Thursday, June 10, 2010

Karate kids ;)

Chad's got some old friends in Bar Harbor who got into karate quite a few years ago and do it as a family activity (the couple has two sons).  We've talked about how fun it would be to do something like that, and when we arrived in the UK, I looked around at karate classes that were in the area.  There is a dojo in Keynsham, but since we didn't have a car then and were beholden to the train schedule, I was never back in town early enough to attend.  When we moved closer to town, I thought I'd check to see if there was a dojo around here, and lo and behold, there is!  We got in touch and attended our first class a little over a month ago.  They were really awesome allowing us to come for a whole month to see if we liked it, and like it we do!  This past Tuesday, we finally got our gis (pronounced gees with a hard "g") and our white belts!  There's something very satisfying about doing something so physical and regimented together; it's nice to have something like this to share.  When we got home on Tuesday night, we were the weirdos out in the street practising our katas, but it was really fun!  We also got to see our instructors pass out belts to two members of the dojo, which was pretty awesome.  There was a real sense of giddy pride in the room, and it was great to see them rewarded for all their hard work!
The type of karate we're doing is shotokai, which is a  lot less aggressive than the traditional shotokan karate that most people are familiar with.  It just so happened that this is the one that's available to us, but it's also by far my preference - it's really beautiful and graceful, but also full of strength without being so combative.  It's very similar to yoga in a lot of ways, and works with lots of the same principles, particularly work with energy and a sort of sixth sense.
As you can see from our sweaty selves in the photo, it's a heck of a workout, but also really social as well.  We all went out for curry after practise on Tuesday since it was the anniversary of the Bath club.  There are about five other classes that we can go to during the week as well, which is super, and we might go to another one on Sunday.  Will post more photos when we have them over the coming months, hopefully with new belts of our own!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Recent events...

Hello!  We've had quite a busy last few days...well, really last few weeks, but these photos were taken over the course of a visit with our friend, Luise.  

I went to massage school with Luise at Kripalu, and we've stayed in touch since.  She's on a wild European adventure, traveling around Switzerland, Germany, and Italy with her boyfriend, Dean, and she made a bit of a detour to come and stay with us for a few days. Those were some full days, and they flew by.  On Tuesday, we went to Lacock Abbey (pictured above), where parts of the first two Harry Potter films were shot.  

The abbey was in excellent shape, and the grounds were stunning.  I loved the way the light bounced off the golden stone.  It was a perfect rainy day outing; most of the crowds were held at bay, and by the time we were ready to walk around the town of Lacock, the rain had tapered off.  


There wasn't much to the town, really just four streets that formed 
a square beginning and ending at the National Trust parking lot, but it was full of little nooks and crannies, including a small church and graveyard, a gorgeous old barn that is let out for events - yes, I'll have my wedding here, please!...oh wait...

This was the inaugural trip with our new GPS, who we've tentatively named Jeeves.  We were less than thrilled with the route he took us on to get the Lacock, so we asked him for some alternative routes for the way back.  We had planned to stop for some cream tea at the Bridge Tea Rooms in Bradford-on-Avon, but we didn't have the time.  Luckily, via some little farm roads, Jeeves took us to a lovely little farm shop where we indulged in scones, clotted cream, jam, and pots of tea....mmmm.

The next day, Luise and Chad headed down to Glastonbury to the Tor while I slaved away at work ;)  When I got home, much to my delight, another one of our massage classmates had arrived.  Georgina lives about two hours away, but we hadn't seen each other in almost two years.  Thanks to Luise, we were all reunited.  Later, we found ourselves at an Indian restaurant on Elvis night with a number of intoxicated students from Chad's programme.  It was quite surreal, but endlessly entertaining.

Yesterday, Thursday, Georgina, Luise, Chad, and I drove down to Stonehenge.
I mean, really...what is there to say?  It was totally amazing.
We spent a few hours just hanging out with the stones, talking about all sorts of awesome new age hippy stuff - energy and grounding and ceremony...we took a mini doze in the sun and wished we'd brought a picnic.  It was such a lovely afternoon, and even though there were lots of tourists, we felt really comfortable and like we had our own space.  I know lots of people out there aren't really into energy, so suffice it to say that there was definitely a very nice vibe going on. 

A swashbuckling Georgina:
Chad, being eaten by a large stump:

Do stay tuned for upcoming karate photos!  We're really loving it and are getting our Gis on Tuesday!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


It's been a seriously crazy couple of weeks, and it doesn't look like things are going to slow down much in the near future.  However, life is totally awesome, so we have no complaints.

Awesome fact 1: Chad handed in his final papers for the semester last Thursday - grades usually take about three weeks to finalize, so we should know in a couple of weeks how he did.  I can already tell you he knocked them out of the park :)...he was working on them until about 4am on Thursday, and printed them off with about 10 minutes to spare for the noon deadline.  We celebrated by taking ourselves out to lunch at a little pub on the canal called the George and walking around a cemetery in Bathampton.  It was so nice to spend a relaxing afternoon with my husband after weeks of him perched in front of his computer!

Awesome fact 2: I'm seriously digging my job.  I finally feel like I have a bit of footing and am fitting in well in my new role as manager.  I really like the owner, Rachel, and feel that once I've proven myself a bit more, I will really have a great deal of freedom to once again help make Demuths the best vegetarian restaurant in the UK!  Rachel also runs a vegetarian cooking school, and would prefer to focus solely on that, so the eventual plan is that the head chef, Rich, and I will be in charge of the restaurant.  I thought I'd be a lot more anxious about this level of responsibility, but I'm really energized by it, and feel confident that the restaurant will be going in a good direction.  So yay for that!

Awesome fact 3: It's basically summer here, the bluebells are out, the weather is fine, and Chad and I have been playing in the garden all morning.  I'm feeling very content.

Awesome fact 4: We're doing karate!  Once we get our gis, we'll post photos. 

Wahoo! Yay for life!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May Ball!

Wow, that was quite a night.

I have to say, that was quite possibly the best time I've had since I've been here.  The British seriously know how to have a good time...particularly the lot of British folks I was with last night.

Our landlord, Gillian, has a super tight family.  Joining her last night were her mum, Beatrice, her two brothers, Neil and Dave (photo 2),
Dave's girlfriend, Charlotte, her twin, Caroline, and their handyman, Simon (photo 1).  Additionally, there were a few more folks around our age, and we totalled about 15 people...people who seriously know how to shake a tailfeather.
In the States, in my experience, it takes a while for people to get lubricated enough to kick up their heels on the dance least a few songs during which a courageous few take to the dance floor in hopes of luring others onto it.  Thus, the "good" dance music is saved for later when there are actually people dancing.  Not in Britain.  The DJ launched full speed into dance favorites, starting off the night with "Dancing Queen".  In a matter of moments, virtually everyone was on the dance floor flailing away with wild abandon.  It was so heartening to see all these 20- and 30-something year old guys having a good time - not worrying whether or not they were making fools of themselves or hanging out by the bar, but really having a blast.  I think it was very encouraging for Chad, who, for the third time since I've known him, really let loose and had a fantastic time dancing.  I really like whatever part of English culture it is that encourages all sorts of foolish antics on the dance floor.  It's very endearing, particularly for a culture that seems to take itself quite seriously some of the time. 
Speaking of foolish antics, Neil is in the military and was decked out in full regalia (including spurs on his shoes, of which I was terrified).  Over the course of the evening, and having overheard me tell someone how appealing the ensemble was, Neil came up with the brilliant idea to switch clothes with Chad, which resulted in Chad's alter ego (who is apparently a matador, little did we know) to emerge.

Here are a few more shots for your enjoyment...we've already got plans for at least two more balls while we're here - one of Neil's military balls and the New Years Eve celebration at the Pump Rooms...I think we're hooked!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A new addition!

No, I'm not pregnant...we got a car!!!!! 


 After the heinous three hour drive down from Manchester back in September, I was not excited to get behind the wheel again, but thankfully Elaine convinced me that it would be a good idea to get comfortable driving in the UK.  Right she was, and I've been thinking about a set of wheels since she and Dad left last month.  We've had a few possibilities, but they fell through, and I was getting impatient.  I also didn't want to have to take tons of public transportation to go and see a bunch of vehicles when one was pretty much as good as the last.  So I just picked one and bought it.  So far so good.

So cars over here are suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper cheap, so we had a pretty good selection of vehicles under £500, which is what we were looking for (something cheap that we can tool around in for the next year and then sell or dump without losing a ton of cash).  Our priority: It has windows in the back seat that roll down.  Poor Nugget hasn't had a car she could stick her head out of since our first year on Vinalhaven when we got the Element, so I really wanted one where she could feel the breeze of the open road. The one we picked is a Vauxhall Astra...not really sure what the American equivalent is...maybe a Chevy of some sort? It's the same kind of car we had when D & E were here, but obviously quite a bit older.

The logo is a cool, bad ass-looking gryphon, so obviously, we decided it was the right car for us (kidding...).  It's a hatchback and still pretty small, but with a decent sized back seat.  We are accepting suggestions for names...we think it's a girl.

As I'm the only one who's done the driving in the UK til today, it was pretty comfortable driving back from Bristol (where the car was) to Bath today.  It was pretty much a straight shot down the A4, and I got to stop and get petrol (AKA gas), which made me feel very much like a car owner again.  It feels almost natural to be driving on the left hand side of the road, and I'm getting much more familiar with shifting with my left hand.  I'm even getting more comfortable with driving with cars on both sides of the road, and only a narrow passage through which two-way traffic is supposed to proceed.  The one thing I can't seem to shake is the inclination to get in on the left hand side of the car.  I was at the grocery store earlier and was hurrying to get into my car so another one could have my parking space when I realized that I'd gotten in on the passenger side.  Whoops.  I had to hop over before making a quick getaway.

Chad had his first try behind the wheel this evening.  I drove us up to the cemetery at the top of our road, and he drove around the lanes there for a little while before hitting the open road.  We took the main road that leads to the university, and it was a pretty quiet time of night, so we didn't run into much traffic.  There are about five roundabouts on the way, so he got some good practice on those.  I think they're a really good idea as an alternative to four-way stops.  No one's ever sitting there wondering who's supposed to go  first, and for the most part, traffic continues on with nary a glitch.   It was strange to be in the passengers' seat, and I must say I was doing a significant amount of hand-wringing, but I needn't have worried.  Chad did a stellar job, and seems to have a much better sense of spacial relationship than I do (or at least he wasn't making the noises I usually do when I have to go through one of the aforementioned narrow corridors with cars on one side of the road and moving traffic on the other).  Nugget very much enjoyed sticking her head out the window as we cruised along. 

I've made Chad promise that once he's done with the papers he's working on now, we'll take the car on her virgin voyage to Golden Cap. We joined the National Trust just last evening, and I want to see absolutely everything we can in this next year.  I am so. excited. to have a car.

Poop poop, the open road!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A long-overdue update.

Hey there!

Wow, it's really hard to start a blog posting updating y'all on the last month and a half.  Maybe I should blog more often so I don't run into this problem again ;)
The weather the past week and a half here has been absolutely breathtaking.  Blue skies, warm spring days, cocktail hour on the swing in our back garden, overlooking the city and hot air balloons, chilly evenings in front of the fireplace with a good film...I can't find much to complain about there.
Chad's been working working working, getting ready for a dissertation meeting with his advisor and keeping up with his classwork.  I'll let him update you on his coursework this semester and tell you about the social side of things :)
Kate is one of Chad's professors, and she had a bunch of us over for drinks on Saturday evening.  It was a small but fun group, and I wasn't the only non-death scholar in the room, so the conversation didn't stray toward the morbid as often as I'm sure it usually does ;).  Kate introduced the two of us to a couple of British TV shows from the past few years which we're eager to check out as she seems to have fairly similar tastes in films to us.  On Sunday evening, Tony (another of Chad's professors; we've talked about him before) came over for dinner with Tara and Bas, with whom we spent New Years Eve.  Tara is a PhD student in CDAS and Bas is a psychology professor at the university.  Chad made one heck of a lasagna, and it was a great way to christen our conservatory - hurrah for dinner parties!!
I've been having fun with the Stockingtops (the singing group I joined back in Feb).  We're singing some great songs and learning super cheesy dance moves (you KNOW how much I love super cheesy dance moves ;), and going out for pizza and Prosecco.  It's good to be involved with a group of girls again, and they're all so welcoming.  One of the girls, Vanessa, actually lives about a five minutes walk from us and is Canadian.  We may be buying a car from her (!!!), and she and her partner, Rich, have invited us over for a barbeque and to get to know some other couples in the neighborhood.  I like to think that I'd be like her if I was settled in a place after moving there a few years ago and met someone who was new.  A small group of the Stockingtops are performing at "Bath's Top Talent" at a venue in town on Friday, so Chad and I are going to have a little date night starting with half priced burgers at Market, and finishing up with the show at Komedia.  Yay for date nights!
Chad is going in tomorrow to get fitted for a tux (must not squeal with glee, must not squeal with glee...) for the ball we're going to on the 8th of May.  It is a benefit for the Dorothy House Hospice, and we're going with a bunch of folks to celebrate our landlord, Gillian's, birthday.  We've met quite a few of the characters who we'll be sitting with - Gillian's brother and his girlfriend, a few people from the church she introduced us to (yes, we're sort of going to church), and our handyman, Simon.  I'm feeling a bit smug that I brought a dress with me that is appropriate for a ball, even though the reason I brought it is because I heard the English like to dress up in "fancy dress".  Little did I know, this does not mean ball gowns and tuxes, but costumes like sailors and drag queens (believe me, a Saturday night is something to see in Bath, especially if there's a stag party - or a hen do /bachelorette party - going on).
I must say, I cannot wait for the ball weekend to get here. Not only will it be AWESOME to see Chad in a tux for the first time, but it'll be the first time in a while that I get more than one day off at a time - three days in a row....mmm, shudder of excitement.  WHY will it be the first time in over a month that I get more than one day off, you ask? Well, because I have been hired as the manager of Demuths, a very sweet vegetarian restaurant in a sweet little cobblestoned pedestrian walkway right near Bath Abbey.  It's a hugely popular restaurant (they already have bookings for Christmastime), and has been around for about 25 years.  The owner, Rachel Demuth, was the cook for about ten of those years but has handed over the reins to various chefs over the years.  Now, she's trying to recreate Demuths, make it a bit more posh (as opposed to hippy food)...the food is outstanding, and she's hired me to make sure the front of the house is polished up a bit.  Considering the TWELVE years of restaurant work I have under my belt in a variety of eating establishments, I think I can rise to the challenge.  My first official full-time day there will be on the 10th of May, so I'm fitting in shifts now and then while still working at Sweaty Betty's (hence the exhaustion).  I'll definitely miss the girls, but they'll be right down the street, and the manager, Rachel,  (too many Rachels!) lives just around the corner.  I just hope I can keep up the fitness I've gained whilst working there! 
I think that's about the extent of things for the mo.  Stay tuned for a full update of Dad and Elaine's visit with photos, and hopefully I'll upload some Rome pics one of these days as well.  I promise to update at least once a week from now on...and of course, there will be Chad-in-a-tux photos to post on the 9th!
131 days til we land in Boston!!!!!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Final time: 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 6 seconds.
Placed 6962 out of 10858

So I ran the half marathon yesterday and have yet to come down from my high.  It was such an amazing experience, and I felt remarkably good for the whole race!  I think a large portion of my positive experience had to do with the fact that I consciously avoided freaking out and stressing about the race.  There was so much to worry about - guilt for not training while I was in Rome, my less-than-stellar diet  this week, lack of sleep. When it came down to it, though, I had trained well and was prepared and I knew it.  There's always more that I could have done, but clearly in this case, it was enough, and I'm very proud of my accomplishment.
After a modest breakfast of cereal, yogurt, and rice milk, I took my water bottle and headed down to the city.  It was about 9:30 when I got in and there were lots of sporty looking folks flooding into the Runner's Village where I met Kate and Liz, girls I know from the running club at work.  Because I'd tried so hard not to think about the race, I wound up having to scrounge for safety pins to attach my number to my shirt (note to self: next time, think about the race at least a little bit to wind up avoiding this situation).  I was so glad I'd decided to run for a charity.  In addition to feeling good about raising money for the Cats and Dogs Home, it was good to have a home base to leave my stuff (and eat Cadbury Creme Eggs!!!).  It was a pretty chilly day all around, and there were lots of people with plastic garbage bags on to keep warm.  By the time we were all herded to the gate, the tips of almost all my fingers and toes were frozen, and I don't think I completely thawed until the 4th mile!  As there were over 10,000 people running, when I finally got to the start of the race, the clock was already on 00:13!  Luckily, we all had chips on our sneakers that were activated when we reached the arch and deactivated when we came back through, giving the race time for each runner.
The atmosphere in the city was really fantastic.  There were all sorts of people cheering us on all along the route.  It reminded me of a parade atmosphere; it was a beautiful, sunny day, and thousands of people were on the street cheering on 11,000 crazy people who had decided to run 13.1 miles.  There was a fantastic drumming group set up in Queen Square at the top of one of the only inclines on the whole route, and as we came down Upper Bristol Road, stereos were blasting all kinds of upbeat music, including "Eye of the Tiger".  We were about halfway down that road (about 3-4 miles into our run) when we were lapped by the leaders of the pack.  What a humbling experience it was for us to be doing our best and see them just fly right by us like so many wild animals.
Even though I was running for just over two hours, I never got bored.  There was always something to see, whether it was a fuel station coming up, another runner's funny costume, or spectators looking for their loved ones (I also kept my eye out for Sweaty Betty clothes, and saw quite a few ladies sporting our goods).  My favorite part was the kids on the side of the road holding their hands out for us to slap as we ran by...the BEST was when they saw their parents running and started yelling "Go Mummy!!!".  There is really nothing cuter than a kid with a British accent.
Although I'd started out running with both Kate and Liz, we lost Liz on the first lap, so it was me and Kate for the rest of the race.  Though we'd never really talked before, it was really nice having the companionship, especially as neither of us had ever done the race before.  We chatted a bit and shared water bottles and Lucozade before tossing them away.  She had glucose tablets and I had Jelly Babies, a sort of jelly bean/gummy bear hybrid candy that packs a huge sugar rush.  Coming around the final mile, the crowd was really encouraging and sweet, particularly considering they'd already been at it for an hour and still had at least another to go!  As we passed the 13 mile mark, I realised that I could totally keep running, but was very grateful to stop, which felt pretty amazing.  My legs weren't quite sure what to do after moving at a 9:30/mile pace for two hours.
It took about 30 minutes to make my way through the crowd, get my medal and goody bag and get to the shop where I was meeting Chad.  All the girls were super encouraging and I felt like I'd really accomplished something.  I've never been much of an athlete, but I think I can finally consider myself one.  I've gotten the sweetest messages on Facebook congratulating me and telling me that I'm inspiring, and I have to say, it feels awesome to be told that.  So, thank you all for your support.  I really appreciate it!!
In FACT, it's been such a positive experience that I've registered for the Cardiff Half in October! This time, I'll be raising money for the Christian Lewis Trust for children with cancer in honor of Phoebe Holland-Thompson, the granddaughter of some very good friends of mine, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor.  If you'd like to sponsor me, you can click on my Just Giving link on the side of the page or go to my fund raising site.  My goal is £200, but I'd love to double that if I can!
Thanks again for all your love and support!  It means more to me than I can say.