Wednesday, 29 December 2010

I think an American woman has her eye on my man

And what scary eyes they are.  This is Audrey, the Other Women and the only female in Hank's parental home in Princeton NJ, where she presides over two, larger tomcats.

Audrey is clearly a bit of a man eater.  Formerly "not really a lap cat", the minute Hank got to his parents' home, Audrey jumped straight into his lap and didn't move all Christmas.  At one point I tried to get Hank to stand up and Audrey calmly stretched out her claws, digging them gently into his sweater, without dropping eye contact with me.

I was frightened.

Actually, I am still having flashbacks.  Should I just give my Hank up to Audrey?  Just give in?  She has some kind of hold over him.... I didn't take this picture; Hank did.  He took this one and about FIFTEEN others, all in secret, and stashed them on his phone!  And no photos of his fiancee.

What has she got that I haven't got?

Ok, so she purrs nicely....  I can work on my purr!

And I will develop evil eyes.  The next time we visit Princeton the claws will be out, Audrey!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Two turtle doves

No French hens this Christmas, nor any partridges in a pear tree but I spotted two turtle doves pecking at our bird feeder this week.  With their cute ring collars and naive instinct to nest for life, I can't help but hope this may be a good omen for my forthcoming marriage.   Awww (yuck)

Later I managed to snap this chap at work.

A male Cardinal, very common in north America.   We have no birds of such bright colouring in the UK; to me, he looks tropical.  The Cardinal evidently fascinated earlier European settlers as much as it has captivated me, because this is the official bird of SEVEN States.  I have also seen an American robin, red-breasted like his European cousin but clearly an altogether different bird.  I wonder how homesick the early settlers must have been to name the American robin after an only slightly similar indigenous bird of Britain.  Homesick, or drunk.

Naturally, I now feel quite smug about my decision to buy pricier squirrel-repellent bird food.  This food is cajun flavoured - apparently the discerning squirrel has no tolerance of spicy foods.  I have read that cajun food makes squirrels who do eat it more susceptible to hypothermia in cold weather.  Well, whatever! That stuff is EXPENSIVE, so let that be a lesson to them!

So, naturally, "Merry Christmas one and all and goodwill to all mankind".  

Many thanks to my sister for sending this first Xmas ornament which Hank and I hung on our DC tree.

Friday, 24 December 2010

What do you get for the man who has everything?



I am stumped.  If choosing Christmas gifts is a pain, imagine how tough it is when your beloved's birthday also falls over the Christmas period.  I don't want to be the annoying person who gets him a "combined Christmas and birthday" gift, but equally, extra spending really sucks at this expensive time of the year.

I have considered my options.  This pizza cutter shaped like the Starship Enterprise?  Useful, but not gimmicky enough.  How about a shower curtain with a chandelier silhouette?  Hmmm, more of a gift for the house than for the Hank.  Or in honour of his tour of Afghanistan and our forthcoming wedding a Las Vegas-style t-shirt with the text "Welcome to Fabulous Lashkar-gah?"

The USA has some exciting new (to me) shops which I am also eyeing up for our Wedding Registry. (For the Brits, Wedding Registry = Wedding List).  My current favourite is Urban Remains, a super-cool salvage yard in Chicago which buys up ornate decorative metalwork from old banks, clubhouses and warehouses as they are renovated or torn down.  However, iron pipes and zinc balustrades are not exactly fitting wedding gifts so we have had to settle on something more commercially accessible....

Restoration Hardware - I simultaneously adore and distrust it.  There is something so intensely beautiful about the old American classics, lovingly recreated out here of very overpriced cheap wood. There are some visually amazing pieces, but my Spideysenses perceive the hand of MDF behind the chestnut veneers.  I can't prove it, but I know it.  This is not an issue when you are talking about the odd piece here and there, but Hank advises me that people order entire sections of the catalogue, swathing whole tracts of their homes in Restoration Hardware furniture, drapes, even interior paint.  Hank is at the point now where he walks into another 30-something-year-old government employee's home and says "Oh, I see you went with page six"

While I reconcile myself to this new-fangled way of approaching classic furniture,  I have decided what to get Hank for his birthday.  I have offered to get up early and make him fresh coffee before he goes to work every day until his next birthday.  Cost neutral.  And has the added benefit of being something I was going to do during my "funemployment" anyway ....  Shhhhh .... Don't tell Hank.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

My sister has spoken

And told me not to make Londoners out to be so intimidating.  She is quite a scary London-type, so I will do what she says.  Instead, I will talk about the local Library in DC.

And I will not compare it to libraries in London.

I opened an account yesterday and it was a very pleasant experience.  First of all, the DC Library didn't ask for four forms of ID to open an account (in another large, unnamed UK city, acceptable forms of ID helpfully included Firearms Certificates.  Jolly Good.  That's when my library became  Yesterday I produced my UK passport and read out my new address and bam! I had a Library Card AND a mini card on a key fob (more on these magical key fobs to follow.)

Joy enough for one day, surely? No, I then discovered that I can take out FIFTY books at a time.  Fifty.  FIFTY.  Even at my University library, stocked with thousands of unloved texts desperate to be taken home and adored, the $20,000 Postgrad fee entitled me to a measly 30-book maximum.  So you can imagine my irritation yesterday when I realised I would only be able to fit eleven books into my handbag!

As I browsed the shelves, I restrained my inner book-glutton.  Eleven. Stick to eleven. I had to choose carefully, ensuring each of The Eleven would paint me in the correct light when laid casually on the table as Hank came home from work.  Each book would say "Look, darling!  I am intelligent!"  And Hank would be proud of his unemployed fiance and think "she does things while I am out.  She learns stuff."

So I borrowed five Dora the Explorer books and the rest were on "Top places to get drunk in DC".  Just kidding.  I have, however, been flicking through the America the Beautiful series to find pictures of nice spots around town and am duly impressed.   Maybe DC will be ok, you know?  We shall see what my sister says when she comes to visit from London in Feb.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A poinsettia is not just for Christmas

We were visited today by British friends Simon and Kathy and their lovely son Sam from London, all en route to spend Christmas in New York.  We had hoped to look around the Capitol area but it is really too spread out to cover comfortably on foot, especially on the Winter Solstice.  Instead we nipped into the (coincidentally) sauna-like Botanic Garden where I took this shot of the Christmas models.  They are beautiful, detailed sculptures but, tragically, NOT made of chocolate.  The Botanic Garden was decorated with hundreds of poinsettias, red and white (right and foreground). Beautiful but like a slightly whisky-scented Santa, clearly shipped in for the holidays. I find myself wondering, has anyone ever kept a poinsettia and got it to flower two Christmases in a row?  Where do all the poinsettias go to die?

Hank read my blog yesterday and reminded me about a fantastic comedian who opened the Edinburgh Festival with a commentary on the strange social interaction of Londoners.  Micky Flanagan, he might just be the next Eddie Izzard!

Micky Flanagan live at the Edinburgh Festival


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Puppy loss and unexpected smiles

Woke up to a jaw-dropping email from the Husky Farm.

The breeder had forgotten that our featured pup had been reserved by the (clearly evil) Sandville Family of Pennsylvania.  Hank got straight to work on the web, checking out rescue Huskies but they are all older and ill-matched with potential future cats.  The search continues...

I'm trying to keep on smiling but apparently not doing very well.  Today in the hippy organic food store near Eastern Market, two separate strangers said hello and, being a Londoner (naturally callous, and extra socially-challenged for having recently lost a puppy) I just grimaced awkwardly with eyes cast downward, and walked on by.  This did not satisfy the second chap, who sarcastically repeated his greeting to my back as I skulked past, forcing me to turn around and break every rule in the Londoner's Self-Preservation Manual.  He seemed glad when I finally made the effort to smile but it was a most uncomfortable experience for me!  How many other people have my gruff city ways alienated in DC?  This is a capital city, right?  And surely people in the administrative centre of a nation have to be at least as indifferent to their neighbours as Londoners or New Yorkers?

Odd.  My experience of DC truly bucks the London-Paris-Milan trend. Dog walkers, joggers, hippy grocery shoppers, people walking past my house when I'm opening the front door; they say hi and smile.  But what I really need you Americans out there to tell me, is how friendly should I be?  I mean, seriously, even HOMELESS people say hello and seem really offended if I don't return the greeting.  I don't want to be rude!

Talking of rude, I turned up (late) to my first Bridal Shower today.  The Bridal Shower tradition does not exist in the UK and Hank was typically-man ignorant about what was required.  So I rocked up without realising there was a Gift Registry and I was expected to have researched this and provide a gift of the bride's choosing.  So ignorant am I, that I barely brought a gift at all, picking up a leather photo album en route "just in case" and arriving 30 mins late.  Oops.   The Bridal Shower was really pleasant though, with a lovely group of women from different walks of life, and a refreshing lack of crude innuendo.  A far cry from the Hen Nights of my youth.  I wonder how I will deal with this additional cultural difference when my Hen Night rolls around....  Which, I am now proud to announce, will be Feb 25th in Vegas, followed by a 6pm Elvis-led wedding on Feb 26th.  You have been warned!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

On a cold and wet December day, I touched the ground at JFK

Not really sure why... something to do with flights to New York being cheaper, but Hank's dad kindly came from Princeton (NOO JOISEY) to drive me to DC.  The weather has really closed in on London overnight and friends hoping to fly tomorrow risk being snowed in.

How does it feel to have left?  I had a wonderful send-off from the office, which included this adaptation of the Star Spangled Banner:

"Oh say can you see, by the fluorescent light
How so loudly we wail, because our Georgia's leaving
With great sighs and soft tears, and with hearts that are tight
We will bid her farewell, but we'll always be grieving.
With a flick of her hair, and a longing sad stare
She'll walk through the door, and then she won't be here
Oh say George do miss us and try to be brave
As we cry and we sob and we fondly do wave."

Needless to say it brought a tear to my eye and I was really really touched to feel so precious to these people who had, afterall, been forced to worked alongside me for two years. It is only natural that when you are compelled to leave, you realise how much you will be missing.

Here I sit with my laptop in my new house with my wonderful fiance.  But I miss you all....  So Hank and his pa took me on a little trip this morning.  To Celtic Acres Siberian Huskies Farm and suddenly I am feeling a little less lonely.  Check out this beauty.  We are posed tonight on the verge of buying this little little boy but what a massive lifestyle change this would mean.  Bloggers of England, the USA, Canada, Sri Lanka, Croatia, France and wherever else you may be reading this,  I NEED YOUR COMMENTS!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Last night in London

And I was copied into a surprising email to my fiance. Maybe I am overreacting and maybe this information, which an obliging work colleague sent him, was normal by US standards... Afterall everyone wants to know who their neighbours are, right? But I just can't help but feel this does not bode well.

Ok before you click on the link, bear in mind that Hank had asked this work colleague for some tips about where to hang out in our new neighbourhood (Capitol Hill NE) and the link was part of her response. The rest of her response focused on bars and cafes in the H Street area of DC and talked a bit about the average income being $60,000 lower north of H Street. But undeniably, the link itself was to give NYTimes readers information to narrow their property searches into areas for folk like them, and areas to avoid. And, most concerningly, would you send this link as part of a "welcome to the neighbourhood" email?

Now read and tell me if I am overreacting:

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Just two nights left in the UK....

And the vengeful UK weather is threatening to snow me in on the evening of my departure!  Only slightly less concerning is a blistering change in my mum, formerly an ardent advocate of higher education for women, now remarking that her Masters-educated daughter can spend her leisure time in DC "sewing curtains" and going to the gym to lose weight before the wedding.  Has the engagement ring had the alarming effect of removing my mother's extant inhibitions?  Or, is this an entirely new mother? The infamous mother-of-the-bride!!!

I'd be less concerned but my Office are simultaneously running a sweepstake on whether I'll ever return to work or just "sprog" and become a "domestic manager" in DC.  Only time will tell.  But personally, I think not.

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