Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dinner Don'ts

I'm sitting in a posh restaurant. The people next to me have had a gorgeous meal: steak, new potatoes, green salad, wine, dessert...... Now the girl is sitting there on her iPhone, completely ignorning her date/boyfriend/partner/husband, whatever. Sereiously, she's not even looked up for 10 minutes. Hasn't spoken a word to him. To me, that's poor ettiquite. Very rude. Have we become so attached to our toys that we can't leave them at home, or at least in our bags, when we go out?

Now, I know I'm sitting in the same restaurant, having had a truly gorgeous rosotto, working on my iPad. But I'm alone. I'm not ignoring anyone! In fact, you lot are my psudo dinner partners. So not the same thing.

The really sad part? Her date doesn't seem put out! He's accepting it as normal.

Wrong. Just wrong.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Home Stretch

I'm exhausted! I've been working pretty solidly on getting my house ready to let. The good news is two fold:

1 - I'm nearly done!
2 - I have a tenant moving in on the 13th!

Here's a list of what I've done (or had done) on the house:

Painted the woodwork outside (doors/windows)
Painted the woodwork inside (skirting, windows, doors, railing)
Painted all the walls which didn't have murals
Painted all the ceilings
Installed a bar for wardrobe space
Installed a bar for curtain hanging to hide wardrobe space
Ripped up the carpet
Installed laminate flooring
Cleared excess furniture
Cleared eves
Cleared rubbish from garden
Pulled out a raised flower bed
Put in 2 raised flower beds
Repaired 1 raised flower bed
Re-rocked the patio area
Trimmed all the bushes
Cut the grass (twice)
Seeded the grass
Painted the fence
Painted the shed
Repaired the shed
Weeded the drive and patio
Dug, levelled and rocked the area in front of the shed (it was horrible dirt before)

Ummm... not sure what else, but seriously, do I need anything else?!? I'm shattered. I've now packed my bags. I've got a bit of rubbish left to clear out of the spare bed. I've got one more trip to the charity shop to get rid of stuff. I've GOT to wash my hair! Then I'm off to my friend's house to drop off my car (she's selling it for me), she'll then drop me off at the train station. I'm heading into London tomorrow night to stay with friends who live about 20 minutes (train) from Heathrow. Then, midmorning the next day I'll head over to Heathrow to catch my flight.

Won't do me any good to turn up too early, as I'm flying standby again, so they won't let me check in til the last minute. But, I'm flying to Minneapolis, and the flight looks pretty empty, so it shouldn't be a problem. But, be sure to check out my other blog, High Class Hitchhiking, for all the adventures!

Much as it pains me to leave, I'm really ready to be gone. Being here has been really good for me, but for funny reasons. I've learned that I made the right decision last year in moving back to the US. England and the UK will always hold a special place in my heart, but it isn't home right now. Maybe sometime in the future it will be again. Hope so as I genuinely love the people and the land. But just now, it's time for me to go back to the US. I have a brand new life waiting for me, and I'm really looking forward to getting to it. No idea where the new path will take me, but one thing's for sure.....

I'll always Seize the Day and Throttle It!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Shakespeare in the Park

Every summer the various colleges at Cambridge play host to Shakespeare in the Park. Last year my friend Rebekah and I took my mom to see Taming of the Shrew. This year, Rebekah and I went to see The Comedy of Errors and have plans to see Much Ado About Nothing (one of my all time favourites!)

TCoE was absolutely brilliant! I've read it before, but had never seen it performed. Bless them, I'm sure they were freezing to death! We were all bundled up to our eyebrows: Jeans, jumpers, hoodies and coats, sitting on one wool blanket (over chairs) and huddled under another. Yeah, we just about survived it. But hey... this is the joy of the Great British Summer! It did not rain, ominous black clouds not withstanding. So all in all, we made out well.

Of course, we had to have the obligatory Scones, Clotted Cream and Jam! Yum!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Garden Woes

Ooohft... Been sorting the back garden as well as the flooring and outdoor painting. Such fun. I've got a young man from church coming round to help several days/week. He's saving money for his mission (turns 19 in January) and I need a good strong back to help with all the digging and lifting. It's coming along. We've got the majority of the worst bits done, now.

We did 2 raised beds today. They look lovely. Maybe not 100% perfect placement, or evenly matched with depth, but certainly good enough, as my dad says, for government work. It's tidy, and that's the important part. We've got one more bed to sort. That bed's already in place, just needs some maintenance. When I say "just" I mean that it's going to be some digging and sweating to get it done.

Then, we've got to clear out some rubbish in the back corner, and the garden is pretty much done! Just needs the grass cutting every couple weeks. I've put out some new grass seed. We'll see how much comes up and how much the birds eat. But that means the grass won't get cut for 2-3 weeks, to give it a chance. There are, of course, loads of things that could be done, but that's another job for another day, and possibly another owner!

Here's the 1 bed that's completely done. The other bed needs some rock yet, and the 3rd bed needs shoring up, so it's a mess yet.

Chaos Reigns!

One of the things I have wanted to do in this house for years is, replace the flooring. Downstairs the carpet is either ok (living room) or really worn out (everywhere else). Upstairs, the carpet is pretty horrific. It is poorly put in, stained, rippled and just generally awful. Not only that, in no 2 rooms does it MATCH. So, I've wanted to replace it for ages.

As you know, I'm getting the house ready to let out. I talked to the estate agent, and he agreed that having more uniformed flooring would be a help, and that hard floor is best, since it's so much easier to keep clean and if a portion gets damaged, you don't have to replace the whole room. I prefer hard floor, anyway, so I thought, right. Let's have a look at this.

I started getting estimates for the work being done, and was sad that, it looked like this was going to be another project that would have to wait. I just wasn't going to be able to afford the £1500+ estimates I was getting. Not for another year, or so, after I'd had the house let for a while, anyway. There were other things (like getting the outside wood repainted) that were more important to the continued maintenance of the house. Well, yesterday evening, my neighbour's ex-husband came round. My neighbour's still friends with him, just happier not being married to him. So John came in and asked if I was looking for some work doing on the house, and said he'd be happy to give me a quote. I knew he'd done some (lovely) work for my neighbour, but didn't realise that was his JOB. Anyway, he went away, measured up the house (my neighbour's house is the same floor plan and size as mine), priced some things, came back and said he'd do the flooring AND the painting, materials and labour, for £1,000. I told him then and there that he had the job.

He went off straight away and got the flooring materials, dropped them off, and this morning at 9.00, he came round to start the flooring. Bless him! He says he can have the flooring done in 3-4 days, and the painting done in another 3-4 days. 2 weeks max? £1,000? Wow. And he does lovely work. I've always admired the flooring in my neighbour's house. Oh, and the flooring he's using is much nicer flooring than the ultra cheap stuff the quotes I was getting were going to be using. Bonus!

Of course, this means I can't move around the house because it's all topsy-turvey. Here's a look at my bedroom. I'm currently sitting on my bed, in the 1 foot gap between the upended mattress and the bedside table. So funny. And to get into the room, you have to climb over the new flooring, under the door to the spare bed (leaning against the door to my room) and then further under the skirting!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A Great Day Out

I travelled down from Sheffield today. Heading to Colchester via London. I spent the whole afternoon in London with a dear friend. She'd come in from the South to meet me. We had a proper catchup over a pub lunch and stayed drinking Diet Coke for hours. Then we took the Tube over to Liverpool Street Station, where I dumped my luggage at the "Left Luggage" facility (Only £8.50/bag for the day, £5 for each additional day after) so we could run about unencumbered. One of the brilliant things about London is all the hidden gardens, quite historical nooks and other gems waiting for discovery. I'd previously been to St Katherine's Wharf, and knew it was one of those gems. We found several areas I'd not previously explored that were fantastic. We ogled the million-pound boats/ships (a two masted sail boat is seriously a ship!) and decided which house would be ours when we were rich and famous. Then we walked over to the South Bank and had our tea in a quite pub. I was really surprised that it wasn't jammed full of people on a Friday evening, but it wasn't. Yes, it was busy, but it wasn't crazily packed. We walked back to the station via Potter's Field, which I'd never noticed there before, and I caught the train home. A really lovely afternoon spent with one of my dearest friends.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Apparently, I'm French, and....

Apparently I'm French and have applied to take the IELT English Proficency Exam.

Or at least, so claim the Sussex Downs College. I just had the strangest set of emails from them. The 1st one was saying that they'd received my application to take the exam, but couldn't process it because the date was fully booked, and the next available was the 13th of August.

Ummm... exam? What exame? I really had no idea what the exam was, much less when I had applied for it. They didn't tell me what exam, just that the date I'd applied for was full. So I replied back that, I'm sorry, but I have no idea what this is about. What exam?

The reply I got was most annoying. It read, Please see attached. The date is fully booked, the next available is 13 August.

I don't THINK so! Not on your life am I going to open an unsolicited attachment from an unknown address about an exam I have no memory of applying for. I don't care if you have an academic email address (like the .edu suffix in the states, it's here. Reserved for academic institutions.) They can be hacked! Or otherwise forged.

I replied back that I would not open an attachment from an unknown source, that I didn't have any knowledge of any exam. That I had no idea what their office was for, and to please give further details.

Decided to give the place a ring. So I googled the name of the institution, came up with the same number as in the email (promising) and phoned them up. I explained that I'd started to get emails from them that I could not work out what it was about. She took my name and compared it to their records and discovered that they did have an application from someone with an address in France who had given my email address. I said, well they've got it wrong, because that's me. I'm a native English speaker, American, I live in the UK (easier than explaining the real state of affairs) I have a Batchelors, 2 Masters and most of a PhD from American or UK Universities. I would be the last person to apply for an English proficiency exam.

She then tried to convince me that native English speakers do take the exam when they're emigrating abroad. Umm... not for any reason I could fathom. And I really ought to be an expert in the field! Whatever, they said they'd stop contacting me.

Good, but seriously, be more helpful in your emails. That whole thing ought to have been resolved back when I first asked what exam, after the 1st email!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dressed for an English Summer

This spring, as the weather finally began to warm up, my sister was quite appalled at the shocking lack of warm-weather clothing in my closet. But then, I've been living in England the past 7 years. What need did I have of warm-weather clothing? I had a few short sleeve tops, and a couple skirts that were lighter weight. That's more than enough for the odd day that got above 24 C (that's roughly 75 F)! It just never hots up in the UK.

So, here I am back in the UK, and true to form, it's 14 C (52 F) out there, in July! Love it! Oh, and yes it is rainy today. Not chucking it down, but definitely wet. Seriously, I adore the cooler temperatures over here. It was quite a relief to escape the building heat of the US Western Desert. Have your 40+ C (100 F) temperatures! You can keep them. I'm happy over here in my jumper with my cuppa (herbal, of course).

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Belated 4th of July

Every year I promise myself, I will be in the United States for Independence Day. And where am I? Not in the United States! Again! Seriously, the last time I was Stateside for the 4th was 1999! I think that's grounds for revoking my citizenship.

Anyway, instead of getting to celebrate back in the US, I always invite my friends to my house for a barbecue to "Celebrate the day we kicked you out of our country." :-D They always reply that they'd, "Love to come celebrate the day we got rid of you." Which always makes me laugh, because there's the whole, you fought us for several years to try to keep us, and then you came back later during the War of 1812, thing! Hilarious.

This year, though, it was a little different, because I wasn't in the US, but I'm not LIVING abroad, either. So I couldn't invite people round. But, my best friend, bless her, offered to help me make a 4th of July dinner for me :-) We couldn't do it on the 4th, but . . . never mind! Today is close enough.

We made pulled pork sandwiches. Here's the recipe we started off with.

We made a few tweaks.

1st - We didn't marinate (at all). We just bunged it all in together and let it simmer.
2nd - We didn't use the oven. We used the slow-cooker. Just turned it on and left it for 3 hours. Perfectly done and perfectly moist!
3rd - We didn't have all the same spices, but we got close.

It turned out absolutely PHENOMENAL! Absolutely gorgeous! Loved it. In fact, it was so good, we stuffed ourselves to the point where we can't even eat our Apple Pie!

Along side we had:
A Gorgeous Salad - Greens, Mushrooms, Bell Pepper, Carrots, Walnuts and Cranberries with Honey Mustard Dressing.
Pickled Beetroot - Ok, I know, that's not really "American", but we both absolutely love it, so we had it anyway!
Corn on the Cob - Anything more 4th of July?

Here's some photos of our yummy dinner.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Another English Adventure

Over the years people have commented on my ability to laugh off the ridiculous, but minor (even when they seemed major at the time) inconveniences of live, especially with regards to travel. It stems from something my parents started when they moved to Mississippi. Now, keep in mind, we're NORTHERNERS all. Born and raised, except my mom. She's originally from New Mexico, so she's not a "Deep" Southerner. Not the same thing as a Southerner, at all. Anyway, we're none of us used to the Southern ways. That lead to a LOT of misunderstandings over their time in Mississippi. And then there were silly things like, getting lost in your new home town. They started calling these things "Mississippi Adventures". We've broadened the definition over the years, and now we have "Fill-In-The-Blank Adventures". Meaning, whenever something potentially annoying happens, or a cultural misunderstanding/clash occurs, we try to see it as an exotic adventure (even if it's in your own back yard.)

In my case, I'm having English Adventures.

Today, I somehow managed to miss my turn to get back to my friends' house from Manchester. I was going across the Peak District. Should take an hour. All the sudden I'm looking around going... how did I get here? This isn't Glossop! I'm not on the Snake Pass!!! What did I do? And I still have no idea, exactly. I know there's a round-about, and I must have taken the wrong junction off that. It's seriously the only thing I can think of. Because, it's seriously, STRAIGHT THROUGH TOWN to get to the right road. No problem!

So, instead of taking me just over an hour, it took me over TWO hours to get home! But hey... I saw a part of the Peaks I've never been to before. And, since I used to live in Sheffield, I knew how to get to my friends' house from just about anywhere in town. So I got here in the end. Just, with a litle adventure on the side.

Monday, 4 July 2011

One of My Favourite Things

Well, here I am, back in the UK. I'm enjoying a lovely British Summer (read - overcast and cool.) Had to fly over for an academic conference (ha ha! What an excuse!) in Manchester. Oooh, Manchester? That's only an hour from Sheffield! So, obviously, I'm staying with my best friend and her husband. Brilliant! Anyway, since I have to go over the Peak District to get from Sheffield to Manchester, I get to enjoy the wonderful A51 Glossip Road. Also known as The Snake Pass. Love that road! It's Absolutely. Brilliant.

First of all, there's the fact I'm driving a stick shift again! Love me a manuel transmission, I do. You have so much more control of the car, and of course, you are way more involved in the drive than if all you do is stick it in drive and forget it.

Secondly, I love driving twisty windy roads. This one not only has the twisty windy roads, but it goes up and down, too! Yeay! So much fun to drive.

Third, it's got one of the best set of vistas ever. Love the gorgeous moores and dales. I'll include the photos I took on my drive home (don't worry, I was stopped in a lay-by when I took them!) And, these aren't even the most stunning views! There weren't lay-bys in those locations. Gorgeous. Wish there was a spot that I could have got a snapshot of the heather, all dark purple blooms. Stunning.

So, this is one of my favourite things:

Monday, 28 March 2011

I Love Denver In the Spring (or Ode to I-70)

Mile High Blues was this weekend!  Wooo hoo!  Loved seeing my dance friends again.  Hadn't seen many of them since I left Utah in 2009 to go back to England.  Was wonderful to reconnect.  And had a fantastic time dancing til the wee small hours of the morning.  The best blues is always around 3 am.  Ended up with some mild trauma driving home, though.  Oh, and by "home" I really mean campus, to teach!  I still haven't been to my place.  Won't get there til sometime after 7 this evening.  But, I-70 was a solid wall of snow from Denver to Grand Junction.  Took us 3 extra hours to drive it, since we could only go between 25 and 45 MPH the whole way.  Not fun.  And even at that, we ended up spinning out, doing a 180 in the road!  Fortunately we were going really slow, so we didn't have any problems.  Just a bit of excitement.  And it was the best possible location.  Flat area, no cliff, no traffic... as perfect a spinout as you could have.  We didn't even leave the road!  We just basically spun around to face the other way.  Seems like I always have this trouble driving home from Mile High Blues.  Must be trying to tell me something.... like I should stay in Denver with the awesome dancing.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

MIA, I Know

I'm sure you're all wondering if I'm even still alive. And for a while, yes, I've been wondering the same thing! I've had some HORRIBLE miserable sinus issues the last few months. I was "layed low" in a serious way. All sorts of miserable. At one point, it was even a struggle to get from my bed to the sofa because my inner ear was so bunged up. Vertigo. Seriously, not fun. I have only had it once before, when I was a missionary in Chile. This wasn't *quite* as bad as that. But only because the antibiotics actually worked this time. In Chile I had to have surgery to fix it. So, fortunately I'm surgery free. But, it wasn't fun.

I'm on the mend now. I still have a bit of a stuffy head, but only slightly more than normal, and less than most people with mild alergies in the summer. I'm trying to be good and not make things worse. But, that's why I've been MIA so long.