My life in boxes

I’m writing this while waiting for the moving company to arrive and pick up most of my worldly possessions. They’ll be put on a boat and shipped across the ocean. I won’t be reunited with them until several weeks from now.

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Not pictured here is my bicycle, because once packed it was too big to fit in my friend’s car to take home. The movers will pick it up from the bicycle shop in town. So. My life consists of eleven (11) boxes — and the two suitcases I will take with me. It doesn’t seem like much once it’s all stacked in a tidy pile in the middle of my sitting room. Five (5) of these boxes are books and one crate contains only binders filled with articles from my research. I am a researcher.

If I were staying in the UK, the pile would be a bit bigger: I’m leaving behind various electronics that won’t work Stateside. But not more than another row of boxes; I accurately gauged how many boxes I would be shipping, surprisingly enough.

After five and a half years, my time in Scotland, in the UK, and in Europe, is drawing to a close. I didn’t know when I moved here in September 2008 that I would be staying for half a decade. Who knows what the next chapter will bring? And yet my ex-pat heart hopes it won’t be too long until find myself with another pile of boxes stacked in another living room, waiting for the international movers to arrive.

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Rain, rain…

Go away!

I mean it. The UK has been battered by some pretty rough weather as of late. Southern England has been the hardest hit, but it’s still pretty awful up here in Scotland. There was a major storm that toppled trees and flooded rivers and villages in England in late October. Then a tidal surge that was the largest in 60 years wreaked havoc on the coasts in early December. And since Christmas, the UK has been hit by storm after storm off the Atlantic, with more tidal surges, and it’s forecast to continue into mid-January. Seriously, we’ve had about 20 days and nights of rain already. Another 20 more and we might all be flooded away.

Luckily there hasn’t been any flooding in my area and the rain is more of a nuisance than causing any real harm. I’d like to go outside and run errands without having to strap weights to my boots to keep from blowing away. I’m still a desert girl at heart and I don’t know what to do with so much rain. But I am concerned about the areas down south, where the land is so saturated with water already that it can’t absorb any more rain. Which leads to flooding.

My parents left this morning and I have plenty of things to do around the house to keep me busy, so I’ll postpone any ventures outside until tomorrow when I have to go to work. I hope those of my British readers in the UK are staying safe, dry, and warm.

* Yes, I’ve written an entire post concerning the weather. I’ve lived in the UK for half a decade, okay?

Update

This is just an update.

  • Yes, I am still alive. Today might be day #3 in bed, two days after a visit to the A&E (ER to Americans), but I’m feeling better and I might even eat real food today.
  • My conference went really well. My paper was received with interest and I received lots of helpful feedback.
  • However, I’ve noticed that whenever I take public transport from one end of the country to the other, I get ill. This may mean that the next train journey I have down south (to Oxford!), I will be the passenger sporting a face mask.
  • Due to illness, I wasn’t able to participate in any of the 600th anniversary events this week. I had a ticket to the graduation ceremony and they even did background checks for that! But I watched most of the ceremony on live stream, before I was taken ill…

So no, I didn’t get to meet Judith Butler, Rowan Williams, et. al. in person, but I did get to see them on my computer. Sigh. And I was able to see some of the fireworks from my house, so that’s a bonus. I’m still annoyed though because it’s not like I’m going to be around for the next centenary of my university.

Anyhow, I am getting better, and I hope to be well by Tuesday (which is in TWO DAYS), because it will be a certain someone’s birthday and he will be visiting…

What did you say?

Spending the last week and a half with my mom has made my Southern/Texan accent come out. I even have to repeat myself sometimes so F. can understand me. My mom has trouble with his accent sometimes, and he has trouble with hers, but I can understand them both. Accents are funny things.

Ros needs to visit again so I can speak RP again.

How to take your own passport photo

It’s finally come time for me to renew my passport. Because I’m in the UK, I have to renew it through the U.S. Embassy in London. The paperwork alone took most of the morning to do.

Anyway, the easiest aspect of this process has been the passport photo. I went in to get my photo taken at a local shop, but I was so disappointed with the result that I rued the £10 I paid for the service. I wasn’t going to send those photos unless I absolutely had to! And I didn’t have to, because you don’t have to have professional photos for your passport photo. Anyone with a camera and a printer can do it.

Here’s how:

1. Refer to the U.S. passport photo guidelines. Put on your favourite clothes and get a friend to take your picture. If you have a digital camera you can take as many as you want and choose the best one.

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2. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you can use this tutorial and FREE template made by Nic Myers.

Photoshop Template

3. If you don’t have Adobe Photoshop, you can use the U.S. Department of State Travel.org’s very own online tool. Click here. (Also includes guidelines.)

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4. Save your file as a .jpg onto a thumb drive (jump disk, usb, etc.). Then go to your local Boots, CVS, Walgreens, etc. to print your photos.

I printed two files, for a total of four passport photos, for £0.78. 78p! That’s a steal compared to the £10 I paid to have someone else do it for me. So, take a tip from me: do your own passport photos. You’ll be pleased with the results and they’re cheaper!

Eat your vegetables

Since being in the States for the past three weeks, I’ve eaten out a lot — Saltgrass Steakhouse, Alamo Cafe, Cracker Barrel (2x), Ruby Tuesday, Rising High Cafe, Olive Garden, El Fenix, La Madeline, Panera Bread (2x), Cattleman’s — and I have noticed something about their menus. Only two of these fine establishments featured little “V’s” to indicate vegetarian options: Rising High Cafe and Panera Bread. What a difference from restaurants in the UK where you can usually find at least one option that is vegetarian if not vegan (even if it is always risotto).

Instead, those other restaurants (the steakhouses excluded) had other symbols in their menus to indicate low-calorie or low-fat or even “healthy heart” options. But I am somewhat confused why none of these restaurants, save the two soup, salad, and sandwich lunch cafes would offer meals for vegetarians. Most of these are chain restaurants — and I mean, really? Olive Garden, an Italian restaurant, doesn’t offer any meat-free pasta dish?

I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet at home. Partly because meat is expensive, I just prefer vegetables, think that it’s a healthier lifestyle, and because my boyfriend is vegetarian. I’m used to eating meat maybe once a week and this meat-heavy diet the past three and a half weeks is feeling very heavy indeed. I’ve found myself ordering only sides, asking for chicken or prosciutto to be left off the salad, ordering broccoli and cheddar soup only to be annoyed that it had bacon in that wasn’t in the description.

I am still baffled that these restaurants would go through the trouble to mark “healthy” or “low calorie” entrees and forget that purely vegetarian meals might be the healthiest and lowest calorie options of all! And those people who are trying to lose weight or feel healthy by choosing the “healthy” but still meat-heavy options might need to revisit the adage to “Eat your vegetables”.

Granted, I know I have one of those frames and metabolisms that sheds pounds more quickly than it can gain them, but I will be glad to get back into being once more mostly-vegetarian and live in a country that accommodates such eating choices.

Favourite things

Wild sea, churning waves:

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Last weekend there were large storms out at sea which sent unusually powerful waves crashing against the coast. Our harbour, as well as others, experienced some damage; but for those safe on land it was an incredible sight to see the waves roaring towards the shore, breaking and swept by the wind.

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Additional photos courtesy of F. Just look at those waves!

* Yes, I’m going to continue posting Favourite Things of my Town in Scotland even while I’m traveling in the U.S. for a month.