Monday, May 30, 2011

X and Cate's Big Adventure in Shropshire

That there is Cate and one of Lou's sproglets having a wander around the castle walls in Ludlow, UK. We were there visiting the Archers at the Fabulous Larches once again. We love it out there - not only is it gorgeous, stunning English countryside, the Archers are so lovely.

Cate still can't stop talking about the kids and her adventure in the country. I think the chickens were a big hit. here are the Archer's bantam chicks:
And here is the condo-coop with the rooster minding his harem and birds:
Lou has the most amazing garden:

 Above is the walled, raised bed vegetable garden. She has everything you can think of growing here. We had kale from the garden for dinner both nights! The onions are waving in the wind in that bottom photo. Fantastic.

Lou's hot house - filled with goodies including pumpkins. She really has outdone herself. See the strawberries peaking out there? We had a few that her 8-yo picked. Both of the sproglets are completely intuned to the garden, the animals and the lifestyle - naturals, especially the 8yo. She's amazing with the animals, the garden and helping out around the house. I'm wondering if Lou rents her out?
My favourite thing at the Larches? The kitchen door that leads to the vegetable garden:
And the garden gate that leads into the vegetable garden:
We had a lovely day in Ludlow - spent some cash in the market as usual and had a lovely lunch as well. The town is so charming and authentically medieval. Lou's hubbie and I were reading the placards on some of the buildings - which are mostly Tudor. One sign stated the building was the former jail and was built in 1490. I laughed and said neither of my countries had even been discovered yet. That building was older than the entire United States by two years!!! Astonishing. The buildings are so crooked and unbelievable Fen and I kept saying it looked like something out of Disney, because they were so wonderfully old and authentic - like they were trying too hard.

We went for a walk in the forest and Lou's hubby spied a lizard. The sproglets turned over the log the lizard had been on and found a slow worm (looked like a baby snake to me - eek!) and a baby toad. Here are they are:
This proved to me once again that I have little business being in the great outdoors unsupervised as I would have bolted off with a child under each arm had I encountered either animal out there alone.But I am willing to learn!

This is how X and Cate's big adventure ended - curled up together after baths, toasty warm and watching Beauty and the Beast in bed together in the Archer's fantastic guest room:
After leaving we headed to Warwick Castle - amazing place! And then to Oxford where Fen and I smiled at the herds and herds of college students whizzing by on their bicycles, their eager faces freshly educated and ready to take on the world and rid it of their parent's and grandparents decades of 'mistakes'. We smiled because twenty years ago we were them and now we realize it's okay. Oxford is amazing, by the way. Perhaps I'll write about it in another post, Warwick too.

Our final stop: Toys R Us. I think Cate had a major sensory overload as her voice went up to an octave only dogs could hear. Her fourth birthday is this coming Sunday. We're bracing ourselves for the week long festivities.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hell hath...

Can someone please tell me what is wrong with the estate agents in this city? Dealing with them has been an exercise in frustration and disappointment. I'm ready to climb a bell tower and start picking them off one by one.

Three weeks ago today I went to look at the flat we're moving into. I took Fen the next day and we made our offer, with some negotiation we were told the flat was ours. I had to chase the guy down for three days (and over the weekend) just to get the confirmation email with the details of the deal (what we wanted, what was expected of us) and for him to take the deposit. I negotiated the deal which took two days and then he said we'd hear from another company who would do the vetting. Fine. Had to chase him down for a week for that to happen.

Last week we were cleared (I should hope so) and I emailed the agent last week Monday to send the contracts for signature. On Friday I called and left a voicemail asking for the contract. This week Monday I called again and left another message. Yesterday I nagged Fen until he called not once, not twice - leaving messages both times - but thrice! Finally, he asked to speak to the manager who was not happy that we had been ignored.

During this three week period I stopped looking at flats, put my mind to rest and started making my plans for packing (we have boxes again - oh dear!) but I haven't bought any furniture, haven't hired movers, and have only packed china and kitchen stuff and then hidden the boxes in the cupboards so Fen won't go nuts (I promised I wouldn't have packed boxes piled up until next month). If you've learned anything about me you'll know I'm a planner, a packer, organized and a doer. I don't have the luxury of time to dawdle and have to map out my day to make sure everything that needs to be done gets done.

This has bothered me for two reasons:

  1. I want to get a move on already - buy the furniture, set up a delivery time, get Virgin in to move the TV, phone, internet, change our address on everything, hire movers, start to decide what's going where and getting my Sharpie and moving list in order.
  2. Inefficiency and rudeness. Honestly, how many times do you have to bug someone to send a freakin' contract? And how can someone just ignore a customer? It's just slack. I loathe slack.
I started to worry I was too rough with my negotiations - I deal with contracts on a daily basis so I comb through things with a sharp and trained eye. Maybe I was too 'New York'. I mentioned this to Fen and he disagreed.

The outcome - the place is ours. The contract is supposed to be sent to us this afternoon for signature. We'll see if it gets here or not. If it doesn't, I'm going over and delivering a lecture to anyone in that office who will listen. They'll rue the day...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jiggery-pokery and other favourite Britishisms

I've always been fond of a British accent and now that I'm in England I've noticed that I don't really 'hear' it anymore. My Fen is a Kiwi which resembles a British accent and I grew up with English and Scottish teachers so maybe now that I'm completely surrounded by it I just can't seem to hear it anymore. And I have to say that's sad.

But every now and again someone says something and it just makes me smile - because I still am an Anglophile at heart and I do love Britain and it's history, there's no denying it. So, for your amusement here are some of my favourite things heard lately:

Jiggery-pokery: deceitful behavior or thievery. I heard it on the BBC news and howled laughing. It makes the crime seem almost whimsical.

'He was murdered for his efforts. Ah, the poor chap' Followed by a chortle. I was watching a documentary on the BBC about the history of London. An upper crust professor from Cambridge University said this when describing a fellow who was killed for throwing eel carcasses into the sewer. Rather grisly but the way he described it was hilarious and eloquent.

'Blasted bloody duffer' This was used to describe the person who didn't shut the gate after himself by a neighbor. I heard her say it through the window. Try saying it three times quickly!

Arse about face: back-to-front. Someone told me X's shirt was arse about face and I nearly took offense until someone explained it was on backwards. Oopsie!

'Bloody nora!' This was shouted by someone who was surprised on a reality show here. Thought it was hysterical.

'A load of barmy rubbish' used to describe the royal wedding by a television presenter. Anti-monarchy I'm guessing.

Some of my favourite expressions:

Rumpy-pumpy = hanky panky
 Off your trolley - off your rocker
Naff - crappy or not nice
Sod all - means nothing - if you tip your waiter nothing - he's say you left sod all.

I could go on and on but I'm knackered.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Have a nice day!

A while ago I'm So Fancy wrote about American's and their compulsion to say, 'Have a nice day.' This is something I'm definitely guilty of doing. She laments that non-American's find it fake and insincere, I take offense to that. When I tell someone to have a nice day, I mean it.

My women's club hosted a nearly new sale this weekend. I was on the committee and we worked for months to make it all happen. It was a huge success... but I digress. I was in charge of keeping the check-out queue moving smoothly so I spoke to hundreds of folks in line. Everyone was lovely and I must have said, 'Have a nice day' dozens of times. I meant it every time.

Until 'he' showed up. We spoke briefly, as he was trying to push ahead and I asked him to stay behind the line until a cashier opened up. I tried to engage in small talk, 'How'd you make out?' 'Find anything good?' etc. etc. He wasn't having any of it. A cashier opened up and I pointed it out and moved aside so he could get past. And then I said, 'Thanks for coming. Have a nice day.' He looked over his shoulder and rolled his yes stating, 'Americans!'

I wanted to kick him square in the arse but I said, 'Or not. Your choice.' And smiled. I think he hated me just a little more. Whatever!

What's wrong with saying something nice to someone? Sincere or not it still beats a sharp stick in the eye, no?

I actually found it amusing and wasn't about to let his bad mood get to me. But should I cool the 'have a nice day'? I never even thought about it until I read Fancy's post.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Hunt is Over!

We have a new flat! Twice the size of the one we're in, close to Cate's school, not far from this flat and in a gorgeous building. I'm so, so relieved that we're moving, and even more relieved that I don't have to look anymore. I saw 23 flats all together. We're being vetted this week, and I'm fairly sure we'll be fine, can't imagine why we wouldn't be, and then we'll move next month. I cannot, cannot wait.
The lounge at the new place
I'm so delighted to have a large lounge, with a fireplace (doesn't work, but it has a lovely mantle), a nice bay window, high ceilings (12 feet), no steps to go up and down (with a stroller it's been rough at this place), a WALK-IN closet with a window too, loads of storage, an eat in kitchen and the best part - the second bedroom is large enough for both kids and all their stuff. Fen and I will finally have our own bedroom again - no little baby snoring through the night (okay, I may miss that a little).

There are a few downsides - it's only two bedrooms, and one bathroom - which is a little dated. The oven looks to be circa 1979 but I've requested a new one and the building is old which means loads of charm, but it's well...old. Not enough to put me off - I'm delighted.

It's funny, just over a year ago I was so thrilled to move in here. After the rotten time we had, this place was a godsend. But it was a snap decision and I didn't really consider much before I just moved us in to get us out of the first place.But after we moved in and realized just how much stuff we had the walls started to close in on us. And there were issues like being in a fish bowl - too many of the neighbors kids liked to come and bang on our windows and call for Cate. And the fact that we've all been sick with one thing or another since we moved in. And I never got that herb garden in my kitchen window as there was no sill. Well, there's a sill in the new place - fingers crossed I finally get it.

Here's the irony - we got rid of all of our stuff - gave it to charity, chairs, tables, bed, dresser drawers, etc. because we didn't have the room. The new place is unfurnished. Heavy sigh. First stop: Ikea.

Friday, May 6, 2011

X's Babyroyale luxury blankie

A few weeks ago Hello Baby sent me one of their bamboo-cotton blankets to try. X already had a blanket that he loved and I wasn't sure if he'd go for it. But once I covered him with it one night in his cot, he cuddled up to it and it was love.

When he came out the next morning carrying the blanket, Cate took one look and wanted it too! There was a tug-o-war for a little while over who would claim it as their own and I thought Cate was going to be the winner for a while there, but X managed to keep it to himself. It was actually cute, as soon one of them would put it down, the other would snatch it up and snuggle it. But X is the victor and it's his friend now.

I can't say as I blame him. It's so beautifully soft and surprisingly sturdy. It is a woven texture made from 70% bamboo/30% organic cotton - it's like a heavenly cloud. It's technically a receiving blanket so it's the perfect size for my little man to carry around with him. And he carries it everywhere.

Babyroyale is a small Hertfordshire based company that was formed to create a range of premium and ethically sourced baby products that have a focus on material performance and suitability to infant skin. It is reasonably priced and comes in three colours. This is the first product in their range and all I can say is 'bravo'. I love anything organic, ecologically friendly and good for my kids. X doesn't have a clue about any of that but here's how he feels about it:

It's a key part of his playing and Peppa Pig watching. he even carries it to the dinner table! If he loves it, hey, that's all I need to know!

It's available from Babyroyale directly or the online nursery shop at Hello Baby.  Hello Baby also sells a wide range of other baby and nursery stuff including Baby Toys, nursery furniture, travel and safety products.