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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The build up to the housewarming BBQ

Not sure if anyone is still interest or reading this any more but will keep writing it for my own benefit anyway!

Decided to take a run out on Sunday to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. I thought we were just going to check out a watersports place to arrange some Kayaking or tubing. I had no idea that Harpers Ferry was in fact a major historical area, almost as important to the American Civil war as Gettysburg.
THE HISTORY OF HARPERS FERRY HAS FEW PARALLELS IN THE AMERICAN DRAMA. It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered – involving a diverse number of people and events that influenced the course of our nation's history. Harpers Ferry witnessed the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown's attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.
The Civil War had a profound and disastrous effect on Harpers Ferry, leaving a path of destruction that wrecked the town's economy and forced many residents to depart forever. Because of the town's strategic location on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Union and Confederate troops moved through Harpers Ferry frequently. The town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.

We had a lovely drive with the top down in the sports car. Zooming up north of Maryland and then across just into West Virginia. There is one spot you drive through where you actually pass through 3 different states in the space of about 30 seconds. We started by visiting the Water sports place, River Riders, and looking at all the fun sports they offer on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. We ended up booking a Guide assisted White water Kayaking half day trip for the last weekend in July, so looking forward to this. We also got a permit for rough camping which is basically a permit to pitch a tent by the river. No facilities but just the bliss of nature and no people around. No showers or anything but the river is just there and the water temperature is usually about 80 degrees as it is quite shallow so I guess we can bathe in it. Will of course report back once this weekend happens.
We then drove into Harpers Ferry state park and got the bus into the historical village where we just wandered around looking at all the old buildings, had a bite of lunch and then bus back to the car. Harpers Ferry is also on the Appalachian Trail and Jarlath is even more determined to walk or bike part of this – in fact you can actually bike from our house in DC along the C & O Canal up to Harpers Ferry – I think it is about 60 miles or something and Jar wants to try it but I am not sure.

Here are some photos:


Monday we started our next course of dancing lessons with the Argentine Tango. I was expecting the same beat as the previous tango we had done but found out that the Argentine tango is in individual steps and not Slow, slow, quick, quick slow. A bit disappointed in that because I thought we could build on the steps we had previously learned. Got some basic steps but were both struggling with the music as there is no strong beat to follow like in ballroom. Still fun doing something together. Also, there was one girl in the class that kept bursting into body popping dance while we were being shown a new step which was very rude and off putting. Jar had a word with the teacher about it it was that bad.

The rest of the week was just caught up in getting ready for our housewarming BBQ on Saturday. I bought a volleyball net and ball to set up for fun. We also bought a sun canopy to go up in the garden, we needed a new one for camping anyway. I also had to make sure we had enough beer and food in as about 50 people said they were coming, I didn’t even realize we knew 50 people already!

I also tried my road bike again after the disaster of my puncture last time. I was a bit nervous but decided to bike to the library again as it is only about 3 miles away so worst case I would only have a short walk back. I took back my audio book and yoga books and picked up another audio book. I got Never Let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro which I have already read but wanted to do a re-read so thought I would try another audio book. I can’t believe the amazing choice of audio books they have at the local library.

Well Saturday came and our housewarming BBQ. We set up a tressle table in the stables as the bar and a tressle table outside under the canopy for the food. I made loads of side dishes mainly from Delia smith book and they all turned out quite yummy. People started turning up just after 5.00p.m. and the evening went by in a blur of food and chat. I made Kim the photographer so blame her for the photos. American BBQs are quite different to back in the UK. For one, when you invite people it is automatically assumed that they can bring their whole families and it is not unusual for people to pop in and out for a couple of hours. Most people stayed quite late though as they seemed to be enjoying themselves. I had so much food left that it looked like no-one had eaten anything but they all seemed to be full up. For dessert I decided to use my Fondue set for the first ever time and made a chocolate fondue with marshmallows, strawberries, pineapples and pound cake to dip in. This went down an absolute treat and there was even a queue of people at one point waiting in line to get to the fondue pot! So simple but effective. Eventually there was only about 10 of us left so we lit the fire and went to the fire circle to sit and chat around it. More marshmallows over the fire and lots of fun chat. We tried to have a campfire sing song but as everyone was completely tone deaf it didn’t really take off the ground. Lit the Shisha pipe and it was so much fun just passing it around the circle as well. Ended up about 2.00a.m. and everyone went except Simon and Dawn who were crashing in the spare room for the night. It was so funny ‘cause Simon was a bit pissed and insisted on opening a bottle of red wine for a nightcap.

So I think our first party over here was a success and a fun end to a normal week.


Will go there so I don’t bore you all too much more. Take care. Xx

Monday, July 13, 2009

The blur of the last two weeks

Where is the time going? Life is flashing by and I sometimes have no idea what I did in a day despite always seeming to be busy.

Been continuing by A to Z book challenge. I have reached “I” and reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. So far it is a good read although seems to be taking me ages to get through it. Quite intrigued where it is going now I am half way through it.
Well what have we been up to?!

On Sunday Jar and I took the metro into Downtown Washington DC to take a walk around and go and visit one of the museums. There was the Washington Folklife festival being held on The Mall. Surprisingly, Wales (the Country) had a big presence at the festival, with music tents, food, crafts and yes Sheep! Not sure why they had such a big presence at a US Festival apart from trying to lure tourists to visit. We just wandered round the festival and never settled to listen to any one stage. At one point the out of tune singing coming from the Welsh music stage had us in fits of laughter it was so awful.
We then decided to go and visit the National Museum of the American Indian. The National Museum of the American Indian houses one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections, ranging from Native art to historical and cultural artifacts. The museum’s sweeping curvilinear architecture, its indigenous landscaping and its exhibitions, all designed in collaboration with tribes and communities from across the hemisphere, combine to give visitors the sense and spirit of Native America. Honestly, I was disappointed in the exhibition as it just showed items of origin rather than giving you an insite into their lives or educating in any positive way. The best part was the architecture as it was created with no corners to show the flowing lines of the natural world. We ended up not staying very long – one because it wasn’t that great and two because I could hardly walk from my exercise classes of the previous week!

Monday night was our last dance class in the series. Jar and I went along early to go over the tango from the previous week that he had missed. We also did some more steps from the Foxtrot and then put it all to music and danced around the ballroom. I must say that I was quite impressed by the way Jar was a natural at the Tango. He even got one of the steps before I did (although I think the ladies part is always a bit harder – hmmm!). We enjoyed it so much that we have decided to take a 4 class series of Argentine tango lessons starting in a couple of weeks. We thought there was no point in stopping just as we had got the basics and the taste of it and to be able to use in a social environment we needed to take it further. It is also fun spending an hour each Monday night doing something the same together. I will give you an update once these start.

The rest of the week was spent just doing to normal combination of activities for me (see all previous blogs!) and getting ready to go away the weekend for the 4th of July weekend. Bobby knew we were getting ready to go away – somehow he always does – so on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday he brought me a present of a dead vole each day. The one on the Wednesday was discovered as I stepped on it in bare feet at the bottom of the stairs – nice! He is always so proud when he gives me one of his gifts and struts around for about ten minutes under my feet. I was in the kitchen cooking when he brought the first one and deposited it at my feet.
I also managed to get a puncture on my road bike. I decided to cycle to the library to get a book on yoga to learn my own home practice and was cycling home when my bike started to shudder. I found my back tyre flat and I had no spare or pump. Luckily I was only just over a mile from home so I was able to walk just pushing my bike, although I did feel like a bit of a numpty.

On Thursday we set off driving up to Rochester NY to spend the 4th of July weekend with our good friends Martin and Lisa and their family. Martin was best man at our wedding and they have just had their third child a month ago. I did the first four hours of the drive as Jar had to do some work emails and phone calls. It was ok although we did get stuck in traffic near Scranton (Pennsylvania) – Scranton is where the American version of The Office is set (the Ricky Gervais show set in Slough in the UK). The delay added a good hour to our journey.
To pass the time of the trip I had taken out the audio book of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. We have both read it before but wanted to re-read before the movie comes out. It was quite good although you end up not talking for hours as you are both just listening and enjoying the scenery. We arrived safe and sound mid evening, in time to see the kids before bed time and to have dinner with Martin and Lisa. Their three kids, Liam (4), Erin (20 months) and Cate (1 month) are adorable and seemed to remember me from my visit last October. Erin came to me right away without being strange which is always quite nice. We just had a chilled evening catching up with each other, then the boys went out to a local pub for some beers. Everyone was off work on the Friday but the weather wasn’t that great so we just went out for a short nature walk and then hung around the house for a while watching the tennis before going to the Country club with the kids for a swim. It was so much fun as the kids were persuaded to jump in the deep end and even jump off the diving board. It is hard work treading water while holding a small child but a great workout for your legs. Friday was another quiet evening with dinner and then the boys disappearing to the pub.
Saturday brought the 4th of July and the weather started off quite cloudy. Jar and I went out to the wine store to stock up on wine as it is a lot cheaper up here than in Maryland and the choice was better. We also went to the beer store to stock up for our BBQ in a couple of weeks. After that we all decanted to the Country club again where Jar, Martin and I played some games of tennis. It was nice to get a run around and I played quite well. The boys went to the pool while I went to get ready for the celebrations starting at the club. There was a bbq and lots of activities for the kids – bouncy castles, clown, balloons etc. There could have been a few more activities for the adults, like music or dancing or whatever but it was fun. Lisa had most of her family there – Mum, dad, sister and four kids etc. So it was lots of fun sitting chatting and running around with the kids. The fireworks were starting at 9.30p.m. but we left earlier to get the kids to bed so didn’t see them but I find fireworks an anticlimax anyway so was not too disappointed. The boys again went to the pub while Lisa went to bed and I just chilled with my book and a beer.

Sunday we all got up and out to the Country club nice and sharp in the morning to get some swimming and sunbathing done. Jar and I then played some more tennis while our friends took the kids home for afternoon nap. I have really caught a bit of sun as it is a lot cooler here so you are able to sit out in it without baking as much as back home.
In the late afternoon we drove over to a cousin/family friends house for a bbq. They had just moved into their new house a couple of months before and had got engaged last night so it was a lovely positive evening. We set up a paddling pool for the kids and they just loved it. I managed to get a nice long chat to Lisa’s sister Cor – she has four young children and must be about the same age as me. It was just lovely to sit outside chatting to family and friends. We ate far too much which was ended off by some really sweet chocolate, peanut and ice cream dessert that someone had made. In fact, poor wee Erin threw hers up in the car just before they set off for home – lucky I was in a separate car or I would have thrown up from the smell as well.

Set off home on Monday and decided to come back a different route to avoid the roadworks at Scranton. It was a much more picturesque drive and we just enjoyed listening to the remainder of our audio book all the way home.

Here is link to some photos from my weekend:

The remaining days brought the usual chores, yoga and relaxing. On Thursday after yoga and a half hour chat with some of the guys from the class, I decided to go downtown Washington to take in a museum. I decided on the Holocaust Museum as it had been mentioned over the weekend that it was one that I should see. It has also been in the news here over the last month or so as one of the security guards was shot there by an 83 year old White Supremacist about a month ago. It was a most tragic piece of news but if anything it has highlighted the museum and will hopefully lead more people to go along and see it as everyone needs to see this.
I have no photos as I didn’t think it was appropriate and you were not allowed to take them inside the exhibits anyway. It was an interesting place to see, it all still seems unbelievable to me that something like this could have happened to this scale. The exhibits and films went some way to explaining not why it happened (that is beyond explanation) but how the factors of the time in Germany made it possible for the Nazi party to get such a meteoric rise to power and how they managed to influence the minds of so many “normal” German people. There was a humbling/melancholic feel to the whole place that gave you a very mellow feeling. Anyway a place everyone should visit if in Washington Dc just so no-one forgets in future generations because I even felt like it was fiction and could not possibly be true despite knowing differently. It also made books like The Book thief and The boy in the striped pyjamas more realistic when seeing real movie reels about similar things – bookburnings, camps etc. Anyway I will move on as it is difficult to put into writing all my thoughts and feelings on this without risking some misinterpretation. I had a good debate with Jarlath about this that evening.

Friday I decided to take a picnic lunch up to Jarlath at his office so we could go to the lake and eat it outside. It didn’t quite work out as he was delayed on a conference call so we just ended up eating it outside on the picnic tables at his work. It was still nice to spend some extra time together and take him away from his desk even for a half hour. I then went to the Washingtonian centre to buy a volley ball net to set up in our garden for our housewarming bbq next weekend and to get a pump for my road bike tyre.

Friday evening we met Kim, Andrew and their friend Jenny for Thai food in Georgetown. We then walked across to Washington Harbour to have some drinks outside. It was hilarious seeing all the posing going on, particularly the people who actually sailed their boats up to sit beside the bar on the quayside to have a drink and be seen in their boats. If I had their boats (and no chronic sea sickness) I wouldn’t be moored on the harbor drinking but rather sailing into the open sea and taking in the silence and the stars – but hey, each to their own! Jar and I decide to call it a night at 12.30 as he had Karate in the morning and I was driving and my stomach was playing up a little bit. Ended up sitting up until nearly two having a nightcap and a chat in the house. We also switched on the tv and on came Friday night with Jonathon Ross so we watched a few moments of it as we usually find him quite funny. He was talking to William Shatner which was ok.


Well will end there. Hope you are all well and particular love to Elaine after the positive news on her results, Happy Birthday to Angelicfi and hugs to everyone else. Xx