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


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.


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. :)