Archive | February, 2012

It’s not all castles and cakes

28 Feb

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Some days I get to help make a milk jug igloo. Glamorous.

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Day out: Avebury

27 Feb

Some very wise friends have given me good advice: when the sun comes out in England, drop everything and get outside.  Soak it up.  Revel.  Raise your face to the sky and store up your overdue recharge of solar power.  If you’re having a bad day, so much the better.   Get out of the house and plunge into the gorgeous scenery this country has to offer.

And so we took ourselves off to Avebury, Stonehenge’s slightly less well known, but far more approachable, sibling.

After keeping our distance at Stonehenge — on an overcast and chilly day — it was (dare I say it) brilliant to be able to walk among amid and through these monoliths.

The village of Avebury sits inside the large ring of stone and earthwork that make up the Henge.

Circumperambulation of the Henge requires crossing the main streets through the village.

In many places the original stones are missing or buried, and modern markers take their place.

One can walk up the great earthworks and look over the ditch, across the inner ring of stones.

Or turn around and from the top of the bank sigh over the Wiltshire countryside.

Or enter the museum and view the site as if you were an alien looking for a nice well-marked landing spot.

The museum includes some information shared by modern-day Druids, which seems very friendly.

At very nearly the center of the Henge is the Red Lion, and an average English Sunday Roast.

We sat next to the locally famous 17th century village well — covered with glass, so you can look down, down, down the 86ft to the bottom — where the dead body of adulterous Florrie was thrown after her murder by her husband.  Now her dark ghost occasionally haunts the pub.  No one ate at this table.  Hm, wonder why?

One of the many pleasing games we played while walking through the stones was shape spotting.  We found stones which looked like crowns; diamonds; chairs; and this one we thought looked like it had a heart.

It’s chilly, rainy and grey today — but I’m warmed just looking at these photos again.  Batteries: recharged.

Taking stock

25 Feb

Although this post would be an ideal place for it, I do mean taking stock, not making stock. ~Waving goodbye to anyone who dropped in looking for food.~

We’ve been here five months.  I’ve been told it takes about six months to feel adjusted to a new country — or, really, anywhere from six to eighteen months.  Before we moved, in my massive arrogance and naïveté, I thought: “It won’t take me that long.”  Like the soon-to-be new parent who thinks she’s figured out this mothering gig before she’s even felt a contraction, I knew it all.  And like that same new mother, life is teaching me — hard, fast, and with no mercy whatsoever — that I am a complete idiot.

I’ve moved before — often, almost.  Moving to a new country is not like that at all.  Everything is different, from small things like how to make coffee, to big things like the position of the sun.  There is no moment when you can throw your head back and say ‘ah, everything is different but at least this one thing is familiar, and having found this one place I can relax here and renew myself for the future.’

Maybe that place does exist, but I haven’t found it yet.  And seriously people, I have been around.

Hm, this post is getting off track.  I’m feeling positive overall.  Six months is enough time to build up some routines.  I could drive the kids to school in my sleep.  I know where to buy milk.  I am madly in love with English bacon.  I have food in the fridge and my very own kitchen to cook it in — or if we want to go out, I know where we can go with the kids, or where to go for a nice dinner out with my guy.   I can drive through town without the satnav (tho’ not anywhere else).  I can ride the bus, ride the train, call a taxi, get gas, get on my feet, get around.  I’ve found some other ex-pats who like to explore.   I’ve met the neighbors — we have a ladies lunch, which is so charming I want to bust, even though I feel young and silly next to everyone else.  I have this blog, which has been rewarding in completely unexpected ways.  Some days I look up over the Cotswolds and just can’t breathe for beauty.

But … but.  It’s not home.  Right now it doesn’t feel like it ever will be home.  I miss honeysuckle and barefoot walks by the Chesapeake Bay and my picnic tables and iced tea and American friendliness.  It’s not just that I miss summer and sunshine — which of course, I do — it’s not just that I miss feeling competent and self-assured — which of course, I do — but I miss the me that I was at home, and haven’t yet discovered the me I am here.

Sigh.  That’s sufficiently tortured for one day, I think.  Since a post without a photo is like England without rain, here’s one from our recent trip to Puzzlewood — magical, mysterious, enticing yet forbidding — and lacking any clear path — just as I feel about our life in the UK right now.

I Spy

24 Feb

Play along today, and guess where I spy with my little eye

… the inside of a clock face.… the outside of that same clock face.

… a peephole in the ceiling.

… that same peephole in this ceiling.

… ropes going up through the ceiling.

… those same ropes leading up to these bells.

… a fairly terrifying staircase.

… an even more terrifying staircase.  (The rope is for you.  To hold on.  So you don’t fall.)

… a church rooftop.

… that same rooftop, down there on the left.
(I also spy a world famous Roman ruin — do you know where we are, yet?)

I spy with my little eye

… a beautiful Georgian city from very very high.

… a beautiful Georgian city from just a little high.

I spy with my little eye

Do you know where we are?  Bath Abbey describes itself as ‘where heaven and earth meet’ and a tour of clock tower, roof, and bells provides a clever and interesting introduction to this duality.  And with 212 steps up and the same down, it feels like a pilgrimage through determination, despair, exhaustion, fear, repose, inspiration, and finally, satisfaction (and the strong urge for a good snack).  Can’t go to Bath?  Try the 360 tour.  (But you must jog in place while watching to really earn that feeling of satisfaction.)

Just like Phineas and Ferb

21 Feb

We went to London and went up the London Eye.  Just like Phineas and Ferb.  The kids mentioned this to me repeatedly, all the while looking around expectantly for a giant waterslide to appear.  I suspect most of their expectations for London, and England as a whole, have been established by Phineas and Ferb.

It’s pretty close, really.

The Eye is very very big.

We visited on Valentine’s Day, and were reassured to see that the Eye is anchored by love.  If you visit on some other day, I guess it’s anchored by physics and stuff.  But Feb 14th?  Love.

Entry to the pods is a bit hairy if you have any kind of motion sickness … you get to dash on while the pod is moving.

It’s cool.

It’s awesome.

It’s very very high.

There’s a “4D Experience” you can see before you get on the Eye.  Although husband was not impressed by what is essentially a long commercial for the ride you have already bought a ticket to enter, the kids and I thought it was great.  There were bubbles, snowflakes, fog, rain, fireworks, dragons, dancing ladies, and lots of kablammo kapow.  I left thinking that from now on, all business power point presentations should be done in the style of the London Eye 4D Experience.

If I had a stupidly huge amount of money to waste, I would totally go back and take one of the speciality trips.  Champagne Afternoon Tea at over 400 feet for 20, anyone?  Only 1300 pounds.

Lots of photos of the Eye here, and here, and here.

Short and sweet

19 Feb

You know when you do something that you really enjoy, and you sort of think you do pretty well for an amateur, and then you realize you know many people who do it way better?  That’s how I’ve been feeling about baking lately.   And photos of baking.  I blame the internet.  And blogging.  And … people.  And … the universe.

But, succumbing to child-led begging, we did make some cupcakes this weekend, using our old standby recipe (which also works just fine when modified).

The big version.

The small version.

The M&Ms give a nice size comparison.  I think I’ll measure all sorts of things in M&M Units — MMUs — from now on.

Half term break

17 Feb

Friday of half term break.  My half-baked plans for holiday did not materialize, but we’ve made do with lots of pancakes and Wii, a few day trips, and today: building an amusement park for the cats.

It’s not that I’m a crazy cat lady.  It’s just that I’m so glad to have them with us again, I’ve dedicated an entire corner of my sun room to the cats.  This is slowly evolving in to a crazy-book and crazy-cat room.  Stick my Tassimo in here and there’d be no reason to come out. Crazy cat-book-coffee lady, that’s me.

I haven’t quite worked out the cat’s place in the UK domestic animal hierarchy. The biggest local pet store has a decent variety of food and some varieties of litter, but nothing like what I’m used to seeing, and all in small sizes.  Our cat tree was obtained online — no luck finding anything locally.  While looking for it, I discovered the new-to-me sub-genre of outdoor cat shelters.  This is another one of those thing that I’m going to think of as uniquely English, accurate or not, because I’d never heard of them before we moved here.  Do English cats most often live outside?