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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Week commencing 17th May 2009

Bobby giving me the evil eye after his journey. One of my leaving presents - a book seat!

Monday we had to go and visit the Tax specialist. This is one area that I have been worried about. Jar is relying on me to get it right because of my financial background but I must admit I was quite scared by what I perceived as the scary American system of completing your own returns and the reputation of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Drove an hour and a half to the north of Baltimore which was a pleasant drive anyway. Had an hours meeting with two of the specialists at the tax accountants and realized that it is not dissimilar to the UK tax laws except that everyone has to complete an annual return and they set their own tax code at the start of each year by listing their expected exemptions. Our case is slightly complicated by having our UK house rented but Jars company are paying for the tax Accountants to complete the first two years returns so I have plenty of time to pick it up.
Decided to treat ourselves to lunch so drove back to Rockville, MD and went to a Greek Meze place. It is like a Spanish tapas bar but Greek – Anne C, you would love it! We had Hummus, pita bread, feta cheese with honey, Shrimp Souvlaki and Lollipop lamp chops – yum, yum.
We then decided to buy ourselves a couple of fairly cheap tennis rackets and balls ($60 all in). Beside our house (5 minutes walk) there are two set of two public tennis courts which are open 24 hours a day and have floodlights for night playing until 11.00 p.m. They are in great condition given they are just open to anyone (unlike what they would be like at home we sadly commented!). So we decided to get the rackets to give us the option to play a light game for fresh air and exercise whenever we want. They are free and work on an honour system where you start playing on the hour and if someone is waiting you have to come off after an hour. We decided to try them out right away to went down and tried to have a game. Now given that neither of us play and just hit the ball and hope for the best, we ended up in stitches laughing as balls flew all over the place. It was good fun and exercise so I see that being a regular event for us – as long as Jar doesn’t lob the ball into the road again and nearly knock another driver out through his open car window!!!
It would be really difficult around here to not be fit and get lots of fresh air; there is just so much to offer and so many facilities.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I officially became the Lady that lunches – oh god I better not turn into one of them, lol. Tuesday I had lunch with the VP of HR from Jarlaths work. Donna is a lovely lady who is about 50 but looks and acts a lot younger. I have met her before and we always get on great and seem to be able to just chat as if we are old friends. She is the lady that keeps lending me books and I have lent her some, although she has not read any of mine yet. We went to a local sushi place which was nice. I also found the strawberry bushes in my garden and got the first lot of strawberries from them – see attached.
On Wednesday I met Richard from Robert Half International recruiters. I have been chatting to him via email over the last couple of months and asked if he fancied meeting. We met at the local Irish Inn at Glen Echo which is about 1.5 miles from the house. It was a lovely day so I walked down to meet him, had lunch and a chat and then walked back. On my way back I wandered into the Glen Echo park (see last weeks blog) and they have opened up an old fashioned Carousel. I just stood and watched in the sunshine for a while and drank in the relaxed family atmosphere from all the Moms (sp) and children.
In the evening Jar and I went to have a “game” of tennis. Here is a photo – I was going for the young Tracy Austin look with my hair!!!

It was hilarious again with us blaming “the bad bounce” on nearly every missed shot, no references made to the fact that we can’t play tennis for toffee. Did an hour of running around, in which I managed to stretch my hamstring too far but it seems ok now. We then spent a lovely relaxing evening eating pasta out on the back porch and then watched the end of The American Idol final drinking a nice glass of red wine – could life get any better.

Now I know I said I was going to take time off and not look for a job but after lunch on Wednesday I got a referral to one of Richards colleagues in Virginia. He employs professionals as consultants and then hires them out on projects to his customers. He contacted me to see if I would be interested as he has a client that has SAP reporting system and they are struggling with the Financial reporting and input and may need a trainer – SAP is my speciality from my last job. So on Thursday I drove down to meet with him and register as a consultant. Told him I would only be interested in working at most 3 days a week and would be quite picky about what I took. He seemed interesting and is going to see what he has. It is the ideal situation for me because I don’t have to accept anything he brings to me but it gives me the option of doing some project work if any comes up and keep my brain ticking over while earning some money – the hourly rate is not great but still a lot more than minimum wage. It was worth registering even if I never accept/get any work from it.
After wards, as I was down in Virginia anyway, I did the grocery shopping at Wegmans. Found out this week that in Virginia the alcohol laws are different to Maryland and DC. They are allowed to sell beer and wine in supermarkets in Virginia but not in the other two! This makes Wegmans worth going to even more as I can stock up on Jars Weisse Beer and my red wine without having to go to a separate liquor store. Got lots of lovely things for a BBQ – a full rack of BBQ ribs and lots of deli bits and pieces for a picnic dinner on Friday night.
In the afternoon my plan was to put on the swimming cossie and go to the community outdoor pool which just opened for the season on Monday but when I got there it was closed. I hadn’t paid prope attention to the opening hours and it only opens until 1.00p.m. until the school holidays start on 15 th June, so I was very disappointed. Just came home and sat out the back reading as I was in a bit of a sulk at not getting a swim.
In the evening I picked Jar up from work and we went straight to the cinema to see Star Trek. I never watched any of the old Star Trek series or movies except Enterprise, so I didn’t really know the characters. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and felt it was well cast and a good mix of humour and seriousness.

Friday I got up to see Jar off to work at seven and then decided to go along to the gym and join for real. Got my “free” T shirt and water. Decdied to try a Barre class which is supposed to be based on ballet and lots of muscle work done against a ballet Barre. Yes I can hear you all laughing at this great clod hopper trying to be graceful but it was vey good and hard. My description of it is that you work your muscles until they are shaking so much that you fall to the floor in agony and then can’t actually get up or walk for the rest of the day. I have to walk home after it and my legs, seriously, felt like they were made of jelly and wouldn’t actually hold me up. So I have booked in again for next week – masochist or what!
After playing around with some housework I decided to cycle up to Great Falls again but to go on my road bike around the road rather than the canal path. Now I mustr admit that it was not my greatest decision to do a ten mile bike ride staright after a barre class but the views once I got there were worth it. I remembered my camera so include some photos but they don’t do it justice. I had also taken my book with me and as my legs were aching I sat and read for an hour to try and gain some strength for the cycle home. Luckily after an initial climb up from the bills it was mostly downhill and was actually quite fun.
Friday evening was a quiet picnic lunch and some red wine in the house with Jar.

Saturday morning dawns and I can feel every muscle from the boobs down aching – some muscles I didn’t even realized existed are hurting. We decided to get up and take an hour and a half trip into Virginia to go and see the Luray Caverns. Here is some of the facts from the caverns
For more than 125 years, Luray Caverns has been renowned as a spectacular natural wonder. Today the caverns remain as magical and majestic as when they were first discovered in 1878 by a tinsmith and a local photographer. Millions of visitors have wandered the subterranean pathways and discovered for themselves the natural draw of Luray Caverns.
During the continental drift about 600 million years ago, the Americas separated from the continents of Europe and Africa. A broad, shallow depression from Alabama north to Newfoundland was formed. Then, for 400 million years an ancient sea flooded the area that is now the Appalachian Mountains. Layers of water-borne sediments accumulated on the ocean floor, followed by limestone sediments composed of fossilized marine animals and shells. The weight of the sediments eventually compressed the two layers into metamorphic rock. As a result of the eons-old shifting of the earth's tectonic, or crystal, plates, North America and Africa collided. This elevated and fractured the sea floor, causing the older, underlying layer of metamorphic rock to tilt upward and slide over the younger layer, creating a towering mountain range, the Appalachians.
As the large volumes of water drained away, nature began crafting the stone formations left in the caverns today. Inside a cave created by the shifting earth, a solution of calcium carbonate gave up some of its carbon dioxide, allowing a precipitation of lime to form. This precipitation began as a thin deposit ring of crystallized calcite, but continued to collect, creating stalactites that hung from the ceiling. As water drops flowed down these deposits and fell to the floor, deposits built upwards, forming stalagmites. When a stalactite growing down from the ceiling met a stalagmite growing up from the floor, a column or pillar was formed. The growth process, also called dripstone, continues in Luray Caverns. Ours is an active cave where new deposits accumulate at the rate of one cubic inch every 120 years.
Stalactites are often formed in a fluted and uniformed fashion from the ceiling down. Stalagmites, too, build with distinct mounds and ridges on their way toward the ceiling. Dripstone, in addition to covering the ceilings and floors, is also abundant on cavern walls. Sometimes dripstone results in massive decorations called flowstone, when mineral-bearing water spreads over limestone walls or builds its deposits from a protruding edge. These crystalline deposits can form draperies and stone waterfall formations. There are many factors that can impact the shape and color of formations, including the rate and direction of the seepage, the amount of acid in the water, the temperature and humidity content of a cave, air currents, the above ground climate, the amount of annual rainfall and the density of the plant cover. All coloration in Luray Caverns is natural, caused by different minerals in the seeping ground water. White is the color of calcium carbonate in its pure form. Other elements absorbed from the soil and rock layers create impure forms of calcite. Reds and yellows are caused by iron and iron-stained clays, black is the result of manganese dioxide, and blues and greens are the result of solutions of copper minerals.

It was an amazing sight to see and we took loads of photos which I will post on facebook and a link on RISI as too many to include here. Again the photos do not do them justice and the sheer size and age of these formations just take your breath away. They also have an organ which they have built and linked to play tunes by using the natural tuning of the formations, difficult to explain but it is in a cave called the Cathedral (and people actually get married there) and sounded very ethereal.
Drove back to Bethesda late afternoon and decided to go for a couple of drinks and some food, needless to say this ended up with us meeting some friends in Flannagans pub, leaving the car and getting a taxi home at midnight but all good fun and I met a couple of new girls – Laurel and Vikki – and hopefully will become friends with them.

Well another fun week for us. Take care all. H Xx

1 comment:

  1. hi hazel. love ur pics. a book seat??? cool !! you sound as if u are a native already-all that excercise! didn t think it would take u long to think about working lol. glad ur having such a great time. love .c.xxxx