Saturday, December 31, 2011

In between holidays

This was our first official Christmas together as a married couple.  (Previously we had celebrated before and after the 25th.)   It was nice to spend Christmas in England for the first time.  I was a bit homesick for Florida but after I had my turkey dinner and watched Doctor Who I was okay.  (Well, Doctor Who and The Snowman both made me cry. Why does the snowman have to leave at the end? Why?) Being together in our home was so, so nice and I’m thoroughly content to be spending these days with one another.

For our holiday we’ve just been at home mainly but we have gone out to do some grocery shopping here and there just to get some fresh air.  Today we went to see the Turner Prize at the Baltic.  We got in a special line to go up to the third floor and had to wait as they only let a few people in at a time.  (Ironically or not, we ended up in line behind an American family.)  I am a novice when it comes to contemporary art so even when I may not “get” what the artist is trying to do, I appreciate seeing it.  I did like George Shaw’s paintings though.  I’m an old fashioned gal – I like paintings and photography the most.

We had snow before Christmas but it’s now melted and left us lots of rain.  The presents have been unwrapped and now it’s time to start making resolutions. So since I now have my Kindle Fire (absolutely love this thing!), my Noel Fielding book, my bath soaps from Boots and Lush, plus my new coat from Debenhams (such a lovely thing it is), I’m ready to figure out what I want to accomplish in 2012.  I know I’ll need to make a separate reading list for the year so that will be left a little loose.  Otherwise, here’s what I’ve come up with to have done by this time next year:

1. Have the first draft edited and ready to look for publishing: Steve’s already reading through and giving me feedback. 

2. Get my full UK driver’s license: I miss having a car and listening to music with a trunk full of shopping.

3. Get my Leave to Remain status (unless they say we have to wait until all the way to Jan 2013.)

4. Start another project….or two…or three:  I have ideas!

5. Read more classic books as well as books I liked as a kid: I downloaded a lot of free books to my Kindle and I ordered a couple of 80s pre-teen books in paperback.  I have to finish Breaking Dawn, The Hunger Games, Matched, Shiver, Linger, Harry Potter, and Stephen King’s 11/22/63 because it looks interesting.

6. Start jogging again: Again. I’ve started jogging so many times already.  *sigh* I’ll go to the gym as long as I don’t get more germs.  I still have to try this whole jogging outside thing again too - totally unsure about that one.

7. Work on freelancing from home: Seems like something people do so I’ll give it a shot.

Not an extensive list but some attainable goals there. 

Anyway, I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year.  A special Happy Birthday to my Dad on Jan 1st as well.  Happy 2012, everyone! See you next year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 more sleeps

First of all, let me say that I cannot express how happy I am to be feeling better.  The sickness started right after Thanksgiving where Steve and I sat on a couch for days just trying to get over our cold.  Then he had a relapse while I stayed the same. Then we both felt better, thought everything was fine, then I got the sinus infection. Hooray for me! After fighting the alien pods that were living in my head for a week, Steve took me to the walk-in clinic down the street for some doctor drugs. Antibiotics are my friends.

I must say that I’m impressed with how easily medical care for minor issues works around here.  There were no massive amounts of forms, no long waits, no payment up front and proof of insurance.  I was seen, I was given medicine, we paid £7.50, we left.  I was only out of the house for an hour and 45 minutes and that included the walk to the clinic and back.  If America can get a handle on something that makes this kind of treatment easier, I’m all for it.  (Of course I don’t know how it works for more serious illnesses and hopefully never will, but for the normal doctor visits, this is awesome.)

So since I had the sickness I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I’d like to. My time has been on the couch or in bed.  I’m glad to know that my eye fatigue was more than likely just down to my sinuses being crappy.  I finished Shiver so that will have to go on my book blog soon.  I’ve started Breaking Dawn but I doubt I’ll get through it by January.

Now that I’m starting to feel more human, I’m happy to be sitting at the computer in my warm study, looking out over the chilly Wednesday morning from my window.  There has been no snow yet but it’s been quite cold with the North East winds.  Luckily I have my big, white L.L. Bean coat and my new found collection of hats and scarves to keep me warm. 

It’s not long now until Santa comes over to leave our presents. It’s my first British Christmas and I’m getting more and more excited.  The picture above is of the Catholic Cathedral Church of St. Mary’s in Newcastle and the statue is of Cardinal Hume. We went there during our walk around the city last Saturday after our visit to the Christmas Market.  We saw Santa with his reindeer, drank hot toddies, and walked through town to see the ice skaters at the Life Centre. (That picture is blurry because I had to stand on my toes to my camera lens past the tall barricade.) 

We also went to see Saltwell Park lit up for Enchanted Parks last Sunday.  That was very neat, especially to see the kids enjoying themselves.  I must say, there are so many things for children around here that really makes the place even more awesome. 

Anyway, we have next weekend for the Beamish Museum and Durham Cathedral then it will be getting prepared for Christmas at home.  We’ll send the last cards out this week and then we’ll be all set to enjoy Steve’s ten days at home. The Pringles and Doctor Who special await!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November epilogue

It's almost December 1st and my Christmas shopping is underway. We had a great Thanksgiving here last week. I made everything on my own, which included heating some things in the microwave too. (Post of dinner on my foodie blog.)

I worked on National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I "won" because I had done some work ahead of time but I never verified anything. I ended up with fatigued eyes and a painful wrist that slowed me down a lot the last few days. Consequently, I didn't go near the PC yesterday and today I just used the computer to do some more shopping. I have to take a break.

I had an interview yesterday - my first official library job interview. It was for an awesome school too. I was one of six people they chose out of 50 some applicants so that's not too bad. I'm not sure if I'll get it but I really would like to. Being unemployed gets old really quick. I wore my first ever power suit and even left the tag on so another girl being interviewed had to let me know. Classy. Oh well, I heard it’s good luck. I hope so.

But for now I'll keep swimming. I'll do my shopping, take a break from the PC then get back to my work at home. I'm super excited about Christmas because we have a lot we want to do this December to get ready. Plus, I hear that snow stuff will be coming soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being thankful

This year I’m thankful for my husband, my parents, and my friends and family to whom I thank Facebook for allowing me to keep in touch with even after years of not seeing one another.  I’m thankful for our cosy house, our crazy cat, my fun life and the complete contentment of knowing we have so much more fun for us in the future.

I know it’s easy to get irritated with things, especially around the holidays, but think of what all we have. We’re here. We have family, friends, jobs, hope of jobs, hope of all things good and the wonderful world to live in. 

Being a chronic ex-complainer, it’s been increased concern to me how much the internet is used just to complain.  I don’t mean anyone specific or certainly not any of my friends.  I mean in general, when you go on Twitter, especially, all you see if some kind of “I don’t like…” comment.  And, yes, things get irritating and we all get into the habit of ranting now and then.  But when you’re complaining about the smallest things just because it’s something you do, it gets to me.  I just can’t put up with that kind of negativity anymore.

I read complaints of all kinds.  A lot of it is political and you know the person posting the statement just wants someone to start a debate. We have the religious comments that are just made to incite arguments as well.  But the ones that get to me the most are the inane, itty bitty things.  For example: “I hate this carpet in the bank lobby. I hate the bank teller being slow. I hate the money being too crisp. I hate the bank being next to a store where I can spend my money.” And so on and so forth. 

Don’t get worked up over that kind of stuff, guys.  Seriously. What is the point in doing that when it’s just going to make you more upset about the situation and no one else in the world is going to give a flip?  As I said, I do this too.  I get irritated when the stores are crowded and there’s only one door to enter and exit from.  But it passes.  The neighbour with the crazy crap in my hallway drives me up a wall but I stopped letting myself get that upset about it. It didn’t do me any good to keep complaining about it.

I hear parents complain about teachers. Teachers complain about parents. Librarians complain about patrons. Patrons complain about books. Book sellers complain about ebooks. Brits complain about Americans. Americans complain about Brits. Bus riders complain about cars. Drivers complain about pedestrians. When does it end?

Okay, never. You’re right.

Anyway, just be thankful. Some of us are still looking for work. We’re still struggling to keep calm and carry on but we can if we just get on with what we need to be doing. Appreciate what you have and enjoy the holiday. (Heck, not everyone even gets Thanksgiving day off anymore.)  You don’t need a lot of money and things don’t have to be perfect.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A blog from the couch

I'm trying out my Blogger app on my HTC for the first time. I've put myself on break from the computer tonight. Since I've been working on my project and treating myself with Saints Row 3, my left thumb (my driving thumb) and wrist has started hurting. Plus my eyes were fatiqued over the weekend so I didn't type at all again until Monday.

We're almost all prepped for Thanksgiving on Thursday. We had to get a pastry crust and a sandwich tin (which looks like a regular small, round cake pan) to make the pumpkin pie. I had the pie mix, spice, noodles (still on the look out for anything like Pennsylvania Dutch noodles here) and yams shipped from Florida. We have just a small turkey joint & some ready made mashed potatoes but it should be plenty for just the two of us. We don't have room for a lot of leftovers either and Steve doesn't have the day off so it will be a nice feast for an otherwise normal Thursday.

NaNoWriMo will be over in 8 days so I'll have a nice chunk of work to edit afterwards. It hasn't been horrendous as some people say it is. I enjoyed it for the most part (except for the thumb and eye thing.)

I'm excited because Christmas is coming and I'm finally in a place where it feels like Christmas is approaching. Usually Florida just tells us that it's Christmas and we go back outside in our shorts and get on with it. But here our Continental and Christmas Markets are already underway. That will give me plenty of reasons, along with Thanksgiving, to update my foodie blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November fifth and beyond

This photo was my not so great attempt to show how many people were at Saltwell Park on Bonfire Night last Saturday.  As I’ve been updating about all week, I was sick with a cold so on Saturday I was a little reluctant to go out in the 40 some degree temperatures and stand in a muddy field.  However, after a little crying and whining I bundled up and we headed up the hill to send out my application for a provisional driver’s license.  Major excitement.

I told Steve that I would see how I felt after I was outside.  We planned to go to the Metro Centre that day for our first Christmas shopping and Lord knows I love going to the Metro Centre.  We went to Boots where I stocked up on cough drops, tissues, hand sanitizer and cold medicine. Then we jumped on the bus and headed to the greatest place in town.

Now, since there’s no Thanksgiving here, the mall was all lit up with a Christmas tree, a Nativity (God bless the United Kingdom) and even Santa was there (now we know where he hangs out in November.) That was enough to get me into the holiday spirit.  We spent a lot of time in the new Primark (two stories with awesome design) and grabbed some things for ourselves that we wanted Santa to leave under the tree. 

I have been infatuated with winter clothes.  I’d been in Florida for 22 years and needing a lot of coats and hats and sweaters was just not really necessary.  (We can get along with dressing in the same sweater or two on cold days and maybe one coat that lasts all of January.)  Now all I want are warm fuzzy clothes.  And books.  Can’t forget the books.  Anyway, I didn’t find much for Steve so next week, once I feel up to it, I’ll be headed back to the mall alone (weee!) to visit Santa (weee!) and find some presents. 

Once I had my Costa Coffee and we got back home, we had dinner and went back out into the cold for my very first Bonfire Night.  As far as Wikipedia explains, we celebrate King James not dying from an assassination plot.  It was much like our Fourth of July without the heat, bugs and picnics.  However, since it is held in the winter, they had lots coffee and hot chocolate to go with the burger and hot dog stands.  I approve.  Plus, people were allowed to drink at the park.  I even saw some students mouthing off to cops who weren’t particularly interested.  Something you just would not see in the States. We estimated that about 5,000 people showed up at the park. It was crazy to see my usually quite, peaceful park being full of people trying to get in and out of the gates. Still, it was really neat to see our neighbours out and about on a Saturday night.  Everyone was walking up and down the streets, fireworks were going off at various houses and it was just a neat kind of celebration.

By the time we got home that Saturday night, I was done.  I sat on the couch and have spent 90% of my time there ever since then.  I’ve been keeping up with NaNoWriMo and watching shows on my V+ box.  I’m still trying to finish Eclipse too – only 10% more to go. 

Until then, Project Well is in effect at our house.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A trip to Tynemouth Castle

Our trip to Tynemouth yesterday was a lot of fun.  I made a set of pictures on Flickr to show how neat the Priory and Castle was.  It was plenty cold up on that hill top but luckily I was bundled up so this Floridian girl didn’t get frozen by the North Sea winds. We’ve been trying to find places to go that are close by and, therefore, cheaper to get to than by train.  Tynemouth was a 30 minute subway (the subway in Meadow Well is shut down) and bus ride to get there. 

We walked down Front Street and saw Queen Victoria’s statue as well as The King’s School (Wow! Ridley Scott use to go to that school.)  There were lots of little shops and pubs to eat in, plus a church turned into a small mall for second hand stores and a eatery.  We stayed at the castle for a while and took a ton of pictures (so much fun.)  I was interested in the old graves and how archaeologists had lined out where the rest of the castle and priory where when it was originally built.  Old stuff is so neat.  It was neat how high up that castle was on the cliff, looking out towards the water.  Plus, the big Collingwood Monument off the coast and the Tynemouth Lighthouse was awesome.  Next time we go, we may go down to the water’s edge and look around too. 

Then once my memory card ran out of space, we headed back down Front Street to explore.  We ate at Hugo’s At the Coast and into the Green Ginger Shopping Arcade (the one that use to a working church.)  Then it was back to the bus, which I like because I can see the sites instead of being on the subway the whole time.  But the subway is quicker and we took that back into town.

There are a few places in that area that we’ll go see later on but one a day is about all we like to do.  It’s so fun to explore places like this that are down the street from us, practically.  I just wonder how this will look like with snow everywhere.  I know the States are getting some so we may be next.  Seeing a bunch of old graves the weekend before Halloween was quite fitting though.  Steve carved the pumpkin today too so tomorrow I’ll have to post a picture of the awesome creation. 

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

There’s a nightmare on my street

It’s almost Halloween time again and strange things are occurring.  Spooky movies on television, scary candy in the grocery aisles, and strange things are afoot – at the Circle K?  Nope.  In our neighbourhood.
A few days ago I noticed that someone had moved in and, from the looks of it, had set up shop.  Brochures, knick knacks, company car, you name it.  I commented that the place now looks like Elle Woods’s dorm room (except this woman is old enough to know better.)  Now it looks like, well, a salon.  There are 50s Hollywood photos in the hall, a huge full-length mirror in the landing, funky plant type things here and there but, the best part, is the corner by the window (stuff on the windows, against the window, on the floor by the windows...)  I don’t even think Paula Deen would have this much country home junk in her dining room.  Steve pointed out that it’s like a fungus; the decorations just keep growing as they try to take over.
Needless to say, this is a block of flats so, again, this is right outside our front door.  For my Floridian friends, this would be like living in a hotel or a bed and breakfast like this so the hallway between your room and the room across from you was flooded with household wall coverings and big glass planters.  There are two flats per floor and 3/4 of the “common” area has been taken up with Ms. Woods’s decor.
While I won’t bother going into the details of what the company is, I will say that despite our overseer telling her to take down the brochures, the junk is still there.  We apparently have no rights or say over this.  We can’t even object to the art print sketch of the nude woman that I discovered this morning going up the stairway on the other side of our door this morning either. 
I’ve thought of plenty of things to do with said junk, but instead, I purchased Mr. Skeleton up here to counteract the tacky.  I’ve been tempted to do everything from putting cobwebs on the stuff in the window.  But now that we’ve experienced Elle coming over at 7PM just to vacuum the hallway (something we have done by a cleaning lady each week, by the way, and why would you worry about just the hallway if you weren’t setting up a business) we’ve just decided to annoy her.  I’ll make sure to walk through some extra dirt on the way in from bringing in my loud, light up Halloween decorations for our wall. Respectfully, Steve was playing loud punk music for a while too.  Bless him.
And if you don’t remember, this is the Nightmare on My Street original.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October’s almost over again.

This time last year I was married and getting my paperwork set up for my Visa.  Wow, how I don’t miss that struggle to get everything in order.  I think I had a vodka and orange juice each night to curb the stress.  I was happy and excited but so convinced something was going to be overlooked and I’d mess the whole process up.  Plus I had the paperwork to get Jake over here with me.  That was a double whammy.

But look how it all turned out fine. I’m here in our computer room, typing away, waiting for Steve to get back from his work dinner (he had steak – I had a couple of eggs that broke when I dropped the carton on the kitchen floor.)  Jake seems to have settled in just fine.  He’s back to his over exuberant actions in search for attention and he seems pretty content.  (Still wondering if he needs a sister cat.)

So this year will be my first Christmas in England.  I’m really excited.  It’s been years since I’ve seen snow so that will be a big experience for me.  Plus there are so many nice, Christmas events going on around here.  We can go to tree lightings, enchanted parks, midnight mass, and visit Santa’s grotto too.  It’s nice to have a seasons and a vibe about Christmas that we don’t quite get in Florida.  Granted, having holidays in Florida is nice because we aren’t stuck in 10 feet of snow but the feeling of a proper Christmas isn’t the same as it was when I was in Ohio. 

I’m going to miss Thanksgiving though but I’ve made arrangements for us to have dinner here just as it should be.  Just wonder if the Macy’s Parade will be live streamed for me and available in the UK.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Because I’m already awake

Because I’m already awake I’ll write a little update.  Yesterday we had to experience the intrusion that is the potential salon next door so needless to say, I’m a little uneasy.  (I’ll update more on that once I figure out what’s going on.  All I know is that our block now looks like Elle Wood’s dorm room with tacky pictures and cutesy decor all over. Yes, such things stress me out.)

But it’s already 7:00 AM so I have to get myself ready for my usual visit to the gym.  Without working it does become increasingly dull to not have anywhere to go each day, so I’m glad to have my gym membership to keep me motivated. Plus, the visit to the library and the walk back through the park is really nice.  It helps me keep my reading up and my brains busy before I get back home and back to my own work here.

Anyway, we’ve been thinking about getting another cat for Mr. Jake but I’m still not sure.  He wakes us up constantly every morning, at 5AM, 6AM, 7AM…  I feel bad because I wonder if he’s lonely. I also wonder if he’d beat another cat up – tom cats aren’t usually known for their sparkling personalities, are they?  Anyway, if an opportunity does come up for us to look into having a sister cat, we may.  I just know if I got one from a shelter and Jake had a fit, I’d never bring a cat back to the SPCA.  Such a dilemma.

Maybe we should just get a dog. (Just kidding, Steve!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My playlist needs an upgrade

It’s been a while since I’ve written a music post so I may as well do one now.  I have a playlist that I listen to each time I go to the gym.  I’ve listened to this since I’ve been here in January.  I use to have an XM radio where I could find new music to snag here and there but, alas, I am out of touch with the outside hip music world.  I can look Alt Nation’s playlists but discovering a song I like is so much more rewarding.  So since I’m out of touch, I need new music and I need suggestions.  For now this is what I play when I’m on the elliptical machine or when I’m sitting here at the computer (in order of importance):
Arcade Fire “Rococo” – I always start my music listening time with this.
Arcade Fire “Rebellion (Lies)” – Wow, this band is so good.
The Black Keys “Everlasting Light” – There’s a certain feeling you get when this album starts that is like no other.
The Black Keys “Tighten Up”
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Y Control”
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Down Boy”
Kasabian – “Underdog”
Kasabian “Vlad the Impaler” – Can’t listen to this w/o thinking of Noel Fielding chasing people with a stake.
Interpol “Lights” – Love this!
Interpol “Barricade”
She Wants Revenge “Save Your Soul”
The National “Anyone’s Ghost” – My favourite National song.
Matt and Kim “Good Ol Fashion Nightmare”
Santigold “Lights Out”
Crystal Castles w/ Robert Smith “Not In Love”
White Stripes “Death Letter” – This is listed last because I’ve heard it a million times already. Still one of my favourite songs though.
There are more by each band that I’ll play here and there but generally this is what I make sure to listen to before I switch off the iPod.  I have the Zune player now for looking up new stuff so what will it be next?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Things of motivation

With NaNoWriMo coming up and NaBloPoMo sitting here becoming a bit of a hassle to make sure and get a post in by midnight, I decided to write down some motivational quotes and information to believe in the effort.

Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind was faced rejection 38 times.

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

“When I began to write, some people humored me. "You've always been such a dreamer!" Some discouraged me. "Do you know what the odds you know how many would-be writers there are out there?" Some were actually angry. "What makes you think you can write?" – Judy Blume

J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

Anne Frank: One of the most famous people to live in an attic, Anne Frank's diary had 15 rejections.

“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Meg Cabot: The bestselling author of The Princess Diaries keeps a mail bag of rejection letters.

William Golding: William Golding's Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.

"Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window."
William Faulkner

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sims 3 stole my afternoon

I am smart enough to know that if I start playing a game before working on anything that I’ll sit on that couch and be drawn into the world which is Sims 3.  Yes, I understand that but do I stop myself from turning that stinking Xbox on?  No. 

Today Steve went to work down South so we got to sleep in a little bit extra today.  I got myself all ready with my cup of coffee after he left and I just watched TV. I had the distinct intention of watching TV and then getting to work.  But those Sims, they call me. 

I didn’t spend the whole day playing Sims, I just spent the afternoon playing it when I could have been working.  So I admit, I’m a Sims 3 addict.  I love how I can make the little people have crazy lives.  I like how there’s no real strategy to the game, it’s just good (I wouldn’t say clean because those Sims can do some evil things to one another) fun.

So here me say now that I will try harder tomorrow to resist those alluring Sims.  I will not try to make the neighbourhood heartbreaker try to boyfriend every Sim in town nor will I  delight in getting the household kleptomaniac steal all the cars in the diner parking lot.  I will write my own work and not have my Illustrious Author Sim write 4 books on sci-fi so I can unlock the fantasy genre.   No, I won’t find the irony in that at all.  I reason with myself that once I start NaNoWriMo in 11 days (11 days?!) I won’t have time for Sims and I need to get my fill in now.  I also reason with myself that I’ll grow tired of the game and I’ll want to stop completely.  That happens sometimes but I can still stick with it. 

As Scarlett says, “tomorrow is another day” and I have a visit into town for my lunch date go to.  It’s going to be back in the 50s again so I shouldn’t freeze completely.  Ah, but that Winter is waiting for me around the corner. 

Speaking of Winter, Santa will be bringing me Sims 3 Pets.  I can’t wait!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One word: books

Today I’m taking a prompt idea from Gather: one word.  I chose books because I was just sitting here at my desk thinking about them so I thought I’d write a little ode to them.

Books are one of the most important things in life.  If it weren’t for books we wouldn’t have any way to explain the way the wind feels when it blows past, or how blue the sky is on a Fall day.  We wouldn’t have words to express how deeply we feel love or how scared we can felt alone in the dark.  There wouldn’t be a way to connect with the world around us.  If it weren’t for books and the beauty of language we wouldn’t know how important each day of life is and how much we have to appreciate small moments. 

We certainly wouldn’t have great movies or words to songs or even pictures to tell us a story.  We need books in all forms because it not only opens up other worlds but our own world and our own life.  Books are things we can pass by each day and never find time to get our hands on but somewhere in everyone the purpose of a book has effected us all.  They help us connect to one another.  We learn from them, inspire and create because of books.  I could get up on my soap box and even go into why we need libraries and schools but we know this stuff – we need books and a way to get books. (Reopen Borders and the local Waterstones!)

Speaking of books, I’ve finished my New Moon review today so I am free to read the rest of the series.  Sheesh, even those books are enough to know how much impact a bunch of words slapped onto paper can be.  We have religion and philosophy and poetry and history because of the written word.  Books are essential – just like bubble gum.

And wow, this picture really makes me want to go back to Seattle.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Clean up that dirty mouth

Okay, now I’ve seen it all.  So the BBC did a piece this morning on Breakfast about how chewing gum is now 100 years old and what do you think of it?  What do you mean, what do I think of it?  It’s a necessity of life, right?  Wrong.

Apparently in middle England, as Steve refer to it, gum chewing is “disgusting.”  Think I’m kidding?  Sadly, not.  Comment after comment on their Facebook page had viewers saying how it was a “vile habit” and it “makes you look common.” 

You’ve got to be kidding me.  My ingenious comment was along the lines of “it’s more disgusting to not chew gum after a meal” but of course that was rebuffed.  “No, Suzanne, just brush your teeth after a meal.”  Sure, I’ll keep my electric Oral B toothbrush where ever I go.  I’ll make sure that during the 30 minute lunch breaks that we got in Florida, that I can get that done.  (Which I did by the way, but British employees get an hour to walk to the pub and back.)  I’ll make sure to do that after every coffee break and every snack too.  Yeah, you’re right.  Gum is too disgusting in its minty form to be used and, oh yes, “it should be outlawed.”  So you want to be like Singapore now, huh?  Good luck with that.

I half understand the complaint that it’s the gum on the shoes that people don’t like but, come on, if that were a valid argument we’d outlaw dogs and cigarettes and glass bottles and food and everything else that we see littering the streets.  (We have no one doing community service to get out there and clean up the streets either.)  Oh no, I’m sure that isn’t the same at all.  Aside from the tons of people standing outside of shops, blowing smoke all around them for everyone to smell (I use to smoke, I can say this) or the dog who does his business right next to my park bench so I can gag on the stink (I’ve owned dogs too.)  That’s completely acceptable and we could never ban that. 

I’m even surprised that no one said “use a mint instead” (so far that I read) but no no.  Supposedly the gum only moves the after lunch particles around in your mouth.  There is no whitening or clean feeling we get from it at all.  That little Orbit girl has been lying to us this whole time!  I love how the comments were like “Oh, it’s not as good for you as people think.”  Yeah, that’s why dentists use it and why it’s recommended to help prevent cavities.  And whoever said it only lets the food linger around in there is wrong too.  (Big surprise.)

I really need to stop using the internet as much.  Something like this irritates the crap out of me on a weekly basis.  I see some many hateful comments about politics, news, or even other people who want to talk to them on Twitter.   The anonymity of the internet just feeds people to complain and go on about any little thing to such extremes.  A little stick of gum should not get this big of a debate (besides, the debate is pretty stupid to begin with.) 

And, yes, I’m chewing gum while I type this.  Two pieces at that!  It’s pink and minty and oh so good.  I know, I’m a disgusting heathen.  *blows bubble and rolls eyes*

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prepare for the Artic Blast

Well, it looks as if we’re going to have a hint of winter this week.  Today it’s been nice enough that we can keep the windows open but Wednesday and Thursday we’ll have 33F temperatures.  At least there won’t be any rain to go along with that cold.

I brought a ton of sweaters and winter clothes with me when I left Florida last January so I’m prepared for chilly weather.  At least if feels like Halloween is approaching.  Soon enough we’ll have some snow and then I’ll get the fun of re-learning how to walk around on frozen ground.  Ah, those were the days when I use to sled down snow drifts as a kid in Ohio.

Anyway, I’ve found out that I can apply for my provisional driver’s license so I can get that sometime soon (it takes three weeks to get that little bugger processed for non-citizens.)  I am not real keen on driving on snowy conditions but I’m anxious to learn how the street signs and roads work in England.  For now I’ll happily take the bus though – especially during Artic conditions.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An adventure to Durham

I didn’t find anything in the NaBloPoMo prompts today to write about anyway, so I’ll just give a little detail about our trip to Durham today.  It was the perfect day today to take this little trip that we’d been planning on for a while: sunny and not too cold.  We walked up the hill, jumped on the bus and took the 40 minute or so ride out past the Angel and out through the country.  It’s such a nice trip going out through there.  Plus, Chester-le-Street was very neat.

Unfortunately we couldn’t see the Castle as it was closed until the end of October but that just means we’ll get to come back again and do more site seeing.  Instead, we spent the day visiting Cathedral.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but the stained glass windows, the tombs, the architecture – all of it was just amazing.  It’s such an awesome feeling to be in one of those cathedrals because we don’t have stuff like this in the States.  We heard the huge organ played as well as watched the boys choir practice a bit.  We then walked around town, had fish and chips and grabbed a bus back home. 

I really do like taking little trips like that around the North East.  I really hope we can go back to see the Castle in December.  I want to see the Christmas tree at the Cathedral.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I’m Queen of the world

NaBloPoMo prompt: If you were queen/king of the world, what would you change? Why? What would you keep the same? Why?

I know I’m not alone in uttering the statement, “if I were Queen of the World…” and I don’t have any Earth shattering ideas but I’ve come up with some so far.  First, all the restaurants will have to give their food to soup kitchens after closing hours.  No thrown away food.  I know the whole argument will be that no McD’s will give away perfectly good hamburgers but, please, no one in this world should go hungry.  That’s my main thing.  I go nuts if I don’t have a bowl of Ready Brek in the morning and I’ve seen hungry kids at schools who need that free breakfast and lunch that we give kids.  Throwing away food is just awful. 

I’d fix this stupid economy so we can all go back to work but I’ve not figured out all the ends and means to get that sorted yet.  When I do, I’ll get back to you.

I was on the bus today and overheard a couple of 20 some year old guys talking about how they are working part time, minimum wage jobs instead of their planned teaching career.  I knew how they felt.  It was sad too because the one guy was saying how he loved being in the classroom and how he woke up every day, excited to go to work and change kids’ lives.  Now he’s a sous chef.  The other guy was a microbiology major and working at a tea shop.  Nothing fulfilling, nothing that equals the kind of education and training they’ve worked hard to achieve.

But it’s all going to have to get better soon.  Economic recession is so 2008.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What makes me think

The NaBloPoMo forum prompt that I chose today was that simple: What makes me think.

Thinking about something productive and just thinking are two different things.  If I want to drift off and think about television that I watched last night (sadly for me today it was Snakes on a Plane) then I just listen to my iPod (Arcade Fire’s “Rococo” has to be played once each time I turn that on), or try to fall asleep.  But when there are creative thoughts that need to be thought up, it has to be while on a walk or in the shower or something that doesn’t require any kind of concentration.

I do not listen to music when trying to think productively.  I’ve always associated driving with music because driving is a mindless activity that needs some kind of mental stimulus.  Now, if I were trying to think of an idea for a story or a plot point, then I’d take my walk and let the ideas plop in without any other kind of distraction.

And with that abrupt, late post for today, I have to get some work done.  It’s been grey outside all day and I’ve been slacking off doing my daily duties.  I finished New Moon last night too, so I plan to have that book review done over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What do I remember?

NaBloPoMo daily prompt: What is your first memory?

Oh geez, who comes up with these prompts?  I had better ones for 7th and 8th graders when they did bell ringers each day.  (Granted I found them fun – they usually just ignored them or said “I don’t get it.”)

But I digress.  The first thing I clearly remember was being at Cedar Point or King’s Island or the zoo or some place like that.  I was walking with my mother but the sun was in my eyes and I reached out to a lady in front of me instead of to my mother who was beside me.  Odd thing is, consciously I knew the lady wasn’t my mother in front of me, but I reached for her anyway.  Weird, yes.  Poignant moment in my life?  Not really.

Anyway, so I’ve been looking at National Novel Writing Month after it was on BBC Breakfast.  I’ve seen this online for as long as I’ve had Twitter but never bothered.   Now that I have a project to work on, it may be a very good way to get some decent work in.  It’s the schedule I have a hard time with – if I go out for the day, do my thing, come home and start messing around off the computer, I won’t get anything done.  If I stay home and keep my booty at the desk, I get some things accomplished. 

I have to keep from turning the Xbox on and playing Sims 3 too.

NaNoWriMo is a contest that you enter and it says that we have to post excerpts of what we’ve written each day to keep an accurate word count (the aim is for 50,000 words by the end of November.)  But I’ve been told (thank you, Twitter) that no one reads those excerpts and they aren’t required if you write your word count in the form each day.  So, it’s not a bad opportunity.  People have done it for years.  Heck, even Water for Elephants was written for NaNoWriMo.

Wow, 200,000 people participated in this last year.  The recession sure has spawned a lot of indie writers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I am electro girl

The NaBloPoMo writing prompt for today was a bit dull for me so I decided to pick one from the prompt forum:  Time travel has been invented. You have to go back 15 years and explain the concept of social networking and blogging to yourself.

I distinctly remember using GeoCities after high school in 1994.  I remember updating a personal webpage and being relieved when the “weblog” finally came about (thought it was supposed to be for news only).  Everything was easier once we had a way of updating posts without going in and totally rejigging the front index page each and every time.

So explaining this to a twenty year old me would be all right, I guess.  Granted the whole “everyone is online” situation would be odd but really cool to 20 year old me.  I remember back then having AOL was the “in” thing (even though I tried it and never liked its restrictive browsing capabilities").  If I explained Twitter to myself I would explain that it’s like one big, on-going, never-ending chat that includes celebrities that ignore your comments.  Yeah, it really doesn’t sound like that much fun in 1996 either, does it?  Especially when a lot of people use it for link sharing (which is cool to a point) and complaining about businesses (which is handy – to a point), people they don’t know in person (we called that gossiping 15 years ago) and television (okay, that’s fun.)

Facebook on the other hand would be cool to 20 year old me.  I mean, think of it, being in college, as Zuckerburg originated it, and being able to have everyone’s business in full view.  Well, we had this in the 2000s, as I’ve mentioned on here before – LiveJournal.  That got to be a pain. You let dramatic people have access to so much personal info that it just leads to chaos.  That’s why it was so hard for a lot of us to bother with Facebook – we were use to going online and being fairly anonymous.

Now we’re us. We can tell everyone where we worked, what our family looks like, where we went over the weekend and where we’re going on vacation.  Nothing’s a secret anymore.  So being 20 year old me who had to figure out Smashing Pumpkins lyrics by listening to the songs would have the whole wide world of music at the click of a link. 

Wait, don’t I have to explain links to 20 year old me first?

I’ll also have to explain why I am electro girl too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ye old pastimes

We were talking about high school today.  You remember those days when we had a bunch of people around us all the time, we had the best music to listen to, we had high hopes, big dreams, and an angst that was undeniable?  Would anyone of us want go back to that?  No, thank you.

Steve was saying how in England they don’t have Homecoming dances but they do have things like Prom.  Neither of us went to prom or any kind of graduations for any of our degrees.  I went to one Homecoming dance, looked cute in my lacy dress and Doc’s and, yeah, that’s about all I remember.  It’s not a magical memory or anything.  It was just a night out – at school, nonetheless.  A bunch of us in my parents’ car, being the ones who didn’t like dances.  I never went to the Project Graduation things or the slumber party things at school that I heard about.  I just wasn’t into all that back then.  At least I still have my friends from high school who I talk to and visit when I can.  It’s funny to think about the stupidest things that happened back then but it’s way more interesting to know what’s going on in life now. 

Life today is still all about having fun.  It’s after 9PM and I’m listening to Crystal Castles on the Zune player and writing up this post.  Tomorrow will be another gym day and back to the desk to get working again at home.  It’s a nice feeling here; to be cozy indoors with the heat on while the air outside gets chillier.  I’ll have to find some really cool things to do in lieu of Halloween.  I think a ghost tour is in order.  There are plenty of old graveyards here that need visiting at night. Muhahaha!

Speaking of that, I still need a pumpkin to carve.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday visit into town

Granted, yes, this picture is of the countryside park, nearby, but today we did visit the city.  We headed out into the chilly, damp air around 11:15 this morning.  First we walked up the hill, caught the bus, got off at the library, got my photo taken for my provisional driver’s license and headed through the city.

It’s neat to walk around without a big agenda for the day.  We talked about going back to the Laing, or watching Jane Eyre at the Tyneside, but instead we looked around for signs of  Christmas at Fenwick.  Drank coffee at Nero’s on the lower ground floor, bought Skippy peanut butter (an American specialty item here) and investigated all the possible Thanksgiving foods.  After that we strolled around Eldon Square and The Gate, trying to find lunch.  Frankie and Benny’s was packed so we had Chinese buffet lunch at Lau’s 202 (all you can eat for £7.99 before 5PM – pretty sweet.) 

That’s a typical day for us when we wander around town.  I love living so close to the city centre.  I’ve never had so many things to discover in one place like this before.  It’s a new adventure each time we go around there.  I also successfully found the bus stop once again so when I do venture out further than down the street, I can get myself home.  That’s always a reassuring feeling.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Between two Fridays

NaBloPoMo: Talk about one important thing that happened between last Friday and today.

One important thing? I flew across an ocean in 7 hours and 20 minutes. A bunch of other things? Well, let's see:

Last Friday was Sept 30. At 12AM London time we were sitting at the airport in Sanford, watching a Manchester flight leave. Our flight was to take off around that same time but was 7 hours late. We were the last flight of the day and the staff at the airport begrudgingly let us know about it. We heard comments between one another about how they just wanted to go home (yeah, same with the other 200 of us stuck at the airport, don't you think?)

But we left at 12:50AM Orlando time to arrive home at 2PM Newcastle time. We slept and slept after a quick trip to the store. We tried to get back on our schedule. We stayed home, watched the rest of this season's Doctor Who (I understand about as much as can be expected now). 

I tried jogging outside in the park. I decided that was a bad idea: cold wind & lack of pace monitoring. I hung a wedding picture up that we got from my parents in lieu of our first anniversary. I tried out my new Kodak Easyshare camera. I got (somewhat) use to the cold again. I baked pork chops and potatoes in the crock pot.

So the all of this does lead to the most important event - I'm back in England.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I live between…

I signed up for National Blog Post Month a day or two ago but I’m just not getting around to working on writing anything else for October since we got back from vacation.  NaBloPoMo prompt for yesterday was: List two things (however close or far) that your current home is between. I guess it makes sense to kind of describe where I live since I just got back from Florida and now I’m reacquainting myself with the place.

My current home is between Denmark and Ireland.  Between Scotland and France.  Between the Angel of the North and St. James’s Park.  Between Edinburgh and York. Between Oslo and Dublin.

I’ve posted pictures of all the things I’ve seen since I’ve been here.  I have parks, museums, art galleries, castles, cathedrals, buses, trains, pubs, hills, rain, libraries and soccer here.  I eat beans on toast with my eggs in the morning.  I drink Earl Gray with rich tea biscuits (I still call them cookies.)  I don’t have humidity or giant wasps.  I don’t have to hear about shootings each day, or worry about dog attacks while walking, or wait in traffic on I-4.

I miss being in Florida, but I like it here too.  There are pros and cons to each place.  Here I don’t have a 24 hour Wal-Mart or a car to scoot around in.  I can’t wash my hair in the morning and go outside.  I can’t wear flip flops and shorts for 10-11 months out of the year.  But I didn’t always live in Florida and I wasn’t always without seasons.  I lived in Ohio for the first twelve years of my life.  I played in the snow and carved pumpkins.  I remember those days well and England reminds me of living there.

So yes, where I live in a seven hour flight away from where I use to live but I manage just fine.  The leaves are beginning to fall and the wind has picked up.  Our house is in a place that is in between seasons – something I haven’t really experienced for 22 years.  It’s nice to be between something new for a change.  It’s not like Florida is going anywhere – it’s always waiting for me. (Just like that Target store!)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Florida and back again

On Thursday we set out to Florida. The plane ride took 9 hours and 20 minutes - slightly longer than expected. It really did feel like a long time even though we saw X-Men First Class and I read some of New Moon on my (now, old school) Kindle. Once we got in Orlando, I was so happy to be in the warmth and humidity. It felt like my body started working normally again. My blood and skin were so glad.

We stayed in Titusville for the first few days.  We had a big hot tub all to ourselves there.  The hotel was nice for relaxing before heading over to Disney.  It was so nice to be able to drive again, have the abundance that is Wal-Mart and Target again, and sit in the relief of air conditioning while it was in the 90s with high humidity.  It was a feeling I was used to but I forgot how much I didn’t miss not being able to just go outside like I can do in England.

After a while the heat got to us. It's great fun for a while until it isn't. We celebrated our 1st anniversary, went on most of the rides, went on the safari, saw some fireworks, used the Extra Magic Hours to ride Star Tours 3 times in a row and played in the pool at the hotel. Being at four Disney parks over the span of a week was tough. It's so exhausting to walk around all those people, pushing and shoving in the humidity. That's when we were ready to head back to Cocoa Beach.

Once we got there, it was sunny and relaxing. Less people to mess with at the hotel too.  I had my birthday, visited my parents, got a new Garmin sports band, my Kodak Easyshare mini camera (for all my fine blogging needs) and a dolphin bracelet. We took pictures on the beach, swam some more in the pool, ate seafood (heck, we ate all sorts of food while we were there) and relaxed. 

Then it was time to come home.  However, after spending the last two days in Titusville at our awesome Hampton Inn (awesome hotel – free 24 hour coffee and tea) we had to say so long for now to Florida. 

We went back to Orlando Sanford Airport, 3 hours ahead of the flight to get through customs and return the car, then found out our flight was 7 hours late.  What a hassle.  We got two $8 food and (non-alcoholic) drink vouchers but that gave us maybe a free order of chicken tenders – not that great of a deal.  Plus, since our flight was then scheduled to leave at 12:50AM, the airport staff had to stay late instead of leaving around 6PM after the flights usually have taken off for the day.  Boy, did we hear them complain about that.  Plus, whenever you asked them a question, you could tell they were irritated that we were still there.  It wasn’t as if we all had a choice to be stuck there – customs closed at 8PM so we had to stay (aside from the fact that we had no more rental car).  But once the flight from Newcastle arrived, we got on the plane (thanks to my last minute Facebook updating we were the last on board) and we had a smooth flight that lasted only about 7 and 1/2 hours.  I finally saw Water for Elephants on the plane too, which was very good.  The rest of the time I slept – no reading.

Now we’re back home, all rested and completely off schedule.  Steve’s upstairs in the computer room looking over our holiday videos.  We had a great time, despite our unwelcomed wait at the airport.  It made the arrival into Newcastle all the better though.  Ah, it’s so nice to be back home to be with Jake again too.  He’s one happy cat now that we’re back.  I missed having him curl up in bed with us each night.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It’s officially Autumn

Over the weekend, Steve and I took a walk to the Quayside because it was so nice and sunny.  We knew that Summer was slowly but surely moving away from us, but once in a while we still get some sunny moments.  It never lasts a whole day.  By the time we were on the other side of the Tyne River, it was rainy.  We grabbed a QuayLink bus (handy little things) and made our way into the city centre for some shopping.

I has just been looking at shorts and summer weather gear the past few weeks.  Granted, a lot of it was on sale but the shops usually still had plenty of shorts, tank tops and other necessary items to wear on sunny days.  Bringing a jacket is always necessary but wearing sweaters just yet – no.

Today I went to exchange a bunch of my too large sized vacation clothes when I discovered stores full of coats, boots and all-out winter Autumn weather.  I guess in the North East we don’t have much time to get Summer in so we’d better act quick.  I did score some things but there were very few options.  The Fall jacket I found on sale was much more beneficial to the weather we have today – windy and rainy.

So now that Autumn is here, school has started but I’ve not been called in to work as a supply teacher.  I was so hoping for something to put a little cash in my pocket but nope, still no luck.  I’m not even sure if my chances would be much better in Florida either.  Last I enquired, the school board wasn’t even taking substitute teachers anymore, despite the fact that I had been registered when I first graduated college.  No libraries have called me either.  I wonder how many people are applying for the same jobs I am.  I’ve been hearing people say that for jobs that their company’s have posted, they’ll get a hundred applicants.  Yup, this unemployment thing has gotten really old.

But nevertheless, I’ll carry on as I have been.  I can take my sunny weather gear and my windy weather gear and wear as needed.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where have all the notebooks gone?

You remember notebooks, right?  Not the kind that you plug in and type on while hoping the battery lasts before find a working outlet – I mean the paper kind.  I’ve had notebooks for years but now they’re lying around blank.  Do we even need them anymore?

I see tons of notebooks, journals and all around cute things with endless possibilities of writing in that sea of blank paper.  I use to buy them by the dozen because they inspired such great things to jot down.  But within the recent years I’ve used them less and less because I was using the computer more.

Granted, sending a hand-written letter or postcard is nice.  It’s easy to jot something down and lie it on someone’s desk or post it to a stack of papers for a reminder.  But now I find it less and less convenient to write down anything.  Even my shopping list is online even though we make a preliminary list throughout the week to make sure we get what we need, our basic list is saved online for easy shopping. 

Notebooks also were used as journals that were kept and looked over years later.  Now we have blogs.  We have notepad on our phone.  We have emails that we can send to ourselves when making blog posts (my favorite way to draft these days.)  I wonder if movies ten years from now will show a heroine pouring over an old blog to get the events and emotions from a historical character’s past. 

I know the notebook is still popular and there are plenty of lovely ones at Paperchase or at the grocery store during Back-To-School sales.  But if we’re not working at an office or in a classroom, are they becoming less and less essential for daily life?  I keep one with me at all times but only every so often to I jot down ideas in them while I’m out.  I have plenty of apps to keep me busy with creativity and productivity these days. 

It’s a lovely thing, a notebook, but as much as I’d like to keep them as a top priority, they’re usually shelved after buying them.  I hate dirtying up such perfect, pretty things.