The Next Chapter

Umm, I don’t think we’re in London anymore…

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Our first day in California, we woke up to bright blue skies and the SUN… and it was 70 degrees the entire time!

Such a contrast to the dark, dank, and dreary winter we left behind, huh?

The overdose on Vitamin D clearly made me gitty as I kept asking Mike, “Do we really get to live here? Really? Really?”

We’ve breathed in the sweet, plastic-y aroma of Target and gorged ourselves on Tex-Mex, but there’s a part of me that still wishes we could have continued our adventures in London.

I still  have so many stories to tell. The sightseeing we did, the people we encountered,  the nuances of  daily life that we still haven’t made any sense of….

(Will we ever?)

From California, we flew to Texas to visit family and friends before Mike starts his new job. It was parties and play dates the whole time, each another opportunity to laugh about our experiences and poke fun at our life in England.

That is to say poke fun of ourselves living in England…

Things may not have turned out the way that we had planned, but not for one minute do I regret throwing ourselves whole-heartly into our new life. As much as I complained about things like our leaky roof and  NHS, there is no denying that living in London was a fantastic experience, both culturally and personally.

We are still tying up loose ends in the UK,  but it’s fair to say that this chapter in our life has officially come to a close. I no longer have any claim to being the “American Mom In London”, but as with most titles in the UK, I plan to keep it forever and ever. Ha-ha!

(Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll come back to reclaim it.)

This is only one of many, many sad farewells and promises to “keep in touch” for me lately. I’m usually pretty terrible about the “promising to keep in touch” part, but this time I plan to follow through..

I’ve made the leap to my own URL and  a new blog called FormerlyGracie.com, so please readjust your readers.

It’s still in the development stage.  I’m working on the “Blogroll”  and tweaking the design. The “About Me” page needs a lot of help, but there are a few posts up and more to come.

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By the way, my first purchase upon arriving  in the USA…

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… an electric kettle just like the one I had in London. I sort of developed a tea  and scone addiction while living in the UK. (Surprise. Surprise.)

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Filed under Blogging, Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving

House Hunting

Okay. So, I lied on Facebook.

We didn’t actually go house hunting in San Francisco after all. Being completely unfamiliar with the Bay Area, I had no concept of how much of it was considered “San Francisco”.

(i.e. We used to live in Flower Mound, Texas, but no one knows where that heck that is so, just said we lived in “Dallas”)

Turns out we’ll be a bit further south… as in Silicon Valley. (a.k.a. the geek heartland)

Does this make me less fabulous? Absolutely not!

Not only did we end up in one of best school districts in the country, we also found an incredible house.

Not a shack. Not a bungalow. A gorgeous, better-than-I-deserve-in-fifty-lifetimes HOUSE!!!

Of course, we will have to sell our first born in order to afford it, thereby making the great school district aspect of it kind of pointless, but oh well…

Did I tell you I’m going to have granite countertops?

I don’t mean to be Ms. Braggity McBraggy Bee. I’m just so EXCITED and rightfully so, considering where we recently lived…

Remember? Leaking roof, broken oven, minimal hot water,  no dryer, no heat

Fortunately, one of the many perks of Mike’s new job is use of an excellent relocation company. They offer services such as accompanying new employees to get their California driver’s licenses and finding their families places to live.

This is also in sharp contrast to London, where we had no clue and did all of the research and footwork (literally) on our own. Within my first twenty minutes with the estate agent, he…

A. Set off a very obnoxious security alarm at one house

B. Locked us INSIDE of it and alluded to having me shimmy out a window to open the door from the outside…

C. Spotted a traffic cop from the second story window of the next house, at which point he leapt to the first floor and took off in his car…

D. …leaving me stranded holding the house keys*.

House hunting was much less drama this time. I called ahead with our “like to haves” and “need to haves” and when we met with the agent on Monday morning, he had eight homes that presumably met ALL of our criteria, with the option of two or three more if we were up for it. LOVE. IT.

Now, that’s not to say that every single one was dream…. far from it, in fact. The very first house we saw had all of the warmth and charm of a semi-converted garage.

I would have been put off had it not been on par with most of the dwellings Mike and I looked at in London.

One house had the biggest backyard I ever expected to see in Northern California, including an extended patio and dilapidated metal swing set (lead paint included).

You could have fit two more (sizable) houses on the lawn alone. Only problem? The house hasn’t been updated since the Brady Bunch lived in it.

All nine of them. Circa first season.

The kind, but bewildered elderly owner appeared a bit run down himself. Weary, watery eyed, and shuffling around with pants completely undone and falling off, he gave me the grand tour recalling how his daughter loved, loved, LOVED ”pale baby girl pink” and just have to have an entire bedroom done in it.

It broke my heart to lie to him and say, “We’re considering it” when what I really wanted to do was buy it on the spot and flip it.

Com’on. Don’t smirk. I’ve watched enough reality TV to know everything I need to know, right? I so could have done it too.

Oh, if only we had an extra $1.3 er, $1.6 million lying around, it would have been awesome. Sigh!

The next house smelled like curry, which was only slightly less disgusting than the  filthy carpets. Another had a super secluded entrance, hot tub, and yelled “Key party, anyone?”

The rest were oh-kay, but when we walked into our house we knew it was meant to be. Avery even told me which room is for him and which is for little brother or sister. Guess which one is bigger?

(Photos to come)

I think I’m going to like living here… a LOT!

*Parking is VERY strict in London. The fines are outrageous and officers ticket you immediately. However, if you can move your vehicle before the officer can place the ticket on the windshield; it doesn’t count, hence the leaping and abandoning, but still…

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Filed under Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving

Clicking Our Heels Together Three Times

After 18 hours of flying (+ layover) across an ocean and then across the country, we’ve made it to San Francisco safe and sound for the next part of our crazy adventure.

Just like on the flights to London,  Avery was a total champ,  completely content to stay in his seat, play with cars, and watch DVDs.  He also didn’t doze off until the last 10 minutes of the flight, just as the plane made its decent into JFK.

Going through airport security for the second time that day, I was forced to wake up  my sleeping bear and remove him from his stroller…. of course.

As I held Avery with one hand and used the other to collapse, then lift the stroller onto the belt (while five TSA officers simply stood there and WATCHED, by the way), I overheard another one telling  an elderly lady she had to get out of her wheelchair.

Do you think really she and/or my child are  a threat to national security? REALLY?!

Ah yes, America… the land where senseless airport hysteria runs rampant.

Other than that, our trip was blissfully uneventful, so I actually shouldn’t complain about it… much. As Mike reminded me, “I’m just so happy to be somewhere familiar that I don’t care what it takes to get here.”

True and true.

It was rather surreal to look out at the twinkling lights of the bay as our plane landed, only to realize that we’re home. We are really and truly and finally home.

For now, at least.

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Filed under Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving

Prego’s Giving Away Booze!

Okay, so you get two posts today because…

A. I really don’t want to pack the rest of my closet and…

B. An extra special present arrived for me today that I just had to share with you.

A few months ago, I attended my very first London Bloggers Meet-up and made a total ass of myself some very lovely new friends.

If you may recall, it was hosted by Smirnoff and Splendid Communications, and held at the private company bar at Diageo Headquarters (maker of  some fine favorites such as Guinness, Tanqueray, and Captain Morgan… just to name a few).

Well, Splendid contacted me again and offered to send me an Authentic Cuervo Margarita kit. I was intrigued, so I provided  them with an address and a few hours later,  a courier arrived at my door to hand me this…

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Could it be?

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Why yes! It’s a portable party.

(By the way, on the bottom of the glass there’s a recipe for a drink called a “cherry bomb”, which has nothing to do with margaritas or even tequila. Strange.)

Since my baby bump and I clearly cannot give it a shot (ha ha ha!), this kit can be yours on one condition… you talk about it on your blog. Deal?

All you have to do is comment here by Jan 17 and it can be all yours  through some random number magic.

Cheers!

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UPDATE!

The winner is….

winner-isAlex from The Roaming Southerner. Congrats, hon!!

Now where did I pack the booze? Thinking, thinking, thinking

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This Old House

So in its final… er, um good riddance… our adorable rental house has decided to fall apart on us, starting  a few weeks ago with the roof.

It was the first time it had rained (and I mean REALLY rained) in several weeks and water was coming through the roof,  into the attic space on the third floor, and down, down, down along the wall into our bedroom below.

I called the property management company as soon the  “drip…. drip… drip” drove me out of my warm, cozy bed. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t expect a whole lot of help and approached it from the attitude of…

“Look, I know London is hundreds and thousands of years old and it rains A LOT, so I’m not sure if a leaky roof is necessarily a BIG DEAL around here. In my world, it is so I figured I’d report it anyway and let YOU decide how to handle it…”

(Read: This isn’t my house, I’m leaving in a month, and I don’t care. Besides, the leak hasn’t actually affected our daily life. Just the paint on the walls…)

bucketI received a call back sometime later. I hoped it was a repair person, but instead it was the property manager again.

She says, “I’ve been sitting here for the past 45 minutes thinking about your issue with the roof and trying to decided whether or not it’s an emergency…”

(If you have to spend 45 minutes deciding whether or not to do something, it’s probably easier to just do it…)

“… and I decided that it is an emergency. I’ll have the engineer pop ’round at 1pm, yeah?”

(oh phew… I was hoping they wouldn’t let wood rot and mold win this round!)

So when the engineer finally arrived at… ahem 3:45, he determined that the roof was indeed  leaking. (Duh!) He put in a temporary fix (bubble gum?), advised us to keep a bucket around for a “rainy day”, and promised to return with tools on Monday.

That was about a month ago and there’s still no word. Of course, it also hasn’t rained much since then… and oh yes, it’s still not my house and I still don’t care.

After that, the shower door started leaking again. The exterior doors and windows stopped closing properly, and we found gaps where there really ought to be weather stripping.

The doorbell, which has been out of order since the day we moved in, mysteriously started working again at Christmas, then promptly stopped.

A light socket burned out, more paint started chipping, and last week, in its final encore, the oven stopped working for no particular reason…

A very jolly repairman looked at it and after an hour of disassembling the whole thing  and some very colorful British phrases, he couldn’t figure it out either.

Instead, he learned that whoever put together our kitchen did it wrong. The oven was installed first with the cabinets and counters built around it. Now, the only person small enough to reach for the oven’s plug underneath and behind the cabinets is…well, Avery and umm, NO!

In spite of all of these quirks, I still think we lucked out in terms of London housing First of all, we were fortunate to have found a  house and NOT a flat.

We may not live in the liveliest part of town, but we are in London proper with easy access to transport and a high street, a park across the street, a back garden, and best of all, no upstairs-downstairs neighbors to irritate.

That and I’ve seen a whole lot worse. Can you say “out-house style bathroom”?

For all this, I’m willing to overlook certain things. That is, until I have to explain them to other people… like say, visiting relatives…

All right. So we get hot water all the time in the kitchen, but only twice a day in the bathroom… and only for an hour each time. If you need to take a shower any other time, you have to open this rickety cabinet, reach past the water heater, and press this button that says “boost”.

“Boost” will give you more hot water, but only for one shower and you have to wait at least half an hour for it to heat up… Oh and it makes this scary churning noise anytime any water in running, cold or hot. Got it?

I also had to explain that insulation and clothes dryers don’t come standard in homes and any technology beyond wood burning stoves qualifies as “central heating”.

While our radiators do a crap job at warming the house, they have proven to be a useful place to dry laundry…

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… provided you only wash five articles of clothing at a time.

We’re going to miss you, you crazy, frigid, old house.

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Filed under Daily Life, Family, Room and Board

Everyone Needs a Christmas Break

In the midst of moving, the LAST thing I wanted to deal with was two weeks of holiday house guests… even if said “house guests” were my family.

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It’s not that I didn’t want to see them… or didn’t miss them like crazy.

After having gone from seeing them all the time to never ever, nothing could be further from the truth…

It’s just with NO IDEA where we’ll be living in California, plotting a cross-country drive with a toddler, and packing, packing, packing… I just didn’t think I could handle a two week break from everything going on.

Well, what do you know… a break was exactly what I needed and even though I declared “only gifts for Avery this year” (i.e. I can’t handle shopping on top of everything else right now), hanging out with  my favorite crazies was the BEST present I could have ever gotten.

(Well, that and the fabulous  new digital SLR awaiting me in the States…hehe)

My family being in town also gave us a chance to do some sightseeing, which we probably wouldn’t have been very motivated to do on our own. We started with a bus trip to Leeds, Canterbury, and Dover…

Okay, so we’ve been to Leeds Castle before, but not at Christmas time when the entire castle is decked out “Nutcracker theme”, which was both delightful…

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… and SCARY!

img_22961(Why, yes. It IS a giant rat surrounded by dozens of smaller rats in the royal bedchamber. Sweet Dreams and Merry Christmas.)

Next stop, the white cliffs of Dover and the fr-fr-freezing British coastline.

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I’m told, on a clear day, you can invade… er, I mean see France from this beach.

And for our final destination, Canterbury Cathedral… beautiful stained glass windows, site of a famous murder-turned-martyrdom, medieval tales of pilgrimage

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Sorry, but there really is no way to make this stuff funny…

What was funny, however, was running into this family from Houston. They found out we’re from Dallas/Fort Worth and wanted to know everything about us… and guess what, my family proceeded to tell them everything about us.

Oh friendly, outspoken Texans! How I miss you!

You see, all of the things one would consider standard small talk — “where are you from”, “what do you do”, “how do you like…”, “Hi, I’m… what’s your name?”, etc., the Brits consider instrusive and off-putting… or so I’ve been told.

I ask anyway, which probably explains why I only have one British friend, and I think she only puts up with me because she lived in the US for a bit and is “used” to  Americans…

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In other family news… I got a (future) brother (in-law) for Christmas!

(Because it’s all about ME. ha!)

My family took a  side trip to Paris before heading  home and in the most romantic gesture ever, my sister’s boyfriend proposed at the Eiffel Tower.

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Alex (or “Mr. Alex” as we have had Avery call him so as to not be presumptuous) has been part of the family ever since first I met him. He’s good peoples and everything I could every want in a brother.

Could not be more excited for them!

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Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking, Sightseeing

2008 Signing Off

Whoa! Whoa Whoa! When did 2009 sneak up on us?

Wait! Was it while I was drowning in packing peanuts and cardboard or having my fifth anxiety attack over the logistics of our trans-Atlantic/cross-country move…

It’s funny to think back to my New Year’s resolution for 2008…

LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT ALL READY!

Little did I know at the time that all it would take was a few simple changes to my daily routine… drinking more water, fitness boot camp, moving to London, giving up my car, moving back from London…

Little things really.

Of course, I fully expect to gain it all back in 2009, but I’m totally okay with that. (No, really. I assure you, I am very, very, very happy about this pregnancy. Trust me.)

All in all, I really can’t complain about 2008. Employment uncertainty, worldwide economic collapse, and threats of deportation aside, it truly has been great year for us.

I know, I use the word “adventure” a lot, but there’s no better way to describe our past year.  Okay, so we didn’t exactly give it all up to help feed orphans in a third world country, but we took a risk nonetheless and are all the better for it.

We’ve learned a lot… and not just how to pack up and move overseas in 30 days or less. We’ve grown a lot and have memories that we will cherish for a lifetime, provided our family and friends won’t be too sick of our “Well, in LONDON…” stories.

Thanks for everything 2008. It’s been fun while it lasted, but it looks as if 2009 is already giving you a run for your (bailout) money with Baby #2 on the way, a new American city ahead of us, and an OBAMA PRESIDENCY. Whew- Hew!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Filed under Holidays and Merrymaking, Packing Up and Moving