Monday, November 29, 2010

My Thighs

No, this post isn't some ode to Beyonce or Fergie songs...merely a simple observation.

I went out today and was wearing a pair of jeans I'm fairly certain I haven't worn in over a year; what can I say-they ended up in the bottom of the jeans pile. I digress.

I couldn't help but notice when I first left the flat that the jeans were tighter on my thighs than they used to be. Great, I thought: just what I need-larger thighs.  But, the other thing I coincidentally noticed yesterday is that due to all of the walking I do in this city, there's generally less jiggle in my thighs than there used to be.  I vaguely recall noticing this after just my first month here (and may have even made a comment on my blog about it), but haven't thought much about it since. Until now.

So...possibly bigger, but less jiggle.  It's like the yin and the yang of my thighs has occured.  hmph.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Belated Thanksgiving

As I was heading back from Borough this morning and contemplating the menu and effort for tonite's belated Thanksgiving meal, I started thinking about all the things that I have to be thankful for.  I try to do this every now and then (it beats thinking about the things you aren't thankful for), but it does help to have-what I consider to be-a special day set aside for that very thing.  As I started to compile my mental list, it gave me cause for pause when I realized just how much I have to be thankful for:
  • A pretty amazing Dad, that at the age of 74, is still healthy and happy
  • The most incredible boyfriend/fiance/soon-to-be-husband ever. Yes, I know that many women think this, but I'm fairly certain that mine really is the *most* incredible.  If for no other reason than he puts up with my crap. :)
  • The best circle of friends (on both continents-and a few places inbetween...) anyone could ask for. Period.
  • My health.  For all of the little aches & pains, the fact that I can still put one foot in front of the other, day in and day out, with ease makes me grateful.
  • A relatively stable financial base.  No, I'm not trying to say money is everything, and Simon & I are by no means 'rich' (I wouldn't poo-poo a $1M donation to us!...), but the fact that we don't have to choose between the cheapest toilet paper, or worry about whether or not we can afford to turn the heat on when it's cold outside-and it's cold outside!-makes me feel quite thankful, and considering the fairly modest-income backgrounds we both come from, I certainly don't take it for granted.
  • And at least 10 other things that would make this a long winded post if I continued.
A belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  If you can all feel at least half as thankful as I do, you're in a pretty good place!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royal Wedding

Though it's been barely 36 hours since the world became aware of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, just about every British newspaper, news website, TV name it has already pubicized this as the Wedding of the Century.

Fortunately, since Prince Charles & Lady Dianna's wedding was in the 1900's, it's a legitiate claim! :)

Speculation abounds about this being the 'positivity' that the British public need to see themselves thru the tough times ahead (see previous post on 'Austerity'....).  More cynical people like myself probably just think it will be an on again, off again distraction for the next 6-8 months that well, after this week, will simply be sucked dry by every media/marketing outlet in an attempt to make some money.

Regardless, as Simon was quick to point out while watching the news last nite: if the Royals even *think* about spending public money on the wedding (technically a possibility since a portion of tax that every UK person pays goes to the royal family...), the ensuing kerfuffle would probably be more entertaining than the actual wedding itself!

Stay tuned.  I'm sure it's about to get interesting...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seen on the Tube

When I got on the tube this morning coming back from Borough Market, the lady that got on the car with me, sat her things down & proceeded to take a solo glove out of her pocket & put it on before grasping ahold of the hand-bar. It gave me cause for pause. 

There was a brief moment I thought she must be a bit of a germ-a-phobe/nutter.  Then I thought for another moment and realized that almost every time I get off the tube, I find myself rubbing my hands on my jeans-almost a bit obsessively.  And, I distinctly remember being happy about wearing gloves during the winter when getting on the tube.  Ironically, I think wearing my gloves may have been what helped to keep me healthier than normal this past winter-and it had nothing to do with keeping my hands warm!

OK.  She definately was not a nutter.  In fact, she may have been smartest person on the tube.

Pity I didn't get a picture.  But, the tube was crowded,  and I figure the loud 'click' my camera-phone would make me look like the nutter! :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Age of Austerity and Crazy American Politics Observations

Like the US, the UK still isn't fully out of the economic recession, and if anything, the unfortunate financial crisis that hit the private sector last year is now impacting the public sector.  The UK government is having to make major budgetary cuts to various programs in the UK, and when a dear friend asked me about things last week, I realized that though I've been quiet about things on my blog, I very clearly had an opinion & obsevations on the topic.  To wit, here is the email exchange (well, in truth, my friend asking me about the budget cuts and me getting up on my soap box in response...):

Dear Friend: Would love to hear how the UK austerity regimen vs. the insane US political mid-term election nightmares are playing out in your neck of the woods.  After Christine O’Donnell (“I am not a witch”) as a candidate, the world must thing there is something wrong with our drinking water.

Me: UK Austerity...whew...I believe we'll fortunate enough to not feel the impact from the changes-we don't rely on state benefits of any kind (housing, child care/credits, unemployment, utility supplement, healthcare, higher education supplement...) the list goes on and on and on and on and on....Which, should clue you in to the problems at hand. As someone who used to think that Socialism wasn't that bad, I've completely swung the other way since moving to the UK. The *expectation* that the government will take care of you-regardless of whether or not you try to take care of yourself-just kills me. With cuts to the higher education 'supplement' grads can now be expected to pay up to £9k/year for tuition-though, admittedly, 20 years ago, it was all free. But, when I told Simon just last night that most Americans with kids are told to set aside $100-200k for their children's 4 year education, he finally understood why I thought that £9k a year was a joke. That's just one example. I should get off my soapbox though, or I'll write a book-and bore you to tears with it.

On the flip-side, Simon & I were in Las Vegas last week for his brother's wedding. We heard more TV/Radio ads for the Sherry Angle/Harry Reid showdown in 4 years then I think I've heard my entire life! Crazy. Angle's stance on most things scared me more than what was already wrong in Nevada (one in 25 homes in Vegas is in some stage of reposession...), and she was building a campaign on hate & intolerence. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that Reid maintained his position after Tuesday.

Coverage here has been 'interesting'. I think most view the election results as a sign that Obama has failed-though I don't read it that way. But, ironically, I think more hopes were pinned on Obama from the UK than the US to begin with, so the sentiment makes sense.

Perhaps I'm wrong about all of the above, it's just merely how I've seen things the past few weeks/ months.  Would be curious to know how any other American Expats in the UK see the 'Austerity cuts'-and conversely what any British Expats (or Americans...)think about the recent mid-term elections.  Thoughts?...

Catching Up

I'll be the first to admit it:  I've been horrible about blogging the past month.  Between work, play, travel, and a wedding planning, I haven't had the wherewithall to blog. Well, time to make up for that.  Brace yourselves!...

First a bit of general catching up. The last 8 days of October saw Simon & I heading to the US for Simon's brother's wedding in Las Vegas.  Ironically, the Brit wedding was my first Vegas wedding.  But, I'm already getting ahead of myself. 

Simon & I were (for lack of a better, more PC way of putting it..) 'responsible' for Simon's dad on this trip-financially, socially, logistically, everything-ly.  This meant that Simon's dad was with us from the Friday before we departed (Oct 22) until mid-last week (Nov 3).  I think I've said before how much I like Simon's dad (read: I'm about to complain about him, so I should remind myself and others-including Simon, who reads this blog how much I actually like his father)....but, 13 days with a 56 year old man going on 80 (health-wise) almost broke me.  I won't go into the details-there's no need-but, spending that much time with Simon's dad was stressful, draining, gave us no chance to have much quality time, and gave me a startling glimpse into the future of what it could be like if I don't start taking better of myself.  That last statement is a bit extreme, but seeing how difficult it was for his 56 year-old father to walk even 20 feet at times, and watching him inhale almost every meal as if it were his last has put the fear in me.  I'm going to try to be more mindful of my own health-be more cognizant of what-and how I eat, exercise more, and in general try to take better care of myself. 

OK.  That was a bit of a tangent on the US trip, but it's been sitting on my shoulders for a week now-and if for no other reason than to remind myself-I wanted to get it down.

The US trip was big for several reasons-two of which have already been mentioned (brother's wedding and my 'ephiphany.'), but there was another biggie looming at the start of this trip:  our Dads met for the first time.  Here's how this went down:  Our 10-day trip to the US involved a 2-night stopover in Charlotte, 5 days in Vegas and 2 final nights in Philadelphia.  It was a bit much, but we didn't think Simon's dad would be able to make the 11 hour direct flight to Vegas.  So, we decided to break the trip up into more managable legs-and in particular try to swing by North Carolina so our dads could meet before the wedding.

Charlotte was fantastic.  The weather for the 48 hours we were there was simply perfect, it was gret to see my dad (& his gf), and surprisingly-though we'd lightly joked about needing 'translators' between my dad's heavy Southern accent & Simon's dad's heavy Scouse accent, there was only once where there was the need for translation. :) 

Vegas was..Vegas.  It's been 10 years since I've been to Vegas, and it's totally changed-and stayed the same-all at the same time!  More hotel/resorts and 'stuff', but the look & feel of Vegas really hasn't change.  Surprisingly, I really, really enjoyed my time there-and Simon did as well-and I think it was largely because we didn't try to force too much.  We hung out, gambled a wee bit our first night, had some drinks, did some touristy things with the wedding (limo ride on the strip...good times...), but really just approached the trip as a way to hang out.  It was the right thing to do.  Hindsight Vegas is like New Year's Eve:  the harder you try to have fun, the less fun you'll actually have.  Just go with the flow, and you'll be surprised.  For both of us, the wedding aside (that was truly good), our favourite part of the trip was actualy the last full day we had -when we rented a car and left Las Vegas.  Simon, his dad & I took a trip down to the Hoover Dam, had a putter around and then came back to the hotel to drop his dad off (he was falling asleep in the back seat at noon-by now, the trip was catching up with him), and then went on to Red Rock Canyon.  Wow.  I mean, Wow.  If you've never been, it's just a 30 minute drive off The Strip, and is well worth the effort.  Simply amazing.  And, after the faux-feel of Vegas, and the dry, re-circulated air in the casinos, it was nice to get out & about-roll the windows down in the car and enjoy the sun.  Loved it.  Hindsight 20/20, I would have worn better shoes so we could have taken a hike. But, I didn't know, so most of our adventure was just a few feet off the National Park highway.

After Vegas, we spent 2 nights in Philly.  I'd been to Philly before, but neither Simon or his dad had.  We arrived around 4pm on Friday, and were at the hotel by 5pm.  We dropped our stuff off and then headed out for a putter before it got dark.  Simon's dad was struggling to walk around too much, so our putter mainly consisted of heading to Chinatown for dinner before heading back to the hotel to drop his dad off before we headed back out to walk around and go have drinks.  We ended up at a hotel bar (surprisingly good hotel bar at The Mariott...), where around 9pm, it was clear that there was a large party taking place in the bar.  Well dressed people started appearing, the music got louder, and a few security folks started showing up.  We didn't have a clue what was going on, so we asked the bartender.  'Networking event,' he told us. At 9pm in a bar on a Friday night?  OK.   But, here's the thing.  Whatever this event was, it was clearly for African-Americans.  Past a point, Simon & I were the only two white people in the bar area.  And, while we were sitting at the bar, I was casually listening to the two guys talk behind us, and caught snippets of converations on the other side of Simon & around us.  There's probably no PC way to say this either, and the intent of what I'm trying to say is for good not evil, but it dawned on me in the bar:  I miss being in the company of African Americans. Both casually/socially and the friends I have.  There is a lack of diversity in my life now-and even in my life in Seattle-that can only be described as 'white.'   And, I don't like it.  Nothing I can do about it, but even as just someone sitting on the side-lines at the bar in Philly, I was happier just for sitting there.  Anyhoo.

Saturday in Philly was tourist day.  We got tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus (though, we really just hopped on...), and took a spin around Philly.  It was funny seeing the town-one of the hearts of the American Revolution-with two Brits.  I think Simon & his dad both thought our 'history' (recent to British history in comparison) a bit quaint, and obviously, what they had learned about the American Revolution in school had a slightly different spin that what I learned-and what the tour guides were saying!   Aside from the general tour, we had a putter around Reading Terminal Market-so I could get my Farmer's Market fix (no Borough for two weeks).  Lovely.  I'd been there before, and it was just as incredible as my first trip.  Huge thumbs up if you're ever in Philly...

By 5pm, Simon's dad was done for the day, so we dropped him off at the hotel, freshened up and caught our breath, and then headed back out.  We first stopped at McGillans Olde Ale House-the oldest pub in Philadelphia for a few beers.  What a great place.  Ridiculously reasonable prices, not too busy, and we got to catch a few football and baseball games on TV.  After that we had a wander around town before settling on Italian for dinner.  In fact, we liked McGillans so much, we went there with Simon's dad the next day for lunch! :)

We flew back to London on Sunday nite-landing on Monday.  It was an incredibly fast-but at times painfully slow-trip.  It's always good to be back in the US, but that should be my last trip to the US for quite some time.  For the first time in my life, I'm not going 'home for the holidays.'  I'll be staying in London and celebrating with Simon.  Food for fodder in a few weeks for the blog, I'm sure!