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.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All good things...

um...just keep getting better?

We do still exist and are completely loving life.  It has been a heck of a last month, and my apologies for not at least sending a mini update before we left for Rome.  That was, of course, the highlight of the last month (um, or lifetimes?).  It was one of those crazy trips where you don't realize quite how amazing it is until you get back and think about it and look at your photos.  It hasn't entirely sunken in for me yet as we've been straight out ever since we got back (you know, MOVING and whatnot).  That's right, we're all settled in at 6 Cotswold View and it is more glorious than we could have imagined.  In addition to having a gorgeous, 3 bedroomed house to ourselves, our landlord has proven to be a complete sweetheart, calling to make sure we're settled in and leaving us with a bouquet of roses, a bottle of wine, and a welcome card.  It didn't take long at all for us to move, and  (needless to say), will go down in history as one of the world's easiest moves.  MAD PROPS to Tara for making the two trips in her car (two trips, people - TWO!).  We were settled and nested by dinnertime.  Can every move be this easy? Please?
So anyway, about, wow?  We covered almost everything (Colleseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza del Poppolo, Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, Vatican, Piazza Navona, Basilicas of St Geovani in Laterano and St Maria Majora, on and on and on) and ate almost everything in sight (including plenty of pasta, pizza, and gelato, PLUS oxtail and tripe!).  I'll upload a blog post and lots of photos this weekend.
SPEAKING of this weekend, hey guess who's going to be running 13 miles!?!?!?!?!!!!?!?!?  Good heavens, I can't believe it's THAT weekend already, but half marathon, here I come!  I'm a little nervous after the utter lack of training I did in Rome (and all the eating!), but I've done 12 miles, so I can do 13.  I've got a running partner, my race number, and expect my Bath Cats and Dogs Home t-shirt to be coming in the post today.  So I'm set. .....gulp.
Finally, in 12 days, Dad and Elaine will be flying into the future and touching down in London!!!  I went to the library yesterday to get guide books out of the area - walking, driving, and uncommon outings.  I'm so excited to finally go to the Roman Baths and be a tourist in this place I've lived for almost six (SIX????) months!!!  And, of course, I'm crazy excited to see them.  Woohoo!!!!!
So, expect longer and more exciting posts coming up - house photos, Rome stories, and of course, a pic of me with my 1/2 marathon medal!
Lots of love,

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Good opportunities

Several good opportunities have come my way this week.

Opportunity #1:  On Saturday, 6 Feb, a group of students, faculty members and "hanger-ons" (spouses) traveled to London for a day visit.  It was a pleasant train ride into the city and lasted about an hour and a half.  It also allowed me to spend some one-on-one time with my progamme director (Tony).  He's a great guy, very supportive, and an expert on social contexts of death and dying.  Anyway, we made our way from Paddington Station to Westminster Abbey where we received a private tour and got the low down on the historical coronation site.  After hangin' with the remains of Edward I, Richard II, Elizabeth I and Mary, Newton, Handel, Chas Darwin, Charles Dickens, and others...

Note: I must admit it was a great deal of fun.  I mean, I touched the tomb of Edward I!  
Well, it means something to me.

we moved on to  the National Portrait Gallery where we spent quite a bit of time in the Tudor wing.  After analyzing some of the "ars moriendi"(art of dying) from the 16th and 17th centuries, it was on to the London Museum of Art.  Lunch was held in Chinatown, but don't ask me where we ate.

*I certainly recommend a thorough tour of London.  Everything is fairly close together and I'm sold on returning as soon as possible.  Although only a brief taste, it was quite an experience. 

The rest is all academic- but pretty exciting to me as I feel like I just passed GO and received my $200.

Opportunity 2:  This Tuesday, I will assume the role as a undergraduate social science statistics tutor at the University of Bath.  It's a nice gig and only requires an hour of my time every two weeks.  It pays well too.

Opportunity 3:  There is a conference at the University of Edinburgh in June where I can present one of my papers from this past fall semester.  It's titled: Lost but not found: the case of the missing dead.

Opportunity 4:  Tony has suggested that I further develop and submit another one of my essays to the Journal of Death Studies.  Yes!  This one is titled:  Violent death: reconstructing the Colloseum.

Opportunity 5:  Tony has asked me to write a 500 hundred word book review for publication in the journal: Mortality.  This is a peer reviewed journal that is chair edited at the University of Bath via the Center for Death and Society (CDAS).

Opportunity 6:  I became the student representative for my degree programme back in October and have upgraded to the Chair of its departmental committee meetings.

Opportunity 7:  Tony just invited me to participate as a student reviewer for a committee designed to assess and evaluate the Masters of Science in Death and Society Programme in April.  Every graduate programme receives a 5 year annual review by a committee composed of various administrative officials, external colleagues and prior students.

So things seem to be going quite well after my first semester and I have some nice opportunities that in all actuality won't take up too much time or overwhelm my schedule.  Still, Sarah and I are looking forward to our upcoming move and visit to Rome.  We're psyched!!!

Getting grades...hmmm....what the heck man?

Early in December, my first semester came to an end.  I had three weeks to complete my written assignments and another three weeks to wait for their results. 
The grading process here in the UK is a bit odd.  Upon submitting my "essays", I had to provide two separate hard copies for review and grading.  I was further required to upload each essay to the university's "elearning" database called: Moodle.  This was so that essays can be run through a plagiarism detection computer program in the case that plagiarism is suspected by the markers. 

Temporary Rant: Remember everyone, that you and only YOU can Prevent plagiarism.  Plagiarism is BAD.  It's like terrorism, butter on a sunburn, or taking off your space helmet on the moon.  Is that clear!  Apparently people don't get this!  And now I have to put up with all of the !$&*?!.....I mean, appropriate bureaucratic procedures that will guard against the 8th deadly sin of plagiarism.  It's a very serious matter that I wish less serious students would try harder to avoid.  Thank you for your consideration.

Now the grading is not simply conducted by the course "convenor" or instructor.  Rather, each essay is read by the instructor and an additional faculty member.  This is to guard against the possibility of an instructor's inflationary bias.  It also helps to moderate grading.  For instance, some instructors might feel that marks should be determined with emphasis on originality of argument and evidence of literature review.  Others may weight the written analysis more heavily.  Either way, as long as there isn't any great discrepancy between the two separate marks (say, within 5 points or so), then the primary marker can negotiate/determine the final mark.  Mark results are then sent along to the student as "provisional grades".  At this moment, I have my "provisional grades"and they are right where they need to be in order for me to continue confidently towards the PhD.  Phew!
What happens next?  Well, on Wednesday, Feb. 10th (Oh excuse me.  I mean, 10 Feb) my department will sponsor a panel of academics/experts from other universities, who will read through a host of written samples extracted from the students' essays.  These readers will then have an opportunity to weigh in on the grades provided by the primary and secondary markers.  As long as all goes well, I can rely on my now "provisional grades" to be documented on my student record/transcript.  This process of "external review" is essentially conducted to protect university standards and to protect against institutional biases.  But of course, it's really all a bunch of bureaucratic puckey because all of the professors know that an essay submitted at Oxford or Cambridge will not be assessed on the same standard with those submitted at lesser ranking institutions.  I am happy to report though, that overall, Bath currently ranks 8th out of 117 universities throughout the UK.  Again: Phew!

This week, I return to school to begin the spring semester and complete several unit courses entitled: Ethics in Research and Social Science, Dying and Mourning in Social Sciences and the Arts, and Dissertation Planning.  Such courses should set me on my way to becoming more familiar with other faculty and should sure up my base for completing my first piece of substantial (an hopefully, original) research (i.e. my dissertation). 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A January for the books.

I'm just thinking back over the last month and how utterly our lives have changed for the better due to the generosity and love of the people in our lives.
Some of the things that happened were small, and some not so small, but they've all added up to a drastic improvement in our living situation and possibilities for the future.
First off, obviously, is the amazing opportunity we have to move into the house in four weeks time.  I cannot believe that we will be living on our own in what amounts to the lap of luxury after the past few months of living in someone else's space.
A second huge thing that happened this month (or maybe it was late in Dec.  Either way, within the last 35 days) was that it is suddenly possible for us to come home for a visit.  WHAT???  That's right.  We're coming home, probably in September over our anniversary, but the dates are still up in the air.  I'm really hoping that after flying for 7 hours driving for 4, and taking a 1.25 hour ferry, that people will come and see us on the island because I highly doubt we'll be taking many road trips (particularly after not driving for a YEAR!).  So.  Plan ahead.  Road trip to Vinalhaven sometime in September.  There's an awesome motel that you should all stay at:  Massive reunion times, here we come!  Wooo!!  You heard it here first, folks.
Third huge amazing thing that happened in January: Chad has received two of his grades back on his papers.  Now, before the drum roll, I feel like we need to explain a tad.  EVERYTHING is hinging on these grades.  He's been told over the course of his undergraduate career that his writing leaves something to be desired, so a lot was riding on his pulling it together and doing his best on these papers.  They are the first grades that he has received back since we've been here, and our staying here for the next year has been hinging on his passing "with distinction" (i.e. 70 or above - I won't even go into the crazy UK grading system).  So here it is folks: a 75 and a 78!!!!  Let me emphasize that he did not have any feedback from any of his professors and that these were all done by himself (with plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, I might add), but I think I can safely say that he is officially an awesome writer.  He's looking into options for publishing one in a journal and probably submitting one for a presentation at a conference in Edinburgh in June...field trip!!!
Finally, last huge thing that's happened - Dad and Elaine have made their travel plans and will be here on the 16th of March!!!  Super, super excited to see them and to have guests in our new place!  Already planning what we will do and what I will cook ;)
There are all sorts of sweet, small things, too, though - like the surprise birthday party the girls at work threw for me.  They took me out to a bar nearby and then to a club for salsa dancing. Even though it was not up everyone's alley, I think it was one of the most fun nights I've had since I've been in the UK, so that was pretty huge.  Also, when it was all rainy and icy here just after Christmas, and my half marathon training was going by the wayside, one of the girls from work offered to let me use her treadmill so I could get back on track.  Thanks, Claire!
The best things in life are often the gifts that keep giving.  After Christmas, Chad started picking up his guitar now and then, but was mostly so engrossed in writing his final papers that it sat all sad and dejected in the corner.  This month, though, after his papers were submitted, I've been able to once again bask in the background music glory of my husband playing around with a new rhythm.  It's good to have it back.  I've missed it.
Lastly, yesterday I auditioned for "The Fabulous Stockingtops", a women's singing group with an attitude that specializes in swingin' tunes - we sang "And All that Jazz", "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", and "One Fine Day", among others, and I even recognized a few of the women as customers from the shop.  So I think I'll probably end up doing that, which will be a great way to get to know some more people.  Chad and I are also looking at joining a karate dojo once we get settled in our new place.  It's on Tuesday nights and quite close by to where we'll be living.  Some friends in Bar Harbor do it together with their two sons, and it just seems like such a great family activity, not to mention great exercise, so we thought we'd give it a whirl.
So. That's our story and we're sticking to it.  Thank you all for making our lives so full and joyful.  We love you!!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Premature excitement is my middle name

Hello all!  Here's hoping 2010 has been treating you as well as it's been treating us!

So a few of you know the new and exciting news in our world, but for those of you who don't, get ready - it's a doozy!

Two Tuesdays ago, I received a completely random message in my e-mail inbox from a woman called Gillian who said that she has a three bedroom house to rent in Southdown, an area of Bath that's about a half hour's walk from the city centre.  I brought it to the attention of my manager at work and we looked it up on the web, realising that it's about a five minute walk from her house.  It was advertised on a property agent's website, which included several photos of what looked like a gorgeous, fully furnished house, complete with landscaped backyard and patio (and compost!!!), as well as a field about a hop and a skip away where we could walk Nugget.  Rachel and I twittered excitedly about that for a few minutes, but I was determined not to get my hopes up as they have been dashed so very many times whilst here so far.  I e-mailed Gillian back saying that we would be very interested in chatting with her about it, and gave her our budget, which was a full £200 less than what it was advertised for commercially...which did not include bills.  I fully expected not to hear back from her as I was sure she could find suitable renters who could afford quite a lot more than us. 
Imagine my surprise when  she called the evening she said she would to arrange a viewing a couple of days later.  I emphasized what our budget was and she seemed to take it all in stride, saying that we sounded perfect and would we like to see it in a couple of days time?
Well, a couple of days came and went and go to see it we did.  It was all we could have asked for and more, not counting the fact that Gillian seems totally awesome as a person.  It turns out that she stayed in Rockland last year on her way to Bar Harbor, and may well have stayed in the house where Chad had his first job as a landscaper!  Basically, she's looking for someone to love and take care of her house and garden.  She doesn't want to rent it commercially because she'd have to move all of her stuff out, get crazy insurance, etc., and wouldn't have the opportunity to choose who the tenants would be.  She loves her house and just wants it to be taken care of.  And she has chosen us to do it.
So, without further ado, here is our new house, where we will be moving to on the 28th of February (these are photos from the letting agent that I pilfered from their website).

This is a view of the living room from the kitchen.  As you enter the house, there is a small entryway with stairs in front of you, leading to the second floor.  Directly to your right is the door that is visible in this photo.
  As you walk through the living room, through the vantage point at which the previous photo was taken, you enter the kitchen, fully remodeled last summer, complete with washing machine (all washing machines seem to be in the kitchen over here).  It's evidently also fully kitted out with all modern kitchen accoutrements as well, which will be a welcome change from our current rent, where the kitchen is outfitted only with the very basics.
If you carry on through the kitchen, you find yourself in the conservatory (feel free to make as many Clue references as you like).  This was a new south-facing addition to the house last summer and evidently gets so swelteringly hot during the summer that you can't leave candles on the table because they'll melt.  Just imagine all the tomatoes I will grown in this room (shudder of pleasure).   It's a bit chilly out there now as the heat hasn't been installed yet, but it's a seriously lovely space.
Last but not least is the terraced garden, complete with barbeque and seating area, perrenial flower beds, and bench swing.  The compost is that thing in the back right corner (yet another shudder of pleasure).  I am very much looking forward to getting my hands dirty in those beds and am already trying to work out when I can start planting lettuces and other cooler-weather crops.
Alas, I don't have any photos of the upstairs, but here's the basic rundown: When you alight on the second floor, directly in front of you is the bathroom.  To your right is the first bedroom, which has a window overlooking the back garden and seems very quiet.  There is also a huge, wall-to-wall built in closet.  Down the hall are the other two bedrooms, one a mirror image of the first with the same closet, and the second a smaller, single bedroom currently used as an office space...which is probably what it will remain so Chad has a place to write his dissertation. 
As for the area, as we mentioned earlier, there is a "city farm" about a three minute's walk from the front door, which it takes about 40 minutes to circumambulate (thank you, Dad, for expanding my vocabulary), and evidently it's where all the cool dogs hang out.  About a five minute's walk away is the little downtown area, including a small chain grocery store, a small independent green grocer, a butcher, an Indian takeaway, and evidently quite a good bakery.  I'm sure there's more as well, but we just did a quick drive through.
So. There's our exciting news.  This is all very premature as we haven't signed a lease yet, but have a verbal agreement with Gillian, who, strangely enough, seems just as excited about us moving into her house as we are about moving there.   We're meeting up to sign paperwork and work out the nuts and bolts of our agreement soon, but until then, please keep your fingers crossed for us!  We're giving our notice to our current housemates tomorrow, which I think they'll be pretty bummed about since we all get on pretty well, but I hope they'll be happy for us.  It really is a plum opportunity.
I'll let you know as things progress, but for the time being, if you're going to be in the area anytime during the next year, after March 1st, you've got a place to crash.
Love to all,
Sarah and Chad

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Remain calm.

I am continually amazed by the mediocrity the British are willing to live with - pathetic water pressure during a shower where one feels as though one is being spit on, consistently tardy trains, poor quality goods (the coat I got for Christmas is already splitting at the seams and the wellies I got less than two months ago have also split.  Le sigh). 
The latest in a string of inadequacies struck the country last week, causing the proverbial squealing of breaks and bringing most of the country to a standstill.  Snow.  But not just any snow....wait for it...three inches of snow.  Dear Lord! What will we do???  Panic ensued.  Sheer panic. The grocery stores were packed as though Armageddon was upon us.  Canned goods and bottled water were flying, literally, flying off the shelves.  Ready meals were carted off by the, well, cartload.  Schools were cancelled for DAYS before the snow even started.  DAYS, I tell you.  At work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Bath was like a ghost town.  Intrepid shoppers came in looking dazed, telling us we were the only shop open in town.  By that point, there was no snow accumulation at all in the city of Bath.  All three inches of it had been cleared away, and yet, it was utterly deserted. 
Evidently, it snows pretty much every year with this result.  I would have thought that a Plan B might have been thought of, or at least the mass hysteria wouldn't be quite so massive or hysterical.  But no.
I was struck by the dogged determination of the English, though.  As no one was able to go to work lest they get their feet wet, snowmen were erected that rivaled some of the cathedrals in the area.  Mind you, I have no idea how one constructs a 7 foot plus snowman with less than three inches of snow, but construct they did, and with gusto.  The specimin in our front garden has not only a generous three-ball-body, but a full head of hair and various accessories, and she was voted best dressed in the neighborhood.  Sophie, our roommate, scraped up almost all the snow in the garden to create her, with the odd result of a snow(wo)man sitting in the middle of a green lawn.
All in all, the Brits are an odd bunch with some pretty bizarre priorities...we're fitting in just fine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

No way!

I know, I know, two blogs in ONE WEEK?  REALLY?  But I have a few minutes to spare and had such an...interesting day yesterday that I just wanted to pop on and say hi.
First off, my DAD has a blog, about which I am super psyched because he's walking around the island (not all at once - in bite-sized chunks), and I get to read all about it, keepin up with someone I looooove and keeping up with a place I looooove...all from across the ocean.  Isn't technology amazing? I am so inspired by the idea that I'm trying to figure out where I can do it around here.  Clearly, there aren't any islands to walk around, but there are beautiful walking paths through farmland that criss cross the whole country and I might just find one each weekend and see where it takes me...or maybe I'll just talk about it, as per usual...either way, yay Dad! Way to be!
So yesterday, New Year's Eve (oh yeah, Happy New Year, everyone!)...I went to look at a flat in Bath and thought it was really amazing - good price, good size, furnished, allowed a dog, AMAZING location, etc etc etc.  Chad was totally on board and it was a really exciting prospect - to have our own place.  So with all that on our minds, we headed over to Tara and Bas's for a New Years Eve sleep- over with SHRIMP BALL!!!!!!  For those of you who don't know what shrimp ball is, I really pity you...although I think it's really me who is pitiful when I think about my complete addiction to it.  I had also made shortbread (from my new "Great British Food" cookbook) with caramelized apples, but very successfully left it on the table as we hurried down to the train station.  Over the course of the evening, Nugget was extremely well-behaved, especially considering how many yummy foods were laid out on the coffee table, exactly at her nose level, and everyone fell madly in love with her.  It was such a lovely evening, involving good conversation, easy and delicious food and wine, and lovely company.  We realized that "meatball" is probably Nugget's favorite word in the whole world as it is comprised of two of her favorite things in the world - meat and ball, and all had quite a good laugh about that.  We watched the countdown on the TV, which culminated in a fabulous fireworks display eminating from the "London Eye", a huge ferris wheel near the Parlaiment in London. 
Over the course of the evening, I realized that, for various reasons, it did not make sense for us to rent the flat, which put me in quite a morose mood, as I've been spending 7 and 1/2 hours a week and £66 a month traveling to and from Bath.  This morning, though, we awoke to a new day, a new month, a new year, and Chad reminded me to say "rabbit rabbit rabbit" before I was fully awake...quite an auspicious beginning to ZOLO (as my friend, Kit, calls it).  After a most delicious breakfast and an invigorating walk back down to town with the Nug, I came home and, determined to get back on my training schedule, ran 4 miles, found a bunch new leads for possible accommodation in Bath, and Skyped with another of my favorite people in the world, my Mom.  So, all told, an excellent start to 2010 after a slightly dodgy ending to 2009.  Here's to a magnificent new year!  Much love to you all, and keep an eye out for a possible new food blog!!!