Tuesday, October 27, 2009

adventures with the smoke alarm

First off, I made awesome steak for dinner the other day. Best steak I've ever made. I owe it all to The Pioneer Woman and her amazing steak recipe. I'm not saying it's like The Keg, or like a bbq, but for those of us who only have stoves... pretty damn good. Loads of good English butter used. And considering my cooking at the moment has to make due with 1 frying pan, 1 pot, 1 spatula, and 1 bottle of "all purpose spice" (plus 3 bottles of herbs) I am impressed!

The down side of this is that I disregarded David's instruction to "always cook with the kitchen door closed". I'd called him to ask him why, but had left the door open meanwhile...which set off the smoke alarm in the corridor. However the alarms are linked to the whole building, so that means that EVERYONE'S went off. And as I just moved in I didn't know how to turn it off, which, after it rang for about 3 minutes and I could hear people evacuating, I found out by asking the cluster of folks in the hallway. Apparently you go to the switchboard near the front door and push buttons...

So the short of it is that the alarm in the kitchen only detects heat, whilst the one in the hallway detects smoke. So THAT is why the kitchen door has to be shut. And now both you, and I, know.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Little Bit of English Life

So...Cambridge. I love it here. To be honest, I did not expect to like it this much. I won't say that it feels like home, but it is definitely as lovely as the island I left behind although lovely in a completely different sort of way. No wild mountain ranges, evergreen groves, or raging rivers here. Just quiet pasture land, cultivated parks, and a [mostly] slow moving, rather small, and sleepy looking river winding (very much so winding!) its way through town. It is a cultivated, aged, and graceful beauty...a symmetry of architecture and landscape where it is the newer buildings that stand out.

Everything is so close, in a convenient sort of way. This isn't the first time I've lived in a city and had things close by, but here they are close by and still nice, instead of close by and grungy. Because we need an Ethernet splitter for our internet (hence my being infrequently online) I went to a nearby pub in the afternoon where I could get free wifi access. I sat there drinking English tea (which so far is ten million times tastier than tea in Canada), applying for jobs, surfing the net, and just enjoying the scene. It was my second foray out alone and I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable (and less like I'm going to get hit by a car or bicycle). Things don't seem very expensive (in English money. If I have one more Canadian argue with me about this I am going to scream. I am not talking about your damn exchange rate! And I don't care what currency you use, £2.26 for a 3lb chicken is damn cheap. I will concur that when I have to use Canadian currency, like my credit card, for anything I die a little inside at the exchange rate).

We bought bicycles and David is going to teach me how to ride so that we can get around town more easily. Things are small but just inconveniently large enough to make it take about 30 minutes to get anywhere by walking. Not bad, but takes a bit out of the day if you have to go to more than one side of town!

Last night I went to my first formal dinner at Clare College. In a word, delightful! Sherry to start, followed by a three course formal meal (complete with servants) and wine, followed by after dinner drinks. We got home at around midnight. The meal was cream of spinach soup to start, followed by herb crusted salmon, new potatoes, and mange touts, and a kiwi cheesecake for dessert. Everyone is incredibly friendly and there is a mix of disciplines and graduate/working people so it was much fun. And at around £2/beer who can complain?

I have had one adventure since coming here. I had to go to Hardwick, a nearby town, for an interview at a job agency. The bus driver told me he didn't know where my stop was, so I ended up getting off at the wrong stop in the wrong small country town...eventually a nice old man pointed me in the right direction, and fortunately at my interview they did not mind that I was almost an hour late (thank goodness for cell phones!). And they even had their dry cleaner give me a ride back to the outskirts of Cambridge in his van! So that was nice...but then I again got lost on the bus (the lack of street signs is sort of annoying) and it took me about 1.5 hours to wander home. David was a little worried when I was gone for six hours. So now I've officially been lost in the English countryside. I'm looking forward to going back on a day when it isn't a thing of horrible stress due to having to be somewhere. Fortunately it was a sunny day.


Off the plane and out for my first dinner in England at The Boaters.


A grim looking David, who is actually happy that I've just arrived!


The Clare College scarf David gave me for my birthday!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In England!

I'll write more about the actual trip and things later.

I've made it safe & sound to England. Our apartment is huge--larger than anywhere we lived in Canada--and it is laid out very nicely. We have the cutest little sitting room! The kitchen is small, but workable--about the same size as my View Towers kitchen. So, all is well at the moment and I'm just waiting for David to get home from rowing practice. We were supposed to go to Mass but as it starts in 3 minutes I'm guessing that plan is cancelled due to his practice going longer than expected...so I think we'll just end up out for dinner. Tomorrow he's going to take me around Cambridge a little. I'm not feeling very jetlagged at the moment--I took a sleeping pill on the plane and had a small nap this afternoon, and at least at this moment I feel like I'll be able to hit bed at around 10 or 11, which is perfect as I'm trying to get up earlier. Should be easier here as the apartment is flooded with light. Also, for my birthday David got me a giant wooly Clare College scarf! I'm going to wear it to his boat races!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

on my way!

I'm currently sitting in the Vancouver International Airport, waiting for my flight to Chicago! The way that everything has fallen into place for my trip is beyond belief--I would venture to say that it is truly miraculous! Over the past few weeks God has led certain people to bless me financially, to such an extent that my flight, my travel insurance, and my cellphone cancellation fees are all paid for--things that I did not have enough money to cover! I am so amazed and feel so blessed. Finances aside a number of people have blessed me in other ways, and I am leaving feeling very loved and very excited. So this is a huge thank you to a number of special people, some of whom I did not even get to know until this trip home.

My last little bit in Canada passed quickly and easily. We had a very lovely Thanksgiving, and after I spent the last few days organizing space for my parents (so my boxes won't drive them nuts) and packing. I am thrilled because my parents' scaled was off by 5lbs, so I was able to take my big blue bathrobe! I weighed in at 44 & 47.5lbs respectively, and that is the sum weight of the earthly possessions I deem "essential", the treasures in my carry-luggage aside! For those of you who may have been wondering, I *did* manage to fit in both my Anne of Green Gables book set & my Little House on the Prairie set! And lest my spiritual life not be sufficiently met by what I consider my bible supplements, my mum bought me a lovely travel Bible yesterday. Blue leather, silver gilt pages, and less than 1" thick.

So here I am, munching farmer's sausage & cheese (how Mennonite) and killing time for the next hour and a half. I'll be landing in England at around 12:30am. I'll end with a few pictures from October in Port:

Me & my birthday cake! Cherry Cheesecake, one of my childhood favorites. We're a little short on candles tho...

My grumpy angel.
My brother did an amazing job decorating the table for Thanksgiving dinner. He stole leaves from the neighbours' trees.
Starting a new tradition: the Thanksgiving firecracker!
John taught me how to set off firecrackers. So much fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Things are busy. The best news of late is that I got my plane ticket! I'm going to Victoria today to pick it up, along with my visa and other final pieces of paperwork. I fly out of Vancouver a week from Saturday, and get to London on Sunday morning. I am quite excited, as is David.

I love Skype. In fact I don't remembering being this excited about a computer program ever, except for maybe when I installed Sims II on my computer, or when I installed my first ever computer game (Cosmo!). Being able to talk to David and actually see him is wonderful, as is being able to actually see bits of my apartment.

David joined a rowing team and he signed us up for English folk dance lessons. I'm quite excited, as I've been wanting us to take some kind of dance for a long time. I don't know if this is going to be incorporated into our wedding at all... David had his first rowing meeting today and said that it was a lot harder than one would suppose. It sounds like the social busyness of the first week is winding down and he'll be able to organize his research/lecture schedules and start getting down to his actual work. Tonight he says that there's a formal dinner at Clare College for matriculation. He has to wear his suit AND his college robe. I'm sad that I have to miss it, but there is always next year (and I'm going to Little Bavaria tonight so I figure that is a good consolation prize). I am sad for my boy having to do all these things alone, simply because we actually enjoy being together, but I'm so glad that he's had lots to keep himself occupied with. I promise to post a picture of David in his robes as soon as I can.

I myself have been quite busy running errands in town. I've booked a group of hotel rooms for the wedding (and subsequently discovered that Port is going to be super booked up that weekend for Thunder in the Valley). I've found a place to get my makeup and manicure done. Mum and I think we found the perfect spot for the rehearsal dinner. We made a trip to Dollar Giant to get some stuff to start experimenting with making centerpieces. It's been good.

My twenty sixth birthday has come and gone, although most people who have spent a birthday with me should know by now that I will continue celebrating (and being belligerent) until the last celebration of it, which this year won't happen until I am in England with David. That only stretches it for two weeks tho--last year, or perhaps the year before, I think I hit four weeks. Anyway, I had a lovely birthday celebrating with my family and our friends Cara & Andrew. Presents included two lovely pairs of shoes, an MP3 player that holds most of my music, and a slab of english toffee (that came with a hammer to break the toffee off)! As for my actual birth day, it is the feast of St Francis and, according to Fr Marek, that was the reason for the sun on that day (and all week!). I prefer to take it as a sign of joy over my own birth, but as I said birthday celebrations tend to go to my head and, according to David, encourage belligerence. So St Francis it is.

And on that note, I should get ready for the long day of driving ahead. Off to Victoria!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

good news from afar

David has arrived safely in Cambridge and is getting settled in. Thanks to the magic of Skype we actually got to talk the other night which was lovely...and not just talk, we actually got to SEE each other which was so nice because we haven't seen each other really since mid-September.

He told me that our flat has a bathroom, small kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and a study! I am so stoked about this, because we'd been really hoping we'd get one of the flats with a study but once we found out what our rent was going to be I didn't think we'd got one (our rent is really low). I am so happy about this, because it means that David will have a proper place to work in at home without us having his books strewn all over the living room. It also gives him his own space so that he isn't being constantly interrupted while he's hard at work, which is what tends to happen when he's working in the same room as me. I am thrilled beyond words to finally have a "grown-up" apartment! David says it's larger than our place in Toronto was, and that it is well, but plainly, furnished. I haven't had a video tour of it yet because we don't have wireless at the moment. He's also told me that there's a grocery store a mere block from the house, and that there's a market nearby as well... this is good because apparently the British all have these tiny fridges (small enough to fit under a desk). So our shopping habits are going to be changing, and I'm thinking we'll be buying a lot more fresh food every few days instead of a weekly shop. I'm hoping this means less waste from buying more food than we eat.

It sounds like Cambridge is treating him well and things are going smoothly. They seem to be treating him quite well--he was given dinner with the undergrads when he arrived on Thursday, which made me very happy. Nice to know that he's getting fed! So my mind is fairly at ease.

As for me, my visa has been issued! I still need to get it back, which they say may take up 7 days, and I need to book my flights etc...logistically I don't expect to be leaving until after Thanksgiving, which is fine by me as since I can't spend Christmas at home this year I'm pleased to at least spend one holiday at home.

I am getting quite excited to be heading over there, particularly as David keeps telling me how much I'll love it. And that is that!