Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving: Post Implementation Review

On reflection, the bird was too big. We didn't mind that it had to go diagonally into the oven, because there was space in the smaller oven for the rest. We don't mind having lots of leftovers, because TLOML loves turkey and we have some good leftover recipes up our sleeves. But even allowing for a bird too big for hte oven and with tonnes of leftovers, we could have dropped 5 or 6 pounds off the size and still had those characteristics.

Apart from that, we thought everything was perfect. Including the Manhattans TLOML made me before dinner. Our guests seemed to enjoy the saturated fat and refined sugar that was laced through most of the dishes. They got into the spirit of the NFL game we screened too.

All in all it was a happy day of cooking, and a very fun night of eating and drinking. It confirmed for me that Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday - wherever we are.

And now, we have this to deal with:
A fridge full of turkey, sweetcorn pudding, candied yams and mashed potato

And an overflow area for the rest of the turkey and the pies

Turkey posole soup, biryani and chilli all coming up.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

After last year's indecision, we decided to go big on Thanksgiving this year. TLOML ordered a 22lb turkey (no, really) from our butcher - who literally must have thought Christmas had come early. We've invited five friends over, and are planning a massive feast. In addition to the turkey we will be introducing to Yorkshire folk such delights as cornbread, pumpkin pie, candied yams and hot crab dip. They are a mixture of confused and excited right now. I'll let you know how they feel afterwards in a future post.

Of course now we have a baby and I'm travelling half the time with work we've got little else to do than spend all day in the kitchen. Oh, wait. Actually we are quite busy what with Lady P and all. The very time when one would normally be  cooking - the three hour window before we eat - is exactly when she comes home from the childminder and demands playtime, dinner, bath, bedtime stories, etc.

So today has been all about prepping and getting the place all mis-en-placed up.
Cornbread and sweetcorn pudding ingredients, measured out TV chef style

Cocktail tray, ready!

Of course, we don't have an American sized fridge so our yard and our utility room (with the door open and the radiator switched off) have had to stand in.
Cold storage
I have had a very happy day bustling about in the kitchen. So busy I actually haven't had time to eat. Which, given the quantity of food we have for dinner, is probably a good thing.

Happy turkey day!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why so quiet?

Some of my readers have pointed out that I've been a little quiet of late. I'm touched you noticed. Well, here's why.

First of all, I'm working full time which is, and perhaps the clue is in the name, quite time consuming. I'm travelling to the client site for a couple of days most weeks - and it's a five hour commute. And going through the Big Corp bureaucracy to get my move to the US is almost a full time job in itself.

Secondly, Lady P is rather more demanding than she used to be. There's no getting away with tapping away on a laptop while she amuses herself. If she's playing she wants company. And if she's crawling, or cruising, she needs constant monitoring. Plus, when I come home from a trip I want to do all the nappy changing, story reading, and playing, that I can. I especially enjoy our band practice sessions where we bash toys together noisily. And chasing her on hands and knees, and playing peekaboo, all of which generate brilliant giggles and squeals of excitement. It's even more fun than writing. Who knew?!

Finally, TLOML has been a little under the weather this past week. Our equal opportunities household has temporarily become one of those cliched ones where the woman (that's me) does all the cooking, dishwasher emptying, nappy changing, and laundry. Leaving me no time to even write a blog post to gripe about it.  (Perhaps that was deliberate, on his part. Every time he sees me reach for the laptop he coincidentally needs a cup of tea. Funny that.)

Suffice to say, I'm a busy bee. I envy Lady P her three hours of napping each day. And unlike maternity leave, I can't join her and nap at the same time anymore. Instead I have to make the most of her sleeping to do work, or personal admin, or chores. None of which are as restful as sleeping, let's face it.

Fortunately, TLOML is feeling better. I know this from the energy with which he is shouting at Thursday's NFL game. And hopefully work will calm down a bit as everyone gets all pre-Christmas lazy. You know, that four week period where people start saying 'there's no point starting that now, with Christmas coming up. Let's talk about it in January'. Love this time of year!

One thing won't change and that's the fact that hanging out with Lady P is more entertaining than writing. But I'll aim to keep my posts a little more frequent. I do love to blog about the holidays, as you may know. And a transatlantic Christmas, in Saltburn, packed with Lady P's firsts, should provide me lots of material.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Visa surprise

The US visa process is really weird. I don’t know quite what the USICS are playing at. First of all, they publish quite clear timeframes within which each stage should happen. Secondly, they stick to them. What's more, they provide checklists so there's no confusion or doubt about what documents are required (thus avoiding the Brazilian passport notarization fiasco of last year's visa shambles).

We are moving towards Green Card status at pace, and after last year’s trials it is quite a surreal experience.

Not only is it faster, and clearer, it’s also a heck of a lot more thorough. I am required to have up-to-date vaccinations, a clean bill of health and a clear criminal record. At the moment I’m busily getting police records, updated vaccinations and medicals.
The visa paper mountain continues to grow
By contrast the UK visa process TLOML went through last year seems flimsy and arbitrary. He could have been a disease-ridden vagabond and still be let in. And yet we had to provide reams of evidence of the validity of our relationship, not to mention the deeds to my father’s house (despite demonstrating that we amply met the income requirements and would therefore be renting a home of our own).

Once we’d decided to move, we wanted to do it straight away. But that was never going to happen. Instead, this steady, predictable pace feels just right. We see enough progress to keep us happy that we’re moving forward – unlike the months we spent in limbo last year. And at the moment it looks as if I’ll be a Green Card carrying spouse by the end of the year. This should neatly coincide with the start of my new job with my old Big Corp team in the US.

It also means we can have Christmas in Yorkshire, which makes me very happy. It all feels rather too good to be true.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cross Country

Last weekend we drove from coast to coast. That’s right, across the whole girth of this great country. We live right on the East Coast, and on Saturday morning we got on the legendary Route (A)66 and headed due West. We went to see my oldest sister, and her lovely family, for a couple of days in beautiful rainy Cumbria.

From the East Coast to West Coast, UK style

As I said to TLOML, it was like driving from LA to Baltimore. Only a lot quicker. Whereas our cross-country trip took a couple of hours, in the US it would take days.

West Side to the East Side, on a US scale
The scale of the US is hard to grasp, as a Brit. What brought it home to me was the revelation that some US airlines offer ‘funeral fares’ for the recently bereaved to make it home for a funeral. It is that common to live a flight away from your close family. Americans, being used to living in a country as ginormous as America, don’t let the small matter of a cross-country flight stop them seeing their family. 

When we move back to California we will be in the same country as the other side of Lady P’s family. But as most of them are East Coasters, they’ll still be a five or six hour flight away. (Actually we were almost as close to her grandparents when we lived in London as we will be when we live in California.)

Plenty of Americans will drive for two, four, six or more hours for Thanksgiving dinners in a couple of weeks time. It makes the distance between me and my sisters seem very manageable by comparison. While we’re still here, I’m determined to make the most of it, and see a bit more of the family we are close to.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Twits, tweeters, and Twitter

Do you tweet? I do. I signed up for Twitter so I could follow people, or publications, I think are funny or interesting. Or both. Like Caitlin Moran and Rosie Boycott, The Guardian and W Magazine.

Then I got serious. When my entrepreneurial friend and I conceived our fantastic book idea I decided to start using Twitter to build my reach. It is packed to the gills with women called things like @GirlyMomma or @JustaMummy (no, I'm not kidding), promoting their blogs. Why not me, too? That way I have more to offer a publisher - a social media following, and a ready-made marketing platform.

Because our book is pregnancy and baby-related I started to follow all those whimsical mummy tweeters and a bunch of brands like Mothercare and Avent. Oh, and some celebrity mums too. I never imagined I'd be following an ex-Atomic Kitten, but lo, so it came to pass. And some random people Twitter suggested to me, like @Sassafras Mom and @Pasadobledc, whose tweets I always enjoy.

Part of Twitter etiquette requires that mere mortals (as opposed to celebs and brands) follow back. So if I follow @MumsyMumsy she has to follow me back. It's rude not to. Likewise, if @unBEElieveablehealth follow me, I have to follow them back. Despite that I'm really not interested in bee-related health. That's how they come to have 8k followers, I suspect.
By following those who follow me, I ended up following an awful lot of obscure companies like the bee loving health people. Also a bunch of women who blog about parenthood, which is fine by me. But then the list of people I follow grew above 500. And as I only have ~280 followers I think that looks a bit sad.

So the cull began. First I cut people who don't tweet very often and don't follow me. Sayonara, @Kate Moss.

Then the ones I only followed 'cos they followed me. Like Activities Children (which is a stupid name, for starters). Here are four tweets in a row from them from a few days ago.
I think you can guess how the next 20 or so went. You can see why I had to cut Activities Children out. They're still following me but I suspect it won't be for long.

My social media profile will be in tatters soon, and my Twitter stream very tightly focussed indeed. Which is a shame. But given that my grand 280 followers are the result of months of following back randoms, and consistently tweeting witty little tweets, I wonder if I have just reached the limits of my social media potential. I suspect a publisher might want a followers number closer to the 45k enjoyed by @FormulaMom.

I'll have to follow an awful lot of chumps and obscure brands to hit those heights. Time to retreat back into a Twitter cave, I think. Stop following for follows and go back to following those who interest me. More Kardashians, fewer @craftymummies. I won't miss all those craft projects and motivational tweets, that's for sure.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Baby Talk

She’s a wise one, Lady P. We know this because sometimes she looks very thoughtful. She also has a cracking sense of humour, and squeals and laughs a lot. But because she can’t actually speak, we don’t know what’s on her mind.

So we thought we’d teach her baby sign language. This is also useful for communicating basic needs. Apparently at this stage of her development (coming up for nine months) Lady P does understand some frequently used words, and has the motor skills to sign, so baby sign language is just a way of putting those  capabilities together.

I printed off a couple of sheets of signs from the interweb. And then the questions started to arise.

First of all, why is ‘frog’ such an important sign that it features in this selection of basics? Or ‘horse’ for that matter? Or 'Telephone'? Is she going to want to make a call?!

Secondly, why am I teaching Lady P the sign for ‘too hot’ and ‘don’t touch’? If she understands my saying those words to her, what’s the point of the sign? Surely it isn’t so that she can tell me that something is too hot or I shouldn’t touch it? Who is the baby here?

And finally, why am I teaching her the words for ‘milk’ or ‘more’ at all? She is gaining weight at an alarming weight – to the extent that the Health Visitor suggest we cut back her rations a bit. And when she wants more food she makes that known plainly by grunting angrily and opening her mouth exaggeratedly wide open.

If only Lady P could speak. She’s so smart she could probably explain it all. But for now she’s limited to grunting, squealing and giggling. I think it may stay that way for a while.