Friday, November 25, 2011


You know those very important guests I mentioned yesterday?  The ones who are flying through the night and across the world to come visit?  The ones who gave me the gift of life (and my sister)?  Yeah, we left them at the airport for four hours this morning.  Oops.

There was some sort of mix-up with the itinerary so Dan and I thought they got in at 12:15pm.  They actually got in at 7:00am.  That's a big difference, especially when the airport is 1.5 hours from my house.  Dan's on his way to pick them up now.  Hopefully this is the worst part of their trip and it's all uphill from here.  I mean, it can't get much worse, right?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mini House Tour

I've been promising pictures of the house for weeks, but until recently I just couldn't face having my mess displayed so publicly.  The house is finally starting to feel like home though so here is a little mini tour.   

First, here's a before of our living room.  The previous tenants had a live-in nanny who used the living room as her bedroom. 

Living room before
Living room before

Here's our in-progress living room.  We've done a lot already, but still have a way to go.  We bought a new couch and hung our TV on the fireplace.  I'll write more about that another time.  Let's just say it was a huge hassle and we had to bring in some experts.  But it was totally worth it.

Living room in progress
Living room in progress

We have very important guests arriving tomorrow (!!), and their rooms are all ready to go.   Here's our small guest room where my awesome sister will be staying:

And here's the bigger room where my mom and dad will stay.  Both rooms have amazing views of the garden.

And here's our garden.  I absolutely love looking out to this every day.

That's all for now.  I'll show you the rest of the house another time.  Right now I need to finish getting the house ready for my family!  They'll be here in only a few hours!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not Quite Right

At the gym on base there is a workout incentive program.  For every five times you work out for more than 30 minutes, you are entered into a monthly raffle for a free massage.  Guess what?  I was the October winner!  Yay me!

I collected my prize yesterday, and I have to say that it was just not quite right.  First of all, the massage took place in the gym in a small room off to the side.  The massage table was a hard and plastic with paper from a doctor's office laid on top. There were two towels on top of the paper.  I was instructed to take off my clothes, unhook my bra and tuck the towel into my bottoms.  Then, with all of the lights on, the "masseur" started his work. 

I'm not sure he has any actual massage qualifications; he's a boxing instructor. That said, he did a nice job, but it was just to hard to relax while my cheeks were being bruised by the plastic table.  Let's just say I'm glad it was free.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Have you seen the show Hoarders on A&E?  It's all about people who collect so much stuff in their house that it impedes their ability to live well.  If producers from that show saw my garage right now, they might stage an intervention.

Fortunately, this is just temporary; these are all of the boxes from our move.  In fact, we're already started getting rid of them.  Right around the corner from us is a huge recycling/waste center.  I've never seen anything like it back home.  It is a huge parking lot filled with dumpsters.  Each dumpster is labeled with a type of waste, e.g. "cardboard," "motor oil," "garden waste," "florescent lights." 

We've gotten rid of two car-loads already and probably only have one left.  Sorry A&E.  You'll have to find a different family to profile :)

My Favorite Home Decor Store

There's this great little home decor shop that seems to have everything I love!  Tons of art work that is just my style, beautiful vases, and even family portraits that already have my picture in it.  And I don't even have to leave my house to go shopping.  So handy!

Conservatory/home decor shop

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Organized

Today marks the one-month anniversary of moving in to our new place!  And no, I still haven't shown you pictures yet.  I know, I know...I'm getting to it. 

Slowly but surely the place is really starting to feel like home.  We've unpacked everything and are now just trying to find places for our stuff to go.  We haven't done any decorating yet, but everything is nicely laid out in our conservatory waiting for me.  It's kind of like my own decor shop. 

One of the first things we had to do in the house is figure out a clothes storage system.  Like most British houses, our abode does not come with too many closets.  We're incredibly fortunate to have built-in storage in the kitchen, and we have a big closet in the guest bedroom, but there is no closet in the master bedroom.  Since we have a surplus of rooms (I know, poor us), we decided to turn the smallest bedroom into a dressing room.

In a huge blogging faux pas, I do not have any "before" pictures of the room, but you can imagine it, right?  It was a tiny room that was barely big enough for a crib and changing table, which is what the last tenants used it for.   It does have a gorgeous window that lets in tons of light and 10 foot ceilings though!  Yay for old houses with character!

In order to make our closet come to life, we purchased a clothes organizing system from closet maid.  Dan and I then put it together and drilled it into the wall.  The drilling was mostly Dan.  Here's the during:

 And here's the after:

We still have some work to do in this room.  I need to add some sort of low table to store my jewelery and makeup, and I'd like to add some artwork.  But for now, these shelves have added an incredible amount of storage and function to this room. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Weekend in Dublin!

Over Veteran's Day, Dan and I, along with two friends, sneaked off for a long weekend in Dublin.  We left at a ridiculously early time on Thursday morning and stayed until really late on Sunday night.  It was a perfect amount of time.

One of the best things about living over here is how inexpensive it is to travel.  Our flights from Manchester to Dublin only cost around $70/person!  Thank goodness for Ryan Air!  The only downside to Ryan Air is their really strict carry-on policy.  The only allow one carry-on period.  That means only a bag.  No purse, no jacket in your hand, no bottle of water or sandwich for the plane.  Only what is physically on your body and one item.  And they come around with a little cardboard box to make sure that your one item fits their size restrictions.  If it doesn't, you have to pay £40!

Luckily, I am an excellent packer :)  Here's what I packed for our four day trip.  Inside the bag I have my big purse, a guidebook, two pairs of shoes, enough shirts for two a day and several other items.  That's my friend Brandon's bag next to mine to help you compare.

We had two and a half days in the city, and we spent another day driving outside city limits to Kilkenny  and Cashel.  Kilkenny is an adorable little town where Kilkenny beer originated.  There's a great castle and a few beautiful cathedrals and abbeys.

Kilkenny Castle
St. Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny
Cashel was gorgeous too.  The Rock of Cashel is the main highlight and it was definitely worth the trip.

Rock of Cashel
Rock of Cashel at sunset
We were able to see a lot of Dublin too.  We went to see the Kilmainham Gaol, the book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublinia museum, Christchurch Cathedral, the national museum, and of course the Guinness Museum and Jameson Distillery.  Everything was so interesting, but I was most surprised by the Guinness Museum.  It was really well done and very interactive.  And, it turns out that the beer tastes different here.  It has something to do with the chemicals they use to when serving it in a bar.  I like it much better here!

Overall, we had an action-packed few days.  And, we were blessed with some great weather for at least half of the trip.  Here are some of the highlights:

Enjoying an Irish Hot Chocolate (with Baileys)

Downtown Dublin

Great dinner with great friends

How Many Ladies of Leisure Does it Take to Build a Bed?

I promise that not all of my posts will be IKEA related.  But this one is.  So, how many ladies of leisure does it take to build a bed?  Apparently more than two. 

My friend Susan and I attempted to build my new guest bed.  Three and a half hours later and we still didn't even have a complete frame! 

In the optimistic

Making progress!

Still going OK

3 1/2 hours in...not good
That's as far as we got that day.  I'm going back today to try and tackle more of it.  Hopefully I can finish it in time for my parents to sleep in it next week.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ok, IKEA's Not So Bad

So even though I ranted and raved about my nightmare experience at IKEA this weekend, I do have to say I am very impressed with their delivery team.  I assumed that it would take weeks to get my items, but instead, I got them in two days!  And I would have gotten them the next day if we had dropped off the items for delivery before 5.  That's amazing!

My friend Rachel and I put together the couch yesterday.  Here's how it went down:

I am so happy with the way the couch turned out!  It's the perfect color; it's a really great charcoal-blue...almost like a dark-wash denim.  The shape is perfect; I love that we have a chaise lounge now!  And so far (one day in) it's really comfortable.  I have big plans for the couch's legs though.  I want to copy the Petersiks from Young House Love and spray paint the legs a dark metallic color.

In the meantime, this is one more item checked off my list.  I know I owe you a post about the new house.  I'll get there one day.  I promise :)

Why I Missed Bonfire Night...Or IKEA Sucks

Our new house is much bigger than our house in DC, so we needed to buy a couple of pieces of furniture.  The main things we needed were a couch (since we gave ours to my sister), an office desk chair, another guest bed, a kitchen table, a coffee table, and two night stands.  After searching a bunch of different furniture stores, we found a couch, bed and office chair that we really liked at IKEA.  If only it were as simple as seeing them and then buying them...

The Value Added Tax (VAT) is something that all Brits know and hate.  It's a 20% tax (similar to our sales tax) that is added to pretty much everything.  I am fortunate enough to be able to avoid paying VAT on some large purchases, and since these were kind of major purchases, we definitely wanted to save ourselves the 20%.  Getting the VAT discount is a hassle though.  I'll save you all the boring details and skip to the good/incredibly frustrating part.

This Saturday Dan and I arrived at IKEA with our check from the VAT office made out to IKEA in the exact amount of our purchases (minus VAT).  It was November 5th, or Guy Fawkes night and we had big plans to attend our first bonfire on the Stray in downtown Harrogate with a bunch of friends.  We really thought the whole IKEA process should take an hour at most.  That would give us plenty of time to get back home in time for the party.  That is NOT what happened.

Instead, it turned into a three hour nightmare!  Apparently, IKEA is trying to phase out checks, so no one knew what to do with ours.   We had every manager try and figure it out.  It literally took hours.  Luckily we had an awesome cashier who was really patient and willing to help (thanks Hannah!).

Hannah rocked!

That wasn't even the only problem.  In the midst of trying to figure out the check issue, we were told that even though we were having our items delivered, we still needed to get everything off the shelves of the warehouse and then bring them to the delivery window.  What?!  We're supposed to haul a huge mattress, sofa, bed frame, etc. through the store only so we can drop it off for them to deliver?!  Apparently, yes.  That's the way it works.

Where's Calli? Stuck in an  IKEA nightmare.

So...after three incredibly long hours at IKEA, we were finally done.  Sadly, we missed the fireworks and bonfires.  But at least our house is coming together nicely.  Here's hoping we make it to Guy Fawkes night next year!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Job Hunting...Or Lack Thereof

An interesting thing has happened over the last few weeks.  My desire to be a full-time worker has really diminished.  It hasn't gone away completely, but I am much less panicked about finding a job than I was when I first got here.  I think a few things are contributing to this monumental shift. 

First, there are no jobs here.  It's really hard to keep pounding the pavement when there just aren't available positions.  Now, when I say that there aren't any jobs here, I am referring to both jobs where Dan works (which is my preferred location by far), and jobs "on the economy" (or in Harrogate or Leeds).   I went to a job fair that was organized by Dan's work.  There were around fifteen guest speakers lined up, each from a different part of the base.  My friend Susan and I decided around two speeches in that we were going to turn it into a drinking game.  For every speaker that said "there are no jobs available in the foreseeable future," we would take a shot.  We got to 15 by the end of the two hour session.

A job recently came up on base though, so of course I applied for it.  It was a part-time librarian's job.  Nothing too exciting, but it would keep me busy.  Around 100 other people applied for this job, and I wasn't even given an interview.  Crazy!  That's how competitive jobs are here though.  Only one or two come up every few months (if that), so when they do open up, a ton of people are all vying for it.

Jobs on the economy aren't much better.  I spoke to a recruiter about different possibilities for someone with my background and experience.  He said that for every one position available, more than 200 people apply!  It isn't a stretch of the imagination to see how a company would choose a British person over me when they have that kind of talent pool.  Why would they pick someone who they know is definitely going to leave?  Granted, I have three years here, but a hiring manager I would probably choose the person who at least could potentially be there long-term.

The second factor that has contributed to this change in mentality is that I am finding myself much busier than I anticipated.  When I first got here, I spoke with a couple of different people who are here with their spouses but are not working.  I asked them what they did to fill their days.  I wasn't asking to be malicious--I
really wanted to know!  They all told me that they find tons of stuff to do and are never really just sitting around eating bon-bons.  I didn't believe it until I was in their same position.  Honestly, I am so busy now!  I can't even remember how Dan and I did all the things that needed to get done when we were both working.  Granted, it's a bit different because there is so much more that needs to happen now because of the move.  But still, I've been able to do a lot of the chores like laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. that we would normally have to cram into the weekends or after work.  This means that when Dan gets home from work, we're both done.  We have no obligations and can just relax.  It's kind of nice.

The third big factor is travel.  Can I tell you how awesome it is to just be able to pick up and go somewhere?  I don't have to worry about how much leave I have, or ask a boss for permission.  If Dan is free, then I'm free.  And, since Dan worked such crazy hours last year, he has tons of time off!  We are pretty much unrestricted in our travel opportunities (aside from money, of course).  I feel like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see as much of the world as I can.  I don't want to waste it sitting in some office.  Especially if that office job is not actually going to help me in my long-term career aspirations. 

So...there we are.  I'm still applying for jobs; in fact I just applied for one a few minutes ago.  But I think I'm much happier now than I was a few weeks ago because I've come to accept that it is OK if I don't have a job.  It is not the end of the world and it does not define who I am as a person.  Yes, having a second income is ideal.  And yes, maintaining my resume would be great.  But if I can't find steady work, then I know I can be fulfilled in other ways.

I hope this post wasn't too boring for you.  I know it's a lot of words and no pictures, but I feel better for getting this off my chest.  Thanks for listening :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More Things I Love in England

It's definitely fall here in England!  There are twinkle lights up on the Stray and Christmas music is playing in all the shops.  I love this time of year!  I've recently discovered two new specialty alcohols that are making this year even more fun:
  •   Rekorderlig Premium Wild Berries Cider: It's a Swedish cider that is the perfect amount of sweet and tart.  It's so easy to drink and really puts me in a fall mood.
  • Wells Banana Bread Beer: This British beer smells incredibly good--just like banana bread, but it doesn't taste very sweet.  It just has a nice subtle tone to it.  It's not a dessert beer; you can have it with dinner.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Few Days in Paris

Shortly after I arrived in the UK, a friend of mine from DC e-mailed to tell me she would be in Paris in October for a work conference.  Since her hotel was already paid for, she wanted to know if I'd like to meet her for the week.  I had to really think long and hard about it...NOT!  I immediately looked for flights.

I didn't know it when I booked the trip, but it turns out that this trip was only a couple of days after we moved out of our temporary house and into our more permanent house.  So, the timing wasn't perfect, but it was really nice to get away for a few days and come back refreshed and ready to unpack.

I've been to Paris once before when I was 18 and backpacking around Europe.  Dan has never been though, so it is definitely on our must-do list while we're here in Europe.  These two facts meant that I got to see Paris in a really fun and interesting way.  There was no pressure to see the tourist sites since I knew I'd be back soon.  It meant that I was free to wander the streets and just take in the Parisian life.

I did, however, spend an entire day in the Louvre.  I love museums and Dan has a very short attention span for them, so I treated myself to a nice leisurely tour.  I loved it!

Of course, strolling through Paris means that you will see the sights like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, and the Luxembourg Gardens.  I just got to do it at my own pace.  Here are some of the highlights from my walks:

Hotel de Ville

Notre Dame

Petit Chocolat
Luxembourg Gardens

I was also lucky enough to get to spend some quality time with my friend Dani.  Her conference organized an amazing night out at a carnival-turned-museum.  We had a blast playing old-school skee ball, "racing the waiter," and riding on the carousel! 

On our last night in Paris, we treated ourselves to hot chocolate at Angelina.  They serve you a pot of melted chocolate with whipping cream on the side.  You put in as much or as little cream as you like.  It was super luxurious and delicious!  We also found a cute little sushi joint so I could get my fix before heading back to Harrogate where sushi is unheard of.

It was such a fun, relaxing trip and I'm so glad I got to spend time with Dani.  Dani...let's do this again soon!