Sunday, March 23, 2008

Unwanted house guests


We aren't sure how many there were, but over a period of a week or two, we first started to notice that we heard scuffling of tiny feet in the evening while watching a movie, then Anne noticed one scurry across the floor and into a hole between the floorboards. Then, a few days later, we noticed that the basket where we were keeping our dry goods had lots of crumbs beneath it. Closer examination revealed little holes that had been chewed in the plastic bags and resulted in us throwing away a bunch of food and enclosing the rest in a hard plastic tub. Doesn't look as nice, but at least things won't get eaten until we're ready to eat them ourselves!

Perhaps I should pause here and explain a little about our flat. It is a nice flat with pretty modern fixtures and features, and you can tell that it was renovated fairly recently. The floor is a real traditional hardwood floor, and by that, I mean that the floorboards are not always evenly cut or joined together, the nails often work themselves out and we have to go through with a hammer every ten days or so and nail down the ones that catch our socks. In a couple of places, there are small holes where the wood had a knot that was not filled in by the builder and you can see through to the foundation if you look through. Nothing we can do about it, but that's just how it is. So when I say that we hear mice sometimes, we're never sure if they (it?) is running across our floor or underneath, or in the neighbor's walls, or even in the flat above us.

Anyway, so we've set traps, but apparently these mice have that guy from Ratatouille or something telling them what is safe to eat and what isn't, because they have yet to take the bait. I called an exterminator service the other day and asked what their service involved. They use poisons and do a survey to tell you where the holes are that need to be filled, then give you an estimate on what it would cost to fill those holes. For that, they'll charge you 150 pounds plus tax. I chuckled when they said the part about filling the holes - since I don't need a professional opinion to tell me that a mouse has about a million options if he wants to enter our house. And the idea of leaving poisons around the house with small children is not exactly high on my list either.

So, rather than have an exterminator come out, we decided to try one more option first - you can buy a small device that you plug into your wall and that produces an inaudible ultrasonic pulse along with an electromagnetic pulse that runs through the walls of your house, that is supposed to be uncomfortable for rodent's hearing. They run 25 pounds a piece, so we got two for our small flat (one for each end of the house). So far, so good, though one of them does emit a small chirp from time to time, so I think it might be defective and we should take it back and get a replacement. No sight nor sound of mice since we plugged in.

I should also point out that when I was at the store looking for "a better mousetrap", there were three or four other people looking for the exact same thing at the same time. I made a comment to one of them that there must be something going on for us all to be looking for mouse traps at the same time and was told that yes, it is "that time of year". At least it was comforting to know that we hadn't been keeping our house so messy that we had attracted them in the first place!

Hopefully the last posting on this subject!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Are we really almost halfway through February already?

Boy, time flies! I can hardly believe we're already almost to Valentine's Day.

I can promise you that the reason I haven't posted (and that Anne hasn't posted) in a couple months is that we've been SUPER busy. Just to catch you up briefly, since I posted my last note back in December, we've:

Had our first Christmas in London:

Gone ice skating at the Natural History Museum on New Year's Day. We had fun, though it was much more fun when we figured out that Chase could be entertained better by counting how many people on the rink fell down than by actually skating.
Isabelle & Chase started school the first week of January. We were lucky enough that a spot opened up for both of them at the same school. Anne takes both children to school every morning and picks them up every afternoon, which is fine when the weather's good because it means that both children can ride their bikes. But if it happens to rain (which is like almost every day), that means no bikes, and the tubes and busses are much more likley to be overcrowded.
In mid-January, we traveled to Florida for Mark & Katie's wedding and then a week-long Caribbean cruise with the whole family:

We all had a great time and I'm sure Anne will include several photos in her posting as well, so I don't want to spoil any surprises...

Hopefully, I'll put together some posts in the next few days on one or more of the following:
1) Presidential campaigning in the States
2) Details on some of the beautiful weather we've been enjoying here in London lately
3) Thoughts on President Hickley's passing
Anyway, Anne will also be posting soon, so keep an eye on her blog as well (see link at right). I'll try to post more in the coming few days...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I know what I want for Christmas this year

So I think I've found what I want for Christmas this year. Check out this awesome pirate ship from Hamley's (famous toy store in London):

This Giant Pirate Ship Will take your breath away

Our hand-crafted large pirate ship will take your breath away and for children it is the chance to be Captain Jack Sparrow in battle against enemy pirates on the high seas. It truly is the ultimate in themed play.

Ideal for outdoor play the ship includes upper and lower decks, anti-slip decking, fore and aft cabins with windows and cannons. With a solid brass bell, personalised brass plaque, Jolly Roger and ships wheel the high seas were never this much fun!

Dimensions: (H) 5.9 x (W)2.2 x (L) 7.5 metres.

UK Mainland Delivery only.

All that for only £28,000! - At that price, it won't just take your breath'll take a good chunk of your salary as well!

As for where to ship it...well, that's still up in the air. We've received word that our household goods have cleared customs, but we're still a bit in limbo as to the final paperwork on our flat. More details as they are available...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving weekend

I don't think it dawned on me that we wouldn't be celebrating Thanksgiving this year like we normally do until probably Wednesday evening, when I was thinking of how most of my friends back home would be heading home for a nice four day weekend with the family and I was just getting ready for another day of work. Oh well...I do get more vacation days now that I'm a UK employee, so I suppose if I had realized it earlier, we could have made our own Thanksgiving weekend. As it was, though, I've had a pretty busy week at work and we're looking forward to getting into our own place and having our own stuff arrive (rather than corporate housing with rented furniture), so we'll have a belated Thanksgiving dinner when we're in our own place.

Speaking of which, our housing search has been successful and we're in the final stages of getting a lease signed on a nice place in Chiswick. It is a converted flat on the ground floor of a Victorian terraced home that has access to a nice sized garden in the back yard. A realtor in the States would probably list it as "charming" (if you've read Freakonomics, you know what I mean by that). It has a lot of personality and we're excited to move in and get settled. I'm posting a few pictures below...

This is a picture of the front of the house:

Here's the garden, as viewed from the kitchen window:

This is the main reception area (don't worry, we're not keeping the white furniture...we know better with two children):

Here's the kitchen, which is a pretty good size compared with several other places we looked at.

Finally, the children have been learning their Articles of Faith in Primary this year, but we decided as a family that we wanted to learn them together as well. They have really impressed us with how quickly and how well they are able to memorize, and it has been helpful to have discussions about what the words mean as we learn each new one.


(hopefully my experimentation with YouTube works...let me know if you can't see the videos)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Have we found a place to live?

Hey everyone (or...all three or four of you who read this blog),

Anne and the children arrived safely in the UK last Thursday evening. I was able to meet them at the airport and we took a cab back in to the city, where I had just checked in to a corporate apartment earlier that evening. We'll be staying there for about a month while we find a place to live and hopefully will have our stuff arrive in time for us to avoid having to pay for extra time or sleep on the floor!

We wasted no time in looking for a place and spent all day Friday out with an estate agent (British for "realtor") who took us to something like 15 different properties in one day. Luckily, we were able to find someone from church willing to watch the children even though they had only briefly met us back when we were here in August.

We think we found a few properties we liked, including one that we put an offer on today (Monday). It will likely be a few days before we hear back, so until then, we're going to keep looking.

We'll post pictures of the house once we have some firm idea whether or not we'll get the house so everyone can see. We actually saw the house twice, once with our estate agent and once again the next day with only the listing agent. We took the children back by the house to get their thoughts - they really liked it, and as luck would have it, there is another family from the ward who live right across the street, so they invited us over for lunch after we had seen the house. They have four children and are also from the States, so that would be fun to live that close to another family in the ward.

Isabelle and Chase were asked to participate in the Primary program yesterday. Chase backed out at the last minute, but he did stand and sing all the songs from his seat with us. Isabelle not only agreed to sit on the stand and help with the singing, but she was also given a part to read, which she did very well, especially considering she had never seen that particular part before.

Chase did something funny last night. I had some work to do and Anne was taking a nap to catch up on some jet lag and to try to get over the cold she's been fighting off for several days. While she was sleeping, I set the children up to call Deedee and Grandpa. While on the phone, they spoke to their Uncle Mark and Chase explained that he had a "cough due to a cold." Apparently, Mark was confused by this, and he asked Chase "What's a cough due to a cold?" whereupon Chase turned to me and asked "Daddy, what's a cough do to a cold?" When I told him I wasn't sure what he was talking about, he then told Mark "He doesn't know what a cough does to a cold...)

Anyway, funny story and thought it worth writing down...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving update

Anne & the kids arrive in London tomorrow! We're all pretty excited.

They've had a great time in NJ visiting friends and attending church where we lived from 1996 to 2003. It seems like such a long time since we've lived there and it is a bit hard to believe that both kids were born there, now that we've lived in three (and now four) other places since then.

They all went to the American Girl store and the Build-a-Bear workshop in NYC today. They also went to Toys-R-Us. Isabelle got a cat for her American Girl doll and Chase got a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a "bad guy" to play with ("so they can fight each other").

Anne & the kids will get into London tomorrow evening and we'll move into a corporate apartment while (or "whilst" as they say here) we look for a place to live. We're supposed to meet with our relocation coordinator on Friday to go look at places in various neighborhoods that I've been scouting out over the past month or so during my weekends in London. We like Chiswick, Fulham, Hammersmith, and Clapham. There are some other places (St. John's Wood, South Kensington, Pimlico) where we'd love to live, but we'd also prefer to have a bit more space than a shoe box!
Here's one of the properties I liked, but it is pretty far from everything (way out in East Acton), so it might not work. Also turns out they have some pretty crummy schools in the neighborhood, despite how nice (and big for London!) the house is...

Wanted - new name for this blog

I'm now soliciting new names for this blog. We want to make this an "our" blog rather than a "my" blog, which means I'll have to come up with a better name than one that hearkens back to an old inside joke with some of my buddies in high school.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Move week

So two weeks since my last post, but apparently nobody noticed anyway, so I guess this is just for me for now.

This week is the week we begin our move to England. We're pretty excited about it, but it seems like there is just so much still left to do. Movers get here on Wednesday to pack the part of our stuff that is going overseas, then Thursday for the stuff going into storage. They'll be back on Friday to load everything onto the truck(s). Then it's four to six weeks until we see stuff in London.

In the mean time, I head back to the UK on Tuesday, while Anne & the kids start out on Saturday, stopping in NJ for a few days to visit friends we haven't seen in about four years. They'll join me next Thursday in London and we'll hopefully be able to start looking for a place to live on Friday. Busy, busy.

Today was the Primary program at church. The kids did such a good job. Chase was really sick, but had been practicing his part and really wanted to be there. He could barely keep his eyes open on the stand, but he stood up and did his best to sing every song, though he had to keep reaching for tissues for his runny nose. When his turn came, he delivered his part (including a recital of the 10th Article of Faith, which is his favorite, probably because he likes to say "paradisiacal") flawlessly and eloquently. Isabelle also did a great job and you could really tell she was singing out and that she had really made an effort to memorize all the songs. Isabelle invited her Kindergarten teacher from last year, something she had wanted to do last year, but then left it until the last minute when it was too late. This year, she remembered several weeks ago and invited her.

Carson was here for the weekend, and we enjoyed having him visit. He got to spend a lot of time with Isabelle and Chase, and Chase especially liked showing off his skills on the play yard out back with such an attentive audience. Carson and I watched part of the Cal game last night and decided that in a way, it is good that Cal has been playing so poorly the last three weeks because now we don't have to worry about the expense of traveling to Pasadena next January. Between Mark's wedding and a Rose Bowl, that could have been a pretty expensive month, especially from the UK!

Anyway, that's the latest from here.