoldengland@gmail.com with your address and I will mail it off to you. Look for more giveaways soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More doors I love

I've been walking around the neighbourhood a lot lately - the weather has just been divine. Here are a few more of my favourite front doors.
I love the crooked tree in the front yard of this one - it's massive and practically blocks it but I think it's wonderful.

The yellow door and red flowers are just so charming to me!

You can't really see the etched, coloured glass in this one but it is beautiful. I clearly won't be winning any awards for photography anytime soon!

This house is just lovely - it's manicured garden is gorgeous too. I want to live here!

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for the crochet kit! I draw the winner tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sunshine Award

Today I got up after a long night of X crying (immunisations), bleary eyed and not in the mood. I turned on the computer after getting the kids sorted and  - hooray - I won an award. The Sunshine Award - I was thrilled. After a string of bad news and bad luck - it made my morning, okay day, okay week, okay MONTH.
First of all, I'd like to thank Melissa for nominating me & my blog for this award and I am honored to pass it along to 12 other bloggers.

There happen to be some rules that go along with accepting your award:

1. Nominate 12 bloggers.
2. Put the award logo onto your sidebar or within a post.
3. Link the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they’ve received this award by commenIting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link the sidebar logo to the person from whom you’ve received this award.

So, in no particular order I would love to nominate:

1.Melissa for nominating me for this award. Her blog is relatively new but definitely worth a read! Thank you so much!
2. Kristina who is a fellow American living here in Blighty. She was one of the first blogs I found and has become a must read and a friend. She's also witty and has some great advice on moving to the UK.
3. Anna - her blog is absolutely beautiful - if you're ever in a bad mood or down on your luck take a look at Anna's brilliant, creative blog and you will be instantly cheery. Her birthday party is one of my favorites!
4. Mummy's Little Monkey is a must read for me. She always manages to make me smile - and she's a Kiwi which is always good stuff!
5. A Mid-Atlantic English - Michelleloui is another American living in Essex. She writes wonderfully and always entertains.
6. Mike - he is an American writer living in the UK. He's VERY funny and has written a book calls Postcards from Across the Pond (I didn't steal his book title for my blog - honest!!!). The book had  me laughing out loud.
7.Yummy Mummy Flabby Tummy is a great read - she's the mother of two who loves to write. Definitely worth a look
8. Karrie from Running in Wellies is always a good blog - I love her choice in reading and she has some great stories of her own to tell.
9. I've just started reading Lou at The Archers at The Larches and I'm hooked. Where I have no space - she has loads! Her adventures with animals (of two legged and four legged) are great.
10. Amelia at 101 Bird Tales has a beautiful blog. I love the art she displays and it's always an interesting read. She also offers art e-courses. Go check her out.
11. Toni, AKA Expat Mum has been on my list longer than most. I rarely miss a post. She is a Brit who has moved to the US of A - she has also written a book called Rules, Brittania. Both are worth a read.
12. Last, and certainly not least, is Almost American - there's always something interesting to read! I love this blog.
Picking twelve was ridiculously hard and I spent half the day mulling it over. I could easily nominate twice as many but I felt I had to stick to the ones I've followed from the beginning!

I hope you all enjoy the Sunshine Award and please pay it forward!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A busy day in Londontown

Today was a runaround day - first Cate and I went off to the community centre to meet Joyce and her kids for a while. We left there and I ran Cate over to her childminders for the morning/afternoon. Quickly ran home to finish laundry and do some calls for a deal I'm working on, but had to run out the door to meet Kristina for lunch. We went to Hi Sushi on the Hampstead High Street - it was fantastic. Kristina is a hoot and we had a great time chatting.

While there I noticed a comedian walked in - for the past week or so I've been complaining about the ads for his latest comedy special. Fen and I both agree that the ads don't do anything for the guy and are a tad annoying. I pointed him out to Kristina (she was facing away from the door) so she did the old over the shoulder glance. It's Michael McIntyre - know him? He was there with another fellow and we realized he was working on new material. I have no idea if he's funny or not but it was my first 'celebrity' sighting in London. I don't really care about these things and neither does Fen, whose reply to my statement, 'I saw that comedian we make fun of at lunch today' was: 'So.' Ah - it takes a lot to impress Fen. If it had been Eva Mendes I'm sure he would have perked up.

After lunch I ran home to make some more calls to NY for different clients and then packed up X to rush back and pick up Cate so we could make it to their doctors appointments on time. I was 10 minutes late. Fen came with us but then  had to run off to work.

It's 4:30 in the afternoon and both kids are napping (immunizations take it out of them) and I'm beat! I rushed everywhere today. I need better shoes - all I have are loafers by the box load - I have no fun shoes for walking around. Hmmm...maybe it's time to shop. Although - I have absolutely no room for anything - even shoes. Perhaps a policy of one in - two out. If I buy anything I have to get rid of two similar. Maybe I'll just make do with what I have.

Off to start dinner now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Murder Most Foul

This weekend I nearly killed two things but only one managed to actually die (this is not as dramatic as it sounds)

The first was my 6-week old laptop - it started acting up which frustrated me - just as I was about to hurl it out the window - it just fizzled into nothing. I rushed out the door  to the place I purchased it, practicing my speech of injustice and ridiculousness - good thing too. The guy at the counter wanted to take it for two weeks and mail it back to me. As if! I left the store with a new computer - I hadn't even brought a receipt or the power cord from the original computer.The one they gave me was, indeed, a dud. So I got my new computer, a usb flash drive (because I lost all my stuff) and the new window's 7 all for free. That made me happy. And this computer is clearly not a dud (I say while I knock on wood).

The next potential victim was a spider. It dared to crawl up our wall - it was HUGE - about 2 inches in leg span, which to me is scary and horrific to the maximum. I nearly jumped out of my skin and immediately had visions of this creature biting my children and laying eggs in their ears - my shoe was off and I was about to start swinging wtih abandon before Fen intervened. I got the speech about how they are the good guys, blah, blah, blah. He carried it out in a tupperware container and released it back into the wild (well, the yard). Lucky for that spider that Fen was there to save it. Because the next one is getting smashed to bits if he's not around. I know it's bad luck to kill a spider but I figure with the luck I've had lately - it can't get any worse!

So the spiders here have been warned, as has this computer. I'm in no mood to be trifled with at the moment.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Settling in

As the Icelandic volcanic ash blows over London, we are settling nicely into our shoebox flat. All but about 10 boxes are unpacked (well, we have quite a bit in storage) and we're getting comfy in our space.
Here is Cate creating genius works of art - her favorite thing after chocolate cookies and Peppa Pig. She is finally starting to love her new life in London and is, for the most part, her happy curious self. She's still prone to bouts of angry outbursts and defiance but that may just be the terrible twos.

X is still his chubby, jolly self. Nothing bothers him - unless he's hungry or wants attention. Here he is enjoying his bumble bee playard (ignore the many, many things piled in the background - they will eventually find a place to reside):
Meanwhile, I'm starting to relax more and enjoy London. We've had a few fun nights out - last night we were out with Joyce and her husband - they are fabulous. We went to The Holly Bush Pub for dinner and then out to the King William IV for drinks after. It's the oldest gay bar in London - and we loved it. Little too much wine, me thinks but it was fun!

I was in a great mood when we got home - only to discover that my sister was hospitalized with pneumonia in her bad lung and was gravely ill again. She's better today as it was just pneumonia and not the chemo or the cancer. Which is a huge relief. That just stopped my heart. I just pray her chemo works this time and stops the cancer in it's tracks.

Then I found out last night and today that all of my friends and coworkers have had to cancel their trips to the London Book Fair next week. I'm so upset - I was  looking forward to seeing everyone and had plans all week. Damn. I guess I"m going alone. That's fine, but it's not the same.

Maybe I'll stay home and continue to unpack. We'll have to see.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What to do with all our stuff

As you can see by my last blog - our flat runneth over with stuff. We've sorted through a bunch of different boxes, gotten rid of a lot but the stuff still remains.

There are a few things that concern me: the safety of my 3 year old who thinks the boxes are her own personal jungle gym. Also, having the boxes unpacked and crowding the place and creating excellent places for dust to accumulate is not good. So we're furiously going through our 237 boxes and finding places for everything.

 I'm also looking into home insurance - we've always had it - at our apartment in New York and our summer cottage in Pennsylvania. I think it's important to insure all of our belongings even if we don't own the flat in which we live.

If anything ever happened - theft, fire, water damage, you name it - I want to be protected. We have all our really important papers and things in a safe deposit box (that was an adventure but a subject for another blog entry).


Right now I"m looking over a sea of unpacked and half unpacked boxes filled with things I haven't needed for two months and now can't seem to part with and wonder how we're going to do this.

It's not forever... it's not forever...right?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crochet Giveaway


As promised - I'm giving away some of our excess stuff. The first is an adorable crochet set - it's a book with 12 adorable patterns for little crocheted animals. The kit comes with everything you need to make the two of the little creatures: the fish and the beaver with the felt tail. Here's the description:

Pick up your hooks and get ready to stitch and stuff a collection of crocheted animal projects with loads of personality. From a pint-sized piglet to a sweet bear that conceals a hidden container. You'll learn to make twelve lovable creatures inspired by the popular art of amigurumi. Inside this clever kit is a book with more than 80 color photos that highlight essential techniques and individual steps in each pattern. Beginners and experience crafters alike will enjoy following these original and irresistibly cute patterns submitted by ten crochet artists from around the world.

I'll pull the winner on Saturday April 24th. Just leave a comment here and you're in the drawing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mountains of boxes as far as the eye can see

So I'm slowly finding all of my apparent treasures in every box I open. My kitchen is coming together but I still can't find my knives or my grater - two things I can't live without. I did bring some of my favorite knives with us - in my air shipment but I want the rest of them now. I still can't cook my favorite meals (Or should I say Fen and Cate's favorites) until I unpack.

We've been living on take out and pizza - you can actually order pizza online here! I love that. In fact Domino's Pizza has a marketing campaign on right now to promote online ordering - which you - fellow bloggers - may also benefit from. If you put their widget on your blog  or facebook, etc and people order from your link - they will pay you! Here's where to get your widget

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up to tackle our suitcases - without the benefit of a real closet - I have no idea where I"m going to put all this stuff but it has to go somewhere! Oy. Thank God for wine (and my many, many wine glasses.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Digging ourselves out...


The sea shipment landed...hard...on Friday. It was a nightmare. The boxes and stuff just kept flowing in like a swollen river raging out of control. About 1/3 of the stuff went right into storage. I think we're going to pack up a bunch of things into a container and ship them back to the US to put in storage there for a few years.

Right now our house is a maze of boxes, toys, picture frames, artwork and just STUFF - everywhere. We have paths through the flat to make our way from one room to another. It's madness and makes my blood pressure shoot through the roof every time I squeeze through the door.

A few things are abundantly clear:

Cate is spoiled rotten - she has way too many toys.
I have too many clothes
I have too many shoes
I have too many wine glasses and not enough wine
We do not have enough room to breathe here
America has ruined us for living anywhere else - and we came from space-challenged New York!

I'm going to sell a bunch of stuff right off the bat. I always knew we were going get rid of a lot of things while we were here and start to streamline our living. I sincerely hope so because we just have everything in excess. It's madness
.
It's going to take weeks to sort all of this out, hang the art, find a place for everything and figure out what we're going to do with the stuff in storage.

Anyone want a glider with ottoman - yours for the taking - come and get it! Otherwise it's going in the rubbish heap!

Things are getting better though. I have to apologize to poor Kristina - we had a lovely lunch two weeks ago and she confessed that she had to stop reading my blog as I was stressing her out! She remembered how hard it was to move here and was reliving her own hell through me! So I'm going to keep the complaining to a minimum because I do not want to cause anyone stress! Yes, the move is hard, but as my mom always says - this too shall pass.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Domicile Tendencies! She's won the book giveaway for If Your Kid Eats this Book Everything Will Still Be Okay. Please email me at jollyoldengland@gmail.com!  I'll send it off on Monday. I hope you enjoy it. Look here for more book giveaways coming up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The trouble continues

So the washing machine is dead. We need a new one. Yesterday I walked by it and said, "The guy's coming to fix you today." And no more than fifteen minutes later it turned itself on and did a complete wash for an hour - with nothing in the machine. After being dead for four days it decided to just up and wash. The repair guy showed up right after it finished. He looked it over and declared the computer was shot so we need a new one. And then the machine turned itself on again - another hour long wash with nothing in it! It's possessed! The repair guy is turning it off today.

The fellow is the landlord's caretaker so I took him through my list of complaints and the result: we need a new washing machine, new oven, new front lock, a new window pane, a window opened in Cate's room, and everything painted. It's all happening this week and next.

Keep your fingers crossed - I will be able to cook again! In a completely repaired and freshly painted flat. Maybe...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel and two yummy recipes

This Friday our sea shipment arrives and all our lovely things will coming pouring into our flat. I can hardly wait. All my stuff: my pots and pans, Kitchenaid appliances, my sewing machine, books, vases, clothes and furniture. My reading glasses (I'm going BLIND here), my spring coats, the kids toys, Claire's Mrs. Potato Head and the rest of our DVD's and music. The changing table (my back is breaking bending over the bed). The list goes on and  wonderfully on. Ah, the joy.

Have NO clue where it's all going to go but I'll make it fit. I just can't wait to get my kitchen together. Yesterday we were invited to Easter lunch at a friends house and I made bruschetta - tomato/basil and mango/avocado. It was just so nice to make something I love but haven't had the equipment to make in this kitchen. I have a wok, a saucepan and one baking dish. Talk about being limited.  I went to Sainsbury's today and bought the store out in anticipation of being able to really let loose and whip up a big fancy meal, cakes, sweets, soups and stews.

My only concern is this tiny electric oven. Half my baking dishes aren't going to fit - and the seal is broken so it can only go up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 Celsius That's not going to cut it for some of my favs. But I will manage.

To further complain - the washing machine broke AGAIN. Last time the repair man found a penny in the drain that had clearly been there since Churchill was in office. But it broke on Thursday afternoon - every light started flashing like a 70's disco and eventually the entire thing plunged into darkness. Repairman is coming this afternoon - hopefully.

I had to go to a laundromat for the first time since I had my first job out of university. Nothing has changed... in case you were interested. It actually wasn't so bad because I finally finished reading a manuscript I've had for 2 months. I wrote the editorial notes, sent them to the author (unfortunately a reject) and I started on the new one. So it wasn't half bad.
 
This Thursday they are coming to remove the furniture to make way for ours - we're painting the flat and once again trying to decide ahead of time where we're going to put everything. I just can't believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can SEE it.

In the meantime enjoy the following. Both recipes are VERY easy, fast and really, really tasty:

TOMATO BASIL BRUSCHETTA

2 large plum tomatoes (or medium ripe vine tomatoes)
1 large bunch of fresh basil
4 garlic cloves crushed
salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 loaf french bread

Slice loaf into 1/2 inch slices, line on cookie tray, drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius until toasted. 15-20 minutes. May also toast on grill. Set aside.

Chop tomatoes, basil and mix in large bowl. Add crushed garlic, olive oil and salt. Mix together. Scoop one spoonful of tomato basil mixture onto each piece of toasted bread and serve.


MANGO/AVOCADO SALSA CROSTINI

1 long thin baguette
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed
1 cup diced mango
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice

Slice bread into 1/4 inch thick slices, arrange on baking sheet, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast until browned - about 15-20 minutes. Or grill.

In bowl, combine avocado, mango, cilantro onion and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix. Scoop 1 spoonful of mixture onto bread slices and serve.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Giveaway: If Your Kid Eats this Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay by Dr. Lara Zibners

I LOVE this book. Dr. Zibners is an emergency room pediatrician from NY but lives here in London now. Her book is not only filled with information on how to know if your child's injury or illness is truly an emergency or not, it's easy to use and FUN to read. Dr. Zibners has a very light and easy style of writing but she knows her stuff.

This is the gift I give to all new mothers   but it's terrific to have even if you're on child number 5. I highly recommend it and want to share a copy with one of you.

Here's a link to read more: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0446508802/

If you're interested just write a little something in the comment section and I'll pull a winner on April 10th! Good luck