Category Archives: Daily Life

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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6 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Family, Room and Board

My Fake British Accent Isn’t All Bad

So, I have another very good reason for quasi-abandoning my blog lately.

(Besides playing Santa AND holiday hostess this past week…)

The last few weeks, my laptop has been infected with a heinous virus and it’s called…

MIKE.

The power supply on his computer fizzled out or some such and now, he’s on my “evil Microsoft” laptop no less than every second of every day since.

Apparently, my Linux-loving hubby will and HAS set aside his lofty morals in the name of FAIL blog and/or Digg

With my family in town and only ONE working computer among us, I’ve been sharing my laptop with SIX Internet addicted people.

Last week, Mike called around town for the replacement part for his computer. Only one of the bi-zillion techie shops off Tottenham Court claimed to have it stock and even called back to double confirm the serial number.

Of course, when Mike arrived pick it up the next day, they didn’t have it. They never did. Apparently, the sales guy only PRETENDED to know what Mike was asking for…

Uhhh, I guess, they didn’t think he would actually show up for the exact item he specifically requested to be set aside…

Thank goodness Mike is a much better person than me. MUCH BETTER. If I had been the one to make the 45 minute commute in early morning rush hour to be there as soon as the store opened for business only to be denied, I would have been beyond “call security”…

Meanwhile, Avery and I were running late for his appointment with the asthma specialist. We’ve waited over THREE months for this appointment, ever since his first asthma attack  in August, and there was no way we were going to miss it.

I called the hospital to inform them that we may be a few minutes behind for our 9:05 appointment with Dr. S. The nurse or whoever answered said it was perfectly fine and just come in when we were ready.

We actually weren’t late at all, but it didn’t matter since Dr. S was NOT even there that day!

“What? Why were we not told this when we called earlier? I had specifically stated that we’re coming to see Dr. S? I even asked about him BY NAME,” I asked

After several rounds with the useless drones in the ironically named “patient services” department, their best explanation for the “mix up” was that I had only asked if it was okay to be late, NOT if the doctor was in today….

Oh, and they had moved our appointment to the day before when Dr. S was in, but didn’t bother to tell US about it. I guess I was supposed to just know that…Lovely!

Whether it’s dealing with National Healthcare or a total lack of  common sense customer service, I find myself  less and less tolerant of these daily frustrations as our departure date looms closer.

12 days and counting!

Sure, when I thought we’d be here for a while, I was willing to put up with it… slightly. Just another quirky adventure from our life in London — good for a blog post, great for a laugh… HA! HA! HA!

Obviously turning into a loud angry American doesn’t help matters. Apparently, my accent is hard to follow… or perhaps it’s the high-pitched, inaudible rants of frustration. Hmm…

What does seem to help, however,  is my fake British accent. Bust it out and only then do I finally get somewhere.

(That is, if you call rounds of NHS Twenty Questions “getting somewhere”…)

Yes. You read that correctly. Fake. British. Accent.

It’s not even a good one like… say, Gwyneth Paltrow’s. It’s more like… well, the puppets from  CBeebies’ “The Shiny Show“…

It was never even intended for public consumption, but one day it just came out during another (yet unblogged about ) incident with National Healthcare (there are lots of them) and it worked brilliantly in getting to a speedy resolution!

In fact, it even prompted some rare compassion.

“Oh my, I do understand. You poor dear. You must be so upset. Let’s get this sorted for you right away… will this afternoon work for you?”

For some reason, fake British accent works every single time. Strange, I know, but it makes me laugh so much that I totally  forget how much  angrier (and rantier) I would be otherwise.

4 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Misconceptions and Mishaps, National Healthcare

The Anglification of Mr. A

While Avery hasn’t exactly developed a British accent, he has managed to pick up hundreds of little words and nuances. Here are a few of my favorites.

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To pass the time spent waiting for trains and buses, I quiz Avery on his numbers, letters, colo(u)rs, etc…

One day, we came across this…let-z

Me: What letter is that?

Avery: ZED!

Ah, yes… “ZED”, otherwise known as the British “ZEE”…

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His breakfast of choice was once pancakes, but lately he’s been requesting…

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“Toast and jam, please, Mommy. Thank you!”

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… and for lunch, it’s  a “cheese toastie”, which I have to admit sounds a lot cuter than an American “grilled cheese sandwich”.

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Usually,  it’s a “truck”. Sometimes, it’s a “lorry”.

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Fire trucks go, “Nee-nar Nee-nar”…

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…trains “chuffity-chuff!”

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… and this is a badger!

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(Okay, so it’s probably called a “badger” at home too, but we had never SEEN one until we moved to the UK. )

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Filed under Daily Life, Family

Toddler Versus Solid Wood. Solid Wood Loses.

If I’m approximately four weeks away from moving overseas, why am I at Ikea?

I’ll tell you.

I’m a neglectful mommy and my child has the power to bend solid wood. You see this cutting board?

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It used to lie flat against the counter until it tangled with Avery…

I left him in front of the TV for about…umm, TWO minutes while I selfishly took a shower after a morning of scrubbing, mopping, and polishing the kitchen.

When I came back, Avery was standing over a  teeny tiny cup with an empty Brita pitcher in his hands…

He missed the cup and there were puddles everywhere- on the counter, on the floor…

His simple response to my pained expression was, “Avery thirsty. Drink water, Mommy?” as if his every whim isn’t already catered to…

Furthermore, how DARE I shower when he was clearly suffering from dehydration…

I screamed ranted sent Avery to his room and cleaned up quickly, then I went up stairs to talk to him.

I got down to his level and coolly and calmly explained that if Mommy has to spend her ENTIRE day cleaning… and, then cleaning again… that doesn’t leave much time to do fun things together like play or go outside.

I thought it was a very “SuperNanny” approach. Just as I was about to pat myself on the back,  Avery responded with, “But Mommy made mess too…”

“Huh?”

“In bathroom. Mommy made mess. Water spill out of tub!”

I should note here that there is NO way to get out of our tub without getting water on the floor. There just isn’t…

(Especially when you have to hop out quickly to respond to a loud clatter in the kitchen…)

…and of course, when Avery went to his room, he walked past the bathroom and saw the water on the floor.

How else could I respond except with a stunned, “Ummm, yeeeeessss…. and that was… wrong. Okay, you’re not in trouble. Just… Just go play.”

Yes, out-maneuvered and out-argued by my two-year-old son. Brilliant.

I’ve never been so proud, but how does that all relate to the cutting board?

Well, it seems in my haste, I  failed to mop up the water UNDER it and by the next day, it had taken on a decidedly “artistic temperament”…

…and since it came with the house, I’m obligated to replace it. So, that is why I’m at Ikea in the midst of  selling, disposing, and giving away.

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By the way, if any of you are ever tempted to remodel with a kitchen from Ikea, I must warn you. It may seem all sleek, modern, innovative, and CHEAP, but don’t.

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

Our landlords did and there are ways in which it sucks that violates our lease agreement and therefore I will not disclose it until after we move.

Basically, if you plan to LOOK at your kitchen, it’s good. Planning to use your kitchen, however… not so good.

Bendy solid wood cutting boards. Case and point.

5 Comments

Filed under Checky Monkeys, Daily Life, Family

Insert Mandatory Joke About The Brits and Their Dental Hygiene (Pause for Polite Laughter)

Avery is at the height of toddlerness where everything, whether it’s time for a bath or suggesting chocolate cake for breakfast, is received with a fervent “No, Mommy. NO!”

Except, with Avery it’s not just “no”. It follows with a vigorous head shake and an unyielding “anymore”.

For example, it’s not just “no trousers today”… or even “right now”.  For Avery, it’s “no trousers ANYMORE, Mommy!”

I know I should be frustrated, but the finality in his serious little voice is so cute that sometimes I have to stifle laughs.

Besides, I can usually slip on his trousers once he’s moved on to screaming about not wanting to wear socks or the shirt I picked out… “No, Mommy. Thomas shirt. Thomas shirt.

I was careful to NOT discuss his first dentist appointment until the morning of, for fear of it becoming a bigger deal (read: tantrum) than it needed to be. As it turns out, Avery’s biggest complaint was having to put on shoes to leave the house.

Seeing the dentist… Pah!

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He was a pro. All smiles and no cavities.

The dentist was quite amused by him as well. He mentioned that Avery’s last baby tooth recently spouted. (That explains the extra dose of unhappy last week).

He also commented on, but was not alarmed by the thumb sucking. (So unlike the States where everyone seemed alarmed by the thumb sucking and freely offered their unsolicited opinions on the matter…)

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“Oh that can be fixed, but his diet… Diet is 90% of maintaining healthy teeth and gums” the dentist reassured.

“You mean, like getting enough calcium?”

“No, I mean… well, how much Ribena does he drink a day?”

“I don’t not even sure what Ribena is.”

“Good! Ribena is terrible! Simply terrible. Just be sure you limit his sugar intake.”

Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t mention that cake for breakfast… even if it was the ONLY way I could get him wear the shoes and stop yelling about the Thomas shirt already.

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Family

It’s The Little Things That Make a Life More Bearable

With my entire family coming for the holidays, I’ve been kicking myself for leaving my favorite “family cookbooks” in the States– the ones sold to raise money for our parish or local hospital and have recipes titled “Aunt Susie’s Very Best Christmas Morning Casserole” or simply “Party Potatoes”.

These cookbooks contain only the tried and true. They’re the best for planning festive menus, and I foolishly put them in storage.

Gee, I can’t imagine why I didn’t think about Christmas when I was packing in MAY…

I’ve been making do, thanks to the Internet and “helpful hints” picked up at the grocery store.

Last week, we had roasted leg of lamb with ciabatta stuffing, delicious Jerusalem artichokes, and cranberry jelly and all because someone handed me the list of the ingredients and the instructions as I walked in the door…

I thought I was doing all right until I was invited to a cookie exchange. The instructions read:

…bring 4-5 dozen cookies, of one type, then you exchange with the other moms so that you end up with all types of cookies, but only have to bake one type!

Homemade Cookies?! …but, I left my stand mixer, baking sheets, and, most importantly of all, my COOKIE SCOOP behind too!

cookie-scoopI got online to locate new cookie scoops in the UK, but only retailers in the US carried what I was looking for. They were all rather inexpensive, but international shipping is crazy and I would be responsible for the customs charges…

In other words, I would be paying upwards of $30 or $40 for a $5 item.

I love springy little cookie scoops, but dude, not THAT much.

I huffed and I puffed and I told Mike, “I can’t live here anymore! It’s a good thing we’re (probably) going home soon… Wait! Let’s not even wait for your contract. Let’s go home NOW and be with all of our stuff! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”

You could say I’d finally made peace with our situation… sort of.

As for the party, I was prepared to throw a box of store-bought cookies against that wall for that “homemade-look”. Then, the very next day, I walked past a modest kitchen store. My expectations were rather low, but I thought I’d give it one more shot.

After I bumbled my way through describing what a cookie scoop is, the kind shopkeeper pointed me to a shelf that had EXACTLY what I was looking for… along with new cookie sheets and much, much more.

The clouds parted. Angels sang. And I decided that I loved living in England all over again.

6 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Foodie, Packing Up and Moving

Photo Story Friday: Toddler Smack Edition

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Last weekend, I hit up the KCWC Nearly New Sale and scored this beautiful hit of toddler smack…

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I had a tough time getting through the Tube with it, but only because I had every member of the male and “under 4” set clamoring for it.

It’s hard to miss a BRIGHT YELLOW digger. It was certainly love at first sight for Avery.

As any savvy, penny-pinching parent knows, second-hand is the way to go. Unfortunately, the selection of reusable clothing for boys dwindles once you get past the barely-worn, designer layette stage.

Nonetheless, I managed to pick up two or three “new-to-us” jumpers for Avery. This one is his favorite, can’t you tell?

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I’ll give you one guess why… Peep! Peep!

Books are an easier find. This one I selected simply because it amused me…

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… particularly when I landed on this page.

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Oh Dr. Seuss. So ahead of your time, but just not quite right…

21 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, PhotoStory Friday, Shopping