Sunday, July 15, 2018

Warkworth Castle and Hermitage

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland

I was going to write an update for June because the last post I made was when we visited the Picks in Liverpool in March. However, life being as it is, and my trying to spend more time with my brain turned to de-stress, so I haven’t spent loads of time updating here. I started plenty of posts, but never got around to finishing them. But, alas, it’s Sunday, and Steve is getting lunch ready, and Daisy is hanging out with me in the computer room, listening to 6 Music, so it’s as good of a time as any.

We’ve travelled plenty since March, and I always post something on my Instagram which posts to my Twitter and my Tumblr. (I just realized that my book posts go to my Missus P Tumblr and the personal photos go to my bookblogarama Tumblr. Why did I do that?!)

Anyway, so for this post, I figured I’d work backwards a bit about what’s been going on. Yesterday we went to Warkworth Castle (seen above) and Hermitage. It was a glorious day and we took Daisy along who has now been on her first boat ride. (She was more interested in the ducks in the river than the actual boat.) The castle was really well-preserved and it was very cool to be able to take the stairs to the wine cellar and walk upstairs to see the awesome view of the coast at Amble. Unfortunately with the heat, we didn’t travel to the beach on the way home, but we did have a picnic on the castle grounds, and after the boat trip and a relaxing sit down by the River Coquet, we went for some ice cream at Morwick Dairy. There Daisy met some cows of all age ranges, which she wasn’t so sure about. Of course I fell in love with all of the calves and decided that I do want a farm when I retire.

A nice renovated farm house in Northumberland. Turn it into a B&B but still keep my chickens and occasional farm animals. Ahh. Bliss.

Anyway, if you’re heading to the dairy after the castle visit, make sure to check your Google Map because we entered in the post code that was given and ended up down the street at someone else’s farm. Oh well, we made it eventually.

Last week I started my bullet journal which I’ve been going on about via Twitter. I am so not artistic in any way, so trying to make graph paper with notes pretty is just not something that naturally comes to me. I started watching videos on how to set up a bullet journal, and this channel from Seventeen has been great. I have highlighters, stickers, fine line pens, and a ruler now with all the Rulers of England that I bought at the castle gift shop.

I may be a British citizen, but as an American, I feel it is my duty to appreciate my love of the English Heritage by purchasing souvenirs. Whenever I go somewhere I buy a magnet for our fridge at home, and the magnetic shelf in the office where we keep all of our ones from holidays. Since my “holidays” are weekend getaways and little adventures, I like spreading the British pride to my co-workers.

Aside from the bullet journal, I wrote one day for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is shameful because I always have the best intentions. Maybe the journal will keep me more on target.

I’m also going to use the journal for my blogging and today I can mark down that I actually wrote a post. Hooray for me!

As of today we have 63 days, 23 hours, and 39 minutes left until my Florida trip. This year we’re going on a cruise again but this time we’re going to Nassau instead of Freeport, so I’m glad we’re seeing something different. Also, my parents are coming with me, which I’m also super happy about. They aren’t convinced that they’ll like it, but since it’s a three day excursion, I think they can dip their toe into cruising with us and see how much fun it can really be.

We’ve been watching videos on YouTube about Toy Story Land, and ogling new merchandise to buy in the parks. Apparently there’s a new Disney Play app that I’ll be getting once I’m home. Plus, they have new MagicBands and I think I want the Mickey ice cream one, but I can’t find it online again, so I may have to go with All About the Bow Minnie.

Our flat sale is going well as far as we can tell. We finally got our sold sign out front, and the mortgage offer from the bank has gone to the solicitor, so hopefully we’ll be in our new place before we go on holiday.

I know I have way more travelling updates to post here because we’ve hit some great National Trust and English Heritage sites, including our trip to Whitby at the beginning of June for Steve’s birthday. However, it is now lunchtime and my fish and chips await me!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It's citizenship day!

Hip and caffeinated ☕️

I don't think anyone loves this photo as much as I do. I thought it was cool that I had all the things hip going on at once -- hip people, a guy with a hip hat, and even a coffee, all while at a hip movie theatre.

Anyway, I wanted to post something of an update today just because it's sort of a special day. Right now, I am an American citizen. By 4PM I will be an American citizen as well as a British citizen. How exciting?

Unfortunately, though, I'm ill. Like not a normal cold, ill. Been in bed for days, can't mentally function kind of ill. This is the price we pay to work in customer service, I suppose. All the germs travel to us, then we end up feeling guilty about being off sick and pass it on to all of our co-workers. Last time I was off, however, I had the stomach flu, so having a stuffy cold may be some sort of consolation prize. Not sure.

Aside from that, things at Pick Manor have been iffy. I had the brilliant idea of buying a house a while ago and now that we're finally in the process, we found that it's just a huge pain. First of all, you have to sell your property first before anyone will "take you seriously" about purchasing another. This means no matter how much your bank has approved you for in financing or how much you have saved, you can't make any kind of move unless it's sold. (Granted, yes, if you want to, you can have two properties and rent one out, but you end up paying a penalty for this and yay taxes!)

We came close to buying a new house near Steve's work, but that was just too expensive. We would have poured all of that savings he worked so hard for, just to have something that wasn't in the location we wanted and wasn't even big enough for a washer and a dryer. (It's not common to find these things in a British house, but if I'm going to move, I'd like the option, you know?)

So we're sitting here waiting. Poor Steve has had a hard time of it, because this is just so bloody stressful. When the surveyors came around to check our property in lieu of the new house purchase, an electrician told us that our flat needed a whole rewire because it was dangerous. We'd not done anything to the electrics since Steve moved in here in 2008 so that was freaking frustrating. The electrician told us what a nightmare it would be and how we couldn't even consider having it done ourselves because the electricians would turn it into a bomb site and it would be unliveable afterwards. He suggested we have the builders handle that, take the cut in the offer the builders gave us for our flat as part-exchange, and get on with it. The builders weren't having that, so we took Daisy to doggy day-care, and toted Jake to a hotel with us for three days while an electrician did the work. Mind you, this was the third electrician we had come around to do a quote because the first two were like, "What a mess! This is awful! How could you live here with this?! Why did you purchase it?" and on and on.

With the recent Beast from the East snowageddon, I learned that it's illegal to not clear the snow off the hood and roof of your car. It's too dangerous. However, a flat that has dodgy electrics that could potential kill everyone in the building -- that's okay? Makes no earthly sense whatsoever.

But no matter. Here I am in England, trying to hang out with a severe cold with my cat on the coffee table, my dog in "her" room which is the computer room that Steve's in currently working from home. I still have my lovely view from my big picture window in the living room and we still have money in the bank. All in all, it could be worse. It's just freaking frustrating.

Nonetheless, I will become a royal subject this afternoon and celebrate at a pub in the best British fashion this evening. Cheers!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Things that won’t happen in 2018

My new iPhone has an awesome camera!

New Year's Resolutions. I usually do them, but this year, I'm not so sure I should bother.

Last year I put something like I was going to do well at my job, eat better, exercise more, write my books, read my books, and be a genuinely 100% perfect individual. It didn’t happen, or actually it happened in moments, so maybe I did okay in the end, but if I were to write the same tired goals down, I’d just be wasting time and kidding myself.

So here’s what’s not going to happen in 2018:

I’m not going to finish a book. I know that because as has been for the last two years, I do not have time. My job is an on-the-go kind of job so I don’t sit and ponder my next scene as much as I used to. I’m also around people all the time, so I can’t focus on anything creative. I only really feel myself and focused on creative tasks when I’m home for a few days (like Christmas and New Year’s Day). Sure, I can write a few paragraphs here and there, but it doesn’t amount to anything. I could write short stories, but I gave that up a long time ago. I could piece the stories together, sure, but that would take planning and organization which, again, takes time that I don’t have.

I won’t read more. This is from the same exact reasons as the writing, although I do have time set aside for reading, I usually spend it staring off into space on the bus, or looking at my phone. I still buy books and I still like to promote them on my blog but I only recently updated my Currently Reading list on Goodreads, and it’s sort of a lie. I’m reading It, got two from Santa. I bought a couple on the £.99 Kindle sale before Christmas too.

The eating more healthy is a tricky one because that’s a big priority for me, so tell you what, I’ll really try to accomplish this one. As much as the non-writing makes me so disconnected from myself, not taking care of myself is rotten. I can’t dress up. I can’t feel good. I haven’t been able to go to Weight Watchers in ages because inevitably something happens after work on Wednesdays and I never get there. Now we have the dog, so I can’t go straight to a meeting on my half day because I have to go home and check on her. Every other Wednesday maybe or just bite the bullet and go to the super packed evening meetings (even though there is limited parking at our gym even in the afternoon on weekdays). But, whatever, if I don’t let the work schedule drain me of all motivation to do anything other than eat Greggs for lunch, then fine, I’ll do it.

Exercise. Okay, this is maybe do-able. Again, with the dog, I’ll have to be outside more and walking with her. I get up early with her anyway, so I have time to get outside and maybe make a breakfast that isn’t instant. Also, Steve and I have decided to do the Great North Run this year because everyone else loses weight from running, so this may be the only way I’m going to get motivated to do the same. We jogged a bit in October but once the dog came around and the cold set in, we stopped and adjusted our schedules around her. As she gets older, hopefully the time needed to take a run will be available.

Live in the same flat. We put ours up on the market yesterday. Now, since England has funny rules about house purchases, you won’t be “taken seriously” by a seller of a house until you have “money in the bank” with your property already sold. Doesn’t matter if you have been guaranteed a mortgage based on your income and amount your current mortgage is. Even if you’re going to sell, you have to do it first, end up without a place to live, so we may have to live in rented accommodation for a while, until we can find a new place to live. Apparently this is their “property chain” that’s totally common and no one questions it. Also, if you make an offer on a house, you’re not legally obligated to go through with the sale. You can put in offers for all sorts of houses and decide on one. Most places we’ve looked at so far (although they tell you not to bother since no one thinks anyone actually has money to buy anything) told us that their house was sold, but two months down the line the buys pulled out of the sale. This is normal, I take it, and no doubt will be stuff we’ll have to deal with with the sale of our place. But hopefully this year, we will get it sold and move into a house in the same area. (Or America??)

Just be a foreign resident of England. I applied for my UK citizenship last October. I’ve had my fingerprints done and all the fines paid, so I’m just waiting for a letter to say I can go to a swearing in ceremony in town. Exciting!

Now, I’d say I’d expect a family to turn up and to get a certificate in Computer Science, but those are things I’d really like to have happen and I don’t know if I’m going to get there by December. Hopefully though, I can have all those little hopes and dreams reached so I can have new ones for next year. (Or at least go back to the tried and true ones for 2019).

Anyway, hope everyone has a Happy New Year and hope 2018 treats you well.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Partying, writing, and letting my husband drive my car

Washington Old Hall, Sunderland

Once again, it's the weekend, so it's time to write a blog post.
Not much has happened in the last week or so, but nonetheless, I'll mention a few things.
First of all, Steve got his Theory Test done, so he's half way through towards getting his license. This meant that he needed extra time with my car, which was something I really thought I could ignore until he had his own car. After years of having the dreaded manual shift and almost burning the whole clutch out waiting in traffic for an hour one morning, going to work, I traded it in for a little automatic Toyota Yaris. (I love that car!) Now I can concentrate on the road and cars and roundabouts -- not the stupid gear shift, hand brake, clutch control nonsense that's absolutely painful when sitting in some horrendous traffic through Newcastle each morning.
Anyway, I called our insurance company yesterday and we have Steve as an infrequent driver on my car. So he drove me to Beamish yesterday on the windy, country roads. To be fair, he did all right, but I was convinced I was going to be run off the road because I was so close to the left-hand side of the car.
I think it's fair to say I have an issue with the lack of control.
Work has been the same as usual. I'm still counting down the days until my holiday (5 weeks and two days). In the meantime, I have work parties that I can go to, but as all introverts have to struggle with -- do I go and be social or do I stay home and wish I had a social life? My main problem is location. I work every other weekend, and I live an hour away on the bus. That means if I do go anywhere, I have to take public transport to work, get a lift to the party (or even take a bus and hang out until official party time) then get a taxi home.
Plus, is it my age, or is hanging out in the bar for hours really, really boring? I mean, when I was in Florida, I could hang out with my friends for hours but we generally mixed it up with shopping, dining, drinking, and nightclub dancing. Then we could add some well-deserved drama when we were around other people who did strange things at said nightclub.
I know it's a very British thing to just hanging out at a pub, but I've tried it but after 2 hours, I'm just bored to tears. I guess if you go to different places it's more fun but, meh.
I did buy some cool Chelsea boots for the occasion though, just in case I want to go anywhere.
I don't like not being thin anymore either. Being chubby and trying to look cute is just not one of my strong suits. One of the girls at work said she'd pick me up and I could get ready at her house. My first thought was, "I'll be dressed for work. That's as ready and as dressy as I get these days."
But at any rate, the writing has been still a struggle, especially to stay focused and get chipping away at the actual project. I always liked pantsing my projects and letting them grow organically, as Stephen King says, but without a clear direction, I'm just writing bits of a whole and I need to know how they fit together.
Amy Pohler is right. Writing is hard.
If I were able to just write and hang out and not have the outside forces of the universe giving me reasons to stay distracted, I would have had a couple more rough drafts under my belt. I've even thought of just going back to one of my last projects and editing the crap out of that in order to have something productive to construct. At least then I could have an aim in mind because I know where I wanted those projects to go.
Instead, however, I'm blogging and playing The Sims 4 and hanging out at home with Steve and Jake (the cat) as I always do on Sundays. At least I have written something today, but that's small potatoes compared to what I should be doing.
It's a beautiful day outside and I'm indoors. Such is my life.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

House redecorating, holiday prep, driving, and losing writing

Morning stroll.

Well, it's my day off so it's blogging day.

Since my last post in June we've been doing more house remodeling than traveling. First of all, we live in a little two bedroom flat. It was built in the 80s so it's not that old but it hasn't been renovated for ages, so it needs a good make-over.
The first thing we did was get new blinds for the place. Steve stays home to work on Tuesdays, and with the sun blaring at us from the valley around 2PM on, it gets unbearably hot in the living room. (Insert my whining about why there is no air conditioning in the United Kingdom.) So I saw an ad in the paper that I happened to be looking at in the library one day and they had everything measured and cut within a few days of my initial call. Apparently, our flat has bigger windows than most homes, so I am pretty pleased that not only do we have an awesome view, but we have an awesome ability to look at it.
Now we have blackout blinds in each room, so I can come home from a long day of helping all the people with their IT queries, draw the blinds, grab a cider from the fridge and relax. It's a priceless luxury, I tell you that much.
The next thing on our list is the bathroom. We're getting the full suite redone so I actually have counter space (hooray!) instead of just dealing with a pedestal sink that can barely hold a toothbrush and a bottle of handwash. Now, the best part about our plumber coming to see us was that he immediately commented on how hot and humid our flat was. We have never had a vent working in our bathroom and there's no window to let the steam out, so it gets really damp in our place. Of course, neither of us have been smart enough to put two and two together and figure out that what we need is a dehumidifier along with a vent for the bathroom.
Now we have the dehumidifier and the ventilation will be included in our new bathroom suite which will be installed when we get back from the Florida trip in October. (Another hooray!)
Our other revamping adventure includes a kitchen which I'm still skeptical about. We planned everything with IKEA a couple of weeks ago, and as awesome as the thing seems, it's a big process for a little flat. I mean if we sell or rent the place out, it will increase the value, I guess. However, I will finally have a dishwasher again (I've been without for 6 and 1/2 years) plus a big refrigerator (ours is about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide - keeping a Thanksgiving turkey in it is non-negotiable). This will be tough to part with if we move from our little flat on the cul-de-sac with the awesome view.

Now, for the traveling bit -- we've taken a small visit to Washington Old Hall because it is the home of George Washington's ancestors. We've planned out our Florida trip and instead of taking a mini holiday to Nashville or Las Vegas while we're in the USA, I made the executive decision for us to take a cruise over one of the weekends we didn't have anything else planned.
I have never thought I wanted to go on a cruise but for the price and convenience, not to mention the fact that I don't have to drive or be mindful of some itinerary for a few days, I chose a 3-day cruise to The Bahamas. If it's too crowded or we hate it, fair enough, we don't have to do it again. But, if my parents end up moving back to Ohio (something they've considered since 1989) then this may be our last chance to go on one. My friends in Florida have been on zillions and enjoy it, so I may as well give it a whirl.

Speaking of driving, I've been practicing my driving a little more now that it's half term (school's out!) so the roads are less hectic. I still take the bus on Tuesdays because I like using it as reading day. Long bus rides = getting reading done. So I've driven to the coast on the weekends, even went to a library by myself in the car. I used to absolutely love driving, now it just makes me nervous if I don't know where I'm going.

Steve has just passed his Driving Theory Test though, so he's well on his way to getting his license. I'm so excited for him because he's wanted this for a very long time. Plus, it will be an immense help to have two drivers within the same household. When you want to take the bus you can, but if not, there's always the car.

For the writing bit -- I was complaining on Twitter that I had lost a bit of writing that I remembered doing not too long ago. It was part of a WIP that I've been playing around with for a couple of years now. It wasn't monumental or anything, it just had the tone right for the relationship between the mother and the daughter. I use Evernote, Scrivener, OneNote, Novlr, and 750 Words to keep my writing available on the fly. I've had to hunt before for bits of writing, but I usually find it. This one has just vanished and I honestly don't remember where or when I write the scene.

So absolutely frustrating.

Anyway, my life has been about work and I think Steve is fed up with hearing about me whine about it. I'm in desperate need of a vacation so next month I will be in Florida with the biggest smile on my face. (More and more hoorays!)