Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Country Music Rocks!

Well it had to happen - eventually. I've rekindled my love of country music; I'm not ashamed to admit it...there it is plain and simple.

I've practically grown up with the twangs of guitars...ok I didn't listen to it everyday - and it wasn't like mother and father would slap-a their thighs and doe-ce-doe around the living room - rather, I would be in the kitchen with mother as she listened to various artists whilst cooking. Ah yes, Dolly, Charlie and my favorite back then was Jim Reeves. He had a lovely, sombre melodic tone to his voice and the words to his tracks well, lets just say that they weren't always happy and boy did you feel his pain, but still good songs!

And, I think that's what I love about country music. Not only is the music good, you can understand what they're singing and there's an honesty to the lyrics; "put your lips a little closer to the phone...and tell the man you're with that he'll have to go." (Jim Reeves) I mean, he's being so polite about getting her to get rid of the other man! Yes, you could argue that a lot of today's music is 'honest' and has good music, but quite frankly I don't always relate to "Hey Boo, you know where its at, you and me, its just phat!" (I made that up, there may well be a song out there with similar lyrics).

Being an 80s girl (long live Rick Astley), the lyrics I was exposed to were not always meaningful. Band Aid is an example of a song where the words were hard-hitting. But, not many a song was on that scale. A lot of the time I spent confusing nights having recorded favorite tracks on tape, rewinding and playing songs over and over again trying to decipher exactly what people were singing about. For years Bananarama's line " C'mon baby, set me free, I'm lonely as a girl can be" was "C'mon baby, set me free, I'm lonely as a coffee bean". Didn't stop me liking the song and I boogied along to "in the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight" and "aah-gah-doo, do, do, push pineapple, shake the tree, ah-ga-do, do, do, push pineapple, grind coffee" along with everyone else and thought nothing of it.

Fast forward a few years and I still love pop music. And boy did I get teased mercilessly for being in love with Rick (Astley). A lot of people couldn't understand why I love(d) trashy pop music. What merit does Copacobana possibly have in comparison to a 'S'wonderful' by Ella Fitzgerald, or a smooth jazz track by Roy Ayers? To some, there is no comparison - Ella and Roy are great artists. Yes, it can be argued that they may be a better clan of musicians; but I argue that music is very much subjective. And, because you like one type doesn't mean you can't appreciate another. I have an eclectic mix of songs on my i-pod from Bocelli to Steps. For me, it's not always the artist that makes me listen. It's the way the song sounds, the way it makes me feel.

BFF and I were chatting about this recently and we both listened to music the same way - we like the tune and then listened to the lyrics, whilst her hubby was the other way around. Another example of where the tune makes the song is Craig David's 'Don't Love You No More'; sister and I really like the song...but it's not one we relate to; I had been married for a year and sis was about to get married when it first came out and we were singing away to it (in the car) when we both commented that it's not exactly a happy song, it didn't reflect our lives, but it was just a catchy tune, therefore liked it.

But I digress, slightly...getting back to my rekindled love for country music. American's love country music - they have a channel dedicated to it and every opportunity I have, I'll tune in. And, boy have I discovered some great artists...Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum...great lyrics, great tunes. There's the usual mix of heartache, lost and found love and then those that just have a laugh (Toby Keith's 'Trailerhood' in particular... "My new tattoos and farmer tans, rodeo and nascar fans, Dallas Cowboy football on TV, When the storm starts getting bad, you hear the those sirens humming, Grab a six pack and a lawn chair there's a tornado coming").

Of course, you have your 'duds'; Tammy Wynette and 'Moo, Moo Land' I recollect listening to in complete horror and of course 'Leroy the Redneck Reindeer' which I listened to momentarily and the now classic 'Achy, Breaky Heart'.

Hubby rolls his eyes, when he catches me singing away to the latest downloaded country track but I say, nothing can beat a good ol' country tune! And I have to say, those male singers in their cowboy hats and boots, well...some look very dreamy! Am I disclosing too much? Ahem...moving on. I encourage all to have a listen...country music isn't just Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, there's a plethora of brilliant talent out there. So, I say grab a bale of straw, sit down with a cold beer and enjoy the smooth tunes of country!

I wonder if Hubby would wear a pair of cowboy boots?....

Saturday, 13 November 2010

House Centipede

I was in the bathroom the other day and whilst standing at the sink washing my hands I happened to glance to the right of me to the little ledge that runs along the wall and I saw this creature.

Now, I feel fine about most small things with more than four legs...except spiders...I don't do spiders; but this particular insect/creature from the depths of somewhere got my ankles as well as my toes a tingling.

I called to Hubby asking if he could just come into the bathroom and have a look at 'this thing'. He sauntered over and asked what's wrong....I said "er, what is that?" and pointed in the direction of said creature. He looked at it and then said nothing for a second or two, because like I was a moment ago, he too was stunned...

...needless to say, I looked at Hubby and said "so, how are you going to get rid of it? I'm assuming its a centipede of some sort with the number of legs it has." He looked in my direction..."me? ah man, why do I have to get rid of it? I get rid of spiders for you isn't that enough?" I gave him a look and then backed it up with "it's your job, part of the small print on the marriage certificate." Hubby sighed heavily and grabbed a lengthy piece of loo roll - "lift up the lid, he's getting flushed." With one swift swoop, said creature was caught up in a velvety robe of cotton and promptly released into a watery end - my hero...but just for the record, I did help said saving by flushing the loo!

Once saved, I headed to the laptop and looked up centipede but I put in American centipede. And that was what it was an American House Centipede....apparently, they like bathtubs, can run very fast which when they do, they lift their heads up (!) and are "good" to have around the house because they get rid of cockroaches. Great...

Now, I appreciate that being in America, things are always bigger - the roads, portions of food...but did it have to apply to the bleedin' insects as well? I mean, this thing had its many legs...but also two sets of antennae (what is the plural for that?) on both ends?!! Both ends...plus it was an inch long. Give me a British centipede any day...at least the ones I encountered were on the walls outside the house; yes I know the GB centipedes can grow to huge proportions just like its American counterparts but I'm glad I've never met one and certainly don't plan to do so.

Nasty thing...still gets me toes tingling thinking about it. I was going to post a picture of it but I'll leave that to you to look up. I have warned you...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Proper English In it?

Having been here in Cambridge for nearly six months, I've become accustomed to hearing American accents. But it seems that the English accent is still somewhat a novelty.

It's nice to hear, "oh I just love your accent!" and "I could listen to you talk all day, great accent." However, in comparison to Hubby, I reckon I sound very English as he has a northern twang to his dulcet tones. Obviously living in Blighty for a good many years, and having been married to Hubby for eight, I'm pretty used to hearing different regional accents, especially the Northern ones; so much so when a fellow Yorkshire mans bids me an "'ow do lass?" I know he's saying hello, how are you?

But like the UK, America has its regional accents too and I love hearing them and working out where people come from. And I'm not talking state accents; Boston and the surrounding area has its northern and southern regions like London and therefore regional accents. The ones heard around Cambridge are fairly neutral ones with the odd South Boston accent thrown in. What's a South Boston accent like I hear you ask? Well, its almost like a Brooklyn accent (and if you're not sure what that sounds like, tune into CSI: NY and listen to Danny) - but I wouldn't say that out loud as me thinks they (South Bostonians) may take it personally! They tend to exaggerate the vowels of some words or replace some letters with others; so "how are you?" becomes "how ah yah?", "Boston cream pie" is "Bawstin cream pie" and "chowder" is "chowdah"

On a daily basis, my interaction with the American public is limited and therefore the language used is, er...basic - everyone understands 'thank you', 'please' and 'can I please have a tall pumpkin spiced latte'. Whilst most folk around here say nothing about what or how I say things (I haven't quite drifted into a 'sow-fth' London twang as yet) it seems that Hubby has had to endure a constant (?) ribbing about certain expressions that he uses.

One day he came home (from work), saying that the guys didn't understand some of the things he said and started saying "guv'nor" to him. And, giving him an odd look when he said "half-past ten". I then looked at him with an odd expression on my face - what's wrong with saying half-past ten I cried (ok, more like asked but I'm prone to the dramatics). He said apparently, you just say ten-thirty....oh, right...I'm sorry...and the difference? A few days later he mentioned that he wasn't allowed to say 'bloody hell', apparently it was a disturbing phrase. Or something like that...odd people.

I said to Hubby that technically they shouldn't say "guv'nor" to you 'cause, well your Northern innit? They should really say things like, 'our lad' and 'fella'. Tell them that if they really wish to start with the taking the proverbial p*ss out of your accent then learn a bit of Northern. In fact, the next time they start, say "eh, blummin eck you lot, give over and shut yah cake 'ole about my accent." That should keep 'em quiet for a while 'cause they'd have no clue as to what you were talking about.

My dental nurse is originally from London and one time when I left the office, she said "you take care now and speak to you later." Nothing wrong with that but I think there was because as she passed by her colleague, she said to her, that she could say that because I'm from the UK and I wouldn't be offended. I was a little confused as I really didn't think she said anything offensive in the slightest! But I suppose it's the myriad of little phrases that makes the English language a difficult one to learn.

This teasing also got me thinking about my 'real' accent - the south London one, mixed in with a bit of east end slang - not the one that I call my telephone voice, which I use when out and about (and on the phone!) It seems that if I were to speak 'normally', my American allies would have even more of a difficult time understanding me! Ok, it's not that bad, but I have found myself on occasion having to speak a little slower to be understood!

If I thought about it I suppose I could get quite miffed, after all I'm speaking the Queens English...its the Americans that have added odd expressions, an 'ize' to most things and dropped the letter u. So, I reckon I should do the opposite of Professor Higgins' experiment; I'll find a Harvard student and teach them proper English. Cor, can you imagine? I tell yah mate, it would be a turkish bath listenin' to how much barney rubble they'd 'ave speakin' my language. And, I'd test 'em by takin' them to the local rub-a-dub with one of their china plates, ask 'em not to order a pint but a rosy lee, (convince 'em that an Ayrton Senna is not that much for a brew) get 'em to gregory peck it, leave before lager and lime but before we do, call the trouble and strife on the dog and bone, lettin' 'er that you're a bit strapped for bangers and mash and would she pick you up. *

Yeah, there's nothin' like the Queens English...the Pearly Queens English!

* In case you needed a translation....

Gosh, can you imagine my friend what a laugh (turkish bath) it would be to listen to how much trouble (barney rubble) they would have speaking English correctly. I'd take them to the local pub (rub-a-dub) with a mate (china plates) of theirs, ask them not to order a pint but a cup of tea (rosy lee) whilst convincing them that a tenna (ayrton senna) is not too much to spend, neck it (gregory peck) before time (lager and lime) is called but prior to that, call their wife (trouble and strife) on the phone (dog and bone) informing her that you do not have enough cash (bangers and mash) and would she pick you up?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Chilli - American Style

As a huge fan of most things American (good thing too eh, what with me being here!) I looked forward to trying american style recipes...you know the ones...pound cake, meatloaf...

So whilst watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa (great series, huge fan of Ina Garten - she makes cooking very easy) she happened to make chilli. Now, Hubby loves chilli, probably his second favourite dish (lasagna being the first) so I watched with interest as she made the dish.

Firstly, they don't use minced beef (maybe they do in other areas of the US but this particular recipe didn't call for it)...they use a stewing beef and they leave it to cook for two hours! It looked really lovely and I thought I'd try it...but me being me, I didn't exactly follow her directions and made a few adjustments....

1lb of stewing beef cut into medium chunks
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2tbsp of tomato puree
1 shallot, diced
2 spring onions (or scallions!), chopped
1 large garlic clove chopped finely
1tbsp of butter
1tbsp of oil
1tsp plus a dash of cumin (powder)
1tsp of paprika
1tsp chilli flakes (rounded tsp!)
1 can of red kidney beans
1 green or red pepper (I used half of one and half of the other)
1tsp of parsley (dried or fresh)
salt & pepper to season

1. brown the beef in the oil and remove from pan
2. saute the onions (both kinds) with the garlic and butter
3. add the cumin, paprika, parsley and chilli, fry for a few minutes
4. add the beef back in and cook together for a few minutes
5. add the tomatoes and puree, season, mix throughly
6. add enough water to the beef mixture so its about an inch and half above the meat
7. simmer for minimum of 11/2 hours. Check occasionally the water level and to stir. Meat should be fork tender at this point
8. add green/red peppers and kidney beans
9. cook for a further 1/2 an hour

Serve with rice and grated cheese on top

Hubby enjoyed it. He said that he wasn't used to chunks of meat in a chilli but it was a pleasant change...(I'm paraphrasing...Hubby doesn't readily use the word 'pleasant'!) Oh and by the way it makes a lot so there is plenty to stick in the freezer for those days when you couldn't be bothered to cook!



Just a quick NB before I even start...I'm thinking of changing the title of my blog to "Whilst in Starbucks...." as most of my stories start there!

Anyway...whilst sipping my cuppa in said coffee shop, I happened to look up from the book I was reading (plug: http://lgib-bookreview.blogspot.com) and noticed that I was surrounded by students.

I smiled (inwardly) as they sat around me surrounded by their huge text books, sticky notes, highlighters and the obligatory laptop. Ok, so is it necessary to have a laptop whilst studying? I mean why do they need one if they a) have a text book and b) they have sticky notes...are they typing up the notes as they make them and if so, why bother wasting paper? Or is the need to update Facebook with "OMG, this legislation is so killing me." that important? Hubby said to me that technically you can hold a class without anyone being in the lecture hall - something he saw from a film me thinks. But what's the fun in that? Isn't gong to Uni all about interacting with people, not paying that much attention to the class and nabbing notes? (did I write that out loud?)

Now these students - most are from Harvard Law, have these huge volumes in front of them...perfect bound, hardback books and some take to using actual pen to highlight what they need to remember! Highlighters are one thing, but pen? I'm being silly about it I know, but the revulsion of using said tool stems from my love of books and not liking to deface them. But then again, how many people are that attached to a text book?

I do love watching them as they sip their frappuccino and contemplate exactly what Professor 'Langdon' was talking about in their lecture. And I am so becoming a narky old woman....how can you study with headphones on? If it's to drown out the noise from everyone else in Starbucks then er, why study there?

One guy made me laugh; he sat down, took out his book, then got up to get his coffee, sat down, opened his book, started to read, got a phone call (I forgot to include that in the list of things that students take out when settling down to carry out some revision), went outside to take the phone call....and he stood outside for nearly 40mins talking...I looked at his book that he came in to study, can't remember the full title but it was regarding Hinduism, Spiritualism and Ghandi. An interesting topic I thought...but he was obviously not that enlightened by it as he decided to talk for 40mins!! I was amazed that he took so long on the phone...did you get here on a scholarship or something because it costs an arm and a leg to study here! Eek, grouchy woman rearing her head again...

Now, I pop in to Starbucks to have some 'company' as I read; and I go there knowing that there will be moments when the place will be saturated with noise. So this time whilst catching up on emails as well as reading, two law students sat opposite me. All was fine...although it was very busy (folk were escaping the semi-torrential downpour taking place) it was a level of noise that wasn't bothering me. But then the girl, who sat in front of me, turned to her partner in crime (get it?) and started discussing a case...it was something about how could this woman knowingly do something, wasn't it just assumption on her part blah, blah, blah.

Now, I'm not being cantankerous for the hell of it but woman, turn the volume down please? The girl next to me must have been slightly irked too although she didn't appear to notice and her topic on Aristotle and Jesus diverted my attention ever so slightly away from the incessant chatting. The guy the law student was discussing the problem with could hardly get a word in edgewise but I reckon it was more the point that he didn't agree with her argument. There was a momentary break when all three of us spotted a very wet dog looking very sorry for himself cross the road; but it was a momentary break, 'cause she was back to making her (very vocal) point.. "so, I don't think the assumption that she thinks she's going to be killed...". The guy still wasn't buying her argument and said to her that they would have to agree to disagree..tactful and a true lawyer in the making?

But despite his 'agree to disagree' comment stopped the chatter, by then she had disturbed me too much and I left although I was inclined to swipe my book at her head as I placed it into my bag...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Coffee & Hope

Whilst sitting in Starbucks putting pen to paper (actually, pen to napkin but lets not split hairs, its all wood), I'm reminded at how many different people there are in this world.

I recently read a book entitled 'The Prophecy Answer Book' by David Jeremiah (a full review can be found at my blog lgib-bookreview.blogspot.com) where one of the questions raised in this book is that of radical Muslims and their quest to convert all to Islam. It honestly frightens me that extreme fundamentalists are seemingly making this 'prophecy' come true. The answer given to the conversion to Islam started in the 7th century that if those who refuse to covert will be killed. As we all know, it was recently the nine year anniversary of 9/11 and it brings home again, the real danger of this 'quest' very much still happening today.

I'm certainly not trying to be all doom and gloom about this but it is something that I think more of especially since moving to America.

But, as I sit in Starbucks, it gives me some hope. If you ever feel a little down about the world - the wars, the famine, the politicians...go to your local coffee shop (it doesn't have to be a Starbuck's) and I think it will give you some hope too.

All walks of life meander in at my Cambridge branch (of said coffee shop)...the student, the busy professional, the yummy mummies, the housewives and the sliver surfers...they all sit here together, sipping their coffee, sometimes interacting, (I had a brief chat with a young woman with her dog - a momentary conversation but a lovely one nonetheless) more often than not, just grabbing a latte and heading out again.

There is no recognition of each others religion, their economic status, the kind of shoes they wear (actually, I do notice that...not sure why, but it could stem from the phrase "you can tell a lot about a person from the kind of shoes they wear" or words to that effect. But then again, for me its more like - 'they're a fabulous pair of heels, where did she get them from or they look nice, Hubby would suit those'..but I digress!)

I'm sure the cynics amongst us will say that we don't notice these things because we're consumed with our own (little) world. We're so self-absorbed we don't stop to notice other people. True - but is that a completely bad thing? Perhaps if we stopped criticizing our neighbors we'd actually get along.

Does it really matter what color the person next to us is? Who their God is? The fact is, shouldn't just simply being nice to each other be one of the most important things to do in life? Respect one another - shouldn't this be the key to getting on with your fellow human being - but world leaders know that don't they? I mean we all know that, don't we?

It saddens me that we teach children wrong from right, violence is not the answer, only for them to grow up in a world where adults choose weapons over talking.

Mind you, all this killing and intolerance of each others foibles will get us no where come 2012. Its the apparent end of the world...so will being a Christian, Muslim or an environmentalist really matter when an asteroid (as big as Rhode Island) or a sun flare hits the earth, causing the end of 90% of human civilization? (How's that for real doom and gloom?)

So, I reckon we should just try to be a little more kind to our neighbors, literal or otherwise, remember you're not perfect and sit back, relax and smile to the person sitting near you (without creeping them out) as you sip your mocha-chocca-vanilla, pumpkin spiced latte...

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

....and in rare cases causes death

We all know that as much as we complain about the NHS, in comparison to other developed nations it's not that bad, especially as we don't have to pay for appointments, operations, after care etc.. Yes, we pay for prescriptions but in comparison to the States....we are (I should really write, you are) lucky.

Due to a fear of dentists, I ended up having to visit one here...which led to me having an extraction. Now, my "day to day" dentist referred me next door to another (a peridontist) dentist to have a probable root canal which led him to refer me to an oral surgeon who would remove said tooth.

Throughout all of this I was given a breakdown of the costs i.e. how much I would have to pay once the insurance company paid it's share. Well, what a confusing world that is. The receptionist at the peridontist started to explain..."lets see now, your limit is $2000 for the year and to get a root canal will be eleven hundred; the insurance will pay 50%. So, you'll pay, minus the first fifty which you're liable for, plus this, add that minus the other"...by this time I was confused and just wanted to know - what do I pay woman, just tell me!?!

But this all aside, the care that I have received has been wonderful. They have all been very nice, patient and calmed my nerves (well, just about!). When I thought I was getting a root canal and it turned out it was an extraction (is that any better?), the second dentist didn't actually charge me, which was nice. The next day I ambled off to say goodbye to my tooth and when I got home, I picked up a voicemail saying the it was the nurse Karen; she and the doctor wanted to know how I am as they were worried about me. How sweet is that?

With all the talk of health reforms in the US, I can understand why the current administration want to introduce a similar concept like the NHS here; simply put if you don't have the insurance, you pay the full whack - and if you're on a low income, that's a lot of money. Whilst visiting all these said dentists I had to pop in to see another one because the peridontist wanted a second opinion - he did nothing to me, other than tell me to open my mouth. For that I was charged $53! talk about easy money.

So, it's understandable that there are so many adverts on various medicines. Now, I know there are the same kind of ones in the UK...but trust me, they really aren't the same.

When they advertise something for muscular pain, diabetes or a heart condition (for example), they are fairly dramatic advertisements and then if that isn't bad enough the voice over comes over with "taking said happy pill will not cure said illness but may cause..." and then they list the various side effects which include but not limited to; bloating, nausea, loss of sight, muscle spasms or even death!?!

Me thinks I'm going to have to be very careful whilst living here...unless I'm willing to sell a kidney, or a few cells...but that, is a whole other debate!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Stop Press

A few observations that I thought were worth mentioning...

1. Drive Through

Whilst out walking one day, checking out my 'hood; I walked past a car park and at the front was a sign for a chiropractor. My vision then went towards a drive 'thru' window on the side of a building right next to the car park. My mind boggled - a drive thru chiropractor? How does that work? Do you drive up, someone comes out, you open your door to them, they wiggle your back around and then you drive off? But then I noticed that the window was for the bank (which was the building next to the car park). Ahh, that makes much more sense...!

2. Take Away

Most days I make lunch at home. But on the odd occasion when what I have in doesn't tickle my fancy, I pop out to the local bagel place or deli to grab something. I've learned that to get a "tuna bagel to take away" meets with a blank stare and a " Sorry ma'am?". The term used is 'to go'. So, whilst trying to remember this terminology, I end up tripping up on my words and getting even more confusing looks! Therefore, as I approach any food establish to grab a quick bite to eat, my mantra is "to go, to go, to go".

3. Call of Nature

Don't ask for a bathroom or toilet...always the 'restroom' and occasionally accepted as the 'ladies'.

4. Trust at Starbucks

The local Starbucks is frequented with people armed with laptops, study notes, presentations, business problems, personal problems and even exam papers to mark. This means there is a whole plethora of people sitting around sipping their tall-soy-mocha-chocca-latte-frappacino's. Now, this also means that they stay for a while and therefore, the need to use the restroom eventually arises. Now, call me paranoid but I'm amazed at how many people just get up and go, leaving their laptops, books and bags until they return. I find this very odd in a world where we are told everyday to 'be aware of unattended bags'. I suppose on the upside, I should be happy that my 'hood is safe enough that people feel fine to leave their bags unattended. But am I the only one to find it strange that no-one else is bothered?

5. TV Shows

Family Fortunes is called Family Feud; the US love, love their sport...nascar, wrestling, basketball...But the best programme is Jeopardy. Love it. Can't get enough of it. After years of seeing it on US TV shows or books making a reference to it, I can see why its still being aired. Hubby and I spend most evenings shouting out the answers (ok, I do) and if we/I don't know the answer we revert to the 'Groundhog Day' movie where Bill Murray, having seen the programme several times knows the answers and our favourite answer that he gives is "What is Lake Titicaca?" Great movie and a great answer....and even better it recently came up as an answer...love it.

6. Mobiles

Unbelievably, folk over here still drive whilst talking on their mobiles (or as the US call them, cells). Legislation is just coming through to ban people from sending/reading a TEXT whilst driving...crazy, crazy people.

7. Adverts...and then some

So many adverts...and on some of them at the bottom they have 'dramatization' or 'actor protrayal'...it does make me ask - why does this need to be stated? I thought that most adverts were portrayed by actors? Does the cartoon Kool Aid pitcher need to have the words, this is a cartoon? Yes, I know...I'm being a tad sarcastic, forgive me....but it does make me laugh!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Quiet Street?

Whilst in good ol' Blighty, Hubby was in charge of finding a new apartment for us to reside in. He did this and a sterling job he did, even though I do say so myself. I trusted him to find something/somewhere that suited us as well as his commute to work.

Hubby said he found a really lovely place in Cambridge, near Harvard University, not far into work and plus it was a quiet street. I headed to the US without any concerns regarding our accommodation.

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

Upon entering the apartment 'block', I was greeted with four flights of stairs; but this didn't bother me as I was already warned that there was not a lift. I walked through the front door into the mini hallway and into the main living room. It was/is lovely...white walls, a small but perfectly functional kitchen, a decent sized bedroom and bathroom with just enough storage. Hubby did a grand job...bless he was so worried that I wouldn't like it. (He also did a sterling job on the furniture).

Again, Hubby assured me that it was a quiet street.

Four weeks later and alas that statement is so not the case. Most mornings, as Hubby bids me a fond farewell, he insists that I stay in bed - "have a lie-in". Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy to do this. Call me fussy but when one has a lie in or at least attempts one, a little silence is expected.

Every second week the bin men come along at about 8.30am followed swiftly by the recycling men - both doing a sterling but noisy job. By now, I'm wide awake and all hopes of a lie-in has disappeared. So I get up and meander into the kitchen to make breakfast. As I sit down to channel hop, I'm having to crank up the volume as the great bin men (or should that be garbage men?) of Cambridge have moved on....but along trundles pass a few trucks, cars, motorbikes...

...I was beginning to get used to this routine [of noise] and soon started to drown out (as much as I could) said noise. But then, as I thought I had become oblivious to the fracas, a new noise joined in. Announcements.

Someone would drive up and down ensuring that all residents were aware that something was about to take place the same/following day and they had to remove their cars. However, these announcements are a tad difficult to decipher. On one such morning, when a broadcast was being made, I moved closer to the window and heard a passing rambling of hydrants. They soon enough passed by again and I noted that the Cambridge fireman were making said broadcast and concluded that they were announcing 'Hug a Hydrant Day'. Lovely. However, me thinks this was not the case as I soon heard the gushing of water...they were emptying the hydrants? I'm not sure why, but who am I to question this procedure?

Maybe they will make the announcement again soon, but I'm declaring June 1st as Hug a Hydrant Day...but I digress.

Getting back to my point...besides the aforementioned noises, I also have to add nature to the mix. There are several types of birds each with their own call...which they make more or less at the same time; the rain and the thunderstorms. And boy do they have thunderstorms over here - its like having the Royal Philharmonic orchestra's drums right by your ear with a flashing 800 watt bulb moments away.

But not to complain too much, it does have its moments of quietness though, like at midnight...which is nice.

Monday, 17 May 2010

I Really Am Dodgy!

After four long months, I finally packed my bags and headed for the airport in nervous anticipation that Mr Ash wouldn't cause too much of an annoyance at the airport and indeed to my flight!

I don't really like flying...I'm Taurean - solid earth is my friend, so I tried not to think too much about being in a metal canister at 30,000 odd feet above said earth, trying to avoid Mr Ash.

I said a sad goodbye to Mother, Father and Brother and tried not to break down in floods of tears...keep smiling...! Once through the security barriers, alas the tears came flooding down and I stared at the floor as I shuffled towards having to half undress to walk through a metal door.

I pulled myself together to ask whether I needed to take my shoes off...apparently not! Great, I was happy about that; as much as I am 100% for airport security, taking my shoes off can be a bit of pain. I mooched through and the depression took me over again. As I grabbed my coat and tried to put my passport back into my bag, a security officer asked to look at my other bag. I didn't even look at him, just mumbled yeah, sure and handed him my carry-on. He rubbed the bag with his big cotton pad and said all was ok...I mumbled again, great, thanks and bless, he tried to engage me by telling me to have a good flight but I just smiled faintly and ambled off to the Duty Free shopping.

I paid the extra to go Premimum Economy on Virgin Atlantic. Well worth it...as soon as you settled into the well spaced seats, you were offered a complimentary glass of champagne, fruit juice or water. Moments after take off, you were presented with a menu so you could make a decision on your main course. Very civilised in comparison to economy when the trolley just pushes past and you were told your choice. Dessert was a Gu pudding plus cheese & crackers - oh ain't we posh! An hour after lunch, flight attendants went around with a choice of fruit and an hour before landing - we were served with tea/coffee a cookie or a chocolate brownie.

Minor issue, the pilot landed a little too fast for my liking...I started to press my foot down, thinking ok, lady (obviously from that you can tell it was a female pilot), do you wanna find those breaks - you're very near water! The BA pilot from January had a much better handle of things (cue debate).

So, I arrived in Boston on Wednesday 12th - avoiding Mr Ash and now looking forward to reuniting with Mr Ayre. I stood in line hoping that I would get through immigration without any problems.

I didn't.

Never smile at the men and women in immigration - I did and never again will I do so. I stepped in front of the immigration officer and having looked at my US Visa, he asked my why I went back to the UK? I thought er, I still live there technically... The question did throw me slightly and I stuttered replying I had to finish off my contract..."Your what?' he replied..."Er, work, I had to finish work.." what else does contract mean, I wondered?

He obviously didn't like my answer; he got our his red marker, wrote PAX 1 across it and said - "follow the blue line to second immigration check"

Bloody marvellous...so I followed the blue line and joined the other 'dodgy' looking people in the "second immigration check" room. After waiting for 15mins, the first immigration officer (IO1) said my name...well, tried too...the second immigration officer IO2, took my passport off him and scanned the room. He matched my picture to me and said "ma'am" and beckoned me to the front. I went to the desk and IO2 said "is it Ayre?" I said yes, he turned to IO1 and said "hey, you could try that". I tried not to smile. And then the following took place:

IO2 - (still holding my passport) Georgetown - where's that?
Me - Guyana...South America
IO2 - why'd you leave?
Me - oh, politcal unrest
My mind - why did I say that - do you know where you are?
IO2 - political unrest? Hmmm...(hands passport to IO1 and walks away)
IO1 - political unrest?
Me - a yeah...my mum and dad left in 1979...
IO1 - oh (starts to look at my passport), that's ok
My mind - phew
IO2 - starts walking back muttering political unrest
IO1 - how long have you worked with Resources?
Me - that's my husbands work place, I don't work for them
IO1 - oh yeah it says you're on a H4 visa (continues to look at passport)
My mind - oy-vay, how long is this going to take?
IO1 - oh, happy belated birthday, a week ago
Me - (smile) thanks
IO2 - (interrupts) hey man, how come so many are here?
IO1 - I'm workin' on three already, they don't speak English
IO2 - yeah, but we got get on
IO1 - well, I'm doin' what I can, I'm dealing with this lady quickly cause she can speak English
My mind - don't smile, don't smile...
IO1 - that's all fine ma'am - have a pleasant stay.

I thanked him, grabbed my suitcases and headed for the exit. I walked out and Hubby was waiting with a "what did you do" look on his face.

I started to laugh as I said to him that I obviously did look very dodgy...welcome to America - land of the free?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Gawd Love 'Em

It's been just over a week since I arrived in Cambridge and what I've discovered so far is very nice. Hubby and I are surrounded by Harvard and its many, many buildings which lends itself to the neighbourhood being quite lively and diverse.

Having started to settle into the 'hood, and not had a decent chat with the family, I called to let them know that I was fine, everything was going well (even though I still feel like I'm in holiday mode!) and I was missing them.

Chatting to the folks back home, made me remember the last few months being back at Ma & Pa since Hubby and I gave up our flat at the end of March (which meant going back to stay with Ma & Pa).

It's amazing how you fall back into being who you were before you left home!

When my friends called to ask if I wanted to meet up with them, a slight panic of telling my parents would wash over me (just to explain, my childhood was brilliant but strict - never allowed to stay out late unless the parents knew who I was going out with; I had to adhere to the time I said I would be back at etc...) hence the panic when I had to inform said parents that I was off out for the night!

One night, such an occasion rose and I thought, 'ang on a minute, I'm married, they can't say anything!'... so I spoke to Mother and said that I was off out...no questions asked, just an ok, see you later. How bizarre was that?!

The girls decided to throw me a 'last night at my flat' party and we all sat on floor cushions munching on nibbles and knocking back the wine. Everyone left at midnight; but me, Best Friend and Best Friend's sister stayed on chatting until 2am!

I went back home, thinking I hope the parents are not up...but popped my head around the Parents bedroom door and Mother said "hmm...what time do you call this?", I grinned and said, sorry - I was talking! Just then Father walked out of the bathroom, he looked at me...and suddenly, I was 16 again... "where have you been?" he demanded to know - just out talking, I replied... "until 2am? Did you lock the front door?", yes Dad I replied meekly and then I sauntered off to bed. I couldn't believe that I had just been told off!

Quickly enough, I fell into the Parents routine of getting up by 9am, having breakfast, mull around, pop into Croydon and then about 3pm decide what to have for dinner, fumble around in the fridge for the ingredients, pop out the shops to pick up anything missing, cook dinner and then settle down in front of the TV to eat said dinner.

Now, I have very different viewing habits than The Parents, but as it's their house and only the upstairs TV has Sky HD i.e. I can record my favourite programmes, I was happy to go along with what they wanted to watch. But, I had forgotten how much of a routine they could fall into. Every night, the programming/evening went as follows:

6-7pm: ITV News and Weather
7pm & 30 secs :Emmerdale theme music (Father likes to hear it but doesn't watch the programme)
7-8m: Two and Half Men
8-9.30pm: channel hopping trying to find something to watch whilst complaining that despite over 40 channels to choose from, there was nothing to watch.
9.30-10pm: cup of tea made
10pm (or earlier most nights): I'm abandoned. But this 'abandonment' was not completely unwelcome; it meant that I could then watch the stuff that I wanted to (Sex and the City, True Blood, Fringe...) but best of all I could flick between channels.

The Parents hated it when I tried to flick between the channels. But I only did this because once you've seen one set of adverts, its guaranteed that they will repeat the same ones again and again each break. And not only the adverts, but the promo's of the up and coming snippets of the next 'exciting' installment of 'What Katy did next'. There's only so many times a sane person can watch said adverts/promos over and over and over...

One said promo was one about South Park. We all know South Park and how close to the line (heck even over it) they can go. But their particular promo went as follows:

In a fudge factory, kids amble up to the assembly line, where workers are putting fudge into boxes:

"Oh my God, its Tom Cruise!"
"I didn't know Tom Cruise was a fudge packer?!"
"I am not a fudge packer!"
"What's going on?"
"It's Tom Cruise, he's a fudge packer"....

I merely rolled my eyes and then looked across to the Parents and that made me laugh. They just looked almost blankly at the TV. I mused as to whether they understood the term 'fudge packer'...I was thinking not!

Mother looked at me..."there's nothing but nonsense on the TV now"

Each week, guaranteed on a Monday evening, Father would ask me if X Factor is on, I would say, do you mean American Idol, he said yes, I would say that it's on a Wednesday Dad, he'd reply oh ok...every week...without fail...and then it got worse when Britain's Got Talent and then it was the confusion of what programme was on when!..

Oh I do miss Ma & Pa and their way of not quite getting things, their memory loss and selective hearing...gawd love 'em.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Three(ish) Weeks & Volcanic Ash

I'm trying not to panic...

...it dawned on me earlier today that it's not too long before I would board the plane to Boston and then I can see my darling Hubby after four very difficult months. But, I hear you cry, that's no reason to panic - surely it should be Hubby panicking...after all he's had four blissful months without me nagging him!

Well, I'm 'panicking' because of the Icelandic ash that hovers in the air and the possibility of another eruption causing another week of cancelled flights. Some people have had dreadful ordeals trying to get home and I'd hate to get caught up in that fiasco - I'm not a keen traveller of those metal objects in the sky!

It made me think though - what's the alternative? Visions of taking the Eurostar to Paris, another train across mainland Europe into Russia, catching a trip with a fisherman on the Bering Sea to Alaska, then another train to Boston via Canada. It may just work...and then An Affair to Remember popped into mind and so I searched for a transatlantic voyage to NYC.

And they still do them! It takes six days from Southampton to New York, pier 12. It would be great to take a voyage across the Atlantic; evenings filled with dinner dances, days playing shuffleboard but perhaps I've romanticised the whole thing...and me being me, I would have to be with Hubby to really enjoy myself; I couldn't do it without him.

So, with that in mind, me thinks I'll have to pray to Hephaestus (Greek god of fire renamed Vulcan by the Romans) so said volcano doesn't through a hissy fit and spew more clouds of ash therefore stopping me from seeing Hubby.

The only good thing to come out this? The jokes....

"I came out of my house yesterday and was hit on the head by a bag of sausages, a chocolate gateau and a box of fish fingers. I realised it must be the fallout from Iceland."


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Honey & Ginger

It's my beautiful and wonderful best friend's birthday on Sunday; amazingly the weather will be great and she has decided that it will be diaquiri's and a picnic in the park - that's why we're BF's!

I asked her what did she want me to bring along and she asked me to make 'your strawberry cake'...I grinned, knowing that she would make such a request.

But it reminded me that I wanted to share a great recipe that I recently 'invented'...I didn't do the hours of testing; I simply wanted to bake and opened the cupboards thinking what could I use out?

My thoughts ran to Parkin but fancied doing something else; so I picked up the ground ginger (a key ingredient in Parkin) and as I moved things around, randomly thinking that I really should tidy things up in here [the cupboard] my hand fell on to some honey that Hubby and I had bought to drizzle over something!

And from that was born my Honey & Ginger cake:

For a 8" round cake tin - non stick is best, buttered and slightly floured
  • Cream 10oz of 'cake butter' (e.g. stork) and 10oz sugar until the butter is a lot lighter
  • Add one at a time 4 large (room temp) eggs - beating in each one well
  • Add in two batches 10oz of cake flour until just combined - do not over mix
  • Add 11/2 teaspoons of ground ginger and mix - again do not over mix
  • Put half the mixture in the tin
  • 8-10 teaspoons of honey randomly placed on the batter
  • Put remaining batter on top, smooth/swirl on top
  • Bake at about 180 degrees for about 40mins - but cook according to your oven!
  • You'll have some batter left over - so make some cupcakes!
As you cut into the cake, you'll find that the honey has melted and almost caramalised - its tastes divine - even if I do say so myself! Haven't done it as yet but experiment with different flavour honey's but bear in mind that it needs to complement the spicy-ness of ginger.


(By the way - 'your strawberry cake' is a vanilla sponge, filled with a cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries or for a less sweet version, a mascapone & fresh strawberries filling).

(image: Microsoft Clipart)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Grocery Shopping - US Style

Back in January when Hubby finalised (oops, sorry - finalized) plans to move over (whimper, yes without me ) to Boston, I was looking forward to getting to know Macy's and Starbucks on a greater level of relaxation...

...and when out there for those two weeks, it dawned on me that I can go the supermarket and shop...yeah!

I love grocery shopping, especially a few minutes after the store has just opened and there are just a few people milling around, I grab a basket and head towards the aisles with a hop and a skip (ok, just a slight skip); a sense of contentment builds as I mill around the tomatoes, finding the right kind of leek, perusing the meat section deciding on whether to have cumberland sausages or pork & apple...ahhh, the joy of it all.

So, imagine my delight when I could amble down the aisles of a real all American store - lovely! I grabbed a trolley ignoring Hubby's comments of - 'we're not going to buy that much'. "Yes dear," I mutter as I pushed the wire cage towards the fruit. Suddenly, everything looked different and I'm sure had to taste differently.

I picked up a tub of pineapple, like they were rings of gold, I contemplated whether to make this purchase...I put them back but that didn't stop me picking up the usual fayre (carrots, onions...OMG they have garlic too) like it was the 'amber nectar'..!

To my dismay though, I may well be incorrect on this part, but I couldn't find any garlic bread or 'shredless' marmalade! What's all that about?...and the tea is so different. Mother dearest said I must have been a 'memsahib' in a previous life because I like tea so much!

Anyway, obviously being Boston they're not exactly going to brimming with English breakfast tea! And the Irish breakfast tea just isn't strong enough - I did find a box of Twinings Engish Breakfast...but it's not the same, so I'm thinking that I'm going to have to pack a box or two!

This one store we went to was huge; fresh produce, a bakery section, a hot food section - oh and the American's don't do a decent ol' banger. They have what they call 'breakfast sausage'. It has so many preservatives I was wondering if you could taste any meat! I didn't get any but felt a dash of panic of whether I would be able to buy 'real' sausages!

Several aisles later (and possibly an hour or so from the time we entered the store), the trolley was beginning to brim with great things...cinnamon rolls, butter, orange juice, eggs....and as I turned down the second to last aisle, Hubby stopped and looked at me...

"Please, can we leave now...before I die here..?"

I rolled my eyes...when did the love of food shopping fizzle from our relationship? Did he no longer enjoy practically stopping and looking at every box, carton or packet of lovely foodie items? Has the fabric conditioner and what smell to go with lost all its appeal?

I went into momentary despair...but soon got over it as I realised (sorry - realized) that I could come back here again...on my own...and go 'wild in the aisles' ; and then Hubby would have to listen aisle by aisle my wonderful shopping expedition...


Thursday, 11 March 2010

I've lost me 'u'

Hmmm...it recently dawned on me whilst completing a crossword (yes, my life is that exciting at the moment!) that when I get across to the land of the free that I'm losing the letter U and gaining an extra Z (ize).

Now, as someone who loves to read and has excelled (even if I do say so myself) in English - oral and written, this loss of a very useful letter leaves me feeling a tad uncomfortable.
Perhaps I should "like, just get over myself" but I am wondering - will I find it again?

Hubby and I are in Boston for a few years...but may stay longer, so on that basis will I forget the Queen's english? Should I pop back to ol' blighty and visit some posh folk in Kensington to remind myself that one should alwasys refer to oneself in the third person?...But, then again, I am after all a 'sow-fth' London girl, I don't refer myself in the third person and ain't gonna start now am I?

One of my favo-U-rite novelists is Tess Gerritson and I must admit that I don't recall this infamous missing letter being that just that - missing - and the occasional 'ize' I think has cropped up but the 'ize's of the world don't bother me too much.

Now, we all know Amercia is known for the spelling bee, it would make for an interesting contest between the UK and USA don't you think? I mean, the judges would have to make sure they make it clear which spelling they are after. Wow, you could so trip someone up! "Spell colo(u)r" "is the origin UK or US?" (Note: watch Akeela and the Bee - fanstastic film about the above event which will make you tense, happy, sad, frustrated and relieved even if you think spelling bee's are a waste of time).

If you're bothered, and are curious to know words that are spelt differently these inlcude:

(UK) aeroplane / (US) airplane : (UK) pyjamas / (US) pajamas : (UK) mum / (US) mom

So, why am I 'bovvered' about a missing letter? I guess it's the principle of it all. I love the complexity of the english language, how the same spelling of a word can mean two different things (sink, class, train etc) and when spoken with warmth and a true sense of meaning (e.g. Patrick Stewart reading Charles Dicken's classic - Scrooge) can be a slice of heaven.

Ah well, despite my concerns about mispronouncing certain words/letters e.g. Z is 'zee' not 'zed' and our allies wishing to be literal in their spelling, deep down we all know that there should be a u there. God Bless America...

I'm still in London...

Hubby and I are moving to Boston...a true sentence up until January this year.

The reality is - I'm here, he's there and well...the dream of actually getting there is feeling very distant. So, let me take you back to when it all started...

The Roti Incident

Being a West Indian girl who may love a traditional English 'fish supper', roti and pumpkin will always be her favourite. Hubby often teases me that I'm spoilt by my mum when she calls me at work to ask if I'm popping in, to which I reply "er, no - did you need something?" "no, just made some roti"...I'm there in a flash.

One day Hubby says - you better learn to make that yourself; to which I took personally. Why couldn't my mum make roti for me? How dare he tell me that I can't enjoy my mum's cooking, I may be married, but there's nothing wrong with having mum's cooking once in a while...you get the picture (or should that be rant?!)

A few weeks later, Hubby explained his comment "I'm in discussions about getting a job in Boston"

Macy's, C&B, Starbucks...

It's amazing how nine words can make you forget what you were peeved about...I was so excited! Boston...really? Boston...wow...visions of a world filled with Crate & Barrel, Macy's Holiday Lane, popping into an American Starbucks to grab a tall caramel macchiato rushed forward in my mind...was it possible?

Months went by as we went back and forth with Hubby's HR department and attorney (oo-er, have to get used to these American terms). But, depsite the lengthy filling in of forms where we had to state everything from who our parents were to all the countries we visited in the last ten years - ten years? I couldn't even remember last summer's holiday let alone ten years ago! - we got there in the end.

December 24th, we sat in the American Embassy in Grosvenor Sqaure (having stayed at the Millennium Hotel - if you get a chance, stay there...very comfy beds, great shower and an excellent breakfast); I was worried that we may still be turned down; and as we sat and watched the flat screen displaying a loop of the great icons of America, I couldn't help but think ok, don't look suspicious, like a criminal, like we have connections with anyone dodgy, that we, mere English folk really do believe in the American Dream.

Forty mintues later, we stood in front of a window, having our fingerprints scanned and forms reviewed. Turns out that they weren't that interested in me after all; I wasn't the principle visa applicant, just the spouse. Ah well, I can start looking dodgy again....

...and who cares - Boston here I come!