Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A coffee maker! That makes coffee!

Yes, I really am posting about the fact that we finally got a coffee maker that works. We have been here for nearly a week now and have been trying our mightiest to do the whole tea thing. Really. We have. It's just not the same. We walk around with these dazed expressions on our faces, saying "What do you want to do?". "I don't know, what do you want to do?" when all we've had is tea in the morning. And we're doing it right, too - drinking PG tips and all (I do adulterate mine with honey, but don't tell!). We gave it a week. It's just not working.
Of course, this is not made any easier by the fact that at the Bath Farmer's Market on Saturday, we found a delightful young man selling all varieties of fairly traded coffees and picked up 250g of a lovely biodynamic Brazilian blend promising "classic chocolate notes with a little hazelnut finish". First, we started in Keynsham. We didn't have much hope, and any that we did have was dashed by the completely flummoxed look on the shopowner's face. "A what?" Was her response. "In Keynsham?" Message received. No coffee makers were to be found in Keynsham.
Shortly thereafter, we popped by Kitchens Kitchens in the Bath city centre and found every possible kitchen gadget - hundreds of knives, cutting boards, baking pans, etc. Small appliances galore in every color and size imaginable--and two (count 'em, TWO) coffee makers. One was the same one we left in the U.S. with a built-in grinder that was selling for £130 and one was a no-frills £30 model. Needless to say, as we are both currently unemployed and needed nothing fancy, we picked up the cheaper version. Bad idea. We put it through a trial run, and not only did it make a huge amount of noise and take FOREVER, but by the end of things, about 1/2 of the water we put in the machine ende up evaporating out during the very noisy and time-consuming process. Fail.
The next night, we shared a most delicious sushi feast with a woman Chad met here in March, and she recommended going to the House of Fraser, but more specifically the one in Bristol as it is much larger than the one in Bath and she had actually perused their selection of coffee makers at one point. Off to Bristol we went on our quest.
Bristol is about 6 minutes away from Keynsham, and is the "real" city in the area. Bath is a city, of course, but it's really rather touristy, with the baths, of course, the various cathedrals, cutesy pubs and all that stonework. Bristol is a proper city, bustling with people who know where they're going and had to be there five minutes ago. It was quite reassuring really, after all the gawking tourists in Bath who would just stop in the middle of the sidewalk to stare, open- mouthed at one bit of architecture or another. Of course, if you're one of those tourists, as we were, we were a bit in the way as we took pictures of Chad standing under the awing of a building that said "King House", and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of the River Avon flanked by a castle on one side and a fantastic looking very modern shiney swoopy building on the other (those of you on Facebook know what pictures I'm talking about. I will get photos up here soon. Really).
We finally found our way to Cabot Circus, basically a mall, and the House of Fraser there. The House of Fraser is kind of the Nordsrom's of the UK. It's a huge department store with fairly high-end merchandise - Bobbie Brown cosmetics and Deisel jeans (drool drool), if you know what I mean. We found our way to the housewares section, and lo! The selection of coffee makers stretched out wide before us. They had espresso makers, they had automatic drip, they had combination of the two, they had those one cup jobbers that everyone is so excited about. In the end, after realizing it would probably be just as difficult to find disposable coffee filters as it would be to find the actual coffeemaker, we went with a simple Bodum french press.
So here I sit, blogging away, sipping my lovely Brazilian roast with distinct chocolate and hazelnut undertones. Chad's just left to catch the 10:56 train to Bath so he can attend his induction at the university (he was told to "dress smart", and he did). I'm thinking I might head into town to pick up a few items at the various markets to make chili tonight. My debit card came in the post a few minutes ago, so I can take it on it's maiden voyage. Later today, I plan to return the dreadful automatic coffee maker to Kitchens Kitchens and visit the Fashion museum in Bath with Cecily, the cousin of the woman who pointed us in the direction of the House of Fraser. All this followed by making some tweaks to my resumee and a Skype date with friends in the US. All in all, it's shaping up to be a pretty sweet day.
Cheers for now.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I think I can officially say that we're getting situated pretty well. We're still very much on U.S. time, not finding our ways to bed until midnight and waking around 10. Though we're definitely jet lagged, I think a lot of this is due to the enormous amount of stress we put on ourselves over the past few months - we're making up for lost time.
We're living in Keynsham, a township located almost exactly between Bath and Bristol, the two large-ish cities in the area. About a five minute's walk from our front door is a perfectly delightful park - Keynsham Memorial Park to be exact - with about 2 miles of winding paved paths leading along a river that feeds the Avon, past the remains of an abbey, a skate park, and two playgrounds. There are always a few dogs running around on the perfectly manicured lawns, and are several depositories for dog "waste" - this is clearly a dog-friendly place, and Nugget is reaping the benefits. We've even found signs indicating that a neglectful dog owner must pay £1000 if they don't clean up after their dogs!
Just past the park is the downtown area of Keynsham, replete with two (count them, TWO!) fresh veggie stands, a "sausage factory"/butcher shop, a wine and spirits shop, and a grocery store about the size of the IGA on Vinalhaven. I must say, I'm totally overwhelmed by the new labels and even new items I've seen on the shelves, but am completely tickled by the prices, and the huge selection of local produce and meats. There were bags of 4 avocados for 99p, fresh, local strawberries for £1/kilo...I could go on and on. Basically, I'm in food heaven and Nugget's in dog heaven. Life is good.
Another helpful amenity that's just a few minute's walk away is the train station. It takes 9 minutes to ride into Bath and about 7 to get to Bristol. We haven't explored Bristol quite yet, apart from the few harried minutes we spent in the city centre when we were trying to find Keynsham, but we've been to Bath twice now, and it's really a lovely city, and very tourist-friendly, which makes me feel slightly less of a foreigner. I have no probelm walking into the information office and asking any number of silly questions. Bath is built around some old Roman baths, and pretty much everything is made of stone in the Georgian style. There are cathedrals dotted around the city itself, including Bath Abbey, a truly stunning centerpoint of the city. Once I figure out how to upload pictures onto the blog, I'll start sharing, but trust me - it's gorgeous.
So in the past few days, we've spent some time making our new place home for us, done some exploring, and eaten some pretty fantastic food at the local pubs (and one really appealing pizza place in Bath), we got cell phones that do all sorts of crazy things, and that I'm having a bit of a ball with, and generally familiarized ourselves with our new surroundings. We're very fortunate to have moved to a country that at least speaks English because everything is just different enough to make even small, everyday things challenging and new. We both look forward to finding our groove here and having things become normal.
I feel like there's so much more to say, but that's it for now. If anyone out there has Skype and would like to chat, sent us your name and we can make a date!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where to begin?!

I cannot believe everything that's happened in the past couple of days, but will try my mightiest to be as thorough as I can...I'm not sure how much I'll get through now, so there will be more to come.

So - travel.
Alison came down to CT via the esteemed Concord Trailways bus line (and the less esteemed Peter Pan), and we settled in for some tasty sushi as our last supper in the U.S. - for a while at least. After a nice long walk with Nugget on Tuesday morning, we were set to take off for Newark. As it turned out, we left at almost the exact right time to have a bit of a tour of Darien, CT, Chad's old stomping grounds, and a couple of Nugget romps to tire her out a bit before hanging out in her crate for what ended up being about 10 hours. I was super nervous to drop her off with Cargo, but the folks helping at the desk were super (even giving me a high five for how organised her paperwork was), and that hurdle was jumped with a minimum of fuss from the Nugster. She pretty much just settled right down in her crate. It was a huge relief to me to have her taken care of without her totally freaking out. Not sure I could have handled that on top of everything else.
The larger challenge came when we went to check ourselves in, or rather, our luggage. The night before we left, I'd checked our baggage in on line, paying the necessary fees for extra baggage and bags weighing more than 50 pounds. Unfortunately, the website neglected to inform us that the bags couldn't weigh more than 70 pounds. I'll bet you can guess how much one of our bags weighed - 77 pounds. Sigh! The baggage handler was most helpful, though, offering to help move our belongings from one bag to another, and we finally passed through after only taking out a pillow from one of the bags (which came in rather handy on the plane ride!).
After a few stiff drinks at the airport bar, we were ready to board the plane to Manchester. Lucky us, we had requested emergency row seats, so we actually had leg room, and Continental's got these nifty video screens on the back of each seat, so we could watch a selection of movies or TV shows, play games, or listen to music. I found a few cooking shows and was good to go.
Six hours later, after virtually no sleep whatsoever, we found ourselves in England. Only three hurdles remained: pick up our rental car, pick up Nugget, and drive the three hours to Keynsham.
Hurdle one went off without a hitch. They gave us a SWEET silver Audi hatchback that just barely fit all our stuff. I was driving and (naturally) got in on the wrong side, making a bit of a food of myself in front of the gentleman helping us. Ah, what else is new? It was a bit tricky finding the happy medium of being on the left hand side of the road in the right hand side of the car and not run over the curb whilst trying to avoid the traffic coming in the opposite direction. By the time we'd made a few laps around the airport searching for the Cargo pick-up to get Nugget, my nerves were fried, and it had started to rain - my first English rain. Luckily, my husband kept his wits about him and found someone who pointed us in the right direction.
We had been told that it could take up to 4 hours to get clearance for Nugget, so when we arrived two hours after the flight had touched down, we weren't expecting much. Lo and behold, Nug had been there waiting all along, all her paperwork went through without a hitch, and she was in a small holding pen (I could not thank Pets on Jets enough for getting her out of that crate and giving her some water!). She was a most confused pup, but was so relieved to be reunited that she simply passed out in the back of the car as we were getting on the motorway (how do you like that lingo?). Hurdle two, check!
If only we could have passed out, too. After a night of no sleep and a significant amount of stress, I could have used 40 winks. Alas, the final hurdle was before us. Drive to Keynsham. After a quick stop for some caffiene, it was actually a super drive and rather uneventful...until we got about 12 miles away. For about 45 minutes, we drove round and round searching for a route that would lead us to Keynsham. We were following some directions from Googlemaps, which had been great up to that point. Then it all went to heck. We finally found a route that looked right and made it most of the way to our destination before giving up, getting an atlas, and asking for directions. As it turned out, we were about 2 mintues away from the town, and arrived at our new house about 5 minutes later. Our new roommates weren't home yet, so we were allowed to get settled, which pretty much consisted of us looking at each other and shaking our heads while we made our nest.
A couple of hours later, James and Sophie arrived, a super sweet couple who are engaged and own the home. We all went out to our local pub, which is really smashing, all stone and timberframe and plaster with CIDER ON TAP, serving all sorts of English specialties - Toad in a Hole, Fish and Chips, etc. We had a good time poking fun at each other's accents and generally relaxing and learning the ropes of ordering at a pub - You order everything at the bar, and are given a number on which to run a tab. Servers bring it out to you with a huge selection of vinegars, dipping sauces, and spreads. And no tipping. That's the one I'm going to have a hard time getting over, especially with how sweet most of the servers are and how well we're treated.
So, all in all there's definitely a bit of culture shock going on, but we're settling in quite well. I'll try to write more later on, talking about the past couple of days, but for now, Cheers!

Monday, September 21, 2009


We are in Connecticut, having successfully left our home of three years with a minimum of hysteria. I daresay we'll be back, so it's not so sad of a departure, but it was a little bittersweet. It's good to be here, though. Nugget's all settled in, though I think she knows there's something going on. She's sticking pretty close to us. In about an hour, we're headed to the vet to get the last pieces of paperwork taken care of - Nugget's tick and tapeworm treatment and an international travel health document for her, certifying that she's fit to travel. Our dear friend, Alison, is on a bus headed this way so she can drive us down to Newark tomorrow (after super exciting sushi tonight!). We think it will take about 2.5 hours to get down, so we'll leave around 4 to give ourselves plenty of time and get to stop to let Nugget out at least once for a good romp. We were told by PBS (Pet Border Security?) that it may take up to 4 hours for her to get clearance, so she could be in her crate for up to 13 hours. The more exercise we can fit in, the better I think she'll do with all this. I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when we've all been reunited after the flight and are on our way to Keynsham.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One week!

We leave for the UK one week from today. Yesterday, we received e-mails stating that our visas have been issued and that they would be arriving today. That meant that we could finally (finally!) make our airline reservations - for both ourselves and Nugget. We leave from Newark, NJ on Tuesday, September 22nd at 10:00pm, and arrive in Manchester, England England (that was a "Hair" reference for all you musical theatre fans) at 10:00am on Wednesday, September 23rd. The plan is to rent a small van to transport us - and all of our stuff - the three and a half hours to Keynsham, where we've agreed to share a home with another couple, James and Sophie.
...and after all this, the part I'm most anxious about is driving in the UK.

Thank you to all our family and friends who have tirelessly listened to our rants and raves (and my occasional sobbing freak-outs). I can't help but think that we're doing the right thing and that this is the beginning of something really amazing.

It's really real!