Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving On Up

Milestones happen no matter what you're going through.

Lucy is starting at Anna's preschool tomorrow. Her usual babysitter is taking a break for July and we had to find another option. For once, the universe aligned and helped us out. How often has that happened over the past 5 years? Not chuffing much. The teacher at Anna's preschool has a daughter who was looking for a summer job for a few days a week, we were looking for a sitter. Bingo. It means Lucy still gets one on one attention, whilst being able to transition in to the preschool. It also means that Anna and Lucy get to be at the same school at the same time, however briefly, which will be a huge help to Lucy's state of mind, and no small thing, makes my morning routine easier by a factor of about a million.

I can't wait to see how it goes. Lucy already loves the place and flings herself face down in the grass when it's time to leave Anna there. She loves the huge garden, the fruit trees, the kid-friendly natural play-structures, the paints and craft supplies, the child-sized chairs and easels. Here's a couple of photos of the two of them 'rocking out' at the school's Summer Celebration last weekend:

What kid doesn't love a child-centric environment, one that teaches them to rock out to 'Three Little Birds' by Bob Marley? I hope it goes well. I don't think it's a permanent transition, 18 months is still very young after all. Anna was just shy of two when she made her 'big leap forward':

Still, some people are practically born at preschool, others finally achieve preschool, and it seems Lucy is going to have preschool thrust upon her.

Go get 'em tiger! I'll take pictures I promise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fish and Chips

Moving swiftly on from that last post about football.

The big expat news for me right now is an 'authentic' British fish and chips shop that's opened downtown. We've been watching for the grand opening, and I was more than a little excited when I snuck a peak through the papered up windows a couple of weeks ago and saw a packet of Jaffa Cakes sitting on the counter. Clearly the outfit was being run by people in the know.

Practically every restaurant in Santa Barbara offers fish and chips. When you order it, you'll get fish and fries, and the fish will be delicious and people will challenge you that it's the best fish and chips you've ever eaten, but it's not real fish and chips from a chippy. That wonderful fish and chip smell that carries through the drizzle and lures you in to the steamy, greasy shop with it's piles of pies, chips, fresh fish and pickled eggs (even I will draw the line on that one).

I'm sure every English person thinks their local chippy is the best. Maybe so, but I think if you grow up in Yorkshire you have a pretty good claim to the best fish and chips in the world. Even if your husband does order the 'toona' on his first visit to York's Petergate fisheries.

I was so excited to get a little bit of home right on my doorstep. Not that we go out anymore, but I had visions of us celebrating our new tenants moving in by splashing out on a fish supper.

*Sigh*, it was not to be. They have fantastic mushy peas, and a pretty good battered sausage - even special sausage mix from Whitefoot Meat market - Julia Child's favourite butchers when she was living in SB. They even have haggis, deep fried 'candy bars' and shandy. Talk about promising.

The chips though. That's where it matters. They were the right shape, and even came in faux newspaper, but they'd been cooked in canola oil. Gutted. They just didn't taste the same. Fake chips. I'm sure the magic ingredient is some horrifying amount of rendered beef fat, combined with the blood sweat and tears of a Yorkshire chippy, something the FDA would never, ever approve, but without that magic lard, that mixture of steam and grease from a real chippy, you might as well be eating fries. LK didn't care, and he quite rightly said that 99% of the people visiting the shop would be none the wiser. Still, real chips right on my doorstep, a girl can dream.

Didn't stop me eating the whole portion though, just to make sure.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Watching The World Cup From America

I thought I'd better get this post in quick before England play Germany tomorrow morning. Not that I'm a doubter you understand, it's just that if it goes to penalties, I may choose the cyanide pill option.

You can take the girl out of the country.....

Neither of them look too happy do they? Lucy looks like she's facing a firing squad and Anna said 'but I'm American'. Cultural indoctrination is not easy. It reminds me of Gavin and Stacey which I am addicted to right now. (DVR it, or failing that, put it on your Netflix, it is well worth the effort)......when Smithy turns to his infant son and says 'lets get one thing straight, when it comes to football, you support England. None of this Ryan Giggs nonsense'.


Watching the World Cup in America is a vastly different experience now than when I moved here 15 years ago. Back then I had to watch England's World Cup matches on the Mexican channels as it wasn't even covered on any of the English speaking networks. I was the lone sad act at work asking if anyone had seen that corking Ivory Coast game last night.

Things have definitely changed. For the last couple of World Cups I've organized a pool at work, where teams are drawn at random for a $5 buy-in. Now that there is $160 to be won it's amazing how ardent my coworkers are, following their teams and checking the results. Americans may be generally clueless as to the location of Slovakia/Slovenia or the merits of the Spanish back four, but they do welcome a bit of gambling. Of course, nothing sours an office atmosphere more than the organizer drawing Brazil and my boss getting North Korea. (Come on Brazil!! We need the money!!).

On that note, it is refreshing living somewhere so multinational. The big teams here are the US and Mexico - with Mexico having a much fiercer fan base - especially in the barrio I call home. You can hear the roars when they score - definitely more so than the US games. Even though it would be nice to be at home during the World Cup it is nice to be surrounded by so many people with different affiliations; the Danish lady who works across the building from me, the Swiss/Italian EEG tech, the Mexican groundskeeper, our Australian friends etc. It's also nice when you can condemn that England v Algeria game to history here, without it being completely dissected and rehashed like it was in the English press.

I'm sad that the US are out. Apart from their first match I was cheering for them all the way. I wish they'd gone further. A decent run at the cup would have quieted all those who think soccer is for 8 year old girls. A bluster that fails to hide how pissed off they are at losing to Ghana. Again.

So yes, I'll be up at 7am tomorrow, coffee in hand, no doubt groaning with the rest of my countrymen. I know it's just a game, that there's far too much hype, and in our case, far too much hope, but knowing that every member of my family will be doing just what I am, (except with better, more partisan commentating), even when separated by over 5,500 miles, is brilliant.

Come on you England!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I think a little light relief is in order.

When LK and I were on vacation in Maine we stopped at a seafood restaurant in Bar Harbor and had a cocktail while we waited for our table to be ready. The barman poured us both a hefty gin martini and asked:

"What is more powerful than God
More evil than the devil
Rich people want it
Poor people have it
and if you eat it you will die"

I'm proud to say that, such is the power of a gin martini, I got it. And to give you a hint - the answer is not 'cheese' or a 'whale shark' which were my coworkers guesses.

No googling!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Fear

I've discovered the cure for public speaking.

Yesterday I had to give a presentation in front of all the bigwigs in my field, topic: Health Care Reform. I'll bet you wish you were there. The date has been a looming presence for what seems like my entire life.

The night before, LK and I discovered a leak in our building. Water streaming out of the slab outside our kitchen window, source unknown. After spending hours listening through the walls with a stethoscope (I kid you not) and cutting countless patches in the dry wall we have yet to find the leak. It is likely to be underneath the concrete foundation. I went to sleep that night counting gallons of water as they gurgled out of my house. $1, $2, $3, you get the picture.

We also heard yesterday morning that a tenant of ours who had locked himself out and attempting to climb in to his second story room, slipped, fell, broke his pelvis - this much we were aware of - now wants to know the 'name of our liability insurer'.

As I stood in front of all those people, chattering away and gesticulating to make an Italian football player proud, I felt very little fear. About speaking. It reminds me of the time in College I had three projects due at the same time and I powered through all of them in the space of a couple of days. At the time I felt unbeatable, all-powerful, I could take on the world. Then I handed the reports in, and came down with a two week long cold.

One of my favourite quotes of all time has to be from Eleanor Roosevelt:

"A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."

I feel like a weak Darjeeling.

As I say, I've found the cure for public speaking, it's to have much worse things to worry about. It's not something I would wholeheartedly recommend, but it certainly works.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Apologies for my absence. It's becoming clear that a nervous breakdown is a luxury I can't afford right now.

We've been dealing with some heart-stopping financial problems, coupled with tenants handing in their notice. Good times. We've slapped a bandaid on one of the issues and now it just feels like I'm no longer going through a heart-attack, but one further shock may just kill me.

People have been very kind, offering such time-worn adages as 'it's always darkest before the dawn' (what dawn?), 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', 'worse things can happen', or 'wow, you guys are fucked'.

I hadn't intended to write about this, mostly because we're still very much in the middle of things and quite frankly I spend 95% of my time worrying and writing is supposed to be a hobby, so I'd prefer to write about the girls instead. The reason I'm alluding to it is, one of the hardest things about having your world come crashing down around your ears is the people who don't know what's happening. Those who still expect a reply to their child's playdate offer, or want you to consider 'nature camp' or to chair a meeting or commit to the fall drop-off schedule. People who assume you know where you're going to be this time next month, hell, this time next week. All the time you feel like you're walking around with 'my world is ending' tattoed on your forehead, but everyone is completely oblivious and you still have to function because a nervous breakdown is far too self-serving.

Which is exactly what it felt like on Anna's 5th birthday party when I had to slap on my 'happy face', all the time wishing I could smack that pinata within an inch of it's life just so I could beat the crap out of something. As it happens we had to, because that unicorn pinata was built out of papier mache and 100lbs of tape and would not die. In the end 10 under 5s watched my husband brutally murder a defenceless white unicorn and then eviscerate it to release the candy (which had all come out of their wrappers due to the prior abuse).

Pinatas: an odd tradition I feel.

Anna was happily oblivious. She had been looking forward to this birthday for approximately 364 days. The event had morphed from a horses party to a unicorn party to a pegasus/unicorn/pool party. She wanted everyone to dress as a pegasus (vetoed), and requested we feast on cooked rabbit (I need to check her nighttime reading, because she is coming up with some weird stuff). By the way, you know you have a 5 year old daughter when you have to ask yourself what the plural of pegasus is? Pegasuses? Pegasi?

We've been writing thankyou cards and I asked her to say what her favourite bits of the party were, 'the pinata' (death by beating) and our cake (requested: unicorn cake with a white body, red horn, rainbow tail, golden hooves, rainbow background with castle):

As you can see, I cunningly slapped a unicorn on top of a homemade pink cake and allowed Anna to go crazy with the candy flowers and silver balls. What a confection I think you'll agree.

It tasted wonderful, even after the unicorn had sunk into the second layer.

So there you have it. She and her friends had a wonderful time, I felt like I was going to crack at any second (and did), but life goes on, and after a gentle prodding from a few of you, I've also decided to keep blogging because in the midst of all this financial heartache, the girls are having a childhood that I want to try and remember.

Oh, and by the way, the phrase any parent on a budget dreads to hear 'Mom, now that I'm 5 I want to learn to ride horses!!'