Today I feel like writing about snow. We have about 10 inches (or more) of snow on the ground and the temperatures aren't supposed to get above freezing for a long time.
Snow, snow, snow. We got lots of snow and it makes me happy. You see, no matter how old I get, I don't tire of snow. I like how the snow imposes forced rest upon most of us. I do feel badly for emergency service workers who must perform their duty no matter the situation, but not badly enough to make me wish away the snow.
School has been closed for three days. I was excited as Olivia at the news. The kids and I have watched movies and played games and built LEGOs. My version of heaven.
Chas has had a bit of time to relax, but not much. He has a work deadline approaching all too quickly, so even when he couldn't make it to his office, he worked from home.
Well, here's hoping we all stay warm and dry, happy and healthy!
Thrilled! Landslide! President-elect Obama!!
With about 40 electoral votes outstanding, President-elect Obama could easily reach a total of 370 electoral votes––which would beat even the most optimistic projections!
And! And! Not only did he win the electoral votes, President-elect Obama also WON THE POPULAR VOTE!
And! AND?!? AND!!! Dems control Congress!
Go TEAM USA!
- Current Mood: giddy
We worked in the yard on Sunday. We trimmed hedges and pulled weeds all afternoon. Boy did my arms and back ache Sunday night!
Chas put up stakes for the sunflowers. I still need to put up stakes for the tomato plants. Maybe I will do that tomorrow. Our strawberries have lots of blooms, and I saw several cucumbers growing. We’ve already eaten some lettuce and onions from the garden.
International Language of Play
After lunch on Monday, I took the kids to a park in Alton. The kids ran and played for almost two hours. They met two little girls (sisters) who didn’t speak English (and my kids only speak English) but it wasn’t a problem for any of the kids. Even though they couldn’t speak to each other, they still played nicely together. They played on the jungle gym and the swingset, and they played chased.
D-O-G Spells Doom for Chas
Some friends of ours got a puppy, a Springer Spaniel. They named her Daisy. Chas has met Daisy but we haven’t yet. I’m told she is very cute. I’m trying to talk Chas into getting a puppy, but he isn’t ready yet. Truth be told, our lifestyle isn’t conducive to owning a dog. So, Chas isn't doomed quite yet.
Guess what I saw the other night as I was driving home!?! I saw a fox in our driveway! He was beautiful. I bet he was out looking for food and hoping that the lid to our rubbish bin wasn’t held down tight. Foxes are common here, but it was neat to see one so close to our house. (Note to my mom and sister: Don’t worry about the fox getting near to the kids, because our house is behind a 6 ft tall wall, so we’re safe and hidden from everything!)
So, I made some space in our new fridge last week for more groceries, and in doing so I moved a cucumber and a package of unpeeled carrots to a bottom shelf on the door of the fridge. Due to the fridge being in close proximity to the island, it turns out the bottom shelf on the door of the fridge is an easy place to forget about, that is until you see green goo leaking onto the floor. Yum. Throw in a pack of greyish, moldy carrots and it's downright disgusting!
It Gets Better
Being rushed and very thirsty yesterday after coming home from grocery shopping, I stuck a six-pack of diet Coke in the freezer with the idea that I would let the six-pack chill quickly so Chas and I could enjoy cold ones with our dinner. Seven hours later, I tentatively opened the freezer door and beheld a frozen brown landscape. Diet Coke stalactites hung from the freezer's ceiling, and barren diet Coke mountains rose to cover the frozen fish sticks and other fare. Ah.
Last, But Not Least
This morning while driving the kids to nursery school, an oncoming white van rounded a very sharp curve and was in my lane; I had to choose between hitting the van or driving off the road a bit. I chose to drive off the road a bit, but I hit a debris covered concrete curb, bursting my front left tire. Gah! Instead of a leisurely morning in town without the kids, I spent the morning getting a new tire.
And how was your day?
I'm teaching myself to knit. I bought some yarn, knitting needles, and two books on how to knit. I'm glad I bought two books, because between the two books, I am actually learning the process. If I had bought either book on its own I don't think I would be able to work out how to knit. Anyway, it's going well and I really like it. Knitting for me is a repetitive activity that helps me relax at the end of the day; plus, I like the feel of the yarn.
Olivia: Mom, what's in the pink, yellow, blue stripy bag?
Me: I'm going to learn to knit so I bought some yarn and stuff.
Olivia: What's yarn?
Me: Ah, you know, stringy stuff, to ah, um. Here, look in the bag.
Olivia: Thanks! (opens bag and takes out yarn) Oh! You mean, wool.
My girl is so British!
While I was in the States for my extended visit that began at Christmas and ended in March, Chas was very busy doing lots of big and little projects around the house. The biggest project by far was the remodeling of our kitchen. Chas drew up the plans and had a builder do the work. Most of the work was completed while we were in the States. The granite countertops were put in place a few days ago. And so now, we have a bigger, better kitchen! Huzzah! Once I clean up the dusty mess, I'll post pictures.
We'll be working this weekend to prepare the ground for our garden. We're going to have a small patch of veggies in the ground, and more veggies growing in containers around the yard. I'm very excited and so is Olivia. It will be fun to grow some of our own food.
Perhaps you remember the post I wrote about having a worm farm, yes? Well, it was a hard winter for the worms, and so we're hiring a batch of replacement troops that should arrive next week.
Wiggly Wigglers is the name of the company from which we buy such supplies (including our gardening items), and rarely have I loved a company as much as I do them! Perhaps the wool (hehe) has been pulled over my eyes, but Wiggly Wigglers seems to be a class act. Environmentally responsible, but not preachy.
A cool new service Wiggly Wigglers are offering is called REcover. Wiggly Wigglers will be selling Ecover products (detergents and cleaning products made in ecologically, economically, and socially responsible ways) in refillable containers! So, you buy a 5L bottle of laundry detergent, use it up, return it to Wiggly Wigglers with the postage paid label, pay Wiggly Wigglers for a refill, and they fill it up and send it back to you via post (including sending a new postage paid label for the next refill cycle).
Very cool and exciting! We'll be using less plastics, using more ecologically friendly detergents and cleaners, and the products will be delivered to our door via post. Ah! And lest you scoff about the carbon monoxide spewed into the air by the mail van, our post is delivered via bicycle. (Yes, I know, at some point most mail is carried by trains, planes, and automobiles, but at least most mail in these parts is delivered from the post office to businesses and residents either on foot or bike.)
As you might gather, I've been thinking a great deal about "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Perhaps you noticed?
Well, the first step is to reduce, the second step is to reuse, and the third step is to recycle. Well, I do plenty of recycling, but not much reducing and reusing, and so I thought it was time to do more. It's becoming a bit of a passion. At first I thought it might be a fad for me, and perhaps it is, but at least it is a long lasting fad, and I hope one that becomes a passion.
The REcover project is like a dream come true for me; not in the sense of winning the lottery dream-come-true, but in the sense of me wanting such a service to exist and, boom, it comes into existence.
At the end of last summer when I began in earnest to think about ways to reduce our impact on the planet, it occurred to me that there ought to be a way to use less plastic. I am constantly putting like-new containers into the recycle bin. I remarked to Chas (and if I remember correctly, to our friend, Bruce) that I wished there was a way to refill the myriad of plastic bottles instead of recycling them after one use. At the time, I said I would happily carry the bottles back to the grocery store for refilling if such an option existed. Six months later, I find the option not only exists, but it is easier than I imagined. Thank you Wiggly Wigglers!
Not Crazy Yet
Don't worry, though, I haven't become so obsessed with reducing my carbon footprint on the earth that I'm not going to fly. As much as I would like to never ever again give a penny to an airline, nor squeeze my ample derriere into a tiny airplane seat, we'll probably still be taking two or three trips via airlines each year. If we eschewed airline travel, we'd never see our family and friends. And, since Chas takes about six or seven flights per year for his job, our carbon footprint is huge, so we have lots to make-up for. (In the dream-come-true wish category, I desperately wish for a mode of long-distance transportation that is quick, efficient, comfortable, affordable, and ecologically friendly.)
In the frivolous but highly desirable category: R2D2.
Did you think I had forgotten how to log onto and post updates on LiveJournal? Yeah, me too.
Let's see, what has happened since October 2007?
Well, there was Liv's fourth birthday party last October, which was a grand time. We invited her nursery school friends to join us at the Liss Village Hall where we played games, sang songs, and ate goodies. Birthday parties in England are a bit different than those I remember as a kid in the US. Chas and I refer to it as the "birthday party formula." First, the party is most often held in a rented hall or other venue. Second, there is always an entertainer (such as a clown, magician, DJ, or singer) or a themed-event (such as holding the party at a zoo, or playland). Third, a meal is always served, even if it's just sausages and chips (french fries). Fourth, the birthday girl or boy never opens gifts at the party (opening gifts in front of the other children is considered rude).
We spent way too much money on the party, and it was way too stressful for us to enjoy. Liv enjoyed herself at the time, but she doesn't remember the party. And so, as you might guess, we won't be doing that type of party again! I think we'll have a more American-style party for her fifth birthday celebration.
We hosted Charles's family for Thanksgiving 2007. We had a blast! The best parts were meeting Lily, our niece (Chas's sister's daughter) for the first time, and being surrounded by family.We had a great time showing everyone our new stomping grounds.
Chas's sister and brother-in-law (parents of the beautiful Lily) are hosting Thanksgiving 2008 at their home in Georgia, and I hope we can go, though Liv starts school in the Autumn and it might be problematic to take her out of school for a holiday the UK doesn't celebrate.
We spent Christmas 2007 in Virginia with my family. It was terrific to visit with my mom, brother, sister and her family. The kids and I had planned to stay on in Virginia for an extended visit and return to England in mid-January (Chas had to return to England to work), but our extended visit became even more extended due to an illness in my family. The kids and I returned to England on 7 March; Chas flew to Virginia and spent a week with us and then flew home with us. (I find it hard to fly with two kids on my own.)
We were apart from Chas for about eight weeks. It was tough, both on the kids and me. During that time, Rowan changed a great deal. He went from stringing one and two words together to speaking in sentences. We're very happy to be all together again!
We celebrated Rowan's second birthday* in December while in Virginia. My sister had a Bob the Builder cake made for Rowan. The cake looked amazing and tasted even better than it looked! Ro enjoyed the cake, gifts, and attention.
*If I remember correctly, it is the only birthday between our kids that has been celebrated with family; all other birthdays have been celebrated with friends, but we've always lived too far away from family members for them to attend birthday celebrations.
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig
It's nice to be home in England with the kids and Chas. I love living in England and I missed it while I was in the US. However, there are some things about the US that I miss terribly.
I miss our families and friends, of course, but I also miss the convenience of everything in the US: Hungry? Choose from a gaggle of kid-friendly, inexpensive restaurants that stay open late. Need groceries on Sunday evening? Simply go to a grocery store (in England, large grocery stores close at 4PM on Sundays). Need cash? Drive up to an ATM (as opposed to paying for parking in a car park and walking to the cash point on the main street). Want almost any item? Go to Target. You get the idea.
Olivia is four going on fourteen. Her interests haven't changed. She loves all things girlie and pink and frilly. She loves to dance and sing. She has three boyfriends at her nursery school, all of whom were greatly stressed when she didn't return to nursery school straight-away after the Christmas holiday. She enjoys counting and simple addition.
Rowan is a proper little boy now. While we were in Virginia, he made the leap from words to sentences to ever-increasing vocabulary. Though he has been known to don one of Liv's pink, frilly princess dresses from time-to-time, he mostly enjoys pretending to be Firefighter Sam or Bob the Builder.
Time to Make Dinner
Well, gotta run and make dinner now. I read lots of blogs/journals, so I feel as though I am keeping up with lots of friends. I hope this update on Ryan-Family makes you feel you are keeping up with us a bit.
Today I was goofing off with Liv (we were playing tickle), and I said, "Gosh, how did you get to be so beautiful?!?" She stopped laughing and with a thoughtful look replied, "You and dad made me beautiful." Awww! She really meant it when she said it. Of course, now, it will become the pat answer to that question and lose its significance a bit, but by writing it down I can always remember the first time she said it.
Today Chas went off to London to be on TV. He's being interviewed on a program that is aired on BBC1. I don't know the airing date for his episode, but I'll post a link as soon as I do. He is being interviewed for his expertise in the game industry, and in particular for his expertise in bringing a product to market (you can make a great game, but it will never see the light of day unless you have a good business plan and marketing plan, and so on).
Yesterday, Olivia said, "Mommy, I love you all the way to the sun." So I replied, "And I love you all the way to the sun." She said, "I love you all the way to South America." To which I replied, "I love you to the bottom of the ocean." And she said, "I love you to my heart." Awww. Definitely want to remember that.
Also, while Liv was at nursery school yesterday, after playing with Rowan for an hour or so on the floor in the annex (which is our guest room/play room), I flopped down on the (guest) bed to stretch my back. Rowan brought me a toy car to play with, then a toy school bus. Finally, he climbed onto the bed with me and we sang Mary Had a Little Lamb. I rolled onto my belly and he climbed onto my back, and we sang more songs, then we both fell asleep. It was so cuddly and wonderful. Definitely want to remember that, too.
Liv is going to nursery school four mornings a week. She really likes it and is doing very well. Her teachers tell me that she is a great student and likes to help with the younger kids.
Her nursery school is called First Steps Montessori and is located in the village hall of one of the most picturesque villages I've seen since coming to England. The village is called Hawkley, and it is a tiny, idyllic village with an old church, one pub/inn, a few homes, and not much else. There's no retail stores, no grocery stores, no offices. The village is built around a triangular green. It seems like a very quiet, peaceful place to live. (Of course, who knows what secrets the villagers keep?!?)
It's been one year (actually, one year and six days) since we moved to England! I feel lucky to live among such history, and I'm looking forward to many more years.
The past year went very well. We made new friends, our kids got older and more self-sufficient, I didn't go crazy being a stay-at-home parent, we bought a house, and Chas likes his job and is doing very well at the company.
As of August 18, 2007, Chas and I have been together for seven wonderful years. How did we celebrate? Sadly, we didn't. Chas was in the US attending GenCon during our anniversary. Oh well.
My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I turned 37. Yikes. I was talking to a friend the other day about getting older (which is better than the alternative), and my friend told me that her grandmother says she still feels and thinks like a young woman, but without the benefit of having the body of a young woman.
I like driving here. I really like round-a-bouts (traffic circles). Once you know how they work and gain some confidence navigating them, they really seem to save time. No more coming to a complete stop when the way is clear...just slow down and proceed with caution.
The country and village roads here are small and curvy, and the government plans on keeping them that way as a measure of traffic control. Frankly, it's a good idea and it seems to work. Instead of making the roads wide and flat, and destroying the hearts of villages, the government keeps the roads maintained but small.
There are often partial chicanes where the road is reduced to one lane and traffic coming into the village must stop and give way to outgoing traffic. There are also many one lane roads with passing places.
I like that the national speed limit is 60 MPH on single carriageways (two-lane roads) and 70 MPH on dual carriageways (divided highways). This technically means that you can drive 60 MPH on those tiny country roads, but the police can always ticket you for reckless driving.
I greatly dislike all the walkers and bikers on the country roads. I'm very much in favor of reducing travel by car and using public and alternate transportation, but there should be infrastructure to support the walkers and bikers--they shouldn't be causing road hazards by walking or biking on tiny, curvy, hillly country lanes. It's dangerous for them and it creates a driving hazard.
I'm not fond of parking here and I'm not fond of the way others park.
UK parking spaces are much more narrow than US parking spaces. Getting the kids into and out of car seats in tight parking spaces isn't fun.
But my biggest complaint about parking is that you can park your car anywhere on the road as long as the road isn't specifically marked for no parking. Driving down a country lane at night, it isn't uncommon to come upon a parked car blocking one entire lane of traffic. Ugh.
Brits iron everything! Bed sheets, kids undershirts, napkins. Ugh! I don't like ironing and neither does Chas, but it must be done. Ironing services are very popular here, and, if you have a nanny, one of her jobs is to iron all the childrens clothing.
We've taken to calling the dryer the wad-o-matic, because clothes come out of it in a wrinkled heap. Actually, our new dryer is way better than the dryer we had at the rental house, but even the new dryer--which we chose specifically because it is one of the most wrinkle-free dryers in the UK--isn't as good as an average dryer in the US.
- Current Mood: sleepy
We're moved in and fairly settled at The Old Dairy. It's good to see pieces of furniture and other items that have been packed away for more than a year. (This includes our sofa, which wouldn't fit into our rental house.)
The garden (yard) is really fantastic and is one of the main reasons we were attracted to this property. The garden, which is flat, is enclosed on all sides by a 6 ft. high brick wall, thus making it the perfect playground. The kids love playing on the swingset and running in the grass.
I'm having a hard time thinking of the best way to describe the layout of the house. It was a long barn, and now, as a house, each room takes up the full width of the barn (minus room for the hallway which connects the bedrooms).
The kitchen, dining room, and lounge are one great room with a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams. There are four large windows, one single glass door, and one double glass door that all give great views of the garden (which allows me to supervise the kids and still get some work done inside). There are two smallish skylights, too. All of the windows, skylights, and doors are on the west wall looking into our garden; if we had any windows on the east wall we'd be looking into our neighbor's garden.
The bedrooms are small, but each one has loft space. When the kids are older, they can sleep in the loft spaces and have the main floor for playing, reading, homework. Olivia's room is purple and pink, and Rowan's room is two shades of blue.
The annex, which forms one side of the brick wall that encloses the garden, houses the laundry room, library, guest room, and play room (not all separate rooms). It's a great place for the kids to play and do arts and crafts.
And I'm very pleased to report that The Old Dairy is a working farm once more, though we don't have cows. We have worms. Yes, mom, worms...the little wiggling creatures that live in the ground.
Last week we purchased 1200 head of worm. Why in the world do we have 1200 worms, you ask, and it's a good question. It's a long story. Here's why...
When we lived in Kent, Washington, we could put out as much recycling and rubbish (garbage) as we had, but we had to pay for any excess rubbish bags. That didn't seem like a big deal at the time and we routinely filled our huge garbage can (which was collected weekly) and had one or two extra bags of garbage.
Since we've lived in England, we've reduced our rubbish output by at least half--maybe 2/3--simply because we started recycling more (and more, and more!). Our rubbish pickup is once every two weeks and alternates with the recycling pickup (one week is recycling and the next is rubbish). We can put out as much material for recycling as we have, but we can only put out one rubbish bin and no excess rubbish. And so, we recycle everything we can.
All this extra recycling got me to thinking about the vegetable scraps and leftover food I toss out. It seemed like such a waste, but what could I do? And then I found the answer in several books on gardening that I'd recently been reading. All the books recommended wormeries (also called worm farms) to recycle waste food (everything except meat). Huh. Worm farming, eh? So I checked it out and it didn't seem hard or even gross.
And so, last week, the wormery arrived. Basically, it's three medium-sized plastic crates (made from recycled plastics, of course) that stack, plus the worms, and the initial bedding for the worms. Two of the crates have mesh bottoms (so the worms can move between crates) and the third crate, which serves as the base, has a solid bottom (with a tap). The base crate is left empty and its purpose is to collect any runoff from the top two crates. The runoff, which is great plant food once diluted, can be collected by simply turning the tap.
To start the process, you put one of the crates with a mesh bottom into the base crate, add the worm bedding (mulchy-like material), dump in the worms, cover them with a moisture barrier, and snap on the lid. Nothing to it, really. And then, each day you add table scraps and vegetable peelings. When the "middle" crate is full, you add on the top crate and fill it up with table scraps and vegetable peelings. After several months, the worms will have turned all the waste in the middle crate into really good mulch. The worms go where the food is, so they will have migrated from the middle crate to the top crate. And so you just remove the middle crate, spread the mulch in your garden, and then the middle crate becomes the top crate and the process starts again. Voila--free, high-quality mulch and less rubbish!
Any other worm farmers out there?
Our friend, Chris Pramas, was in England for a convention and he stayed with us for one night, earning him the title of First Guest of the Ryans at The Old Dairy. I hope he had a good time. We certainly did, and we hope he comes back with the whole family next time!
(We showed him the worm farm, but I think it creeped him out a bit.)
I'm pleased to report that the neighbor who was so rude to us has apologized. We're on neutral ground now, and I hope it stays that way.
We met the people who live directly behind us (and we also saw the back of our own house for the first time ever). The neighbors are very nice. They are a retired couple who have lived in their house for 20 years. They have several grandchildren (one of whom--a two-year old girl-- we met) Their house is gorgeous. It is a converted tithe barn and it is amazing inside and outside.
Chas is off to GenCon tomorrow and I'm not happy about it. I'm jealous that I can't go. I hope he has a good time, but we'll just be waiting each day for him to return home...know what I mean? He comes back next Monday, and the good news is there isn't another long trip on the horizon for quite some time. Next year, I'm definitely going to plan to do something while he is away at GenCon, or maybe we'll all go to GenCon.
- Current Mood: sleepy