Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Scenes from London's Recent "Blizzard"

A few scenic shots from our recent snowfall (December 18/19).



Sunday, 12 December 2010

An English Christmas Tradition

Today was a big day for Crumpet and me: we both experienced our first pantomime, which is a Christmas tradition here in England. I won't bother explaining the conventions -- or intricacies, really -- of a traditional pantomime because Wikipedia does it pretty well, but I will say that the Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar put on a very good performance of Sleeping Beauty. Having never even taken Crumpet to the cinema before, I was a bit worried about how she would react and figured I'd be lucky if we made it to the interval. But, despite her fidgeting, we managed to see the whole show, and it obviously had an effect on her because she keeps repeating phrases from the show.

It felt like an official "kick-off" to the festive season and served as a much-needed period of comic relief following a difficult month. Without going into too many personal details, which I vowed I would not do when I started this blog, The Other Half lost his father quite unexpectedly last month. There is never a "good" time to lose someone close to you, but, of course, being so close to the holidays makes it even more difficult.

So, as you would expect, the blog has been the last thing on my mind lately. But I am really hoping to get back to regular writing in the new year.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

In Defense of Stay-at-Home Parents

I know, I know. It's been a while. Again. Since returning from my trips to Barcelona and the Yorkshire moors (both in the same week), it's been really hard to get back into a writing groove. So here's an extra long post to make up for my absence (one that's been brewing for quite some time).

We are about two months (and some change) into our second year of role reversal, with me as the primary bread-winner and The Other Half as the primary caregiver (or stay-at-home dad, as he is colloquially referred). So far, it has worked well for us. I've rediscovered my passion for teaching literature and have taken advantage of some exciting new career opportunities, which could benefit us more than financially in the long term. (The prospect of Crumpet getting to go to a world-renowned private school for a fraction of the price is certainly an incentive to stick around for a few years. And then there is the allure of overseas teaching opportunities, even if just for a year or two. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit.) On the home-front, The Other Half has really enjoyed his time bonding with Crumpet in these oh-so-important formative years, which has been a wonderful thing to watch. And I've had all of the school holidays off, which means we get to spend lots of family time together.

But... there is still a slightly awkward pause after I respond to someone's question about what my husband does. "Oh," they say. "How long has that been going on?" As if they are expecting me to follow that up with a deadline by which he will get a real job. Or there's the half-joking, "Wow, that sounds like a great set-up," with a tone suggesting that all he does all day is hang out at the park or lounge on the sofa watching episodes of "Dora the Explorer." I doubt anyone would ask these questions of me if our roles were reversed.

So, while studies show that the amount of stay-at-home dads is on the rise, I still feel like I have to provide a defense for our lifestyle. And my defense is quite simple, really. When we decided to have children, it was always our intention for one of us to stay at home with them, at least until they're in school. Originally, that person was going to be me, but when The Other Half was made redundant just before Crumpet was born, we had to re-think that plan. We realized then that it didn't really matter who stayed home; what was important was that Crumpet had one of us at home to take care of her. So whoever got the best offer would be the one to go out to work.

I've never been keen on the idea of nurseries (or day cares, in Ameri-speak). Now, I'm not saying that all nurseries are bad and that parents who send their children to nurseries are bad. I realize that not everyone can afford to live on one income. But a lot of times it's not so much that people can't afford to live on one income; it's that they're not willing to sacrifice the lifestyle they have become accustomed to on two incomes. Personally, I would rather cut back a little each month than have someone else raise my child. An added bonus of not having Crumpet in nursery is that (touch wood) she has remained healthy (chicken pox incident at 13 months old aside). It seems like my friends whose children are in nurseries are always talking about a cold or a virus their children have picked up.

I won't lie and say that I have never felt the slightest bit jealous of The Other Half since going back to work. There have been times when I have thought, "Why can't it be me who gets to be the stay-at-home mo(u)mmy? That's what we had always planned." But life doesn't always work out as planned, and, at the end of the day, I'm just thankful that we are in a position where one of us can stay at home

I guess the direct inspiration for this post is the fairly recent news that the Tories will be cutting the child benefit here in the UK. Currently, every family with at least one child receives child benefit each month. It's not a lot; maybe about £1,000 a year for one child, roughly. This benefit is not means-based, meaning that Lord and Lady Dashwood (should they exist, and should they have one child like we do) receive the same amount of child benefit each month as we do. But under the new policy, families where one parent is earning £44,000 or more a year will no longer receive the benefit. Which means that you could have one family where two parents are working, each earning £40,000, for a combined a total of £80,000, and they will still receive the benefit. However, if another family is living on one income of £45,000, let's say, they will no longer receive the benefit. Someone please tell me where the logic is in that. So, essentially, the same government that bemoans the decline of family values is encouraging both parents to work and farm their children out to nurseries and child minders so they can make as much money off of us in taxes as they can.

On the heels of that announcement, David Cameron has stated that he wants to help stay-at-home mothers (whatever that means), prompting The Other Half to ask (rightfully), "What about stay-at-home fathers? Surely he should be helping stay-at-home parents."

Okay, rant over. Writing this post has been a rather cathartic experience....

Here's an inspiring image from the Yorkshire moors to leave you with.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Barcelona-Bound

This time next week, I will hopefully be enjoying some tapas in sunny (fingers crossed) Barcelona. I am off to a workshop, and, while I will mainly be "working," I was lucky enough to be booked on an early flight out and a late flight back, which means I'll have a half day before the workshop starts and several hours after the workshop ends (plus the evenings) in which to explore the city. I've never been to Barcelona, so while I would rather be at home with Crumpet and The Other Half, I'm also excited at the opportunity to go. To be honest, given the choice between a workshop in Leicestershire and one in Barcelona, who wouldn't pick Barcelona? Not that I have anything against Leicestershire; I'm sure it's a lovely county. But it ain't Barcelona.

Of course, the next few days will be full of the usual pre-travel rigmarole: making sure The Other Half and Crumpet have enough meals prepared ahead of time (or that he at least knows what to cook if there isn't a meal ready; luckily, he's pretty good at that), laying out Crumpet's clothes for the four days I'll be gone (he is not good at that), and frenzied packing at the last minute. My two previous trips (to Jersey in June and the Isle of Wight last month for another school trip) have at least helped ease my separation anxiety. I still get nervous about a week before the trip, and I miss her while I'm gone, but I know that Crumpet is in good hands here at home. As long as we keep her routine in place, she's fine. The separation ends up being worse for me than it is for her.

I am determined to make the most of my "off-time" while I'm in Barcelona. My two absolute must-sees are the Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas, which I will probably try to do the first day (my hotel is conveniently located just a few metro stops away from the Sagrada Familia). Casa Mila and the other Gaudi houses, the Picasso Museum, and the Park Güell are all on my "it would be nice if I have the time" list. Anyone have any other suggestions?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hello, Muse, are you out there?

No, I am not summoning the rock band to appear before me. I am calling forth the ancient goddess of creativity. Because it just hit me that I have not written a poem in five years. That's right, FIVE years. Half a decade. It seems wrong even admitting that, but it's true. It's not as if I haven't written anything in those five years. I've written some travel essays and some web content and have dipped in and out of The Novel. I even started this blog (which I admit I haven't posted to that regularly these past few months). But the last time I wrote a poem was in the fall of 2005, when I was writing my M.A. thesis. And then I planned a wedding. And then I moved to another country (and switched careers). And not long after that I had a baby. Life happened and, when I should have had loads of inspiration for loads of new poems, my poetic mojo dried up.

I know it's not all up to the Muse. I've tried disciplining myself. With a Type A personality like mine, you'd think that wouldn't be too hard. But I've just ended up staring at a blank computer screen for an hour or, at best, writing a couple of lines that I end up deleting later. (And, at worst, I've been distracted by the washing-up or the order I need to place with Amazon, etc., etc.) When I was in college, the words just arranged themselves into poems in my head, and all I had to do was put my pen to my paper and they would pour out. Now, it's a struggle to extract an image or a metaphor painlessly. Maybe the problem is that I'm thinking too much.

So I am asking the Muse to return to me, to give me back the same passion and creativity I had when I was 19 (without all the post-adolescent angst). Because I want to dream in villanelles again.

Another Great Moment in Teaching...

...happened yesterday, when I was giving my students some biographical information on Toni Morrison before they begin reading Beloved.

"Didn't she win the Nobel Prize?" one of my students piped up.

"Yes, she did," I affirmed. "And the Pulitzer."

"The Nobel? Hey, isn't that what Soandso's dad won?" another student chimed in.

"Who?" I inquired.

"Oh, some kid who used to go to school here."

Sometimes, the world in which I teach is not necessarily the world in which I live.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Live and Learn: A Tip for International Couples

Last week, we had a new dresser and display cabinet for the dining room delivered. We just managed to finish unpacking it and setting it up today. In the process, we went through some of the things we have collected since we got married -- some of them gifts, others things I bought in the US in excited anticipation of my new life abroad. Of course, we have now designated a pile of stuff to take to the local charity shop because it either doesn't fit or has never been used (and probably never will be). If I had it all to do over again, I would do things very differently.

I could give loads of tips to international couples (perhaps one day I'll actually sit down and devote a different blog entry to each of them), but my biggest tip would be this: Ship as little as possible when you move overseas. In the year before I moved to the UK, I bought a lot of stuff because I was high on the idea of starting an exciting new life in London with my soon-to-be husband. We also registered for a lot of wedding gifts Stateside. We did manage to get a nice 12-piece set of china (and some other lovely things) as a result, but the headache (and expense) of shipping them wasn't worth it. Plus, I didn't realize until I got here that nearly everything is bigger in America (not just portion sizes), meaning that my lovely china is just a bit too big for my UK-sized table. If I had it to do over again, I would ship the really meaningful, sentimental items, but I would buy things new here. And I would have asked for cash or gift vouchers for our wedding. It took four years and the chaos that comes from having new furniture delivered for me to finally admit it to myself, but hopefully someone will learn from my mistakes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A Wedding in the City

Canary Wharf, as seen from Greenwich Park

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of The Other Half's youngest brother. It was actually the first wedding I've been to in the UK, and it was everything I would have imagined an English wedding would be. The ceremony itself took place on Friday afternoon at Southwark Register Office. After that, we hopped on an old Routemaster bus that had been specially hired for the occasion (a gift from one of the bride's friends) and were transported to Greenwich Park, where we had afternoon tea and an evening meal of fish and chips (driven in from Faversham, on the Kent coast, so it was no ordinary takeaway; I think I can honestly say it was the best fish and chips I've ever had). We drank and danced the night away in the grounds of The Pavilion Tea House, right next to The Royal Observatory. The sort of eerie picture above is the view we had from the marquee of Canary Wharf.

Of course, Crumpet's routine was completely broken, but routines are meant to be broken for special occasions, and she kept going strong until nearly 11:00 (the nap she took in my arms during the ceremony certainly helped!). However, she is still making up for the lack of sleep. Last night I put her down at 6:45 and didn't hear a peep from her until 8:10 this morning.

Almost as good as the wedding itself was the deal we got on our hotel room. We stayed at Devonport House, which was literally just outside Greenwich Park, and we got dinner, bed and breakfast for 89 GBP. Of course, we missed out on dinner, but it was still a great deal. You can't find many rooms in London for that price. The room was clean, comfortable, and they had the all-important baby cot we had requested. The staff were friendly, they served a hot breakfast as well as lots of cereals, fruits, and pastry options, and we were even able to check-in early (and we hadn't even requested an early check-in). I would stay there again, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting London as it's a great base for exploring Greenwich and has good transport links to the rest of the city. Wow, I should get paid for these kinds of endorsements!

Before we came home yesterday, we took a stroll through Greenwich Park and stopped at their fantastic playground, where Crumpet wore herself out again on the swings and in the sand pit. It was almost like a mini-holiday, which was a great way to end my summer vacation. As of this Wednesday, I'm back on the clock. Eight weeks sure has come and gone very quickly.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

10 Things I Love About England

Cornwall, Southwest England

I've been battling a bit of homesickness since we returned from our trip to the States last month (coupled with, paradoxically, a bit of wanderlust). So in an effort to cure these afflictions, I thought it would be appropriate to include a post about the things I love about my adopted country, a bit like the post I recently wrote about what I love about North Carolina. So here goes (in no particular order):

1. London. I don't love everything about London, mind you, but it's hard not to love a city of such mythic status -- and with so much to see and do. As Samuel Johnson famously said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
2. Tea. Nothing can compare to a good cuppa. No matter how hard I have tried, I have not managed to replicate the experience anywhere else, even with the same brand of tea. Whether it's the water, or the type of cows they rear for milk here, or whatever... the Brits sure know how to do tea.
3. A good curry. Curry houses are to the UK what Mexican restaurants are to the US (or to the South, at least). I was never a big fan until I started visiting England regularly, but now a good curry is a favorite indulgence of mine. I still miss my Mexican fix (there are a few good Mexican restaurants in London, but they're few and far between), but I'm happy to substitute that with a chicken tikka masala, sag aloo and cauliflower bhaji. Oh, and fish and chips. And a good fry-up. Okay, maybe I should just call this reason "food" (although I'll pass on blood pudding and haggis and the like).
4. Pubs. I have yet to come across a bar in the US with the same vibe as a British pub. It's hard to explain, but the pub is an institution which crosses age groups, classes, and genders. And a good pub is hard to find.
5. Cornwall. This is where The Other Half and I took our first holiday together, way back in 2003, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. (I don't blame you if you gag on that cliche, by the way). Aside from London, images of the rugged Cornish coast and little fishing villages and country pubs are what spring to mind when I think of England.
6. Quaint villages. Especially with thatched cottages. And cosy pubs with log fires. Do you see a running theme here?
7. Public transportation. This is actually sort of a love-hate relationship, but I do like the fact that I haven't depended on a car for almost four years now.
8. The NHS. This may seem like an odd addition, and many people may disagree, but I am so thankful for national health care. I know it's not a perfect system, but at least I can be assured that if I need medical attention, I will receive it. And I won't go bankrupt in the process.
9. History. Everywhere you turn in this country, there is a piece of history to uncover. Castles, ancient ruins... even the church up the road from us is over 900 years old. And, as an old friend-of-a-friend once said, England has beer that is older than America.
10. Having the rest of Europe on my doorstep. Need I say more?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Blogger's Remorse

It seems like it's been ages since I last blogged. Every time I think to write a post, I get distracted by something else. Since we've returned from our month-long visit to the States, I've caught up with friends, taken Crumpet strawberry picking (twice), tried out a couple of new recipes, and even managed to get some work done for the upcoming school year (and I don't even go back to work until next week). I've been doing a little bit each night -- a lesson plan here, an essay idea there. Hopefully, when I do go back and pick up two new IB Diploma-level English courses (in addition to the middle school courses I already teach), I won't be ready to tear my hair out. And I've been writing again, though I won't say too much about that because I get a bit superstitious talking about it. But hopefully good things will come out of my newfound inspiration.

We've got a busy couple of months ahead of us -- The Other Half's youngest brother's wedding this week, my return to work full-time (which will take some adjustment for all of us), a work trip to the Isle of Wight and a possible one to Barcelona for a workshop. Oh, and our four-year anniversary and Crumpet's second birthday. So, even though I haven't been posting as regularly as I would have liked, if you follow my blog (regularly or just occasionally) be patient with me and I'm sure I'll have some more exciting entries coming up.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Best Money I've Spent in Ages

Crumpet and I returned from our month-long visit to the States yesterday. I was on my own with her on the flight back, and I had been dreading it since we booked our tickets back in May. I flew solo with her last year, but she was much younger then, so there were different issues to deal with. This time, she was older, stronger (meaning she can put up more of a fight), and needs much more to occupy/distract her. So I made sure I packed her colored pencils and sketch pad, a couple of new books and some old favorites, and the cuddly toys she can't live without. But on Monday, while my sister and I went on a Target run, I made the purchase I referred to in this entry's title: a portable DVD player. And, yes, it really was the best money I've spent in ages. It didn't stop Crumpet from putting up a fight when it was time for "night-night" (I have a pretty big bite mark to prove it), but while she was awake it at least kept her quite for a good length of time. She was mesmerized by Dora the Explorer, making the flight much more pleasant for me and, no doubt, the other passengers in our section. Before I had children, I always kind of turned my nose up at parents who used television as a way of controlling their kids, but, damn it, when you're on a transatlantic flight (especially alone) you do what you have to do.

Luckily, we scored a whole row to ourselves in the front section of coach, so we were actually quite comfortable. Or as comfortable as you can be on a plane. We're still battling jet lag (and a little bit of homesickness on my part, which I'm sure I'll write about in an upcoming entry). It's amazing how quickly four weeks can pass, which makes me nervous about how quickly the next four weeks will pass, after which I will be back at work for the new school year. Until then, here's hoping we have some decent August weather to finish off the summer.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

10 Things I Love About North Carolina

 Morning on Lake Tillery, Central North Carolina

One of the things I love about coming back to my home state (other than catching up with family and friends, of course) is being able to see it with new eyes or, in some cases, rediscover things I took for granted when I lived here. Here are just a few things I love about The Old North State:

1. The whirr of the cicadas on a warm summer evening.
2. Summer thunderstorms. There is nothing more comforting than the roll of distant thunder or a sudden downpour to cool a hot summer day (provided I'm inside, of course).
3. The changing seasons. One of my favorite times in NC is the fall, when the trees are ablaze with red, orange, and yellow hues. Then again, the spring is also beautiful, when the azaleas are in their full fuchsia glory. The UK doesn't have such defined seasons; there's foliage or no foliage, cold or really cold. 
4. Produce stands. Nothing I have experienced in Europe (not even the woman selling fresh figs on the side of the road in Crete) can compare to the raw honey or fresh sweetcorn or boiled peanuts you can get from a makeshift stand in the middle of nowhere.
5. Barbecue. With hush puppies. And honey butter. Need I say more?
6. Mexican food. Like curry houses in the UK, there is a Mexican restaurant on just about every corner in the South. It may be a bastardized version of Mexican food (like curry is a bastardized version of Indian), but it's oh so good.
7. Talking to strangers. When you're used to the big city, where people are afraid to make eye contact, it's nice when a complete stranger strikes up a conversation with you in the supermarket.
8. Driving. Now I know this goes against what I have said before about my dislike of driving, but I love how here you can just get in the car without having to plan anything. And in five minutes from just about anywhere, you can be in the middle of nowhere.
9. The landscape. Whether it's the soft, undulating peaks of the Appalachian Mountains or the rolling dunes of the Outer Banks or just a backroad tobacco field, there is no denying that North Carolina is a beautiful part of the country.
10. Quiet. No city traffic, no shouting from the nearby flats, no buzz of the fans from the neighboring butchers, no airplanes flying overhead. Just the sounds of the crickets chirping and the cicadas whirring (see number 1) and the occasional freight train whistling in the distance.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Redefining the Term "Long-Distance"

The Other Half headed back home to England on Tuesday, so Crumpet and I are here on our own with Grandma and Grandpa in North Carolina for another week and a half. But despite the nearly 4,000 miles that separate us, we've still been able to see each other every day. The evolution of technology really has redefinied the meaning of long distance.

When The Other Half and I started courting ("dating" seems like the wrong word to use since we didn't really go on "dates"), Skype was still relatively new, so we mostly resorted to (what now seems like old-fashioned) e-mail and phone cards to keep in touch. By the time we got married in 2006, Skype and other video messaging services had become more popular, and we were doing web chats maybe once or twice a week. Now, we regularly do video calls with my parents and my sister and her family when we're back in England. Since we've been here in NC, Crumpet has even been able to see her Nana in England three times. For the majority of my childhood, I lived 3,000 miles away from one set of grandparents and 1,000 miles away from the other. If we were lucky, we got to see them each once a year. Even long distance phone calls were expensive, so we maybe talked to them once or twice a month. The idea that one day my children would be able to see people while they were talking to them across the country (or across the ocean, as it turned out) seemed very Jettson-esque, one of those things that I associated with "the future" but could never really picture materializing. It isn't quite the same as being able to see someone and spend time with them in the flesh, but web cams have certainly made it easier to endure the distance.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Licensed to Drive

Today I had the pleasure of renewing my North Carolina driver's license. And I say that, of course, with total sarcasm. After waiting for over an hour while only one DMV employee processed a room full of people, it took me all of five minutes to renew my license.

Getting or renewing a driver's license in the US is a totally diffrerent experience than getting a driving license in the UK. The first time I drove, I had just turned 15. I passed a written test that exempted me from the classroom portion of Driver's Ed, so all I had to do was complete 5-10 hours of driving with an instructor in order to get my learner's permit. That allowed me to drive, supervised, until I was 16, when I got my full driver's license. It's been nearly 15 years since then, but I can vaguely remember having to do a "road test" with a DMV employee in order to get my license. This road test consisted of pulling out of the DMV parking lot, driving down the block, reversing backwards, and parking in an empty parking lot nearby. I then drove back to the DMV, where I took a brief vision test and a road signs test. And that was all it took to prove my competency on the road. Every five or so years since then, I have had to renew my license, which has consisted of the vision test and an abreviated version of the road signs test. And we're talking basic road signs that any five-year-old could identify (stop, yield, speed limit, school zone, etc.), not the less common, but just as important, ones a driver might encounter. They make it ridiculously easy to get and keep your license in the US, I suppose partly because there is no alternative to driving in many places.

In the UK, on the other hand, you have to do a lot more to prove that you can responsibly operate a vehicle. That doesn't mean that there aren't any nutcases on the road, but at least the process does weed out a few of the extreme cases. For starters, the minimum driving age is 17, and the government is apparently thinking of increasing that to 18. I think 18 (or even the current age of 17) is much more sensible. The difference between a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old is pretty dramatic, and when I think back to what I was like when I was 15, I really had no business behind the wheel. And I was pretty responsible. Imagine some of the 15-year-olds out there! Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I got my UK driving license over two years ago and before I even took the written test I took at least 20 hours of lessons with a private instructor. Then I took the test, which was probably the easiest part of the whole process. A couple of months later, after I had had a few more lessons, I took the driving (or "road") test. This was a 35-minute test in which the examiner scrutinized my every move. Luckily, I passed with only a couple of minor offenses, but apparently it's not uncommon to fail your driving test at least once. Some people fail several times before they finally pass. But once you have your driving license, you don't have to renew it until you're 70 (unless, of course, you get too many points or lose it).

So, nearly two weeks after my license had expired (which the DMV employee didn't even question today), I am now licensed to drive again in North Carolina. I have been driving legally with my UK license in the meantime (my UK license allows me to drive in the US for up to a year, I think), but at least it will be another five or eight years before I'll have to prove once again that I can identify a railroad crossing sign or a stoplight.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Fourth of July Fun

Today was Crumpet's first Fourth of July in America, and the first time I've been here for the holiday in four years.

We kicked off the festivities on Friday, when we visited with family friends in Mt Gilead, North Carolina. We spent the afternoon swimming in Lake Tillery, "cooking out," and watching the fireworks over the lake. It was well worth keeping Crumpet up three hours past her normal bedtime to see her face light up as she watched the sky explode with colors and sparks. The next morning we took a paddle boat ride on the lake before heading back to my parents' house in Sanford. We took Crumpet to a local family Fourth celebration downtown at Depot Park and then went out to eat at a new-ish restaurant serving modern Southern cuisine. The Other Half heaped high praise on The Steel Pig when he claimed that his spare ribs were the best he had ever eaten. My crab cakes weren't bad either. Today we spent a lazy day at home and had an all-American dinner of grilled chicken and apple pie before we lit off some of our own fireworks.

I look forward to exposing Crumpet to many more American holidays and traditions... on American soil. As much as I try to replicate the experience of Thanksgiving at our home in the UK, it's not quite the same.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The View from a New Decade

I woke up this morning to a new decade. No, I haven't suddenly learned to time-travel. As of 9:21 a.m., I am no longer twenty-something. But to be honest, I don't really feel that different. Perhaps if I wasn't so "settled" in my personal life, I'd feel differently, but the fact is that turning 30 hasn't caused me to have an identity crisis or an emotional breakdown. In fact, I look forward to my thirties. I'd never want to repeat my awkward teenage years, and though I had some good times in my twenties and experienced some of life's milestones (highlights being, of course, graduating from college and graduate school, meeting and marrying The Other Half, and giving birth to my first child) overall I was far too self-concious. At 30, I feel much more confident in myself. Perhaps I'll feel differently in another 10 years, but right now the view from a new decade looks pretty good.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Other Jersey

It's been a busy couple of weeks here finishing off the school term and preparing for our upcoming trip to the States, so, needless to say, once again I have been neglectful of the blog. Sometimes it's hard to believe I've made it through my first year back in the classroom; other times, it feels like it's been three years. But before the onslaught of reports and other end-of-term chaos ensued, I was able to enjoy four days on the island of Jersey -- if you can call chaperoning a group of seventh grade students "enjoyment." I survived three nights away from home (my first since Crumpet was born) and was so busy I didn't even have time to suffer any of the separation anxiety I had been dreading since agreeing to go on the trip back in April.

Jersey, which is the largest of the Channel Isles, is home to the famous Jersey cows, Jersey royal potatoes, and a number of off-shore banks. There are no Tescos, Asdas, or other major UK chains, and with less than 100,000 permanent residents the island really retains it continental charm. Luckily, we didn't encounter any major problems, which is always a risk on school trips, and instead were able to enjoy many of the sights and activities that Jersey has to offer. We played mini-golf on the best course I have played on since my childhood visits to Florida and went bowling, which I haven't done in years (and I can honestly say that age has not improved my game). The students kayaked and surfed. If it had been a tad warmer, I would have joined them in kayaking, but I stayed on dry land and enjoyed the views from the beach. We even managed to fit in a couple of history lessons by visiting the Jersey War Tunnels and Mont Orgueil (a.k.a. Gorey Castle), both of which I highly recommend.

This little trip was simply a teaser and has certainly made me want to return and explore more of the island, as well as neighboring Guernsey and Sark (which is car-free), with The Other Half and Crumpet. Somehow, my list of ideal holidays keeps growing and growing. If only my bank account would keep growing with it....


Sunday, 6 June 2010

Packing for One

I am off tomorrow on a 4-day school trip to Jersey (the one in the Channel Isles, not the one on the east coast of the USA), so today I have been running around doing laundry, printing itineraries, and organizing Crumpet's food and clothes to make things easier for Daddy in my absence (although, to be fair, I know I shouldn't worry too much because he's sometimes better at the daily rituals than I am; he does have lots of practice as the "primary carer"). The thing I'm finding hardest (apart from the impending separation anxiety I'm sure I'll experience) is remembering that I only have to pack for myself. What's that like? I'm so used to packing the house that it's weird realizing I do have room for an extra pair of shoes (even though I know I shouldn't pack them because I probably won't wear them). I must remind myself that I don't need to pack nappies, wipes, or distracting toys. Although the latter might come in handy for some of the 13-year-olds I'll be chaperoning.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Bank Holiday Fun on the Isle of Thanet


I know, I know. It's been a while since I've blogged. I was on a roll, too, having posted eight entries in April, which is a real record for me. I could make excuses about the busy month we've had (and it looks like this summer isn't going to be any quieter), but I think I'll just get on with the post.

Today was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, so this weekend we had a little mini-break in Kent; the Isle of Thanet, to be more precise. Actually, it isn't technically an "isle" anymore, but it is still often referred to by this name. The seaside towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate all make up Thanet. My brother-in-law and his fiancée live in Ramsgate. This was our second visit there. Last summer, we ventured to Margate for my brother-in-law's birthday beach party. What a difference a year makes. There is now a high speed train from St. Pancras station to Ramsgate, so the journey only takes about an hour and a quarter (plus just 20 minutes from our local station to King's Cross/St. Pancas), making it a much more pleasant experience. And Crumpet was a little angel the whole weekend (except for a couple minor 20-month-old "moments").

Saturday evening we had dinner at The Indian Princess in Margate. This was certainly not your typical curry house; it was a true Indian "experience." In fact, the restaurant is even listed in the Michelin guide (though not starred). From the outside, it looks a bit shabby (and you certainly wouldn't expect to find food of this caliber in Margate, of all places), but the old saying is true in this case: "Don't judge a book by its cover." We enjoyed the pre-theatre menu, and I had dosa to start (little crepes filled with spiced potatoes and onions), Kentish lamb biryani for my main course, and chocolate samosas with cardamon cream for dessert. The best part was the little "extras" they threw in: little bites between each course. It was worth the trip just for this meal.

Sunday we took a walk along the cliffs from Ramsgate to Broadstairs. Broadstairs has a very continental atmosphere to it, with lots of cafes and pubs perched along the cliff and a sandy beach below. We had ice cream sundaes at Morelli's, which has been open since the 1930s (my parents-in-law visited the famous ice cream parlor 41 years ago while they were on the their honeymoon in Broadstairs), followed by a little play in the sand. That evening we had dinner at the Belgian Cafe, which was a bit of an unexpected find in Ramsgate.

It was nice to get away for the weekend and really feel like I had a proper break before heading back to work tomorrow. Luckily, we were able to avoid the tacky side of the British seaside and just enjoy the nice bits. It didn't rain, and it wasn't particularly crowded, so what more could we ask for?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Fun With Politics

On this, the eve of the UK national elections, I thought it would be a bit of fun to pass on a link I was sent recently. Vote for Policies is a web site that allows you to compare policies of the six major UK political parties on a range of key issues, and, based on your answers, you're told which policy belongs to which party and, as a result, who you should vote for. Supposedly, it helps you make an unbiased decision. It's not scientific, but the results might surprise you. According to my results, I should be voting for the Green Party (that is, if I could vote).

So, even if you're not UK a citizen or you don't live in the UK or you don't even know anything about British politics, it's a fun diversion.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Great Moment in Teaching...

...happened today, when, as we were reading the first scene in Much Ado About Nothing, in which Beatrice and Benedick are trading insults, one of my rather boisterous lads piped up and said, "Wow, I think Shakespeare created the first dis." It's moments like that that make me love my job.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Enjoying the Silence

We're very lucky to live in the "suburbs" of North London, where we can enjoy the best of both worlds. In less than an hour (provided the trains are running on time), we can be in the center of London, but within about a ten minutes' drive, we can be surrounded by countryside. Still, despite our suburban postcode, we still suffer from certain negative aspects of urban life: traffic, pollution, gradual over-development, etc. We also just happen to be under a flight path. I admit that I don't notice the planes that much on a day-to-day basis, but The Other Half is particularly sensitive to this kind of thing. It's not like the planes really fly that low. We attended a wedding in Hounslow, which is near Heathrow, back in November, and boy, do those planes really fly low. I was surprised that I couldn't reach up and actually touch them.

But since the travel chaos caused by the volcano erupting in Iceland, I have definitely noticed the planes. Because there haven't been any. I can actually hear the birds chirping and children playing in their gardens. Unfortunately, we still have the road noise to deal with, but here it is on a perfectly lovely -- and still sunny -- Sunday evening and the only thing I can hear is the classical music coming from the radio in the dining room.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Tale of a Reluctant Beer Drinker

I hate beer, and I have no shame in admitting it. I'll cop to drinking a few in my early college years just so I could get a buzz, but I hated every sip (or gulp, really, as my goal was just to get it down as quickly as possible without having to taste much of it). I have always preferred a good wine or a pretty cocktail (even, shamefully, an alco-pop, though I'm growing out of that phase).

The Other Half, on the other hand, is a true beer lover. He loves trying new beers from all over the world, and recently he has even started brewing his own -- from malt and hops, not a kit. I must admit that I am truly impressed with his newfound skill (and, if you haven't seen the complicated, day-long process that is home-brewing, it truly is a skill -- especially when you add a tiny kitchen to the mix). But I won't be sampling any of his product myself.

For as long as we have been together, which will be eight years this fall (wow, how time files!), he has tried to convert me. But I have stood firm. No amount of honey browns or blueberry wheats would sway me. The most I've budged is to develop a liking for cider (the good stuff, not Strongbow).

Until now. Yes, The Other Half has successfully managed to turn me on to beer... sort of. I have discovered the taste sensation that is a Belgian fruit beer. Now, I know some of you may be shaking your head, saying, "That's not real beer," but I beg to differ. Even though it may not taste like beer, it technically is beer. I have tasted coconut beer, passion fruit beer (yum!), cherry beer (double yum!), and a beer with a blend of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries (triple yum!).

He may never convince me to order a Newcastle Brown Ale down at the pub, but I think, secretly, The Other Half is quite proud of his accomplishment. Perhaps even a trip to Belgium will be on the horizon soon.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Separation Anxiety

I made a big commitment at work today. I have agreed to chaperone a group of students on a trip to Jersey this June. It's a great opportunity: an all-expenses paid trip to the largest of the Channel Islands, where we'll spend three days swimming, surfing, kayaking, and exploring the island. Plus, I'll get an additional stipend for each day.

So why am I already starting to second-guess myself? Well, this will be the first time I have spent a night away from Crumpet (not to mention three nights), and though I have no concerns about how The Other Half will manage with her by himself (I am incredibly blessed with an amazingly patient and loving husband who is also an amazingly patient and loving father), I am concerned about how I will be without her. When I talked about it with The Other Half when the opportunity first presented itself last month, he was very positive and supportive about the idea. He reassured me that he and Crumpet would be fine for three days (after all, he already manages brilliantly when I'm at work during the day, and I'm sure he'll ace the bedtime routine too). He also thought that it would be a good break for me (if you can call herding a group of 12- and 13-year-olds a break) before heading back to the States in July to help my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And I know he's right.

So why do I still feel guilty? I should be jumping at the chance to get away for a few days because I'm sure there will be far fewer opportunities to do so if and when we have two children. Still, I can't help but worry about every little thing that might happen while I'm away. And I don't want Crumpet to worry about where Mummy is (although, in reality, she probably won't even realize I'm gone until I return, which is usually the case when I'm at work). And, on a more sentimental note, Jersey is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time, but I always imagined that my first visit there would be with The Other Half and Crumpet. The Other Half points out that this will be a good chance for me to "scout" out the location and see if it would indeed be a good place for us to return to for a family holiday, and I guess I see his point. Plus, there are loads of other exciting, undiscovered places (in the UK and beyond) that we can discover together.

I'm sure I sound neurotic, but I suppose most mothers suffer from some form of separation anxiety. And even though I'm less than two years into motherhood, I think it's safe to say that the feeling won't just disappear when my child turns 18.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Politics as Usual

Most people will know by now that the Prime Minister has officially called an election for May 6. (Too bad it's not next year at this time, when I hope to have citizenship, so I could exercise my vote.) A few nights ago, The Other Half lamented that that's all we'll be hearing about for the next month. True, it will probably be very difficult to escape the constant news coverage, on TV and online, but at least we won't have to suffer through TWO WHOLE YEARS OF IT, as we do in the US. I quite like the Brits' way of things: get it all over with in a month, and then be done with it so they can complain about whatever administration has been voted in. In fact, shouldn't we be expecting the 2012 US presidential candidates to be kicking off their campaigns pretty soon?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things: This Week's SECOND Comedic Moment

As I have mentioned before, Crumpet's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. Every day, she seems to pick up a new word, or is at least pronouncing an old word clearer. Along with her growing vocabulary is her growing sense of awareness about her body (and bodily functions). Just this week, she has started telling me when she has done "a Number 2" by pulling on her nappy and proclaiming, "Poo." Of course, when I then ask her if she has done a poo, she says, "No," but this is her answer to everything lately, and at least she is starting to recognize when she goes. I'm thinking potty training won't be too far off. Anyway, today we had a nice lunch out, and at the end of the meal I got up to go to the toilet. As I walked away from the table, Crumpet pointed at me and loudly stated (in front of the roomful of other diners), "Pee!" Yes, the old saying is true: kids say the darndest things. And I'm sure this is only the first of many awkward moments in public.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Parental Advisory: This Week's Comedic Moment

I popped into the local library today to check out a couple of DVDs. It was meant to be a quick in-and-out, but the self-service machines wouldn't let me check out the DVDs, so I had to take them to the counter. When I presented my card, I asked the guy at the desk if you could only check out books at the self-service machines. "No," he said. "You can check out DVDs." Oh, I thought, I wonder why I had a problem. Then, as I pulled out my library card for him to scan, I realized my mistake. In my haste, I had scanned Crumpet's library card instead of mine. "Yeah, these are adult films," said the attendant when I asked if that could have been what prevented me from checking them out myself, indicating Crumpet in her pushchair. "Oh, no," I said, as if I had to suddenly justify my parenting skills. "She definitely won't be watching them." I think it will be at least a few years before she watches Angels & Demons or The Reader. At least it provided me with a good laugh for the day.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Touring (Old) Hampshire


We have just returned from a lovely pre-Easter holiday in Hampshire, about two hours southwest of London. We stayed in a farmhouse B&B and spent our days driving along the picturesque roads of the New Forest and the Hampshire coast, discovering quaint villages with thatched cottages and traditional pubs, and communing with nature and the local wildlife. Unfortunately, we did some minor damage to our rental car on one of those picturesque roads, so we probably could have gone to an all-inclusive in Tunisia for what our lovely English holiday is going to end up costing us. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Here are some scenes from our week in the countryside:

The B&B we stayed in, right on the edge of the New Forest National Park

The famous New Forest ponies, who roam freely through the national park

Some of Burley's "locals"

Traffic jam, Hampshire-style

The Hampshire coast, with views of the Isle of Wight in the distance

Lighthouse and coastal road outside Lepe

Despite some weather that was a bit more fitting for February than late March/early April, we had a great holiday, even though now that we're home it sort of feels like we've never left. And the greatest thing about the holiday is knowing that I still have a week off before I have to go back to work.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Countdown to Spring Break

I've been back at work for two weeks following February's Half Term, and I'm already counting down to Spring Break. Three more weeks. Three more Mondays.

Since the October and February Half Terms found us doing DIY (The Other Half has just finished laying wood floors in our lounge, dining room, and hallway), we have decided to go away on holiday for part of Spring Break. The Other Half reminds me that we did go to the States for Christmas, but I don't really count those visits as true "holidays."

After much debate and indecision, we have finally settled on The New Forest as our destination of choice, about two hours southwest of London. Neither of us has ever been to the New Forest, though The Other Half has been to some of the towns surrounding it. I know it's not as exotic as Spain or Malta or Jordan (which are just some of the places my colleagues and students will be holidaying), but we want our first real family holiday to be somewhere that is easy to get to and where we'll really be able to relax. Though there are places I'd like to visit and things I'd like to do during the week that we're there, I also know that I would feel just as happy lounging on the grounds of the farmhouse B&B we'll be booking this week, taking leisurely strolls, or enjoying a laidback meal at a country pub. There is also still so much of the UK that I want to see. It still surprises me when I hear some of my students tell me that, though they've been to Thailand or Brazil, they've never been to Edinburgh or Cornwall. I love traveling to new (sometimes exotic) locations, but I'm also in favor of discovering your own backyard, which is why I'm already secretly planning our next UK break before we've even officially booked this one.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

A Good Way to Pass the Time When You're Underground


Any parent will tell you that (adult) reading time is limited when you have a little one to chase after most of the day. Though I certainly won't dispute the literary merits of Goodnight Moon or Guess How Much I Love You, I do miss getting caught up in a good story. But since I have been back at work, my daily commute has given me the opportunity to read lots of great books. Some are old classics that I have had to revisit so I could teach them (The Hobbit, To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lord of the Flies). Others are more contemporary novels from my "To Read" stack that somehow keeps growing instead of getting smaller (The Time Traveler's Wife and The Lovely Bones are two of my most recent reads). I even managed to read the first three books in the Twilight series. My feelings about this series could take up a whole other blog entry, but I'll leave that till another time. Let's just say that I'll read the last one only because I feel like since I've already committed so much time to the series I ought to find out how it ends.

But the books in the Millennium trilogy by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson are definitely the ones that have kept me turning the pages long after my stop is announced over the train's loudspeaker. So far, I have read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and am halfway through The Girl Who Played With Fire. There's been a lot of hype about these books, mainly because Larsson died just months before the books were published. I see at least one person a day reading one of them on the train. They can definitely be classified as "adult material," and some of the scenes are quite graphic, but if you want a book that will make you ask yourself whether you have enough time to read just one more page before your stop, then I would definitely recommend this series.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Hail to the... Queen?

When I first started making plans to move to the UK almost five years ago, the idea of obtaining British citizenship never really crossed my mind. It wasn't really important to me, since, as I was married to a British citizen, I could obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain and live here... well, indefinitely. Plus, to be honest, I was a bit ignorant about the whole process and didn't know whether I would have to give up my American citizenship.

But as time has passed and we now have a half-British half-American daughter, things have changed. So I have started the process of applying for British citizenship after all. As of now, I have only just read the 39-page guidance notes to the application, but my plan is to make the application within the next few months so that by the end of the year I'll be swearing allegiance to the Queen.

I've changed my mind for a number of reasons:

1) Traveling on the same passport will be much easier for our bi-cultural family, not so much when we travel to the States, since Crumpet and I will always have to use our American passports to enter the country, but certainly when traveling within Europe or elsewhere (see number 4 for more on this one).
2) If we ever do decide to run a gîte in France or if I find a teaching job in Belgium, it will be much easier with British citizenship, which will allow me to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
3) The right to vote. If I'm paying UK taxes, I might as well have a say in how they're spent.
4) Cuba. "What?" you may ask. Well, not that I've ever had a huge desire to go to Cuba, but just the thought that I could now if I wanted to is pretty cool.

And since I don't have to give up my American citizenship in order to become "British," I'll really be able to enjoy the best (and worst) of both worlds.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Fun with Language (or Raising an "Anglo-Southern" Child)

Crumpet is just over 16 months old, and though she has been saying a handful of words for a few months now (most of them beginning with the letter "b"), it is amazing how much her language has developed in just the past couple of weeks. Water, chair and window are her new favorites. However, it isn't just her vocabulary that is expanding; her accent is also becoming more distinct. It's very amusing to see her point to Daddy's pint and explain, in a very British accent, "Beer!" Then, turning to Mummy's drink: "Tea!" But "tea" sounds more like "tay," confirming that we are not just raising an Anglo-American child, but, rather, an Anglo-Southern one.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

My First London Celebrity Sighting

Okay, so, technically, today's sighting is actually my third since I first started coming to London in 2002. But I don't count the first time, which was on the Gatwick Express after flying in from the US for a visit, because at the time I had no idea who Vernon Kay and Tess Daly were. Nor do I count the second time, when I worked with Jack Black and Amanda Peet.

No, today was what I consider my first real, random celebrity sighting. Walking down Euston Road after work, I saw Jim Broadbent talking on his mobile phone. At least, I am 98% sure it was him. I glanced at him and then did a quick double take, and he gave me a look as if he knew I recognized him. For those of you who don't know who Jim Broadbent is, he's probably most well-known for his role as Bridget Jones's father, although he's been in loads of other things.

Okay, so it wasn't Robert Pattinson or Hugh Grant or anyone else who would have made me faint, but it was the most blog-worthy thing that's happened in a while.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Accidentally French?


In an idle moment at work today (of which I get so few these days), I stumbled upon an article on MSN about the best and worst countries to live in the world. For the fifth year in a row, International Living has ranked France as number 1. This is based on climate, health care, overall quality of life, etc.

So I started dreaming, of course. Of lavender fields and strolling along the Seine on a crisp spring day. Of sipping a cafe au lait on a sidewalk cafe or lingering over a bottle of vin rouge at a cozy bistro. The Other Half and I have often talked about just picking up and moving to France. The fact that we could buy a house over there in cash (not in Paris, mind you, but I could easily trade city life for a farmhouse in Normandy), while here we'd struggle to afford a one-bedroom flat without maxing ourselves out, is one major incentive for hopping the Channel. The fact that we don't exactly speak the language? Well, not so much.

We don't plan on moving anywhere for the next few years, not at least until Crumpet and Crumpet #2 (and, no, there isn't another one on the way yet) are in school, but I've definitely been thinking more and more lately about the allure of running a gîte somewhere in rural France. Who knows, maybe one day Accidentally English might become Accidentally French.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Extreme Weather Conditions

It usually takes me about an hour to get to work (45 minutes if I time it right). This morning, however, it took me nearly an hour and three quarters.

I arrived at my local train station to find that my usual train (the 7:51) was not running. Instead, there was an "emergency" schedule in place, with only two trains an hour. Luckily, the next train was at 7:59, but when it rolled into the station at 8:09, it was completely packed. There was no room to even get on, and those aggressive commuters who did manage to shove their way on were packed like sardines. So my neighbor (who takes the same train as me) and I decided to take a bus to the nearest Tube station. But, as luck would have it, we had just missed one and would have to wait 17 minutes for another. So we walked (or trudged, really) a mile in the snow. When I finally did arrive at work at nearly 9:15, I was huffing and puffing and generally frazzled. Not the best way to start off the new term.

I certainly wouldn't classify a light dusting of snow as "extreme" weather, but apparently National Rail does.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Holidaze

Today's blog entry borrows its title from a recent episode of Grey's Anatomy, but it seems to perfectly reflect the chaos we have been through the past couple of months. That chaos is also what has caused me to be so woefully neglectful of my blog. Each time I have intended to write an entry, something comes up or I find an excuse not to. Or I've just been too overwhelmed and don't know where to start. But with a new year (when did 2010 happen?) comes a resolve (notice I didn't say a "resolution") to write more -- blogwise and otherwise. Here is a recap of the latest.

Shortly after my last entry at the beginning of November, Crumpet contracted a case of the chicken pox. We're not exactly sure how she got it (or from whom), since she doesn't go to nursery or attend a regular playgroup, but we're pretty sure she picked it up from Rhyme Time at our local library. It was not a very fun couple of weeks, although I think it was worse on Mummy and Daddy than it was on her. She wasn't quite old enough to understand that she could itch, which was a good thing because it left her with minimal scarring, but it also meant she was pretty grumpy and miserable. We had a few restless nights, but once the worst of it was over she was back to her usual perky self. Looking on the bright side, at least she got it while she's young, unlike me, who had to endure it at 22, during my first year of teaching. Despite her spots, I was still able to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for my in-laws.

Not long after she recovered from the chicken pox, Crumpet got a cold (her second of the season), and it seemed like her nose didn't stop running for nearly a week. Just as she got over it, we lost our gas supply and were without heat and hot water for almost two weeks. We were one of 1200 homes in North London affected, so for five days we huddled together in two rooms, heated by little electric fan heaters, and cooked on an electric hob (when we had had enough of takeaways, that is). Luckily, we were able to escape Stateside on Christmas Eve and enjoy the warmth of my parents' home while the gas engineers restored the gas supply, so we didn't have to endure Christmas without heat. Our ordeal even made it onto the BBC News. My brother-in-law can even be seen in the video link for a split second, but I'll protect his anonymity and not identify him....

Just when we thought our troubles were over, Crumpet had a bad fall at Heathrow while we were checking in for our flight on Christmas Eve. I put her down for a second while I put our passports away, and she stumbled and hit her head on the luggage cart. A huge green welt immediately appeared on her forehead. She was screaming and crying uncontrollably, I was screaming and crying uncontrollably, and The Other Half was in a quiet panic, running around looking for ice and demanding that the airline send over the paramedics. Luckily, Crumpet did not suffer a concussion, and within an hour she was happily eating a cookie while the airline called a doctor in the US to clear us for flying (since apparently the altitude can sometimes cause complications with a head injury). As a result, we had to rush through security and just made our flight. Not exactly what you want to go through just before a transatlantic flight, especially when flying makes you nervous anyway (which is more the case for The Other Half than for me, but ironically the more I fly the less I like it). The flight itself was a bit bumpy, and not because of the turbulence. Crumpet slept for only one hour of an eight-hour flight, and most of the rest of the time she was fighting sleep. Now, however, she has fully recovered. The bump on her head has receded, the bruise has faded, and you wouldn't even know she had been through such an ordeal. I think Mummy and Daddy will be scarred more by the experience than she.

After our airport trauma, we had a lovely, yet low-key, Christmas and New Year. We've been very busy the past couple of weeks... doing nothing. Yes, this holiday was much more about relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends than it was about rushing around seeing things and stocking up on cheaper clothes, books, etc., although I did manage to make a Target run yesterday. I have barely even thought about work, which is a true sign that I have been able to relax.

We head back to the UK on Thursday, and I am less worried about the journey itself than I am about what awaits us when we arrive. The forecast is calling for heavy snow tomorrow in London, to be followed by light snow through Saturday. I just hope this doesn't throw a wrench in our travel plans. At least we have heat now when we return.

Now that the "daze" of the holidays has passed, my aim (again, I refuse to say "resolution") is to get myself more organized and devote more time to writing. I'm even hoping to give my blog a little makeover, but maybe that's being too ambitious. For now, I'll at least try not to leave my readers (all six of you -- just kidding) hanging for two months between entries.