Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Game Night - Guest Blog by Jo!

This is Jo. She is one of my most favouritest people in all of England. =) She served as my cultural ambassador there, makes the best chocolate cake EVER, and knows where all of the good Chinese takeaways are. She is cute and small and a little bit nerdy. These important qualities contributed to the decision to invite her to do a guest blog. Here is what she had to say, unabridged and unedited, save for anything written in purple, which I may have added myself...

Last night (actually 9th December- Sarah is a little bit behind) at about (exactly) 7pm (on the dot- I am quite punctual) I went round to Sarah and Gordon’s extremely cute little flat for ‘Games Night’. With me I had Cranium, lots of energy, some melted chocolate, the killer instinct of a true board games champion, and some fruit to do chocolate fondue. I arrived right on time, which I think in lovely Sarah’s world (La La Land?) is too early, as she hadn’t properly woken up from her afternoon sleep when I got there. Sperm whales are nasty, horrible, hateful creatures. I met Sarah and Gordon's other fantastic friends in Nottingham- Kate and Craig, who got married only 7 weeks ago! (Congratulations!) We debated for a while on the best way to select teams for Cranium. First we followed Sarah’s brilliant suggestion of drawing straws (or in this case celery sticks) and going on the length of the sticks to pick teams. Unfortunately this didn’t work because neat freak that she is (humph!) Sarah had managed to cut all of he celery sticks almost exactly the same length, which requires a great amount of skill and I think her efforts should be applauded. Well done, Sarah! Well done! In the end I wrote names down on paper and we picked teams from that. I ended up on a team with Sarah's cute boyfriend Gordon while charming Sarah, Kate and Craig were on a team together. (It was all going according to plan...) We hadn’t been playing for long when Adrian (yo, Adrian!) from our office came over. Adrian is from Barbados and has a really cute accent and seven arms and a pegleg and is also really tall (6ft 2). Adrian joined the team with Gordon and I (thwarting my efforts to use my feminine wiles to steal Gordon away from Sarah while we were alone on a team together- curses!) and we went on to come second place in Cranium- not that much of an achievement given the fact that there were only 2 teams (but I have an excellent attitude. Let's just say we were runners up for first place). We had an interesting (read: very quiet) round when Sarah got the Cranium task of doing an impression of a British celebrity – Cilla Black – who she had never heard of! She had heard of Cillit Bang, but apparently they're not the same thing. After Sarah had awarded prizes for Cranium from the pile of raggedy old stuff she and Gordon can’t take with them (I got badminton rackets!) we played Jenga. Craig was doing really well, and after we’d played about 10 thousand rounds we moved on to ‘Tonga,’ which involves using kitchen tongs to move the Jenga pieces. (Brilliant! Far better than the original!) Craig finally knocked it over which meant that the game was over and it was time to go home. The end.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grocery Store Wars!

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, someone e-mailed me this amazing little movie, Grocery Store Wars. If you've ever seen Star Wars or have even a casual interest in vegetables, this is hilarious! Chewbroccoli and Ham Solo! Darth and Luke (Cuke!) Skywalker facing off with tiny lightsabers in a produce scale! Hah! It is nothing short of brilliant, I assure you! Go watch it! It's fantastic! Seriously. You won’t be sorry. May the Farm be with you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Birthday to ME! =)

Though I am living in a country far, far away, all of my peeps both here and abroad made me feel very special for by 31st birthday! =) First, Gordon took us on a Magical Mystery Tour (literally) of Liverpool for a surprise birthday weekend! =) Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2008, L-pool was up to its eyeballs in museums, cathedrals, awesome architecture, Beatles-related sights, and- well- cranes. There’s a lot of construction that goes along with being a capital of culture, it seems, but sometimes even cranes can look really cool if you have enough of them! We stayed in a lovely hotel right by the water and had a fantasic view from the 9th floor of the docks and/or fog, depending on the weather. =) My highlight was our tour, which took us to some of the houses where the Beatles were born and/or have lived as well as to Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Penny Lane has always been in my ears, but now it’s in my eyes, too!
My actual birthday fell on the Monday, so I went to work. =) I arrived to a stack of birthda
y cards and I even had a few prizes! Notably a cool book about a motorcycle trip through New Zealand and lots of packs of stickers (thanks, Jo!) and a paua shell necklace from the consultants for whom I work. Totally unexpected to have so many well wishes at work, but really appreciated! Made me feel quite special! I also had calls from people in the US and Britain, some sweet e-mails and e-cards, a very fancy homemade card and prizes from my mom- the queen of die-cutting, and had a beautiful bouquet of tropical flowers delivered from my brother and sister-in-law in Atlanta! All of you guys are awesome! A huge THANK YOU to everyone! =)

My birthday is a big holiday here- it’s Guy Fawkes Day (sometimes called Bonfire Night) where traditionally little kids make effigies of Guy Fawkes (the dude who famously conspired to blow up the Houses of Parliament 402 years ago), they get put on a big bonfire (the effigies, not the kids! What kind of country do you think this is?!?!), and then there are fireworks. (Recently there has been controversy about burning Guy- see one article here.) “Remember, remember, the 5th of November,” they say. There is also a tooth-threatening kind of toffee made with treacle and black carbon paste, a small quantity of which my cultural ambassador Jo was kind enough to procure for me. Actually quite good, though sickeningly sweet, as one might imagine. (Do I have to plant something green to offset my black carbon paste footprint?) So Jo and Jess (another City Council friend) came over for a little pasta (see recipe here) and apple crumble,
which Jo made (delicious!), then we all took hot chocolate to go and headed off to see the fireworks at the Forest Recreation Ground. It was crazy! Hundreds of people, a giant fire, and a bunch of fairground rides! Always a fun adventure to have fireworks for your birthday! =) Afterward Gordon, Jess, and I went to a small club to see Jess’s friend’s band, who extended birthday greetings between poppy punk tunes. Rockin’! Who could ask for a better birthday? So official thanks to all of my peeps- you guys are so sweet to remember little ol’ me! And just think- next year my birthday will be in the summer and you're all invited to celebrate it in New Zealand! =)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I met Alexey Pajitnov! I met Alexey Pajitnov! =) It was just like meeting a rock star, only wayyy more geeky. ;) It wasn’t awesome Alexey himself who was geeky; moreso the huge herd o’ nerds who jumped up at the end of the seminar to get their GameBoys and Nintendo cartridges signed. (I only mock because I am envious. I have no GameBoy. Curses!)

This Fete des Nerds was all a part of GameCity, a video games fest held annually here in Nottingham. They showed a documentary made for Brit tv called “Tetris: From Russia with Love” and had a question and answer period with the game’s creator, the brilliant and lovely Mr. Alexey Pajitnov.
I wouldn’t have thought of myself as a gamer, really- at least not in recent years. But my borderline fanatical excitement at the possibility of meeting Señor Tetris totally made me rethink the role games have played in my life. It seems a good chunk of my youth was spent controller-in-hand… In front of the telly, chewing on an Atari 2600 joystick (my brother hated that), playing Frogger, PacMan, Pitfall… Games on the Commodore 64 that you had to load on the tape drive for 20 minutes before you could even start playing… We had an Odyssey for a while- I seem to remember something Pong-like on that one… Oregon Trail on the Apple at school, Super Mario on my friend Chris Duncan’s Nintendo… I’m pretty sure we played that one every day before we watched the MTV video countdown. =) Good times. =) And then came TETRIS. Game of all games. Surely the best computer game I have ever played. Simple. Addictive. Excellent music. =) I could play for hours at a time, and I remember when I used to go to bed and lie there and play it in my head for another hour before I fell asleep…
Almost 20 years after I first played it, Tetris is still my favourite game, and Alexey is my second favourite games designer. (Second after Gordon, of course! You can play Gordon's last game, Sproing, at Go play it. Go now. Go. It looks like this.) It was an honour to meet the man who helped me waste away countless hours of my trying teenage years. =) On behalf of all of us who have whittled away what could have been boring, productive days and years of our lives playing Tetris, I would like to say an official thank you to the man who changed the world with his game. =) Danke, Herr Pajitnov. (I don't know any Russian. German was as close as I could get.) Now I have to go. The game beckons...

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Here is a picture of a highland cow that I didn't take. In fact, I haven't seen any yet, but I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity to see one (and maybe hug it?) while we're here in Scotland. =) We are currently at the home of Gordon's cousin Ella in Edinburgh, who is absolutely lovely, and who has broadband internet. =) It's heaven here- for both reasons! We've awoken to nice breakfasts and a hot kettle in the mornings, toured around in the afternoons, watched the rugby in the evenings, AND I get to update my blog. =) Fantastic. So far one of the highlights was seeing sheep that look like this! (I didn't take this picture, either, I'm afraid.) I really thought they were very tiny cows until we got closer! I have never seen splotchy sheeps before! =) Baaaaa! Tomorrow Gordon, his brother, and I head up to Perth to see his Auntie and then drive back down to the Lake District, where we're booked in at a lovely vegan B&B. =) Tuesday it's home to Notts and Wednesday back to the salt mines, but I hope someday to return to Scotland for a proper look around, because what I've seen so far has been beautiful! =) And so many cute sheepies! I hear there are even PINK ones! Definitely worth another visit if only to see the pink sheep! Baaaaa! =)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I've Got Mail!

Travelling is awesome, especially when you live in England and have all of the rest of Europe right at your fingertips. There’s all the different food, scenery, languages, cultures… But one of the very best things about getting away for a few days is all the mail that’s waiting for you when you get home!!! =) Okay, so we just got home from Paris, which was (of course) wonderful, and I’ll write more about that soon. But since we’d been gone for four days, I had three pieces of mail! =) I love mail! =) I even like bank statements and bills, but this time there were two real letters. From people! =) And I must say, there’s really nothing like a nice, hand-written letter from a friend. =) (Or type-written is okay, as long as it comes in the mail)! It’s so nice to sit and read all about what’s happening with far away friends and family- it really makes my day. Maybe this is why I still have a pen pal after more than a decade… We have met in person and talked on the phone or e-mailed a handful of times, but mostly it’s been kept to stamped correspondence, which I think is awesome. =) I know we have e-mail and blogs and everything these days, and I think I have done quite well to become as technologically advanced as I have- I even joined facebook a couple of weeks ago! But nothing can replace a bit of nice stationery or an envelope in the mailbox with stickers on it. =) I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who brightens my days by keeping in touch in every way, but a special shout out to those who do it the old-fashioned way. =) Keepin’ it real- paper and pen style. I like that. =) S.W.A.K. =)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Things I like About the UK, Vol. 1

Crumpets with fake butter and Lyle’s Golden Syrup; Liverpudlian accents; footie on telly all the time; being able to live in the same country as my cute boyfriend; gravy granules; proximity to mainland Europe; trains that go anywhere I want to go and on which I can take my bike; Primark; rolling, green hills dotted with fluffy, white sheep; delicious strawberry monkey licorice from the Aldi; the word “poorly” to mean “sick”, as in “no, Perpetua is not in the office today; she’s off poorly”; refrigerated grocery store vegetable samosas that you can just pop in the oven that are better than restaurant samosas; London; tea that gets so instantly strong that I have to ask for it weak when someone else makes it; Scottish accents; our sweet apartment; an abundance of inexpensive leeks; all things Robin Hood; panel “game shows” where famous people rack up points by saying really funny things in response to the host’s questions, but nobody really cares who wins; “brilliant,” said gazillions of times a day, meaning something similar to “fantastic” or “sweeeet”- sometimes shortened to “brill”; vegan bangers and mash; David Beckham- oh wait- he moved!; nail polish remover pads from Boots; more sheep; QE2...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sometimes I Work

I am now officially a Working Girl! =) It’s just like the movie only better! Firstly, I don’t have an evil Sigourney Weaver for a boss at some giant, corrupt corporation. Second, and far more importantly, there’s no need for me to wear shoulder pads that make me look like a linebacker in order to be taken seriously. On the flipside, I don’t get to meet Harrison Ford, but that’s okay- after you get to know someone as Han Solo it’s really all downhill, isn’t it? I fear he might be just slightly less impressive without his wookie… Anyhow, I have a job, and so far I love it! I’m working for the government! They made me jump through all kinds of hoops just to get myself into this country and now I’m running it! :o Okay, so I’m not exactly the Queen or anything, but I am working for the Nottingham City Council. I’m doing administrative stuff having to do with education. Though I had to go buy a book of British English grammar (20p at a car boot sale) in order to carry out my duties (I am far from fluent in the language here), I am helping to ensure that the rugrats of the East Midlands get a good primary school education- helping little Nigels and Fionas learn to spell “colour” and “favourite” with all of the necessary vowels, making sure tiny Tarquins and Pippas remember to stick the extra "me" on the end of "programme"… It’s a tough job for a Yank, but I’m always up for a good challenge. The people with whom I work are great so far- extremely friendly and helpful- and one of them volunteers to make tea for the whole office just about every fifteen minutes, so there is never a lack of caffeine. The days are short- I am only meant to work a little over seven hours a day, as I am not to exceed full-time, which is only 37 hours here, apparently. I get to wear cute clothes and do lots of things that require organisation (with an “s”). I get to play with paper and staples and binder clips and Post-its and pens. (I bring my own pens. I love pens. Very specific pens.) I even get to laminate things, which may very well be my favourite part so far. (Besides, of course, all of the writing with pens.) So, not only do I finally have some pounds and pence flowing into my current account (that means “checking account”), but I get to talk to actual people during the day instead of just a stuffed pig. No offence to the pig, but for me it feels like a step up. (And then there are the pens!) Gotta run- have to go pick out a stylish-yet-appropriate ensemble (sans shoulder pads) to wear to the office tomorrow! (p.s. I did not choose to include a picture of pens here, as all of the pictures I could find were of substandard pens. I did, however, include a picture of a guinea pig that I met a few weeks ago, because he is extremely cute.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Paucity of Bloggeration

A month! A month has passed and no blogs! Shameful! So much fantastic travel and adventure and so little writing! Sooo... here's the skinny- we had a lovely long weekend in London in July , then a mid-week jaunt to Manchester to see some live football the first of August. Then there was a 9-day cycling holiday in Germany along the Baltic coast and a long weekend in Rome with Cupcake and Paul! In between all of that I have become what can only be called a master chef, and we have enjoyed my many culinary creations over suspense-filled episodes of "Heroes," "Robin of Sherwood" (see awesome intro here), and innumerable televised footie matches, even ones involving teams about which we totally don't care. We have a minor football addiction at the moment. My allegiance still lies with ManU, but also into Arsenal this time around, and there's always Liverpool... More details about our adventures in future blogs- very soon, I swear it! For now, be appeased by this picture of a fuzzy baby coon that lives in the pond where Gordon works. =)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

LOTR, baby!

Okay, I was wrong. Five years ago when I tried to watch The Lord of the Rings I was tired and I couldn't really follow the plot. I got bored, so I turned it off and went to bed. And for the five years since I have been mercilessly mocked. When I have told people I didn't like it, asking them to keep in mind the fact that I had never read the books, they have scoffed at my lack of taste. I didn't say it was bad, really, just not interesting- a very unpopular point of view. But as I grow older and ever wiser, I realise the importance of flexibility. While some might consider it a sign of strength to take a stand- to form an opinion and then to stick by it no matter what, I completely disagree. I find it far more admirable to be open to new ideas- to be flexible, to evolve, to allow one's opinions to change in light of new information. And thus I freely admit that I was wrong. (Do you admire me now?) I watched the first film again last week, and it was good. Quite good. This time, instead of thinking, "why does this short dude have to take this ring everywhere?" I had Gordon to explain some things to me. I feel that I am a reasonably intelligent person- generally capable of following the plot of a blockbuster movie, but some of the details in this one are never really explained in a satisfactory way, and I am not one to be impressed or distracted by big battle scenes and a whole lot of special effects. I need to understand what's going on. So with the Gordon Commentary switched on it all made much more sense, and I found that it was really quite good. =) Then we rented the other two movies and had ourselves a nice little hobbity marathon. It was excellent. =) I must be off- it's coming up on elevenses and this hobbit is getting hungry. =) Mmmm... elf bread. =)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Domestic Goddess

Being (almost completely) vegan is wonderful. I feel great, physically, and I know I am greatly reducing my risk of developing a lot of serious heath problems in the future. Heart disease and cancer are bad. =( More importantly, I am doing what I can to distance myself from the almost inconceivably torturous and corrupt affair that is modern animal agriculture. Cute, fluffy animals are good. =) Then there’s the environment... Trees and potable water are good, too. =) So all of these things are good, right? Why isn’t everyone vegan? Well, my friends, there is downside. What is it they say? "If it seems too good to be true…" There’s one unfortunate fact that nobody ever mentions when they tout all of the many benefits of the vegan diet- one terrible truth that lies hidden between the lines of all the books… You have to learn to cook. It’s true. Tragic, but true. Especially true if you are unemployed. You see, here in Nottingham there are few options for a vegan meal out on the town, and even if there were thirty vegan restaurants I couldn’t afford to go to them. So I must cook. And even Sarah can’t eat linguine with garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots every day. (Well, I probably could, to tell the truth, but there was that little episode when I was a kid where I turned orange from just that kind of beta carotene binging, so I try to mix it up.) It’s hard to know what you’re getting when you eat out at a place where they don’t label things veggie or vegan on the menu, and I find that even if you ask about the food, often the employees have no idea if there’s chicken stock in the vegetable soup, and the guy who made it left at three, so there’s no way to find out. And frankly, I think Gordon is going to go shopping for a new girlfriend if I force feed him Bombay Potatoes one more time… There’s got to be a better way to get our daily ten servings of fruits and veg! To this end, I went to the library and checked out a couple of vegan cookbooks. =) I have tried two recipes so far with great success! =) A couple of nights ago we had Rigatoni & Spinach Crumble, and last night we had Leek & Potato Soup (both taken from this book) with bread that I actually baked! :o Who woulda thunk? So, perhaps this downside of my diet is actually an upside? An educational experience? An optimistic person would say yes- it is allowing me to develop new skills and enhancing my quality of life immeasurably. And I am an optimistic person. =) Martha Stewart I am not, it’s true, but definitely a domestic goddess in the making! =) Here is the recipe for the pasta dish! Try it! If I can do it, so can you! =)
Rigatoni & Spinach Crumble
From Cook Vegan by Richard Youngs

8 oz. (225 g) rigatoni pasta
2 Tbs. (45 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small pepper
2 generous handfuls of spinach
4 tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic (triple this if you’re me)
Sufficient breadcrumbs to cover
Handful of flaked almonds (I used ground almonds)

Boil the rigatoni according to packet instructions. Drain and rinse. Meanwhile finely chop the onion, pepper, and tomatoes. Crush the garlic. Wash and roughly chop the spinach. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and sauté the onion. When it has turned transparent add the pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and spinach. Cook until the spinach has softened and most of the liquid from it has evaporated. Add the cooked pasta, season, and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Top with enough breadcrumbs to cover and the flaked almonds. Place in a medium pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until brown on top. Serves two if you are a piggy like Gordon and me.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Birmingham (not Alabama)

Just returned from an overnight jaunt to lovely Birmingham! No disrespect to my UK home, but in the battle of the Hams (Birmingham v. Nottingham), I'd say we have a clear, undisputed champion, and it's simply not the Notts. =/ From the moment we got off the train we loved it! =) I didn't expect much- from what I had heard it was a dreadful place, polluted and industrial. But it has been though a renaissance in recent years- refurbishing, rebuilding, re-everything, really, and it is lovely! =) In a nutshell, the city was clean and beautiful- flowers everywhere, a lovely series of canals with footbridges, pedestrian areas, free museums, nice cafes, and very few scary young men with their hands down their track pants leering at you from in front of boarded-up businesses like you might see in some places... (In fact, I didn't see any of those in B-ham.) The purpose of our trip was to see Bright Eyes at Carling Academy. Never a dull moment when traveling... Our train was parked at the wrong end of the platform, and we wound up on a train going the total opposite direction... Not to worry, others had been fooled by the bad signing, too, and so four of us were stranded at Netherfield (not nearly as nice as it sounds, and most certainly not the country home of Jane Austen's Mr. Bingley). The next train back to Notts wasn't for hours, so we all got a cab back to the station together. The cab took forever to get there and one of us (possibly me) made the mistake of saying "at least it's a beautiful day out." Then the rains came. When our cab driver finally found us, we were wet and cold and intent on catching the 18:oo train. The driver wanted to get us there, too, and it was a ride right out of Pole Position. We arrived unscathed (except for the nausea) and got on the train with 4 minutes to spare. =) We stayed right in the city centre at Nitenite, a mini luxury hotel of sorts. Everything is very nice there- cozy beds, huge flat-screen tv, wifi, etc, but the rooms are TINY, so the prices are low. Adorable if you're not claustrophobic at all. I, for one, loved having a bed with walls on three sides and no windows to let in pesky sunlight in the morning. Seriously. If I had a million dollars I'd build myself a room like that (and a library for all of my books with a ladder on wheels). The concert was great- Bright Eyes was far better live than I had anticipated, and we went for post-show cocktails at The Shakespeare, a nice little pub in town. Saturday we hungrily wandered into the Mailbox, which used to be a postal sorting office, but is now a multi-story open-air shopping oasis. If you go all the way through it you end up at what is basically a very posh food court- tons of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating right on the canal. There's even a Nando's there for Andy. =) From there you can take footbridges and walk all around the canal, galleries, convention center, Brindley Place, Gas Street Basin, etc. We had lunch at the Canalside Cafe, which was excellent! Vegan food galore! Chilli, soups, bangers and mash- hard to find that stuff around these parts! It was delicious! =) The rest of the day was spent wandering around- bookstores, cafes, Muji, galleries, etc. Lovely. Got the evening train back and are now home, eagerly anticipating the Wimbledon final this afternoon. =) Tentatively planning to go back to Brum while we're here if we can swing it. Vegan bangers and mash are calling!

Friday, July 6, 2007


I love Wimbledon. In fact, I have become almost obsessed with it over the last week or two. Never really been much of a tennis fan- I've seen a few matches here and there over the years- but now I can't stop watching! My two favourites at the moment are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Not surprising considering they are the two highest-ranked players in the world... I do know how to pick 'em! =) Gordon is a Federer fan all the way- and why wouldn't he be? He is one of the best players in the history of the sport! His game is beautiful to watch- he makes every perfect shot seem effortless. I really hope he wins this year so he can have his five Wimbledon titles in a row. There's a reason he's number one, and I think it is likely to remain that way for a while. =) And then there's the surlier Spaniard- adorable young Rafael Nadal- his massive, unevenly pumped-up arms rippling out of an always-sleeveless shirt like a fiddler crab... He is slightly less cool on the court than Federer- he always looks a little bit angry and brooding when he's trying to concentrate. He is very powerful and exciting to watch. Sad to admit it, but I have been watching so much tennis this week that little Rafa (though he's not actually little at 6'1") was actually in my dream last night! He didn't say anything, which was disappointing, because his very thick Mallorcan accent is quite endearing, especially when he talks about playing on various "soofraces." Clay is definitely his best soofrace. His weird rituals involving sock adjusting, water bottle placement, and obsessive toweling off are unusual, and you know how I like unusual! (Though it seems as if he may need to invest in some new undies- he's always pulling at them through his capri pants during matches...) He's right-handed naturally, but plays with his left, which is even more impressive if you've ever tried to hit a ball over the net with your wrong hand (or any hand at all, in my case)! My hope is that he ends up in the final with Roger Federer, which is not unlikely. I'm glad Wimbledon is only a couple of weeks, because it's hard to watch so much tv without your eyeballs popping out of their sockets. That, and watching tennis only serves to remind me that I'm not the world number one... Last year I had decided it was my goal to win Wimbledon. Gordon bought me rackets for my birthday and we hit the ball around a couple of times. I was well on my way, really. But my game has been thrown off by the move. Yeah, packing up my rackets and storing them was a real blow, psychologically, and tennis is really won between the ears, you know... Really threw me off... Yeah, that's it. And Sharapova's looking quite good this year, so I doubt it's going to happen for me. Curses! So, I'll stick to watching it on telly for now, but don't be surprised if I pull a Martina Navratilova later in life and end up in the Olympics! (Maybe I'll be playing mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal!) It could happen! =)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blog, Blog, Blog

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (and in a city quite noticeably more interested in recycling and juices not from concentrate) I started a blog. I wrote at least a couple of times a week- sometimes twice in one night, sharing stories about my life and links to videos about sheep. Those were the days, my friends. Now, as my young life flies by, my days filled with cooking, cycling, shopping, international travel, and eating crumpets, my priorities seem to have shifted. My zeal for communicating with the vast array of people who once flocked (in twos and threes!) to read my very important musings seems to have diminished inexplicably. Wherefore art thou diminished, zeal?! One would think that a state of unemployment would perhaps allow for more time to compose and expect to see a flourishing blog. And yet no. I have not worked a day since the end of April, and still my blog fields lay fallow! Disgraceful! :o So, in an effort to reestablish good relations with the throngs of readers (i.e. my mom), I offer an assurance that I shall try to be more consistent. Anything more and we'd all be disappointed in me when I didn't follow through. =/ Soooo... an update. This minute I sit downloading every song I have ever wanted (JJ Fad, Whodini, Falco anyone?) on my mom's computer in Atlanta. I am taking a much-needed (and yet somehow very tiring) break from last-minute preparations for her upcoming nuptials, which take place two days from today! Very much looking forward to a fantastic party- mom's wearing a sassy red dress, cousin Jodi is cooking up a mean Italian feast, and the venue is Le Moulin Rouge at Paris on Ponce. Fabulous. =) I return to the UK on the 26th, whereupon I shall present my shiny, new work visa and begin the fun, fun process of finding a job for which I qualify. Looking for something that will allow me to keep weekends off for wacky adventures with my dashing kiwi gentleman friend- very important, as many of these weekend jaunts have already been booked and paid for (in a pretty nonrefundable kind of way)... So, I leave you now with pictures of the countryside- okay, really just a few miles away from our flat! There's a ten-mile bike path around Nottingham which takes you to some very green and pretty areas alongside the canal and the river Trent. Midway around you can pop off the path and explore Attenborough Nature Centre, which we did. Even saw some sheep! A lovely day. =) More lovely days and lovely blogs about them to come. =)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Look! I made your piggy stripy!"

This is our pink stripy piggy. He is technically a doorstop. Gordon bought him to keep our lounge door (which is weirdly spring-loaded like our other interior doors) open. But to me he is much more than a doorstop. He is my friend. He is the only friend I have in Nottingham so far. I know things will be different when I have a job, but since the Eurovision party the longest conversation I have had face to face with a human (Gordon doesn't count) was with the guy who tried to sell me vision insurance in the mall. He was nice. And the postman dropped off something once and said a whole sentence to me. That was good. But the piggy is there for me every day, holding the door for me when I come in after a long day of shopping, "struggling with bags from Tesco", Aldi, and Holland & Barrett. Sometimes we have a nice cup of tea and a chat about the weather. When Gordon comes home the piggy holds the salt shaker for us while we eat dinner. He likes to wear my shoes (the piggy- not Gordon). He has buttons for eyes, for nostrils, and for hip flexors. I know that if one of our shirts lost a button that the stripy piggy would sacrifice his own comfort and donate a hip flexor or a nostril, because that's the kind of piggy he is. I only wish that everyone could have such a lovely piggy friend. Then nobody would eat bacon. Especially not the stripy kind.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Flying the Flag

It was all worth it. Packing, moving, leaving my jobs, my apartment, and my home country- all of it. Because I have seen the light. I have found something brilliant, something dazzling. The void in my soul, heretofore inexplicable, has been filled, its mystery unraveled. I know what I have been missing all this time, why I could never be completely happy. And I can tell you now what it was, in one simple word. It's a word I had heard previously in passing, but I never really knew its meaning. (No, I am not talking about crumpets, though I could write an equally adulating bit of prose about those-- amazing little syrup-permeable English ambassadors that they are.) What is it- this thing that my soul cried out for, that I would wait 30 long years to know and to understand? In a word, Eurovision. That's right. The Eurovision Song Contest. Brilliance. Sheer brilliance. I can't think of another way to put it. All of the adjectives I can muster seem inadequate. And, I regret to inform, that it seems it must be seen to be believed. And you've missed it. But I saw it, and believe me when I say that I am forever changed! =) Okay, so what is it, this Eurovision? Well, it's a contest where each European country gets to submit one song, basically, and there's an enormous final- a raucous and over-the-top affair characterised by campy music, dizzying light displays, and nutty costumes, where they all get together and perform their songs and all the people of Europe vote for the winner. It's fantastic. Confused? Learn the basic rules. One of the best things about the UK broadcast of the show has to be the wry commentary, provided by Sir Terry Wogan, who is terribly rude at times, but hilarious! I enjoyed my first official Eurovision experience at a party thrown by a couple of Gordon's friends. I didn't know anyone there, but we were quickly bonded by the international spirit and the frenzied emotions brought about by this unique and fantastic event. =) It's amazing how much I have missed, but my hostess and her friends were veritable founts of Eurovision knowledge! They taught me, for instance, that Celine Dion had actually represented Switzerland in 1988 and won! And that Katrina and the Waves (who used to walk on sunshine in the 80's) came back and won for the UK in 1997. Who woulda thunk? They seemed to know just about everything there was to know about the contest's history; they could quote Terry's commentary from years past, and could sing along with every song when they flashed back to clips from decades ago. I was amazed at their ability to sing along with this year's entries, regardless of language (having purchased the cd's in advance) and to predict to whom exactly each country would give it's highest scores. Amazing. Where have I been all of these years?! How could I have missed all of this?! Never again, my friends. Much to Gordon's dismay, I have bought this year's cd set and shall definitely be tuning in again next year- no matter where I'm living! :o Now, I have not been able to locate much footage of the finals online, but I did find this gem from the Ukraine, one of the highest scoring groups on my personal scorecard. (Yes, we had scorecards at the party with categories ranging from best gratuitous key change to weirdest lyrics or costumes- extra points for wardrobe malfunctions, along with a rousing game of Pin the Tail on Macedonia. Quite the shindig!) Other favourites included the entries from the UK, Greece, France, and Sweden, none of which actually did very well in the official voting. The Ukraine actually did quite well, but they were sadly kept in second place by the unimpressive ballad-y entry from Serbia, to my surprise. The western countries did quite poorly on the whole, and there are quite a few rumours going around about some kind of corrupt Eastern European "block voting" practices, the details of which I do not yet understand... Anyhow, Eurovision may have its critics, but I found it fantastic! Many thanks to Craig and Kate for inviting an ignorant stranger to the party of the year (and for making vegan chili)! And for those of you in the States who can't be here to enjoy this, don't worry- I'm "Flying the Flag (For You)!"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Home Sweet Home

One week in Nottingham and things are going well. Thus far there have been no major catastrophes, though there was one minor incident wherein cycling shoes were destroyed, a pair of nice jeans was compromised, and I was honked and laughed at by a car full of teenagers whilst lying on the ground in the rain unable to disentangle my legs from my traitorous fallen bicycle. Add to that the fact that I have not enjoyed a hot shower since my arrival (water heater due to be fixed on Wednesday), I have made grave errors in judgment where packing weather-appropriate clothing is concerned, and I seem to have brought the rainy winter weather with me from Seattle, and one might think that I'm having a bad time of it here. But no, not I. Despite the minute challenges presented me since my arrival, I am not discouraged. No lack of hot water is going to keep me down. No mocking teenage ne'er-do-wells can crush my globetrotting spirit. Jeans will be patched and new bike shoes purchased. And I, I will survive. Now, it seems like I'm focusing quite a bit on the negative. And I am. Because challenges are what make us stronger, right? But non-challenges are what make us happy! So let's have a look at those, shall we? =) First and foremost, my arrival was in no way difficult. Gordon had already gone about the difficult business of finding an apartment, had learnt his way about town, and had stocked up on all the necessaries (hand soap, wine, chocolate, etc.) before I even got here. He made the actual travel quite a bit easier by renting a car and driving us back up here so that I could avoid the potentially harrowing travail of dragging my valises and bicycle all around the Kingdom on trains. Most importantly, I get to live in the same country as my boyfriend! =) I have friends in this country to whom I am quite glad to be closer, and I have a month to get the lay of the land before I have to figure out where I want to work when I get back here. Things really are good. In addition, we live in an amazing apartment! =) I've not had an opportunity to photograph the building from the outside, as the weather has been most uncooperative, but here's a picture I found on the Internet. It's a Grade II preserved building. Used to be some sort of mill but now it's home! =) Our apartment is unbelievably cute. =) The main living area includes the lounge (British for "living room") and kitchen, and is very small. But what it lacks in spaciousness it more that makes up for in cute! =) We have a tiny sofa and chair with spotty pillows, a little glass tv/stereo stand, and an odd but cosy little area rug. There is exposed brick on the wall with the big windows, which is painted white. Gordon bought a doorstop shaped like a pig. He's stripey. He really pulls the room together. =) The kitchen has a small glass dining table, plenty of cabinet space, and is finished very nicely with chrome and wood. Everything is brand new, and we have the most adorable appliances my American eyes have ever seen- a tiny stove (called a "hob" here), a tiny oven, a tiny washer/dryer (all in one!), and perhaps the cutest little microwave I have ever seen. =) The bedroom and the bathroom are both quite large in comparison, and the bedroom is decorated with bed linens that match the spotty pillows in the lounge. =) They have even provided color-coordinated potpourri and flower arrangements! Definitely the cutest place I have ever lived! So, that's good. Really starting to feel quite at home there. We have access to a small gym and to secure bike storage as well, which is quite handy! All of the amenities (minus the hot water)! Many more wonderful things about Nottingham to be revealed in future posts as I do a little more exploration, but for now I must head home, as I have been promised a feast of Roast Veggies a la Gordon and all of this blogging has made me hungry!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm here! =) It's a beautiful, sunny day in the 'Shire! =) As I sit typing, I am watching ducks and swans (and Canada Geese! Why so far from home, geeses?!?! I guess they are kindred North American expats!) swim and frolic in the pond here at the University of Nottingham, workplace of my adorable boyfriend Gordon. (I am in an atrium area really close to that roundy building, which is the library.) Much has happened since last I posted here, and I shall attempt to be brief in my summary of events (though we all know that being brief is not necessarily my greatest strength). Leaving Seattle was more hectic than I ever dreamed it could be, as I was in quite the impressive state of denial for most of the three weeks leading up to my departure. Several people stepped up to help with the insanity at the end, most notably: Jess Wetter, who was over at my house many an afternoon to help pack and move and provide invaluable moral support, Britton, who supplied me with a last minute storage solution for the odds and ends that simply could not be crammed into the storage space, Cupcake, who came over and cleaned out my cabinets and is lovingly caring for my sweet car in my absence, Michele and Chris, who made the apartment nearly spotless before I even started cleaning, Suzanne, who selflessly ran all of my last-minute errands with me and wouldn't even let me buy her dinner, Wayne, who didn't have to help, but did it anyway, and countless others who provided much needed work breaks and conversation when I was knee-deep in cardboard boxes and lack of motivation. (Whew! That was long. This post may never end. But thank you to all of you. Really.) My last weekend in Seattle was divided between grueling phyisical labour and catching up with friends. =) Friday night I had a few few cocktails with my peeps, Sunday I spent all day running errands with Suzanne, and Monday I had a nice lunch with cute Katie in the U District. My last night in Seattle was pretty much perfect. I had a lovely dinner with some of my dearest friends at India Bistro, which was both wonderful and sad- it's hard to think of leaving so many amazing friends halfway across the world! After dinner (and dessert at Ben & Jerry's) Jess and I stayed up most of the night trying to get the place in shape for the inspection and only got 2 hours of sleep before we had to leave for the airport! (I'm pretty sure I had blocked that part out when I described the evening as "perfect" earlier in this post.) I did manage to get to the airport on time, though getting to Atlanta was not without incident... Once I finally arrived in the ATL I spent a nice few days dress and shoe shopping and watching Lifetime Television for Women with my mom. Quite relaxing. =) It was Kevin's birthday and we went out for dinner Friday night with Virginia and Ray. =) Then I came here. No problems at all with the flight, baggage, customs, or finding a smiling Gordon most patiently awaiting my arrival at Gatwick. =) He had rented a car, and we drove into London for a lovely brunch with Andy and Katie before we headed up the motorway to the Midlands. =) And there you have it. More on my new home in future posts- this one has become quite long! I hope everyone back home in the Colonies is doing well, and I'll be in touch as best I can! E-mail is still the best way to find me, though I should have a phone soon- I'll send the number out as soon as I know it. Until then, cheerio! =)