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Adult snow day

12 Feb

At 8 this morning our doorbell didn’t ring. Chris, one of our builders, is never late. I’m convinced he comes 10 minutes early and smokes outside so he can be upstairs at exactly 8 am. One time he even rang at 7:59 am. But not this morning. At 8:13am our contractor called. He hurt his back, Andy the other builder has a prior commitment, so none of the guys were going to come in today.

And just like that I have an adult snow day.

And just like a childhood snow day, it would have been nice to know the night prior so I could sleep in, but I still have a whole free day ahead of me.

It could be just like old times! I can run in the afternoon daylight instead of at dusk! I can work from my bed instead of from the home office desk! I could see a play, or maybe go shopping, and not have to be back at 4 pm when the builders leave. I could even go back to sleep!

But what did I do? I made myself a cup of tea, as I have been every morning since the builders started a month ago, and took it into the home office. Because I’m a creature of habit, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m a lot more productive at this desk than I am in bed.

The guys have been making progress and our living room is looking more and more majestic. On Friday I asked them how much longer they thought everything would take.

Their response?

Two weeks.

money pit yelling

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Two weeks

27 Jan

Two weeks ago when I told my mom our builders would be working on our reception room renovations for two weeks she sent me a compilation video from The Money Pit.

“Haha,” I replied.

But I knew our situation would be different. It really would only take 2 weeks — heck, judging by the speed with which they removed the old cornice, frieze and fireplace, it could take even less!

And then the cornice and ceiling decorations actually arrived. And it turns out getting an ornately patterned cornice to match up in a room that’s not a complete square, or even a proper rectangle (apparently one wall is 3 cm longer than the other (?!), is really difficult. So that one-day job turned into a four-day job, because we had to order an extra piece.

Then it was time to tackle the decorative ceiling.

“We’ll get the whole ceiling done on Friday!” one of the builders told me. And then they unwrapped the plaster mouldings and realized the pattern didn’t match up. So I had to call the manufacturer, who insisted it was not a problem, but they finally agreed to send one of their installers on Monday to help our builders.

Once the ceiling is done, they have to do the decorative molding on the walls. And install the new fireplace. And paint everything. And then we decided, hey, let’s get some floor tiles and do that too!

“Two weeks.” Haha! Two weeks! I’ll honestly be happy if we get all this done in two months.

I wasn’t sure what it would be like having strangers working in my home all day. I thought the noise would be the most troublesome part, but it hasn’t been bad at all. The worst part is having to wake up early and adjust my whole routine. Since my bedroom is right off the living room where they’re working, I spend the whole day on the other side of the flat in our office/guest room. I can’t walk around the flat to get Fitbit steps because there’s hardly an inch of space not covered in decorations, furniture or equipment. I have to do my work at Stephen’s desk like an actual working person, because the guest bed is covered in a giant slab of decorative plaster. I can’t run during the day like I usually do, I have to wait until the guys leave, which is always when it’s dark. Running in the dark is the worst. I have to eat all my meals earlier than I normally would, because I have to go to bed earlier to wake up earlier.

I keep telling myself it’ll all be worth it when we have a majestic reception room. But having space and a flexible schedule is like being healthy — you take it for granted until suddenly you’re sick, or everything in your flat is covered in a thin layer of plaster dust and you can’t walk two feet without bumping into a decoration.

Everything is covered in dust and my lungs are full of plaster: flat renovation 2018

17 Jan

When we moved into this flat over a year ago we immediately started planning how we were going to renovated it. We were going to get rid of the ugly wallpaper in the bedroom and the ugly floor in the kitchen. We were going to add more kitchen cabinets. We were going to remove the cornice and frieze from the reception room and add more majestic ones, complete with ceiling decorations that made it look nicer than a room at Buckingham Palace. New Year’s Eve 2016 we were showing our friends possible designs, musing how much better our living room would look this time next year.

And then life happened. Stephen got caught up with work, we struggled to find a reliable builder for a reasonable price, and, mostly, we got lazy. This is why people do renovations before they move into the property. Because once your furniture is set and everything is unpacked, the thought of moving everything around and living in what feels like a war zone does not sound appealing.

But we’re finally doing it. Last weekend just the two of us moved all the living room furniture into other rooms in the flat and laid down carpet underlay to protect the wood floor. Then the builders came yesterday and removed all the cornicing, creating a dust storm to rival those in the Sahara. They made a makeshift plastic curtain to block off the living room, and we made a makeshift plastic curtain out of recycling bags to block off the hallway, plus we closed the kitchen door, and yet my kitchen countertops are covered in plaster dust. I was working in the second bedroom down the hall — the farthest room possible from the living room — and started to notice dust coming in under the door. Then I realized it was on the desk. And in my hair. And in my drink. And (likely) in my eyes and lungs. I thought the noise would be the worst part of the demolition, so when I realized it was tolerable, I decided to stay instead of going to a cafe. I didn’t even think about the dust!

I asked one of the builders if it was bad for us to be breathing in this plaster dust all day.

“Um, we do this every day,” he replied with a smile and a shrug, which now that I think about it, isn’t really an answer. They wore masks during the demolition, but took them off when they were cleaning up and the dust was settling. I probably should have worn one too while I was working. Or, you know, left the flat for the entire day like a wise person would.

The loud and dusty part is over (I think), but this week is probably a good time to catch a West End matinee and get out of the house. I may have complained a little to Stephen that working from home means I have to deal with all the renovations while he gets to escape to the office. His response? “You’re the one that will get to enjoy the finished product while I’m always at work.” Touche.

dusty gif.gif

A look back on 2017

5 Jan

And just like that, it’s 2018. 2017 really flew by, so I figured I’d pull myself out of this jetlag fog to remember all the things I did last year.

-I became an expert in cholesterol and became obsessed with lowering mine, only to find its genetic and there’s not much I can do
-I got to meet Cherry, my parents’ new Chihuahua-corgi rescue, and promptly fell in love with her (The amount of photos of her butt alone that I have on my phone is probably cause for concern)
-I got to see my Chicago and Milwaukee friends twice
-I ran a 5K race in under 30 minutes and completely wiped out in a 10K race and still finished in under an hour
-I got to see my favorite band Over the Rhine twice, once at their farm and once in Over the Rhine
-I saw Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical twice from the front row
-I finally visited Greenwich
-Stephen and I had an epic holiday in Prague, Budapest and Tuscany
-We finally visited the Buckingham Palace state rooms
-I road a camel
-I got to meet my best friend’s daughter at the hospital a day after she was born
-I reached level 38 in Pokemon Go and still continue to play every day
-I saw Hamilton in Chicago
-I saw 16 West End shows, smashing previous years’ record of 9
-I became pescetarian in September and kept with it aside from a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving
-We rang in the New Year with new friends and a killer fireworks display in London

I don’t like to make formal New Year’s Resolutions, but there are some things I’d like to focus on in 2018. I’d like to continue my pescetarian diet at least until my next cholesterol test, just to see if it’s making any difference. Though to be honest, I don’t really miss meat that much. I think I’d also like to have another go at a half marathon this year, either the Flying Pig in Cincinnati or the Royal Parks Half in London (if I can manage to secure a ballot spot! Third time’s the charm, right?). On the hobby front, I’d like to pursue calligraphy and lettering more. I got into it a bit last year, but I got some nice pens and paper for my birthday this year that make me want to do it more. They say you should have at least 3 hobbies — one to keep you healthy, one that allows you to be creative, and one that makes you money. At least I’ve got the first two down! (Does writing and editing count as a money-making hobby if it’s your job?)

Here’s to a great 2018 — may I not spend the entirety of it jet lagged! (I’ve been back in London 6 days now and it’s starting to feel like I just might)

doug the pug new year

How is it mid-November already?

17 Nov

Is it just me, or does the time between the end of August and Thanksgiving go by in about 10 minutes? I swear we were just getting back from our summer holiday, and now I’m looking at the massive amount of Christmas presents I’ve purchased over the past few weeks and am wondering how I’m going to fit them all in my suitcase when I head back to the U.S. on Tuesday. I’m seriously contemplating not packing any clothing — I have a closet full of sweaters at my parents’, and we already have plans to hit the outlet mall on Black Friday. The only thing I need to bring is running clothes for the Thanksgiving 10K. I keep checking the Thanksgiving Day forecast for Cincinnati hoping for it to warm up. It has changed from snow to rain to sun, so we’re headed in the right direction, but my body is definitely not used to running in freezing temperatures. A PR would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve trained enough for one, so I may have to settle with just finishing.

I was hoping to fit in one more West End show before my trip back, but I couldn’t manage to score lottery tickets to see Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) in Venus in Fur and didn’t want to see it badly enough to queue for day seats. I only managed 3 day seat queues this year, which is impressive considering I saw 16 shows. I finally got out of the 9 shows a year slump! 16 is a nice even number to go out on, and is setting the bar high for next year. And while I may be done with London shows for 2017, I’m not done with theatre for the year — my friend and I got tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago next month! We’ll see if it lives up to the hype (and believe me, at the insane ticket price and the non-stop “OMG HAMILTON!!” on social media, my expectations are sky high).

As per tradition, I walked around Oxford Street yesterday to take in all the Christmas lights. It’s the same display they had last year (and possibly every year), which is beautiful, but like most things in life, would be even more beautiful if there weren’t so many people everywhere. I was particularly intrigued by the conversation this couple walking next to me was having.

“Look how impressive this is now, just imagine how it will look once they turn the lights on!” the guy said to his girlfriend.

I did not take any photos of the Oxford Street lights, so I’ll post one from Time Out.

oxford st lights

That’s what the street looked like. As the American saying goes, “It was lit up like the 4th of July.” From the stores to the hanging bulbs above the street, the whole area was awash in light. No bulb remained unlit.

What was he talking about?!

He kept repeating it too. “It’s gonna look so cool with all the lights on!”

“All the lights are on, you nitwit!” I wanted to shout.

Perhaps he was confusing Oxford Street with Regent Street. Oxford Street turned their lights on on November 7, while Regent Street waited until yesterday. I walked down Regent Street in the early evening yesterday and the lights weren’t on yet, and it was very obvious to tell. I’m not sure what additional lights he was hoping would be turned on on Oxford Street. He certainly needed to turn on the light in his head.

I’m getting old and may be losing my mind

30 Oct

pug sleepingI completely forgot about the time change yesterday. I don’t mean I woke up, saw the time on my phone and clock were different and got confused, I mean I woke up, went about my day as normal, and it was only when we were at lunch with friends and one of them mentioned the time change that I found out about it.

“You mean I lost an hour of sleep without even knowing it?” I exclaimed.

“No. You got an extra hour of sleep without knowing it,” our friend clarified.

When I lamented my misstep to my mom over text, she said I’m either getting old or lead a relaxing life with no time restrictions. It’s probably a bit of both. Though it’s because my phone and Fitbit automatically adjusted that I didn’t realize the change, and was not an hour early to lunch. Back in the day there were always a handful of people who showed up an hour late or early to church or other events on the Sunday after the time change. Now, thanks to technology, we can completely forget about the time change and not be all that affected.

I am getting old, though. The other day I had a “senior moment” in Tesco. I brought my shopping trolley because I was planning on buying some heavy items. I wheeled it around the store in one hand, and wheeled a shopping basket in the other. When it was time to checkout, I got in the queue and figured I should remove my tote bag from my trolley to make it easier to pack. Then panic struck. Where was my trolley? It was gone. I was only wheeling my shopping basket. Had I even brought it with me? Yes, I remembered wheeling it into the store. But where did it go? I jumped out of the queue and ran through every aisle. Luckily even the bigger Tesco Metros are still tiny compared to an American supermarket, and I only had to gaze down 4 aisles before I saw my trolley abandoned by the bananas. I had absolutely no recollection of leaving it there. Aren’t I too young for “sometimers” moments? The only thing I can think is that muscle memory kicked in — since I wheeled the trolley all the way to the store, my body was used to wheeling something behind me in one hand, so when I wheeled my shopping basket around, that felt like the trolley. It does feel unnatural to wheel things in each hand, which is what I have to do with a trolley and basket.

If getting older means experiencing more and more of these moments, I am not looking forward to it!

Another day seat queue character

13 Oct

ink play londonOf the record-breaking(!) 14 shows I’ve seen in London this year, I surprisingly only got day seats for 2 of them. So I was due for a good queue.

I decided to see Ink, a new play about Rupert Murdoch and The Sun newspaper, because I feel like I don’t know enough about the London newspaper scene, and it was a transfer from the Almeida Theatre, and every Almeida West End transfer I’ve seen has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The play has been getting rave reviews, but it doesn’t seem to be extraordinarily popular, so I arrived at the theatre 30 minutes before the box office opened. There were only a handful of people queuing. I proceeded to kill time on my phone until the character arrived. Every day seat queue seems to have a character.

This one was a full-blooded New Yorker who would have been a prime contestant on a Buzzfeed “Homeless Man or Aging Hippie?” quiz. He wore a tie-dye Bob Dylan T-shirt, an “Impeach Trump” button on his hat, had a scraggly beard and walked with a cane. And he was a talker, as only Americans can be. Every once in a while queuers will strike up conversation, but most keep to their phones, books, magazines, or even use their laptop whilst standing up like the guy in front of me. But this character wanted to talk and he didn’t particularly care who wanted to listen. The Australian woman in front of him wasn’t biting, so he tried the man next to me. He was properly British, giving polite responses and appeasing the character, but I could tell he’d much rather be reading the magazine in his hand.

“So how does this work?” the character asked to no one in particular. I wanted to say, “What do you mean how does this work? Are you so New York that you just saw a line of people and decided you must queue?” (Wait, New Yorkers don’t say “queue” or even “wait in line.” They wait “on line.” And yes, that scene about New Yorkers waiting on line from The Gilmore Girls reboot is still fresh in my mind.) He lamented about how he must have an aisle seat, but doesn’t want to spend too much money. Eventually I couldn’t handle it anymore and had to jump in.

“Front row day seats are £15,” I said. And just like that I was roped in. Luckily the box office doors had just opened, but there was only one window and each transaction seemed to last 5 minutes, so I had plenty of time to hear about why I absolutely must see Bob Dylan live, what it was like to see Anthony Hopkins play King Leer at the National Theatre back in 1986, and how badly the Bengals are playing this year. By the time we got to U.S. politics, it was my turn to buy my ticket.

“See you later, Cincinnati!” the character called out after me when I left. I smiled, thinking I would never see the guy again, but sure enough there he was on the aisle, 3 seats away from me at the matinee. Though he didn’t seem to recognize me with makeup on and my hair down as I crawled over him to get to my seat, so the poor English guy next to him had to hear all about his thoughts on how Rupert Murdoch ruined the New York Post.

At the interval I jumped up to use the ladies room, but because I was sitting front row center and there was little leg room, I wasn’t able to bolt there first like I normally do. So I had to queue. There were only 4 stalls, so naturally it was a long queue. In fact, it somehow became two queues, as women poured in from both sides. An outspoken American (of course!) devised a plan.

“We will merge just like we’re on the highway,” she announced. “One person from this line, then one person from your line.” Everyone within earshot agreed, and for a while the merging technique worked surprisingly well. Until a lady from the other queue got talking with her back to us, and so no one from her queue was moving, so my queue slowly became the main queue. An American woman 5 people behind me apparently did not see this occur, and jumped in front of the woman behind me.

“I’m sorry, what are you doing?” the British woman behind me asked her politely.

“We’re merging, isn’t that what we’re doing?” The American woman said, rather hostilely.

“Yes, we were, but you were behind me. We’ve all been waiting much longer than you have.” She smiled and continued to be incredibly polite. The American woman realized her mistake, but in typical American fashion, was not about to admit it. She jumped back a few people in the queue.

“Is this OK?” she said with an attitude. The British lady smiled again. “As long as you’re behind me.”

“Whatever” the American woman muttered under her breath.

It would be hard to make up a more stereotypical exchange between the two cultures if I tried!

Besides that little bathroom kerfuffle, the show was excellent. My seat was so good I had fake money thrown at me (of course I saved one of the notes!) and was even splattered a bit with ink. (It was only when I got home that I realized it was on my face. Good thing I was wearing dark colors!) The world of London newspapers during the 1960s is a fascinating one, but watching the show made me glad I’m no longer in that industry.