The Parentals were Back!

 

Hello again! ‘Twas a lovely little holiday hiatus, but I’m back! We’re now officially moved into the new home and have had the old rental cleaned and keys returned. Perhaps I will post house photos at some point, but only when it starts to develop a state of order. Moving in and then immediately turning around and having family around, then a holiday, then going back to Commuter Life makes for a slow unpacking. But there’s definitely firm progress, and I think we have lofty ambitions to call it settled in by Thanksgiving time. Maybe.

Thankfully, the lion’s share of the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms were unboxed with the help of the super in-laws. They even helped motor us around for such exciting (and necessary) purchases like curtains and curtain rails. Moving into a new house rather makes you forget how many windows a house can have, and how much window furnishing can add up really quickly! We don’t have curtains for every room still, but the living room and bedrooms are sorted, and if people want to be nosey whilst I wash things in the sink, then I suppose I’ll just have to put up with the weirdos for now.

Even with the excitement of moving into the new house, it was still equally rivalled by getting to see Mom and Dad again! They managed to fly in on Monday morning and I met them at Liverpool Street station. The future is weird, and I was able to track them down to the Uber with the Find My Friends app on my phone. Handy, but weird. Ah, it is always so good to see them! Big hugs were exchanged and we headed out for Colchester to try and beat the rush hour chaos.

The next day while still jet lagged, Mom and Dad headed off to Cambridge to see one of Dad’s students and explore the town as I had to go to Manchester for a conference. If you’re into microscopy in any form, I’d highly recommend going to the MMC next year. From top of the line tech companies to amateur fans, it was a very educational experience and I picked up a few new ideas.

After all the dust settled, it was back into work for one more day on Wednesday and the chance to give Mom and Dad a behind the scenes tour of what’s been going on here at the museum. Below is a photo of our newly posed blue whale, Hope, in the main hall of the museum.

IMG_5443
Hope, the new emblem of the Natural History Museum!

Looking at her reassembled and mounted like that, it’s hard to believe that I have handled every one of those bones. (With help on most, mind you!) She’s now quite finished and available to the public, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you come and see her if you’re in town. She’s all of our pride and joy. šŸ™‚

After Wednesday, my time off officially began and started with all of us having a nice long lie in. Between the jet lag and the gogogo! lifestyle of the week, it was much needed. Alas, our weary work was not quite done in terms of setting the house in order, so we put Mom and Dad to work a bit over the weekend. Mom helped with some design quandaries, and Dad performed a miracle and transformed a pile of cardboard boxes filled with IKEA products into a wardrobe, and to professionally hang up all of the curtains.

IMG_5504
Possibly the best pub garden in Tetbury.

With the house shaping up into fine form and my parents in need of a proper holiday, we headed out to the Cotswolds Monday morning to meet up with the lovely in-laws at their house. It was a thankfully mostly uneventful drive, with only a 25 minute delay on the M25, unlike the hour doozy we had last time. Mom also had a good laugh at the “Mexican” restaurant at the service station and the fact that they sold chicken wings. Not to say chicken wings aren’t enjoyed in Mexico, but are they reallyĀ known for it?

We got into Tetbury in time for a quick tour of the town by the father in law, and then headed out for a delicious Italian dinner. Didn’t want to stay up too late though, as we were off to visit the Roman Baths (finally!) the next day.

If you get the chance to go, I would definitely recommend going to visit the Baths. It was everything I was hoping it would be, sans comic amounts of tourists. I suppose you can never really escape the tourists in Bath, especially in the summertime, but it does make it a bit hairy at some points in the building. Regardless though, I think we all learned something new about Bath that day!

We made it home from Bath after a quick bit of shopping after the tour, in which Mom never did find that yearly planner she was looking for. More of the English family was coming in for the evening, and we had all the fixings for a BBQ lined up. In true form, this meant that the rain began at about noon and refused to let up for the rest of the evening. Not to be dissuaded, the Significant Otter put the BBQ under a marquis and cooked everything anyway, with a fire brigade style chain of family members bringing food back and forth with minimal raindrops.

The next day the skies dried up and taunted us a bit as we were planning on being inside for most of the day. You see, we’d signed up for a brewery tour at the nearby Wadworths Brewery. Again, it was an educational experience, and it was really cool getting to see the giant open vats that they brewed some of the ales in. Also it’s been around since Victorian times, so seeing the mixture of old and new machinery and construction was really impressive. And of course, the variety of ales to try at the end of the tour wasn’t half bad either, though I think Mom may argue the best part was getting to meet the brewery horses. Wadworths is one of the last companies to still bring all the beer kegs within a 2 mile radius to the pubs by horse and cart!

IMG_5654
Not pictured – the gleeful fathers ready to learn about (and drink) all the brews.

On the way back from the brewery, M and I decided on a little pit stop for my parents as the weather was continuing to behave and stopped off at the village of Avebury. I was surprised to hear that even though my Dad had lived in England as a kid, he’d never gotten to see the stone circle around Avebury, so I really wanted them to go. I’m glad we did, as it seemed like they had a really good time. Dad got to enjoy walking around the circle and being able to touch (and sit!) on the massive stones, and Mom got to pet almost every dog there. Even M got some ice cream out of it and seemed pleased with the result.

IMG_5706
Some of the smaller stones, looking majestic in the sunlight.

All good things must come to an end though, and seemingly out of nowhere it was soon time to take Mom and Dad back to the airport. We all spent the night at the hotel outside of Heathrow and had to send them on their way in the morning after a massive cooked breakfast. šŸ˜¦ Overall though, it was fantastic to see them both again, and I hope we gave them a good trip! Looks like it’s our turn to go out to America next year then. šŸ™‚

I suppose this means back to unpacking and behaving like some kind of adult again then eh?

Speak soon!

 

— Kate

April weather means friends flock together.

Or something like that. Over the last few weeks of March and the beginning of April, it seems the stars all aligned and everyone was able to meet up. And so meet up we did.

First and most far flung award goes to the lovely D, all the way from California! She and I met and became fast friends during our course at the University of Leicester, but sadly she had to go back to America at the end of the year. She’d come back for a week to see friends in both England and Wales, and we were graced with her presence for a few of those days. She swears we only let her stay because she brings us American junk food, but she’s welcome even without the Ranch dressing packets. šŸ™‚ I can’t wait until we get to meet up again next – and hopefully it’ll be because she finally got a museum job here!

IMG_4034
Truly a fashion statement.

Next up we had the kitty couple from Leeds only a few days after D had to leave us for Gatwick. Sadly, the kitties were not in tow with them, but it was still a great weekend out. The sun even made a glorious appearance on Saturday, which was well received regardless of the temperature. Ended up going bowling, which I couldn’t even tell you when I did last! Thankfully, they seemed to know I was coming and had the gutter guards up on our lane. I still managed to lose spectacularly in both rounds. It was all good fun though, and you sure can’t beat those shoes.

To round out our meet ups to a respectable triad over the period, we were back up in Colchester to see M’s old friend DrĀ and MrsĀ Anaesthetist and their baby, who is quite possibly the cutest child in Colchester. They were currently working on making the back garden a nice English landscape and not the muddy war zone it looked like when they first moved in. The trellis is nearly complete and it looks like grass will be coming in soon. I imagine it will be more than summer ready soon enough.

Speaking of summer ready, we also did some lurking to see how our house is turning out. We couldn’t see much as they’ve done extensive building on the houses in front of it and the security panelling is still up, but it looked to be coming along nicely. The good Doctor later managed to capture a photo through his walk in the nearby woods, and it looks like everything is right on time. So excited!

IMG_4099
Photo courtesy of Dr Anaesthetist and his ability to find loopholes to the building site rules.

 

The good times can never last forever though, and the significant otter and were quickly back in the daily grind, with the poor thing having to work a weekend on top of it! Of course this meant that Saturday was glorious for having a BBQ. Alas! But hey, we have nice weather and the house is still on time. Can’t ask for too much right? šŸ™‚

 

— Kate

Museum Job! (Autumn 2016)

So that great news I was hinting about last post? Well, after a few months of job hunting and a few interviews that followed, I was offered work at the Natural History Museum in London! Not only was I getting to use my degree, but I was also going back to being able to do 3D surface scanning like I did at my last museum!

I’ve been steady at work on a few different projects, some of which should hopefully be going live in the next few weeks so I can tell you all about them. All I can say for now though is that I am working in an amazing place with fantastic people, and that I have a really, really cool job. Honestly, the commute is worth it to do the things I get to do every day. šŸ™‚

IMG_2308
My home away from home!

— Kate

A job! A job! (Spring 2016)

After many an adventure over the winter months, spring rolled around and finally I found a job. It was temporary work through an agency, but it was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, the place I was sent to was reorganising and the local branch was being closed down by the end of the summer. Reasonably enough, a lot of the staff were heading elsewhere for permanent positions, so I was brought in to fill the gaps until the bitter end.

You don’t realise just how bleak being unemployed is until you are in the situation. It’s nice for a bit and you catch up on all your sleep and bad tv, but eventually you start to crack. I dunno, I just need to be doing something productive with my time and I’m not a particularly crafty person. I desperately needed to be out and doing something. When this opportunity came up, I was over the moon.

I’m so glad I took the position. The staff were all so friendly and took me under their wing. Even though they were all about to be spread across the city like seeds in the wind, they were all so lovely and kind to the end. It was really like a little family. Also, there was cake nearly every other day with everyone leaving, having birthdays, or doing fundraisers. You can never speak ill of a place with lots of cake. šŸ˜‰

img_0297

I’m still in touch with a lot of the gals online and am pleased to say that they all appear to be doing really well with themselves. I mean really, I would expect nothing less from those fabulous ladies. šŸ™‚

— Kate

Our Wedding! (January 2016)

16 January 2016 – a new day in our lives together.

Photos generally do most of the talking for a wedding, but sinceĀ I enjoy a modicum of privacy on the internet at large (and I’m sure my guests would too), I’ve gone and pulled all the images our photographer took without faces in them.

Needless to say, the day was AMAZING, exactly what we could have hoped for, and at the end of it all I was married to my best friend. This was wonderful to go back through the photos over a year on and enjoy the moment again. šŸ™‚

Well, that was unexpected.

i think it's fabulous. every value i've ever held has been questioned and i'm loving it.

There are things to expect when you move to the UK, and a lot of the things (as an American) are either similar or have been warned about in advance. This still did not make it any easier to translate the weather from C to F for the first few weeks, but at least there was warning. However, there have also been things that no one thought to tell me about before coming over. Not always huge things, and at this point it mostly just gets a raised eyebrow and a “well that’s interesting” response, but I thought I’d share some of the ones that come to mind in list form for a change.

The ‘meh’ attitude

I was somewhat warned about this phenomena beforehand, but it’s interesting to experience. It’s likely that I’m just used to the over-exuberant nature of Americans, but it seems like the overarching theme of life in England is ‘meh.’ Not a depressed ‘meh’ or an apathetic ‘meh,’ but almost like a kind of stoicism. Your food came out wrong at the restaurant? Meh, it’s not bad enough to cause a fuss.Ā Come home to a flooded kitchen? Meh, it’s just a bit of water. I’ve heard some people chalk it up to the war mentality of previous generations and others to the weather, but the exact cause remains elusive. Being around it long enough though does prove infectious. Is this good or bad? Meh, I dunno.

People don’t talk to you

This one absolutely killed me the first few weeks here until classes started. I was lucky enough to have made some wonderful friends at the international welcome week as well as having some locals to call up and talk to, but in those mid-day hours I was miserable. In the States it’s completely normal to chat with staff at businesses orĀ strangers waiting wherever you’re at in public, but here it’s almost taboo. My more socially awkward friends back in the US were excited to hear about this, but the thrill of being able to read your book in public undisturbed is quickly deadened when you realise it’s been three days and the last meaningful conversation you had was with a cat wandering the alley by the cathedral. However, sometimes you’ll get a conversation when people overhear you and realise you’re not from around here, which leads to…

People being excited about Americans

I WAS SO NOT READY FOR THIS. I was under the assumption that either A) Americans were common enough visitors as to be unexciting or B) Americans would be at least passively tolerated and possibly disliked. While I’m sure this is the case for some, it’s at least a weekly occurrence that someone will hear me or my fellow comradesĀ of the North American Alliance speak and ask if we’re American. This will then diverge into four typical responses:

Where are you from?

This is problematic as it seems a lot of us move states (or provinces for Canada!) much more often and further than people in the UK move around. This question is usually just answered with “From the US,” but a lot of times people want to know what state. Sometimes I’m from one state, sometimes another, and sometimes both. It’s pretty remarkable if people actually know where these states are. This will sometimes lead to:

Oh, I’ve been to…

It’s always New York, Florida, or California. ALWAYS. Some very few will have gone to other states, but they’ve also gone to one of the three. I am convinced this is why we get asked such entertaining questions, because the Brits are going to the three most extreme examples of the country and expecting this to be America as a whole. The flipside can be said for Americans going to London though, so I try to keep my dramatic sighs to a minimum.

Why are you HERE?

This one only happens in Leicester really. Granted, I got the same question all the time from WesternersĀ when I moved from the Eastern USĀ so I could see why this comes up. It’s not a glitzy city or super historically important for the most part, but Leicester is seriously underrated, even by the locals. There’s SO MUCH to the UK that avoids London completely. This then leaves me with the last response of:

*insert pick up line*

I will give kudos to people brave enough to try this one, but the lines I’ve overheard have been so cheesy. My favorites so far are the guy who tried to convince my friend he was a big deal because he knew someone who was on Downton Abbey, and the drunk ones standing outside between a McDonald’s and a pub that wanted to say how beautiful all American accents were and how they wanted to sing us Spice Girls songs. Never a dull night in Leicester ladies and gents.

The innuendos

On that vein… the innuendos. We remain convinced that nearly anything can and will become a sexual innuendo at some point. I’m not talking pervy people making sideways comments, but in-your-face jokes and puns everywhere. On BBC, on advertisements, in businesses… You name it, we’ve probably seen one. Personally, I find it to be hilarious and a refreshing change of pace from the Puritan legacy left on the US, but it’s definitely something to warnĀ people know about.

The weather

“But Kate, you knew that it was gonna be drizzly and wet all the time!” Wait wait, hear me out on this one. Yes, it does rain much more often than where I was, but that’s pretty easy to do. However, it’s not the dreariness that everyone goes on about. Actually it’s not bad at all. In Leicester, it’s pretty common to have it chuck down rain for about 10-15 minutes and then be fine to walk in. Most of the time it’s just fine with a hooded jacket and a scarf. The hair will curl or wave something fierce, but the only big difference is how early the sun sets in autumn and winter. This is still offset though with all the walking I do. I think I’m still getting more vitamin D than before. That brings me to…

Walking

Yeah, I knew I’d be walking a lot. I did the Google Maps from my flat around the city and figured it’d be at minimum two miles a day. What I didn’t expect was how far I could get just walking. Walking two miles back in the USĀ wouldĀ maybe get me to the nearest grocery store, but walking two miles here will get me from my flat to the university and back again with the entire city centre along the way and probably a good five grocery stores to stop at along the way. Walking anywhere doesn’t feel long at all either with everything so close together. It is AWESOME to be in this situation and it’s so hard to explain what it’s like in the ‘real’ United States to people here and why I’m so enthused about it. Interesting side note – I discovered after walking these 2-5 miles a day that oneĀ can in fact walk their posteriorĀ off. I am moderately devestated about the disappearance of my backside!

Walking with other people

Anarchy is alive and well in the UK and it’s seen best in trying to walk down a street. Back in the US the rule of thumb is “drive right, walk right” and when two people come up to each other walking in opposite directions they’ll usually both sway right to avoid each other. You might think “drive left, walk left” would hold here, but you would be wrong. It’s more like drive left, walk in the middle of the sidewalk and refuse to budge until either the very last second or not at all. If you don’t put on a serious game face you’re likely to be walked into a puddle, even if you’re the one carrying six plastic bags and you’re trying to walk through an empty-handed human wall moseying the other way. It’s brutal.

Taking pork to the next level

AmericansĀ LOVE to talk about how much they love bacon, but the British have taken it to the next level. BLTs? BLTs are for the weak – just have a bacon butty. Think you know what pigs in a blanket are? Pssht. Pork products seem to try and sneak into aĀ meal almost every day. I’ve got some bacon and pork chops in my fridge as I type this. Being halal or kosher or vegeterian is a challenge here going out to eat, and I’m not sure how vegans manage it. From what I can gather there seems to be more of a push towards alternative food choices, but America needs to calm down the bacon claims.

Instant chocolate meltage

Unlike Hershey’s, the chocolate here is not coated with wax and will therefore begin to melt as soon as it comes into contact with the heat of your fingers. Plan accordingly or try to eat it from the wrapper.

Missing food I didn’t even really like

There was a long and enthusiastic gushing about Little Debbie snack cakes tonight as I’ve yet to see them anywhere around the city. Talking about the powdered sugar donuts that you’ll find in any US convience store was like describing opening Christmas presents. TheĀ strangestĀ thing about this though – I’ve never been THAT big a fan of Little Debbie. Probably for the best really. Everyone knows when you leave for long enough you start craving missing items that you love. US Starbursts, Peter Pan crunchy peanut butter, and pumpkin pie are all things that I can get similar products to that will do in a pinch, but theyĀ just aren’t the same. It gets weird though when I realise how excitedly I’m discussing Cheetos and ranch dressing, when I hardly ever wanted them when there was access to plenty. I guess it plays into that whole idea of wanting what you can’t have?

Anyhoo, that’s all the excitement you get for this week. Tune in next week as I finish week one of the more practical work of museums and start delving into readings for digital curatorship. šŸ˜‰

— Kate

IT’S HERE. Today’s the day!

The bags are packed, the hugs have been given out liberally, the paperwork has all been printed out in triplicate and I am getting on the plane for England in just a few hours!! While this is amazing, exciting, liberating, etc, I’m really glad they give out complimentary wine on the plane. I’m going to need some.

I’ll pop in when I can and update throughout the day, but if nothing else I’ll try my hardestĀ to alert the media (and especially my mother) that I have made it to Leicester in one piece by the end of Friday there (around 12 – 6 pm MST or 2 – 8 pm EST). After a shower. Twenty-ish hours of travel makes you feel like a giant greaseball.

Wish me luck!

— Kate