I've been drinking loads of coffee lately. Don't let the picture confuse you...they're not both mine...one is for Matt and I made him wait to drink it so I could take the photo. (Such a patient lovey.) I never even liked coffee until I met Matt. He says that's probably because no one was making it correctly. My coffee always tastes extra good when he makes it -- then again, lots of stuff tastes better when he does it. Hmm.
The temperature has really dropped over the past week. It's 19F at the moment and the best way I can think to describe the air outside is "pinchy." It literally feels pinchy on your skin. Like little needles. I'm not that bothered now that I have some cozy new jumpers and fuzzy socks to keep me warm, along with my winter coat, of course.
It looks like we will be at Tony & Emma's tomorrow night for New Year's Eve celebrating with Em & Daz...so very much looking forward to that. I can't believe 2008 is about to come to an end -- it's been a busy one. I have a really good feeling about 2009 though. I'm so pumped!!
It's hard to top the blog from last night...so I took it easy today. This is the bear Matt sent me back when I was in the States and we were 4500 miles apart with an entire ocean between us. It wasn't as nice as snuggling him in person, but it was comforting just the same and oh so soft!!
I'm missing my kitty girls a lot today. I get reports periodically from my dad who is in touch with the woman in North Carolina that is boarding them for me. Annie, my temperamental calico, eats a lot, apparently, and Sophie, my gray tabby just loves to be brushed. I wonder if they will hold resentment towards me for leaving them behind for 6 months. Stupid PETS scheme BS. Giving them up was not an option, so I'm just doing my best to wait it out until they can join us in the new year. I still felt awful having to leave them in August -- they both looked so hurt and betrayed when I walked away.
All being well, I will have them here with us by February or March. There's even a possibility that it would be cheaper for me to fly back to NC and bring them back myself rather than using the pet relocation agency, as previously planned. Fuel prices have dropped significantly which means flights will cost less, in addition to doing it during the winter months, which is non-peak season.
Until then, I will hope for the best and miss them loads until the rest of our furry family are home with us.
Yep...another Sunday at Em & Daz's with lovely Xbox entertainment complete with a pose-able Sweepy kitty.
******* THIS JUST IN *******
We interrupt this blog to bring you breaking news --
On the way home from Em & Daz's I was running through my head what to discuss in tonight's blog when I noticed two trotting shadows ahead of us on the road. As we got closer I realized it was a couple of horses...just gallivanting down the dual carriageway!
Matt immediately asked for my phone and pulled over to dial '999' (which is the UK version of '911'). He explained to the operator that there were two horses, an adult and a baby, loose down the dual carriageway near Holly Hall School. As he was doing this I jumped out of the car to try to get a picture of the hurried hoofed-mammals, but they picked up speed and were too far down the road to see in the photo. Matt managed to pull up and drive slowly alongside the baby to make sure the horses were safe until the police could arrive.
*Don't mind the crazy, Kodak-wielding American... ...carry on, little horsies*
Oh and speak of the devils...they show up just minutes later just in the time for the horses to reach a full gallop and quickly approaching a notoriously busy roundabout. You may be wondering as you're reading at this point...'what could police possibly do in a situation like this?'
Well friends, I'll tell you...
...they pull them over! Duh!! Crazy drunks.
Ah, Stourbridge Road in Dudley is now a safer place without a couple of delinquent horses on the loose. You're welcome.
I received two lovely knit jumpers (sweaters, for those in the US) for Christmas. One long greenish-blue one with a waist tie, which I am wearing now, and one gray one -- in the photo. I love them both LOADS and when I was trying them on, Matt noticed that the gray one had a hole in the bottom at the front. I was gutted because I especially liked the diagonal knit across the front and I was worried I may not be able to find the same one in the same size.
We ended up getting the receipt from Josie and heading down to Matalan to see if they had more so I could exchange for one without any noticeable blemishes. We stop at the returns counter and then head back into the knitwear to search for the matching jumpers. We found another gray one in the same size and without anything wrong on the front. When I looked at the price tag, I realized it was half the price of the original purchase. Also, next to the gray ones were brown ones of the same design and size.
*insert wheels in head turning right now with outcome of very bright idea*
'HARK!' I said to myself. 'Why don't I RETURN the gray jumper and re-purchase another gray one AND a brown one as well?' I point this out to Matt and he agrees with my bright idea, like smart husbands do. In fact, we teamed up and used our "spouse power," which meant Matt went to get the refund and I hovered over the jumpers like a vicious vulture so no one would take the ones I wanted while I further inspected that I had the right ones.
So, now I sit in the front room, a chuffed little American with her two new jumpers for the price of one. OH! And 30p change in my pocket as well -- Thank You, reduced VAT!!
If by "open longer" they mean 6 or 7 o'clock PM!! We spent roughly two hours here at Merry Hill today because Matt wanted an Xbox game, which had been reduced to £8 and I wanted to pick up a Christmas ornament for 2008. We thought we would start a tradition of purchasing a new ornament for every year we are together.
Unfortunately, all the card shops were shut, being as it was a bank holiday. Fortunately for Matt, this led to us making a cameo at each and every games shop to "just see if they had one more thing." We didn't find whatever that was either.
We settled for coming back tomorrow when everything would be open. Then we headed to Em & Daz's for a night of Lips and Scene It.
There are SO many things about Christmas that I love. Being around people I care about and who care about me, to start. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get back to the States this year for Christmas...so I haven't been able to spend it with my family in Ohio -- but I love you all and miss you loads!!
I was fortunate to have Matt's family to spend the holiday with this year, however. Let me just say that it was so nice to spend time with people...
...eating a delicious meal...
...and carrying on Christmas traditions -- like wearing the foil Christmas crown from your party popper. Love it!!
Plus, it's also nice to have a Christmas where people all sit in the same room, having good conversation, and watch one another open presents. I really loved and enjoyed the company I was with this Christmas.
But...the biggest thing I loved about Christmas (this year in particular) was being in his arms!
Awe...look at me...being all housewifey and doing the washing. The truth is, we've let it pile up and I'm out of clean socks. I did also unload the dishwasher and start a new cycle. No medals or gold stars for my achievement chart, thanks...just doing my part.
If you notice there on the dial it says 120 at the top...as in MINUTES. Isn't that crazy...TWO HOURS to dry a load of laundry?! Even then, they won't dry in one go in this sucker. It usually takes two rounds of 120 minutes. So, yeah...roughly FOUR FRIGGIN HOURS!! To think I used to get pissy back in the States when I had to pop an extra quarter in the machine when it wouldn't do my drying in the initial 45-minute allotment! This is clearly why laundry for me here takes all day (maybe even several days) to complete. Even if the wash load is finished in 30-45 minutes...we still have to wait until the ones in the dryer are good to go before you can take them out to fold. OH! And get this...there is a condenser which means you have to empty a little tub of water each 120-minute cycle or else your clothes won't dry completely. It's great fun!!
As many things as I love about England...our current dryer is not exactly one of them. While I appreciate we are fortunate enough to have one, I just wish it was a little more efficient. I can't be the only one who feels this way.
Seriously though, it's not like that. DH and I decided to enjoy some with Pepsi. Let's blame it on the cold flat -- it keeps us warm.
Nothing of great importance or general interest to report today. Our mantle is gathering more and more Christmas cheer in the form of glittery greeting cards and I even received one from a friend in Ohio, which included a recent Christmas photo of her two gorgeous children, Michael and Mary. I will need to find a magnet soon so it can take it's place upon our fridge after the holidays. Do people in England do that -- plaster their fridges with magnets holding pictures of friends & their children? Many fridges here are the size of college mini-fridges in the States. The one Matt and I have at the moment is about 5 feet tall, with the freezer portion at the bottom. Oh well, I may very well have to start a tradition, regardless.
On that note, if you, my friends, have photos of your cutie patooties and you have neglected to send me one (so I can gush year after year about how much they've grown) then you better step on it!
Also, I've noticed there have been some readers of my blog from far and wide (Colorado, Belgium, France, etc.). It appears 'Meg in the UK' has gone a bit global. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know you stopped by. You don't have to have a blogger account and you can even leave it anonymously, if absolutely necessary.
It's not a scarf or poncho yet, but I'm getting a bit more comfortable making the stitches. Now I just need to work on keeping my tongue in my mouth while I do it. At the moment, I like to believe that it's helping me balance.
These are the different needles that came in the set. I was pulled in by the attractive selection of colours. I don't know all the abbreviations yet to follow any patterns -- it's all gibberish to me now. Lucky for me, I have a wide-open week to practice.
Tonight was my first lesson in knitting. As I am fresh out of sheep, many now know I have been on the hunt for some yarn to purchase so I could start knitting. I picked up a set of needles today from Aldi and rather than mooch all over the place looking for wool, I was able to use some that my lovely MIL, Josie, had so I could practice.
Em was out when we got to her house tonight, so while Matt & Daz played Gundam, I began educating myself in all things knitting thanks to You Tube videos and Google. I am finally able to 'cast on' but from there it gets a bit messy and I still need some work.
Emma got home around half-eleven and she joined me on the floor to begin her own piece. During this time, Sweep decided it was a good opportunity to play in the bag of yarn. He looked like such a goof that I couldn't resist a picture.
Okay, okay...so it doesn't rhyme. But seriously. I was on a mission today to find some yarn. I noticed some knitting needles at Aldi for £1.99 a couple weeks back and I have been considering taking it up as a hobby for a while now anyway. Apparently marriage has aged me 30 years.
Matt and I did a search on one of the kiosks at the mall while waiting for some photos to be developed. It came up with a store called 'Woolbridge' and we were certain they must have yarn in their inventory as they had 'wool' in part of their store name and it would be false advertising otherwise...right? Well, we were wrong anyway because the store's ACTUAL name was 'Woodbridge' and they neither had wood nor wool. Instead it was handbags and umbrellas -- both unfortunately NOT today's assignment.
Mildly disgruntled, we decide to take a gander at Tesco Extra in Cradley Heath. After all, they do have 'Extra' in their name...kind of like 'Super' WalMart...and maybe, just maybe they might have something...I dunno...EXTRA?
Perhaps the 'Extra' refers to the escalators designed for shopping trolleys? Tesco Extra is pretty much a WalMart...only without the mass selection of random items. Actually, not even a WalMart...I have to downshift a bit and say KMart(by that I mean...groceries, small clothing and electronics sections, and toys...but no Blue Light Special). However, despite my high expectations...STILL NO YARN!!
But hey...they DO have TWO levels! OoooOooo...fancy.
I was filling out an application today where I had to list all my previous addresses (blurred in this photo to prevent stalkers) covering the past ten years. Talk about an exhaustive list!! I decided to leave out the six addresses from Athens, Ohio - during my time at Ohio University, since I basically used just ONE address consistently back in Columbus as my permanent address for those three years. If I include those addresses, however, that makes my total 12...and now that I am here in England, that's 13. Yep folks, thirteen addresses -- 6 cities, 2 states, and two countries -- in just ten years.
I'm sure that is not as daunting as some may think, but it seems like a lot to me. In fact, it is why I have decided to affectionately title the blog the way I did. The people who know me well enough will appreciate the humour. The people who don't...well, they'll probably misunderstand the intended sarcasm and judge me (just not to my face).
This has been my recent source of frustration and sore thumbs. An old Xbox game called Blinx. It's the only one out of Matt's collection that I am remotely interested in and that doesn't involve grenades and blood. I'm actually probably interested in it because of all the pretty colours and the main character is a cute kitty cat.
The overall object of the game is pretty elementary -- "kill" the bad guys (by shooting trash at them that you have previously collected in your sweeper) and reach the finish within 10 minutes, finding as much gold and secret medals along the way as you can. Each level has three stages, followed by a final stage where you face "The Boss."
Through playing this game I have discovered that I can be in "game mode" as much as Matt can when he plays his. Also, when I run out of time or get killed, I'm quite vocal. I've managed to get as far as the second level of "The Forgotten City" and after about 15-20 attempts and a brief intermission for my internet fix (while Matt popped to the shop for milk and Uncle Ben's rice), I was forced to throw in the towel -- er, controller for the night before I wound up breaking something.
Decorating began today in the flat. I gave this ornament to Matt in 2006 when I came for 10 days to visit over Christmas break. It was my second visit to the UK and our very first Christmas together.
This is "officially" our very first Christmas tree. I used some foil-star garland for the shape of the tree and gold beads for the design -- conveniently attached to the wall with Blu-tack. Lots of artistic skill and patience went into making our tree. Matt was pleased with the end result and Myst has taken a gander, but it's still uncertain if it will survive 8 more days.
The rest of the decorating is still in progress. I've hung a couple of foil decorations from the ceiling and dressed up the mantle a bit. The ceiling decorations are not something I'm used to seeing as much at Christmas in the States, but they do add lots of colour to the room. If we're really lucky the tape will hold well enough that no one will have a "bomb" dropped on them unexpectedly.
It's all coming together though and really beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the Bennett household. Fa la la la la...
This traffic island statue has been this way for days -- sporting a bright orange traffic cone on his head. It's quite funny actually. Matt and I passed it late last week, but it was a bit rainy and I couldn't get my camera out of my bag fast enough. Today, however, we were on our way to Birmingham to drop off my time sheet and Matt did his best to drive slowly around the island so I could get a good shot. If I would have managed to get the giant "head on" you may have noticed the red poppy on his trusty shovel.
You have to give an "A" for effort though. These vandals didn't do a typical, unoriginal, messy spray-paint job. They used physical skill, balance and exertion to mount this large statue to even get the cone to the top of his head. I mean, if I were to stand next to this, I would say the bottom half of his shovel is nearly half my 5 feet of height alone.
I would have loved to have seen this act being carried out!
In the meantime, we have something to giggle about each time we pass by for now.
Oh...and in other news...it is my fantastic father-in-law's birthday. I believe a web-shout-out is in order...
Myst has a phobia with completely sealed-off rooms. We typically keep the door to the front room shut to keep the heat in since the rest of the flat is cold -- so Myst obviously is not a fan. All morning he was looking for any possible way to annoy us and as much as we don't like to shout at him, he was doing our heads in. First he was in the bin...then onto the coffee table to chew on a stack of papers...then he tried to go behind the TV, which he knows is a HUGE "no-no" as he recently managed to knock the surround sound speaker off the top. This carried on over and over despite being told off.
At one point, I turn to Matt and throw one of my socks at him. I suggest since Myst wants to play, that we have a little playtime. I expected my husband to be more mature and tell me no.
Therefore, Myst stopped being an annoyance, and started to be entertainment. Our stomachs were in knots from laughter.
I spent a greater chunk of time than expected in Birmingham today inside a reception room on the 5th floor of One Victoria Square. This was my view from said reception room.
Matt was in an interview and we had paid a fiver for two hours of parking. I realized he wasn't going to be out in time, so I asked the receptionist to give him the message that I had gone down to the car -- in the hopes I could stall the parking attendant if they attempted to give a ticket.
Initially, I got to the car and disabled the alarm. I looked down the road to see the attendant approaching with his handy dandy "ticket making" contraption. I jumped in the driver's seat (something I have yet to do in England -- EVER) and proceeded to make it look as though I was preparing to leave.
I stick the key in the ignition...and...nothing. It wouldn't budge! I spent a good five minutes fiddling with the key and trying to get the engine to turn but I couldn't manage to get it off 'lock.'
Luckily the parking attendant walked right on past and then back down the other side of the street to the parking-violation-stalking-van. Meanwhile, the alarm starts to sound on the car. I fumble nervously for the button and disable the alarm once again, then I continue to attempt to start the car.
This continues for the next 35 minutes...attempt to start car...alarm goes off...disable alarm...look around for signs that Matt is on his way out...repeat. During this time I develop a "story" to tell the parking attendant in the event he decides to get suspicious and approach the car. My story, which not far from the truth, was that I was sent to the car by my husband to move it (even though I wasn't moving it, instead just trying to turn it on for heat and the radio), but because it's a newly cut key (as of 3 months ago) I wasn't able to get it to start the car. I thought to myself that I would even offer for them to try, so they could see I wasn't lying about not being able to start it. Either way, I was determined to keep Matt from receiving a penalty charge notice.
Thankfully, I didn't need to tell my carefully concocted tale because after almost 40 minutes of struggling, Matt appears from around the corner and I willfully resign my seat from behind the stubborn ignition. He then works his magic and the car begins to purr.
Tonight, I type this with a VERY sore pointer finger on my right hand. I think I even see a bruise. Owwie.
Yes, I know, I take some pretty random pictures. I assure you this one is for a valid reason. Someone recently asked me what brown sauce was -- this in response to a previous post where I mentioned having brown sauce on my cheese on toast. So consider this a bit of education for those who are not yet aficionados.
Basically, brown sauce is a condiment which can be used on a variety of foods to add an extra "kick." It shouldn't be confused with steak sauce like A1, but it can be used on meat - like bacon and sausages when on a sandwich, or on chips (fries), potatoes, or beans.
I've learned that brown sauce has a wide range of ingredients in it like vinegar, tomato paste, orange juice concentrate, dates, garlic, and mustard powder. It sounds a bit odd and possibly like it wouldn't taste any good. Let me assure you it has the BEST and MOST YUMMY sweet/spicy/tangy combination and since my first taste during my 2006 "British Invasion." From that first moment, I have been irrevocably in love!
Oh joy...the festive holiday season is upon us all! This also means many elaborate light displays and decorations in windows, plastic Santa dangling from chimneys, and front garden winter wonderland themes. I'm a HUGE fan of Christmas time and I love to see all the holiday spirit, but there is a significant difference between subtle and overkill. The photo above is one of many I have taken of nice, tasteful light displays. Although I am not a fan of blue lights on their own, it is color coordinated, neatly done and easy on the eyes. Very different from the next photo...
Bare in mind this is a combo three-house display and 90% of the lights in view are flashing. I'm unsure yet if this was a coordinated effort between neighbours, but SERIOUSLY?! Did they have to purchase EVERY flashing light display on sale?! Must have been the recent VAT discount. Not only that...did they have to display them all THIS YEAR?!
Christ on a cracker!! It's enough to cause an epileptic seizure!
They were purchased tonight at New Look for only £10! I've been wearing out my favourite pair from Maurice's in the US and was in desperate need of a new "nice" pair that wasn't frayed at the bottom. The best part is...they're a size 16!! One size down from what I was wearing previously. I can't wait to get into a 14. I'm hoping it's realistic to think I can by next spring -- as long as I can keep up healthy habits.
I tried on about 5-6 pair of jeans tonight, but all within the one store...so I think that was good of me. Each time I would come out of the dressing room and ask Matt what he thought he would say "they look okay" or "they're JUST jeans!" The fitting room attendant seemed to understand my frustration when she heard me sigh. I really don't think men fully understand the strategy that goes into finding a nice fitting/nice looking pair of jeans. The pockets have to be just the right size and spacing from the center seam so as not to make your bum look the size of Texas. Also, the grain of the denim can either make your leg look slimmer or more tree-trunk-like (at least if you're me and built like a garden gnome). But seriously, most men don't understand this...so they have little patience. **EDIT: To be fair, I was in the fitting room for the better part of 30 minutes on the first round trying to see which pair looked the best. So I'm sure his brain was dripping from his skull by then, and I should be lucky he didn't skulk around eyeing women while I was changing. He is a good man.
Once I purchased my new pair of jeans, with 21p VAT deducted (WOO HOO!) we left New Look and headed to Sainsbury's to get something for tea. Matt shares a brilliant idea with me along the way. He points out how some stores have areas where your children can be looked after while you shop. I nod that I am familiar. He then says he thinks they should have a similar holding area for blokes where their wives/girlfriends can drop them off to have a pint and play Xbox or watch football, and then come back with a ticket to claim them when their shopping is complete. I later added that perhaps even a handheld monitor where the women can buzz the men once they're trying clothes on and a video of them appears on the screen for the man to select a simple "YES" or "NO" as to whether or not the outfit or clothing looks nice. Then Matt adds that the screen should then have the capability to pick up Sky.
My Aunt Lisa found this and decided to get it after noting the print on the box it came in, which read: "Meg Builds a Snowman." She gave it to me on my last trip back to Ohio from North Carolina -- a few months before I moved to the UK. Since Matt and I don't have any Christmas decorations at the moment and we don't really have the money this year to put into decorating the flat, I decided it was time to unveil this little "Meg" from her packaging.
She is now prominently displayed in the front window. She's hardly competition for many of our neighbours' air-traffic-control-like displays, but we think she does the job.
Emma has passed these along to Matt, so I (having unspoken, spousal tasty treat privilege) decided to partake in their yummy deliciousness. The only problem is they're about 2.5-3 points a biscuit...but they're SOOO tasty!
While Matt was reading the back he noticed it said they were made in Germany. He had the pretty humorous theory that the Germans intentionally made them fattening and then sent them off to Britain so the English would turn into fat bastards...eventually making them too lazy to fight the next time they decided to play "war." This put us in stitches laughing about it.
Now as I type this, Matt is worrying that someone will think he is anti-German or something...so rest assured, it's a joke...not to be taken seriously.
1: containing or characterized by error :mistaken <erroneous assumptions> erroneous impression>
On the 26th of September 2008, Matt and I sent $60 (USD) cash from the Kingswinford, UK post office to a woman called Barb in North Carolina who is looking after my two cats, Sophie and Annie, until they are able to come join us in the UK. We debated sending the money as cash at first, but we were assured from the woman at the counter that as long as we sent the money via 'International Signed For' it would be insured for £35 in the event it was lost/undelivered. We were satisfied with this option and quickly stuffed the money inside a card and into an envelope to be sent off to the US in the trusty hands of the Royal Mail.
We tracked the package with our confirmation number and saw it had reached the United States Postal Service in New York within a couple of days. I was pleased at this and figured it would reach Barb in NC within a week or so.
Two weeks later...nothing. I contacted the USPS and I was told that they could not track it hand to hand because it was a security measure to not be able to trace an 'International Signed For' parcel and they can only confirm delivery. They suggested I wait until the end of the week and phone back if it had not been delivered.
End of the week comes...still no delivery confirmation. As far as I could see from the confirmation details, it was still in New York. I phone the USPS again and they put in an inquiry for it. They give me a case number and tell me someone will be in contact with me within 60 days.
In the meantime, Matt and I had to find an additional lot of money to send to Barb so she wouldn't get the impression that I was trying to be deceitful and not pay her. We sent this via Paypal to my dad who then sends a money order to her from Ohio.
Present day: The 60 days' time has passed and I still have had NO contact from the United States Postal Service. I called again tonight and it took nearly 5 minutes just to get through their stupid, useless, ineffective voice recognition routing service. (This was accomplished by me repeatedly pressing the zero key and listening to the aggravating computer voice telling me she did not understand my entry. Matt even got to witness me mimicking said computer voice and making inappropriate hand gestures.) I finally get a human on the phone who mumbles an introduction and asks for my tracking number. I give it to her and then she says "hmm" and asks when I sent the package. I state it was sent the 26th of September this year in a clearly aggravated tone and she says there is no information on that package and that I will need to file a claim with Royal Mail. I ask why does it have to be with Royal Mail when the United States Postal Service are the ones who stole my money. I explain I have already spoken with someone at USPS a couple months back and I was given a case number. She then proceeds to suck air through her teeth and tell me this was done "erroneously." I asked her to clarify and she says I was misinformed and they should not have opened a case on this as it has to be done through the origin from where the parcel was sent (ie - Royal Mail). She says she will have to delete my case number and I will have to get in touch with them and there was nothing else she or USPS could do for me.
I let my temper get the best of me and mumbled to her a thank you for NOT helping before hanging up. I have been waiting for two months on an inquiry that meant nothing. Some stupid, dishonest postal employee has obviously helped themselves to the cash and I think it's utterly ridiculous that no investigation will go into why the United States Postal Service "lost" my parcel. Instead, I have to now wait a further 2-3 days to get in touch with someone from Royal Mail so they can investigate why USPS have screwed up and figure out how to get me the money back.
Something tells me this warrants a nasty letter to USPS for their incompetent employees and poor customer service. Grr! I can still feel my anger venom.
Today was day 2 with a Year 2 class. The kids were a little chatty, but otherwise good kids. In fact, it's probably the best post I have had so far.
I'm still not feeling my best, so Matt picked me up some Ginger Ale after I whinged a bit last night about not having any and how my mom used to get it for me when I had a sore throat. The bubbles make it feel better.
We also just got the net back today. I'm already beat from updating my missed posts.
After two and a half years in a long-distance relationship, I packed my life of 29 years into 21 boxes and moved to England to marry and be with my husband, Matt. Now I'm reveling in the youth of my 30s in Great Britain, supply-teaching in primary schools near Birmingham and enjoying newlywed life, being a mommy, and all the surprises they bring!