Can I get a little snow please? Random things

It’s hot.

I mean really hot (for London).

Pushing 85-90 hot, with humidity to boot.

I really like hot, but when AC doesn’t exist in the country you live in it’s not so much fun. The only AC is at Waterstones – but only my local Chiswick Waterstones, the cool 6 floor Russian Bookshop Waterstones on Oxford Street does.not.have.ac. as I learned on Sunday after touting the joys of Waterstones AC to my family. We’ve been in this heat wave since July. I get cranky when it’s hot and there’s no way to cool down.

I don’t take outfit pictures.

I don’t want to go to essentially non-air conditioned museums and look at paintings.

I don’t want to do anything. Like cook, or do laundry.

It was also the first week of school last week, so getting up at 6:18 am again, has been a bit rough. I will not lie, I actually enjoy having my kids at home in the summer. The Chick and I are pretty similar and enjoy doing things like museums, movies, and going to the gardens. The Boy stays in his room most of the time, so it’s like living with a houseguest you never see.

Chick and I also love reading. One of many books I’m reading at the moment is The Known World by Edward P. Jones. So far in the first 45 pages I’ve met about 20-25 characters. It’s very hard to keep track, and I’m not sure we are ever going to get to a storyline, but intriguing all the same. I bought the book when I was going the course The American Novel Since 1945 at Yale Online. I just never got around to reading this one. With Black Boy (which was great), Lolita (good, certainly memorable), Housekeeping (weird but okay), Wise Blood (definitely strange), Franny and Zooey (dislike), and On The Road (couldn’t get through that after numerous attempts), among other books, so I let a few books slide.

The Chick and I did some watercolors yesterday, which always helps, especially when listening to disco.

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We also went insane and went to the M&M Store the other day. On a bank holiday weekend no less. Lunacy does run in the family I suppose.

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Afterward I convinced the family that we should spend some quality time at Gourmet Burger Kitchen for milkshakes and fries. You only live once right?

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If it ever cools down, perhaps I’ll be in the mood to post something more interesting, but for now all I have is random words and a few iPhone pictures.

Enjoy. And send me that snow.

Post holiday blues & Month 13

Ah, holiday. How do I love thee, let me count the ways?

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Post holiday blues are real. And so extremely hard to get over. Especially if you toss in jet lag. And your 3 doors down neighbors all-day long digging out a basement construction noise. {which is bugging me so much I might start taking the dogs prozac just so I can survive the year it’ll take for them to finish}

Month 13 of living in London is going swell, in case you couldn’t tell. I have tried to not be a negative nellie but if The Husband came to me tomorrow and said he was being transferred back to Seattle ASAP, I would start tossing clothes in a suitcase without even folding them. That’s how much I am ready to leave London. There comes a time where all the noise, dirt/trash, people just becomes too much. I have hit that point and then some.

I don’t even want to leave my house to walk the 1/2 mile to buy milk. I finally took the dog to get her nails trimmed (the only option since in case I haven’t mentioned it, my dog takes anxiety medicine because London has her so freaked out). It’s a 1/4 mile maybe? I literally walk up the street, cross the high street, and then it’s half way down the street on the other side. She gets so stressed out by the traffic and people, I get stressed out.

Recently, on the expats group I’m in on Facebook, someone asked about living in London because they have the opportunity to move here. Everyone chimed in ‘it’s so awesome!’ ‘we travel every weekend!’. At one time that might have been me, and if we were still living in Germany, I’d probably be encouraging them to go for it (language challenge though it was). But english speaking London? I’m proud of myself for at least being honest despite everyone thinking I was crazy for saying I wouldn’t do it again. There is a big difference between a sleepy little city like Bonn, Germany, and frenetic crazy London. {maybe if we didn’t live IN the city, but then how would we get anywhere? I’m not insane enough to drive here.}

People like to talk about all the great things like art, cultural events, sights to see, history, ability to travel in Europe easy {which is a bit of a joke. do you know how expensive it is to get 4 people off this bloody island??} What a lot of people forget is that you aren’t on an extended vacation. You are living a life daily in and out with small spaces, noise, crowds, things that make no practical sense, and a confusing set of social norms {like leaving trash on the ground/table/where ever because it’s not ‘your job’ to clean it up. what IS that about?}

This is basically my post to get it all out and stop trying to sensor what I really want to say when people ask me “how do you like living in London?” On Friday we are having dinner with one of The Husband’s former interns who is in town from Boston. I know I’ll get that question, it’s only normal. It will be a struggle to not be totally honest and say

It. Sucks. And if you could smuggle me into your luggage, that’d be awesome.

I thought this job would be the easiest of the many places we have lived, but I am finding it to be the hardest of all the places we’ve lived – even over middle of no-where Kentucky. Which was pretty bad.

I very much miss the peace and serenity of Seattle life. The quiet, the birdsong, the bullfrogs croaking, driving a car, understanding that if I buy milk the expiration date won’t be in 3 days, and that a loaf of bread will actually not mold after 5 days if we can’t eat it all. {i know, preservatives are bad, but living without them in certain things is really tough}

There are 11 more months to go. I look forward to our scheduled holidays; Spain in October, Italy in February, east/west coast US in April, and my 40th birthday weekend in May (destination as yet undetermined).

11 months.

I wonder if the dog really will share her prozac with me….

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London: Month 11

Eleven months ago, (eleven months and 5 days to be exact), we left Seattle and arrived in London to begin our two year commitment to all things British. I’ve made observations on this experience before, some positive, some negative. I will be the first to admit, I haven’t had the easiest time since we’ve been here. Even though I *should* know what I’m in for since I spent four years in Germany living the Expat Experience, eleven months in I am still struggling.

Somehow this time feels very different. It is different of course. In Germany we lived in a small town, not a city of 8.5 million. Bonn is clean (to a scary degree sometimes), orderly, quiet. London is obscenely dirty with trash everywhere, and there’s nothing like being woken at 3 am by people singing on the sidewalk. Walking down the street is like utter chaos, dodging tourists, people on cell phones, prams, dogs. After a visit to Oxford Street this weekend, I won’t be going back until fall when the tourist season at least slows a bit. You can hardly walk let alone think in all the noise and crowds.

City life has worn me down. Most days now I choose not to leave my little high street. I am ready for a break. I never thought of myself as much of a lover of suburban America. It’s slow and quiet and you have to drive everywhere.

Reasons I’m missing suburban America: it’s slow and quiet and you have to drive everywhere.

Contradiction but there it is. Even though I’m surrounded by world class museums, art, culture; things I enjoy immensely, I haven’t really felt like creating anything myself until recently.aviewfromAbove

Lack of space to create definitely doesn’t help (I can’t exactly build a table, paint dressers, or use spray paint in a London row house). I feel like I need to keep trying, or art will also fall away just like writing did. You used to never find me without my fingers glued to a keyboard furiously typing away about this character’s lies, or that characters despicable murdering tendencies.

I rather miss feeling so inspired. The fictional worlds I created spoke to me all hours of the day. I actually used to dream about my characters because in my mind they were so real. I once wrote two chapters on my Blackberry because it was all I had to hand and ‘Kara’ just wouldn’t stop talking to me. I still have little scraps of papers and receipts with notes scribbled on them, and 3×5 cards with story ideas.

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When you are a writer and need to write, you use what you have to hand, whenever and wherever.

I haven’t written anything other than a few pages in several years. That makes me really sad because I was told by writing groups, friends and even an agent in a rejection letter, that what I had to say was pretty dang good.

I don’t know where that person who used to churn out the words has gone. At this point, I don’t think that inspiration is coming back. Sorry Scott, you’ll never know who killed your wife and why (her boss, blackmail); we will never know if Mark and Kara survive the aftermath of the car accident (probably, after all, it was their third story, and after getting through Tom’s death, the discovery of Abby’s true paternity, and all that other crap, I think they did deserve some measure of happiness). And the winery story definitely would have needed intense, in depth-research, vineyard-by-vineyard I’m sure.

I’ve wandered off track, not unusual for me.

The desire to go back home to Seattle hasn’t let up. Going back to the place we left, to a home we own, instead of a new location, is a new concept for us. I’m normally adventurous and open to moving around (I definitely didn’t need any prodding to move to London). Maybe it’s because I’m approaching that age where adventure needs to come in a ten day format, instead of a twenty-four month variety.

Either way, 13 months to go.

A visit to the horses

A few weeks ago during drinks at a pop-up painting event at the Trafalgar Hotel, I was invited to the Royal Windsor Horse Show. If you’ve know me for more than five minutes, you’ll know I am obsessed with All Things Horses (and have been since I was little), and my fondest wish is to build a house on 30 acres and have 2-3 horses {my daughter would add chickens, pigs, and sheep as well. we’ve it all mapped out on our imaginary ranch}

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Chick in her element on Chocolate

So an equestrian competition in Windsor? Yes, Please. Right. Up. My. Alley. Years and years and years ago, when I lived in Berwyn, PA (ritzy Philadelphia suburb where I was a nanny), a friend and I were supposed to go to the Devon Horse Show but she ended up not being able to drive down from North Jersey in time and we never made it. Boo. The event I like the most is jumping.

Back in Seattle I was taking English lessons and was nowhere near being able to jump (it was hard enough posting while doing a figure of eight at a trot).

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It was a pretty exciting show even though we only made it to two events, the amateur jumping in the morning and the hunt relay (which was really intense with horses jumping when they weren’t supposed to, refusals at jumps and one rider who even came off).

The weather was gorgeous and we got very lucky because the opening day (Wednesday) was actually cancelled due to flooding. It did throw me for sticking to my 10×10 Capsule Challenge as I had overlooked the horse show (and another event today at the Groucho Club) so I did make a wardrobe substitution for Thursday. {skinny jeans, knee high boots, silk ruffle blouse and linen blazer}

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The hunt relay was definitely something I’d never seen before (and since I was the only one of the group who was familiar with horses, it was fun to see how others reacted to the jumps and see how excited they were watching).

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I will definitely be going next year, and as we learned from some ladies sitting behind us, you can bring in a hamper of food. They had a lovely selection of fruit, quiche and wine. That’s doing the Royal Windsor Horse Show in style!

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Loved this horse, so beautiful 

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I might be just this side of insane

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View from home in Seattle

I don’t know what it is but every time I finally pull up the computer to write something (after having written it all out in my head for days), I go pfft, well, that’s stupid, no one would want to read nonsense. Where have the days gone when that was actually the point? Random Tuesday Thoughts. Back when blogging was fun, and not everyone was a Blogger (that’s a profession now. Are you kidding me?? Journalist: yes. Blogger: um…show me the college degree that says BS in Blogging).

I’m in a mood. I’ve been sick with a cough for 30 days now, had a fever for 5 of the last 6 days, and haven’t slept more than four hours in the three days. Oh, and we’re supposed to be going to Dublin tomorrow for the weekend. Which means instead of attempting to rest around the dog’s non-stop nonsense, delivery’s, and the noise of four house renovations on my street, I’m doing laundry all day, and have now really, really realized my first born baby’s birthday is Monday and I haven’t bought him a gift yet. Or a card. Or figured out where to procure a chocolate cake, and ingredients to make him his favorite homemade mac n’cheese with American bacon. (and yes, there’s a BIG difference between the British rashers they call bacon and real bacon.)

I guess you could also say I’m missing Seattle very much this week. When I’m ill, I just want to be at home, which for the first time really is Seattle. I never thought I’d say that despite being actually raised in the state itself (300 miles from Seattle though), it feels like home. We have never moved back to someplace we used to live. And not only to the place but back to our house? That’s about as awesome as it gets for me because we had only been in our house a year before we moved to London.  Normally I’m ready to pack (or let’s be realistic, let the movers pack) and find the next adventure.

Hold on because I think I may just be ready to stop. And stay somewhere. Until my kids go away to college anyway. Then the husband and I are building the dream house in the trees with the lake/ocean/river view and settling into the empty nest lifestyle. 9 more years to go….

Anyway, my point being, I know very well what American drugs to go buy at Bartells that won’t make me loopy, that my cup-de-sac is very quiet minus the occasional birdsong, that there is plush soft carpet underfoot, and a grass filled backyard to chuck the dog into when need be. In short, I just miss home this week. Which is a bit different when I last wrote about missing home back here. My diary is filled with art exhibits, AWC events, local ladies stuff (which I like to term Bus Stop Parent Stuff or I kind of like saying Ladies Who Lunch – but then that does leave out the one dad in the group). That makes me very happy because Seattle definitely doesn’t have those things. I spent three years hardly knowing anyone and after 7 months, I think I’m doing fine here in that department {expat life makes you find people to mesh with pretty quickly}.

While writing all this, about a paragraph ago I paused and spent ten minutes texting with the Husband, and you know I feel a bit better already. He’s been away this week but he generally knows how to say something that makes me either roll my eyes or laugh {husbands are good like that}.

So I’ll end on a good note. We are 7 months into this 24 months adventure, and I think we are pretty damn lucky to be having it at all. My cousin and his wife (and their insanely adorable baby) just boarded a plane from Seattle yesterday, to start their own adventure in the expat world. I remember the first time we did that. That excitement, that trepidation, that ‘we are totally insane’ feeling. Yes, it’s insane, and there are days where it feels very un-worth all the struggle, but isn’t everyone just a little bit this side of insane.

At least I’m doing in a city with kick-ass museums.

The blog of silence

door in Prague

door in Prague

I haven’t written in 20-something days. There’s been a lot going on (a trip to Harry Potter Studios, Prague, school started, other things), but I haven’t felt much like writing about because it seems like whining (minus HP, because that was BRILLIANT!).

London and I aren’t getting along so well. I have learned in the past two plus months, that as much as I love visiting a city, and playing tourist, I don’t so much love living in a city.

Maybe I am a country girl at heart after all.

There are too many people. Everywhere. It could just be where we live (which is heavily touristy, but a bit less so now that summer has ended), but I’m tired of dodging suitcases trying to get to the park to walk my dog. Get out of the way. I also am hating walking the dog. 6 am is very early to be pulled from a warm bed to throw on pants to don a raincoat to walk a dog.

very early.

The city experience wears on a person. The noise is constant (forget opening windows unless you can tune it all out, which sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t). My neighbors also love their music. Love. It. I, however, do not. The kids upstairs are like horses galloping all day long, clop clop across the floors. The dog tries to eat anyone who ends up getting on the elevator with us (all from behind my legs because she’s terrified of them). And waiting at home for a delivery sets me into serious anxiety. What if they come during the ten minutes I’m walking the dog?! Then what??

This is why I haven’t posted anything, because it’s not very positive or uplifting. It is still only two and a bit months in. They say three months is the magic everything-is-roses time. I was doing better when we first arrived because it was all exciting, and there were trips to fun on the weekends and all. But now that school has started, and I spend 40 mins a day walking to and from the bus stop (in addition to dog walking), things are becoming less fun. So many things were broken, not shipped, or missing when we unpacked a few weeks ago that it has been very disheartening. I’m longing for my cul-de-sac, and my neighbors yappy dogs, and even driving, yes, driving. I haven’t driven a car in over two months. That is a very weird thing. I have zero desire to drive in London, or even outside of London, but still it’s a little thing you miss simply for the convenience it represents. No waiting for the tube or bus, no standing cheek to squashed cheek with strangers, sweating all over, clutching at what’s left of your sanity just so you can go buy some soap.

I am hoping things will get better, that things will become more tolerable at the very least. We do have many, many more months to go.

If anything I can always look forward to October when we go to Rome, then Christmas back ‘home’ in New Jersey, and then tour of the distant motherland of Scotland in the spring.

At least the weather is familiar. Have raincoat, will travel.

The Closet Conundrum

Do you have closet issues? I definitely do. I’m currently rotating through 6 t-shirts (okay, I just bought one more shirt). Because for whatever idiotic reason, that’s all I packed in my suitcase. In our air shipment I somehow lost my brain and packed dresses.

Have you walked a dog 4 times a day in Hyde Park wearing a dress?

Not exactly high on my list of things to do, so those dresses I packed to get me through until ‘Household Goods Delivery Celebration’ day, are still contained in the closet exactly as they were delivered. Plastic and all.

I don’t really know what I was thinking London was going to be like for clothes. I’ve been on a quest to find my London style. Which, as odd as it seems, is different from my Seattle style. Both are large cities, but I have only actually lived in, and relied on the public transport, of one of those cities.

I’m finding my wardrobe woefully lacking for my new lifestyle. It has to be quick, and easy, and dog walking friendly, without being sloppy, or going anywhere a crop top might go. I’m not about to go clunking around in heels through the grasses of Hyde Park. My dog likes to harken herself as some lion in the Serengeti, stalking her prey (that would be the squirrels or the pigeons), and dragging mama along for the ride.

That’s not easy to do in black pumps. There are more ‘potholes’ in the grass than on the roadways. Not to mention trash, cigarette (and other) butts, uncurbed dog mess, dirt, and generally sogginess after a rain. I have no inclination to deal with wearing nice shoes during all of that. Not to mention I am averaging walking 4-7 miles a day with walking the dog and walking everywhere we need to go on a daily basis. My feet love my red heels, but not for that long.

I’ve invested in these babies and they are my new friend.

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Source: Superga

 

I felt rather proud that they were dirty by the end of day one wearing them. I couldn’t have achieved that living in the suburbs!

My wardrobe crisis isn’t helped by seeing all the beautiful things on blogs like this and this and this one. Crisis indeed. The biggest problem seems to be the London world is mad for crop tops. Mama doesn’t wear crop tops. I’m pretty sure high waisted vinyl culottes are also not tops on my list either.

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Source – Asos

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The pretend way too short dress (as I call it) from Zara

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The two piece I cannot get behind (nor the items called ‘playsuits’, sounds like something an infant would be wearing.) Source: Zara

I am going to be a bit brave though. I snatched up these printed trousers. We’ll see how it goes. I did manage to leave the white crop top behind. Maybe I’ll throw caution to the wind and wear it with my red/orange striped hoodie from J Crew and a pair of Converse. Brave indeed.

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Source: Zara

There are plenty of other lovely (and not lovely) choices out there. I am trying to find my way through the brands here, attempting to stay away from my favorites from home – Banana Republic, J Crew, and Gap – all of which have stores here, and branch out into more European brands like Zara, ASOS, and Next. Of course you can buy Zara and probably ASOS in the US, but it’s a place to start for me.

I’ve added some new fashion blog follows in the sidebar. I hope you might find something drool worthy. What have you been wearing lately?