Monthly Archives: November 2008

How the time flies…

First of all, I totally blame cupcake for my current yarn obsession. Now I have an account on Ravelry where I’ve put the scarf and mitten images. And as I considered how to best make a cute cord for my mittens (which I have not worn yet because I’m so scared I will lose them!) I had one of those strange flashbacks to my childhood. I recalled knowing how to do some sort of yarn-weavy thing on my fingers and that it made cool 3-D cords that would be perfect for this application. It took several attempts on Google before I figured it out, but AHA! It’s “finger-knitting” and something that people teach to primary school children (which I was once, but 25 odd years ago…) I followed the nice blogger’s instructions and discovered that, yes, this was what I was looking for, and so there we have it. Next time I sit down to watch a movie I will make my mitten cord.

That said, I doubt I will be doing this in the next few days. I’ve been remarkably quiet in the last few days, trying to work hard and get ahead so I could enjoy what is starting tomorrow: my very best friend from the US, who I’ve known literally 20 years since Junior high, is coming to visit. She is the person with whom I still have something in common–neither of us are married with small children, which makes us the odd ducks of our graduating class. She is a lawyer and thus equally busy with her career as I am. And we have found that being in our thirties and single and child-free comes with a certain interesting pile of disposable income. So she’s heading here for a long weekend, due to arrive tomorrow morning. I’ve been cleaning up tonight and getting things organized so my cluttered apartment looks a little better than it has been the last few busy weeks. She’ll still grimace at the clutter, being far more minimalist than I am, but she will have no idea how much it has improved! Obviously I have to work the next few days still, but hopefully the ridiculous hours I’ve put in so far this week will mean that this can be kept to a more normal minimum level. I get to show her my little corner of the world for the next few days and I cannot wait. It’s amazing how much fun it is to entertain visitors from home! She should be here in twelve hours, “touch wood” (which is the British far more gentle equivalent of the American “knock on wood”).

Crochet project part 1

As noted not so long ago, with the coming winter and my getting slightly more settled and feeling more myself generally, even in the midst of a few nasty things on more than one occasion in the last few weeks, I have been crocheting. Just a few hours here and there, which included a bit quite late last night and this morning, which allowed me to finish my second mitten:


These now go with a quite cute hat:


The hat was the second part of the project, the mittens the latest and the newest addition to my library: I had never made mittens before but found the pattern that had the same bobble feature as the hat! And now, because of that, I hate the scarf and am going to have to make a new one. The thing that started it all-the scarf, which was the first thing I had crocheted in more than a year from yarn (I will describe my other recent efforts crocheting wire into jewelry some other time!) has turned out to be less than satisfactory compared with the hat and mittens. So more to do. Probably not for a few weeks though. The first mitten sat more than two weeks, making me nervous that I would forget how I had actually interpreted details of the pattern, but in the end they are moderately symmetric and quite warm and toasty. The only thing I think now is that I can’t possibly not put them on a single long crocheted string that would pass through the arms of my jacket, like I had when I was a very small kid–I don’t want to lose them after all that work! Do you think I can pull off crocheted mittens on a string if I defend them as home-made?

Baking again

This morning I was digging through one of my cookbooks, trying to find a very yummy black forrest cake recipe for a friend who had requested it. I stumbled on my recipe for popovers, realized I actually had the ingredients, and decided they’d be perfect for breakfast. And they were. Here’s my proof:


It’s almost too easy, both the popovers and black forrest cake. Here’s the details for each:


  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix well. Pour into greased muffin tins or popover pan or cups. Bake 450 F 20 minutes then reduce the temp to 375 and continue to bake until golden brown and delicious. Stab them when they come out to release the steam, and at that point it’s nice to shove a chunk of brie directly inside.


  • Box of devil’s food chocolate cake mix
  • Two eggs
  • 21 oz. can of cherry pie filling
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Mix and bake according to the cake box directions. Top with whipped cream and more cherry pie filling or maraschino cherries.

Expat life is just life v2

It was a crazy week, I won’t bore people with the details but suffice it to say that one can never rest on one’s laurels and feel safe and comfortable–you just never know who might be causing you trouble in the background. I believe the immediate crisis has died down, and although I have now added a few people to my caution list, I will go back to proceeding with life as not in crisis. This week was definitely crisis. But at the end of the day, I still came away with the feeling that sometimes “expat life is just life”. I suspect such a political battle could have happened anywhere. Nothing about this battle was particularly England vs. America. It was merely normal job stuff: personalities and expectations and politics. So at the moment I feel quite good about my expat-ness. On the one hand, I really tend to take things like this very seriously and very personally. But on the other hand, I have certainly learned a great deal as I’ve gotten older in terms of how to manage a crisis, and how not to feel threatened. It is my taking things so seriously that was the hardest part this week.

I’ve also slowly come to the realization that I have friends here in England. And it seems to have happened all of the sudden. Like two years went by without having friends and now the last two months have been very busy with interesting people and fun things. When I did have a crisis this week, I had people who knew me well, to whom I could speak about it. And who supported me and helped me through the crisis. I have been at the point of almost juggling things on the weekend. And there is a ton of work that needs to get done. I guess this is one of those times where one is thankful for the precise nature of the difficulty–it’s much worse to have no friends or potential social engagements than to have too many.

The most interesting thing about this week was that my own reaction was “stay and fight” and not “cut and run”. One of my friends here actually said to me, “why would you stay here and work when you have good offers back in America where certainly you would not face this particular person and not deal with this layer of politics?” and I actually defended my commitment to my job here, this country, and everything I’ve worked so hard for in the last two plus years. While it may not please my parents (who seem to be quite keen that I return to America as a permanent solution) I think I might just be settling in here. And a note to the locals causing me trouble–they’re not going to get rid of me easily.

Prince Charles at 60

Please go and read the hilarious song written by Diamond Geezer in honor of Prince Charles’s 60th Birthday HERE. (Sung to the tune of God Save the Queen for Brits, and My Country Tis of Thee for Americans!)

Don’t tread on me

Today is veteran’s day in the states, which means some of my friends have a work holiday while I do not. Which is fine because my countdown to Christmas is at five weeks even (where that designates the point just over a week before Christmas when I should have accomplished most of the important tasks I have yet to do this year). But veteran’s day is very important and very serious, as we remember all those who have died in keeping us free and as lucky as we are to be Americans.

That said, I am frustrated today. The title of this post, ironically, comes from the slogan that developed around the time of the American Revolution, “in resistance to repressive British acts in Colonial America”. I want to take the opportunity to use this line of thinking as concerns things the Americans are doing to themselves. I apologise for getting political yet once again, but it’s been hard not to be lately.

My biggest beef with my many Republican friends and relatives has been the tendency to legislate rules that apply to other people, who might not believe the same things or have the same convictions. My constant refrains when speaking to a pro-life friend were “educate, don’t legislate” and “abortions should be safe, legal and rare”. I feel the same way about the recent rulings across the US as concerns gay marriage, and felt as though some of the statements in this video clip really were fantastic.

I’m very sad that my fellow Americans think it’s important to take away rights from their fellow Americans who have different beliefs, and I believe it’s quite ironic that this would be so prevalent in the land of “don’t tread on me”.

It’s fun when you set down roots

Today was up there in my list of most fun days I’ve had since moving to England. Before I knew how rough this week was going to be, I had made plans with my British gym buddy to not just go to the gym (as we have tried to do more often that it has happened but has actually taken place many recent Saturdays) but also to goof around prior–we had a shopping date. We had a great time shopping, I bought a few outrageous dresses (!) including one I needed (for an upcoming business black-tie event) and one I definitely didn’t need (too risque for a work event but sexy and fun, including matching shoes with a heel that I will have to work on). We grabbed coffee and lunch, and then we did go to the gym and did our workout thing. At some point during all of this she invited me out to a pub night tonight, with her partner and a group of other fun people, and I surprised myself by actually deciding to go. I sometimes am anti-social in my expat existence, and it was hard work for me to commit to the evening but the fun afternoon turned it in favor of yet another outing (and thus a Saturday passing without my having done any work, office- or house-based!) So tonight I was at the pub with a totally international crew of 10, which happened to include three of us Americans (of which I had never met the other two before), an Aussie, three continental Europeans and the remaining three Brits. And it was an absolute blast. Tomorrow I will pay for this, with both housework (laundry and dishes especially!) and work work to do. But I would not take back any part of my day–it was truly fun and a reminder that when you set down roots, you are likely to eventually make friends and to find your life to have an element of fun that it would not have if you were not flexible, not willing to stop working for a bit and enjoy life, and certainly not willing to try and set down roots in the new country in which your life is based. In moments like these I feel as though I am actually living here in England, not just working.

It’s not all bad here

The early part of today was unpleasant, I admit. I had a very unpleasant start to the day. But I have to admit that the day ended on a very high note, and my optimism for my life here in Britain has not actually waned.

I had been asked several weeks ago to sit on a panel for a post-US election discussion. I had the opportunity to make a ten minute statement on the election, along with a distinguished international relations expert, plus answering questions from the crowd and it turned out to be great fun. Much to my relief, and somewhat dismay given that this was merely my opinion and not my area of technical expertise, the turnout was good and a lively group of people from all over the world appeared at the event. I had a great time. The forum itself was challenging and a great learning experience for me–I had the opportunity to glean significant new understanding as to the framework used by international policy experts in studying this significant field. And most important to me, given my frustrations earlier in the day, I did not burst into tears or otherwise embarrass myself.

Even better, the event resulted in my having dinner with a truly international couple–she’s from the American midwest (!) and he’s a Brit, and they have lived in both places and thus have a lot of experience with the cultural issues going both ways. I had a fantastic time and stopped to re-evaluate my feelings of “cut-and-run” that plague me whenever I find frustrations here. I hope to hang out with this couple more often–yes it follows my rule of “the most friendly Brits are those that are not truly entrenched here–living in the US and being involved with an American probably do affect perspectives–but it was a very soul-healing experience for me.

Perhaps more importantly, I have a shopping date tomorrow with another friend, a Brit, and my health-club buddy. And I ran into another friend, also a Brit, this evening at the store and made plans to catch up soon. Perhaps it is not as bad as I think in my darkest hours–I have had a reasonably slow start to making friends here, but perhaps at the same time I have really done better than I think in my dark moments. So I head to bed on a reasonably positive note. And for that I am extremely grateful!

Whingeing–I’m doing it wrong (apparently)

I’ve had a horrid twenty four hours, I got massively attacked for complaining too much, thus the title. I asked a colleague this morning if the English were familiar with the concept of “venting”–complaining to get things off your chest and then moving on. He said no, but then I started thinking about the persistence of “whingeing” in Britain and now I’m confused. The frustrating thing is that I know that I may have (apparently) been too vocal about being overwhelmed with things, but I can actually prove on paper and with numbers that I am officially overworked. Of course, nothing I say at this point will help; when someone gets mad at you and decides you’ve crossed some line, there’s not a thing you can say. So being overtired (due to the overwork) of course I then went on to have an extremely undignified day in which I kept bursting into tears at inopportune times. The only thing that saved me a bit was lunch with another technical female who noted that girls are often sensitive to this type of criticism but guys let it pass like water rolling off a duck’s back. I need to work on that whole water-back-roll thing because letting this bother me is not actually helping me to get caught up. Nor is blogging for that matter, except that I am venting my frustration. Sigh. And why is it that whenever something like this happens my gut reaction is to want to go home?

You’re kidding me?

Last night I got carded for buying a cheese knife. Since the Americans often implement a policy of universal carding I was not too surprised by the concept, although as a thirty something person I have been slightly surprised at the half dozen times I have been refused the sale of a bottle of wine on the basis of my apparently appearing under 18. Since the drinking age is 18 here in England. But last night I was more surprised than usual to be asked by a store clerk (of clearly less than 18 years himself) for my ID in order to buy a cheese knife. I am aware of the prevalence of knife crime in the UK, and the fact that this replaces unfortunate gun crime in the US. But it was a cheese knife, curly at the ends. Really, you consider this a deadly weapon and card people in a department store for purchasing it?