Lift Your Razor High, Sweeney

The point is not that I lay in the aftermath of a migraine or that little pieces of my heart had been whisked away in an Addison Lee taxi a little after 2:30 am (more on that later)… The point isn’t that Drew sweetly whispered something about breakfast in my ear and walked me gently to a table at Carluccio’s after I had sufficiently slept the morning away. The point is that we wandered by a new shop on our way home.

bloody barber

This is one of those things that make you go, “hmmm…”.

bloody barber 2

This is also one of those things that makes you notice a shop on a quiet little street, be it Sunday morning or no.

Drew is making an appointment. Oh yeah, and there may be a free frosty beverage involved…

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

One Pub, Two Pubs, Three Pubs, Tums

Last Sunday we took our lovely Nashville friends to the Columbia Road Flower Market before hitting The Marksman of Shoreditch for a proper pub lunch.

flower market

marksman pub

With full bellies we wandered to Holborn for a round at The Ship. (Ok, I may have had sparkling apple juice and a hand full of Tums. Whatever.)

ship drinks

After drinks, we visited Whittard Tea in the Covent Garden Piazza. Of course, being in proximity to Covent Garden warranted a trip to Porterhouse Pub.

porterhouse drinks

A short walk away to Soho and we couldn’t resist our favorite little Japanese skewer restaurant Bincho Yakitori. I wish I had photos of the food! Drew and I had the tofu – I had the very yummy vegetable rice as well. Yeah, that’s my party pooping water. Laugh if you must.

bincho drinks

After dinner we retired to the flat for ice cream, chocolate cupcakes, video games, and planning for J & Q’s trip to Paris the next day (Monday).  Yes, Paris and back in one day.  Crazy.  (Shakes head.)  They got a cab at 3am, flew at 8, and arrived back at the flat around 11pm with yummy Parisian treats.  I must admit that I had not done much in their absence besides surviving my first day back at work.  Once again, I was very thankful to be with friends.

Of Bridges Burned

While Drew was busy today, I joined Emily and Kerry for a walking tour of the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral, on the south side of the City of London.  Apparently Emily has become friends with some credentialed London tour guides, Keith and Gordon, whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is amazing the amount of history they have stored under their hats!  These gentlemen surely have very full social calendars; they know the whole city by heart as well as most of what there is to do.  Keith gave us plenty more information than I could ever remember about the buildings in the area that had been destroyed and rebuilt, whether due to bombings or refurbishment requirements.

keith

tour statue

st. pauls

stationers

We ended our walking tour at the Museum of London.  Though it looks rather unimpressive from the outside, it houses a fantastic amount of information on the history of the city as well as precious artifacts.  The collection of exhibitions are well presented and inviting.  Currently, the museum is undergoing refurbishment on the lower level to accommodate for exciting new features.  I wouldn’t mind visiting the Museum again, less tired, less snotty, and less frozen.

Although the headache was quite prominent by this time, the night was still very young.  The walking tour group headed to the Sir John Oldcastle pub; Drew joined our group there.  Drew and I celebrated our first beer of 2009 and enjoyed a curry.

curry

We met a few more of our group and were privileged with more information about events around the city and additional bits of history before moving along to our final destination.

The Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell, is a nice place to enjoy a drink, a hot pub meal, and live music in a part of town that is rather quiet on the weekends.  Trusting the expertise of our new dear friends, we are able to recommend the chips, but can only give three stars to the fish due to it’s low crunch factor.  The portions are healthy, and the atmosphere isn’t bad, but crunch is a rather important factor to this group.

I know you are wondering how we stumbled upon The Slaughtered Lamb.  Upon the urging of Kassi Thomas, and seeing how the venue happened to be in my neighborhood, it felt right to be at Levi Weaver’s show – despite the low grade fever, exhaustion, headache, and runny nose.  It was well worth the late night to say the least.

levi weaver

If Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, and Coldplay had a baby I think they would name him Levi Weaver.  And I hope my saying so doesn’t offend Levi at all…  Armed with a pick, a haunting voice, a drummer, a borrowed guitar, two loop pedals (one of which may have fried mid-Of Bridges Burned), a harmonica that was missing early in the set and later returned by mic b (Mike B.), and a borrowed violin bow, Levi won my heart.  It might have taken a lot less, but I think it was the fried equipment and mislaid instruments that made the night so special.  It was cause for conversation that tied us all intimately into the performance – even to the very last note of Which Drink.  Kassi Thomas’ name did come up, in fact, and Levi spoke sweetly of my dear friend.  That’s good; I’d hate to get all redneck in public.  Under the lights.  On stage.  Like the time I was on Springer.

The lyrics are haunting and intelligently crafted, riding on a voice that lifts up one of your heartstrings in an unexpected way, and sneaks in.  If you aren’t convinced by the recordings you can find on his site, I would beg you to give it another listen live.  Experiencing his candor, wit, and spirit enhances the mere poetic vibrations – which are lovely on their own – and creates a tangible connection to the universal themes of love, loss, and the peace that only comes with hope.

Can’t Stop Thinking About You

Today I walked a mile to my favorite grocery store to find out that it had closed early on Friday for a weekend of refurbishment.  The Grand Re-Opening on Monday won’t be in time to get the groceries I need today.  No bother, there are plenty of grocery stores in the area, I just thought my favorite store might happen to have the specific brand of deodorant on my list.  It’s funny how attached you become to a simple thing like your favorite deodorant, but really, it’s a big deal.

There is a steady, heavy rain this evening (blown in by some strong winds by the sound of things at the moment).  I do hope that lasts through the night.  I could use some slept-right-through-the-rain sleep.  I’ve been just a tiny bit grumpy today.  Today was the first SCGC Field Day I have not attended since 1994.  I might miss it more than I anticipated, but who’s keeping a list?

Although today was strictly for volunteering for my favorite organization and cleaning, I did happen to notice something strange while I was ironing this evening.  Channels seem to repeat the same cycle of programs at least twice in a day like HBO or regular radio in the states.  It’s one more strange little fact to stick in my hat.

Tonight I made sugar free vegan chocolate cupcakes.  I’ll let you know how they taste tomorrow.  I might just go have one now with a cup of tea and an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  Yeah, we are the nerdiest people you know.

Would You Like to Dance?

Where to begin…

With a sequence of events not entirely unlike a roller coaster ride–the kind you wait in line nearly half a day to ride and get off feeling sick, exhilarated, and thankful to be alive–it’s hard to know exactly how to begin to tell the story of the last two and a half days.  This may eventually make its way into the draft copy of that book I told you about.

Monday there were yummy (vegan) Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Icing.

vegan gingerbread cupcake

I had an interview on Tuesday morning with the CEO of a dynamic and specialized medical company looking for a Clinic Coordinator.  The long term goals of the organization are quite inspiring and I was honored to have made it to their short list.  However, I think our recent relocation may have given them the idea that I may not offer them the longevity they are hoping to find in the right candidate, raising a tiny red flag.  Although I can’t make any promises about what the next five years hold for us, this opportunity would be a dream for someone looking for career advancement in my field– and in related fields.  There are quite a few potential leads in the wings at the moment, but I am intrigued at the challenges presented for this Clinic Coordinator as well being very impressed with the clarity of the plan.  The environment is small and manageable enough still that there should be a moment to get acquainted with the role before the expansion and growth begins.  There is a bright future for them, regardless what they decide about me.

There are several other opportunities in the wings that are more closely in line with the work I was doing when I left the states.  Unfortunately, I will probably not know anything about those opportunities until January as most employers during this season are just lining applicants up for hiring at that time, when teams have returned from holidays.  I do find it a bit strange that my previous employer has not contacted me since I arrived in the UK, though I did make sure to pass along my contact information and I had received such positive feedback from the team here.  It seems I was more starry-eyed about them than they were about me.

Headsick and hopeful, I left my interview to get you some photos of Carnaby Street.  It’s a fun little pedestrianized shopping street near Oxford Street Tube Station where big Macy’s-Day-Parade-like snowman balloons hang in the air above your head as you wander along shopping.

snowman 1

snowman 2

snowman 3

snowman 4

Wow, snowmen and tea shop window displays do wonders for that part of my head that almost never stops asking questions that keep me awake at night.

whittard 1

whittard 2

You know what else eases my mind?  Modern dance done well.  I know that seems like quite the non sequitur, but stay with me here.  It has always been my view that Drew could appreciate modern dance if we were to identify a choreographer that had something in common with him.    Tuesday night I had the chance to find my answer.

edward scissorhands

When Drew was offered tickets to Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at the Sadler Wells Theatre in our neighborhood I was thrilled.  It is essentially a contemporary ballet (which relies heavily on movement as a theatrical tool as well for its purely enjoyable aesthetics).  The show is a must see for contemporary theatre, Danny Elfman, and dance lovers.  Though the story took a slight departure from the film, it was still an incredibly staged adaption ending in [SPOILER ALERT]  snow for the audience, too.  I much appreciate the live orchestra and superb company of dance/actors as well as the talent and vision of the team who put the show together.  Wow.  Even Drew was really impressed and dance is not normally his favorite thing.  Dang, Gina.  I wonder if there are any dance classes in the area for old, out of shape, degree holding dance minors who can sizzle like bacon and rise like smoke from an invisible fire…

And this is where the story starts to get really personal.  It’s hard sometimes to decide what details to share with the world.  I am quite aware that my potential employer might be the type that Googles every candidate and well aware that my former students cannot be kept from reading something publicly available on the world wide web.  With all of that said, you know that I do give great consideration to the content of our blog and that I make every effort to ensure every embarrassing and/or personal divulgence is relevant to some worthwhile point.  I talk too much.

There is such a thing as being too eager.  I am suspicious that this eagerness is often the catalyst for the weird situations in which I find myself.  Wednesday morning I nervously rushed around to be sure that I had everything I needed for my first appointment at a clinic here in the UK: plenty of water in my body, passport, National Insurance number on my welcome letter, my pap smear results from my April exam back in the states, and a vile of urine.

Drew, my sister, and I went through a lot of trouble to get those stinkin’ lab results from my physician before we left the states because I had done research on the subject; my sources strongly advised having original medical and dental records upon arrival in your new country of residence.  Besides, it is programmed in my thinking that you cannot get a prescription for birth control without those yearly exams and I intended to avoid an unnecessary exam if at all possible.  Ladies, are you with me?

(If you really don’t want to get to know me personally, skip the next paragraph or several.  If you can talk about medical things that happen and apply to us all (or the women in your life, for the  gentlemen) without thinking about the fact that it’s me in this story, read on.  But be forewarned.)

As for the urine sample, picture this: I have taped aluminum foil around the specimen cup to avoid getting the label wet.  Like a ten year old with a science project, I have also constructed an aluminum foil funnel that I am also seriously considering using.  This is the only time I have ever stopped to consider the convenience of being a boy.  Anyway, due to lack of time and planning I decided to forego the funnel.  My brain may have stopped functioning for a few fractions of a second when I got creeped out by having my hand dangling in the toilet; instinct told me to stand up a little and try to look to see if I was about to accidentally put the cup in the water.  You know what they say about stopping mid-stream.  Fun times.  As a side note, I have a legitimate reason for being freaked out by the whole peeing in a cup scenario, but that’s another story for another day.

So, I jaunt off to my appointments with all my documents and urine sample in cup in a baggie in another baggie in my purse.  I am supposed to see the doctor at 10:20a and the nurse at 10:40a.  A little weird to see the doctor before the nurse, but no one else seems to think it is weird, so why should I?  On my way to the clinic I went over in my head all of the ways in which I could be discovered carrying urine in my purse.  What if a cyclist mowed me down and the nurses in the emergency room had to go through my things to get my ID before I regained consciousness?  What if I fainted and someone wanted to see if I had a cell phone to call an ambulance?  What if I stopped to buy a bottle of water on my way to the clinic and the clerk saw what was sitting next to my wallet?  I can’t believe this is a normal practice here.  Weirdos.

I arrived at the clinic just prior to my appointment and waited my turn to speak with the receptionist.  When she was free, I gave her my name.  She greeted me as if she expected to see me and I was very impressed.  I handed her the paperwork I had brought with me and asked if that could be added to my chart.  She took it, said yes, and went back to her computer screen so I took a seat amongst the other waiting patients.  It was weird to walk away without marking on a sign-in sheet, getting out an insurance card, or paying a co-pay.

The environment was very different from the private practice offices I am used to, but similar to the clinic I remember on my university campus.  When it is your turn to be seen, your name and room number pop up on an announcement screen.  A loud beep sounds each time a patient is directed to a treatment room so that everyone knows to check the screen.  Moms sat with children and cute little old people nodded off in their chairs.  There were also a few young-ish people reading magazines while they waited.  Everyone seemed to get pretty comfortable in their chair before they were called back, but I didn’t notice any really long wait times, except for me.  At 11:30 my heart was pounding.  I was afraid there has been a mistake and I was keen to get it straightened out; I preferred to straighten it out like a normal person and avoid being perceived as a self-absorbed American, but I was slightly concerned because  I know that missing an appointment can result in being removed from a practice’s treatment list and I wanted my first appointment to go smoothly.  In my two encounters with this receptionist she has been impersonal, if not rude.  I finally ended up approaching her.  She motioned for me to talk to her even though she has just said hello to someone she called on the phone.

Me: Hi, I am really sorry to bother you.  I have been waiting for over an hour for my appointment and I just want to make sure this is normal.

Receptionist (with the phone to her ear, apparently on hold):  What time is your appointment?

Me: I had a 10:20 appointment with the doctor and a 10:40 with the nurse.

Receptionist: You didn’t sign in.

Me: I’m sorry.  I thought all I needed to do was give you my name, which I did when I first arrived.

Receptionist: You didn’t tell me you had two appointments.

 

 

Me: I didn’t realize it mattered or that you wouldn’t already know that I had two appointments.  I just said my name and I thought you knew why I was here and then I asked you if my medical records from my previous doctor could be added to my chart.

Receptionist (with a flash of recognition, a touch of color coming into her face, and sterner, louder tone of voice):  You just handed me papers to go in your chart.  You didn’t tell me you had an appointment.   You have to sign in for your appointments.  I am afraid you are not going to seen.

Me (wondering why else I would have been in the clinic if I wasn’t registering or turning up for an appointment): What should I have done to sign in?

Receptionist: You have to come to the counter and give me your name.  And you have to sign in.

Me (attempting a sincere tone of curiousity and well intention): What do you mean by “sign in”?  Do I have to actually sign something?  What part of “signing in” did I fail to do?

 

 

Receptionist (apparently the other party on the line is speaking to her now): Hold on.

Big, fat, crocodile tears began to fall uncontrollably down my face.  (Don’t get too upset, I am a self-professed crybaby experiencing PMS, it could have happened at any moment anyway.)  There was no sobbing, but my face is hot and wet.  I was embarrassed that I had somehow missed something after attempting so hard to meld into the system.  I was embarrassed that this person had raised her voice at me, had become defensive at my mere request for information, and the fact that she was belittling me at a medium volume in front of her colleagues and a small waiting room crowd.  I was embarrassed that I was letting it affect me–and that I was falling apart in front of all of these people–while she took a phone call.  When she had hung up and turned her face to me again, I calmly attempted to speak with her again.

Me: I apologize, again.  This is my first appointment with a physician in the UK.  I understand that I have missed my appointments today and will not be seen, but in future, I do need to know how to sign in.

Receptionist (calmer and in her regular loud voice): You just come to the counter and give me your name and sign in.

Me: Ok.  This morning I gave you my name.  How do I sign in?

Receptionist: Everything is computerized so when you sign in we let the staff know you are here and they can call you back.  When it is your turn your name and room number will come up on the screen in the waiting area and you go to the room indicated.

Me: Ok.  How do I sign in?

 

 

Receptionist: You give me your name and you sign in.

I was absolutely exasperated at this moment and I took a moment to breathe.  I knew that the issue  may have been that I am pretty intelligent and that she didn’t know how to explain what I needed to know.  We had both made some incorrect assumptions.  I got it.  She obviously didn’t.

Receptionist: You handed me paperwork; you didn’t say you were here for an appointment.

Me: So, to “sign in”, I need to tell you I am here for an appointment.  [Because you don’t know to expect me and have not looked at the day’s schedule.  I have worked in a busy medical clinic and our front office staff knew who was on the schedule to be seen that day, even when we had over a 100 patients on the schedule.  If they didn’t recognize your face, which was rare, they sure as heck recognized your name as one being on the schedule when you went to the window and gave it to them.]

Being a nice person who could see a miscommunication for what it was, she kindly phoned the nurse and doctor to explain what had happened and arranged for me to be seen.

The nurse was very kind and let me pull myself together before she started taking the necessary vital signs and history.  She teared up as she asked me to explain what had gotten me so upset.  I gave her the short version of our relocation trials and explained that PMS+last straw+being new to everything at almost 30=occasionally getting overwhelmed.   The nurse also explained that people pop in to drop off paperwork or pick up prescriptions.  It is quite common that people show up in the office without appointments for other reasons.  Note to self.  I saw the doctor next.  This is your intermission.  Take the opportunity to make a bowl of popcorn or warm your coffee.  I’ve been working on this entry for about three to four hours already, so we all need a break.

As far as I can tell, no one ever looked at my chart or those lab results I brought that caused all of the confusion.  By the time I sat with the doctor I may have been in shock already.  These rooms in which I met the nurse and doctor were more like offices than exam rooms.  Except, they were more like the offices you met your biology professor in to discuss taking a test early so you could miss class for an out of state trip with this color guard group–that no one understands is really a sports team competing in world class competition, sort of like the Olympics (well, maybe that’s a stretch).  I explained that I just wanted to get the birth control and migraine medicine most similar to what I had been taking.  I looked around the strange room while she Googled the brand names of my prescriptions.  Yes, she did.

What she said next kind of made my head spin.  If you have ever felt faint or been on the Tilt-A-Whirl, you know you the sensation I mean.  In the UK, migraine sufferers (especially those who are   age 35 and/or smokers) are not prescribed combination type birth control pills, which is the most popular type of contraceptive.  This is what I had been taking.  Apparently, the risk of stroke is something taken very seriously.  My natural defenses were lit and I felt offended that she might be implying that American physicians are ignorant or reckless.  Of course, I was too dumbstruck to know what to say in response.  She said that I could opt to use occasional methods which are widely available at pharmacies over the counter or I could choose between two more effective treatments available through the clinic.  The progestogen only pill is an option only slightly less effective with a different set of potential side effects.  Equally as effective as this option is the insertion of an intra-uterine device (IUD) which prevents pregnancy without chemicals (though you can opt to have one with hormones for symptom management or as a spermicide).  Both of these options holds a new set of risks.  I’ll let you do the research you care to do.  That part isn’t really what’s important in this story.

I enjoy a healthy dose of drama just as much as the next girl.  But this was more than I thought I would be faced with at this juncture.  This type of combined-hormone pill therapy was something I chose as a treatment option ten years ago when my doctor recommended it for symptom management.  It has been something I have been thankful for as I enjoyed having time to be married without children.  And it is something that gave me time to enjoy working with that crazy string of teenagers I love so much (not in the weird Michael Jackson way).  I have always looked forward to having kids, but I have also wanted to wait until I had more patience, more wisdom to share, and more love to give to them as a less selfish me.  Babies are a thrilling and heartwarming prospect, but it’s not something I want to juggle alongside getting settled–and I need to earn a little money for a while to kick start our plan.  Having a baby, though awesome, has more serious consequences than dropping an M&M.

I came expecting the unexpected and I know the challenges are far from over.  But I was still caught off guard when our relocation affected me in such a truly personal way.  You don’t get more intimate than this.  (I have done some research today and I am certain that I already have all of the side effects that any of these options could cause [in less than 3% of subjects studied versus those on placebo].)  BTW, if anyone understands why those two people on top of the cliff are holding hands from separate bath tubs at the end of the Cialis commercials, please fill me in.

Before this experience I had no frame of reference to even begin forming questions about it.  Now, I am prompted to research things I never thought would be applicable to me.  It’s quite funny considering that I have worked in pharmaceutical related industries for ten years and medical related industries for four of those.  You would just think that I might have come across this information in my research.  Well, maybe not.  Not every woman relocating from the states to the UK is a migraine sufferer on combined hormone birth control pills.  The IUD is also less commonly used in the states.  None of my friends have mentioned it.  Is someone holding out on me?  Point being, who knew?!

There was no time to sit around and feel sorry for myself for being conflicted about some serious choices ahead of me and having been so fantastically embarrassed. I had an appointment with a genius at the Apple store over 2 miles away. Carrying my computer to the tube station nearest me on the Central Line and getting off in the busiest area of town year round, let alone at Christmas, was probably quite a site for people watching. Dang Gina. By the time I got to the Apple store I was hot and sweaty, but thankful to be somewhere quite familiar. I had an appointment. I was thirty minutes early. It was awesome. Maybe it wasn’t that awesome, but in comparison, I didn’t know that. There were fun people waiting beside me and I had a short conversation with two of them. Then, I discovered that my genius was personable and we ended up having a pretty cool conversation. He asked me out on a double date; he and his fiance are in the process of relocating here from Australia and we have both put in some time in the field of clinical research. Did I just make a friend? (If any technophiles have made it this far, I just need to replace the RAM.)

Later that afternoon, I got my prescriptions filled at my local pharmacy (chemist). A very nice family runs it. My migraine medicine was £7.10 for 6 pills, a year’s worth of the progestogen is free, but I may not need it that long. The jury is still out.

At the end of the day, the two contrasting experiences left me with a sense of being from another planet.

The communication breakdown at the clinic combined with the realization that medical care is structured more differently here than I had imagined started that train of deep thoughts and ranting…  It was like I said to the nurse, I will eventually be thankful for the emotionally poignant experience I now have to remind me that there is no shame in admitting you are new to something and that reaching out is worth the difficulty of doing so.  I was also reminded that the world is big and that as much I want to be unbiased, I am still displaying stereotypical American traits that are not so desirable.   (I am proud and I assume MY WAY is THE WAY.)  Maybe the staff at the clinic will appreciate this opportunity to reassess how new patients are handled.  Perhaps I have helped them to identify a breakdown in their systems and procedures.  If not, I at least modeled an attitude of flexibility and willingness , without looking to place blame, in the midst of a stressful situation.

I don’t think my experience with the receptionist at the medical clinic brings to light issues solely related to the medical community here.  There is a culture of impersonality that permeates London.  People are not unfriendly, though.  I have enjoyed my share of impromptu conversations with strangers.  Most of the time I smile at someone, that smile is returned to me. Today I may have made a friend in a busy store.  The issue is sheer volume.  The number of people conducting business–or just going about their day–in this big wild city have changed the way people interact.  It is certainly foreign to me.  I am still attempting to enjoy those tiny human connections appreciated in more rural areas through such conventions as customer service.  When you hear it said that people in cities like New York, Paris, and London are unfriendly and callous, you should consider that your perceptions are based on societal norms that don’t apply in that place.  It’s not a case of Nashville versus Venice; it’s a case of “when in Rome…”  As for me, I will continue to smile at strangers and give open-mindedness a jolly good go.  I will also bite the bullet more often and ask questions, even when I think I know the answer.

About nine years ago I had a brilliant dance instructor that told me to quit thinking of gravity (or more so the concept of weight) and the floor as obstacles, but to be mindful of them as essential tools for movement. Part of the trick was, of course, learning to properly use the tools. For me, it was one of those concepts that I could only understand at first in bursts of what I describe as being wow-the-universe-is-big moments. Once I was in that moment, I really felt like I was part of the floor and I could work in tandem with gravity. But, it is also knowledge like everything else, that fades in to the recesses when it isn’t being used. That concept, at least, does seem applicable to this situation and quite often in life. Maybe Edward Scissorhands tickets weren’t so random after all. It may have been the reminder I needed that there is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Is Your Mouth on Fire, Too?

Yesterday I got a new broom, cloth handkerchiefs, and a silicone device used in a frying pan to prepare foods like eggs or pancakes.  (I didn’t have to wait long to test out my new cooking tool.)  You would think Londoners never saw someone carrying a broom down the street before…  How did they get their broom home?!

This morning I made Drew a proper weekend breakfast, though he may have had an accident with the pepper shaker…
breakfast
The biscuits turned out different than the first attempt, but still not quite perfect.  I am tempted to think that the measuring bit is the problem.  I usually experience more success when I wing it–I’ll keep trying.

biscuits

Though we ended up having a rather lazy day that included housework and a grand nap, we did manage to have the most delicious dinner at Thai Thai on Old Street.  The service was better than any we have had so far in London.  The atmosphere was welcoming and posh at the same time; we felt pampered.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted so I explained to our waitress that I wanted something spicy with vegetables, tofu, and red curry.  She was happy to select a dish that fit those requirements.  I still can’t believe how friendly and warm the staff was.  Everyone that came by our table acknowledged us and was extremely attentive.  The food was excellent.  It was exactly what I described.  It was like dining at home.

So, tomorrow we’ll be visiting some retailers in search of a nice coat for Drew and fun household items.  I don’t think we’ll be investing in anything really amazing or awe inspiring, but these days I am an easy girl to please.

Maybe this Christmas you should consider starting a savings account for your London trip.  We have identified at least one really nice local Thai restaurant that you will want to try.  Any other requests?

Love, hugs, and gingerbread to you~

You’ll Need to Bring This Back With You.

Term of the Day: Bits and Bobs

  • Odds and ends

A good portion of normal, everyday Londoners order groceries online and have them delivered; they pop in to local stores for the random bits and bobs.  Within my frame of reference, that would have seemed very posh two months ago.  After discovering the challenges simple grocery shopping poses in a big city like London, I now fully appreciate the concept.  Space is at a premium so not all stores can stock a full range of items, it’s hard to carry your groceries if you can’t manage to do a little shopping everyday, moms+kids+groceries+public transport= : ( , and you might have to visit several stores to get everything on your list–or do without Maple Syrup this week.

I met one of our neighbors two days ago.  She is lovely and has lively Terrier who rather liked me.  Maybe she could sense how desperate I’ve become for some animal attention.  Dang Gina, I miss my cat.  So, the neighbor filled me in on some very interesting news–news that might put you at ease.  If you must come to visit in a large group, or you need a little more privacy than we can offer you, there are six guest flats on campus that we can rent.  We actually live next door to a double (£45/night) and a single (£27/night) guest room.  I am not encouraging you to stay next door, but if you all come at the same time it may be an option we have to explore.  Large groups could be fun actually…

For those of you reading who may be looking for a solution to your quest for shortening in the UK, I would like to recommend Stork and White Flora.  If these products are stocked in your local grocery they will most likely be refrigerated and you will find it near the margarine.  They don’t advertise themselves as shortening, they are “cooking products”, so search for the “great for baking” and “great for cakes and pastries” wording on tubs.

The Sainsbury’s in Islington has now trumped my local Waitrose to become my favorite grocery store.  As my idea of the size of my local neighborhood expands, so does my level of expectation grow.  Such good things are hidden in the nooks and crannies I haven’t yet explored.

I know that you are all curious about medical care here within the NHS.  Of course, being the responsible investigative reporter than I am, I have taken it upon myself to discover how it all works–which translates to “I am running out of birth control soon.”  

Some of the straightforward information I have gathered regarding seeking medical care within the NHS, so far, is as follows.

  • You must register with a General Practioner (GP) in your local area.  If no GP in your area is able to add another patient, you may appeal to see one outside your area.  GPs are paid based on the number of patients registered with their practice.
  • To register you must show ID and turn in your paperwork to the clinic.  Within 48 hours your address and National Insurance (NI) number are verified so that you may call to make your first appointment and any records may be transferred from your previous physician, if necessary.
  • Physicians make house calls in special cases, for home bound patients, and to mothers with newborn babies.
  • To see a specialist, your GP must refer you.
  • Not all GPs prescribe medicine; it depends on their specific training and degree level.
  • Pharmacists can prescribe certain medications and are especially knowledgeable in the area of topical medications for irritations and rashes.  These professionals have special training in the area of medicine and prescribing; sometimes more than certain types of GPs.

Finding a nearby clinic was easy with a tiny bit of research.  I was able to visit their website, print out the necessary registration forms, and drop those off yesterday.  Dropping off my paperwork took me less than one minute and the receptionist gave me a specimen cup to bring back my urine sample on my first visit.  Ok, that may have been strange.  Some of me is still wondering if this is a joke they play on brand new patients.  I will definitely inquire about it when I call to make my appointment.

I know you are wondering what in the world I have done this week.  I wonder myself.  HHmmm.

Monday

Identified new vacancies for which I will apply, Grocery, Borders (to get the recent issue of Design Week for Drew), Christmas trip planning, normal housework

Tuesday

Sent CV in reference to 16 vacancies, normal housework, scheduled a preliminary interview for Wednesday morning, scheduled a preliminary phone interview for Wednesday afternoon, met Drew at his office, had dinner with Drew and Janita when they were finally ready to leave at 10p (A “fire” started while I was in transit to the office; I owe Nashville echoneer, Anton, Maynards Wine Gums for his awesomeness in firefighting.)  Fun times.

Wednesday

Attended interview, emailed my Dad (Happy Wednesday!!) registered at local clinic, topped up cell phone service, grocery, normal housework, called my sister to check in for the big day (my Mom is having her supersonic hearing installed–next Christmas we might buy her X-ray vision.  A little over the top?), attended(?) phone interview, called home again, made cupcakes, had a frosty beverage at the local pub (The Shakespeare) waiting for news from my sister, received an update, made dinner (dishes), and crashed
in the oven

fuzzy cupcake

iced

the shakespeare

Today I am still a little tired and waiting for it to be late enough in the day that I can call home again.  I am so thankful the dark morning has given way to a good bit of clear sky and sunshine.  I be will carrying cupcakes to Drew’s office at tea time–doing it in the dark and the rain doesn’t sound appealing.  The cloudy, dark sky also tends to make the bed seem like a very, very wonderful (magical, even) place to be.  It’s good that we don’t have more days like that.

We Came, We Saw, We Chugged Hot Apple Cider

So how about this new look, eh?! Props to a gorgeous webmaster and designer extraordinaire… More changes and updates to come, we hope you enjoy!

If you don’t have something to drink and more than just a few free minutes on hand, go make yourself some refreshments and come back with a comfy chair. The update you are about to peruse is lengthy. We apologize for the lovely inconvenience.

We awoke Saturday morning to a grey London sky. It was cold and spitting rain when we ventured out of the flat with a plan to head to the IKEA store in Wembley. After a stop for hot chocolate in the cafe downstairs, we bravely headed for the tube station.
barbican tube
Unfortunately, at the tube station we realized that all travel via tube in the direction we needed to go was suspended. Since our trip was more for fun than out of necessity, and because we had already made it outside the flat, we decided to head southeast toward the Borough Market.

Dang Gina.

People were crammed in the aisles between the market stands. The farmers’ market tradition looked to be thriving in this riverside town.
borough market

fuzzy vegetable stand

jellies
Despite the chill and the threat of rain, people weaved their way through pick-pocket central for things like artisan breads, fresh produce, direct from fisherman fish, sweets, savouries, free-range meats and eggs, hand squeezed juice, wine, beer, ready to eat foods, and fresh sausage cooked any of a hundred different ways. (Although the smell is still appetizing, I can barely look at a sausage.) We had lunch from an organic stand and then got in line for hot cider. The sign said something about mulled apples and fall spices. It should have said something more like “hot apple flavored piss, nasty–but hey, it’s warm!”. Hold your nose. Raise glass to lips. Swallow. Repeat.

I managed to bring home this cute little guy from a lovely bakery stand; Drew opted for a big, fat brownie. I can’t blame him, but look just look at this face…
robin cookie

Cold? Check.
Full? Check.
Damp? Check.
Photos? Check.

We thought we might as well follow the river west until we hit the Tate Modern Museum. Before we could make it inside, we were tempted in to the new Globe Theatre, whose roof is currently being re-thatched.  Wow.
the globe stage
It was really an indescribable experience to walk through the museum and take the guided tour of this attraction that has been so lovingly built– and restored as near as possible to the specifications of Shakespeare’s time. Those two semesters I chased theatre in college came in really handy, but I was amazed that there were people on the tour who did not know that all actors in Shakespeare’s day were men. I thought we all learned that in English class when we read Romeo and Juliet. Whatever. Moving on. Drew and I will definitely return for a play when theatre season starts. For now, everyone is talking about Panto. This is an art in which I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to participate. If you are one of those dear friends that dresses up and carries a big bag of toilet paper, rice, and newspapers to a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to shout at the screen–you will appreciate this form of theatre that has survived on an undercurrent to its present day fame. The plays performed are usually kids’ fare like Peter Pan, but the adult humor whizzing over little heads is key. The audience knows their lines and the performers are over the top. Before we leave town, we’ll have to experience this!

Tate Modern has too many floors. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Of the seven levels, four have exhibits. Drew and I only made it through two before it was late, dark, and my eyes had started to look at each other for help.  I don’t think I could have made it through another collection, even if we had arrived at opening.  The huge exhibit on the first floor didn’t take long to see because we opted not to stand and watch the film portion. We did spend some quality time with a UBS Collection of the following:

MATERIAL GESTURES
Anish Kapoor and Barnett Newman
Material Gestures
Viennese Actionism
Expressionism
Distinguished Voices
Contemporary Painting
Claude Monet and Abstract Expressionism
Marlene Dumas
Paul McCarthy

POETRY AND DREAM
Giorgio de Chirico and Jannis Kounellis
Surrealism and Beyond
Elements of Chance
Natural History
Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso
Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer
Balka and Espaliu
Eileen Agar, Claude Cahun, Zoe Leonard
Realisms
Cornelia Parker

We’ll have to go back for the Rothko and Cildo Meirles exhibits as well the other collection put on by the UBS. And next time, I am going to get one of those kits they give the kids. It has crayons and paper so that the kids can attempt to recreate a piece of art they like. I think I heard someone saying that a member of staff tries to guess which piece it is at the end of the tour. I thought crayons would be an extremely bad idea in a gallery, but these British children seemed to keep the crayon in the right place. Maybe Super Nanny was standing behind them.

We had a long walk home, which started with the crossing of the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge. Even in the rain, and as dark as it was, the view in all directions from the middle of the bridge was beyond expectations.

Sunday started slowly, but I eventually made my way into the kitchen for glorious biscuit making. That is, until I opened the box of Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet, I was excited. What is this stuff? It cannot be what I should have purchased. It looks more like Gerbil food (or the after product) than shortening.
atora droppings
Anyway, I’ll test it out in a recipe soon, but I didn’t want to take any chances with it this morning. I opted to use butter instead. They weren’t the biscuits I had dreamed of making, but they didn’t kill us and they were all consumed by the end of the day.
biscuit
Most of of the rest of my day was spent tweaking and posting blog entries with bits of housework sprinkled in. Drew spent quite a while updating the look of our website, but he worked in a little housework as well.

For the grand finale to our big, lazy day I made a dash to the store for a few fresh baps, a green pepper, and a red onion to make Spicy Veg Sloppy Joes. There is something about that weird family tradition of eating Sloppy Joes on Christmas Eve that makes them irresistible in the days preceding the holiday… This may be the 10th wonder of the world.

I was very impressed with the color of the onion and green pepper as well as the bright red color of the final product from the special blend of simple ingredients and spices. Drew seemed really impressed with my skilled used of the hillbilly casserole dish.
veg
red

sloppy veg
I was quite pleased with myself as well. You would think we had real pub food. MMmmmm. Peasant-ish and uncultured. My stomach stills hurt a little when I think about how spicy they were; I look forward to the leftovers! (I brought a bottle of mixed berry Tums, Donna, don’t worry!)

Please be aware the English mustard is a lot like Wasabi; licking the mustard spoon may cause death or flaming nose drippings.

It was a lovely weekend.

You Ought to be Ashamed.

Words of the Day: Philately, Philatelist

  • Philately: The study and collection of stamps
  • Philatelist: Someone who collects stamps

Correct use of these words in a conversation:  Hey, have you seen Dr. Philately?  I heard he had a Philatelist on the show the other day; apparently they are working through his addiction to that stuff on the back of lickable stamps.  Quite tragic, actually.

stamp

We haven’t seen any snow.  We did take a bus to the Islington shopping center, wander around in a Borders store, eat at Yo! Sushi, see a movie, visit the Soho Fresh and Wild, have a drink at The Shakespeare, and eat dinner.  That’s a wild ride for a lazy Sunday, huh?

I never get tired of good bookstores.  Bookstores are a lot like everything else in my life, though.  When is there is too much stimulus I shut down for a minute.  Then, I systematically create lists and plan a serious attack, and by “attack” I mean there is a lot of flailing about and commotion that is meant to appear as progress.  Right before the city is quarantined due to the Zombie outbreak, I want to make it into the nearest Borders store with a cafe.  Hopefully I will be able to enjoy the time I have left on Earth without feeling guilty that I am neglecting the laundry.  All the excuses in the world don’t make up for the fact that books are now easy to purchase and load on an iPod or MP3 player.  We’ve tried it; I think we both liked it.  Why did we stop buying audio books?!

Another really pertinent question on my mind is related to recommendations we received before our relocation.  Why did no one tell us to fill at least one suitcase with vegan chocolate chips?  The Fresh and Wild in Soho seemed to be a nice size and also appeared to have a selection of wonderful products.  However, they failed to stock whole black beans or vegan chocolate chips.  Who, I demand to know, shops at Whole Foods that does not purchase these items?!  Please don’t answer–I know who you are and you are wrong.  And you ought to be ashamed.  So, before this week is out I may create my own London bus tour with all stops being at stores which advertise themselves as natural food stores.  If I find vegan chocolate chips, I am going to buy so many bags that I have to get a cab home.

The Shakespeare, as we discovered this evening, is a quiet little neighborhood pub where you can enjoy a frosty or hot beverage while you do what you do at a pub.  Sanctioned activities include watching sports, enjoying company, scowling to oneself, scowling at others, playing electronic slots, or just enjoying a drink. Although I’ve seen signs for lunch, they don’t serve dinner.  That is just as well, because we’ve been to grocery store and Drew set up our digital tv stuff yesterday.  The atmosphere this evening was friendly and there was football on the telly.  I didn’t understand much of what was happening in the game but all of the players looked pretty happy in the end, so I guess all is well in the world…

I have mixed feelings about facing the new work week.  Firstly, I hope (and have a teeny-tiny sadness) that it might be my last week at home before starting my new job.  Secondly, it’s a holiday week back in the states and this will be our first Thanksgiving in London.  We’ll manage to have good time, but we’ll certainly be thinking of home.

Weekend Update

Word of the Day: Wellies

It’s cold in London.  How would someone educated like yourself spell BBRRRRRRrrrrrr?!

We had a great time last night mixing with some of Drew’s coworkers.  The bar was really cool though the music was crappy and too loud.  I had to yell so much that my throat was scratchy this morning.  It was worth it to have conversations that amounted to more than giving someone my account number and address…  I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Janita, who has been amazing enough to invite me out for what she calls “girly” time and keep me informed about how not to look silly.  It was also a great opportunity to hug two of my top-five favorite locals.  MMMMmmm–normal people.

Drew and I waited for the rain to stop this morning before venturing across the street for pizza.  (It’s amazing how quiet this part of town is on the weekend!)  There may have only been two tables in the restaurant with guests, I noticed while we waited to take our food home.  It was tempting to sit down and enjoy the roaring atmosphere, but we opted for lunch with Ugly Betty.  Pizza, Saturday, and enjoying a show all about me and my former boss totally go hand in hand.

So, speaking of Wellies, what’s your Wellie style?  And what’s the word on the street about the fashion implications of proper rain boots?
Jen wellies

drew wellies

I had the opportunity to speak to several ladies about their feelings on Wellies.  It seems that girls living outside the city are more apt to purchase and actually wear rain boots.  The inner-city girls tend to be of the mind that one should only wear Wellies to a festival.  My vote is still out.

Yeah, I did, actually.

Word of the Day: Lippy

  • lipstick
Standard math problem: How do you get one mile from your flat to your job interview in suit pants meant to be worn with 3-5 inch heels, without wearing the heels, on your journey and leaving one hour before your scheduled interview time?  Answer: You put socks on over your hose, tuck your pants into the tops of your socks, lace your trainers on your feet, put your heels in your briefcase thingy, and start walking.  Yeah, I did, actually.  I just stopped for an orange juice in a coffee shop around the block from my destination and made the switch.
I like the people I met.  The environment seems very nice and the job sounds perfect.  I was so excited when I left that I thought wearing my heels back to the flat would be totally manageable.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  The super spikey [Angel] heels I had chosen to wear are the kind that squish all your toes together and I think my toes had each other for lunch.
After I had nursed my poor feet into my trainers again, I went downstairs to grab a bagel sandwich for lunch.  I ran into the same kids I see at lunchtime most weekdays; they seem to come out of several nearby buildings to have lunch.  Because they all wear the tell tale black dance and drama rehearsal wear I’ve come to know and love, I finally worked up the courage to ask if they are attending a local dance or theatre school.  I cannot believe that I live next door to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

guildhall

I’ll let you decide how smashing you think that news is.

Having had very little sleep last night, I did indulge in a short nap before meeting Drew and coworker Janita at their office to have dinner and deliver the fairy cakes I made to the tired celebrators. (One of Drew’s bosses has been promoted to a job overseas and late nights have been had; I wonder if a week’s worth of going away parties is normal here or if he was just really well liked.) We had dinner at Hamburger Union.  The Vegetarian Sausage burger is pretty yummy.  They also have a Falafel Burger that is Drew’s favorite. Janita quite likes the Citrus Marinated Halloumi Burger, but they do have burgers for meat eaters, too.

I’ve been thinking…  If I get a job soon, I won’t have the time to write all day.  I guess I better take advantage of this precious free time that is sitting in my lap at the moment–before it’s gone!

Stylin’

Word of the Day: Brolly

  • umbrella (slang)
I have a weekly run to the post office on Mondays; it’s always packed.  What was so special about today’s trip was that there may have been a Senior Citizen’s Center meeting to have just let out ’round the corner.  If you know me, you know I quite adore most elderly people.  Well, in London, the older people are just that much more adorable to me.  Most old men wear funny hats or cuss in pubs (or both).  Little old ladies walk across streets wherever they want, taking as long as they want.  They are decked out and working their trolleys.  Oh yeah, trolleys.  Almost every elderly person I see has a personal trolley–not to be confused with a shopping cart provided by a store for shopping within that store; these are little trolleys you use for carrying your own things around and for shopping where ever you go.  It makes sense I guess, but it’s a sight to come across a gaggle of gossiping old women mucking about and blocking the whole sidewalk.  I promise that I attempted to get a photo but they got suspicious and tried to trip me.

trolley

I don’t know why I bother to bring it up, but I stopped at the bank for some cash.  I know I have been vague about our banking problems, mainly because I didn’t necessarily understand them.  Finally I am able to put my finger on what wrong.  I never got a debit card because I wasn’t “approved” for the premium card “awarded” to Drew; I can only have a card if Drew accepts the step-down card.  This was finally explained to me after my fourth complaint (in branch, at 30 minutes minimum per visit) that my card had not yet arrived.  Let me sum this trip up for you.  I am still angry that I have to “apply” and be “approved” to access my own flipping money!  Yes, I understand that I am not working and that it would be a risk to lend me credit.  However, who do you think does the grocery shopping and runs the errands with Drew’s money?!  My personal banker had the nerve to suggest that I should get my own bank account so that Drew could have his premium card and I could have the step down card, but that we would both be able to have a debit card in that scenario.  I laughed.  Really, I laughed loud, and I didn’t care.  Why can’t I spend his money; if he didn’t want me to have access to it why would he have put my name on the account?!  We live together.  I cook for him (at least twice a day until I get a job, hee hee) and do his laundry.  He owes me the money I spend.  What Drew and I decide about our money is our business, right?!
 
So, back to cute little old people.  I decided to take our clothes to the laundrette for a change, to see if it is worth the time and money to have clothes that have been through the dryer.  I am always nervous in a new situation and this was no exception.  I was almost paralyzed with anxiety before I somehow worked up the nerve to get out the suitcase and start packing.  I filled three small trash bags with dirty clothes, whites, colors, and towels.  I packed them in the suitcase with the soap and softener.  Then I headed out to the laundrette.  When I got there a very sweet looking man returned my big smile.  He also returned my big smile after I had gone out for more change, and again as I sipped my coffee (that I bought to get change).  As he packed up his personal trolley, he made sure to pause for one more big smile before he slipped out the door.  And by “slipped”, I mean made a five minute ordeal about getting himself and his trolley turned the right direction and out the door.  I love him.  I didn’t have enough change, I went to get change, then I had the wrong change but didn’t realize it, then I loaded a machine that didn’t take the change I did have and had to move it all, then I had to use a machine that is meant to wash a comforter to wash our underwear because that machine took the combination of coins I had, then the dryer…  wow.  Dang Gina!
After the laundry was clean and put away, I went to meet Drew in Covent Garden so that he could pick out some new clothes to go with his new hair.  The truth is that we only brought three suitcases with us and he needed some new clothes to wear!  After all, he goes to work everyday.  So, he deserves new clothes–and a debit card.

Busted

We’ve never made salon appointments together that I am aware, but today we bravely entered ESHK to have our wigs busted.  Mine is definitely not as glam as Drew’s, but I do have an interview coming up…
Drew
Jen
  Do I look half dead or what?!

We were quite hungry when we left the salon so we stopped in a local pub for lunch.  This pub is part of the J.D. Wetherspoon’s franchise.  The food isn’t necessarily fresh local food, but the prices are great.  This pub also had slot machines.  Hours of entertainment exist under one roof–food, drink, and gambling.  These are all things I could use less of (or not at all) in my life.

Although there is a very long list of things I wanted to accomplish before this day was through, I am desperate to close my eyes.

 

All my love to you.

A Tradition Begins

Word of the Day: Minging (rhymes with ringing)

  • Offensive, disgusting (I left a glass of milk on my desk for a few days and it is minging.)
Thing I miss: color guard rehearsal and winter programs camps

I am not sure why I am feeling so very tired.  Maybe it’s the cooler weather or the shorter days.  It could be the amount of time I am by myself with this computer.  Perhaps I am not sleeping as well as I think I am, what with the street lights and street noise outside our bedroom.  Who knows?!  Whatever the cause, it’s another thing to which I’ll have to adjust.

We walked from our flat all the way down to The Tower of London today.  
tower
Originally we had set out to find the building where I have the interview, but we found such cool architecture that we took a few detours.
building
building 2

We also realized how close we were to the spot where we stood, barely over a year ago, wondering if we would ever have the chance to live somewhere as cool as London.

As the city began to turn dark, we thought we would get a bite to eat and catch a movie.  We found a wonderful hole in the wall called Indian Veg.  The owners had plastered the walls with research about the benefits of eating vegetables and certain spices.  It was wonderful to have a vegan meal; the food was simple, but full of flavor and vegetables that were filling and nutritious.  The meal was also very inexpensive.  I was grateful for the meal and the love that went into its preparation.  I could see us finding that place again–since it is near the theatre and its affordable, we could make a little tradition out of it.

Walking for hours on end might not have sounded like a fun way to spend my Saturday back in the states, but there is so much to look at and digest as we wander the streets…  I wonder if it ever gets old.

It’s Pretty Official

When you join the local library I think it’s official that you live in the area.  And we do.  Who are we, again?

We picked up two movies to enjoy later, but while we were at the Barbican we wandered through a very interesting exhibit that seemed interactive–it was so complicated that I couldn’t tell if I was really affecting the outcome or if it just seemed that way.  Then we trotted about a mile to the cinema to eat at Tortilla and see a super cheese fest at the cinema: Ghost Town.  I enjoyed it, it was good, see it.

So, what’s different about the movie theatres here?

  1. It’s called the cinema.
  2. There is your standard concession fare: popcorn, nachos, hotdogs, soft drinks, but there’s also Ben and Jerry’s, a candy shop, and alcohol.
  3. There’s a (for 18+ only) bar outside the area where you hand over your ticket, so depending on what kind of food you eat, you really could have dinner, drinks, and a movie all in one spot.
  4. The time on your movie ticket is the time you go into the theatre, not the time the previews start.
  5. There are no car commercials, but there are funny turn-off-your-cell-phone-mercials.
And what was the highlight of the evening?  Well, we stopped at Borders while we waited on our movie to start.  As soon as we walked in I lost Drew, so I wandered over to the children’s book isle to find some inspiration.  Well, a little mole inspired me to laugh for two days.  It was the pop up version.

Mole

Apparently, the mole popped out of his hole and something plopped on his head.  You are looking at it and you know what it looks like but you just can’t accept that while you are pulling tabs and sliding paper levers that you are dropping a turd on the little guy’s head.  But you are.  He goes around asking each animal if they did it.  They say no and show him how they “do” it.  Of course you, the reader, must participate in making the poop, well, dropping it on the ground at least.  No spoiler here, of course.  You’ll have to find out for yourself how the little mole solves his problem.  Well, that’s all for this edition of Reading Rainbow.  Please join us next time when we review other fabulous titles from around the globe.  (Why am I working so hard on my book?  I can write about poop and Drew can sure draw poop.  Problem solved we’re in the money, right?!)

Camping in the Big Wild City

Living in our cool new flat in London, which seems pretty modern and art deco in the photos, is not entirely unlike camping to a very spoiled southerner.  Although we were really excited to have the big open ceiling in the living area and the cool little office space that closes off, I underestimated how much I would miss the plugs in the bathroom, shower curtain, microwave, dryer, dishwasher, freezer, double sink, and en suite master bathroom.  I am determined to make the best of living like a Londoner, though.  They do it.  Why can’t I?!

We have (many) fewer square feet in our flat here than we did at our house in Smyrna, but we probably utilize the same amount of space.  Hopefully this will train me to live with less or find more efficient uses of space and translate well into my future homemaking ventures.  For now, it means no yard work and less to clean!  It also means more frequent trips to the grocery and lots of laundry everywhere.  Whew!  I am going to have to get in a steady routine when I start working and I’ll have to show Drew the system when its time to share the chores.

I have gotten used to the street noise and no longer have trouble falling asleep to it.  I am afraid, though, that the untrained ear might not be so easily lulled into slumber.  There is also a lot of light from the street lights, and in the morning, the sun.  Sometimes Drew and I wear our goofy sleep masks if we want to sleep in.  I just bring these things up so that you can pack with them in mind.  However, they do give out eye masks and ear plugs on your flight over.  House shoes wouldn’t be a bad idea.  The bedroom has carpet, but when you come out for your coffee the chilly floor might be a turn off.

For your vacationing pleasure (and the demands of daily life) we have located all of the following within a quick jaunt:

I am pretty sure we are going to live.  A lot.  Can’t wait to have you here or see you at Christmas, whichever comes first.  All my love to you!

“Remember, Remember…

the fifth of November
Gunpower, treason, and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
should ever be forgot.”

There are fireworks booming outside and I was a little excited about it at first. It felt a little bit like London was celebrating just for Drew and me because we voted. When I researched the 5th of November tradition of bonfires and fireworks, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to associate with the US election at all. The fireworks are nice, but what a thing to teach your children!?

Though I got off to a bit of slow start this morning, I did leave the recruitment agency search and CV re-writing to go by the bank and purchase a few things for the flat. While I was at the bank, I sat down with a personal banker to discuss the problems I have been having with Barclays–specifically the problem of repeatedly requesting and waiting on a debit card that never comes. (I know you think you’d heard this one. This is actually a separate trip to the bank than the first, second, or third time.) We may switch banks.

Points of interest:

  • For some reason, when you buy a dish-drying rack in London, it does not come with the rubber/plastic mat that sits underneath to catch the water. HMMM?
  • Most Londoners have coats that are either black or grey.
  • In a light drizzle it is not necessary to pull out an umbrella and poke everyone’s eyes out as you squeeze through the crowds.  If you are not carrying a hat, so sad for you.  (Your hair looks fine.)
  • People will stand very close to you everywhere you are.  Put your earbuds in your ears and rock out.
  • Asking for hot tea in a cafe or restaurant is rather dumb.  That’s how tea is always served, stupid.
Today I found my grocery store home.  Those of us that truly have the gatherer instinct know how really helpless one feels until they have identified that place, the mecca, of the stuff they want.  I found a Waitrose right around the corner from our flat.  MMM.  Tofu.
Just so you know, uploading photos with our new internet service is not a picnic.  I have crashed quite a few blog postings lately, hence the spread.  Sometimes I get so frustrated and it gets so late, that I just quit.  For the sake of a photo that I so desperately worked to post, may you enjoy this fuzzy kitty photo.  It brings a smile to my face when I need it.

 kitty
I wish it was a photo of my own cat, but my cat is not so photogenic, you know, being that he is black and crazy. So, my sister’s family cat will have to do.  What do I miss today? Midnight. Like crazy. Who knew it would be this bad?!

If you are a regular reader, please be sure to check for old posts that you have missed due to our technical difficulties!  If you are not so regular, shame on you, but you won’t know the difference.

Was this what I ordered?

Word of the Day: Sultana

  • A sultana (also called the sultanina or sultani) is a type of white, seedless grape of Turkish or Iranian origin. It is also the name given to the raisin that is made from it.
Today’s Most Missed Thing: holding beautiful babies


Liam

Mom, I might invite a few extra folks for Christmas, but the little ones don’t eat much–the pregnant one might, though…  Let’s make extra food!  (Just kidding.) (Ok, well, only sort of…)

On to the news…

Saturday was a bit of an adventure involving calling a moving van, hailing a cab, and rushing over to meet the moving van.  Then we unpacked a little.  Drew got started hooking up computers while I started laundry and light cleaning.
Drew comp set up
 
kitchen
 On Saturday evening, we ventured out to Oxford Street to purchase cell phones and grab a bite to eat.  Oxford Street has a little of everything.  We were only able to purchase a cell phone for Drew, as he is the only one with a debit card (nasty face implied).  Then we had dinner at Yo! Sushi.  It’s a restaurant with a neat concept.  You eat at the bar or a table where a conveyor system rotates ready-to-eat sushi right by you.  You may choose any item(s) whizzing by and/or order from the wait staff the hot food or the sushi you want but don’t see.  I enjoyed it.
Yo! Sushi

On our way home we stopped into an HMV to purchase a season of the TV show Firefly.  It was about the same price as seeing 1.5 movies at the theatre, but we will enjoy it a lot longer! You can do the research, but the short version is that it’s supposed to be a sci-fi series that has the feel of a western. Those are two things I wouldn’t have put together, but I am open to the idea…

Sunday, Drew went into work for five hours (plus travel time). I scrubbed the bath tub/toilet/sinks, unpacked, made the bed, dusted, swept, did more laundry, did some dishes, and cooked dinner. Phew!

Monday was a big day. I rushed around to get our write-in ballots printed, filled out, and shipped. Then I purchased a SIM card for a mobile phone so that Drew and I can find each other when we get separated and such. I went to the Post Office to mail a letter and request that our mail be forwarded to our new address. Unfortunately, they are unable to do so seeing that we have no qualifying proof that we were residents there. Relocation pains. I also stopped by the old flat to get something that was inadvertently left behind and returned the keys to Ticketmaster–making us officially residential. As many times as I have said it, I still mean it when I say that I cannot believe we are actually here.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to re-working my CV and submitting to Recruitment Agencies so that I may too enter the working world. I think it will be nice.

We love you all!

Wow, we’re really here!

I hope that you have all been waiting with baited breath to hear the updates after our short absence from the blog, but I apologize for making you wait. One of the biggest things we’ve done is move flats.
moving day
The truth is that our new flat is more like real life in London rather than being a tourist in the cool company flat…  There is no maid service, the internet speed is much slower, and I might have just won a battle with the flu.  (Don’t worry kids, it didn’t get me, I drank a lot of water with my anti-cold remedy and stayed warm for a couple of days while I rested.)  There is so much more to tell you, that it may take me a few days to get it all on the blog.

For your patience though, I thought you might enjoy the view looking North out of our bedroom window:
 window view

and the view looking into the living area over the office wall:
lr aerial

The last thing I would like to leave you with this evening is a plea to vote. It doesn’t matter if we agree about who should next run our country. (You could write in my Dad; he is smart and believes in operating on a surplus budget whenever possible.) Drew and I applied for absentee ballots, but they didn’t arrive in time so I overnighted our write-in ballots today. I just didn’t realize how much it meant to me until I almost couldn’t vote. And just so you know, Starbucks is giving free coffee to people who voted, so stop in and get your free buzz. This is a cause I can support.

We will return tomorrow with more updates; see you soon! XO

Friday I’m in Love

(Just so you know I have written, published and mysteriously lost this entry already this evening–but here it goes again.)

We got the keys to our new place today after meeting an inventory specialist to sign off on the evaluation and take a last look at the place.  There are several reasons why we have decided not to move in today:

  • The internet connection will be activated on 31 October
  • The whole flat needs a good, thorough cleaning
  • We still have to purchase bed linens and towels
  • The landline connecting us to emergency services will be activated on 29 October
  • Seven Dials is a fun and convenient place to be on the weekend
  • The landlord still has to get back to us regarding the location of the electric meter
 
Although I have registered to pay council taxes, arranged for the water to be in our name and signed up for telephone/internet services, I still have a few more things to take care of.  Of course we have to get an electricity/gas account, but I also have to investigate whether or not we have to get a tv license.  I am hoping the landlord might have one that is good for a while…
 
London isn’t everything we dreamed it would be just yet.  We’ve spent too much time doing work type things.  However, I think we have saved enough allowance money to see the Dr. Who exhibition this weekend at Earls Court.  You’re jealous.  We’re geeks.  It all evens out.  I just hope I get to spend some stress-free time with this boy I’m crushing on.
 
My former Project Manager from ICON is an hour away from London on business this week, so I am hoping that we will somehow be able to swing catching her in her travels to or from her other destinations.  It would be great to see someone familiar, from home…  So, when did you say you were coming?
There isn’t much else to tell in the way of bigs news, so I will leave you with a few photos of some green space that I have enjoyed in the city.


green
green2
green3
green4

Money Down on New Digs


Right to the point – we put a deposit down on this [link removed] place today.

Jen had been talking to me about a different place yesterday. Yeah, the same one she posted a blog entry about because she was so excited about it, and today she passed on it completely – even putting a deposit down on it before I had seen it. Okay, not really, but she was prepared to put one down because she knew I would love it as much as her.

Well when I left for work this morning the plan as I understood it was for me to meet one of our fleet of estate agents at 4:30 to take a look at the place Jen was so excited about yesterday. I was even excited about it because she thought it was so perfect and I was ready to be done with the hunt (for her sanity). Then, an hour before I was supposed to leave to view the property, she pops on IM and says she has found the place. I was confused for a moment. What happened to the other place? The place you saw yesterday? She tells me that it is still a great place, but the one she visited today blew all the other places out of the water (my words not hers).

So after a very excited exchange over IM, I meet Jen outside the TM office and we head to our original appointment with new plans to visit “The New Hotness” a second time today. Our tube trip had us travel from the Leicester Square tube station to the Russell Square tube station, and let me just say, take the elevator unless you really want the workout and that awesome “my lungs are on fire” feeling.

We met the agent to view the place from yesterday, and it was great. Really nice place with a great view and lots of nice places near by for food, etc. As we were preparing to leave the first place we told the agent we had found one other property which was really exciting to us and that we REALLY appreciated all of his hard work and help. He of course said he hoped he could work with us, we shook hands and told him we would let him know. He really has been super helpful and we may send him a thank you gift for his time.

Soon as he was around the corner we “legged it” (new local term I have picked up) over to the other agent’s office to meet her for the second viewing and put down a deposit. You see she and Jen had been on the phone while I was touring the first place and the landlord had accepted our offer (yes, you can negotiate rent). So we were off to see it.

The walk from the first to the last was not a short one, but it was nice. We saw a lot of what will be our new neighborhood. The agent, Sky, was very very friendly and was more than willing to go through everything she had already told Jen again for my benefit.

We had a bit of an adventure getting into the building, there is a magic spot on the door where you wave an equally magic card and it will open. Would have been easier if either the card or the spot had instructions or if perhaps said spot was not completely hidden behind a sign.

Once we finally made it inside I was sold. Jen was right, it was perfect. You can tell the architect who owns it was taking great care to restore it to its original glory (I am thinking 60’s but am not sure yet). It is a really nice space – lots of room, lots of light, and the modern vibe we wanted. I think anyone of you who come visit will absolutely enjoy the space. And good news too, while it is on the 3rd floor (4th in American), there is actually a lift (elevator).

Okay, fingers crossed that I didn’t make a mistake asking Pinky to be my reference and that my salary is enough for them to think I can actually afford this place!