Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Into the Danger Zone at The Trust

The National Trust, that is. Known as The Trust to those on the inside. Like the city, I guess. And I'm now officially on the inside. I'm working as a volunteer so I don't get deported, but I was talking with my boss today about the fact that everyone's basically treating me like a full-time paid employee. Which is really nice. Except that I don't get paid. Once I'm married I'll have a visa and be able to actually make money for the work I'm doing. It's pretty cool being a volunteer, though...I can work whenever I want, for as long as I want. I'm taking Friday off to meet John in London (he's down for the week, installing the new phone system), which would be harder if I were full-time.

When I first got my Trust badge with my name on it, I was SO excited. John had to stop me from pinning it to my pjs and wearing it to sleep. Today really took the cake, though. It's freezing in the House, so I put on a puffy NT vest (they call them bodywarmers....vests are undershirts), pinned my name badge to it and wrote a press release. The vest is this mangy old green thing with an NT logo on the front and is generally worn by house wardens and gardeners with their brown cords. Needless to say, I was a happy camper. I was v. sad when I had to take it off at the end of the day. I'm definitely going to have to ask the powers that be to order one for me.

After writing the press release, there were some signs that needed laminating. I don't know what it is that I love about laminating, but it's completely addictive. Laminated knitting patterns, anyone? I think if John doesn't watch out, I might laminate him.

Because Ickworth is so big, everyone has radios to talk to each other. I love the way people radio each other to announce that a fresh pot of tea has been brewed in the kitchen. The genuine enthusiasm that is generated by the radio squawking, "TEA in the KITCHEN!" is so funny. It's like they've been craving tea all day but didn't realize it. "Oh! TEA?? How lovely!" Tea is not all fun and games, though. There is a definite danger zone that starts somewhere after the 4th cup. I start to get a little jittery and feel like I should demand some scones and clotted cream.

Freda (John's mom) has all kinds of great stories about Ickworth and the Trust (she worked for them for ages). The Marquess of Bristol who was in residence when she was working for the Trust was a bit 'eccentric' and he and his friends would go on drug-fueled naked romps around the grounds while visitors were walking through. As my scottish colleague said, "he did cause a wee spot of bother." Um, yeah.

BTW, this is why I'm working 8am to 8pm tomorrow. Awesome!

Monday, November 28, 2005


According to Emily, my blog is addictive. High praise indeed! *mwah*

The other thing that's addictive? My new-found HTML tinkering abilities. Not terribly impressive, but I added a new category over on the right ("Links to Other Blogs"). And the thrill of creating a link? Unmatched. (Dare you to click on it...)


Oh, and here's a picture of our living room.

Remember when I made a turkey?

I've now discovered that when James is here, no blogging gets done. He's a great kid, but there's very little down time. He's really easygoing- he's happy to just sit and play with his Transformers/Legos/Matchbox Cars/whatever else he's brought while John and I cook or clean or read or whatever. When I'm on the computer, though, he wants to be playing on the Lego Club website. They have some pretty fun games...we were all about the Star Wars and Harry Potter ones.

So, back to the beginning. Left Ickworth on Friday at about 4:15 - John picked me up - and got on the highway to go to James' school to pick him up from his after-school club at about 5:30. It's a 35-minute drive under normal circumstances, but Friday afternoons can get a bit hairy. Lots of traffic getting out of Bury, and then the traffic stopped dead about a mile before the Haughley Bends, which is a section of highway (moving at 70 mph) that drivers have to cross...there are ALWAYS accidents there. We sat there for about an hour, with ambulances and firetrucks and police cars going down the shoulder. We had to call Freda to ask her to pick up James, as we were definitely not going to make it. We finally got through (there had been a two-car collision) and were on our way to Freda and Travis' to collect James when Freda called and reminded John that she didn't have a key to Gillian's (James' mom's) house, and therefore hadn't been able to pick up his overnight bag. SO we had to drive all the way in to Ipswich anyway, and then back to F & T's where we had some dinner and took James home. We'd been on the road for almost 4 hours and we were completely exhausted. Phew.

Saturday (Stowmarket Thanksgiving) was completely zany- got up at 8, John went to pick up the turkey and get groceries, got back, took James to his birthday party at the Ipswich Town Football Club, took James for a much-needed haircut, came home, showered, helped me finish up the cooking, and then his parents arrived.

My day went pretty well, with the exception of the suicidal green beans (they were in the oven, warming, and completely dried themeselves out) and the oven door. Also suicidal. I was about to put the turkey in and needed to move the oven rack to the bottom setting. For some reason, Brit ovens have a glass door AND a metal one- the glass door is on the inside. I'd moved everything down to the bottom and went to close the glass door. I must have hit the glass door in the wrong spot, because it shattered into a million little pieces. NOT ok. I freaked out, swept up all the glass, and called John to inform him that I could NOT handle making Thanksgiving. He reminded me that this would be a funny story in a few years and that I was going to be fine. In went the turkey, I pulled myself together and had some lunch and finished reading Joy Luck Club, which Michelle had loaned me. V. good book, by the way.

We finished making the rest of Thanksgiving dinner without too much excitement, and then Freda and Travis came over, ate lots, and then stayed until about 9. Freda made great deserts- a fantastic apple pie and a pineapple soy cheesecake that tasted like a cross between cheesecake and key lime pie. YUM!

Yesterday was pretty chill...we went to the grocery store, did a zillion loads of laundry, and then went over for a cup of tea at F & T's. Mmm...tea. I made turkey soup from the stock, which was surprisingly good. I got the recipe from Food Network. If you use the recipe, be careful not to burn the garlic (speaking from experience, here). The soup is really good...it's not bland at all and the veggies don't get too mushy. Yum!

I miss food network. I don't really miss tv in general (we don't have one), just Alton Brown and Paula Deen and Iron Chef. And Barefoot Contessa. I'm such a junkie....I can't wait for Christmas so I can just park myself in front of Food Network and watch the Good Eats Marathon. Woohoo!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Le Tanksgeeving

Today is "le tanksgeeving," as my host mother in Paris calls it. She gave me a "tanksgeeving card" and everything...it added a new dimension to the holiday.

No turkey for me today- it was a regular work day. The Brits, understandably, see no reason why they should celebrate the fact that those pesky rebels not only escaped but survived. No pumpkin pie for them.

As the New York representative for Stowmarket, I feel that it is my duty to have a Thanksgiving celebration...so we're having Freda and Travis over on Saturday evening. James will be here for the weekend, too, so we'll be stretching the dining room/computer table to accommodate 5. We'll manage...maybe John can sit out on the balcony. :)

The butcher looked at me as if I had three heads when I went in 2 weeks ago and ordered a turkey to be picked up tomorrow. All the Brits have their turkey on Christmas, so why this crazy American girl wants a turkey a month early is a mystery to them. Thankfully, my boss at the National Trust is American (although sounds Brit) and her husband works on the airbase, so she has two cans of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce for me. And some brownie mix, which is not particularly Thanksgivingy but is a direct line to Travis' heart. I'll pick them up at Ickworth tomorrow.

Slightly nervous about coordinating the dinner...I have to do what Mom always does and make a "Critical Path" and stick it on the fridge. Then I can just follow it and everything will come out of the oven at the same time, perfectly cooked. Although our fridge is only half-sized and in a corner and we don't have any magnets. Maybe I can bribe James to stand in the kitchen and hold it for me. :)

Went to Cambridge today for a Press Release writing clinic. It was really interesting and is going to be a huge help at Ickworth. It was run by a non-profit government group that's affiliated with the PA (the Press Association, which is the UK version of the Associated Press). Basically, this group's job is to shoot 30-40 non-profit and charity org press releases onto the PA wire every day. And it's free. And they critique and revamp your press releases. I'm psyched. It's called the Media Trust and if you're really interested, you can go to their website. Oh look at me...I made a link in HTML code...I am truly fabulous. Teehee.

Right...it's time to see if I can bang together a curry for John tonight, who has called to say that his train from London is running very slowly and has requested veg for dinner. He's also called to inform me that he's bought me a copy of the latest Glamour (free clutch bag included, oh joy), mostly so he can buy a copy of Model Railroader without feeling guilty. It works out for everyone. And if the train ride gets too long he can dip into the Glamour and read about all the hot fashions he should be wearing. Or not.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! (And I'm v. jealous of all the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce....)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Feeling pretty snargly today...I've had a low-level sore throat and sniffles since last week, which don't seem to be going away. So I went to Boots, where the pharmacist informed me that I had a virus of some kind which should be gone in a few days. And gave me Sudafed and some throat thingys. Much better. Except that the throat thingys taste like licorice. Ugh. But they work.

A funny and uber-Brit excerpt from the packet: "Most people get on very well with Tyrozets..." Like they're your neighbors or something. Teehee. In any event, they've done what they've said they would do and made my throat go numb.

Speaking of throats, I'm not sure if I'm going to make it to choir tonight. I'm supposed to have my audition with the membership coordinator who was mean to me last week. Harumph. He informed me that I needed to prepare a piece of music for my audition, and bring two copies with me. I informed him that when I had been packing to move to the UK from New York, sheet music hadn't made the cut. And that we don't have a piano. Apparently it's £80 (about $140) to join the choir for a year, and you have to buy a uniform. Still haven't decided if I'm doing this yet. Or if I'm going tonight. All I REALLY want to do is have some soup and go to bed early (on our BRAND NEW AWESOME MATTRESS THAT ARRIVED TODAY YAY!!!!)

In other news, John and James will not be making the trip to NYC at Christmas...the airfare is just too darn expensive for the time that they'd spend in the US. Sad times. But they'll be over some time in the spring, as soon as we figure out when James' half-term is and book the tickets early enough.

Phew. I think it's time to start the soup and make a cup of tea. Mmm...tea. I love England. For those of you I didn't tell, I had beans on toast for lunch yesterday. Yes, Mom, like the clock that we had. Yes, everyone else, we had a clock that consisted of a piece of toast (real) with beans (real) on it. The artist had shellacked the whole mess and stuck a clock face on the front and a battery on the back. And there you have it- a beans on toast clock. I haven't seen it in a while...I wonder if it got lost in the many moves...any suggestions, Mom?

Now it's REALLY time for a cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Harry Potter

SOOO...I promised my loyal readers (so far, Liz and John and Mom) that I would have more info on Harry Potter. I thought that the movie was good as a movie, but not as a version of the book. Granted, they would have to make the movie 7 hours long to be completely faithful to the book, but there's no reason to take out material to add other new material that's not in the books. Harrumph. Snape was perfectly glorious, Rita Skeeter was SO annoying (but I guess that's the idea), and McGonagall was her usual Scottish self. John didn't like the new Dumbledore (he hadn't seen PoA), but as Richard Harris is dead, we don't have a WHOLE lot of choice in the matter.

Overall, it was a good movie, with some clever lines and good effects, but I'll take the books any day.

And there is my two cents on that. I promise, not too much more HP ranting. :)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Paddington and Chocolate Moose

Spent the weekend in London with John- he was working and I was playing. We both went in on Thursday night, and then on Friday I cultivated some monster blisters by walking around the city for hours in shoes that I hadn't worn in about 8 months. Clever girl. It was funny...I could have been in any major city in the world...there were tourists EVERYWHERE.

I met up with John and Michelle for dinner...we went to the Dim Sum restaurant that my family used to go to when we were seeing plays in London. The food was SO good (although not quite NYC Chinatown). My only real memory of how to find the restaurant was that it was around a corner in Chinatown, off the main drag, and that the restaurant had a big section downstairs. So when I was wandering around during the afternoon, I stumbled upon Chinatown, went to where I thought the restaurant had been, and POOF! there it was. I'm so cool.

One of the first times that we went there when I was a kid, my brother was making stabs at his food with the chopsticks, trying to skewer the dumplings so he could eat them. A little old Chinese man shuffled over, and pointed to Edward (who was about 6 at the time, and looked very scared). "Chopsticks. I shall teach you." Our own Yoda, I guess. Anyway, he very gently shaped Edward's little hands around the chopsticks, showed him how to move them up and down, and went back to his table. The result: no more dumpling-skewers. I remember being really jealous that he hadn't shown ME the real way to use chopsticks (I was bumbling along just fine, though).

Anyway, Saturday I went out to Slough (The Office, anyone?) to visit Alison. She actually lives in Windsor, but I had to switch trains at Slough and messed up my connection. So I ended up having a FUN 20 minutes at the Slough train station before Alison rescued me.

Sunday I met up with Michelle and John and we went to Hamleys and bought a Paddington bear for Freda and a Chocolate Moose for ourselves. Couldn't resist. Needed someone to keep Emily the Transgender Puppy company when John's at work and I'm at Ickworth.

We trooped over to the British Museum, which is REALLY cool. Finally got to see the Horus that John is always talking about. It's a small hawk-looking bird, missing an eye (kind of like a well loved teddy bear, but in stone). John maintains that the Horus knows ALL and will one day take over the world. (Nod and smile, guys!)

We also got to see the Rosetta Stone (SO cool), and then some miscellaneous things in the "Enlightenment Collection." Basically, some eccentric people during the enlightenment had collected all sorts of things and then the museum set them up with a vague order and put them in a big room. Randomness.

And then: HARRY POTTER!! Not sure yet if I liked it or not...more on that later.