Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!


We're off to Ipswich tonight to have dinner with Ian & Caroline...we haven't seen them since the wedding so it will be really nice to catch up. It's not going to be the same as my above-Times Square with alcohol, music, food and bathrooms (and fantastic company!) - thanks Evan! But it should be fun.

Oh, and I can't believe it took me until Christmas to find this (and to today to post it)...the new Harry Potter book's title was released by Jo Rowling on the 21st - it's 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.' I'm hoping that it will be released AFTER Lizzie & Greg's wedding so that I can pick up my books from my parents' house in time to read them all again.

Oh, and the Indigo Girls are coming to Cambridge on Valentine's Day...John and I have tickets - he's the best hubby ever. Although I might have to bring mom, Meade and Emily over for the concert too...it won't be the same without them...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What side of the road am I on?

Freda made us a Christmas cake this year - it's a fruit cake with marzipan and fondant on top - YUM!! I was a little skeptical (not a huge fan of fondant, or fruitcake, for that matter), but it's really good. Not sure if I'll be able to wait until next year for more. AND we have a Christmas pudding that we haven't polished off yet - it was homemade by one of my friends and I can't wait to try it. Here's F's cake...

I had a 'what side of the road am I on?' moment the other day - thankfully it was with John and James in the car who both yelped and got me back on the correct side in time. It was, exactly as mom and dad had warned, as I was coming out of a network of one-way streets and making a left turn. The cars in front were going straight, and I was a little bit lost - I knew where I was but wasn't sure where I was going to be going next. Basically, all the usual reference points had disappeared and my brain kicked in to autopilot. And oop...over onto the right I went, headed for some (stopped) cars waiting at the light. I think they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them.

When I wasn't having near misses on the roads, I've been refashioning some lampshades for two Ikea lamps that John and I had on our bedside tables. The lamps are fairly lightweight wood frames with circular glass shades inside them. Only problem with them as bedside lamps is that when you're fumbling in the dark to turn the light on (during these glorious English winter mornings when it's dark until 7:15am), the whole thing tips over and shatters. Lovely. After John and I both killed our lamps in quick succession, I decided it was time for something a little more tip-over-proof. Or at least unbreakable. So I bought a set of really cheap pillowcases and made little shades for the lamps. Blogger's picture upload seems to be working again, so I'll add some pics tomorrow when it's light out.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Night At The Museum

James, John and I went to see Night At The Museum today - James saw it yesterday and was raving about it and John and I both wanted to see it, so we went. It's really clever and very funny, and it had a lot of 'New York Movie' moments, which made me love it even more. It was one of those movies where the kids and the adults are laughing in completely different spots... Oh, and it has Dick Van Dyke AND Robin Williams in it - what more could anyone want?

We took John out to dinner last night for his birthday (happy birthday John and Dad!!). We went to Pizza Express in Ipswich - it's a chain with really yummy pizza. Last night they were having kind of an off night, but we still had fun with our party hats and miscellaneous birthday candles...

I realized that I'd been completely neglecting the library - Freda had loaned me a few books and Andrea gave me some for my birthday, which I'd been working my way through. Jodi Picoult's stuff is fairly engrossing, but Andrea's right - you can really only read one before you need to switch to something else. I was interspersing them with Alexander McCall Smith books...they're light and fluffy but very entertaining. I've reserved a few more books from the library...any recommendations would be gladly accepted!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

Well, it's my first Boxing Day in a few years...I think the last one I spend in the UK was with the family in 1993. We were at Freda & Travis' yesterday for Christmas Day, after we had Christmas with James here in the morning.

It was really strange - I felt like I was on the 'wrong' side of the morning stocking opening. When Edward and I were little, we were allowed to open our stockings as early as we wanted, and then we had to wait until a predetermined time to go upstairs and wake up Mom and Dad to show them what Santa had brought. Then they'd come downstairs with us and we'd all open presents together.

So yesterday morning John and I were sleeping and James bounced in with our stockings to wake us up. I definitely felt like I should have been bouncing somewhere with my stocking...

We set up the LGB trains (with John's additional christmas track from Mom & Dad) in F&T's living room. I'm not sure if 'set up' is the right word...it was more of a 'takeover'. The boys played with the trains for HOURS...all of the teddies had rides and John and Travis were tinkering with everything and shunting cars around. Then when we got home this afternoon, John set up his new digital Hornby trains...they are REALLY cool but they're going to have to wait for our new house before they get much use...they really need to be nailed to a baseboard and set up more permanently.

Speaking of our new house, we drove by today to wish it Merry Christmas...it looked very cosy and like it's coming along. Our initial walk-through is in January, which is suddenly creeping up on us...

I was going to add some photos to this post - blogger's having issues so you can check them all out on Flickr.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Now We Can Have Christmas!!!

Well, through the magic of the Interweb, I've found it. Nope, not the Holy Grail. I have, however, found what I was looking for regarding making Christmas complete. Yup, you guessed it: an audio file of the original 1975 version of Merry Christmas from Sesame Street!! It's here, as an archived radio program by someone named Christine Moritz (to whom I'm eternally grateful). I downloaded the streamed audio radio program - all 3+ hours of her favorite Christmas music - and then downloaded Audible, cropped and edited the file, turned it into an mp3, and then burned it to a CD. YAY!!! I'm SO excited about it - firstly because I have it and secondly because I have it on CD. And on my computer. And on my iPod. It's not quite the same as my record, but Christine originally ripped the file that she broadcasted from HER record, so it's got all the right scratches and pops. Not in the same places, but it'll do. As she says in her intro (it starts right about the 2 hour mark if you're interested), vinyl records and little kids are a somewhat toxic combination.

And just think, Mom and Dad...now I can listen to it BY MYSELF in the car and nobody else has to be around. And I can listen to it over and over and over and over again. But only from the beginning, just like the record. Since it's one BIG mp3 file - I didn't have the energy to figure out how to chop it into tracks...maybe one day.

In other Christmas news, we went out to a farm to pick up our reserved Christmas goose, along with two stalks of brussels sprouts that Freda and John swear will be unlike any sprouts I've ever tasted. Hmmm.

John and I watched Seabiscuit last night- I really liked it, although John found it a bit predictable. We were having trouble agreeing on a movie- he likes darker ones and i'm much more of a kid's movie/romantic comedy girl.

There is much Christmas eve TV on tomorrow night...we're going to watch the Kings' College Choir sing carols and then watch Chicken Run. Oh, the excitement. :) Or I may let John and James watch it all while I sit with my headphones and Sesame Street...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

5 Days to Christmas!!

Everyone's still trying to recover from the work Christmas party - the pictures were posted on the intranet today, so everyone's embarrassment was relived. It was v. entertaining.

Continuing in the Christmas party vein, I'm off to the Ickworth staff party tomorrow night. I haven't seen most of the guys in quite a while, so I'm really excited.

Oh, my friend found this on the New York Times...it's an article about a Colby alum who I was friends with freshman year - he's 'invented his own scholarly field.' Lucky him! Here's the link. It's required reading for the Colby grads.

Oh, and Andrea's friend Rebeka introduced me to Epicurious - it's a whole world of recipes, waiting to be discovered.

UPDATE: Apparently the permalink is having problems...here's the beginning of the article.

Noah Charney hasn’t stolen a major artwork, as far as is known, but he gives it lots of thought. I met him one day last spring in Rome, in a cool, shadowy side chapel of the church of San Francesco a Ripa on the west bank of the Tiber. He stood with his hands clasped reverently before him, gazing at Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s statue of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. Bernini seems to have caught the pious mystic just as she passes to her great reward; she lies prostrate on a tousled bed of marble and jasper, her back arched, her eyes slitted, her lips parted and her right hand pressed to her breast in an ecstasy of divine transport that, as more than one critic has observed, resembles a far earthier kind of ecstasy. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours here with Ludovica,” Charney said, less to me than to the statue, about which he wrote his master’s thesis in art history in 2003. “We have a special relationship. I want her in my living room!”

Charney, a slender, courtly 27-year-old from New Haven with a back-swept mane of jet black hair, pointed out details in the statue and the ormolu molding around it that suggest an inner meaning few observers have perceived: a pomegranate and a flaming heart, which signify Ludovica’s passionate love of God, and her shoes, which prove that she isn’t on her deathbed, as most people have assumed, but is experiencing the fierce, heart-melting heat of divine rapture. “A lot of art history is detective work,” Charney told me. “Instead of just staring at a piece, you’re studying it and gathering information.”

Then, with the same probing eye, he noted what for him were even more essential qualities of the statue: how it might be stolen and by whom. The nearby window, the old-model motion sensors and the doubtless un-manned surveillance cameras would all facilitate theft. Yet the stature of the Blessed Ludovica herself, a cool ton or so of stone, would give any thief pause. “To get her out of here, you’d really have to be obsessed,” he said. Then again, he reckoned someone who was truly smitten with the work could find a way to pinch it. “And if Ludovica were ever stolen,” he said, “I’d be the first suspect.”

Charney is completing a doctorate at Cambridge University in a field he appears to have invented: the use of art history, combined with the more conventional tools of criminology, psychology and deductive logic, to help solve modern-day art thefts and to prevent future art crimes. The stolen-art trade is now an international industry valued as high as $6 billion per year, the third-largest black market behind drugs and arms trafficking. Yet the solution rate in art crime is reported to be a startlingly low 10 percent. Investigations are hampered by the cult of secrecy within the art world itself — museums sometimes don’t report thefts, fearing to reveal their vulnerability to future crimes and thereby hurt their chances of receiving new donations. “The art trade is the least transparent and least regulated commercial activity in the world,” says Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, a London-based company that maintains a leading database of stolen artworks.

Charney wants to cut through this murk by treating art theft as a scholarly discipline, drawing on a wide range of sources in an attempt to reach the first unbiased, statistically based conclusions about the nature of the crime. He has reviewed police files of art crimes in Europe and the United States from the 19th and early 20th centuries, looking for ways that past thefts might illuminate current trends, and he has questioned investigators from the F.B.I., Scotland Yard, the Spanish PolicĂ­a and the Italian Carabinieri about their often distinctive attitudes and crime-solving methods and about the different cultural and bureaucratic barriers that each force encounters. Charney has explored the legal aspects of art ownership, sale and copyright by consulting with lawyers, federal prosecutors and art insurers, seeking to chart the complex currents in the flow of stolen art worldwide and to understand how laws in certain countries smooth the passage of stolen pieces into the legitimate market.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rhinestones and stockings

Phew...it's been quite a weekend!

Friday night was the office Christmas party, which was REALLY fun. The theme (they're Brits- we have to have a theme!) was Oscar night, so everyone pulled out all the stops. John unexpectedly had to go to London on Friday, which was NOT what we had planned, since the party started at 6:30 and it's an hour and a half home from London plus half an hour to Bury. He missed the 4:30 train by 2 minutes, and then rang me to tell me that he wouldn't be making it to the party. I was completely crestfallen - we'd both been really looking forward to it. He called again a few more times, to tell me that his train was delayed (the next train after the 4:30 was a 5:30...ugh), and that he would be getting to the flat some time around 8 and would see me when I got in.

I had optimistically laid out his shirt (which I'd ironed) and his tux, just in case. He texted me again at about 7, when I was at the cocktail hour, to tell me to have fun. And then I looked outside and there he was, in his tux, beaming at me. He'd taken 5pm train to Ipswich, and lined up a taxi to take him from Ipswich to home, wait while he changed, and then carry on to Bury. Awwwww. I was SO glad to see him. :)

I was at the Christmas party last year, as a 'freelancer' (since I was technically still working for the company via the NY office), and this year was MUCH more fun. I knew a lot more people and it was just a really well-run party. Here I am with my boss:

And here I am in all my blingy glory with Ruth, my choir buddy.

I borrowed ALL the rhinestones from all the women in our family (thanks, Mom, Ruthie, Sandra and Grandma!) and wore them. All of them. And my tiara. I think I would have put some rhinestones on John if he'd stood still. I was even nominated for best dressed!! I didn't win - there were some girls who were truly stunning...but I think the rhinestones helped. :)

Then yesterday I finished off our Christmas shopping, and made these stockings:


I used a Martha Stewart pattern as a springboard and went kind of nuts. They're not the same as the hand needlepoint-ed ones that Mom and Dad made for Edward and me (that are at my parent's house), but I'm still pretty proud of them.

I'm also trying to find a webby recording of the Sesame Street Christmas record that I LOVED when I was little (ok, I still love it). It's got a story about Bert and Ernie selling their favourite things to Mr. Hooper to buy each other's Christmas presents ("A soap dish for Rubber Duckie! But Bert, you shouldn't have!" and "Oh Ernie! A cigar box for my paperclip collection!") and Oscar singing the great unknown Christmas carol, "I HATE Christmas," and I'm having trouble. I can find an updated version on Amazon but not the original. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

UPDATE: LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

All dressed up

It's the work party tomorrow night, so we're going to get all dressed up. I've finally grabbed these pics that Kim took at Liz's wedding (thanks Kim!). It's kind of a before and after. :)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh tee hee

The English have a similar thing to the American 'housing projects,' known as council flats. These have been making the rounds on the web as excerpts from letters received by the council from the council house occupants:

Subject: These are genuine clips from council complaint letters.

I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof - I think it was bad wind the other night that blew them off.

I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster and 50% are plain filthy.

I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.

The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

Our lavatory seat is broken in half and is now in three pieces.

Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third so please send someone round to do something about it.

This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.


Haha.

On a much more serious note, they think there is a serial killer in Suffolk. Five prostitutes have been killed in Ipswich (about 10 miles from us) over the last 2 months, 3 in the last 2 weeks. I was NEVER afraid when I lived in the city but this is freaking me out. It's been the lead story on the BBC for a few days - it's not good. Read more here. Even the NYT have picked it up in their international section...yikes.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

James' Movie

James and I made this today...I think it's hysterical and John's not so sure. It was written and directed by James, starring his hand, The Claw, and various Lego extras. The sheep are my favourite. :) Enjoy!

Christmas update...


Here's our tree after an early Christmas present from Mom and Dad. (The angel...she's gorgeous!)

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Wassailed

I've now officially had my Christmas carol fix...the Bury Bach Choir and I have been rehearsing madly for the concert that we had tonight in the Lavenham church. The church was beautiful (and cold!), and the concert went really well. There were no unscheduled solos, and the readings were somewhat unusual but all very engaging. One of them featured hypothetical thank you notes from the recipient of the gifts featured in The Twelve Days Of Christmas. It got a big laugh from the audience. We had a surprising number of people, as well. The church was packed!

In the break between rehearsal and the concert, I went to the pub across the road with one of the tenors - we were both on our own and so we had a quick din. It turns out that his girlfriend is a horn player and is looking for people to play with. Woohoo! My horn's still in New Ro but it'll come back over with me in April.

We have a few weeks off from choir, which should be nice. I can use the time to get cracking on our Christmas cards and other such things. We put up our tree yesterday - I'll try and post a picture tomorrow.

It was making me a little sad - my parents usually go for a Nutcracker-type tree, and ours is a little fake one that doesn't smell like anything and sits on a table. Oh well...it's better than nothing. We'll have our own ceiling-scraping tree someday. :)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Keeping John on his toes

When John was getting dressed this morning, I heard a *snap* followed by much swearing and gnashing of teeth. The poor guy broke his toe when he stubbed it on our bedstead...it's all swollen and sore. He's going to work from home tomorrow because it hurts to walk - ugh.

I chipped one of the bones in the side of my foot after a somewhat gnarly skateboarding accident, so I'm v. sympathetic to foot pain.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

One More Test To Go!

Today, I passed my UK driving theory test. I've been studying sort of sporadically since the summer and taking lots of practice tests, so I wasn't too worried about the questions. The beginning of the test freaked me out, though...the first two questions weren't ANYTHING I'd seen in my studying, but I managed to figure them out. I guess driving for 9 years before taking the test helps...

Onward and upward - it's practical test time!!

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Mummy?

I left work early yesterday to pick up James from his after-school club, and then we went to an Advent fair that they were having at his school. He bought a mood ring (remember those?) and then asked me "Kate, what's stressed mean?" as we were leaving the school. :)

We went over to see Gillian and Martin and James' new house...which he'd described as 'like the TARDIS'. For those of you who don't know what a TARDIS is, you can find out here. Basically, it means that it's bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. And it is...it's sort of a chalet-looking house off a busy road (we had an exciting entrance into the driveway from the street), and it's HUGE on the inside. It's got an unconventional layout, with little corridors leading from room to room, but the rooms are really big and bright. The kitchen is easily the size of my NYC apartment. And the kitchen is painted in exactly the same color scheme as my parents' dining room - dark red walls with white trim and dark wood. I really liked it, though. James is THRILLED that his room is downstairs, away from the other bedrooms.

Oh, and he keeps calling me 'Mummy' when he's not paying attention. And people in shops etc. always assume that I'm his mother. I think it's funny when James calls me Mummy (or sometimes Daddy), but I find it weirder when strangers do it. I was 16 (and very far away) when he was born...I guess I'm old enough, but only barely.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Good King Wenceslas Changed A Lightbulb...

I've had enough of the single life- I'm ready for John to be home. He's leaving NY tonight and arriving back in the UK tomorrow, so he'll be here when James and I get home from school.

The Bury Bach Choir has started rehearsing for our carol concert, Wassail, Wassail at Lavenham church on the 9th of December at 7:30. (Shameless plug!) It's going to be great if you're around!

We started off with Good King Wenceslas last night, which is one of my favorite carols. Every year we sing it at the Sutton Manor Carol Sing at Frannie's house, but we...er...embellish it a little. The women make a big production of being weak and meek and faint hearted, and then the men respond with much pounding of chests and deep-voiced singing. It's all very entertaining and it all ends with rousing cheers that the poor page has made it to wherever he's going, purely on the strength of Wenceslas (and the singing). I hadn't really thought that there was any other way to sing it. Apparently there is. Not that the BBC version is bad...it's just slightly less rowdy. Although I mentioned to my next-seat neighbor that I'm used to acting it out, and she though that sounded like a great idea.

A quick music joke for everyone:

Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One. She stands and holds it and the world revolves around her.

Ohhh, ok...one more.

Q: How many altos does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They can't go up that high.

I crack myself up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Great Elmo-napping

I keep two small plastic figures on my desk - a little blue Smurf playing the French Horn that C gave me when I lived in NY and Elmo, holding a sailboat. When I got back to the office on Monday morning, no Elmo. I looked under my desk and in my files - nothing.

I asked my boss if he'd seen him...he said that he'd been Elmo-napped by someone in the company. He gave me a few clues as to the identity of the Elmo-napper, who I then asked if she knew anything of Elmo's whereabouts.

Had he gone to do some work experience? Did he see the pickers getting bonuses for picking lots of books and want to join in? Was he making a bid for freedom? Did he want to be the new Network Manager with John out of town?

I didn't hear anything until yesterday, when the Elmo-napper came in and said that she could hear him calling...it sounded like he was not too far away but weakening rapidly.

And this morning, I found this...


As he's plastic, he's made a full recovery and is happily standing with Horn Smurf in front of my monitor. Phew.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trains

Last Wednesday, John and I went with my mom to the New York Botanical Garden to see the annual train show. We went pretty early in the day to miss the crowds, since it's one of those things where you can quite easily stand in line for an hour to get in. No thanks...

I posted a whole bunch of pictures on Flickr from the trains and the gardens (and a brief pit stop in the Bronx). here they are...enjoy!

I'm uber jet-lagged - I kept falling asleep at my desk today. To top it off, I have a cold. Mean horrible airplanes pumping yucky air around. Sniffle. I'm aiming to be in bed by 9.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I'm still here

Well, the blog was COMPLETELY neglected while we were in New York. We basically didn't sit down between when we got in on Thursday night until I got home this evening. John's up at the warehouse in upstate NY until the end of the week - apparently the IT needs some TLC.

We went to Liz & Dan's wedding up in Vermont - it was a beautiful wedding and we all had a really great time!!


Here's a picture of the Stowe Market. Haha.


And here we are at our Ben & Jerry's pit stop on the way home.


We had a really good Thanksgiving with my family and got to see a few of our friends (but it was tough because SO many people were home at their parents' houses for the holiday...)

Lots more pictures and fun stuff to follow, I promise!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is That Yours?

We went to the petrol station on the way home, and I went in to pay for the gas with my debit card. The name on the card- Mrs. StowmarKate.

I handed it to the cashier, and said, 'Pump 9, please.' The cashier looked me up and down, and then asked, 'Is this your card?'

'Um, yeah...why?'
'Oh no, nothing...it's just that you seem...'
'Too young to be Mrs. StowmarKate?'
'Er...yeah.'

I reassured her that I was married (and old enough to be), and that it was my card.

Teehee.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Big Comfy Couches

We picked up a whole bunch of furniture from Martin & Gillian's today - they're moving into the new house on Tuesday. We have two deceptively large and very squashy green couches, a matching ottoman (which I'm gasping to put a plastic bag on top of - thanks Grandma!), two bedside tables with a little cupboard and a drawer each, and a tall bureau and a shorter, wider one with a mirror. Phew.

Our flat is v. full, since we didn't have a chance to call the landlords to come get their furniture at the end of last week - it was a little hectic. Hopefully they'll be able to come pick it up before we go back to NY- but they have a key so it's not the end of the world if they come in while we're gone.

James' food preferences have been slowly evolving over the last year - he started out only wanting pasta and teacakes and complaining wildly if anything had too many veggies in it. Today, he had vegetable minestrone at Freda's for lunch and then baked potatoes with v. spicy leftover veggie chili for dinner. He LOVES spicy food, all of a sudden...if it doesn't make him ask for a second glass of water, it's not hot enough. His favorite is Indian food but he's quite happy with fajitas and HOT salsa. Ok, it's El Paso Hot Salsa from Waitrose, but it's not anything my dad would be able to eat. I love the fact that he's suddenly excited about spicy food and veggies...it makes planning dinner much easier!

We also had another first - he pulled off sarcasm for the first time tonight. He'd tried before, without really having a handle on when to use it, and then tonight, wham. John reminded James for the two-hundred and eleventy-twelfth time not to leave ALL the lights blazing in the apartment and James just looked right at him and said, "Wait, you don't want me to leave all the lights on? Really?? Naw!"

John and I were floored. It's all downhill from here... :)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wedding and Sewing

First off, congratulations to the newlyweds- Ian and Caroline are now officially married. They had a really nice ceremony at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, and then we were all whisked off to a fantastic lunch on the waterfront. We had a really great time and we're SO excited for them. It was really fun to meet some more of Ian and John's friends from school...they're all fun guys.

We're completely zonked, but I managed to finish the knitting needle case...[insert fanfare here]. Here are the pics!! Sorry the quality is kind of grubby but I wanted to post them tonight and not wait for the daylight tomorrow. It's hard to see in the picture, but the printed fabric has all kinds of designs of sewing stuff on it (both the blue and the cream ones). All together now...awww.





Friday, November 10, 2006

Meebo

I've discovered Meebo (well, ok, the Times discovered Meebo) - it's a chat aggregator that puts together the MSN and GoogleTalk and AIM and Yahoo chat services in one web window. I find iChat to be sort of clunky (sorry, Apple), and I LOVE being able to have a meebo window open at work without having to download anything. Well, I can't download anything...our evil network manager (aka the hubby) has locked us down.

I got a call tonight from Elia, one of the girls I met when I was working at Ickworth. She's from Seattle and lives in Bury with her Brit husband. Sound familiar? We're getting together for dinner after I get back from NY, and she's under strict instructions to let me know if there's anything she needs from the US. Thanks to cultural diffusion, there's SO much more American stuff here than there was when I was a kid - you can buy Betty Crocker brownie mix, for Pete's sake.

I'm SO close to finishing the knitting needle case, but we've had a bunch of late nights at work and choir and stuff and I just haven't had a chance to get the sewing machine out. This weekend, definitely. Mostly because I have to take pics for the blog...it's been really texty lately.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Comfy Pants

Ok, I feel completely legitimized. It started when I moved to the city - when I got back from class, I'd immediately change into a pair of flannel/fleece pants and a hoodie (modified to cotton capris and a tank top in the summer). I still wear my v. old and somewhat groty red plaid Old Navy comfy pants around the house all the time (and I sleep in them when it's too cold for regular pjs).

The big news? Philip, the conductor of the Bury Bach Choir, appeared at rehearsal in the BLUE version of my comfy pants and a fleece. They were awesome. And since his normal garb is khakis and a polo shirt, he totally looked like he'd arrived in his jammies.

I was v. jealous that I hadn't changed from my skirt into comfy pants for the rehearsal. There was some miscellaneous whispering, but the general consensus was that he wears his comfy pants kind of a lot in the winter. :)

And yes, all you Brits...I know it's comfy trousers, but comfy pants just has a better ring to it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Vote!

I feel terrible - I didn't get my act together in time to get an absentee ballot this year. It's the first election since I turned 18 that I haven't voted in. I voted in Maine, I voted in New Ro, and I voted in NYC (which was v. nice as the polling place was in the lobby of my building). Not that the New York races are even vaguely contested (hello, Governor Spitzer and Senator Clinton!), but still.

I may still even be on the voter rolls in NYC...I don't know that I officially changed my address back to my parents' house. Tonight is probably not the night to be checking on it...I'll need to stop at the post office when we're home and get one of the address change forms and make sure I'm all set in the right place. The DMV has my correct address but I'm not sure who else they give it to.

I was talking with John yesterday about how I talked all kinds of smack 2 years ago...that I'd leave the country if Bush won...and here I am!

People over here think the American government are loonies (although they save their choicest words for ol' Tony Blair), and that the American people are bonkers to have elected them. Personally, I agree. A joke from Radio 4: How do you know when Tony Blair is lying? His mouth is moving. Oh, tee hee.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

It's clean!

We'd gotten to the point where we knew we needed to do a really good deep clean in the flat, so we cleaned for about 3 hours this morning. There are still a few things left to do, but our oven is a whole new color and the idiotic wooden windowsill in the shower has been de-mildewed. We don't really have much margin for things to get messy without it taking over the entire house- we basically spend all our time in the living room when we're home.

I also managed to get started on my knitting-needle case, and then I ran out of thread. I probably would have had enough had I not gotten overconfident and made a mistake and had to pick out a whole bunch of stuff. Oh well...I guess I'll just have to go to the fabric store to get some more. How sad. :-D

We're coming up to a really hectic few weeks...Ian and Caroline's wedding is this Saturday, then we're collecting a whole lot of furniture from Martin's on Sunday, and then we're leaving for NY next Thursday, blasting up to Vermont on Friday, in Liz and Dan's wedding on Saturday, and then back to New Ro for Thanksgiving. It'll be really nice to be in NY and not be doing (our) wedding stuff, though.

John's going to be staying in the US for work for an extra week, and then the first weekend he gets back, I have an event at Ickworth and a choir practice in Bury, both of which will be tricky with just the one car, since we also have James that weekend. Then the following weekend we can just mong out and survey the chaos of the past month. Oh, I'm also taking my Driving Theory test in the middle of all that. Which will be closely followed by my practical test.

Phew.

Random driving test tidbit: if you start the car in gear (even if your foot is on the clutch), it's an immediate fail. It shows "failure to secure the vehicle' or something else strange. Random unscientific poll of stick-shift-driving American blog readers: when you park the car, do you leave it in gear?

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Kaboom!

Well, tonight is Guy Fawkes night (actually, it's tomorrow, but it's celebrated on the nearest Saturday night...tonight), so we went off to the Museum Of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket where they had a massive bonfire and a surprisingly good fireworks display. There was a really good turnout and it wasn't too cold...but it was cold enough to appreciate the warmth that the bonfire was kicking out.

When we lived in Peterborough, we always rode our bikes to Ferry Meadows for the fireworks and the bonfire. I seem to remember a carnival-y thing set up as well, but that could easily be memories mushing together. John and I were in a similar spirit tonight...we walked into town rather than drove (John doesn't have a bike...)

I spent the morning having a driving lesson (I need to work on parking and 'clutch control' - i.e. not rolling forwards or backwards at any point). Bugger.

There was a suicidal pheasant on our way into Bury after my instructor picked me up. I was driving along the A14 in a 50mph zone, when I noticed two pheasants standing by the side of the road, looking very much like they wanted to step under the car. I'd clocked them and I checked my mirrors (I was having a driving lesson, after all), and then right as I was coming up to where they were, the bigger one stepped RIGHT out in front of me. I swerved into the other lane and missed him but I don't imagine he made it to lunchtime today.

According to my instructor, on the test, if there's a pheasant in the road and it would create more of a hazard for me to swerve to avoid him, thumping over him is the thing to do. Ugh.

After doing some Christmas shopping in Bury, I went to the fabric store to get some quilters quarters for a knitting needle (for me) and paintbrush (for mom) case that I'd seen in The Crafter's Companion. It's a FANTASTIC book published by Anna of Twelve22, one of my favorite craft blogs. My mom had heard that I was going to make the knitting needle case and asked if I could repurpose one for her for her watercolor paintbrushes. I could and I have and it's AWESOME. I've modified the pattern very slightly, and it turned out really well. I'm torn about putting pics up, since it's her Christmas present. I haven't made mine yet...tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy (smelly) Halloween!

Happy Halloween! In case you're wondering what I'm up to tonight, check out the article in today's NYT about Halloween in the UK (or the lack thereof). Yeah. Since we don't have the stepson, either, it was a night in for us. However, we did have an orange dinner, in tribute. I roasted butternut squash chunks in olive oil with garlic and herbs and then poured the squash and garlicky herby oil over pasta. YUM!! It only took about half an hour to roast (at 200C, granted), which kind of surprised me. BTW, Lizzie, my Halloween socks are in NY...sad times.

Speaking of which, I've now officially been here for a year. Time flies when you're having fun. :)

In case I'd forgotten that I live in the country, however, there have been new and interesting smells permeating Bury and our office. You know how there are lots of fields in rural areas? And how they grow stuff on the fields? Well, as a refresher to all you NewYawkers out there, in order to make the stuff on the fields grow, they put poop on the fields. LOTS AND LOTS OF POOP. And it's smelly poop. And the smell gets everywhere, and then once it's there, it clings. Yummy.

It almost makes me miss summer subway smells. Almost, I said.

Oh, and then on my travels I found this article on the New York Times. And it tickled me to the point where I had to send it to News Quiz, my favorite BBC radio program. It's on Friday night's and it's a funny roundup of the week's big stories with some random funny things thrown in. I was noodling around on the website after submitting the article, and read that they get a staggering 15 emails (along with 20 letters) per day. I was expecting it to be more in the 200 per day range. Shows what I know. At least it means that there's a human bean somewhere at the BBC tomorrow who's going to READ the email I sent...along with a little Westchestah shoutout to Sandi Toksvig - she's the host of the show and she's a hysterically funny Danish lesbian who grew up in Mamamaroneck (!?) but is a v. famous Brit now.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I smell like campfire

We got up early this morning (enjoying our extra hour!) and then gave Freda and Travis a call to see what time would be good for them. Travis had decided that two big (dead) pine trees at the back of their garden were going to come down today, and we thought that an 80-year-old taking down 2 trees by himself was a bad idea.

So off we went, and with much chainsawing and clipping and burning of brush we were all done by about 3. In England, a lot of people still burn their garden waste and miscellaneous other stuff. Not the ones who live in cities, obviously. Travis has an enormous fire pit that's covered by a HUGE log from an giant oak that came down 20 years ago, so by the time we left, he'd burned all of the branches and was working his way through the big logs. It smelled just like Lochearn, though...the slightly sweet smell of burning pine. And I randomly wore my Lochearn hoodie today, which I'm sure is very happy to be smelling of pine smoke. I'm hoping for some nice smoky-scented Lake Fairlee-themed dreams tonight.

Mmmm...camp. I have to say, some of the best nights' sleep I've ever had were 'in Vermont, among the hills...' (points for anyone who can give me the next line to the song). I think it probably had to do with the fact that the counselors work 16-hour days and crash into a bunk bed around 11 with the sounds of the lake and the crickets and the trees. I guess I do kind of romanticize it...it's a hell of a lot of work for v. low pay but it's not something I'd ever trade in. And I have secret (well, not anymore) fantasies about going back there when we're retired and being the next Gordon and Joan. They're an adorable English couple in their 70s who used to come over to VT every summer and work at camp. I have no idea if they're still at it.

I'm still kind of astounded that the three of us (plus intermittent clipping from Freda and James) managed to take down two trees in the space of about 5 hours. Travis said that he had been planning on doing the whole thing himself over the course of a few days, but that he was very glad that we'd helped him and it was all done, since it's supposed to rain tomorrow. I can't imagine him doing it all by himself, although I'm sure he would have.

John and I are both completely shattered...we're aching in places we didn't know we had and John has blisters from the chainsaw. I know, I know....John?? Chainsaw??...but he was surprisingly adept with it. What a guy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lazy Saturday

We ran errands and stuff today - we were originally going to go down to my in-law's mom's house to help her move some stuff around, but John went down with a 24-hour thing last night and conked out really early and slept until 10 this morning...he's feeling much better.

I'm feeling really frustrated with the whole learning-to-drive thing - every time I think I'm making progress, I remember that I haven't been studying as much as I should or that I've not been doing something the right way. I'm going to be really glad when I'm all passed and legal. It'll make our car insurance cheaper, too :)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chili!

It was a really blustery fall day today (think Mary Poppins in the nanny-audition scene), and so I made some veggie chili. It was a HUGE hit- it was really spicy but had a nice warmth and sweetness. I have to admit, I left out the chocolate that was in the recipe...but John made some of his famous hot chocolate to make up for it.

I had a really nice evening out on Tuesday- Lynn and I went over to Sandy's for supper and had a good gab. I started talking about the blanket I'm knitting (patchwork squares), and Lynn said that she'd been in a sewing/quilting/whatever group when she was first married. I'm DEFINITELY up for it - basically it's like book club, with the addition of dinner and crafting, minus the books. Any takers?

I'm also one of the newest members of the Bury Bach Choir committee, as the New Media Officer. WOOHOO! It basically means that I go to committee meetings (MUCH nicer than SGA meetings at Colby), and am responsible for making sure all of our press and concert information goes to external websites. Any suggestions for Suffolk/UK music websites that take listings would be appreciated. Also, if anyone wants to link to the BBChoir, go for it! The next concert is Saturday 25 November at 7.30 pm in the St.Edmundsbury Cathedral - they're singing the Brahms German Requiem. I say 'they' because John and I will be en route back from Liz's wedding and Thanksgiving, so I won't be singing with them. Sad times. I will be able to sing in the next two concerts after that, though.

I'm really looking forward to going to NY - we haven't been home since the wedding and it feels like a really long time. I have intermittent pangs of homesickness - usually for completely random things like walking Rrufus around the block with Mom on a rainy windy fall night or sitting on the front porch. And my mom's mac & cheese...she makes it with elbows and velveeta and whole canned tomatoes and it's the best thing EVER.

Oh, and one more thing...Julia emailed me (hi Julia!) to say that Wagamama is coming to Boston. Only 5 years after we told them they should...sheesh.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mr Pond's House

Got an email from Lizzie today - she's working with Habitat For Humanity to help Mr. Pond, a wonderful old gentleman who was the grandfather to several generations of children in Larchmont Woods. I, being from the wrong side of the tracks, didn't know about him until I met Lizzie in high school, but his house is truly fantastic. He decorates it to the nines for everything- from Halloween and Christmas on down to Flag Day and Arbor Day. His house was seriously damaged in a fire, and now Habitat (and Lizzie) are helping to rebuild.

Here's the link to Lizzie's blog - her sister Allie was quoted in the New York Times (!) in the article that she links to.

Go forth and help out!!

BTW, regularly scheduled KateUpdates will return shortly...things are feeling a little stagnant at the moment and I keep feeling like there's not all that much to blog about. Famous last words, probably...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Little Sledding Man

I found Line Rider on Lifehacker- it's completely addictive.

Play with it for a little while and then watch this.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Too Funny To Pass Up

Check this out. I spent a solid 5 minutes playing with it. (Hint: hit round button A and then press letters on your keyboard)

James' mom and her partner are also moving (next month) and as they're consolidating two households to move in together, there's lots of furniture going spare. Some of it's going on Ebay, but most of it's being donated to the Kate & John Foundation. WOOHOO!! Which means that some of the stuff on the "1" list will be taken care of, which leaves room for some things on the "2" and "3" lists to move up.

John and I, like most people, have many needs and a limited budget, so we've scaled the things we'd like for the new house on a 1-5 scale, with 1 as the WE-NEED-THAT-IN-THE-HOUSE-BEFORE-WE-GET-THERE category and 5 as the eeh...maybe one day category.

Oh, and our flooring samples arrived today. Truly, the excitement never ends.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

People are dumb.

I have random grammatical pet peeves. I know I'm probably on shaky ground, as this is a blog, and I sometimes forget to spellcheck, but I loved this from the New York Times. They're running an Ask The Editors series, and this was from the Assistant Managing Editor For Journalistic Standards (try fitting that on a business card):
DVD’s or DVDs? The Trouble With Apostrophes

Q. Why do you persist in insisting that the plural of DVD is DVD's? There is NO reason for an apostrophe, unless your are using it in the standard way -- to indicate possession. As in: "The DVD's special features are better than average." You just make yourself look out of touch when you insist that your own rules are better than the generally approved practice! Please change the way you handle acronyms, so that you look like you understand grammar!

-- Alan Moorman

A. We're not always as dumb as we seem. There was a good reason for that variation from general style (and our Stylebook has more than this one). Here it is, as explained in the entry on plurals:

Use apostrophes in the plurals of abbreviations and in plurals formed from letters and figures: M.D.’s; C.P.A.’s; TV’s; VCR’s; p’s and q’s; 747’s; size 7’s. (Many publications omit such apostrophes, but they are needed to make The Times’s all-cap headlines intelligible and are therefore used throughout the paper for consistency.)


But we expect to satisfy you grammarian sticklers soon by making a change, as soon as we can figure out a way to avoid the unintelligibility problem.

By the way, many of you keep us on our toes constantly when we make grammatical mistakes, as we so frequently do, and we point them out (and relay your complaints) to our editors and writers more often than we are able to acknowledge your help. My own theory is that schools over the past 20 years or so don't teach grammar as well as they did in the public schools of Westborough, Mass. when I was there (hommage to Mrs. Murphy, Miss Wadleigh, Miss Conroy and others from the 1950s).

So, dear DVD fan, don't give up on us yet. Besides, you look like you could use a little work on grammar yourself.

The little zinger on the end really did it for me. Dad - did you spot the typo in his question first time through?

We keep a folder of "Greatest Hits" emails at my office - my department has a group email folder and we move the really stellar ones into it. One of my favourites involved an email with the subject "Star Wars for Horn Trio," and in the body of the email, the author asked us to please tell him what the instrumentation was. Uhhhhh...horn trio?

OK, maybe you had to be there. But I'm amazed at the stuff people send out, not necessarily thinking about the fact that whatever nonsense they've committed to email could potentially go around the office with "HAHA" stamped on the top of it.

The all-time prize goes to the bright spark at a company I used to work for who got one of those "Bill Gates wants to give you all his money" chain emails, which he then very industriously forwarded to EVERYONE on the global contacts list. Not just all the company employees, either...this list has all our clients, suppliers, affiliates, vendors, etc. I think it's somewhere in the region of 10000 people. Which must have taken quite some time, as there's no way to 'select all' in our version of Outlook. I think he was disappointed when rather than $100,000 from ol' Bill, he got laughed at by the whole company. D'oh.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Despite Our Differences

I stumbled on the new Indigo Girls album on Saturday morning and found out that they have just released a new album, Despite Our Differences. It's classic IG...a mix of Amy's punk-ish songs and Emily's more melodic ones, but with the two of them singing together in their distinctive style.

I presented two papers on the Girls when I was at Colby - the first one was about their subversion of gender norms and the second was about their long-time status as protest singers. Both papers focused on their use of coded messages in their lyrics - they're not particularly hard to spot, you just have to look for them. If you're interested, I can go on for pages...but I'll spare you.

Current favourite song on the album: I Believe In Love. I've only gone through the album once so far, so that could change.

I'm starting to feel marginally better after staying home again today, although it looks like John is coming down with whatever I had. Yuck. Oh well, time to make him some chicken soup. He was wonderful last night- I was feeling really crappy and so he made dinner and ran me a gloriously toasty bubble bath, which improved things immensely. I think I'll keep him.

I've also switched completely over to Blogger Beta, which is why the top of the blog looks a little funny. I'm working on it, but it seems tricky. I designed a fab logo but I can't get the "StowmarKate" part to go away, and they look silly together. Any suggestions would be fab.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sliding on Art

I met up with my friend Susan (from NY) in London on Saturday...we went to the Tate Modern and rode the slides, which were lots of fun but scarier than I was expecting. We were big and brave and decided to go on the tallest one - it departs from the 5th floor of the gallery and goes all the way down to turbine hall. It was really bumpy and not something I'd want to do a lot, but once was definitely worth it.


Then we went over to Borough Market, which is right by London Bridge station, which was a fantastic find! I had been moaning to Susan about the lack of cheap yummy food in London, and we stumbled upon this huge fruit & veg and other stuff market, which had lots of little cheap (and not so cheap) places to eat. As we came around the corner approaching the market (famished after our sliding), we were hit by the glorious smell of grilling chicken. We both ended up having these grilled chicken satay wrap thingys, which were spicy and creamy and VERY messy. And cheap! At 3.50 each, it was easily the cheapest lunch I've had in London. And the tastiest.

I also got completely sucked in to the "short skirt with footless tights and ballet flats" trend, and bought myself a pair of footless tights. It looks SO 80s but seems like a good way to extend the life of short skirts in the UK past mid-July.

John and James and I went to Ickworth yesterday for their annual Wood Fair, where they feature crafts and artisans and the opportunity to buy wood produced on the Ickworth estate. Eek...I sound like a press release. Well, maybe that's because I WROTE the press release for the Wood Fair. Anyway, it was really good to see all my Ickworth peeps and wander around the grounds. They had some really glorious coffee tables made out of very rustic planks, which John and I loved but decided were WAY too big for our new house and would look very silly. We'll go back next year to get garden benches, though.

I stayed home sick from work today - I felt really crappy starting yesterday afternoon and couldn't swallow when I woke up this morning. I don't have a cold...it's more achey and my nose isn't really running. I spent the whole day sleeping so hopefully I'll be ok to go back to work tomorrow.

I indulged in some TV this afternoon - I watched "Ready Steady Cook" and then Blue Peter. BP was my absolute favourite TV show when I was here as a kid...it wasn't as good as I remembered it but then again I'm not really in their target audience anymore...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Both Hands On The Wheel, Bitches

Well, I've had my first driving lesson - it was not what I was expecting but it went reasonably well. As expected, I basically know how to drive, it's just a question of learning how to drive like an ENGLISH person. Random things trip me up, like checking the mirrors every time I either shift or change direction. I was also never offically taught by a driving instructor how to shift. Apparently you're NOT supposed to coast to an intersection in neutral with your foot on the clutch. Who knew?

The other thing I was having trouble with is the fact that you're not allowed to shift gears and move the steering wheel at the same time. You either have to be steering or shifting, but you can't do both.

I'll get it...there's just a lot of stuff to remember and unlearn. At least I already know how to drive stick...

I also got a mysterious package from Apple Holland today at work - it turned out to be my new non-exploding Powerbook battery. I'm in the process of draining the original one to send back to them, and then I can put the new one in and be happy and explosion-free. Lucky me.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Phone Calls

Check out David Pogue's Blog today. It's about a new service called Futurephone and you can call internationally by calling through a number in Iowa. Perfect for those times when you're not near the computer and want to call.

I'll DEFINITELY be testing it out the next time I'm in NY.

And, as a special treat, I've included a poem written by my friend Michelle, who is a receptionist. Having started my career as a receptionist, I'm ALWAYS nice to them - it's a shit job. The poem is great, though.

Ode to Telephony, by Michelle

To be a receptionist is oh so swell,
Like a pavlov dog respond to the bell,
Sacharine Smiles, Company Day Greetings,
Ad hoc duties, Organiser of Meetings.
"Hello! Certainly! May I take your name?"
Buddha like patience, Each day is the same.
My artist soul and mind are elsewhere
While my tuchus of concrete sits in the chair,
Dreaming of ways that I might work from my home,
So I don't have to speak one more word down a phone.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

It's TV Time!

Well, we've done it. Finally. My parents bought us a TV for my birthay (yay them!), which we have now brought home, set up, discovered there was nothing on, and switched off. :) It's Sunday night, so the lack of stuff to watch is understandable. I'm sure we'll find something this week.

But seriously, I'm really excited to be able to watch Wimbledon and the World Cup and the Olympics and Blue Peter and the cooking shows and other such nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, John and I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" yesterday- we thought it was pretty entertaining and that Meryl Streep completely stole the show. We were both kind of freaked out by our recognition of former bosses in Miranda...fun times.

In between the movie watching, I finally got my copy of Marley And Me from the library and read it all. In 2 sittings. It was definitely not a train book (unless you want people to think you're mad) - it was SO funny. I was laughing really hard and kept reading bits out to John, who didn't find them anywhere near as entertaining...he's more of a cat person. I highly recommend it.

On our way back from Norwich, we stopped at a farm stand/garden centre that's about 10 minutes away from Freda & Travis'. We've driven past it a zillion times and never stopped, but I thought today might be a good day to check it out. It turns out that they have all kinds of local fruit and veg (yay for low food miles). I had one of the apples for dessert and it was very yummy. We're goint to need lots of grass seed and plants and things once we move in to the house, which we've now OFFICIALLY bought, by the way, and we'll definitely be stopping by there again.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

REALLY good idea

There's a great idea for what to do with kids on a plane (or anywhere else where they have to sit still for an extended period of time and are likely to get bored) - make them a custom, disposable puzzle.

Here's the link, from Whipup.net.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Excitement at work

Had quite an exciting day at the office today - my colleague had mentioned that there was a Christmas Promo pack in the bulk warehouse that one of us needed to check, and since it was technically a new title, it was my job.

I trundled over to find that it had been put away already, on a shelf. "Ok," I said, "can I just go and check it out to see what's in it before I write the description?"

"Sure," said John (the warehouse guy, not the hubby), "hop on the lift!" He gestured towards one of the big industrial forklift riser thingys. I climbed into the cabin, thinking we'd drive along the bottom of the aisle and then lift the forks up to the location, pull the stuff down, look at it, and put it back.

Not so. Up we went (while moving forwards), until we were about 50 feet in the air. I was clinging desperately to the back of the chair and trying to be nonchalant about leaning over the edge to open the box and look in it. I think John sensed that I was not a happy bunny, so he opened the box himself and looked at it, reading off the contents to me as I wrote them down in my notebook.

As he zipped back down to the ground, he commented that he'd really gotten the willies the other day when he'd had to go up to the ceiling to change a lightbulb...at least when you're in the stacks you have a reference point that's right next to you - he was all on his own, 90 feet in the air.

I didn't feel unsafe - the Brits are FANATICAL about 'Health and Safety,' I just had a bit of a thrill. The notes that I took are complete gobledeygook, by the way.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!!

I don't want to be that person with the gratuitous birthday post on their blog....but I'm going to do it anyway.

I had a v. rockin' day today...went to work, came home and opened various envelopes and packages, the hubby and I made fajitas for dinner, I had a candle in a brownie and a glass of lactose-free milk. Woohoo!!

Ok, I think that's all the gratuitousness I can manage. Go read Lifehacker or something. :)

Sunday, October 1, 2006

We have a roof!

The house is coming along nicely- we went this morning to tell them where our plugs needed to go and when we visited the house itself, the roof was on. Yay! It hadn't been put on the last time we saw it, so it was neat to see. The windows have gone in, too.

We had a bit of drama with the Crest-Nicholson people this morning- we'd made an 11am appointment to decide where the plugs should go (we can add them and move them around, up until the roof is finished, and then we're locked in). When we arrived, they were fairly busy, so we said we'd take a quick walk up to the house and be back in 10 minutes. When we got back, we told them (again) that we were there for our plug-fitting appointment...the woman then told us that as they were very busy, perhaps we could go upstairs and look at some nice kitchen cabinets and floors (which we had spent 2 hours looking at last weekend).

I was feeling a little nervous/agitated about this to begin with, and I basically snapped at her.

"No, we will NOT go upstairs and look at cabinets- we've been told that once the roof is on, we have to decide on the plugs. The roof is now on, as we've just been up the road and seen it, which means we need to tell you where the plugs will go. By the way, there are no plugs marked on the plan for the kitchen but there are plugs in the kitchen of the model home. Are they extra?"

This basically did nothing but get her back up- she decided she didn't know and if she did know she wasn't going to tell us.

At this point, John decided that we weren't going to get anywhere, so he marched me out of there and we went back at 4:30 when it was raining (and therefore empty) to figure out the plug situation. Our regular salesperson (who thinks John is about the funniest person on the planet) was there, and she hooked us up.

The kicker was when the first saleswoman came back in, looked at me and said in a syrupy voice, "Oh, good...are we happy now?" I replied, in the same tone, "Oh yes, we're all sorted out, thanks so much for your help!"

Grumble grumble grumble...I didn't realize how annoyed I was about this morning until I started to write about it.

In the intervening 3 hours, we went to F & T's for what turned out to be a birthday lunch...complete with 25 candles on the cake. Thank you, James, for emphasizing the fact that I need a firehose to blow out all my candles. :)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Castles and Baseball Gloves

James unwrapped his birthday presents from Michelle and my parents last night- all were an immediate success. We've already played Cluedo (which he loves now), inpsected comic books, playing cards and baseball cards, and done the only thing an English boy knows what to do with a baseball glove and baseball.


Yup, you saw it here first, folks. He set up the baseball glove as a goal and used Wolfish (the soft toy featured in the photo) to push the ball into the glove. Then Bulldog (another toy who missed out on the photo op) stood in goal while Wolfish took shots on goal.

Tomorrow, we'll take James to Freda & Travis' (they're back from France- yay!) and play catch in the back yard with the mitt and ball.

We took the train to Norwich this morning, since we needed to get James some trousers, as he's grown out of all the ones from last year. We went to Norwich Castle first, which was REALLY well laid out and full of fun things for kids (and grownups) to tinker with. It was how I remember the Science Museum from when I was a kid. Here's James with the castle that we built:


And here's the castle he was modeling it after:


I can't resist adding one of my v. cute hubby...I've found that the only way to get a good picture of him is to make him think you've taken the picture, at which point he relaxes and you snap away. Bingo!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Leek & Potato Pie

It's started to feel really fall-y here - today it was raining and chilly, so I made leek and potato pie for dinner. It was a recipe that I got from a Good Housekeeping Student cooking article - they were v. excited because it only costs 59p per serving. Woohoo, I say! More money for the mortgage. :)

Anyway, you basically saute 1 leek per person, boil and mash a few potatoes, (I added some lactose free milk and nutmeg at this point), then put the leeks on the bottom of an oven-proof dish, cover with the mash, and bake for about 10 mins. I also added a little cheddar cheese to the top of mine at the end. MAN, was it good!

John added extra virgin olive oil and lots of salt and pepper, which improved things as well. Yummy.

I've been tearing out recipes madly (Freda and Sandy have both given me v. tall stacks of back issues of their regular magazines), so I'll be cooking up a storm.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Now I Have A 9 Year Old Stepson!

We went to James' birthday party in Ipswich today- we all played laser tag and then the boys played 'quick cricket' and ate typically groty English birthday party food. The laser tag was really fun (John, Martin and I got to play as well), and then they all seemed to have a really good time with the cricket. Here's James, about to blow out his candles:


Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Girls' Night In

We had another one of our thank you notes from the wedding returned as undeliverable today- if you gave us a present and haven't gotten a note yet, PLEASE let me know, since they were all sent by mid-August. It's my usual neuroses that I feel guilty when the notes come back...but we've had a few returned (one, after two DIFFERENT attempts at the address...I think their mailman just hates me).

John's out in Bury with the boys tonight...they called earlier in the day to see if we wanted to go out for a curry evening with them, but I wasn't really in the mood so I'm at home listening to the Indigo Girls, Tori, and Sarah McLachlan. I also got out the sewing machine and finished the skirt that I'd started ages ago but lost the zipper for. I bought another zipper when we were in Ipswich today and the skirt's all done. It's navy and just above the knee...I'll post a pic once I've taken one in the daylight tomorrow morning.

Then I got out the shirt that my mom sent me in the package of wedding photos and James' birthday present. It was a baby blue t-shirt that was too small for my dad and not really wearable for anyone else. It's also ripped (and repaired) on the bottom right hand corner, which made it PERFECT for my new favorite project- turning t-shirts into comfy pants. ROCKIN!!! I made some for James a few weeks ago out of one of John's old shirts (he's going to grow out of them in about 10 seconds). So since I had the machine out to finish the skirt, I started the pants. And once I'd started them, I finished them. I'll take pics tomorrow and put them up - they're really cool. They're a little short in the rise and baggy in the waist, but my back started to hurt (the table I sew at isn't quite the right height...), so I'll finish them in the morning.

I ordered Madhur Jaffrey's memoir- she's a great cook and we have a few of her cookbooks. She grew up in Delhi and now lives in NYC, but has spent a lot of time in the UK. So far, it's fairly interesting...it's all about food (much like Peter Mayle's books). I'm also due to start Wild Swans soon - I've checked it out of the library but it just looks thick and daunting at the moment. Any encouragement would be appreciated. My favorite book in the last few months is still The Red Tent...and before that, the Ya-Yas, the Time Traveller's Wife, and the Dark Materials books. If anybody has any suggestions for good books, based on those, let me know!!

I found this on Real Simple today - we have SO many beautiful dish towels from the wedding. They're going to be making appearances on the table v. soon!

Friday, September 22, 2006

I love News Quiz

While I was waiting for John at the station tonight, I was listening to News Quiz, kind of like NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me." It's a weekly roundup of all the news, with various commedians and media people. The people next to me in the parking lot kept looking over to see what I was doing, because I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.

John missed most of it so we're going to listen to it again on the BBC site...you should definitely check it out if you get a chance.

Tomorrow is a house day- we're going to go pick out our tiles and countertops and other fun stuff like that. Woohoo!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Settling in at work

John was on a business trip yesterday and today (he got back this afternoon), and so Sandy from Ickworth came over for dinner last night. We had a really good chat and looked at all the wedding photos (thanks, Mom!). Sandy and I had baked apples and ice cream for dessert last night- it was SO good when the cold ice cream hit the melted butter-sugar-cinnamon mixture and made it all cold and crunchy. I'll DEFINITELY be doing that again.

It was funny- I realized that I hadn't spent a night alone in the flat in ages- I was really jumpy and checked the doors a zillion times and slept with the bedroom door shut in case the bogeymen came in. For someone who lived alone in NYC (admittedly with v. awesome doormen) for 2 years, you'd think I'd be able to handle a night alone in a flat. I think it was the fact that it's more than one room (duh) and there are a lot of doors with balconies. Or maybe I'm just getting jumpy.

We had the PDQ Bach work My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth through the Product Info department today. Here are the lyrics (from Peter Schickele's website): (teehee)

My bonnie lass she smelleth,
Making the flowers Jealouth.
Fa la la (etc.)

My bonnie lass dismayeth
Me; all that she doth say ith:
Fa la la (etc.)

My bonnie lass she looketh like a jewel
And soundeth like a mule.
My bonnie lass she walketh like a doe
And talketh like a crow.
Fa la la (etc.)

My bonnie lass liketh to dance a lot;
She’s Guinevere and I’m Sir Lancelot.1
Fa la la (etc.)

My bonnie lass I need not flatter;
What she doth not have doth not matter.
Oo la la (etc.)

My bonnie lass would be nice,
Yea, even at twice the price.
Fa la la (etc.)


It totally made my day. :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Garden Party!

Note: I've switched to BloggerBeta, so if you're having trouble, refresh the page and it should be fine.

Today was the Bury Bach Choir's annual garden party, so I made Coronation Chicken (basically, curry chicken salad) and John and James and I trundled along. It was a Enid's house in a little village south of Bury- they have a glorious country cottage and a HUGE back garden that backs onto the village hall. The weather was perfect and a good time was had by all.

We had a bit of excitement in the morning- we had to bring something for the tombola (basically a raffle, it's a very British thing to do), and so we were hunting arund to see what we could regift. As we have a flat full of very new and lovely wedding presents, it was slim pickins. But I did find a small espresso set (new in the box) on the top shelf of one of our kitchen cabinets. We don't drink espresso at home, and we've never used the set. "Ah hah," I said to John, "We can take THIS!" John replied, "Yup, that's perfect!" At which point James piped up with, "HEY! I gave you that for your birthday last year! And what's a tombola?"

Oops. I've never actually been caught in the act of regifting by the original giver before... Needless to say, we found someting else. But James did manage to win a bottle of wine in the tombola, which Tibor magically transformed into a little Meccano airplane set. Much better (and it gave James something to do for most of the afternoon). Here he is, building it:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I need a nap

Thanks for the comments on the house, everyone- we're really excited about it (but feeling like April is a VERY long time from now and not looking forward to spending another winter in our v. drafty flat). At least when we move in it'll be spring and we can eat outside in the back yard and have all the windows open, etc.

I've had a particularly exhausting few days- I went over to Sandy's for dinner and to catch up on Tuesday night but didn't get home until fairly late, then got up early yesterday, worked all day, had Bury Bach Choir practice (Liz, I REALLY love you to be missing this concert...it's going to be glorious), came home to John and the D&D boys, went to bed at 11:30, got up at 6 to go to work because the air conditioner went on the fritz and flooded one of the computer rooms, and then had a completely soul-shredding day at work. I'm having trouble enforcing a deadline at work for a report that I do every week...it's somewhat arbitrary but it has to be somewhere, otherwise I find myself staying later and later and getting more and more stressed as people give me more things to put on it 10 minutes after the supposed deadline. ROAR!!

In other news, I've downloaded iTunes 7 and am lusting after the new pods, which is completely rediculous as the one I have is completely functional and totally fine. One day, it'll give up the ghost, though. Not too soon, 'cause we got a mortgage to pay!!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

We Bought A House!

We are the proud new owners of a half-finished 3-bedroom house in the great metropolis of Stowmarket! We put down our initial reservation down-payment-y thing yesterday, so as long as we get our mortgage, survey, and other fun expensive and lawyer-y things done by October 9, it's OURS!!

Here's a map of the area- we're Plot 66. It's one of the last houses to be finished in this build...the same company is starting another build on the other side of the road at the bottom of the map early next spring.


We're due to move in late March, so we're embarking on the dizzying journey of picking all kinds of furniture and carpets and floors and other crazy stuff.

And then EVERYONE can come visit.

Here are the floorplans and the "artist's impression" of the finished house...we've been in a few completed ones and it's basically what they look like. (Sorry they're kind of blurry...it was the best I could do).



Wednesday, September 6, 2006

A Lactofree Kate is a Happy Kate

My new favorite thing: Lactofree milk. It's got less than 0.05% lactose and I can drink it! YAY!! It's way better than soy milk and lets me conserve my Lactaid pills for yummy stinky cheese. Here's the link, if you care.

Yay for cereal in the morning!!

Had our first Bury Bach Choir rehearsal of the season tonight- it was really good to see everyone and catch up, but I'm feeling v. rusty and tired now. I checked with the treasurer and I've just gotten in under the wire for another year of the under-25 discount (free!). Next year, though, I'm up to the full fare.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

An Almost House

We were thisclose to buying a house today- we'd been looking at it all weekend (it's a new build). We did a little more research today and found that it's RIGHT on top of a 24-hour truck depot (something the builders had neglected to mention). Oh sad.

But while John was finding out about the truck stop, he also found another development of houses further up the hill (away from the trucks), which have some great houses. So we'll go see some more on Saturday. John has fallen in love with a 4-bedroom (!?) that we REALLY can't afford, so we'll check out the 3s that they have (or win the lottery).

John has a computer game called "Rise Of Legends," that both he and James are adddicted to, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I played it for about 20 minutes this evening, and actually kind of enjoyed it. And then REALLY enjoyed the Waitrose magazine that I got yesterday. I think I'm safe. :)

Oh, and I can't remember if I posted about it, but I made James a cute pair of comfy-pants from here. My mom's sending over a package of random wedding stuff and needed some padding, so I think she's included some of my old (huge) t-shirts. Foss Arts comfy pants, here we come!

John and I have made it into this quarter's Colby alumni newsletter...we're the second item in the '03 news (on the web listing, at least). Not the NY Times Style section, but we're getting there.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Ballet Mecanique and Tamagotchi

I found the link to Says-it.com on Lifehacker, and made a seal for the blog (Moose helped):



I'm going to try to figure out how to embed it permanently over on the right...eek! (I'm such a dork).

We've had James for two weeks already, with only 3 more days before he goes back to school (and his mom). It's been a little stressful having him around: he's lost his Tamagotchi (sucks to be him) and his inhaler (sucks to be him AND us) over the last few days. He's fun, though. Apparently Gillian (his mom) has bought a new (bigger) house with her partner, which they will be moving in to shortly. So all James can talk about is houses and rooms and sizes of things and what color his room will be and what his room in our (still undiscovered) house should be. He's been v. sweet about it, though. He and John got haircuts today, so they picked me up at work in the afternoon looking like little boys. Ok, well, one of them ALWAYS looks like a little boy, but they were v. cute.

It was Ryan's last day at work today- he's off to Canada for a year before he starts university. I'm going to miss him- he's got a great sense of humor and is the other classical music geek in the office. We had the Schirmer Ballet Mecanique come through the office yesterday and he and I were gawping at it. The other guys were marginally interested...they're missing out on the pianola goodness.


I'm looking for a good html-viewer (other than Blogger), so I can check my html text as I type in Word. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

I'm also (slowly) uploading wedding photos onto Flickr- the link is over on the right. Feel free to submit any that you have!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Riding, Ploughing, and A Hot Air Balloon

We had a really good time up in Durham- it was v. relaxing to be away from work and stuff for a few days, and we had a lot of fun with Andrew and Barbara.

The puppies are very funny...they're generally excited about life and are very bouncy and cute. James is fairly afraid of them, but tolerates them if he has to. I did a lot of horse riding with Barbara and Andrew and Katie- I'd mentioned that I'd love to go for a ride and they all sprung into action with jodhpurs and boots and horses and I had lots of fun. Their horses are stabled in a barn on the crest of a hill, so the view is gorgeous and there are lots of green fields to ride around.

In keeping with the horsey theme, we went to Beamish, an open air museum, on Saturday to watch a ploughing competition. They had all kids of old plows and tractor horses and other stuff...lots of fun.

We came home yesterday after a brief stop at Ikea, and were eating dinner tonight when I looked out the window and saw a hot air ballon drifting by, out over the rooftops. Had to take a picture, natch.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Off to Durham with the Herds

We're off to see John's brother and his wife and their daughter in Durham tomorrow...we'll be there for 5 days. There's going to be various things going on- they have two black lab puppies who are about 8 months old and v. springy, along with a geriatric yellow lab (who would have given the pups a run for their money in her day).

Have seen a few more houses- still nothing is catching our eye. The one today was nice, and reasonably big, but had no cloakroom, a postage stamp of a back garden, and was kind of on the edge of Stowmarket with a LOT of cars on the road. The good points: there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood, it's not far from fields, there's a nice sunroom (hence the postage stamp), and the kitchen is reasonable. It also has a small driveway and garage, and an en-suite shower/loo to the master bedroom. Haven't fallen in love with it, though.

It's nice to be in our position...we can basically wait as long as we need before we buy something, and the longer we wait, the bigger dent we make in our down payment. Payday was yesterday and I've now received my first paycheck in pounds. With the $-£ exchange rate at the obscene $1.89 to the pound, getting paid in pounds has a major advantage.

I'm haunting rightmove with great regularity...if anyone sees a house that they think would be good (within about 5 miles of Stowmarket), holler.

I've also put links to Mark and Pete's blogs on the right...go forth and check them out. (Pete- now you've GOT to update the blog!!)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Andrea and Patrick are WAY more motivated than I am


Andrea and Patrick are running a marathon. They're awesome.

They're also raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and need your help!!

Check out their blog (and donate to their race fund) at Running Pair.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pat's Special Blend

As previously mentioned, the sandwiches at Music Sales are free. Yum. As is the coffee & tea, although we can only have it at the appointed times (10.30 and 3). And Pat has to make it- there is no making of your own unless your name is John.

Last week, Pat was on holiday and Mandy took over...she made me a lovely cup of (instant) coffee each morning and afternoon. Now Pat's back, and the coffee suddenly tastes REALLY strange. I can't put my finger on the taste, and I'm getting used to it, but it's defintely not normal. I can't figure out what she's doing to it, since she's using the same hot water, the same instant coffee, the same dishwasher & soap, and the same mug.

Pat's Special Blend it is, then. NOT coming to a Starbucks near you any time soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Crafty houses

Postings have been thin on the ground lately...the LAST thing I want to do when I get home from work after Musicrooming all day is go anywhere near my computer.

I've become completely addicted to craft blogs: Twelve22, Wardrobe Refashion and Craftzine are my current favorites. I've made a few skirts using the sewing machine that Freda gave me, and I'm planning on making a quilt next. I have to go in to Bury soon and get some quilt squares. Emily has a quilt that's UBER soft with corduroy on the back...that's what I'm aiming for. I think she got it at Anthropologie yonks ago. Either way, I can't wait to make one. One of my favorite button-down shirts has gotten a huge hole in the arm (no clue where it came from), so I'm going to cut it down for quilting. The other option would be to take it to a tailor and have them make it 3/4 sleeve...I should check with Freda.

We've been househunting madly...I took John & co back to the house that I loved this weekend and we ended up putting in a bid, but someone else got it. Sad times. We've seen a few others that haven't even come close, but we're still in the early stages and I'm sure something will come along. The property market in Stowmarket has suddenly gone mad...houses are going in a matter of days. Everyone says it'll calm down once kids go back to school. Here's hoping. At least now we know that we're definitely in the right price range for a 3 bed/bathroom/cloakroom/reasonable kitchen/smallish back yard. When we get a house, y'all can come visit. Not all at once, though. And once I've made the curtains. :)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Week One: Complete

I have now officially made it through my first week at Music Sales. Basically I spend all day updating the various stuff that goes on Musicroom. I'm not used to working in such a structured office...everyone is in at 8:30 on the dot, we work until a tea break at 10:30 for 15 minutes, lunch at 1 for an hour, and then another tea break at 3. Everyone leaves at 5:30 on the button. For some reason, Music Sales Bury is the ONLY Music Sales office in the world (out of about 10) that works a 9 hour day rather than 8. I mentioned it to my boss, and he said, that we all WORK for 8 hours, with an hour for lunch. Someone somewhere has gotten their wires crossed...legally, we're supposed to be at the OFFICE for 8 hours, with a 1-hour break for lunch. Oh well. At least we get free lunch every day.

Yup, you heard me. FREE lunch. There are a few catches: Pat the dinner lady has given the entire company food poisioning on more than one occasion, so there are some risks involved. Also, you have to order one kind of sandwich for the whole week, so by Friday you're bloody sick of tuna/roast beef/ham or whatever it is you've been eating for the last 5 days. You also have to come get your lunch AT 1pm, any later and Pat is not a happy bunny. There's not a whole lot of freedom surrounding the tea breaks, either. There's no mechanism for suddenly deciding you want coffee one morning, rather than tea. And you can't skip tea break, eather. Because then Pat will bring your mug and come and find you and plunk it down on your desk with a pointed look. And woe bedtide you if you don't bring your mug back at the appointed time.

But other than that, it's a free lunch.

Have been looking at a few more houses...we've seen two that were NOT ours and then I saw one yesterday that I completely fell in love with. Which is bad, because we're not QUITE ready to buy. The house is great, though. It meets all the criteria that we have, and it's really bright and airy and in a quiet neighborhood close to town and is quite big for our price range. I'm taking John and Freda and Travis back to see it today. Apparently there's an offer in on it already, but I don't think it was accepted. I'm desperately trying not to get too emotionally attached to it.

This househunting thing is exhausting.