Dec 12, 2010

Just Your Daily Domestics

Determined to get settled in my new home, I’ve been making every effort to cozy up the apartment. Cleaning has become a madness, when I start I literally can’t stop. The craze caught on and I knew it had gone too far when we started re-painting the floor!

The smell of paint must have served as an artistic muse, because Jon soon threw himself into a new creative project. I suggested Audrey Hepburn and the classic icon was transformed into a bright, retro-pop piece for our kitchen. But it didn’t end there.  I’m still learning to embrace Jon’s creativity without question, so when I saw him drawing random blocks on the wall I took a deep breath and kept walking. The end product was a custom 1D frame. Amazing.
 Although the British obviously don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (which I dearly missed celebrating with family) they have a similar tradition that I think is almost better in its frequency: Sunday Roast. Every Sunday a Thanksgiving-like meal of rich, warm, comfort food is served between noon and 3:00. It’s a day for families to spend together, or close friends to catch up then spend the rest of the day relaxing. Ironically, in a culture unapologetically opposed to Christianity, I think they got the whole ‘day of rest’ thing down pat.
I attempted to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal for some friends. Four hours and a few burns later, it was finished. Jon joked that I was on Facebook for three of them (lies) but I couldn’t believe how much effort it took!  Good thing I love cooking.
The following Sunday we walked to the nearest pub. With the cold wind at our back and delicious heat welcoming us in through the doors the pub it felt like a living room.  While we settled into a weathered wooden table and mix-matched chairs, somebody grabbed a board game from a bookshelf. What ensued was the most ridiculous game of Life I’ve ever seen.
 Pleasantries were thrown to the wind and competition boiled our blood. At one point, I think someone actually did a victory lap around the entire pub after a successful move.
We then invested in a few board games of our own, combining our desire to stay indoors and save money. Emboldened by our gaming experience in the pub, we decided that every public place should have games.  Looking back now, a crowded Starbucks might not have been the most appropriate place for a Jenga battle.  I suppose we were just too excited after our purchase to wait ‘til we got home. After the inevitable collapse of the block tower, a barista walked by and with thinly veiled annoyance handed us some stray blocks that had flown across the room.
The next morning Jon returned home with a bag full of ornaments (or baubles) and announced a Christmas tree was being delivered later. Appropriately, it had been snowing off and on for the past two days, long enough for the snow to melt and freeze again as ice.
The UK and Europe seem surprisingly unprepared for snow. Two inches of the stuff sends everyone into hysterics and travel comes to a standstill. I’m pretty sure that even sunny California is better equipped to handle a snow storm.
But braving the icy weather had to be done. Over the past few weeks I’ve grown accustomed to donning tights, wool socks, a scarf and gloves every time I leave the house. Needless to say, the effort makes you really evaluate how bad you actually need those groceries. “We’re out of toilet paper? Well… we still have paper towels, we’ll go next week.” Ouch.
Spurred by the promise of a twinkling Christmas tree, I set out to Argos, normally a ten minute walk away. Shuffling my feet along the glazed sidewalk in baby steps, I realized that on the way back I would be loaded up with bags of fragile baubles and Christmas (fairy) lights. Oh dear.
I was normally grateful for my high-heeled boots as they kept my feet off the freezing ground and painful cobblestone roads; But they were clearly built for California pavement with essentially no grip to speak of, and I’ll not even get into the dangers of crossing the road. Thankfully, the huge white stenciled warnings “LOOK RIGHT --->” have saved me a few times.
I made it safely to my destination. For those who have never been to an Argos, it is instant gratification catalogue shopping. You peruse their catalogues the size of family Bibles and write down the reference numbers of the products you want. Next you take your ticket to the register (till) and they grab everything for you! It’s the lazy man’s Walmart.
I returned ready to deck the halls. Christmas always illicits fond memories of my Grandpa making hot apple cider while we’d trim the tree. After searching three shops with no success, I decided to brew my own makeshift version with apple juice, lemon, honey and cinnamon sticks. Mmmmm, Christmas in a mug. To my surprise, Jon loved it. I really never know what to expect when introducing American (or at least my own) traditions. Most English people would react in disgust if you ask for an iced tea or coffee. It’s tough keeping up with the cultural norm around here!
Even grocery stores perplex me. Some food has completely different names here! How does it work that Americans use “English” words and the English use French? For example zucchini is “courgette” and eggplant is “aubergine,” and don't even think about requesting a napkin in a restaurant. Why? Because "nappies" are baby diapers! Here, napkins are "serviettes." Not to mention British terminology: juice concentrate is “squash,” cookies are “biscuits,” and chips are “crisps.” Good thing I’ve got a personal translator!

During my first visit to London last Christmas I was pretty intimidated. No one ever wants to fail or look stupid, or even worse- look like a tourist. Jon had encouraged me to try things on my own and get out and explore. But I felt like a little girl in a big world. I’m ashamed to say he had to do quite a bit of hand-holding in the beginning to help me build confidence. But now I am proud to say: these days I can read British and cross streets with the best of them! Happy Holidays xx