Monthly Archives: December 2012

What’s Another Year?

This year I gave up my job and as a result we have a lot less income into this household.  However, also this year I:

–          Moved to a whole new continent

–          Now get to enjoy fantastic weather 98% of the time

–          Get to go outside and actually see the sunshine every day if I want to, instead of spending October to March in perpetual darkness – literally and figuratively

–          Have found the time to learn how to make cakes and generally to cook proper meals from scratch

–          Fortunately also have found the time to go to the gym almost every day and am feeling much healthier for it

–          Have started reading all those books I’ve always meant to but never quite got round to

–          Have got myself a bike and live in a nice flat area with cycle paths (well, what people in the UK would just call pavements, but you don’t get pedestrians on them over here) so I can get out and about for free whenever I want

–          Get to actually spend quality time with my husband on most days of the week instead of only seeing him properly at weekends

So, on balance, I am actually so much better off than I was this time last year.  As Sinatra would say, “It’s been a very good year”.

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The day the Grinch made my Christmas

As I may have  mentioned, it still doesn’t feel anything like Christmas here yet.  I’ve been for a walk on the beach today and it was red hot and sunny.  Are you sure its 19th December?

Yesterday, in an attempt to inject some festive spirit into the season, the husband and I pottered off to Williamsburg again.  We started off at the shopping mall, where we were treated to various weird karaoke cover versions of Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” blasting out of the speakers.  So this masterpiece has reached this country then.  But why are they not playing the original?  Despite having a couple of dedicated Christmas radio stations available, the only vaguely modern festive tunes I’ve heard are Wham’s “Last Christmas” and that hideous Marah Carey screechy thing.  Although, on a different note, they are well into their classic Christmas films over here and I had the absolute joy of watching Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in “White Christmas” last week.  Bliss.  In fact there seems to be a minimum of about 6 different Christmas films on every day at the moment.  Some good, some bad, and unfortunatey a fair amount of Home Alone.

Anyway, I digress.  We managed to find the closest thing to a pub that we have seen since moving out here nearly six months ago.  Before we moved, I dreamed of finding my own local Cheers bar, or Maclaren’s Pub from “How I Met Your Mother”, or at the very least The Brick from “Northern Exposure”.  An actual bar that just sells beer and other alcohol and doesn’t pretend to be some bad nightclub or restaurant at the same time.  Well, in my neck of the woods, this kind of thing just does not exist.  Until I found Oceans and Ale yesterday.  It looks like a traditional bar.  It serves food but for a change the veggie option is a proper meal (I had the fajitas but there were other choices too) and not just some side dishes squished together or, even worse, a main meal where I’ve had to ask for it to be cooked without the meat and then hope they’ve actually done that.  Most importantly, (and not surprisingly, given the name) it sells real ales including six guest ales.  I had a sampler of four beers (served in adorable miniature glasses) including the spectacular Cafe Royale by Alewerks which smelt and tasted of strong coffee with a hint of chocolate.  Amazing.  The only drawback about this whole bar is the fact that it’s an hour’s drive from where we live.  So not exactly my local then.  Oh well.

So after a lovely lunch we had a wander about the shops.  Every year we say that we don’t want presents so we don’t bother buying each other anything, but then we do something like this and end up with a few nice new things anyway.  Not that they will be getting wrapped up as we’re both already wearing most of our new purchases.

I watched The Grinch the other night for the first time ever and I have to say I’m totally on his side, to quote Sheldon “right up until his heart grew three sizes and he gave all the presents back”.  He’s totally right; Christmas should not be about how much money you can spend or how many lights you can put up (oh, and FYI, and if you would like an idea of the amount of Christmas lights people in this neighbourhood put up on their houses, just watch the Grinch and you will get a fair comparison).  Anyway, I was mightily cheered yesterday when my hubby bought me not one but TWO different pairs of Converse hi-tops with the Grinch on them.  Ah yes, I can celebrate my new found love of the Grinch through the medium of Converse.  What’s not to like?  Did I say Christmas was not about how much money you can spend?  These were buy one pair get one 50% off.   It’s the thought that counts.

After a bit more meandering around the shops, punctuated by a visit to my good friends Ben & Jerry, we went into Colonial Williamsburg, which I think makes three visits now this year.  Because it’s an 18th century village, the decorations are very traditional and, of course, non-electric.  Basically they had proper fresh cut wreaths on the doors and candles burning in all the windows.  Incredibly pretty.  Best of all, once it got dark they brought out what can only be described as hanging baskets of fire and left them unattended outside all of the houses.  Unattended, I tell you!!  This would never happen in the UK.  Have they never heard of health and safety???  There were more flaming bouquets in the main square where lots of people had gathered to watch the pipe and drum marching band (all dressed in Colonial army uniforms) playing Christmas carols.  My favourite part was watching chunks of burning embers falling from the pyro-garnishes and landing perilously close to people’s feet/shopping/children etc.  It was refreshing to not have three marshals with fire extiquishers standing next to every open flame for a change.  That’s the Christmas spirit.

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‘Tis the Season

But which season exactly?  Or, to put it another way, It’s Beginning to Feel Nothing Like Christmas.

For the last two days it has been around 21C, the kind of bright and sunny days I would have futilely dreamed of having in the UK in August.  I’m led to believe that it isn’t usually quite so warm here in December (December!!?  I ask you …).  Yesterday we went ice skating at an outdoor rink (well, I went skating, the husband just did his most convincing Bambi impression) and it was really odd being out there in the blazing sunshine wearing a T shirt.  Not to mention the fact that I was therefore missing the usual padding provided by coat and hat for the potential falling on the ice, of course.

Today I got Frankie the Bike out of the shed for a nice leisurely cycle in the sunshine again.  People were out in shorts.  It’s the times that I’m cycling in the sunshine in the middle of the day that I really realise how lucky I am at the moment.  Six months ago I didn’t even own a bike, let alone have the chance to take it out whenever and wherever I fancied.  Usually at this time of year I wouldn’t see any daylight at all as I would spend about two hours in darkness at bus stops, ferry ports etc, punctuated by sitting in an office with few or no windows for the small amount of time that the sun was out.  I feel so much healthier and happier this year because I’ve not turned unavoidably nocturnal.

The downside to this weather is that it’s very difficult to get in the frame of mind that it’s Christmas in three weeks time.  Even more difficult now that I’ve realised they don’t play Slade on the radio in this country – Christmas cannot start without Noddy Holder!

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