Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog roll call... some of my must reads

Ages ago I posted some of my favourite blogs and then I did a few more. Now I'm updating my favourites again. Here are some of my more recent finds that I sit down daily with my morning coffee or afternoon tea to pore over (in no particular order):

Ayak, at Turkish Delight is a must read. She moved to Turkey and lives in a small village with her husband. Her life is complicated and fascinating. Some of the things she writes about would have me running for the hills but she manages it with grace and aplomb! Really great stuff.

Lou at The Archers at the Larches is  a hilarious romp. She and her family moved from the city to rural England into a gigantic, beautiful manor house (at least it looks like one to me). Her life is forever hectic and she writes about it with such humor. Her gardening skills are enviable and chicken and children tales are not to be missed.

Kerry at A Tranquil Townhouse is a delicious glass of wine for the eyes. She loves all things beautiful, interior design in particular. I could reread her blog all night. She is even talented at creating home made designs that she copies from magazines - and successfully. It inspires me but I know better than to try it at home!

James at Man of the 50s is a terrific writer. His last post about his old hat is just delightful. He has a nice voice and an interesting point of view - no nonsense, direct and thought provoking. I love this blog.

Home is Where the Marmite Is is a hilarious writer. She just moved back to the UK after five years abroad in the South of France. Her post  Madame Marmite's World Cup Survival Guide is too funny for words (thanks Lou for linking me up with her!)

This is just a sampling. I'll list more later. If you have any favourites or suggestions please let me know!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Jolly Good Day in London

After the whirlwind visit from my childhood buddy, and lots of outings with the kids and new friends Fen, Cate, X and I were finally alone today. We did a whole lotta nuthin. It was fantastic.

Cate was not well during the night, sporting a very high fever and burning up from it. I gave her something for it and then she slept on me as I sat in a chair and comforted her. I'd put her back down and go to bed but then X would wake up. He is teething so he was up and down all night. Fen and I tagged teamed him between bouts of Cate's crying. Needless to say we were really tired when we finally got up for the day.

Cate was not 100% even though the fever broke around 5am. We decided to stay in and relax. Cate thoroughly enjoyed three viewing of Disney's Cinderella, X slept for hours in his swing, Fen and I did some housework, and puttered around just cleaning, chatting and relaxing. I don't know a day that I have had to just putter and I cannot tell you how nice it is is do absolutely nothing. I didn't worry about my extremely long to-do list, I didn't spend my free time working, I didn't even think about dinner. The day was beautiful and we did get out to the stores and for a stroll but relaxing together with all the windows open and a lovely breeze blowing through made it just the right day to stay at home.

It was great to be in a flat we like, comfortable, and together. It's starting to feel like home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Cross the Pond B&B

It seems our bed and breakfast is closed for just a few days - in other words we have our place to ourselves for four days until guests arrive again. I just said goodbye to one of my best friends in the world who arrived on Tuesday evening and took off this morning at 5:30. I am EXHAUSTED.

I love having guests normally and I love entertaining but we're still not unpacked (we've been here for four weeks now) and things are still kind of piled up around the place and pictures are still not hung. Toys are strewn about looking for a home and unpacked boxes are stacked on top of each other. I'm starting to think that if I haven't opened the box, or needed what was in it for over four months then I probably do not need it and should just chuck it straight out the window. But once again, I digress.

My childhood friend Fina was here and it was great fun, but, man, am I tired.She is single with no kids and likes to have a good time - and a good time was had but I can't keep up anymore - not with the 4am feedings and 3am potty breaks. We had gloriously wonderful wine every night, ate great food: all gourmet, full fat, slathered in butter and cheese - in other words fattening and delicious. See our girls night out above - that is the before photo (I won't post the after).

AND I finally got out shopping for the first time since I arrived here and we contributed greatly to the economy and I am fully stocked with clothes that are nice and summery and actually fit. But I put on about 7lbs (3.2 kilos) in a week! We walked all over the place but it was no match for our hedonistic lifestyle!

She left this morning and I was sad but relieved to see her go. She's back to the Bahamas and I'm back to reality. Thank heavens my reality is starting to feel like home and I'm actually really enjoying myself. Our new flat is exactly what we needed.

My sister and her husband are staying with us again this week on their way back from South Africa and the World Cup. It will be nice to see them, but it will be nice to have the place to ourselves so we can finally unpack once and for all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

And the winner of the £50 CSN gift certificate giveaway is....

With the help of Cate we pulled the winner this morning:
 You can't see it but the winner is: LauraCYMFT! Congratulations!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting out...

I joined a local womens group and went to my first meeting yesterday. I have to say everyone was just lovely and we were all having a nice chat before the speaker got up to talk. I met a wonderful woman who just moved  here from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn just ten days ago. One of the ladies sitting near me was also recently evicted for the same reasons - apparently it's common. I still  consider it baptism by fire but I digress....

I was really excited about going and meeting local ladies and hopefully connecting with a few. My new neighbor came along as well. She is fabulous and we're getting along like a house on fire. Her two kids came with us - I left Cate and X with a babysitter as I really can't sit quietly with a baby and a fidgety three year old.

So things were going great. The speaker was a relationship expert and she was lively and interesting. She got the group going. I stayed mum because it was my first time there and I didn't want to air Fen and my dirty laundry to a bunch of strangers. Well, there were some real humdingers in the group. I listened to their problems with their partners and suddenly Fen's flaws looked ridiculously small.

Another lady, who is obviously in a happy marriage (and who was reed thin, gorgeous with no make up and wore a diamond the size of my eyeball) waxed on about doing things out of love instead of spite and he will do the same for you. It was a nice concept but if I said to Fen, 'Please do this out of love.' He would immediately reply, 'You should stop nagging me out of love.'  Or he'd burst out laughing.

I really enjoyed the conversation - I've complained about my Fen and his shortcomings but after listening to everyone I realize I have it pretty good. I'm no picnic - believe me: I'm bossy, a perfectionist, a workaholic, somewhat messy yet ridiculously organized, a tad laid back about things and then over hyper about others. But overall, I think I got a good thing going here.

That does not mean I'm going to let him control the remote anytime soon. Maybe just tonight...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Still time to enter the £50 CSN giveaway

I'm drawing the winner this Friday, June 25th. You can still enter!

http://jollyoldengland.blogspot.com/2010/06/fantastic-50-certificate-to-csn-stores.html

Monday, June 21, 2010

Insult to injury - the saga continues


This weekend our mailbox, as well as all the mailboxes in this building and probably all in the neighborhood received a mass mailing. It was from a real estate agent wanting to know if we knew anyone looking to move into our neighborhood - they have a fabulous flat for sale just up the road going for a steal.

Guess what flat that might be? Yes...our old one - the one we were evicted from because the bank repossessed it after the landlord failed to pay the mortgage and then ran off with our money.

The letter/flier was filled with photos of the kitchen, garden and lounge (see photo). In the photo of the lounge is our old coffee table that we left behind, sitting there all alone and I felt a pang of guilt for abandoning it.

This blasted place will not go away! I saw the 'For Sale' sign in the window this past week and looked away. I hated living there but it seems to just continue to haunt us. Old landlord is lost to the wind but our attorney hunts him. Sometimes I feel it's just better to let go and move on. I wish it would let us!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sisyphus and the laundry


This is how I feel about my laundry: Sisyphus pushing the giant rock up a hill only to have it roll down again. I am having a devil of a time with the washer/dryer. I've been ruined by owning my own American washer and dryer for years and years that trying to manage laundry here in the UK is challenging (and disappointing).The machine is small and takes an eternity to dry. Everything is still slightly damp and wrinkled when it comes out.

With two small children the laundry just seems to grow daily and I just can't keep up with it. When we moved in I had too much laundry and have been trying to get it down to a managable size. I did two loads a day because that's how long it takes to wash and dry them. And they are TINY loads. I can't do the sheets and towels in our dryer, so when it's time to do them I wash, then lug them to the laundrette down the hill to dry.

I just don't get it! Why not have real dryers? I'm not a fan of line dried clothes or sheets or towels. This is the one thing I cannot get used to. I know I'm grumbling and I don't care - I have to complain and here's why: this morning I put away what I thought was the last load of laundry.

Hooray, thought I. I've finally caught up and now I can stay on top of it.

When Fen saw that the laundry basket was empty - he filled it with laundry he was 'saving'. Stockpiling is more like it. Crap! Now I'm back to two loads again until I can catch up with this lot.

One day, when I'm rich, I'm buying two washing machines and two dryers and then hiring a person to clean it all. Oh, and they'll iron and do windows too!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An artist is born...

Here is Cate's most recent self portrait. Not bad for three years and one week old! Please notice the crown, she refers to herself as Queen Cate therefore the crown is necessary. I guess she's beyond princess status now.

Even though I'm her mom I think it's pretty terrific! And the likeness is uncanny - take a look and see for yourself ;-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

The toaster wars


Fen and I recently celebrated our seven year wedding anniversary (we've been together 8 1/2). When we married he moved into my place (okay it was BEFORE we married - we officially lived in sin) which is where we lived until we moved to London.

In Brooklyn there were clear lines as to what task belonged to whom and what areas were commanded by whom. The place was 'mine' first so I set things up the way I wanted, bought most of the furniture before Fen moved in and things carried on.

Well, things are different in our first place together (well our second if you want to be technical). Fen has suddenly developed a flair for decorating. It's actually nice that he's interested and that he wants input on his surroundings. We have chatted and discussed positioning of furniture and arranging knick-knacks and art hangings. That's all fine.

But...and you knew there would be one as there is always a big but in the way....he dared to move the toaster once I had set it in place in MY kitchen. My husband and daughter enjoy toast in the morning - I do not. I enjoy coffee in the morning - they do not. Therefore I set up 'stations': one for toast near the fridge where the plates, knives and all the toast fixings are within reach. Across the kitchen I set up coffee - with coffee, french press, plug in kettle, etc. This way we will not have to wait for the other to move so we can get our breakfasts ready.

Fen dared to move the toaster over to the kettle as he thought it made sense. Ah...silly man. It started with a conversation, escalated into a heated debate and quickly moved into gauntlets being thrown down and swords being drawn. One sentence ended it all: 'Get out of my kitchen if you want to eat again.'

The toaster now resides by the fridge where it belonged. I love my Fen, but don't mess with my kitchen!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Football, football and more football....


It’s all football all the time here in our house. My German brother-in-law and sister stopped in on their way to South Africa for the games and while he was here the constant (annoying) buzz of the horns was ever present! Fen watches the games but muted as I cannot listen to that racket anymore! Great games if you watching.

Thanks heavens we have a DVR otherwise I’d never get to see my shows – which are getting fewer and fewer as the weeks pass. I just don’t really have the time or the inclination to watch the telly these days. Too much to do, so much to read!

Argentina and South Korea are playing this afternoon and France vs. Mexico tonight. Fen will be glued to the tube. And I will watch while tapping away on the computer. For my entertainment I’m looking for a doppelganger on Facebook!

This month in support of England’s efforts in South Africa, Domino’s Pizza has launched the best footballers lookalike competition for the current squad on Facebook. Unfortunately I haven’t found one yet but perhaps you know someone who is a footballer lookalike? If you do then pass this on -  they could win BIG.


The lookalike with the most “likes” at midnight on 4th July 2010 will win a pizza party worth £100 for the football final on 11th July 2010. If there is a joint winner (or no clear winner) then Domino’s will choose its favourite lookalike from the joint top lookalikes.

Domino’s will also be choosing their own favourite lookalike each week and the winner will score a free pizza just for entering. 

For those who do not want to play, you can just order pizza online and check out the latest pizza offers from Domino's.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tagged!

I've been tagged by Ayak at Turkish Delight (whose blog is just a wonderful escape - brilliantly written and really fascinating - go see for yourself). I have to answer ten questions, then think up ten new ones and tag five other folks. Seems like fun so here I go:

1. Is there anything in your life that you wish you'd done differently?
Not really - I wish I had met my husband earlier but other than that I'm fairly happy with the way things are turning out.

2. Are you a morning or night person?
100% morning person! I could conquer the world before 7am if allowed to sleep at night.

3. Cats or dogs?
I like both but if I had to have one over the other it would be a dog.

4.  Savoury or sweet?
Savoury - I'd rather have salt than sugar. Chocolate has never been high on my priority list but I'll eat it if offered! Give me good food over dessert anyday.

5. Do you keep in touch with old friends or do they get lost or forgotten along the way?
I keep in touch with the friends that matter. I put a lot of energy into maintaining friendships that are worth it. However, a few have slipped away. Which is why I love Facebook - all old friends are new again!

6.  If you had the choice, where in the world would you like to live?
I always said London and now here I am!

7.  Popular or classical music?
I love both - but Cate, Fen, X and I like to dance in the kitchen and that just calls for pop music!

8.  What characteristic in people in general do you most dislike?
Liars and tardiness. Both are just an insult.

9.  Do you enjoy spending hours shopping, or do you try to get it over with as fast as possible?
I'd buy everything online if I could. However, shopping in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my cousin has been one of my favourite pasttimes for years and I'm  hoping to do it this summer (hint, hint Kathalyn!)

10. Who is the person who has had the most influence in your life?
That is a tough one. It isn't just one person but my entire family. Everything I do and everything I am is a reflection of their input and love. I'm very independent but without my family, I am nothing.


So now I have to come up with 10 questions of my own and nominate five people. Okay, I'm stealing one or two of Ayaks as it's late and I have two kids who give me little time to think properly.


Questions:


1. Why blog?

2. Do you have to write or want to write?


3. Sweet or savoury?


4. If you could have coffee with just one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?


5. Toilet paper roll: over or under?


6. Do you enjoy cooking or prefer being cooked for?


7. Beach or Mountains/lake?


8. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie/TV?


9. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?



10. Where on earth would you visit if money and time was no issue?


The folks I'm tagging (in no particular order) are:


Michelloui at A Mid-Atlantic English
Ryan at Scotland Here and Now
Lou at Archers at the Larches
Kerry at A Tranquil Townhouse
Betsy at Betsy Transatlantically

Hope you guys have fun with it!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

FANTASTIC £50 certificate to CSN stores give away!


The folks at CSN and I have joined forces to host a giveaway of a £50 gift certificate to one of you! CSN Stores has amazing online stores where you can find everything from lighting to furniture to cookware. I've ordered a few things from them for my fabulous kitchen with a window. They have everything under the sun: cookware, appliances, lighting, furniture for any style including modern, TV stands, etc. 


They have everything under the sun and this is a terrific gift for one of you! All you need to do to qualify is follow me (if you aren't already) and leave a comment below - if you already follow me just leave a comment to be eligible.


I will pull a winner on Friday June 25th.


Here are the links to the many different websites for all things CSN - check them out and then sign up to win!  Good luck!



 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The New Place

We've been here for just over two weeks and I'm so much happier. This place feels like home whereas the other did not. I haven't lived in an apartment building in over 9 years - I've had a private entrance and a private yard for so long it's weird to be back in shared space - but it's not bad.

Everyone is welcoming - even Frenchie - who wasn't pleasant in the beginning but he's warming up. There are children in almost every flat here. And Cate is loving it. We're out in the back yard with all the other kids every evening and she is overjoyed with the company. The older kids dote on her - pushing her in the swing, playing chase with her and just carrying her around. It's great to watch. The adults are all great too - just yesterday I was upstairs with some new neighbors - just moved here from Boston - having wine and then we went outside to sit with the kids and chat with others. It's just nice. It's almost like living in a dorm! But in the nice, friendly community way!



The garden is just beautiful. The photos here are all in the front and side yard. I love it!
 And...I'm very, very thrilled to be here and out of the old place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fairy school and a third birthday

Nothing is more exciting to a newly minted three-year-old than fairies. Here is my little Cate front and center at fairy school. She just turned three. She had a great time with the crafts and decorating cupcakes, the magic entertained, the dancing to Abba was a huge hit and the best part - shopping in the store afterwards. She is currently wearing her wings, crown and fairy skirt while eating her cereal.

Next we went to have a birthday lunch under the London Eye, went to Sea Life where Cate adopted a shark and named him Toothy. Everything was a wonder - she loved it. Afterwards we sat on the grass outside Westminster Abbey while performers danced and beautiful African bride walked by to the beat of goatskin drummers and Cate played football with two little boys.

By the time we got home she was exhausted. She fell asleep before we could take her outside to sing happy birthday with all the other kids! Finally around 7:30 she woke up - the other kids had to go back to their flats so we sang happy birthday to her and she had her cake. Granted she didn't go back to sleep until midnight - ergo the extra cup of coffee for me this morning.

X didn't think much of it:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

From the mouths of babes...

Cate has a new habit of pointing out things as we walk around. She likes to point at something and annouce cheerily what it is. Today we were cruising in the double stroller, X on bottom half asleep and Cate on top leaning forward shouting out at everything.

'Look Mommy. Yellow car! Look, red flowers. Look, lion.' (that's the lion in the house she loves so much)

We walked through Belsize Park - all my clothes are gone from the window of the charity shop. And by the Everyman Theatre where there were tables set up and about 7 young ladies sipping cosmopolitans dressed in ridiculously high heels and fancy garb - Carrie & the gal wannabes. VERY fun, very cute and they looked like they were having a blast. Claire yelled, 'Look mommy - PINK.' For the drinks which made the ladies laugh.

We then turned up a side street to head home. Heading up hill there is a house with workman out front. One of the fellows was bending over using a drill or something. His pants had slipped down revealing his plumber's butt.

'Look, mommy. BUM.' Shouted my innocent child. Oy!

The other men howled laughing. The owner of said bum tipped his hat and said, 'My apologies, madam.' (There's that 'Madam' again!)

I just smiled and kept going.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sorta charitable....

Last week I donated a gigantic bag filled with old work clothes, sweaters, books and shoes to a charity shop. I was expecting trouble as I've read about a few rotten experiences on a few blogs. The lady eyed me suspiciously and asked what was in the bag.

'Just clothes, books and shoes,' I answered with a smile. She peered in the bag, did a quick assessment and smiled at me. 'Thank you,' she cheerily replied and I left the shop happy to have donated to a good cause.

Today as I ran errands I walked by the charity shop and lo - in the window were three mannequins adorned in my cast offs! Funny, isn't it - all of a sudden all of my clothes looked fabulous and I wanted them back immediately. What was I thinking?! I thought in a panic. I wanted to rush into the store, snatch the clothes off the displays and trot out the door proclaiming, 'Never mind!!!'

I didn't for several reasons: 1. I'm not nutty, 2. I do not need them as they are mostly office attire, 3. Most don't even fit anymore, and 4. I do NOT have the room for any more clothes.

So I walked on but my eyes were like saucers when a woman was in the window fingering the fabric on a dress with a look of lust in her eyes - much like I must have looked when I bought it!

Coming back from my errands I noticed the dress was gone and I'm assuming the woman bought the dress. I hope she enjoys it.  Let's hope I don't tackle her in the street if I ever see her in it!