Moving is the worst part 2: A stool story

21 Nov
corgi-stool

 A much better use for a stool

The thing I love about London is that you can carry a large wooden stool down the street, bring it on the tube, proceed to sit on it while riding the tube, then carry it down the street again and no one bats an eye. In America I’m sure at least someone would have quipped “Brought your own seat, eh? Smart!”

Why was I carrying a stool around London? I’ll get to that.

On Thursday we moved home — I believe that’s the phrase they use here, “move home,” along with “removal company,” which makes sense linguistically, but I still imagine the removal company removing all of your belongings and then taking them away forever when I see “removal” on the side of a van. But I digress. We moved and as I say every time, moving is the worst. We had the movers pack for us, which you’d think would make the process stress-free, but it was still completely mentally and physically draining. We didn’t get the keys to our new place until the day of, and discovered that not only did the previous owner not clean the flat whatsoever, but they took the chandeliers with them, meaning we walked into a nearly pitch-black flat. Stephen had to run out to buy £5 lamps at Argos just so the movers could see where they were going. So we had plenty to deal with at our new place, but things also had to be settled at our old flat. There was some miscommunication regarding the check out inspection and I found out Friday morning it was at noon and I had booked the flat to be cleaned at 2pm. So I had to frantically find a cleaner who could start as soon as possible and got the inspection moved to 2:30, the latest they could do. But before I could go over to meet the inspector, I had to supervisor the cleaners at our new place (who were not happy about all the boxes everywhere!), let in the guy to install our internet (superfast fibre, yay!) and wait for the sofa delivery. As expected, the sofa guys arrived 10 minutes before I had to go to meet the inspector at our old flat, so I let them in then asked the porter to supervise them. Then my stool and I were off.

About the stool — at our old place we took down some of the landlord’s curtains in the bedroom. I put them in the closet with the towels, but by the time I remembered we needed to rehang them, the movers had packed them up. Once we moved I dug the curtain out of the towel box. Time was of the essence because I needed to get to the flat before the inspector arrived and quickly hang it up. Because of the delayed sofa delivery, Uber was no longer an option, so my stool and I rode the tube. I got to the flat at 2:20pm — just in time to stand on my stool, hold the curtain up and realize I was missing curtain hooks.

Bollocks.

I explained to the inspector that I had the hooks at home in a box somewhere and could bring them later. He said it wasn’t his problem — his job was just to photograph and inspect the flat, which was still in a quasi state of disarray despite the fact that the cleaner had been working for 3 hours. I sat on my stool and waited for him to finish. Since the cleaner was still working and I had to lock up after her, he told me to drop the keys off at the estate agent’s office after the cleaner was done. When she finally finished, without thinking, I promptly packed up the items we had forgotten in the top closet, left the curtain in the wardrobe, and loaded my stool into an Uber to the estate agent. I carried my stool into the office, handed over the keys, then loaded my stool into another Uber to go home. There was no way I was walking it to the tube in the dark. When I got home I asked the porter how the sofa delivery went. He said he had something he must ask me.

“Why are you carrying that thing all around?”

I could only laugh.

It’s called the laugh of recognition / When you laugh but you feel like dyin’ – Over the Rhine

The next day I did nothing but unpack, yet the boxes seemed to be multiplying. And what did I find in the bottom of the towel box? (“Curtain hooks!” I bet you’re thinking, but no, the curtain hooks appear to be gone forever and I almost lost my mind searching for them.) Another curtain. Because of course the window has two curtains. So I need to make another trip to the flat. I guess I always needed to make another trip to the flat. Which begs the question: why the heck did I bring the stool all the way back?

So today my stool and I have another Tube date. Maybe I should go at rush hour just to have a seat. I can’t wait to see the porter’s face when he sees me and my stool again.

I’m already nostalgic and we haven’t even moved yet

16 Nov

On Monday I made my last trek to Aldi. It was dark, cloudy and rainy and I was tempted to hop on a bus, but knew I had to walk. I somehow figured if my last grocery trip from this flat was long and miserable, perhaps I’d feel less nostalgic for it once we move. I’m not sure it worked.

This week I’ve been hitting up all my favorite running spots around here since they’ll be farther away after the move. I told myself I could always run to Regent’s Park and Primose Hill from our new place, it would just be a long run. Though I don’t think I’ve run more than 5 miles at a time since my half 2 months ago. But if I get word there are good Pokemon in these parts, you know I’ll be back.

regents park autumn.png

autumn in regents park.png

paddington rec ground autumn.png(Photos of Regent’s Park and Paddington Recreation Ground I took on my runs this month)

We hired movers to do our packing, but I still spent a lot of today organizing and packing things. We’re just moving a couple miles away, but I’ve got it in my mind that I will never see my belongings again — like when we made the initial move out here and our stuff was out at sea for 6 weeks. I’ve packed my suitcase for my European trip with my parents even though we don’t leave until Black Friday (9 days from now). Surely I will have unpacked the flat at least a little by then, but I convinced myself that if I don’t pack the selfie stick and travel adapters now, they will disappear in some box and I will never see them again. That is the downside of having someone else pack for you — you have no idea what’s in every box. But the way I’m acting lately, it’s like we won’t be able to open any of the boxes.

They always say moving is a good way to purge all those unnecessary items that don’t bring you joy, which is probably one of the reasons I hate moving so much. I hate getting rid of things, even if it is things I no longer use or haven’t touched since we last moved. Though I am getting better and — dare I say — even enjoyed a bit of the purging I’ve been doing. Please remind me of this when you find me curled up in a ball in a month lamenting about the new flat’s lack of storage space. I can do this!

corgi box.gif

pug-puppies-box

(What I wish my moving boxes contained)

Moving is the worst: round 2

11 Nov

It still hasn’t hit me that we’re moving in 5 days. I realize I need to clarify when I say “we’re officially moving,” as I texted it to my friend the other day and she thought I meant to Asia or back to America. So in 5 days we’re moving into a new flat in central London. I remember reading somewhere that moving is one the most stressful things in life, especially on a relationship. Even when you hire movers to do all the packing for you (as we’re going to), there’s just so many things to consider and do. I cleaned out my closet for the first time in three years and donated 7 bags of clothing (OK, 3 of those bags may have been Stephen’s). I even found a belt I was sure I had lost in the Great Megabus Fire of 2014. Yet I still seem to have way too many belongings and our new flat has entirely way too little storage space. Stephen does not see the problem in this, but I lay awake at night wondering where I will store my shopping trolley in the new place and whether the kitchen has enough counter space for my collection of artificial flavouring. (Don’t ask. OK, you can ask. I put them in smoothies and oatmeal.) One of our biggest arguments during the flat search happened when Stephen wanted to buy a place that did not have a washing machine, dishwasher or freezer and didn’t really have any space for them. Luckily we did not go with that place. I keep forgetting that since this new flat will truly be ours, we can make modifications. We can completely redo the kitchen if we want and add cabinets and counter space galore. But that takes a lot of time and money. I’ve been looking at standalone wardrobes to put in the bedroom because there are zero closets in there — zero (WHY, OH WHY, DO YOU HATE STORAGE SPACE, LONDON?!), but we can’t buy it until we first strip the wallpaper and repaint the bedroom, which, again takes time and money. So while I’m looking forward to living in our new place — I’ll be able to walk to theatre day seat queues! — I am dreading that in-between phase where I’m tripping on boxes and living out of suitcases. And my parents will get to experience this with me, as they are coming to stay with us 6 days after we move. I still can’t decide if that is the best or worst timing ever. They’ll get to see our new place, but it will be in a state of disarray. I’ll also get to temporarily leave the chaos and accompany them on a journey through Europe as we visit our ancestors’ homelands. I’m looking forward to that, but all this moving stress hasn’t given me much time to plan the trip (or update the blog if you haven’t noticed). I’ve got a rough itinerary, all the transportation and accommodations booked, and Rick Steves books on my iPad, so I think we’ll be in good shape. If I can just get through this move first!

Completely unrelated, but since this post lacks pictures, here’s a photo of me in 30 years:

crazy-corgi-lady

Charmander mania in Green Park

25 Oct

Remember Pokemon Go, that augmented reality mobile game everyone was really into 3 months ago? It seems the majority of PokeTrainers have thrown in the towel, but I am still into Pokemon Go — like really, really into it, to an almost embarrassing extent. Stephen came home from work the other day and asked me why I was so happy.

“There’s been a nest migration,” I told him. “Green Park is teeming with Charmanders. I can’t wait to go tomorrow!”

He laughed. “I wish I had something that made me as happy as Pokemon Go makes you,” he said. Yes, it is embarrassing that I am a grown woman running around catching imaginary monsters on her phone, but it makes me happy. And I think Stephen secretly likes the game too. He downloaded it when it first came out, but never got into it. Now every night he asks me to see my Pokemon and asks me how many more candies I need to get a Charizard and Dragonite. Perhaps he’s just being nice and acting interested in my interests, but even if that’s the case, that’s nice too.

This past weekend we went to lunch in Soho, then walked up to Tottenham Court Road to go sofa shopping. When we left the store I asked how we were getting home.

“We can walk a little bit,” he said. “You have to get more Charmanders, right?” So we walked all the way from Oxford Street through St. James Park to Green Park. To those of you who don’t know London, that’s about 3 miles of walking (after we had already walked a mile to the furniture store and ran 4 miles in the morning). As we got closer to Green Park, I opened up Go Radar for the first time. For over 3 months now I have been playing Pokemon Go without the help of any trackers or radars — it felt like cheating and I heard you could get banned for using some of them. But then I was in Jubilee Gardens the other day and a wild Snorlax appeared (a very, very rare, very, very good Pokemon), but it disappeared before I got a chance to click on it. I couldn’t let that happen again. I also need to up my roster if I’m going to have a chance in the Pokemon gym scene. So I downloaded the radar app, which tells you where and when certain Pokemon spawn, but it only seems to work in a very small area of London, so I don’t feel too bad about cheating since most of the time I’m still playing the game blind. The radar app told me there were 5 Charmander in Green Park. Even Stephen got a little excited when I caught the first one. But after 20 minutes of chasing little red dinosaurs up and down the park, he was done. I caught 7 Charmanders before we made our way to the bus stop.

“Next time you’re coming by yourself,” Stephen said.

And so I did. This afternoon I ran to Green Park again, because it’s not a childish waste of your time if you’re getting exercise whilst doing it, right? And just as the park was teeming with Charmanders, it was teeming with Pokemon Go players of all ages. I saw everyone from parents playing with their children to businessmen on their lunch break. It was the most crowded I’ve seen Green Park, the wimpiest of the Royal Parks, in years. This Charmander nest is bringing in people from all over the UK and getting everyone out and active. Well done, whoever is in charge of Pokemon nest migration!

green-park-charmander

I ran around the park for a half hour until I caught 14 Charmander and had enough candy to evolve one into a Charizard. Starting tomorrow, Pokemon Go is having a Halloween promotion where you get extra candy for every Pokemon you catch or hatch. That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t play (in fact if you don’t play, I’m impressed you made it this far in this post), but it’s a really big deal. If Green Park was crowded today, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like tomorrow. I guess I’ll just have to see, because of course I’m going to have to go back, there’s no such thing as too many Charmanders!

charmander pokemon snap gif.gif

(Remember Pokemon Snap?)

member-berries

The Fitbit superglue conundrum

10 Oct

The other day my Fitbit Charge HR fell to bits. It’s been hanging on by a thread for the past few months, but it finally said “enough!” when I tried to plug it in to charge it.

broken fitbit charge hr.png

I had planned to spend the afternoon working and was feeling particularly productive. But when I could not charge my Fitbit nor press the side button because it had fallen off, everything else took a backseat. One of my previous Fitbits had fallen apart before and I was able to salvage it with superglue. I rummaged through my cabinets, only to find the superglue had dried up. I switched my sweatpants for jeans and hurried next door to the little overpriced hardware store that had somehow replaced the always-crowded laundromat where I used to wash my duvet. I even took the lift down instead of the stairs, because why take the stairs and get exercise when your Fitbit isn’t counting it? I still swung my arm on the walk there out of habit though. Overpriced superglue in hand, I went back to finish my mission. I carefully practiced how I would place the tiny bits of plastic, then applied the glue. Mindful not to superglue my fingers together or to the plastic, I held the pieces in place for a few seconds. Success! I thought. I still need to buy a new Fitbit, but I could wait another month and have my parents bring me one from the US.

I placed my Charge HR back on my wrist, ready to get back to work, only to remember I got into this whole debacle because it needed to be charged. So I went back to my computer and tried to plug it in. The charging cable would not connect.

I had filled the charging hole with superglue.

I googled “how to remove superglue,” which was a purple link because I had obviously searched this before. The answer was acetone. So I got out my nail polish remover, some cotton buds, and a needle and frantically started scraping at the hole. Slowly bits of glue came off, but no matter how much I scraped, I couldn’t get the cable to connect. I had fixed my Fitbit, but it would only work for another day or so on low battery. After more time than I’d like to admit, I was able to get the cable to connect, but it would only charge if I held it in with both hands.

The next thing I googled: “Where to buy Charge 2 UK.”

charge hr charge 2.png

Fitbit Charge HR on the left, Fitbit Charge 2 on the right

The only thing good that came out of this time-wasting situation is that I got the cool new Fitbit Charge 2 the next day, and thanks to the falling value of the pound, I paid about the same as I would if I bought it in the US.

And I learned never to underestimate the watery nature of superglue.

China Impressions: Road Trip Snacks

5 Oct

My first Chinese road trip occurred during my first trip to China back in 2009. Stephen’s family drove us to Chengdu so I could achieve my panda dream. This was also my first experience with Chinese road trip snacks. When we got in the car, Stephen’s cousin passed us a bag of snacks, which consisted entirely of fruit — mini bananas, pears, lychee and mangosteen. Some of my favorite fruit, but not the easiest to eat in the car. Growing up, my dad always took pride in our cars. It was the greatest compliment when my friends would get in and tell him our years-old van still looked and smelled brand new. Fresh lychee is not readily available in the U.S., but if it were, we would never be allowed to take it in the car. I can hear my dad’s voice now — “It’s sticky and you’ll get shells and seeds all over!” But that, in a nutshell, seems to be the requirement for Chinese road trip snacks: sticky, shells and seeds.

This month we were in China briefly for a friend’s wedding. The ceremony and reception were held at a resort in a quiet mountain town about 3 hours outside of Shanghai, so the bride and groom kindly rented a big bus to take all their out-of-town guests there. I was prepared to “hold it” the whole way — it was a previous Chinese road trip that enabled me to set my 7 hours “hold it” record (I do not recommend this). I have taken many Chinese road trips, but since I assumed there’d be nothing but squatters, I have never been inside a Chinese rest stop. Until now.

I was pleased to find one handicap sit-down toilet in a sea of squatters (did I set that 7-hour record for nothing?!). While I was in the loo, Stephen hit up the fruit stall — that’s what they have at Chinese rest stops, fruit stalls. When I emerged, he greeted me with a bag of bananas and lotus pods. Members of our group gathered round as I broke the pod open and popped a seed into my mouth.

lotus fruit.jpg

“Oh god, this is horrible!” I said through muffled attempts to spit it out. Turns out you’re supposed to remove the bitter green shell before you eat it. If you do that the seeds are actually tasty.

Just then the bride came over and handed me what I thought was a souvenir relic from the Ming dynasty.

water-caltrop

“Try it,” she said. “It’s good, it tastes like a potato.”

water caltrop open.JPG

It was indeed good and potato-like, but I had no idea what it was. I meant to google “Chinese fruit or vegetable that looks like Satan’s mustache” when I got home, but I didn’t need to. An image of one happened to pop up on Reddit the other day. Turns out it’s a water caltrop, a type of water chestnut — those crunchy bits you see in tins or at the stir fry bar. Who knew they had such ominous exteriors.

water-chestnut-can

Stephen returned to our little group with a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts (cue The Christmas Song). I’m not sure I’ve ever had freshly roasted chestnuts, but they were delicious, and in true Chinese road trip food form, difficult to open and sticky. At least the stall gave us an extra bag to put the shells.

Once back on the bus, everyone shared some of their treasures. One guy went down the aisle passing out sweet potatoes — piping hot, gooey, delicious whole sweet potatoes.

“Why did you buy a whole bag of sweet potatoes?” I asked him.

“Because sweet potatoes are awesome!” he replied. Touche.

So if you’re keeping tally, my Chinese rest stop road trip snacks consisted of a banana, lotus seeds, chestnuts, water chestnuts and a sweet potato.

When we couldn’t possibly eat another chestnut, we passed the bag through the bus, while other snacks came to us. I passed on the bag of dried squid, but grabbed a handful of the next thing that came by.

“Ooo, are these prawn crisps?” I asked.

“Did you just say prawn crisps?” the guy across from me asked, faking an English accent. “They’re obviously shrimp chips!”

My accent might say “American,” but apparently I’ve become more British than I thought.

On our way back to Shanghai 2 days later our bus stopped at the same rest stop. It was around 7pm, so instead of just snacks, we needed to eat something more substantial and dinner-like.

“So tell us, what can we eat here that won’t give us diarrhea?” one of the American guys whispered to Stephen. His advice was to get something hot and cooked, preferably not with meat. There were stalls selling rice balls filled with pork and salty egg, all kinds of tofu, ice cream, corn on the cob, and crepe-like sandwiches. We settled on the crepe-like thing filled with egg, spam and ketchup. It was surprisingly delicious despite how I described it, and we didn’t get sick from it either. On the way out we popped into the only store somewhat reminiscent of an American rest stop filled with packaged snacks like chips and candy. A bag of honey-flavored potato chips caught my eye because I remembered reading an article about Korean honey chip hysteria. I was so excited to try them. They were just OK — better if you thought of them as really thin biscuits/cookies instead of potato chips since they were so sweet. I later realized the popular chips are “honey butter” flavored, not just honey, so I probably bought some cheap rip off Korean chip. I guess I’ll have to go to Korea someday to try the real thing.

Though Chinese road trip snacks are some of the most inconvenient things to eat with their sticky shells, seeds and skins, they are also some of the healthiest. While I don’t see sweet potatoes, lotus and chestnuts coming to an American Flying J truck stop soon, it would be nice to have some options besides McDonalds, chips and candy on my next Megabus ride.

For more in my China Impressions series, click here.

Half marathon aftermath

28 Sep

If the shiny new medal and T-shirt didn’t give it away, you could easily tell who just ran the Richmond Marathon or Half by the way they were climbing the Tube stairs. I should have anticipated it, but nobody told me just how much running a half HURTS. Not so much during — I’m actually surprised by my lack of blisters — but after. Oh, after. It didn’t really hit me until after I got home, took a shower, went to Chinatown to stuff my face with dim sum, then came back and took a nap. When I woke up from that nap I couldn’t move. Everything hurt. It hurt to stand up, to walk, to sit on the toilet, to bend my knees, to straighten them.

everything hurts running.gif
“My knees hurt so bad,” I remember some girl saying right after the race. “Oh my god, is this what it feels like to be old?” If that’s true, I am not looking forward to it one bit. Stephen couldn’t help but laugh at the way I was hobbling around.

“I can’t even complain,” I said. “I totally did this to myself.”

The best way I can describe the pain is jetlag mixed with the flu — the kind of flu where your whole body just aches. I felt tired and exhausted, but not sleepy. I just laid in bed staring into space. I didn’t have the energy to work or even to browse Facebook on my phone. It took everything I had just to put frozen chicken wings into the oven for dinner. And about that — I’m realizing now that I probably should have taken post-run nutrition a little more seriously. I went the “I just burned 1,200 calories and am gonna eat all the bad things!” route instead of “I’m going to fill my body up with goods things to help it heal.” The dim sum, chicken wings, and cake could have been another reason I felt like crap. Eventually I was able to pass out and after 9 hours of sleep I felt much better. I was still sore, but it was a functioning sore. I definitely took the bus to my hair appointment instead of walking 2 miles though.

We went to China a couple days later, because there’s nothing better for sore knees than cramming them in an economy plane seat for 12 hours. Though I was feeling better by then. We were only there for a few days for a friend’s wedding. It’s funny that pre-race me was debating whether I wanted to bring my running gear on the trip. It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be too sore to even think about hopping on a treadmill! Today was my first day back running after 9 days off. I took it slow with lots of walking and Pokemon breaks, but it felt good. Though it’s nice to have a goal you’re training towards, it’s also nice just to run for the sake of running (and hatching Pokemon eggs, of course).

map my run half.png