Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stealing the Internet Again

I bribed Liz with a bowl from Japan. And a barrette. :)

We *still* do not have Internet at our house, and it may take quite a while before we get it set up. The company here is really slow to begin with, and then they had some kind of trouble getting our address correct and we can't seem to get it fixed. Argh. So I need to keep finding items with which to bribe Liz.*

We've unpacked just about all the boxes, so now it's just a matter of figuring out where everything should go (we keep shuffling stuff around) and pretty soon it should feel like home. We're even starting to put up a few pictures, although this house has a bewildering number of nails, screws, and hooks, some of which are in really odd places. We had two hooks in the top of the door leading to the master bathroom and no idea what they could have been used for.

Unfortunately, we haven't been doing so hot on the electronic front. We just got our TV set up today so we can actually SEE anything other than static, but that necessitated the purchase of a very expensive signal converter, which did not make Lee too happy. He hooked up a DVD player and it did fine, but when he tried to hook up our BluRay player...POP! Smoke issued from it, and Lee's ensuing comments were decidedly not G-rated. So now we need a new BluRay player, urgh! We did buy a UK-spec vacuum cleaner, which is totally *fabulous* because now we don't have gray carpet. It may be silly, but having a freshly vacuumed house makes me ridiculously happy. Still, in some ways the UK seems more foreign than Japan was since in Okinawa we could use all our own appliances with no converters or anything. Lee had to make me a Fahrenheit to Celsius chart to go with the oven, but I have successfully cooked dinner multiple times in that oven, so I call that one a win.

I apologize for yet another post with no pictures, but a.) I haven't taken any, and b.) I don't know where the camera cord is. If the weather is nice tomorrow, I'm going to try walking down to the church that's around the corner from our house and take some pictures out there. I also want to take some pictures around the house now that we've got our stuff moved in, so that's my task for next time I bribe Liz for Internet access.

For now, though, we're going back home to watch Red.

*I do not *really* need to bribe Liz, it's just become a running joke :p

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happiness is Two Warm Puppies

I bribed Liz with some Bath & Body Works stuff so we're at her house stealing her Internet :)

We got our household goods delivered on Friday so we've been busy unpacking since then. And then around 5:30 on Friday afternoon (although it felt like Friday night since it was dark already) our dogs got delivered to our house. Woohoo! They made it through all the flights and customs stuff just fine, and were super happy to get out of their crates. We knocked off unpacking around 9:30 that night and all four of us crammed onto the loveseat for a while. It's good to have our whole little family back together again.

I've unpacked just about all the kitchen stuff unpacked while Lee was working in the living room and study. The study is going to stay messy until we get some of our stuff here from storage in the States...we asked to get a bunch of our bookshelves and our dining room furniture out of storage. I'm happy the kitchen is done though, that's always the biggest hurdle with moving. I'm working on my craft room now and Lee's pretty much done with the computer room already. After I finish the craft room the biggest chore will be getting all our clothes organized and put away. I took some pictures today of the mess in the house, but alas, the camera batteries are near death and I forgot to bring the camera with me so here's another picture-free post. I'll work on that next time :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting Ready to Move In!

We signed the lease on our new English castle this morning, and we meet with the landlord tomorrow so he can show us how to use the radiators and all that good stuff. Then all our worldly possessions (at least the ones we sent here from Okinawa) will be delivered on Friday! Woohoo! That means we're almost out of the hotel room, which is good because the bed here ain't doing my back any favors :p However, blog posts may be a bit fewer and farther between since I've heard it can take like a month to get the Internet set up when you get a house here. Guess we'll find out, and Liz may let me borrow hers periodically if I bribe her with scrapbook supplies.

We've also got a new car (sorry Dad, I haven't taken pictures yet). We got a 2001 black Honda Accord whom I dubbed Harry (as in Potter, not Prince, although he's pretty cute too). Dad found it online for us before we even left Texas, and thought it would be a good car for me because a.) it's a four-door; b.) it's an automatic when most cars here are standard, which I can't drive; and c.) it has butt warmers. And now Lee wants it for himself, so Dad, do me a flavor--find a car for Lee too so I can have Harry! We did see a FunCargo on the roads here earlier today, so Lee asked me if I'd take one of those over Harry. We'll just have to wait and see what our car #2 ends up looking like, and we may wait a while before we buy a second one just because moving and getting a house set up again are both expensive. Besides, I just started another Scarlet Quince stitching project so I can entertain myself at the house no problem once we get unpacked. Lee will just have to do the grocery shopping himself *sly wink*

Sadie and Vader should arrive here on Friday too, and if we work it right they won't even have to spend a single night in jail (a.k.a. the kennel). Can't wait to see my little fur babies again!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Visiting Bury St. Edmunds

We went to Bury St. Edmunds on Saturday to get cellphones (the local cellphone place charges crazy rates, so we were told to make the 30-minute trip up to Bury instead) and we didn't have enough time to explore the Abbey Gardens and cathedral, so we drove back on Sunday to take a few pictures. We may go back again in the morning sometime since Lee thinks the lighting might be better then; still, we got some fairly good pictures. But none of us because the only one we were both in turned out all blurry. So here's the ones Lee picked out for me to post here:

Hmm, he didn't pick any of the gate leading into the Abbey Gardens. Anyway, we went in through this really cool gate and then took this picture where you can see some of the older walls of the abbey and the tallest building is the new cathedral. It kinda looks like there are some private residences inside or on the borders of the garden, which is pretty cool. They have a rose garden but of course it's not much to look at this time of year; I'll have to go back when the roses are in bloom because I bet they'll be spectacular.

This is Lee's artsy shot of the sundial, but given how everyone says that England is so overcast all the time I wondered how much one could use a sundial :) But it looks cool!

Here's another view of the cathedral with some of the abbey ruins in the foreground. Most of the dates we saw were around the 12oos, so this place was built over 200 years *before* Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Mind-boggling, no? And there are people just walking all around and climbing on the walls and walking their dogs all around here.

Miss Vicki, this one's for you with the trees! This was right on the edge of the Abbey Gardens, I think it's a private residence. Quite a place!

The cathedral again from inside the Abbey Gardens.

We went out the gate again and onto the street, then walked a block or so down the way to take pictures of the cathedral from the other direction. And from this side the sky actually looks blue!

Not sure exactly what this building is; it was right behind the big part of the cathedral.

I took this picture; I liked how incongruous the bright blue door looks in all the weathered gray stone (do I get extra points for using words like "incongruous" in my blog?). It was a more vivid contrast IRL.

We walked back to where we parked the car (in a car park, which is what they call parking lots here) and Lee took this picture. This is the street we walked down to get to the cellphone store on Saturday, and there was a big produce market in the square a few blocks in, and a modern mall area just past that. Bury is a much larger town than where we'll be living (I think Feltwell only has a few tiny convenience stores and maybe two pubs, and that's about it!) but I'm happy we aren't living here. It'd take me forever to lose my apprehension about driving with all the traffic they have here. Still, we'll definitely be back to visit!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Few Random England Ramblings

Don't really have pictures to share at the moment, though we hope to fix that later today with a little exploring trip to Bury St. Edmunds. So instead I thought I'd share a few random musings about what we've experienced here so far, in no particular order.

* Driving on the roads here kind of feels like riding on a roller coaster that never goes up and down, just side to side. Around where we are, they're all really narrow, with no shoulder and a lot of bumpies on the outside edge, and they curve around a lot.

* Speed limits are based on the type of road (single carriageway [two-lane road, one lane each direction], dual carriageway [like a divided highway], and motorway [freeway]) and not on the actual conditions of the individual road. Around towns it's 30 mph, but pretty much everywhere else it's 60. Yep, even on the narrow curvy roads with no shoulder. They told us in drivers training to drive only as fast as it was safe, and not feel obligated to do the max speed limit. Wish more people around here would actually drive that way in practice...

* The roads aren't lit either, except in the villages and towns. So driving from Feltwell back to Lakenheath last night, pretty much pitch black the whole way.

* The Brits don't wear tennis shoes on a daily basis (unless, presumably, they're playing tennis or engaging in some other sports activity). They all seem to wear boots. My feet hurt after wearing boots all day, and they're not even high-heeled.

* You can pretty much pick any direction from where we are, drive five to ten minutes, and find something beautiful and picturesque. The problem is there's no shoulders on the roads to stop and take pictures safely...

* Roundabouts actually make a lot of sense once you get used to how they work. If no one's coming from the right, you don't stop at all, you just continue on your merry way.

* The GPS is worth its weight in gold, but with caveats: it seems to lag a little behind where you actually are, so you have to keep sharp not to miss your turn, and it will occasionally try to take you onto a one-way street the wrong way or onto a lane that's only for pedestrians.

* This area isn't built up nearly as much as I expected it to be; it's actually a whole lot of farms. We've seen fields of...something...sugarbeets maybe? and quite a few sheep, pigs, a few cows, and lots and lots of horses. Newmarket, where they breed and train racehorses, is not too far away.

* We've seen real, honest-to-goodness thatched-roof cottages. I tried to take a picture but when you're zooming by in the car (Lee was driving, not me) at about 40 mph, it just looks like a blur.

* This time of year, it gets dark between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. The other evening I caught myself thinking, "Wow, it's really late, I should think about going to bed soon" and I looked at the clock only to discover it was 7 p.m.

Anyway, that's about it for right now. Hopefully we'll take lots of stunningly fabulous pictures today that I can post soon (as long as our Internet connection keeps functioning, it's been awfully picky). Cheers!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Splendid, Phase Done

I kind of didn't want to post anything new because I still get giddy looking at the pictures of our new house. It'll still take us a while to get moved in since we have to do a lot of paperwork and there's all the weird bank account stuff to do and all that yadda yadda, and until we move in I must confess that I'm a little scared that something will happen to keep us out of that house. Which would make me cry a lot because I don't think there's a cooler house in East Anglia. So I really hope that everything goes smoothly and we get to move in quickly.

At any rate, to give you something new to look at, here is my Splendid cross stitch, all done up and framed (click on the picture to see it larger):

Here's one from the other side since I couldn't decide which one looked better:

It's impossible to take a picture straight on of this since the glass makes the flash reflect, and if you don't use a flash then you see the reflection of the light coming in the back door. So angles it is. Anyway, Mom went with me to pick out the frame; I knew going in that I wanted a dark green mat since orange would have just been overpowering. The frame, though, has some orangey highlights that really pick up the orange in the stitching, so that worked out perfectly.

I am perhaps a little overly paranoid but since I really didn't want this to get damaged or, heaven forbid, lost in the mail, I left it at my parents' house. Mom hung it up in her family room and I think she wants to keep it forever ;) but she can only have it for three years (she has mentioned several times how good it looks on her green walls, though...). She's got all the rest of my framed cross stitch pieces too, and that's getting to be a fairly large number. It's too bad I'm so paranoid about mailing them though; they'd look smashing in our house whenever we get to move in. :D

Lee and I drove to Cambridge today to look at a car, so we've got to start making some decisions on that pretty quick here so we can turn in our rental car. So much stuff to do when you first arrive here! Can't wait to be settled in and start exploring a bit more...I think we may try to get out and take some pictures this weekend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Found a House!

Liz and I checked out another house yesterday, and later I went back by it with Lee, and to be honest Lee and I were getting a little discouraged about the whole house-hunting prospect since we just weren't finding what we wanted.

Well, that all changed today. Behold, our new house:

That's our rental car out front. Sorry it's not that great a picture; it was getting dark when I took this one as we were leaving. Anyway, there driveway goes up a little to the front of the house, and the garage is off to the right. There's also parking for another car or two on the left.

There's the front of the house, the garage side. Not sure what it is that's on the trellis to either side of the garage window, but it'll probably be pretty this summer. Want to see the inside? *giddy*

This is the living room; where Lee and the realtor lady are standing is doors out to a little conservatory (yes, a CONSERVATORY) and then another set of doors that go out to the backyard. I didn't take a picture in the conservatory; it's got a blue tile floor and the outer wall is all windows, so it would be good for plants. Hence why I call it a conservatory. And since it's tiled, it'll be easy to clean when the dogs come in with wet/dirty feet.

View from the other side of the living room and out the front window.

Here's the dining room, which is right next to the living room. There's a door off the side of the dining room to a small study:

It's actually a little unusual in shape; we're not 100% sure how or if our computer desk would fit in here, although we may put it upstairs in one of the bedrooms anyway. Haven't figured that out for sure yet. The wardrobe in here is included with the house. *excited*

I think I would have wanted this house just on the basis of the kitchen! It's by far the largest kitchen of all the houses we looked at, and it's bigger than what we had in Okinawa by far. Lots of cabinets, lots of counter space, room for a mini fridge (don't worry Adrienne, just keep reading), a dishwasher, and an oven. And we could fit a small table in there if we wanted to. *really giddy*

The other side of the kitchen, although I didn't take a picture of the middle of it where the sink is. On the left, that white thing is the dishwasher that had been pulled out a bit from where it goes in the cabinetry. That door leads to a utility room (picture later) where we can put a full-size fridge (see Adrienne, told you it would be okay!). I am so looking forward to getting in this kitchen and cooking!! At this point I'm kind of tired of eating out, you know?

I forgot to take a picture of the front entryway, but it's totally cute. There's even a little closet just inside the front door where you can put coats (rare in Britain) and it's got this cool thing to put shoes on, too. The entryway is pretty spacious, and there's a half-bath in there on the way to the kitchen:

From what I can tell, the Brits call this a cloak room, which I don't get since what does it have to do with cloaks? Anyway, this is the only bathroom on the ground floor. There are two different spigots, one for cold water and one for hot, but I imagine we'll get used to that. Lee says he likes the blue toilet better than the mustard bathroom from the bank house. *teehee*

Here are the stairs...there's a little area under the stairs, not a Harry Potter closet or anything, just an open space. I bet that one or both of the dogs will like to hang out under there (they like under desks and stuff). So let's go on upstairs!

This is the first bedroom I looked in, and I claim it for my craft room. I actually like the green-blue carpet. And guess what else it has!

A big honkin' closet. Woohoo! Hardly any houses here have closets, so this is real cause for celebration. *bouncebouncebounce*

This is the second bedroom on this side; maybe we'll turn it into a computer room? Haven't figured that out yet, but we will. The bedrooms are all on the large side for Britain.

I think we'll use this awesome room as a guest room; the opening on the left is where the bed would go. I think it still has a separate closet? Can't remember 100% for sure. But I like the built-in stuff, and it'll be nice for guests because they'll be able to put their clothes up and stuff. I bet I can decorate it up totally cute. *eee!*

I think this is the closet from that third bedroom, or else it's in the master but Lee thought the master didn't have one. Wherever it is, it's another closet.

Here's the ceiling in the room with all the built-ins. Pretty cool, huh? Even if this is our guest room, I'd probably still use the upper cabinets for storage.

This is the master bedroom; that gentleman talking to Lee is the owner of the house. He is extremely nice and said we could pretty much do anything we wanted with it--paint, put up pictures, whatever. *so giddy I can't hardly stand it*

Here's the shower in the master bathroom; it doesn't have a tub in here, but there's another full bath on the second floor with a tub in it. I didn't take a picture of that one since the light bulb was burned out in there, but how many bathroom pictures do you need anyway? ;)

Well hey, how about one more :) The sink and window in the master bathroom. There's also an "airing cupboard" where the water heater is with more shelves, and a little closet with shelves all in it for shoes. That's right Mom, I have an entire CLOSET for SHOES!!! This thing could fit even most of your collection! *bwahahahahahaaaaaa!!!*

K, back downstairs.

Here's the utility room, where the washer and dryer will be as well as the full-size fridge. It might be a little cramped in there when we add in the fridge, but ehh. Even more cabinets and counter space to fold laundry, and another door to the backyard.

And this back door has a doggie door in it for Sadie and Vader.

Excuse me, I think I need to go jump up and down for a minute. Again.

Ok, I'm better :D Lee also checked out the garage:

And the attic space, where he plans to put all our large boxes (we still have the original boxes for things like our tv and stuff).

And here's the backyard, which also has a little built-in grill in the back off to the left of the photo. There's a shed behind where I was standing when I took this, and Lee can put the lawn equipment in there. And that thing out there? It's a pool. Totally not a selling point for us, but just another unexpected bonus. The only problem will be figuring out how to keep the dogs off the tarp that covers it...if it was uncovered, I wouldn't worry about it since Sadie doesn't like water. We'll figure out some way to keep them away from the pool, but we don't leave them outside unattended really anyway. *about to pass out from the combined awesomeness of this house*

I'm so excited, as is Lee. We can't wait to move in. And another bonus? It's like five minutes away from Liz. Wow. This place couldn't be any more perfect!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

House Hunters International

Well, we arrived in England on Friday and have pretty much hit the ground running. We ate in a pub (not bad, we liked it even if we didn't drink anything but water, the sandwiches were good) before we even checked into our room on Friday afternoon, and we've already gone out looking at two houses thanks to our awesome friend Liz (she didn't even pay me to say that). Liz is trying very hard to find us a house close to her :D which works for me because when Lee has to be away for work, it'll be nice to be close to friends. So on Saturday morning, we took a look at this house:

I stole Liz's photos off of Facebook since I didn't take any on Saturday. Liz looked it over before we arrived and sent us almost 30 photos (I did not copy them all over though, just a half-dozen). This house was built in 1550 (yes, you read that right) and it used to be the local bank before it was refurbished into two houses. So I suppose it's kind of like a duplex. Anyway, this is the front of it.

This is the only yard, which is in the front of the house, and it has a rather low fence around it so we'd have to think of something to make sure that Sadie and Vader couldn't go off on self-guided tours of the neighborhood. But the other side of this (behind where Liz was standing when she took the photo) is a nice patio area, where you could put a little outdoor table and chairs in the summertime when the weather is nice. And it has its own circular drive, enough for probably four cars or more, so no parking on the street.

This is *huge* for a house in Britain; it's five bedrooms, plus it has a study downstairs and this ginormous living room. We were thinking we could maybe use the study as storage and put the computer in here, there's plenty of room even for Lee's giant computer desk and all our living room furniture. Or maybe we could put the dining room table in here and repurpose the dining room (maybe a craft room...hmm!) The five rooms upstairs are all decent size for Britain; kinda small by US standards, but big enough that you could easily fit a bed into any of them. Of course, there are no closets, so one of those five rooms would probably be used as a closet.

Here's the kitchen (and Liz!). It's a bit on the small side, but there's enough room for a full-size fridge if you move out the little table, plus a dishwasher and washer/dryer. And there's a pantry, too, a rarity in a British house. Plus I think the kitchen door looks kind of cool; there's a little nook behind it where you could put a buffet or a similar size piece of furniture to hold dishes or whatnot. Especially since we bought another set of dishes before we left Japan.

There's the dining room, and the cute little pass-through to the kitchen. Lee and I don't really hardly ever dine in the dining room, which is why we thought maybe we'd use it for something else...on the other hand, I do occasionally like to have people over, especially a crowd for Thanksgiving, so I'd still want a table somewhere.

I didn't copy over any of the photos of the rooms upstairs, because really you can't get a sense of how big they are or anything. They each have a sink which is kind of funny, but hey whatever. We'd definitely have enough room for a guest room (or two!) and still use one as a closet, plus one for a craft room unless I won the coin toss for the repurposed dining room. But here's the biggest con in my opinion:

Ok, yeah, the color is definitely '70s-inspired, but I don't mind that so much as that the bathroom stuff is all just old. The showers are tiny too (there's a shower to the right, you can't see it from this angle) and the master bathroom is even more cramped than this one. So yeah, the bathrooms are definitely the biggest drawback in my book. But I suppose what can you expect out of a house that's over 400 years old? It's older than the United States. Dude.

Today, Lee and I got in touch with another dude and took a tour of a house in Thetford, which is a bigger town compared to Feltwell, which is the village where the bank house is located. This one is completely different than the bank house: fairly new, more "normal" size for a British house.

Oh yeah, we had beautiful weather today--not a cloud in the sky. It was almost like Okinawa, only a heck of a lot colder (I put on my thermal pants today and was much happier and toastier than yesterday). So there's the front of the house, and here's my sweetie pie!

He takes me to all the nicest places. Japan. China. England. Taco Bell. He's just awesome.

Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures in this house since Liz didn't get to go with us to look at it. They're kind of backwards though since we looked at the downstairs and I didn't start taking photos till we got upstairs, and then went back and did the downstairs. So anyway, here's a point in this house's favor:

Updated bathrooms. Yay! This next one I think might be my craft room if we were to live here:

The closet is only as wide as the door, and it's got something in it that's about three feet tall, so it's not much storage space. Still, this is probably the biggest of the non-master bedrooms.

Here's the front door, and the door next to it is the downstairs half-bath. The nice thing about these bathrooms is they all have a bit of a ledge behind the sink where you can put some things, since none of them have cabinets.

The next picture is taken from the same spot, I just turned around so this is the view straight from the front door through the house. It's good that the kitchen has doors, so we could definitely keep the pupsters out of there even if we weren't home.

The kitchen is pretty small, and still needs a good cleaning in my opinion. Some of the drawers still had a few things in them, and the wood itself I think needs a good going-over. Plus I'm a bit intimidated by a gas range; my great-grandmother had one and I never ever touched it. That whole cooking over an actual FIRE would take some getting used to.

And here is Adrienne's worst fear realized, it has a mini-fridge:

On the other hand, there's room in the utility room (you can see that to the left) to put a full-size fridge. The kitchen and utility room are carpeted, but the guy said they could rip that up and tile over it, which I think I would do. That would be easier to keep clean when the dogs run in and out, since the ground seems to be wet a lot. Here's the living room:

The bad thing is we can tell there's no way we'd be able to fit all our furniture in there; we have a sofa, loveseat, and an oversized chair (the chofa) and no way would it all fit in there. Lee was thinking that we'd get a small table rather than have our regular dining room table shipped over, and then use the dining room as the computer room, which leaves us with the craft room, closet room (hehe) and guest room upstairs. And then there's this:

A Harry Potter closet for putting Sadie in when she's naughty. Just kidding! It's really for a boy wizard to live in. Except he'd have to sleep curled up in a ball 'cause it's only as wide as the door.

Well anyway, we're not sold yet on either house, but it's been interesting to look at them. We've got a couple more to see tomorrow, and a few more we want to see that we found online, so we'll see what happens. It's too bad we can't just clone our house from Okinawa and have exactly that here, same size and same floor plan. At least then we'd know all our stuff would fit, and we'd probably just use the dining room as the computer room and use the extra upstairs bedroom for a guest room. If even half the people who say they're going to visit us actually do, then we'll need a guest room. Maybe I should put a booking calendar up on here...nah, I'll wait till we have a house picked out ;)

So which house do YOU like better? I'll probably post more house pics till we pick one.