26 October 2011

Henry's Big Week Out (it wasn't that big...)

So this must be Henry’s week because all the interesting things I have to share with you involve him. Henry is feeling pretty cocky about that actually and is currently sitting in a leather backed chair smoking a cigar contemplating writers for his first autobiography.

Thursday is Story and Rhyme day at the Children’s Center. Last Thursday’s Story and Rhyme was cancelled so Henry and I were looking at a pretty boring day with absolutely no songs about bears in it. OK, I might have been less disappointed about that than Henry was. One of the girls that I had a date with the week previous texted me and invited Henry and I out to the movies since we know how children get if there are no songs about bears on a Thursday and there isn’t anything to replace it. (Run-on sentence alert!) When this girl first invited me to the movies I eagerly agreed then tentatively asked if babies were allowed. They were!

Every Thursday morning, the FACT Theater in Liverpool does a showing of the week’s most popular movie, open to families with kids under the age of 1. It’s called The Big Scream. It’s only 4 pounds to get in, which is well cheap compared to the price of a normal movie ticket. You basically go in, and if you are there early, you can get a seat in the first row which has plenty of space to lay down a blanket and some toys for your kid in front of you. And while it’s called the Big Scream, once the movie starts you kind of tune out the rest of the noisy babies and only pay attention if yours is fussing. Henry did surprisingly well during the film – I thought he’d make a right racket. The only caveat is that the movie was the Three Musketeers in 3D. Henry insisted on playing with my 3D glasses halfway through the film and threw a fit if I tried to take them back. The last half of the movie was a bit blurry…but at least it was watched in peace.

Mmm...3D is tasty.

You might be under the impression that since I was invited out on a 2nd date, that my quest for a friend has finally come into being. I’m sad to say it’s not. While the 1st date went very well, the 2nd did not. If I’m to continue with this dating analogy, let’s just say that this woman has her tip in many pots – that is to say that she’s sleeping around (probably fucking your sister as we speak) – and really isn’t looking for a serious relationship. That’s fine really. Truthfully the 2nd outing was a bit awkward coming to a disastrous head when she asked after the movie if I wanted to get McDonald’s and come back to her house where she was meeting up with her friend (who had also joined us at the movies). I heard “McDonald’s” and made a face because that’s what McDonald’s does to my digestive system. Then I freaked out that I offended her and did this horrible Chandler word vomit finally ending the whole spiel with, “I’m sorry, I’m a bit nervous and have trouble with accents.” I was prompted ignored but now felt like I had to get McDonald’s and come back to her place. Everyone – McDonald’s is shit. British McDonald’s is worse than American McDonald’s (if that’s even possible) because the British are required by law to cook all beef until it no longer has a disease…though I don’t know why these same cooking principles have to apply the chicken sandwich I had, but there you go. The 3 hours I spent after the movie with her and her friend (who was really quite nice) was uncomfortable and long…though probably made worse from the fact that I didn’t have a cigarette the entire time I was out as both these women are nurses and had already made comments about mothers who smoke. I’m a bad person! I get it!

To make a long story short, I haven’t heard back from this woman since that day. I think my next friend making effort is to find women smoking outside of pubs and ask if they have kids. If they say ‘yes’ and don’t try to deck me, I’ll think I’ve found a soul mate.


The other item Henry related is that we took him to his first pumpkin patch. Coming from Wisconsin, I tried to make a yearly October visit to the Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago (I love to hear anyone outside of Wisconsin pronounce that name*). Wisconsin is primarily farm land and Halloween, of course, is huge in the States so the pumpkin patch there was acres long. I suppose in someway I thought it would be similar here – there is a lot of farm land in England. Of course Halloween isn’t nearly as prevalent and the pumpkin patch ended up being fairly small. It was fine though, Henry wasn’t very fussed.

 Da Farm  (or really, da farm's shop)

I like making Andy look excited about something in pictures...when clearly he's not.

"Can we go?  There are some 3D glasses I need to chew on."

What was funny was when we found him the perfect sized pumpkin and let him “hold” it. He didn’t seem like he was very interested in it until we tried to take it off him. Then he hollered until we gave it back. He’s going to be that sort of kid, isn’t he? God help us.

 "Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine."

*(it’s muhk-guan-ago)

18 October 2011

From my cupboard to you

So once again we didn’t do anything of consequence this past weekend. We cleaned the house. It needed it. As a person who is rather anal retentive about cleaning, having a baby really relaxed my ideals of what is considered “clean”. No worries though, it’s cleaned now-which means that if you want to come over, now is the time to do it as it’s not going to be properly cleaned again until my sister comes into town next month for Thanksgiving. Which begs the question – where the fuck does one find a turkey in this country?

Since I don’t have an exciting traveling post for you this week, I thought I would explore the cupboards of my kitchen to bring you some British product highlights. Never mind the strange look that Andy gave me as I was taking things out of the shelves this afternoon to photograph them against the lovely backdrop of a kitchen towel draped over the microwave.

First things first, we have the staple of any British kitchen: The economy sized bottle of Fairy Washing up Liquid. The majority of households in this country do not own a dishwasher so washing the dishes (UK: “washing up”) is still alive and well. Fairy is by far the most popular brand and apparently they have a catchy jingle (we have a DVR so I haven’t seen a commercial since 2007) and Andy will sing the jingle to you if you happen to mention Fairy Washing up Liquid. Since I can’t be bothered listening to Andy when he starts sprouting these obscure commercial references, I can’t repeat the jingle for you here. But there’s something to break the ice with Andy if you ever do meet him\meet him again.

Another picture of my washing line, how exciting!

Moving on to cereals, this announcement is on every box of cereal sold in the UK. Again, I can’t be bothered to look up the details about it, but it really humors me that someone in this country has the job title of “Purveyor of Cereal”. That just brings to mind Greek Gods or Catholic Saints. “I’m the Patron Saint of Travelers!” “Oh yeah, well I’m the fucking Purveyor of Cereal, bitches!”

The Queen has personally hand picked this cereal for you.

Still on cereals, we have Quaker Oats Porridge. There is no oatmeal in this country, its porridge, even if you get a familiar US brand of Quaker Oats. Not reading the label properly and assuming (“ass” out of ‘u’ and ‘me’) that it was just the same preparation as the US version, I spent an entire box preparing my porridge with water. I should say “suffering through an entire box” as using water instead of milk makes for absolutely terrible porridge.

2 MINS to shitty porridge if you don't read the instructions properly.

Next we have carbonara sauce. I would like to point out for the record that I’m only presenting to you carbonara sauce as I’ve yet to find alfredo sauce in this country. They are very similar, carbonara and alfredo, but different enough. I would have thought being a lot closer to Italy than in the States that the Italian sauces offerings would be huge. Nope. There’s white sauce (carbonara), red sauce (used for spaghetti bolognese which I am convinced is the 2nd British national dish after curry) and pesto. No clam sauce, no white wine sauce, and no mushroom sauce.

More pictures of my clothing line.  Squeal!

What the Brits lack in Italian sauces they most certainly make up for in table sauces. In the States if you go to a typical restaurant, you’ll have ketchup and mustard. You’ll have to ask for your side of mayo or ranch. The service industry here doesn’t want you asking for naught and will put every condiment known to man (save Ranch – boo!) in a handy carrying box to bring to you with your food. I’m showing what 90% of the time will come to the table but even after this you may still get mint sauce and horseradish too.

The ketchup would be more full if it wasn't for chip and pie Sundays.

Speaking of Purveyors, there’s one for HP sauce too.

Now, I’m hoping the next one isn’t actually available in the States. Fuck knows we love our gravy. If America is missing out then someone should take charge and make a fortune. These are gravy granules. You put how ever many spoonfuls of gravy you happen to need in a bowl and pour a bit of boiling water on top. No need to make a sauce pan full of gravy. No need to open an entire can. Just spoon some in and presto! Gravy goodness. They do have meat flavored gravy by the way. I would just like to add that gravy is surprisingly good on chips\fries. Just saying.


Yes, they look like rat droppings, but they are so good.

Any American bakers moving to the UK? If so, please take note of the following so that you don’t have to ask the little old hunchback lady with a deep Scouse accent where to find the baking soda.

Is it just me, or do those gingerbread men look burnt?

This one is for Henry since he hates not to be included on my weekly updates. These are the solids I feed him twice a day now. I tried making my own baby food but I couldn’t get it smooth enough so I resorted to Ella’s Kitchen. I think they do have Ella’s in the States but from what I heard they overcharge for it there so not many people buy it. I hope this won’t influence his taste buds too much. I’ll be damned if I’m going to make him broccoli and pears when he’s older.

The Mango Baby Brekkie is actually really good.  Um, not that I've licked it off Henry's spoon or anything.

Speaking of chips\fries, these pies are the perfect accompaniment. We used to go to the chippy every other week but since we’re trying to save money, I just make the pies and chips at home now. Of course this means that we’ve taken our bi-weekly shitty nutritional meal and turned it into a weekly shitty nutritional meal.

"They're proper pies, asshole!"

If we ever move back to the States I will miss Lilt Zero. Of course I will have to dry my tears with buckets full of Hansen’s.

Now it’s time for my international fruit and veg. I think its common knowledge that most fruits and vegetables in the off season in America come from places like Mexico and South America. I don’t know if by law they are required to tell you that on their label or not. Here, they are required. I don’t know what type of satisfaction I’m suppose to get knowing my grapes came from Italy and Greece (of course), my tomatoes from Poland (that’s tomatosky to you) and my cucumbers from Spain, but there you go.

Henry is playing "Spot the Baby" in my pictures here.

Lastly, if you do decide to come over to my house during this week where it’s actually clean, these are the types of drinks I will offer you. That is of course unless I know you are the drinking sort in which case I will offer you vodka in your coffee. You’re welcome.

 Seriously, Horlicks?  Still funny.

13 October 2011

It's a date!

So I can‘t tell you about the fabulous time I had this past weekend because there isn’t anything exciting to tell. We’re a bit strapped after our day out in Chester so on our day off we just hung around town watching the Liverpool Marathon. Watching a marathon really enforces my whole “exercise is lame” policy. We were sitting in a nice warm pub having a nice cold beer watching people on mile 13 looking positively miserable. Not to mention it was raining adding to the misery. I mean, good for them, running when you’re not being chased is admirable. I just prefer my policy instead. What’s great about my policy is that the only wall I hit was the one by the bathroom where I lost my footing*.

You know what looks more fun than this?  Drinking beer.

What I can tell you about is that I’ve got a date. Actually, I have two dates! If you all might remember, I was moaning a few months back about not being able to find any friends here. Just like it is when you’re single, the moment I stopped trying so damn hard is when something came about. Has there been a scientific study done about that? -because there should be. I’m sure for the last 8 months I was sending out pheromones or catacombs or Ramones or something like that that made me positively repellent to people.

Truthfully, I’ve been going to that Sing and Rhyme playgroup session at the Children’s Center every Thursday for the last three months. I tell myself that I do it for Henry but that’s a fucking lie. I just can’t get enough of the “I know a teddy bear, with blue eyes and curly hair” song. I also quite enjoy talking to people who have also made this spur of the moment decision to spawn and therefore are forever living with that late night drunken choice. I’ve gone to the playgroup session enough where I know at least a third of the babies in the session by name. Following the rules of British small talk, getting the names of the mothers of the said babies has been as rare as an albino giraffe. It’s all “what’s your baby’s name?” “how old is he\she?” “is he\she sleeping through the night?”. It’s never, “what do you do for a living?” or “what music do you like?” I know you non-breeders are rolling your eyes right now but sometimes my most meaningful conversation during a day is, “Henry, do you have a stinky diaper?” Henry: “mmma..pppph…mmma” and so I take what I can get.

I don’t know what suddenly changed but in the last two sessions I’ve talked to women who not only told me their names but have also invited me out. One outing is for coffee next Tuesday and another one is an invite to “come round for a cuppa” tomorrow. I’m nervous and I’m excited – which is stupid really. I don’t want to sleep with these women. I just want to find a friend that I can invite out for a pint where we can giggle about how big our husband’s penises are. That’s what girls do, right? If not, I really should stop carrying that ruler in my purse.
On a completely unrelated note (hence the clever use of a line), if you haven’t already, check out Vegemite Wife’s post about my usage of the word “snarky”. There’s a bit of a discussion going on about it in the comments. Make sure to post a comment regarding the fact that Americans would never publicly be that cruel and even if we were to call you a ‘fucking asshole’ that we would mean it in the kindest possible way. Seriously though, snarky = good.

*I would like to take a moment to tell you that losing my footing is not code for “I was hammered”. I actually lose my footing quite often, sober, on flat pavement. I walk like a duck. Ducks sometimes stumble. Ducks sometimes stumble when they are 9 months pregnant carrying a full container of Indian food across a walkway in view of a busy restaurant on a Friday night sending the ducks big pregnancy top over their heads showing off their spandex pregnancy pants. Stupid ducks.

05 October 2011

"What great walls you have!"

So this past weekend Andy and I went to Chester. Andy and I were suppose to meet up with the lovely and snarky Vegemite Wife in Manchester but the VW had to go to Glasgow for work commitments at the last minute. Likely story. I’m still holding on to the idea that I smell. I’m also still holding onto the idea that she’s brought me back scones from Glasgow laced with a hearty dash of Nyquil from her stock.

Because we were planning on meeting up with the VW and therefore would be drinking heavily, we had arranged for Andy’s mum to take the Henbot overnight. Not really wanting to waste an opportunity even though our plans had changed, we still surrendered our child to 36 hours of nana time and gleefully laughed as we pulled away.

At about noon on Saturday, we caught the bus to Liverpool Central Station (train) and paid £6.45 per person round trip to Chester which is really an excellent deal. From the Chester train station, they have a free shuttle bus into town though if you’re wearing comfortable shoes it isn’t too much of a walk in. Chester is an old Roman town filled with old Tudor houses. They also have a wall. The wall is actually a BIG DEAL as it’s one of those old Roman type walls that surround the entire city in big impressive wall type fashion. Only in England would you purposefully go to a place to see a wall. In America you could say, “come to Hastings and see our wall” and everyone would respond, “come to my house and see my ceiling and floor. Dumb ass.”

First things first we had to eat. The first place we tried to eat at didn’t have any food even though they advertised food with a big sign out front. The second place we tried didn’t have any decent vegetarian options for Andy. The third place we stopped at had food and vegetarian options so we gave it a go. I ordered a chicken Caesar wrap because you know, when in inside Roman walls… Not that you give a shit what I had for lunch but I kind of wanted to get your opinion. When I got my chicken Caesar wrap it had bacon on it. As a meat eater, I couldn’t care less about the bacon. I happily munched away without a thought. When I got to the 2nd half of my wrap, I realized that I had just bitten into a whole unscaled anchovy. Now I am fully aware that Caesar dressing has anchovy paste in it. I’m cool with that. But never in my life have I ordered anything ‘Caesar’ and actually gotten a piece of fish on it. Is this normal? It didn’t mention anything about it on the menu (nor the bacon for that matter). Am I going to have to be even more Sally Albright and request “no whole fish bits” anytime I want a Caesar salad or wrap?

After slamming my pint trying to get the taste of fish bits out of my mouth, we left and walked around town. I say “walked around town” but what I mean is that we walked around until we came across a decent pub.

Chester: They have a wall.

A couple of pints later, we felt we had to do something non-drink related to tell to Andy’s mum as “drank until we puked” is not an appropriate answer to your mother-in-law’s question of, “What did you do in Chester?”

So we looked at nature-y shit.

My official picture of nature-y shit.

Me telling Andy to look impressed by the nature-y shit.

And we walked along part of the wall where we saw a very unimpressive castle.

And then we walked onto the actual racecourse that happened to be open. To clarify, there were no horse races going on that day or else I would be reporting this with a horseshoe shaped impression on my broken jaw.

By then we were bored and hot and found ourselves another pub were we played pool. I got my ass handed to me by Andy in our 4 games of pool, which I’m going to blame on the stupid balls not having any numbers or pretty rainbow colors*.

We ended the evening in Chester at some pub that I don’t remember the name of but that had a wide selection of fruity type beers. I tried Banana beer. It was remarkably good and tasted like banana flavored liquid candy. Runts candy suddenly came to mind but I’m probably dating myself a bit.

It's Exotic!

After that we took the train back to Liverpool but since we didn’t have to pick up the kid, we decided to make a stop into the Barcelona Bar. The Barcelona Bar is quickly becoming my favorite drinking spot in the city, mostly because the people there (both employees and patrons) are really friendly. We ended up having this long conversation with this Nigerian man with one leg. While I was sober enough to repress my question of whether or not he was ever going to send me that 10 million pounds his emails kept promising me, I couldn’t stop myself from asking what happened to his leg. I felt a bit disappointed when he said “car accident” and not “eaten off by lion”.

Andy's response to this photo: "But it's backwards!"  He might have been drinking.

All and all, it was a great night out. To sum up: Banana beer = good. Also, if you happen to be a wallspotter**, Chester is your place.

*To clarify that remark to my American friends, pool balls here come in two solid colors – 7 of one color (let’s say red), 7 of another color (let’s say yellow) and a black ball.

**Get it? Trainspotter - wallspotter? Ach, never mind.