28 November 2006

More Stuff

It seems that both Hadley and I are trying to get over colds at the moment. I spoke with my mom this weekend, and she said she had to take little Hadster to the vet this past weekend! She said that Hadley had been sneezing a lot, and then one night, Mom said she woke up to this terrible wheezing sound and found Hadley resting her chin on the edge of the bed, just staring at her and wheezing. Mom said it was just like a little kid coming in and saying, "Mommy, I don't feel good," and just looking at her with sad, miserable eyes. So Mom got up the next morning and took her to their vet in Cullman (the one I loved when I used to take Hunter and Bear there), and it turns out that Hadley has a doggy cold! She was running a slight fever and has to take some antibiotics, poor thing.

The job search is getting more frustrating with each day. It appears that I'm even going to have trouble getting an agency to help me, as I emailed a couple of them for information yesterday morning and still haven't heard from them! I know it's only been two days, but I just thought that they would be quicker! It's officially depressing now that Andrew is travelling, too, and I'm all alone! He came home and had lunch with me today before he left for the airport, so he's only been gone a couple of hours, but it's "officially" hit me that I'm all by myself now for the next few days with no job to keep me busy during the day. Maybe I'll actually get the laundry completely done, though, with him gone! Each load takes ages here! Sometimes I have to dry loads two and three times (at 120 minutes a time) to get them dry, and it's not like I can wash other loads while I'm doing it because it's the same machine!

We had two lovely Thanksgivings: one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The actual Thanksgiving, Thursday, was kind of depressing, though. We didn't want to have to turkey all those days in a row, so I cooked steak fajitas that night. Andrew and I actually agreed that it was the best Mexican food we'd had since we got here (if only I could make margaritas to go with them!), but just the fact that we were having Mexican on Thanksgiving was a little weird. Anyway, Saturday and Sunday Andrew cooked pecan pies, and I made cornbread to take to the dinners, and we had a lot of fun with our friends. Both were kind of random groups of people we knew and some we didn't, so that made it a lot of fun.

I spoke with my Mom's entire side of the family on Thanksgiving. My cousin Laura got engaged, and so did her brother Daron! Daron and Hollie are going to go to the courthouse to do it, but Laura will be getting married to a guy she's been dating named Shannon next October, and I'm a bridesmaid! I'm so happy for her! And guess what color the bridesmaids' dresses are: CRIMSON! Yay!

22 November 2006

What's Going On

I can't believe that we'll be Home in just about three weeks! Time seems to have flown by. We miss everyone so much, though, and can't wait to come home! I'm glad we'll get to be there for so long, too.

The job hunt is exasperating, to say the least. It's the same story you hear from everyone my age looking for a job: the jobs I want need someone with more experience; the jobs I don't want, but that would give me the experience I need, either don't pay enough, or I'm overqualified for them. At this point, I'm eager to find a job doing anything, just so that I can make some money and have something to do during the day! I even considered applying at Gap!! How sad is that?

Meanwhile, I'm not wasting all my time. I'm refreshing my German and have found that it's amazing how much of it comes back just from a little reading. I'm hoping that by the time Andrew and I get to go to Germany, I'll be "refreshed" enough to carry on a decent conversation, or at least to understand what people are saying to me. When we do go to Germany, I want to buy a couple of German novels, some easy Chick Lit or something, that I can read through with a dictionary. I think that would be the best way for me to practice.

I've also checked out some books from the library about HTML to help me learn to build Web sites. I think it would be a plus for my career, as well. I've been trying to do a lesson of German and HTML every day. I'd like to try French, as well (I brought my French book from Axcan), but I don't want to overdo it! Plus, I have to fit job searching in there somewhere! With all these lessons, it almost feels like I'm back in school (if school were a Starbucks).

Cooking is nuts over here. I've been trying my best to cook every night, but I really can't figure out how moms decide what to make every night! Mom always told me that when she and Dad got married, she made a lot of Hamburger Helper meals because she couldn't cook. I would LOVE to be able to make a couple of Hamburger Helper meals over here, but they don't have anything like that! The only "prepackaged" meals like that are Indian food! Ugh! Indian food doesn't sound appetising often when it's fresh, much less prepackaged (although I must admit that I did make chicken tikki masala one night, with the jar of sauce and "just add chicken"--it was actually alright). Mom's been impressed because every time she calls me I'm cooking (she calls while Dad's home for lunch), and I'm making things like chicken parmesan, chicken tikki masala, homemade chicken noodle soup, pork roast, pork chops, lemon sole. They all sound advanced (at least compared to Hamburger Helper!), but they're pretty much all easy, quick, and really don't turn out that great! But Andrew eats them anyway, and doesn't complain. Crystal and Mom, I'm at a loss without you here to help me cook!

21 November 2006


The second week we were here, PWC planned to send Andrew to Dublin for training. It was an extensive training program, and employees weren't supposed to bring spouses because it was a "get to know you" conference, where everyone in the Global Capital Markets Group (GCMG) met everyone else in the GCMG. It was held just outside of Dublin, and all meals were provided for the team. Andrew, the darling that he is, got special permission to bring me along, knowing that I would be freaked out spending my second week in London by myself, especially since we weren't even in our apartment at that time; we were still staying in the hotel. We were just supposed to keep it kind of "under wraps" that I was his wife and there.

Andrew was in training all day, every day, and I was supposed to go sightseeing in the city each day. That was easier said than done. I had to ride the bus into Dublin, which meant I had to walk about a half mile up to the bus stop. That's not a bad at all, but it was FREEZING and drizzling EVERY DAY in Dublin. It didn't actually rain often. No, that would have been more tolerable. Instead it was that nasty, barely-there drizzle, where you look ridiculous wearing a hood or holding an umbrella, yet if you're in it for more than an hour, you're soaked to the bone. I did end up going into Dublin a couple of days, though, and had a quite a nice time. There's so much literary history in Dublin! I was in my element. I saw Oscar Wilde's and George Bernard Shaw's homes, walked around Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells; I visited the Dublin Writers' Museum and saw original works and artifacts of William Butler Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Sean O'Casey, and Seamus Heaney. I was able to see Francis Bacon's entire studio. They actually took everything, from trash to unfinished paintings, from his studio in London, moved it to Dublin (his birthplace), and rebuilt the studio there in the gallery, placing every artifact back in its "original" place in the rebuilt studio. It was really amazing.

My only complaint about Dublin is with the BUSES. They're just miserable! At least the bus stops here in London are labeled! The ones in Dublin just had a circular sign that designated it a stop, with no description of where you were, and the bus drivers didn't announce the stops, either. Basically, if you didn't know where you were or where you were going, you were screwed! I don't think I ever managed to get off at the correct stop in Dublin, and I was lucky I made it off at the right stop on the way back to the hotel each night. The drizzling rain would cloud up the windows so that you couldn't even see out to know where you were, and it was a pretty long ride, between 30-45 minutes by bus, to get to Dublin. I was petrified half the time I was on those buses...

Andrew seems to have a good time while he was in the training sessions. I'll let him tell you about that, though...

That weekend we had arranged to stay in Dublin, though it turned out to be not so much "in Dublin," because all the hotels in Dublin were full by the time we made our reservations! We stayed at the Stillorgan Hotel; it was bright yellow and about a twenty minute cab ride from Dublin City Center. We went sightseeing. We saw the Monument of Light (aka "The Syringe to Make You Cringe" or "The Stiletto in the Ghetto"), many monuments and statues, and museums enough to make us "museumed out" for a while. We basically wandered around a lot and bought our camera there, as everything is cheaper in Euros than it is in pounds! At night we went to the Temple Bar, where there are a lot of unique shops, bars, and restaurants. It's really a big tourist trap; it reminded us a lot of New Orleans, with strange street performers and people everywhere. We did meet some nice Dubliners at one of the more famous bars. We sat and chatted with them until the wee hours of the morning Saturday night and had a fabulous time. We even met a guy from England who invited us to come spend the weekend with him some time (sounds a little creepy, but we think he was just genuinely nice).

Having just bought the camera, we took lots of pictures, so here they are!

This is us at Temple Bar with the random Dubliner's we met:

These are some snapshots we took while wandering around the city:

These are of Dublin Castle:

This is Cooke's restaurant; we had to take a picture. We didn't actually eat there; it was too expensive, but it's probably owned by some of my relatives!

More random city pictures:

This is us in Nick's Restaurant. The best Italian food I've ever had!

Random rabbit:

And, finally, the Stiletto in the Ghetto:

20 November 2006

Getting Settled

Well, here it is; we've been here about a month and a half, and I'm finally getting the blog spot down for all our friends and family back home. I guess I need to start at the beginning, then, and let everyone know what's happened since we've been here!

Our plane landed at the crack of dawn here in London, which felt like the middle of the night to us, due to the six-hour time difference. We had slept as much as possible on the plane, but, of course, we were still exhausted once we arrived. Despite that, we were too excited to go to sleep, so we hopped on a double-decker tour bus that spoon-fed information to us while we rode past Big Ben (and Parliament, kids!), Buckingham Palace, Harrod's, etc. At one point, I jolted awake to one of those violent head bobs that so rudely awakens one from an accidental nap, and I glanced quickly to Andrew, to see if he had caught me. His head was leaned way back, mouth wide open, and, had it not been for the traffic on the streets below us, I swear he was probably snoring. So I settled back down and napped, as well. By the time dinner rolled around, we were so tired that Andrew actually wore his sweater inside out, and neither of us noticed until we were at the restaurant! Needless to say, when you come to visit, we're not going to allow you to go out sightseeing first off. YOU MUST SLEEP TO FUNCTION!

So about our hotel room:
We were in an "executive studio" for the first night. It was really cute, all white, all Ikea. There was a sliding closet door that opened to a "kitchen," which was in front of a table and chairs, which then led to the den area with a couch, coffee table, and television that picked up about 10 channels. Oh, and there was a desk kind of built into the wall with a telephone. Then you walked upstairs, and there was a little loft that over looked all this, and in the loft was the bed, two nightstands, and a chest of drawers. Oh, yeah, and the bathroom was downstairs; it had an electric shower and no shower curtain, so the water went all over the floor.

After a day or two of the "executive studio" we were moved into the regular hotel room / apartment that would be our home until we found our permanent place. Basically, it was exactly the same, except that the bedroom was off to the side instead of upstairs, and it had a small Ikea armoire, as well as the chest of drawers; also, the bathroom was twice as big, though it still had the strange electric shower and no shower curtain. The shower was, to say the least, temperamental. The water pressure was fine, but the temperature, most of the time, was either scalding hot or ice cold! It was completely miserable. The hotel room was cramped quarters, especially since Andrew and I had packed way too many clothes and still had to live out of suitcases due to lack of furniture. I've included a photo of the kitchen / dining room / den area; the bedroom was too grotesquely covered in clothes and suitcases (mostly mine, of course) to photograph. I really wonder how on earth the maid put up with us! To this day, we shudder as we pass the tube station we used while living in that hotel room.

On Wednesday of that week, Andrew and I met with the estate agent, who took us around London, showing us possible places to rent. I immediately fell in love with the second flat we saw. It was in Notting Hill, and everything was a pretty honey-colored hardwood. It was on the ground floor of a building that was just around the corner from (as I saw it through rose-colored glasses that morning) a flower market and quaint little shops. There was a fireplace on one wall and a small aquarium, fish included, built into another wall (which, though I love fish, would have had to go). The best part, though, was that the kitchen was also a sunroom; I mean really half-glass, and it overlooked an actual little backyard that would have been ours only! Granted, it wasn't very large, but there was tall grass (growing up through the concrete), and adorable, if weathered, table and chairs, and a small space for a garden, even. I loved it. Andrew was skeptical about the place, though. The entrance to the flat was really dark, and it was kind of hidden and back from the street, almost in its own little alleyway. Where I had noticed quaint shops and a flower market, Andrew saw a bar with unsavory-looking patrons.

Despite Andrew's precautions, I wanted to place an offer on it, just so that we didn't lose it; he preferred to see what else was available, and the estate agent sided with Andrew. Andrew and I went back to Notting Hill that night, to see the place again (because I had never even noticed the bar), and I must say, it was a little frightening! After walking down the street and hearing someone shout a racial slur, we decided that we most definitely wanted a place that was much safer than that area appeared to be. Actually, the entrance to flat, once viewed at night, was really creepy, and I could just imagine scary people lurking in the darkness. Needless to say, I was really glad he made us hold off and view it at night!

Andrew's favorite place was near to our hotel, which was in a fabulous neighborhood surrounded by great museums. It was on the top floor of a mansion block and had a roof garden that would have been open only to us, and it could have been breathtaking with the right touch. My only problem with it was that there was no elevator, and the staircase was a bit narrow. When you take into consideration that we would be having to race up and down those staircases with both Hadley and Savannah, possibly meeting neighbors on the way up or down, neighbors who may not like dogs; I was worried that the neighbors would complain about the dogs, and I don't want to have to get rid of them while we're here, as some of our friends had to do with theirs.

So the next day we were shown many more places, and, despite the fact that we both really wanted a quaint little flat in a mansion block that looked like the one in the movie Notting Hill (though not as dirty!), we finally decided on a place in Chelsea, just over the Chelsea Bridge south of the River Thames and directly across the street from Battersea Park. It's a high-rise complex, but the security is great, and a lot of people have dogs here.

Our flat is on the second floor and has a balcony overlooking the piazza; it has a pretty big kitchen with a bar that opens to the dining room area, which opens to the den (it's all one big room). There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, so we have plenty of room for guests! Oh, and it has a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, which is really great, and the towel racks in the bathroom are warmers! How cool is that?! Here are some pictures:

This is our apartment building, as seen from across the River Thames. The bridge to the right is Chelsea Bridge, which takes us to the heart of London from our place, and the trees you can see in the background are Battersea Park.

This is the master bedroom. It looks as though our bed is directly on the floor, but really it's about four or five inches off the floor, and Andrew cut up some of our packing boxes while we were moving in so that now we have additional "sliding drawers" underneath our bed. Luckily, the duvet that Andrew's aunt, uncle, and cousins gave us as a wedding present covers it up so that you can't see underneath the bed!

To the left of the bed is a narrow bookshelf, built into the wall, and our closet, the wonderful walk-in closet!

Yes, the majority of that mess in the closet is mine. Andrew got booted to the armoire in the bedroom, except for his suits.

The master bedroom also has an en suite bathroom:

We have a "grand" view from both our bedroom and the guest bedroom windows. Our complex was built right next to this old, very creepy-looking, disused power station, and they were having a huge debate over what should be done with this gigantic waste of space. The Deciding Powers recently announced that it will be turned into a great little shopping mall with restaurants, high-end stores, and a market. That would be fabulous for us because it's literally right outside our bedroom window. However, it's very doubtful that it will be completed before we head back home for good.

Here's a picture of the guest bedroom. It will be your bedroom when you come to visit! Hopefully, though, by then, we'll have gotten rid of the boxes cluttering the corner of the room!

Here are a couple of photos of our kitchen:

The cards you see on the bar are all birthday and Halloween cards that I received from my family! Thanks everyone! I love you!

This is our little dining area, separated from the kitchen by the bar you see above. All that crap loaded on the table? Why that's the thank you notes that you all will be receiving before Christmas!! I promise!

Here are a couple of photos of our den. We have a great flat screen television with built-in DVD player and surround sound, thanks to Andrew and PWC!

Notice the Lou's Pub coaster on the couch arm!

And this is the view from our balcony:

Well, that's our place! We didn't move in until we'd been here about a month, though, after our trip to Dublin (which will have to be another posting with lots of pictures). I hope that you all can see it in person; we'd love to have any visitors we can, so please come on!