It’s Beginning to Look Like Holiday Spirit

DSC_0201Ah man, look at me being terrible at posting on time again. Well, better late than never?

Anywhos, it’s the last week of classes here and I’m dealing with packing and trying to complete some essays before I leave for my month long, graceful, tumble around Europe. At this moment I’m a bit sick, which is a little terrifying, but I’m keeping my head up that I’ll be mostly better by this weekend. This upcoming Monday will be my first day in Barcelona so I don’t know how well posting on this blog will go, but I’ll do my best.

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The pictures you’re seeing are from the city center of Nottingham where they have a Christmas market set up. Apparently they have Christmas markets all over Europe. The best ones are in Germany and Austria, but I’ll just have to settle for the few we stumble upon while traveling and this one, about twenty minutes away from me. The holidays are making me both really sad and happy. Sad because I will not be with family this year, but happy because I’ll be in Amsterdam instead. Not to mention Christmas in general makes me happy (it helps you guys sent me presents to open on actual Christmas day).

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The holiday season also gave the hall an excuse to have our Christmas formal, which is why we all look so dapper in these photos. I’m really going to miss all of these kids while I travel. I’m really glad I come back for two weeks to take finals because it would have been a rough couple of days if I had to say a permanent goodbye.

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There are a lot of opportunities to get into the holiday spirit. A bunch of girls from Linfield all volunteered with helping to make holiday decorations for a party and spending the afternoon drinking Starbucks Christmas drinks while cutting out paper snowflakes and not so carefully applying glitter to everything was the perfect way to bring myself some holiday cheer.

Okay, now I should really stop avoiding other responsibilities. This Shakespeare Histories essay is not, unfortunately, going to write itself. Hopefully next will be a post from Barcelona where it will not be quite as cold.

Micro Kitchen Meets Big Personalities

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Lee playing his nerdy computer games pre-wifi days.

I have a terrible habit of only posting every other week, I’m sorry! Hopefully I’ll have something cooler to post next week. Work has been nuts; we’re launching a brand new, completely, 100% different website on Monday, and I’m in charge of posting all the new content to the blog (or “journal,” as we’re calling it). 40 posts and counting. Hopefully I am near the end. I’ll think I’m done and then my boss will think of something new for me to post (which literally just happened as I am typing this). It’s always in a series of 10 or so. It’s mostly copying and pasting, but it’s a lot of work. And it’s on a new platform, so we’re all learning as we go, which makes it a little stressful. But it’s kind of fun. It’s at least a little creative, because I get to play with the layout.

I’m also lacking motivation to do actual work today because more than half of the office took today as a vacation day. Seven people usually occupy the room my desk is in, and there are only three of us here today. The chicks. One of them is my closest friend in the office, so a lot of post-Thanksgiving gossiping happened this morning.

So, anyway, I’m living with a tiny, tiny kitchen. So far, it’s not  a huge problem. The worst part is just the feeling of being cramped – I’m cooking stuff on the stove and my elbow bumps the wall, or I’m trying to get something out of one cupboard and I can’t open another. It’s not a big deal, though, because all the portions I cook are pretty small since it’s just the two of us. And I make very basic meals since I’m not a great cook. Tacos, pasta dishes, salads, casseroles, nothing too fancy. No steaks or chicken and dumplings or fancy stews. Not yet, anyway.

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As you can see, I got my over-the-sink cutting board!! I LOVE it. And I felt so grown up buying it…and I feel so grown up owning it! It’s a wonderful, hefty chunk of wood. Every cutting board I’ve owned has been a flimsy piece of crap plastic slab or something. It creates a lot of counter space, just enough extra room that I can mix things, cook things on the stove, and chop things all at the same time. And what’s great is that it doesn’t quite cover the whole sink, so I can still drop ends of veggies or dirty spoons into the sink while it’s there. I really can’t recommend something like this enough. I got mine at IKEA, and get this: it was TEN BUCKS. Ten! Get yours here:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30087148/

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One thing that Lee and I CANNOT agree on is where to hang that damn hand towel to the left of the oven. I like it there. Our oven handle doesn’t come out far enough from the oven for us to slip a towel back there, so we have to hang it on a cabinet knob (we’re too cheap to go buy, like…a command hook…and too lazy). He puts it on the handle of the cabinet above the sink, so it’s just dangling in our faces while we do dishes. It irritates me…so much…fl-flame-flames…on the sides of my face…b-burning…

But he lets me put my mugs right there, on top of the oven, since the cabinet we put our other mugs in is too high for me to reach. That’s another problem with tiny kitchens: storage space. I honestly didn’t think this would be much of a problem; it seemed like we had a lot of room. We don’t. It gets used up really, really fast. We’re making do, though. We keep minimal food in the apartment in the way of snacks, just essentials for cooking, and most of our stuff goes in the fridge, because we figure that healthy stuff is the stuff that spoils. So we utilize what we have.

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This little portal has changed since I took this photo – as you can see, Jos, we are using the french press you gave me for my birthday. Lee was NOT convinced the first time we used it (this may have been the first time, I think he was cooking me breakfast on our first Saturday at the apartment), but he won’t use anything else now. This morning, while he was driving me to a doctor’s appointment before work (such a nice guy), he was drinking some french press coffee and just said, “you know what? I’m sold on the french press. I love it.” And so do I! It’s so much easier than coffee from a coffee maker, and it tastes a thousand times better.

ANYWAY. The portal currently houses those two little cacti (his is the single one, called Diglet, and mine is the three little guys, called Dugtrio – ten points if you get the reference), the cowboy boot shot glasses Lee got at Fifthmas last December, a glass skull full of our laundry change, a little hedgehog Christmas ornament, and a ceramic reindeer that mysteriously showed up in my car when I got back from mom’s last weekend. Wonder how that got there…

So that’s my micro kitchen as of right now. We had a little set of pots hanging on a rack above the sink, but Lee’s massive swimmer arms flailed a bit too aggressively and he knocked them off the wall, so there’s a hole on one side now. He gets to fix that. Also, look at this:

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This is how Lee thinks you should hang curtains. He gets to fix that too.

Some Things I’ll Miss About England

DSC_0010Hello sisters.

So I know I still have a considerable amount of time abroad, but the the facts are, I only have three weeks of school left until I leave for break and even though after break I return for another two weeks, I’m already feeling nostalgic for a place I’m still living. The thing is, the idea of leaving this new place where I’ve discovered so many things and met so many people is wrenching my heart. Going to Uni here has been like starting over and in an effort to avoid thinking about the upcoming holidays where I won’t be with my family, I thought I’d list some of my favorite things about the place I live.

1. England is beautiful. The picture above is from Wollaton and Deer Park. I have found that Wollaton is the exact perfect way to take a study break. Sometimes, I’ll load my phone up with a new podcast or good music and just take a walk around the lake. There are always families walking around or people cycling and I find it a great way to clear my head and breathe in some fresh air. The fact is, England is beautiful. It’s like they try especially hard to make everything aesthetically pleasing and I love it.

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2. The City Center. Nottingham is not exactly England’s shining jewel, but the city center has always surprised me with the amount of things to do and the amount of weird adventures I’ve had. Whether it’s going out to clubs where everyone dances embarrassingly and I have yet to see any true grinding, or just randomly going into town one day and finding a vintage fair, Nottingham makes me happy. The other evening, after 80’s night at a dance club, me and a friend ran through town attempting to get McDonald’s before our bus was due to arrive. We made it, but only by sprinting with burgers and fries in our hands and mouths and almost choking from laughing.

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3. Traveling. The picture above is from a random two day trip I took with my friend Molly to Cambridge. The town was having a little carnival type deal for Guy Fawkes night where the fireworks were actually pretty impressive. The fact is, I took a random trip to a completely new city in the middle of the week and just took time to explore. I don’t do that at home, no one really does. I know it’s harder to do in the states than it is here, but I’m going to miss it when I return. I’ll be flat broke from all of the traveling, but it’s oh so worth it.

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4. The people. This one is going to hurt. The people in my hall are becoming some of my favorite humans. It’s going to hurt like a bitch leaving them.

Anyways, there’s a quick, more optimistic comment on how my life has been going lately. I have some footage from other, more recent travels, I just need to get my shiz together and actually edit it all. But this is all I can manage at the moment, I have to go read some criticism on Death of a Salesman now. Byeeee.

Information On: Alki Apartment

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Sorry I’ve been MIA (again). Last week was full of packing and now that we’re moved in, we don’t have WIFI until Monday. So I’m working with what I’ve got!

The apartment is wonderful. It’s small, but that’s how city living goes, and the view absolutely makes up for it. They refinished our bathroom for us, so it looks brand new. Our neighbors are friendly (well, all of them but the lady who lives downstairs and screamed profanities at us when we dropped some shelves on the floor. It happens, okay?!)

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The move in process has been a little rough. While they were refinishing our tub, our drain broke and we had to postpone our move-in to Tuesday, so we’ve only been there for three nights. Seeing as we moved in on a weeknight and we both work all day, our place is still a bit of a mess. We got Wednesday off to do all the big stuff, but ended up spending the day figuring out my bus route, being stuck in West Seattle in the freezing cold (which was actually kind of fun – I’ll explain in a minute), then grocery shopping. By the time all that was finished, Lee had to head to his other job and I was alone to do what I wanted to the place for the rest of the day. I set up the kitchen, which took forever because Lee brought so many gadgets for the kitchen that DO NOT FIT ANYWHERE, set up the bathroom, got most of the living room organized, hung some art, set up the kitchen table area, and watched a movie on our tiny temporary TV.

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While Lee and I were stuck sort of in the middle of nowhere in West Seattle, we finally (25 minutes and a box of grape Swishers purchase from a mini mart later) caught a bus that took us on a round-about route to our apartment. It was a tiny bus with super cushy seats. A little girl with a polka-dot scarf and white sunglasses got on with her mom and chatted with the bus driver like he was her best friend. The bus wound up and down neighborhood streets, then into the heart of our new city. We saw where everything was, all the people rushing to buy their lunches on their lunch breaks, where the nearest pizza joints were, where to get Christmas gifts and drinks and groceries, and the mountains and the ocean from way up high. After weaving through West Seattle, the bus finally took us past a Safeway and turned onto the street that leads down to the water, the road I would be taking to get to and from civilization outside of our little beach town. I love that road. It’s residential but not. It’s quiet and leads you from the serenity of living by the water to the practicality and excitement of a small, patriotic city. I am so excited to be where we are.

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Our apartment is a little cold. We’re afraid to turn on the heat for more than an hour because we’ve never had to pay an electric bill before, and being by the water cools things down very fast.

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The best thing about living on Alki is the road that takes you there from the West Seattle Bridge. You take an exit and turn right, pass a little bicycle shop next to an art supplies store, a few small apartment complexes, a gas station, then out your passenger window is the entire city of Seattle across a calm body of water, and at night it’s all lit up with container ships anchored in the middle. You can see the Ferris wheel and it’s all lit up too. It’s incredible. It’s also one of the sights I saw on my first date with Lee in the city, almost exactly a year ago. In fact, we met a year ago yesterday. Our one year is on the 30th.

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I have plans for the apartment. An area we want to turn into a tiny studio (basically a desk with room on the walls to make art, a sort of inspirational spot for Lee to write). Macrame hangings, because that’s something I really want to get into, but I need internet first so I can look up tutorials. We want to find room (somewhere…) in the apartment for a vintage piece of furniture dedicated to our music-related stuff: speakers, a record player, records, an amp, my SONOS speaker, etc. We need room for a Christmas tree. I’ll need to do some shopping for those decorations – or Joselyn could just give me some from her large and growing quantity of homemade things? We’re already hosting a dinner for Lee’s friend and his girlfriend (maybe I’ll finally make a friend up here?) His sister Jess is staying with us the night before Thanksgiving. My friends Lauren and Megan are coming up on the sixth for a Secret Santa gift exchange. There’s already lots of excitement happening at our little sanctuary. I’m excited to make it a real home. And to set up our dresser so our room is less of a laundry basket and more of a living space.

I’ll try to wrap things up. I’m in a good place now. Living with Lee’s parents was incredibly rough and seriously tried our relationship, but we’re already finding ourselves again. West Seattle seems a great place to “start over.” Oh, and I hope you liked the pictures of our apartment during move in. Here are some more current images of the living room and dining area, although obviously not entirely finished yet.

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An American going to School in England: What to Expect

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“Hi, my name is Lacey.”

That’s all it takes before someone knows I’m not from England. Every time I introduce myself I’m instantly asked two things. One, being “Lucy?” the other being “Where are you from?” Apparently, the name Lacey is not popular in England. In fact, it’s so unpopular that I always have to introduce myself twice. Once the fact that my name is Lacey not Lucy is confirmed, people usually remember someone named Lacey being on a reality T.V. show. Which I have also realized is true, I have a reality show girl participant name. That’s fine though.

The question “Where are you from?” has also been an interesting one. Instantly when I speak people can tell I’m not from England. The accent is a dead give away and despite the fact that I’ve been here for a month and a half, I really can’t do an English accent to save my life. But the actual question has been interesting because one, people are scared to ask if I’m from the States, and two, it’s difficult to know if they know exactly where Oregon or Washington are. Usually when telling people where I’m from I’ll say “I’m from Oregon, in America.” Which, then based on their lack of acknowledgement I’ll follow with “It’s above California” or “It’s on the West coast.” What I’ve found really interesting about this question is the fear people have that I’ll be offended if they assume I’m from America and I end up being from Canada. Apparently that’s an issue, Canadians don’t like to be confused with Americans, who knew?

Anyways, now that I’ve been here for a considerable amount of time I thought I’d do a post about some things I’ve learned about being an American in England. There have been some ups and downs, but these are things that have really stuck out as far as being foreign goes.

1. I don’t know how to speak English:

Upon hearing that I’m an American student taking English courses most people have replied with “But you don’t even speak proper English, isn’t like learning  a second language?” I usually reply with something equally sassy, but the truth is there have been quite a few struggles dealing with language. Sometimes words are hard. Talking about school is hard. Here they don’t have majors, their college was part of high school (which is not called high school) and they have no idea what a sophomore, junior, or senior is. Here’s an example of just a random conversation that became a struggle:

“You know, you really should have worn soccer cleats… I mean football cleats? Or football trainers? Or… football shoes?”

“There called football boots.”

This is just one example. There have been many many instances when I realized that I don’t know how to speak English.

2. England is expensive:

I knew coming here that the exchange rate was going to be rough. 1.7 dollars is 1 pound and that has not been a pleasant thing. Basically, everything is priced the same as in the states (a burger is 7-8 pounds a candy bar is a quid) but that price goes up when you’re using American dollars to pay for it. Not only that, but you have to pay for everything here. There are hundreds of societies for students to join, which is great, what’s less great is that they all cost money. Want to be on a sports team? That’s going to be fourteen pounds, plus you need to buy a gym membership so you can come to training, plus you need to pay sixty pounds for kit, plus tournament fees, plus transportation fees to get to the tournament. The school literally has tickets for clubs and events every night, but you need to pay for all of it. Lets just say my wallet is hurting a lot more than it should responsibly be hurting and I’m going to blame England rather than myself for that problem.

3. Public transportation is the best thing to exist ever.

The public transportation in England is amazing. You can get anywhere on a bus and the train tickets are actually decently priced. Traveling is a lot easier when you can get to the train station from a bus that picks you up directly from your school. Not to mention that the actually university is a far walk from the town center, but the bus comes by every five minutes, so it’s not even an issue. It makes me feel like an adult using the bus system correctly and it makes me wish we had a better system in America.

4. The classes are entirely different, and I don’t know if I like it.

I actually only have classes two days a week. Tuesday and Friday are the only days I actually attend school, but it doesn’t feel that way. There is so much independent study and as an English student, I am doing so much reading. The first week of classes my Victorian Literature class announced we were reading Great Expectations and expected to be done by that time next week. It’s a new novel every week, a new play every week, and a few of Shakespeare’s history plays thrown in for good measure. My entire grade in the class is determined by one thing at the end. For two classes this is an essay, for the other two it’s a test. I’m terrified of this, but I’m also really enjoying what I’m studying. Let’s just say it’s been interesting.

5. British people are really nice.

I’m surprised how much I actually love living in a dorm hall again, but the people in my corridor have all proven to be fantastic people. We play hall wide games of Monopoly, do pub quizzes, and just in general, hang out a lot. I really love the feeling of someone just knocking on my door and saying “we’re going out now” and your plans for the night changing from watching Netflix to going to a bar. I’ve made some friends here and it’s going to be hard to leave.

 

Okay, I apologize for the amount of text that was that post, but if you made it through, may I commend you on your perseverance. I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here and hopefully next week I’ll be back with some great stories from Scotland. Until then, cheers and other British words.

 

My Imminent Tiny Kitchen

Good news, y’all:

Lee and I got an apartment!

I hope I’m not jinxing it – we haven’t signed the lease yet or anything. But we have it! It’s ours!

It’s great. It’s on the beach, ocean view, top floor, all hardwoods and a really cool wood panel on one of the walls. The only problem: the kitchen is very, very small. It’s L-shaped, with the fridge at the entrance, the sink next to it, and an empty counter space. That makes the long part of the L, then at the bend there’s a second counter space, and the stove/oven is next to it. That’s it. That’s my entire kitchen.

Honestly, I’m not much of a cook, so this shouldn’t bother me much. But it bothers me quite a bit. The apartment was too cheap and too perfect to turn up, but the kitchen will take some strategizing to make it fully functional.

I’ve been looking at a lot of blog posts and little tips for making a small kitchen easier to deal with. This is what I came up with:

6 small space living ideas to create more space, bedroom ideas, foyer, kitchen design, living room ideas

I love the idea of using a mirror to make a space bigger. Obviously, this is an old technique, but it’s really smart! My kitchen has a wall facing the side with counter space/the sink with a big hole in the middle (what Lacey and I called the “portal” in our kitchen at Linfield, because it had one too). That wall would sport a mirror spectacularly. Plus, it will look cute next to the cactus display we’re going to put in the portal (we have to get cacti because I killed all the succulents Lacey and I had).

From blog hometalk.com 

Lee and I bought some pretty plates and glasses, which would look really nice on some shelves we could put on the other side of that empty wall, next to the stove. (The kitchen in this picture is actually around the same size as mine!)

From blog freckleschick.blogspot.com

Organize by pegboard, a la Julia Child.

Genius! I love peg boards. They’re so versatile, and they look great. Of course, I’d have to figure out where one would fit…

The rest of the tiny kitchen hacks: http://www.buzzfeed.com/twopoodles/lifehacks-for-your-tiny-kitchen

Use an over-the-sink cutting board to temporarily expand your counter space.

I definitely need to invest in an over the counter cutting board. We already bought an expandable and retractable drying rack (no dishwasher! Eek!), I believe this is the next step into tiny kitchen mastery.

The insides of cabinets are also great places to put hooks for rags, gloves, and pot holders.

I obviously must use every bit of space I have, with hooks, baskets, command strips and boxes, etc.

Put shelves inside of your shelves.

Shelves inside shelves? Who knew.

And lastly:

If you have the space, a kitchen cart can serve multiple purposes.

A KITCHEN CART. I might do something super tacky and move my fridge outside of the kitchen and invest in a kitchen cart for counter/storage space instead, if I can find somewhere sensible to put my fridge. We have a closet right outside the kitchen, so I’m thinking we could take the door off and put a curtain or some beads in there instead, and store the fridge in there. Might keep us from overeating at night as well! As long as it’s not too tacky, it could be very helpful!

By next Wednesday…well, I still won’t be in the apartment. Move in day is the seventh. I’ll make sure to dedicate a post to our new space the week after!