Monday, May 16, 2005

Chapter Four, Section One

I've been kind of homesick these past few weeks. I'm still not used to living in this country and I am worried about breaking rules without knowing (social rules mostly, but I guess legal stuff too). The only time I ever get into trouble is when I break rules that I'm unaware of. Like the time my boss at the inn in Vermont wanted to dock my pay because I was on the internet too long in my spare time (not during my paid hours, obviously). I didn't know there was a limit to internet time, and I got reamed for it. He ended up not docking me, but the lecture I got sure smarted.

We're going to visit my family in Utah next month and I look forward to it. I haven't been there in a few years and I especially miss my sisters. And my brothers, but I've spent more time with them than my sisters. I also want to hear the American accent. I have to say, I am very uncomfortable with my accent here, and I think I get judged by the way I talk rather than by who I am. I'm tired of standing out. I want to be around Americans again. They are just as annoying, shallow, and boring as the Brits, but hey, I blend in with them and don't get any flak for the way I talk. Actually, I'm beginning to think that most people on this planet are annoying, shallow, and boring. It doesn't really matter where they're from.

I suppose to some people I am annoying, shallow, and boring (hereby known as ASB). I certainly am on my guard with strangers and I have been told I come across as stuck up. I don't present my intellectual side or my sense of humor to most people. Maybe most of the ASB people I meet are just like me, guarding their true self. I hope so, because that many ASB people in the world is just plain sad. Or maybe I'm the one who's sad, because I am not ASB and ASB is the key to true happiness.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Chapter Three, Section Five

My Favorite:

  • Color: bright, vibrant red
  • Book: My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
  • Flower: tulips, any color
  • Winnie-the-Pooh character: Rabbit, the quintessential irrational perfectionist
  • Food: although it varies quite often, I am going through an Indian craze now
  • Composer: JS Bach
  • Piece of equipment in the kitchen: my brand-new red Kitchenaid mixer
  • Room in my house: the backyard--it's a room!
  • Final Fantasy game: IX; great visuals, great soundtrack, great story; but I'm playing X-2 to death at the moment
  • Piece of equipment at the gym: ski machine
  • Confection: Belgian chocolates
  • Gemstone: ruby
  • Piece of equipment in the office: stapler

Yesterday was a beautiful day outside (as is today) so when I got home from work I set about making a fancy tea for us to eat. I set up our little table and chairs outside next to the pond and dressed it and put a vase of flowers on it. Then I made a tray of sandwiches: egg salad and salmon horseradish; a cheese and cracker plate with grapes; a coffeecake; and of course a big pot of tea. Partner was very surprised when he got home, and I felt very proud of myself for getting it all done.

After our tea, we dug over one of our flowerbeds and planted two kinds of flowers. We've had three very nice sunny days in a row, and I'm taking advantage of it as much as possible. Maybe next month we'll be eating outside every night, admiring our flowerbeds.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Chapter Three, Section Four

I love my husband very much. I have known him now for three years and we have been married for nine months. I knew from the first time I chatted with him that I would marry him. I love him because:

he is respectful
he is generous
he has learned from his experiences
he is thoughtful
he has a unique sense of humor
he makes me feel happy
he is dependable
he is intelligent
he puts up with all the annoying things I do

The list could go on but I have to say, I think I've just described the ideal man! I'm glad I found him before someone else snapped him up. We have settled into marriage with not too many problems. He's not very confrontational, and I am just learning to confront, so we don't have too many loud disagreements. I just have to put up with his dress sense(!).

The best thing about him is that he accepts me as I am. He doesn't try and conform me to his expectations.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Chapter Three, Section Three

Tonight I made a cottage pie for dinner. I found a terrific recipe using lots of root vegetables. I'm planning on using it as a dinner for my inlaws. I also made some bread a little earlier. We've been making our own bread for a month or two now. I make it on Wednesdays and Partner makes it on Saturdays.

Cottage Pie

1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
½ onion (or 2 shallots) diced
1 lb ground beef
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 T fresh herbs (sage, oregano, etc) chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Boil the potatoes and celeriac together until very soft. Drain, mash, add salt to taste.
  2. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or wok and sweat the leek, parsnips, and onion for about five minutes.
  3. Add the beef to vegetables and brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes and herbs and let simmer for about five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spoon beef mixture into an ovenproof dish. Spread potato mixture evenly over it.
  6. Bake at 350F/180C/Gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot.

Buttermilk Honey Bread

1 T active dry yeast
¾ c warm water
1 ts sugar
2 T melted butter
3 T honey
12 oz buttermilk
6 c bread flour
1 T salt

  1. Stir yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Let bloom for ten minutes.
  2. In a large bowl mix yeast, butter, honey, and buttermilk.
  3. Add salt and 2 c of the flour and mix well.
  4. Add remaining flour gradually until a shaggy dough is formed.
  5. Knead for five minutes.
  6. Turn into an oiled bowl and let ferment for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until doubled. Deflate and form into two loaves.
  7. Proof 30-45 minutes, or till doubled.
  8. Bake at 350F/180C/Gas mark 4 for 35-45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Chapter Three, Section Two

I keep posting about gardening but that is what I'm most excited about. Plus my house is turning into a jungle with all the little seedlings I've got. The kitchen window is full of tomatoes, carnations, and snapdragons, and the houseplants that were there previously have had to move; everywhere I look there is something green and leafy.

And everything outside is taking off like rockets. We have a lot of flowering shrubs in the backyard, and the pond has been paid a visit by the Frog Egg Fairy. Our neighbors' magnolia is putting on a fantastic show. I'd like a magnolia in our yard. It might be nice in the front. We're one of the few houses on our street that actually has a front yard; most everyone's has been turned into a driveway.

Partner and I are planning a trip at the end of April. I'm not sure where we're going, but I suggested Cornwall and it was received favorably. I've not been there yet and it sounds nice. If we went, we'd be there for May Day. It's a bigger holiday here than in the US; after all, it originated here as a pagan or perhaps Druidic holiday. And it's still a bank holiday (equivalent to a federal holiday, which means the banks and government offices close). Good Friday is also a bank holiday here, which incidently means I'll be getting double pay for working it. It's tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Chapter Three, Section One

I've had a busy past few weeks. We've had a guest over for a few days, I've worked too many extra shifts at work, and partner has been off seeing concerts at various venues. But I think things are back to normal now. I've got a day off at last.

So I'm excited about our vegetable garden. The first rows of spinach and carrots got planted yesterday. My little tomatoes at all about six inches tall now with lots of leaves and are very happy looking. Now I just have to start getting excited about the rest of the yard.

Partner has been digging out ugly shrubs and carting away nonstrategically placed rocks for me in both the front and back yard. I've dug over a few flowerbeds and of course I take care of the roses. We do have lots of roses. I don't have a plan for the yard, though. I just want it to be a relaxing space. One of our neighbors has a fairly well groomed yard, but it's very sterile looking. I don't know if I would call it relaxing. The other neighbor has a tiny tiny backyard full of nettles and dandelions. We actually got lucky; most of the houses on the street came with very small backyards but ours is quite big.

I guess it's because we have extra space from a driveway and garage. The garage doesn't fit either of our cars; partner has it full of junk. It's really kind of amazing because we hired a dumpster/skip for a weekend just to throw out all the stuff in there. And we filled it up. I don't understand where all of this new junk came from. In addition to a garage we also have a little rickety shed. I don't care much for it. Anything housed in there could easily go in the garage. Plus, when the wind blows the shed sags. Plus if it was gone, we'd have an extra space for vegetables.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Chapter Two, Section Five

So two days ago I went to the gym after work and lifted some weights. I worked on both my upper arms and legs, for about half an hour. I've never done any weight training before in my life. Now today, two days later, I can still barely lift my arms. My husband remarked last night that my biceps looked big; I had to tell him it was because they were swollen from too much activity. It's not serious, just uncomfortable.

I cleaned out my bank account last week buying new glasses. I should be getting them late this week or perhaps early next week. It's a rare occasion that I get new glasses; I have worn contacts for so long (almost ten years). I used to be so ashamed of my glasses. I thought they made me look so ugly and they were always the cheapest (and therefore least fashionable) frames. Now I can afford to buy designer frames and thinner lenses. My first pair of non-ugly glasses I bought for myself maybe three years ago. They were the first wire framed specs I'd ever owned. I guess my parents could never afford to buy me nice looking glasses; I never asked. However, I'm tired of these glasses, and they are just beginning to be out of focus. And I'm getting a new pair of stylish spectacles that I don't have to be ashamed to wear.

To tell the truth, I've stopped caring about how my glasses make me look. I care more about being able to see clearly. Which relates to another issue: my weight. Last week I threw out all the clothes that are too small for me now that I'm up to a size 11/12 (US). I've decided that they make me feel guilty, take up too much space, and I look silly popping out of clothes that are too small. So when I drop back to a size 9/10, I'll get myself a whole new wardrobe to celebrate. And lifting weights and using the ski machine at the gym will help me get back.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Chapter Two, Section Four

I have been looking forward to spring ever since New Year's. The crocuses are making an appearance and I've even seen a few daffodils flowering. The snowdrops are already in full bloom; there are flowering trees here and there. I've got some little tomato seedlings peeking out of my windowbox propagator.

And it SNOWED today.

I like snow. I like skiing on a mountain surrounded by silent trees, the whirr-whirr of my skis the only sound. I like scooping up a big handful of snow and pressing it into a ball and taking a bite out of it. I like making the first footprints in my yard, the yard that has transformed into a pristine canvas. I like watching through the window as it falls gently or swirls madly, in daylight or under the light of a street lamp. Big fluffy flakes or minute powder. Three feet or half an inch. White or yellow(!).

I do like snow, but I like it in December, where it belongs. I don't want snow, I want spring.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Chapter Two, Section Three

We have gone to a yoga class for two sessions at our gym. The first session I think we were both unprepared for because we both came out groaning. I couldn't lift my arms for the next three days. The last one was much better; I was more comfortable with the poses and stretches and was not in the least bit sore afterwards. From what I understand, yoga is good for a myriad of heath reasons, but I'm focusing on the relaxation and flexibility part. Oh, and the confidence part.

I don't do a lot of things I could because I'm so damn shy. I'm working on it. I go to the gym alone because I'm too shy to exercise in front of anyone I know. It's tough for me to go places on my own, like shopping, because I get so uncomfortable. I actually would like to make some more friends here but I don't know where to begin. I only have friends at work; I like them, but I don't pour out my soul to them.

Why am I so shy? Some would say it's genetic. Both my parents are shy. Not as shy as me, but I'm getting slightly more outgoing as I get older. I can now speak to strangers if I must, though I still don't do small talk. I would say that some of my siblings are shy, but some are not. In the past I have been mistaken for being stuck-up as a result of my shyness. I don't think I'm stuck-up. I can just never think of anything to say. I want to be friends with people, I just don't know how.

Actually, I do know how. At least, I can talk easily with children. I guess I should try visualizing people as children when I talk to them. On a tangent, as a child I was very in awe of grownups and couldn't wait to be one. I wanted to have all the secret grownup knowledge and power. Then I grew up. I realized that adults are just like kids. Only taller.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Chapter Two, Section Two

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and although I didn't have a lot planned, I thought a nice dinner at home followed by some cuddling by candlelight would be romantic. However, when my dear husband got home from work he presented me with a lovely bouquet of roses and carnations proclaiming, "I cad't kiss you; I'b god a cold." So much for my romantic evening! I wasn't too disappointed however, seeing as I hadn't gone to much trouble. I had only got home about an hour and a half before he did and had just barely got the house tidied up and the dinner on. I laughed when I saw his poor red nose but I wasn't laughing at him. I was laughing at myself for having my romantic plans shot down.

I'm not a very romantic person. I think I'm very practical and pretty straight forward. I might be a woman, but that doesn't mean I'm always thinking of white knights and castles in the sky. I think my husband is more romantic than I am. It's definitely unusual for me to plan a cozy evening for just the two of us. Generally I'm happy to have dinner at home and then sit and gab, or have fun playing music and singing, or watch a movie. Since I'm kind of a food snob, I only like eating out if it's Eastern cuisine like Indian or Chinese. (I think I cook better than most restaurants, but I don't really know how to cook Eastern cuisine.)

The best times I have with my partner are not when we're cuddling on a bearskin rug in front of a fire with Bruch playing in the background. Most important to me is our time spent working together in the garden, or talking about our future, or leaving for work looking forward to seeing each other that night.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chapter Two, Section One

Once again I have a day off from work. Time to catch up on my sleep, my video games, and my favorite soap Home and Away. It's an Australian soap opera completely different from American ones. Well, not completely. It has plenty of love triangles, car crashes, unplanned pregnancies, runaways, and break-ups. The characters and setting are what's different. Instead of revolving around a group of glamorous upper-class thirty-somethings, the characters are mostly under-thirties and definitely middle class. There are even young teenagers in the cast. American soap operas are easy to spot because of their dark interior lighting. Home and Away has one regular outdoor set: the beach, and all the indoor sets are decidedly sunny and bright. I guess I find it interesting because the characters aren't aloof and inaccessible as in American soap operas. These people are just like my own friends (thought perhaps a little more lovelorn and accident prone!).

Home and Away is the only soap I watch, however. In fact, I don't watch much TV at all. I regularly watch The Simpsons and My Hero (a britcom) on Friday nights, and I sometimes watch Murder She Wrote and Arthur (the cartoon) when I'm feeling lonely for American culture. I miss some of the American shows I used to watch but aren't syndicated here: Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, That 70s Show.

On the whole I think British TV is more grown up than American TV. There are a lot more science and political programs of high caliber. I think British TV journalism is of excellent quality compared to American. There are some bad shows, or shows that are uninteresting to me, but most are exceptional quality.

Strangely, all soaps here are broadcast at night. However, I don't have an opinion on British soaps. I don't watch any.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Chapter One, Section Five

After consideration, I decided to edit this entry. Sorry.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Chapter One, Section Four

Yesterday we went shopping after I got home from work. I do enjoy shopping, even though I rarely have much money to spend. We are planning a vegetable garden for this year and yesterday we bought all the seeds we need.

Our vegetable garden is actually three small plots: two long border plots adjacent to each other and a round plot with a rosebush in the middle. We plan on having cucumber and zuccini in the rosebush plot. The other two will have root veggies and peas, and tomatoes and lettuce. Oh and I almost forgot our little raised bed of strawberries. They were planted last fall from my mother-in-law's runners.

My parents have grown a vegetable garden for as long as I can remember. I liked eating the vegetables but I didn't like working in it. However, as time went on, my father learned new ways of planting a garden using minimal labor. After several years we hardly had much weeding to do; he planted everything in furrows so the weeds grew in the deep furrows and could be easily hoed. Same with watering. He just put the hose and one end of the garden and the furrows would carry the water down to each plant.

Today after work I planted some tomato seeds in a propagator. We now have a little box with a clear plastic lid sitting in our kitchen window and it has twenty four little plugs. Maybe in a few weeks they'll grow into little tomato seedlings.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Chapter One, Section Three

For many years I have kept a journal hidden away full of my thoughts and the continuing drama of my life. It is private to me and no one is allowed to read it. This is not that kind of journal.

Now I have moved thousands of miles away from my home and my friends. I can't keep up a regular dialogue with all of the people I love. And I would like to share my life with them even though I'm no longer present.

Actually I haven't told anyone about this as of yet. This is only my third entry. I think I'll wait to see if I keep it up before I actually share it. But this is my goal. To set down what I'm thinking of, what I'd like to talk about with my friends and family if I were actually with them, what I'm doing in my life right now.

I just read a fantastic book called Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks. I picked it up at a charity shop for 10p (about 18 cents USD). I recall having read some children's books by the same author, but this was an adult book and completely blew me away. It is about the four famous Brontes: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell. There are times when I love a good tragedy and this was one. When I say famous, I guess Branwell isn't very. But he appeared in the three sisters works in some form or other and definitely helped shape their literary talents. I have read books by Charlotte and Emily and both are powerful and tragic and terrible to actually learn they are based on their own lives.

For a period of several years I stopped reading mostly, maybe picking up a book a month. Now I'm constantly in the middle of a book again; I read one every four days or so. At the present I'm going through an old favorite, Watership Down. Some recent reads of mine:

Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Dracula by Bram Stoker

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Chapter One, Section Two

I know very little about gardening. But I love my houseplants.

My very first houseplant was an orchid. A pink phaelanopsis: a very easy orchid to keep. Since then my orchid collection has grown to five and they all live happily on my bathroom window. They also have names so I can identify them: Ophelia the original one, Mary Magdalen is deep pink, Sacajewea is yellow with a sunburst in the center, Anastasia Romanoff is a dendrobium who wishes she were a phaelanopsis, and the newest addition: Noname, white. Every day I mist and admire and check for new blooms or leaves or roots (such pretty silver roots). For a while I thought I accidently killed Anastasia Romanoff, but it looks like she's coming around again for another set of blooms.

I love all my houseplants but all don't have names. At least not yet. I have a tray of herbs growing in the kitchen and two ferns upstairs and a whole row of African violets. A few had rocky starts, but none of them have actually died, and none will any time soon by the looks of things. I had a hard time with the maidenhair fern for a week or so, because it seemed to dry out so very quickly. I think I have it under control.

When I said none of the other plants are named, I forgot about the peace lily. We call it the Penis. I won't go into that. Sadly it hasn't flowered since summer, but I'm hoping it'll feel more inclined once it gets a little more light. Winter months can be rough on houseplants.

For a little while I had one of my African violets down in the kitchen but it caught the dreaded aphids. I have no idea how. I almost thought I'd have to give up on it, but I cut off all the infected bits (meaning ALL the flowers) and took it upstairs again. It survived and once more overflows with flowers.

If I were a millionaire, I'd build a big terrarium and landscape it with beautiful plants, tropical and otherwise, and spend my days taking care of them.

Chapter One, Section One

I've been having trouble sleeping for the past few months. I think part of it is because of partner snoring, but part of it is just plain stress. I do notice, however, when I sleep in the other bedroom away from partner, I sleep a lot better. Now, I have concluded that partner (who shall remain nameless) does actually snore, for I have actually heard him and been woken and kept awake by said snoring. It's a lot easier to identify external factors in sleeplessness than internal. What am I stressed about?

A) Money. The obvious one.
B) Marriage. I'll go into that later, if I feel comfortable discussing it.
C) Parents. I'm still not over a major rift with them.
D) Self image. I think that's the subject I'll go to now.

Since I have moved to England I have had to deal with many new changes. I'm not used to the language or the climate or the culture. These are all major things to deal with, things I have no control over. The biggest change I am dealing with now, however, is the change in my body. I am suddenly getting fat.

I don't know if it is the change in diet, or the change in activity level. I don't know if it's even within my control, because I have been trying to control it. I joined a gym in December and have regularly gone twice a week for half an hour of cardio exercise. I've also modified my diet to eat lots of vegetables and not so much fat. Yet for all this, I seem to be getting bigger in my middle.

I thought it was perhaps pregnancy, and I suppose it possibly could be, but I've recently peed on the little stick and come up with the negative sign. I think I might notice if I was this pregnant too. I don't have any other signs except a swollen middle, hips, and thighs.

Ok, so it's not as bad as all that. I'm not so fat that anyone else would actually notice it. I'm about 5'9" and I now weigh about 160#. It's not the heaviest I've ever weighed. I've climbed up to 175# at one point due to far too much junk food. Once I stopped eating it I dropped back to my usual 140#. This time is different. I haven't eaten junk food since the 175# incident. And somehow I've gained 20# in the year I've been here in England. What's going on?

I just went and weighed myself. I'm at 158.5#. Maybe I am losing weight after all.