Monday, May 31, 2010

What a difference a week makes!

We've been in the new place for just over a week and it's like night and day compared to the last one. I LIKE it here. It's much sunnier, spacious and just feels more like home. I'll take photos once the sun decides to come back out again.

We're still unpacking and a storage space is inevitable as we just have too much. But otherwise we're starting to enjoy life again.

Yesterday was a particularly good day. Our lovely new neighbours invited us over for tea. They are a nice young couple with two children: a boy - 5 and a daughter - 2 1/2.  The daughter is also named Cate - but the Italian version of it. The three kids were inside and out playing together - which was wonderful. Cate doesn't have a lot of friends just yet, which is why we're not having a birthday party for her this Saturday. But she was ecstatic to run and play with the two kids. Little X looked on in envy. Poor little fella - his time is coming - but not fast enough for him.

The neighbours are really charming, he's originally from Canada but his family moved to the UK when he was about 11 - we guessed his ancestors are from Iran because he speaks Farsi to the children. She is from Austria - a very elegant, graceful woman, very pretty without effort and waif thin. I felt like a truck driver next to her but she is so warm and engaging you can't help but just love her. She speaks German to the children - so they are trilingual. They speak all three languages with ease and often combine them - starting with English and ending in German or Farsi. And they speak the correct language to each parent. It's really fascinating. Cate and X will have flawless English seeing how that's all we speak fluently. It's a pity - I wish I could teach them another language - afterall Fen and I met in a Spanish language class. We can barely get by in a Spanish speaking country but we found each other so it was money well spent!

Then last night we went to my friend T's flat in Chelsea for dinner. She is the friend who told me the English are more reserved and don't take friendships lightly. She grew up in England but her parents had a place in the Bahamas and she did her masters at Columbia University in NY so we've spent a lot of time together over the years.

She always has an eclectic and interesting mix of friends at her dinners and last night was no exception. There was a lovely woman from Michigan who has been in London for 8 years and just bought her first flat so she was interested in interior design tips from everyone (of which I provided none seeing how I can barely unpack), there was T's boyfriend Mark, and hervery good friend James and his new partner Lane - who is also just bought a new flat and is redecorating. There were two elderly gentlemen - David who is a jewellery designer and Richard who is retired. They were all great.

I had to laugh when they started to gossip about the royals - I had no idea Fergie wasn't that popular! We had a good rowdy debate on who was gay and hiding it as well. Hilarious.

The food was great, the wine flowed freely, the panattone was divine, and the conversation was lively and interesting. It was a great night. We took a car service home and I turned to Fen and said, "We need to get out of the 'hood more often."

He agreed!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

X's new favorite toy

X loves his new little teether - the Vulii Chan Pie Gnon Natural Rubber Baby Teether. I have to admit that when it arrived and I opened the box I didn't think much of it but quickly changed my mind. I thought it was going to be a solid piece and hard for X to hold but I was way off. It is soft, squeezable, makes a squeaky sound/whistle and my little man immediately took to it. It even smells nice (weird but true).

They are now inseparable. He coos to his new friend before stuffing him in his mouth. It's a huge hit. Honestly, I don't know who likes it better - X or me. His reaction to Vulii is hilarious to watch - he dives for it, chews on it for hours on end, laughing, cooing and babbling to it.Which is a huge relief to me as I have boxes upon boxes to unpack and he's been acting up of late. When I give this little toy to him I can actually get some work done - it's a miracle!

If you're interested in one you can find a Vulii Natural Rubber Baby Teether at the online nursery shop Hello Baby which has quickly become my go-to website for all things kiddie. Check them out!

He's chewing on it now and Cate is watching Peppa Pig so I had better get back to my unpacking while I can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coming up for air

It's been a long busy week. The move went fairly seamlessly which was a huge relief. When the movers showed up Fen and I were not impressed with their slight bodies and thin arms but once they got moving they were Herculean! I could not believe these scrawny guys could lift things so effortlessly. It reminded me of Asterisk and Obelisk and the Druids brew!

We moved the big stuff - all the furniture, the clothes, toys, etc. But we ran out of time to move all my books, photos, frames, and smaller things we just didn't have time to pack. So slowly over the past four days Fen and I have run back and forth packing up suitcases and running them back down to the new place. Finally, at the crack of dawn this morning Fen made the final trip to pick up some shelves we had just installed (dang) and we were out.

At 11:30 today as we walked back past the old place the bailiff and locksmith were there changing the locks and repossessing the property. They told us how often this happens and the tenants are always blindsided. Ridiculous, annoying and frustrating but it's nice to know we're not alone. Ironically, the little rose bush out front, which I admired and was patiently waiting to see bloom - bloomed. Beautiful fuschia English roses. Gorgeous, perfect, and no longer mine.

But that's okay because now when I look outside I see the perfectly manicured garden and the many, many royal palm trees that dot the yard. It's so comforting to me - being an Island girl and all. Outside of my parents home there have always been coconut trees and rows of palms so the trees always make me think of home. And that is just one of the many things I really love about our new place.

This place is not huge, not by any means but it's a palace compared to the last one. It just feels like home whereas the old place made me tense and really unhappy. Even Cate is happier. She has so much more room to move around and so many more of her toys are out. We had a picnic in her bedroom where she served tea and donuts and giggled uncontrollably. It was adorable. It's just much better all around.

Meanwhile I've been ridiuclously busy with the  move, unpacking, going on school tours, trying to sue our former landlord, working on a new deal at work that is driving me bonkers, reading a freelance project that is so wonderful it should be published immediately, and dealing with a cranky, teething six month old baby.

But it's all good because we're finally settling in. And we have big plans for Cate's birthday next week. Can't WAIT to see her reaction to it all! And her godmother (my sister) and uncle are coming to visit. Things are looking WAY up.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Foxes in London?

Yesterday we went to the new flat to meet with the inventory guy and get our keys, etc. Today is the big move - the movers will be here in an hour. Can't wait.

While we were there yesterday, we weren't in the door ten minutes when there was a knock on the front door. It was a French man - youngish - about 35. He had just come back from a run and had a look of frustration.

'Hi,' he said breathlessly. 'Did you recently move in?'

'We're about to move in,' I said cheerily.

'Did you put all those boxes and rubbish by the fence?'

'No, wasn't us,' I replied, my cheeriness now fading.

He looked skeptical.

'Have you seen anyone dump anything out there? Because it's not supposed to go there. The foxes got into it last night.'

Foxes? There are foxes running around the mean streets of Hampstead?

'I haven't seen anything. I haven't moved in and we've only been here for ten minutes,' I say.

Still not convinced he said, 'You mean you live here in flat one and you haven't seen anything?'

'We haven't moved in yet, we JUST got here. No, we haven't seen anything at all. We don't even have the keys yet.'

'Keep an eye out and let me know,' he said sharply and turned on his heel. 'Welcome to the building.'

What, no wine, no flowers? Sheesh!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The search for education

We resumed our search for a nursery/primary school for Cate yesterday. I was NOT impressed with the latest.

The first thing that threw me was the fact that the students called the teachers by their first names - not Mr. Mrs. Miss. Ms. I don't like that at all! Cate is a very defiant, bold individual and not having that line of authority clearly marked will not be lost on her. Perhaps I'm old school but I think that there needs to be a pecking order in school and kids should know and respect their teachers. Calling them by their first name makes them more peers and far to familiar - just my thoughts.

Second, the school is a discovery based learning curriculum - sort of a Montessori type learning. Cate needs more structure. She needs to have supervision and more of an organized room to learn. This turned me off completely. Also, in the nursery there were only two adults and a room filled with kids doing their own thing. My daughter would tear that room apart without having a clear indication of what she needs to be doing. When she is at home we have routine and Cate does well with this, left to her own devices, she usually gets up to no good. She has plenty of freedom - don't get me wrong - but she is a very intelligent, curious child and it takes a bit to keep her happy. I'm fine with this - I have crafts galore and activities aplenty for her. She just need discipline and organization.

Next, the head teacher was very nice, very engaging but he seemed very focus on music, more than anything else. Which is great! But Claire is more artistic rather than musical so far. I'm more interested in learning how she's going to read, etc. than after school clubs right now. I think it's great that he is so passionate but I don't think he cares so much about the other stuff as much as the music.I could be wrong about him but that's the feeling I got.

So we've scratched this one off our list. Pity - it's a state school. Cate's already in at a few terrific nursery schools but I have to get her into reception for next year and that's the real hunt. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The New Place

Hooray - we have a new place. It's bigger, it's better, it's fabulously wonderful and we're moving this weekend. And...get this... it's only four doors down. We saw it last week and when I saw the two large palm trees and the manicured garden in the front I just KNEW it was going to be home. And now it will be.

It's more expensive but so worth it. The kitchen alone is marvellous - marble countertops, a working oven and washer/dryer, and a gas hob. And the best bit - a nice big sunny window for my herb garden! I haven't had a window in my kitchen since I left my parents house for university - in other words, I've never had a window in my kitchen (thank you New York City). Well, we had a window in our kitchen about 10 years ago but it looked out on the air shaft which was a haven for mating pigeons  - that doesn't count, right?

One of my biggest worries about our current-soon-to-be-repossessed flat was the space - where on earth would my little X learn how to walk? Where would he and Cate play? Well, that's not an issue anymore - we have a nice long hall way, loads of room in the lounge and bedrooms for X to master the art of walking, climbing and anything else his little heart desires. And Cate can spread her toys out all at the same time (although we do monthly rotations so she doesn't get bored with them)

There is a large back yard, it's communal but there are other children in the building and there are shared toys - a castle, slide, swing, etc. We'll add a few of Cate's toys to it so everyone can play with them as well. There's a large deck and a nice large lawn as well. Cate is going to love it. I'll post photos soon.

I'm so inspired I've been doing a lot of busy work that I just haven't wanted to do for my job. (I love my job). At least I'll be able to better organize myself in the new place, that's a real point of happiness for me as well.

I thank you all for your good wishes and you were right - things do happen for a reason. I was not remotely happy with our flat and I know we will be happy in our new one. I have to say my spirits are considerably lifted. So lifted I'm ready to go after our landlord for our money with guns loaded and swords drawn.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moving on up?

As things go from bad to worse in our current flat, we're out hunting for another. We have considered buying a flat but did we want to incur the expresn and responibility? Regardless, I did a little research for online loans just in case.

So we’re looking at new flats in our neighbourhood and beyond – it’s exhausting. Perhaps it would be in our best interests to just bite the bullet and buy a flat – then we don’t have to worry about bad landlords or about drilling holes in the wall. The freedom of having your own place is a great – but a huge expense – especially if you have major repairs. There are benefits and drawbacks to owning and to renting. We think renting may be the best right now – but you never know.

Whatever the case, we need to a find a place to STAY – for a minimum of three years. I cannot fathom moving again. I just can’t!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gardener's World

Last week on BBC breakfast they featured Gardener's World - the magazine. This month they have a two-for-one card for entry into over 250 Gardens throughout the UK. I ran out and bought it - I love gardens. We've already been to Hever Castle (and paid full price) so this card should come in handy. I just thought I'd share with everyone - this is NOT a paid entry!

The hunt for a flat continues.... much to tell, no time to tell it right now.

Here we are at Hever Castle.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A hunting we will go

I've been reluctantly pounding the pavement looking at new flats. Some great, some - not so much.

One place - which was a highrise and I didn't even want to go inside (I didn't leave New York City to live in a highrise apartment building with no charm and a doorman) - we couldn't even fit the double stroller in the lift so that was scratched off the list immediately.

We saw one flat that has loads of potential. I'm feeling cheerier but it's all so discouraging.

We may have to sue our current landlord to get our money back - exactly what I do not need. I barely have time to myself as it is. But we will do it if our hands are forced. Why do people have to be so crooked?

Anyway, we'll move, we'll set up shop, settle in and be happy again somewhere new - and BIGGER and better. We'll have no money left but at least we won't have spiders (I hope).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prolific Blogger Award

In the midst of my current problems I have received the Prolific Blogger Award from Michelloui at A Mid-Atlantic English. The originator over at Advance Booking has attached the following rules...

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!

2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award (see above).

3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to
This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit
this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

So for the seven winners I'm following A MidAlantic English's lead and choosing some new bloggers that I just love reading and a few favorites. I hope you like them too:

Lou at The Archers at the Larches.

Julie at Wellington Road (I love Kiwis - married one, infact.)

Geeky Mommy

Ryan at Scotland Here and Now

Ayak at Turkish Delight

Lis at An American Girl in Bristol 

Melissa at Smitten by Britain

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Un f*@&ing believable

This morning we woke up ready to face the day, happy and settling in. That has all come to an end.

As you know, I've been unhappy with our flat - the trouble moving in: no electricity, no heat or hot water, and then the smell, the psychotic washing machine, the ridiculous oven and the size - oh so small. Well, it's all over.

At 9:30am as we were dressing the kids to go out for the day - a locksmith turned up on our front doorstep. He was just waiting for the bailiff - the owner of our flat is in arrears with his mortgage and the place is being repossessed! They were changing the locks and chucking us into the street. They haven't - we have two weeks to pack up and move.

Infuriated I called the owner (went to voicemail - no surprise there) and the letting agent. I let them have it. We're out our deposit and our months rent. Now we have to transfer more money over from the US to afford a new move, pay for it and then try to get our money back from the crooked bastard who has ripped us off. I called our attorney (yes, we have one here already!) and she is sorting us out.

I feel sorry for Cate - she was just settling into her new life and FINALLY becoming happy and jolly again. Now we have to move her once again to another flat - God only knows where. I also feel sorry for our wallets - this is an expense we simply don't need. We're just lucky we can pay it - thank God I'm a miser and we've been frugal in our expenses while here.

On the bright side - hopefully I'll like our new place.

But... in case you're just tuning in for the first time, or if you've forgotten - we have LOADS of stuff to pack and move. Jaysus - I could just die!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walking, bagpipes and war

Today I took a stroll through Hampstead Heath with X after we dropped Cate at her child minders. It was lovely. I've been walking a lot since we moved here - and it seems that no matter what direction I walk - it's uphill. I feel like my grandpa talking about walking up hill both ways in the rain - which is what I actually do now!

When we first got here I could barely walk three city blocks - I had just had a 9 1/2 pound baby via c-section 11 weeks earlier so I wasn't in any kind of shape. But after pushing two kids in a double stroller up and down the rolling hills of Hampstead - I'm getting plenty of exercise - whether I like it or not.

The weather hasn't been the best but I wanted to see some greenery - granted we have a huge back yard but I wanted woods and ponds. While walking, I saw a fellow walking along with his guitar strapped on his back and wondered if he dared to play in the park. When I was here a few weeks ago with a British friend (from childhood - not a new acquaintance) she told me that no musical instruments were allowed in the park - unless is was bagpipes - because they are an instrument of war! I think that's fantastic!

I doubt war is about to break out on the Heath anytime soon, but I hope there's a piper at the ready, just in case. It got me thinking of other instruments of war - fifes. drums. horns, trumpets, conch shells - all used back when wars were mostly fought in man-to-man combat with horses, swords. sticks and such. The instruments were played to rouse the troops - not to mention how it announced, "We're comin; to kick yer arses." Now war is all about surprise attacks and stealth bombers, etc, Not nearly as honorable - I think.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More stuff

The rest of our stuff arrived today. God help me - it's too much! We put a bunch of stuff in storage when it first arrived but the time ran out and it all came back to us today. Half of it is out on the patio and the rest is stacked in the entry way. Time to scooch around boxes again. Ah, the joy.

We made a decision - we're shipping a bunch of things back to the US - my brother will store it for us for several years. ALL electronics are going back. We've tried several transformers to no avail. The first, as you know, was my PC. I still mourn it's death. Then last week Fen brought home a new transformer that we were promised would solve all our issues - it didn't. It cost £100 and it blew up my fancy Kitchenaid food processor. The thing literally smoked - I thought it might burst into flame when it started smoking. I quickly unplugged it, grabbed it and ran to the front door intending to hurl it out into the rain - but Fen was coming in the door when I opened it. I must have been quite a sight with a smoking food processor and look of terror in my eyes.

We're getting a quote from our movers to return all electronics - all my fancy crystal and china, half the Christmas ornaments, Fen's telescope, coffee tables, rugs, etc. - all going back to the US of A. Frankly, I'll be glad to get rid of it and it will be one less hassle when we head back to the states in a few years.

So for now we squeeze past unpacked boxes and suitcases, and things that have no place yet.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shriek heard round the world

Did you hear it? It was me. Around 11:45pm (or 23:45 here in Blighty) a blood curdling scream pierced the quiet Friday night.  I was minding my own business, working away on my laptop in my 'office' when a sorta large black spider crawled over the top of the computer and down onto the screen.

I'm proud of myself for not throwing the computer against the wall. But I did smash the spider to bits with the phone. I am still cringing thinking about it. I haven't told my husband that I murdered a spider last night - and I feel no regret as it was all over within seconds.

I don't like things that crawl or scurry in the night (or day for that matter). I grew up in a country that had flying cockroaches - three inches long (7 1\2 cm), centipedes, scorpions and tarantulas: allof which I had run ins with at one point or another. Yet, it's been years since I've had to deal with anything that gives me the willies. Actually, we had two mice who moved into our Brooklyn pad last year but that was short lived (in was the whole neighborhood not just us).

Now I find myself inspecting the corners and the walls for eight-legged interlopers. I'm jumping when I brush up against anything. I hate it. I feel like a character in an Alred Hitchcock movie.

Little things that crawl over my computer and scare me have got to go. This is not Britain's fault, I think it's the weather and change of season. However, I am on a hunt to humanely remove all things that could potentially crawl into my children's beds and lay eggs in their ears. Any suggestions? Killing everything with my slippers or phone is not an option but a last resort.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More things that take getting used to

I grew up in the British school system, in the Bahamas which is a commonwealth that still recognizes the Queen as head of state but LIVING in England is chock full of surprises. There are so many things to get used to. Mind you I've mentioned this before and these are not problems - they are just observations. Here are a few more things that have me stumped:

This may be small but it's amusing to me. When quoting numbers people say: double and treble. For example - on TV they quote a phone number as: 0207 - double 4, 3, double 5, etc. In the US they just say the number - no doubles and I honestly don't think half the US would EVER say treble (or even know what it means). It gets me every time! I can't get used to giving a number with doubles or trebles in it so I'm glad none of our number has this in it. I mean I want to fit in and all...

I've complained about this before and now I have photographic evidence. Toilet rolls and paper towel rolls are so tiny here. Here is the differnce between a Bounty roll and a Sainsbury jumbo roll (in the back) and a Charmin US roll vs. a Cushell (formerly Charmin). The US stuff is twice the size. Everything seems smaller here - maybe the US is just excessive? Either way - I love the big products of the US and the small portions of the UK.

Greenwich Mean Time - I do not get it. I'm not a numbers person - I am a word/English language lover so numbers leave me befuddled. I'm good in the morning but once that digital clock rolls past noon I'm done. I never wanted to do math to figure out the time but now I find myself thinking: 'Okay it's 15:15 - that's quarter past 15 o'clock, it's 15 minus 12 and that is.... what now?' I'm counting on my fingers to figure out if it's time for bed or not. I'm always exhausted because X isn't sleeping through the night so I can't rely on my internal Eastern Standard Time clock. My TV, the computer, the microwave are all testing my mathematic muscle and, frankly, I'm weak - and proud of it. I'm going to have to get old fashioned analog clock because I'm lazy. There... I said it. And I know it's daylight savings time but you get the gist of what I'm saying.

Eggs are not in the cold section. They are room temperature. That is just weird to me. In the US they are kept refrigerated - next to the cheese and butter. Here I forget to buy them because I'm not even sure where they are. I wanted to make meatloaf for dinner tonight but I forgot the eggs - again. I just have to find them - it's the only solution.

One thing I absolutelty love: the handy-dandy credit card/debit card machines that waiters bring to the table. How fabulous is that? One little swipe and you're done. No waiting. This is brilliant.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

For The Reek It Smothers Me

After three weeks of nagging and a threat to call the health department - the source of the stench emanating from our kitchen has been found and fixed. No, it was not my cooking, thankyouveddymuch. For the past three weeks every now and again, a terrible, awful smell would waft up from somewhere in our kitchen. It was foul. We couldn't figure it out for anything. But it made me crazy.

Finally, the flat owner sent over his guy who found the source: it was stagnant water from a leak where the dishwasher had originally been - behind the counters. It's all fixed now but, man, it took some doing to get it done.

We haven't had anyone over to visit yet - other than babysitters - because it just smelled so bad in here - you couldn't even predict when it would smell - it just did sometimes and sometimes it didn't.

Anyway, it's all solved now and I'm back to just regular stressed and sleep deprived.

The quote: 'For the reek it smothers me' is from a 12th century Scottish poem/ballad Edom O'Gordon. I studied it in highschool a million years ago and the line always pops in my head when there is a foul odour about. Finally, it has come to good use.  Read it here if you're interested. Stay in school kids!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Breaking the law

We're breaking the law here... didn't mean to but we're definitely bound for the big house, the pokey, the slammer, the clink. We're going to be sent up the river...well, you get the idea. All of this came to light when we received a STERNLY worded note informing us that they knew we were watching television without a license. God forgive us - we didn't know. Well, if that makes us pistol packin' outlaws so be it.

I've been astounded by the way we've been nickel and dimed to death (or is that pence and pennied? Same thing I know...) but this really takes the cake. A license to watch television. Why a license? Should it just be an annual fee - like everything else? And is there a test we'll have to take for this license - because if it includes knowing the cast of East Enders we're done for.

It was explained to us - what exactly this ridiculous license is for and seeing how we rarely watch the BBC - we shouldn't have to pay it. No offense to the programmers in charge of the BBC - but you stink! I wouldn't pay to watch it so it's a good bloody thing it's the law! We're paying it - don't get me wrong - we certainly do not want the Gestapo storming the door as threatened. I'm just saying... a LICENSE to watch television. This one really put me over the edge. Where does it end?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Another award

I'm delighted to have another award to share:  I have the "Beautiful blogger" award from Laura at Yummy Mummy. I love her blog and have been a fan for quite a while. Please check her out - it's worth a visit. So I have to list 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to 15 other bloggers, so here goes.

  1. I have two small children that I absolutely adore.
  2. I've only lived in London for less than three months
  3. I grew up in the Bahamas but have spent more time in New York City where I met my husband, had both kids and 'found' myself.
  4. I can't go to sleep until my husband is home from work - which can be very late.
  5. I'm addicted to Country House Rescue. I love it!
  6. Cooking is my passion - I love it. I relaxes me and I'm always looking for new recipes.
  7. I've launched the career of hundreds of people - it is one thing of which I'm very proud and brings me joy.
And I'd like to pass this on to you...

Melissa at American Girl in Bristol, Kristina at American Expat in London,  Lou at The Archers at the Larches - love her!, Karrie at Running in Wellies, Amelia at 101 Birds, Anissa at Anissa Off the Record, Peggy at Perfect Happy Mum, Marsha at Write On, Andrea at Forever is Tomorrow is Today, Mike from Postcards From Across the PondBombshellicious, Jason at Destination England,  Alice at The Alice. Julie at Wellington Road , and last but not least: Anna at Evie George - her blog is truly beautiful!