Monday, 30 November 2009

Belated thanksgiving

For some reason my camera is not wanting to give me its pictures - I have a whole host of great shots from our Thanksgiving celebration last week that it's greedily holding onto. Either it's greedy, or there's something amiss with the USB cord. You'll have to settle for these fab vintage pics from macy's parades of old.

Even without photographic evidence, I can testify that I had a great Thanksgiving. Dan and I had our new friends Ian and Monica over for an England-accented-after-work feast (M&I whipped up TWO amazing pumpkin pies!) that left me uncomfortably full for days. In a good way.

Aside from turkey (or a pepper and pine nut quiche in my case), I have SO much to be thankful for. Here goes...

{i have a soft spot for kermit}

  1. Flights are booked for L.A.
  2. Flights go through Tokyo so we'll get to spend two days there!
  3. Flights go via New Zealand where we'll spend 6 weeks+ with Dan's family who we haven't seen in three years. 
  4. It's summer in New Zealand!
  5. We leave in less than 2 weeks (yikes).

Also, it's hard to put into words how it feels to tie up the last 4 years of my life - my English Season. I can't yet. But I do have a sense of satisfaction - that even though I've felt incredibly stretched in more ways than I'd originally thought necessary, I've made it out the other end (almost). And I have a lot of really good, beautiful things/ relationships to show for it.

So...I'll be in Tokyo in 2 weeks. Anyone got any hidden gems for me to hit up? I'm all ears!

Monday, 23 November 2009

London scenes

Just thought I'd post some recent scenes from London. Here's some shop fronts from near my house...

Double dose of Dan's profile at the British Museum. He's memorising he Rosetta stone and checking translations at the manga exhibit. Our museum policy is to go an hour before it closes. This forces us to move quickly and only see the things we really want to, not linger for hours in the boring Tudor sections.


Sweet drawers from the Transport Museum. We didn't actually go inside the museum (not for £7 we didn't!), but the shop was worth a peek. They sell some great vintage posters from the underground that I think we might stock up on before we leave. (They're lightweight and I would consider beautiful so it's not a problem).

And... the happy couple in Covent Garden. Only a few more weeks to go in London so we're really making the most of it!

Sunday, 22 November 2009



Here's some babygami for all my pregnant friends and those with little creatures crying out to be wrapped up like a giraffe. (I love babies dressed as animals!). This fold is the 'after bath cuddle wrap', is marked moderately difficult and comes with a warning that babies are slippery when wet. Too cute.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Exclamation overload

Yay! Dan and I got the letter in the post yesterday from the US Embassy telling us our interview date: 2 December! We're really excited, because it means we'll be able to be in New Zealand for Christmas!

Next step: book flights for Auckland and LA that don't break our budget!

Next, next (crucial) step: pass interview with flying colours!!

Thanks for everyone's prayers and thoughts of goodwill. Now, does anyone have any tips for finding the cheapest flights? I'm all up on and Any other tips??

Monday, 16 November 2009

Beautiful, useful and lightweight

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' - William Morris

I agree with Mr.Morris and will raise him with 'lightweight'.

As Dan and I prepare for the big trans-Oceanic move (again), we've begun mercilessly whittling our wares. By nature I'm a sentimental hoarder, but after packing and unpacking all my possessions so many times in the last 5 years that I've lost count, I've learned the art of minimalism. Not only is minimalism a nice aesthetic and simple way of life, but when you have to pay by weight to ship something across the world, it makes you really rethink the value of the object. I still have visions of a post office in Japan shipping four huge boxes of (probably hardback) books back home and getting the bill of $400. I almost fainted and learned  a valuable lesson.

This weekend the stormy weather brought us indoors on Saturday for a cozy day of going through and sorting all the crap I've accumulated since the last sort. It was a therapeutic binge of a clean. I tore through my 'creative corner' and rid myself of ribbons and paper that I've had for years and will probably never use. I'm nowhere near done but I have started throwing out a lot and have a growing pile of things to sell and give away. My next step will be to learn to sell stuff on ebay - I'm a bit behind on those skills but figured now's the time to learn.

Sunday we ticked more things off the London list and photos will follow. We got the Transport Museum shop (that's all I need) and the British Museum done and I also bought a nice sage and cinnamon candle to get us through the next month with holiday cheer. And figured now is the time for the Alisha-in-a-phone-booth shot I've always been embarrassed to take, so enjoy...

What was everyone else up to this weekend?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


So, these are the things I'm thinking about at the moment...

Leaving England and getting Dan's freaking green card
Six weeks to go until we say farewell to this (increasingly cold) city/ country/ era/ season of our lives. Dan and I like to live by the seat of our pants, so haven't bought airline tickets or anything like that yet. We don't even have Dan's green card! We live in faith. So, if you're the praying type, we would appreciate your fervent prayers. That we'd get an interview date for Dan sorted soon and that he would indeed be accepted into the US of A.

People always wonder what immigration will ask at the green card interview. I don't know how to prepare but will do my best to vouch for him and swear that he'll be a good, hard-working American. And that he hasn't been corrupted by any silly ideas of socialism while in the UK.

Please please pray! (Even if you aren't the praying type actually).

This eggnog
Nothing like a good nog to get you through the winter. I'm having some serious eggnog cravings of late - probably because it's a mission to get your paws on the delicious tonic this side of the Atlantic. I'll try Whole Foods tomorrow, but if they can't hook me up I'm going to have to resort to making some of my own homemade brew. When I went home a few years ago I was so desperate for a eggnog latte I ordered a venti straight off the plane - bad idea. Please remember that with eggnog (and most egg based products) a little goes a long way.

Chocolate chips
Oh yeah! I forgot how delicious these bad boys are. I went to Marks and Spencers last night to grab dinner and saw a petite bag of 'plain chocolate drops' and dropped them in the basket with extreme satisfaction. They were a great pre-dinner snack and have sustained me throughout this evening as well. I think when I move back to America I'll keep a bag (not petite, but king-size) in my fridge for all occasions, like my grandma - the perfecter of the chocolate chip cookie - does.

This lust-worthy room I saw on Monday's daily dose of design*sponge.

Competitive baking
Last week I entered my red hot velvet cupcakes into the iron cupcake london competition. I didn't win, but still had a good time (winning isn't everything, right?) and paced myself so I didn't get sick, an accomplishment in itself. My cupcakes were massive compared to all the other dainty little cupcakes. The reason is that I use muffin tins and liners for cupcake purposes and overfill them at that. I think the purchase of the muffin tins at Target two years ago was a sub-conscious act of rebellion against small, delicate things in England. Sometimes I just get sick of being subtle and understated and want a dessert that is decidedly over the top and that makes people gasp at the sheer size and lavishness, rather than coo a polite 'they're lovely'. I did admit last Monday though that I perhaps went over the top...
I decided yesterday that since I'm moving country in six weeks and have quite a bit on my plate, November is possibly not the best time to try and write a novel in a month, no matter how crap the output can be. So apologies to Jenny and Jane for luring you into this and then quitting halfway through. It's like when my friend Katrine convinced me and Ali to run a half-marathon with her and then got an ankle injury. So there we were at the start line wondering how we got there. I will still blog regularly and offer you moral support!

Zimbabwe blood diamonds: we don't want our gifts to finance hate

And finally...I haven't done any advocacy promotion lately, but this is a really good on-line action, so please consider taking it.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has sent his brutal army to seize control of his country's diamond fields. 200 civilians have been murdered and profits from our wedding rings are used to fuel violent political conflict.

Official diamond regulators meeting in Namibia this week will decide whether to suspend Zimbabwe and stop Mugabe selling his blood diamonds on the world market.

We have must persuade these countries to act - let's get a massive petition together and deliver it directly to the meeting in Namibia. Sign the petition below and then spread the word to anyone who doesn't want our gifts of love to finance hate.

Now, if that's not a comprehensive round-up, I don't know what is. Hope you all have good Wednesdays! I better get to work...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Bonfire Night delight

I admit I've been hesitant to fully embrace the British celebration of Bonfire Night for the following reasons:

1. I don't like standing around watching anti-climatic fireworks while freezing my butt off in in the wind and rain of early November.
2. I don't like fireworks. They either remind me of having a migraine (the lights look like the aura of a migraine) or they trigger post-traumatic shock symptoms from my train accident.I don't hate them, I just don't really enjoy them.
3. I can't drink mulled wine, the drink of choice for the night because it causes migraines. Everyone goes crazy when it comes out ('It smells like Christmas!'), but to me it's the scent of exclusion. I'm loads of fun, clearly.
4. I'm stubborn. Fireworks are supposed to be in July.
5. The basis of the holiday is the foiling of a certain Guy Fawkes' plan to blow up Parliament in 1605. Celebrants gather around bonfires to burn effigies of Guy and watch fireworks, possibly linked to his plan to blow up Parliament? Not sure on that. Either way, it's all a bit odd.

Picture of people either attending Bonfire Night or watching a forest fire.

Despite all of these valid reasons for disliking Bonfire Night, this year I decided to go to watch fireworks in Battersea Park. We were invited by some lovely people and it ended up being a blast.

Our friends Ben and Hannah had made chocolate apples that day to eat while watching the fire display. (They also brought mulled wine, though I didn't make a fuss.) I wasn't too cold and it's wasn't raining. And, after four years in England and just before I leave, I'm starting to appreciate that fireworks can legitimately be displayed in November and that it is somewhat cosy to burn effigies of terrorists to stay warm.

Freed from the constraints of big band patriotic tunes to accompany the fireworks, British fireworkers can play any song they want as soundtracks for the evening. I did get almost emotional listening to some of the  power ballads and watching my 'favourite' glitter style fireworks light up the sky. There was also suspense when we all wondered if the fireworks would interfere with the worryingly low-flying aircraft, but fear not, it was fine.

I even had  a moment when I started to get emotional about leaving London, thinking, even though I'm  anxious to leave, in the future I'll be wishing for what I have now. Ahh...that beautiful tension of being content and wanting more...

And some positive light graffiti for the road...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Hemingway's Paris & my steak

If you need a book to make you obsessed with 1920's Parisian literary sidewalk cafe society (as I've become), then look no further than Ernest Hemingway's 'A Moveable Feast'. I first heard about it in Paris in May visiting the famous (apparently) Shakespeare and Co. second hand book shop on the Left Bank. The idea of ex-pat writing intrigues me (as an ex-pat writer), so I thought I'd give it a go.

It's a short read and I recommend it during NaNoRiMo to inspire writing from cafes scattered around your city (like I need inspiration).

So effectively did this book transport me to Paris that ever since I finished it I've been craving steak and fries. As a vegetarian (well, pescetarian) steak cravings are rare. As a flexitarian I decided to give in.

I asked Dan if we could go out for steak and he was thrilled - for some reason he loves when I occasionally eat meat. It's as though for a moment meat is triumphing over my lentils, tofu and fermented soy beans.

We decided to go to a small restaurant two minutes from our house called Seasons with our friends Tom and Kirsten who were in town from Birmingham. I like it because it's new and I want to support businesses that decide to open in a recession; I also like that it uses seasonal, organic food. Double whammy. It's also French and does a half-price steak night. Get in!

I think my steak craving has been quenched for a few months anyway...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Penguin Classics

Glad to hear that some people are participating with me in National Novel Writing Month - even if it's in blog format! To be honest I haven't been very good so far since I've had two really busy and tiring days, but I've done a bit each day, and plan to continue on.

To get you in the mood I thought I'd show off these amazing Penguin cloth-bound classics. There's a great interivew on design*sponge with the designer Coralie Bickford-Smith.For the next month I'll try to keep the literary juices flowing on this blog so watch out...!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Write a novel in a month

Last week I found out that November is National Novel Writing Month.  Instead of recapping (I've got 2 dozen Red Hot Velvet cupcakes to bake - more on that tomorrow!), I'll just leave you with the 'about' blurb from their website,

'National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2008, we had over 119,000 participants. More than 21,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.'

I'm not actually working on a novel (I'm a narrative non-fiction girl myself), but I could still use the motivation to write everyday to a target. And people who know me well know that I love setting strict targets for myself.

Some inspiration to get you going...
Annie Dillard and the Writing Life
Daily routines of how writers and artists organise their days
Richmond Literature Festival (if you're London based - I'm going this Friday)
Guardian Writers' Room series (pic of the places artists do their thing)

I was also inspired by a post on the lovely Tea for Joy blog about novelists' rooms, based on another series the guardian did styling rooms inspired by novelists. I especially appreciate Ernest Hemingway's room since I just finished his 'A Moveable Feast' and am freaking out at the moment about 1920's literary Paris sidewalk cafe culture, as one does.

Here's Mr.Hemingway's study...

And Virginia Wolfe's boudoir...

So, I'm in. Anyone else with me?

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