Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Flat Photos

Some images of the bedroom:

Looking into the bedroom. Notice the elegant shoe storage solution I’ve come up with: stacks of plastic boxes.

This is the “dressing area” of the bedroom with its narrow wall of slim closets, opposite our dresser. Now, we really must live with the “one thing in, one thing out” rule.

The view from the bedroom terrace: the Eye and, to the left, Big Ben.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Looking Like a Local

Yesterday, I gave directions to two lost pedestrians looking for a couple of our local attractions: the London Dungeon and the Design Museum.

My favorite instance of giving directions in New York occurred when David Spade asked me where to find Jane Street. We were on it, at the moment.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


In July, the Royal Mail is issuing several series of Harry Potter stamps. I’ve always liked the idea of buying a sheet of stamps and elaborately framing it (have never done it, however). And look: the U.S. Post Office has Star Wars stamps, though I prefer the ones featuring Gee’s Bend quilts.

Note to family: I'm going to buy some of the Harry Potter stamps for the kids (as a gift, I think, so don't tell them).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Product Recommendations

I don’t know if it’s because the current is different here, but I’ve lately purchased several spectacularly powerful small appliances. If you’re in the market for any of the following, consider:

Dyson stowaway animal vacuum cleaner: I’m not sure if this particular model is available in the U.S., but this was the smallest vacuum cleaner I could find. This one is superlightweight, comes with all kinds of good attachments, and makes vacuuming almost fun.
Dualit hand mixer: I had a Kitchen Aid hand mixer before and it was fine, or so I thought. But this is at least twice as powerful. Plus, I’m a sucker for the chrome.
Cuisinart mini food processor: I couldn’t stomach paying the price of a full-sized food processor (about four times what it costs in the States), so I bought the mini. This mini is far superior to a mini I had before, and it seems as good as the big one (except for the size).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pimm's Cup

Last night we had a small party on our terrace, and one of our guests whipped up this very British drink, which is pretty refreshing, even though the weather was rainy and chilly and we could have used something warming instead.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Leathermarket Garden

The shortcut from our flat to the nearest train station (by train, I mean tube; still can’t get over the New Yorker’s habit of calling the subway the train) is through this public rose garden. It also features a field of lavender, which I recently discovered and didn’t really believe was lavender because, it seems, I’ve never seen it in any form other than dried. The live purple is so bright! I had to pinch off some and smell it before I was convinced. London is filled with greenery and flowers in every spare spot and windowbox: one of the more immediately obvious ways this city is different from New York.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Testing the Grill

We bought a grill, for the first time in our lives, and tested it out with this lovely marinated chicken recipe. I highly recommend it. You'll see we also bought a heat lamp, from the former tenant, because it gets quite cool in the evenings. I haven't been able to eat dinner outside yet without a sweater. We're trying to hold off on cranking up the heat lamp until the fall, however.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Your Favorite Room, Nook, Shelf, Whatever

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” once did a show in which Larry David railed against going on tours of other people’s houses (as in “Let me show you around”), and I thought it was hilarious, because I, too, hate the house tour. But I do devour books and magazines with pictures of other people’s houses (or, preferably, apartments), and I love to look at how other people have figured out how to do things, how to organize, how to decorate, how to do anything, frankly. So send me a picture of something you love about your house/apartment and a few sentences about it, and I’ll put it up as a guest post.

A Few Flat Photos

Our living room, from the entry hall. It's hard to see anything outside because it's so bright. Our dining area is around the corner, to the left.

This is our pink entry hall, which I wasn't thrilled about, but we actually have several pieces of art that look pretty good in here (the only place in the apartment sheltered from the light). This is an encaustic painting by a Korean artist with snippets of Korean and English medicinal/healing texts and herb drawings. (We took advantage of all the picture hooks left in place.)

Here's our other method of displaying art: prop it up. (Infrared photo from Hawaii and theater poster for Noel Coward show on the floor—signed by Alan Cumming, so no way was I giving that up).

A corner of the kitchen with sushi magnets from Japan. Even though the kitchen is quite spacious, the microwave is miniscule.

Looking left off the terrace, you can see (over our neighbor's plants) St. Paul's Cathedral between the two tall buildings.

Looking right, you see Canary Wharf off in the distance (where Dan works), which gets lit up like a mini New York City at night. Directly in front of us is Tower Bridge, and out of the bedroom are the Eye and Big Ben. I'll post more photos as decorating and organizing progress!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quirks of the Culture, Part 2

When filling out forms, one of the mandatory fields is always one's title: Mr, Ms, Mrs, etc. (Notice how the Brits don’t use periods after titles.) The mandatory use of the title drives me crazy. Aren’t we all equal when trying to sign up for a furniture catalog? Or filling out a form for health care? This particular form also requires one’s ethnic origin; my choices were “white British,” “white Irish,” or “other white ethnic,” which kind of made no sense to me, at the moment, and so I wrote in: “white American.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Housewarming Gift Idea

To welcome us to our new flat, some friends provided us with a delivery of bottles of wine they had selected. (Thanks, Mark and Paula!) Although I usually rely on taking a bottle of wine to parties and dinners and such, it never occurred to me to send wine as a housewarming gift. But I love it!
      When giving a single bottle, I always feel bad about handing it over unadorned and usually try to tie a scrap of ribbon or something around it. I think this is great idea for wrapping a bottle but have never had the supplies on hand to try it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Info on British Names

According to the Times (London), the five most popular names for boys this year are:

1. Jack
2. Muhammad
3. Thomas
4. Joshua
5. Oliver

In the United States, in 2005, they were:

1. Jacob
2. Michael
3. Joshua
4. Matthew
5. Ethan

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Interesting, Somewhat Relevant Info about Our Address Name

According to Dan, the "Antonine" of our Antonine Heights address refers to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, Hadrian's adopted son and successor. The Roman Empire at the time (150 A.D.) extended well into Britain, up to Edinburgh. There was a 39-mile wall up there called the Antonine Wall and was the northernmost frontier of the Roman empire.
      I’m not sure if any Romans had a reason to be in Bermondsey, but they would have surely stopped off at the delightful Garrison gastropub, where we’ve already entertained two friends from New York and sampled warm ale (yuck).

Friday, June 15, 2007


Correction to yesterday's post: what I meant is not “half a container ship’s worth of stuff” but rather “half a ship’s container.” Which is enough.
      I’ve discovered upon unpacking that when you give away a lot of your possessions, even some things that you liked but didn’t love, everything that remains is incredible. Each time I open a box, I am so happy to see what I brought. Each book and pair of shoes is absolutely necessary. All of the mistakes have been edited out and left behind in New York. We still don’t have enough closet space, however. (I read that the British people used to be taxed per room in their houses, and closets were considered rooms, so they learned to live without. In many of the apartments I visited, people had their clothes on a hanging rail and their shoes lined up along the wall.) It would be nice to live with fewer clothes and shoes, but I don’t know if it's possible.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We Made It

We’ve moved in, secured an Internet connection, and have figured out, more or less, how the appliances and electrical features (“mood lighting,” TV wiring) work, so I thought I’d let everyone know what’s happening.
      Actually, I’m not sure we’ve figured out how the appliances and electronics work. Until we moved here, I’d never seen Dan confronted with a bunch of wires that he couldn’t understand. And you’d think turning on a stove or a dishwasher would be obvious (but you would be wrong). Fortunately, we have a stack of manuals.
      So moving day was rather stressful. Upon arrival, we figured we’d check out our mail box before the movers showed up. A couple of flyers, a birthday card for Dan (thanks, Patty!), and a letter addressed to “the occupiers.” This letter informed us that because the owner hadn’t been paying his mortgage, the apartment was being repossessed and the case would be going to the courts so that eviction proceedings could begin against the tenants (that is, us). So began a round of frantic phone calls to the managing agent and the relocation company, while the movers begin hauling up and unpacking half of a container ship’s worth of stuff.
      By the end of the day, we were reassured that the owner had cleared up the mortgage mess. And the movers were finished. They got everything in here, including the green velvet sofa, which wouldn’t fit in the elevator but came up the stairs (11 flights) but then wouldn’t fit through our apartment door until I discovered that we could take off the door handle and the doorstop on the wall to allow just enough extra space for it to slip in.
      Nothing was broken except two light bulbs.
      We went to the store for some frozen pizza and cold wine and ate it on our terrace, looking at our skyline at night for the first time.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On Hiatus and Ceramics

We're moving to our new flat very early Monday morning, and we may be without Internet access for a few days, so probably no blog entries for a while. But I'll be back as soon as possible!

In the meantime, take a look at this cool set of crockery from the British Library. Dishes printed with scraps of manuscripts—nice!

Or, if you'd prefer something with more of a New York edge, look at these. Also quite cool, I think.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Crazy Customer Service

I don’t know if it’s because fraud is so much of a problem here or what, but it’s quite a hassle to get bank accounts and credit cards and have your mail forwarded. (Multiple proofs of identification and address are required.) Yesterday, in an attempt to secure myself an online banking i.d. for our checking account, I had to deal with the bank’s customer service. (Even though we have a joint account, each of us needs separate log-on numbers and security passwords and lists of important questions to verify identity, etc.) After supplying all of my personal details and account numbers, I was then asked to provide details of several recent transactions—pound amounts and dates—for my debit card. I can’t possibly remember that kind of thing. No, I don’t save my receipts. The customer service rep can’t help me. She will have to mail me a list of my account activity, and then I can call back. Fine, but we’re moving this weekend. So can she send it to my new address? Of course not. Unless I have secured the online banking i.d. number that allows me to change my address. I hang up (and not politely, as anyone who’s seen me deal with the TSA personnel at airports can attest).
      I go online to our account, using Dan’s codes, which I could always use anyway. So you’d think: why bother with getting my own?
      Because when Dan updated our mailing address, the bank told him that the joint user must also update the address, separately.
      So now I’ve got our recent debit card history in front of me, onscreen. I call the bank again, go through the whole process again, pointing out that I’m using my husband’s code to access our account, saying something sarcastic about security, and hoping they’ll see the stupidity of requiring dual codes for a JOINT account. But no.
      The rep tells me, “Because you’ve revealed to me that you accessed the account using your husband’s codes, I’ll have to lock down his account.”
      “Well, you know, I lied. I was using a printout of our account. I didn’t access it using his codes.”
      “I’m sorry but I can’t trust you.”
      We move on.
      (Dan later has to go IN PERSON to the branch, conveniently located where he works, to reestablish his identity.)
      Meanwhile, back on the phone, I answer even more security questions and give them my favorite place name and a “special name,” in case they need to ask me about these things in the future, at which point, no doubt, I’ll be unable to remember my answers. And then I type in my highly secret security code, what I’ve been waiting for.
      “Don’t write it down,” the rep tells me.
      “Oh, but I did write it down.”
      “I’ll have to ask you to destroy that piece of paper.”
      “Ask me whatever you want,” and I cackle. Maybe I’ll frame it.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Quirks of the Culture

A nice idea: putting up plaques on all the buildings where someone important once lived, to provide pedestrians with a frisson of history.

A bizarre idea: packaging things with magazines (umbrellas, CDs, flip-flops). I got this yesterday. Can't figure out if I should wear it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

New London Attraction

A mammoth Whole Foods has opened up, just down the street from where we live (for a few more days). I wandered through yesterday, admiring the grind-your-own-nut-butter bar and a whole aisle of Mexican products (refried beans, pickled cactus, tortillas—all of which I bought). No delivery yet so I was limited to what I could carry out and had to pass on the Negra Modelo six-pack.
      I was wondering what Whole Foods was thinking with this move to London because, as far as I can tell, London is filled with fantastic grocery stores and food halls (unlike New York, which really had only a couple of comprehensive and delightful places before Whole Foods came in). But the company seems to have done its research and knows what it is up against. They’ve really taken to heart the American concept of gigantic, and the store is overwhelming in its offerings. Poor Marks and Spencer food hall next door had to resort to putting out balloons and hiring clowns on stilts to lure in passsersby.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On Paying Attention, Pun Intended

So I thought I had been looking carefully at everything, gleaning information. I watch the TV commercials to discover how to live (and now I know that I need limescale remover for the dishwasher). I read all the subways ads as I go up and down the tube escalators (and discovered that dancer Savion Glover is in town next weekend, and I got tickets, something I never managed to do in New York before he sold out). But I had not been looking closely at the money. Until Dan pointed out that the pound coins have different inscriptions running around their edges. My favorite one is NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT (no one provokes me with impunity).

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Horror (Movies) in London

I’m not a fan of horror movies, but we recently saw 28 Weeks Later, after it got such good reviews and Dan convinced me that it was a movie more about London than horror. (Not quite.) There are some beautiful shots of a deserted city and nice fire-bombing of Canary Wharf, but I don’t think it’s worth the gore (unless you’re used to horror movies and can stomach this sort of thing). In preparation, we'd watched 28 Days Later on DVD, and that was much better (less gross), also with some atmospheric shots of a deserted London.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Crafts in America and Britain

Sharon sent me this link to the Craft in America site. I’ve heard good things about the PBS documentary but was unable to see it, obviously. The website has artist bios, images, and videos and really gives a fascinating look at the variety of crafts traditions in the United States.
      In London, I’ve (re)discovered Selvedge magazine (about textile arts), which doesn’t offer a lot of online content, but you can subscribe to their free newsletter, which has interesting tidbits, or pay for a digital subscription to the magazine (cheaper than the print subscription). I discovered digital subscriptions when I was canceling all of my U.S. magazines, and a couple of mags offered me this option. I never thought I’d like to read a magazine online, but I’m coming around to the idea (especially if it saves money and means that I can read a magazine from another country, one that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to find).
      On a final crafts note, I discovered this jewelery designer’s work at a crafts fair we attended a couple of weeks ago. Love the serenity of the circles! It looks like her work has been cast (that is, one of many made from a mold), but apparently, each piece is handmade, from slices of silver tubes that she solders together. In which case, her prices are not expensive, because that's quite a bit of work. She told me she likes the subtle variations she gets from the hand-made nature of each piece.
      Moving from craft to art (and is there a difference?), I picked up the following Guerrilla Girls postcard at the Tate Modern. Not sure if you can read the small type, but some of my favorites on the list are "having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs" and "being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine."

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Contract Signed

We finally have a signed contract for our flat and can now enjoy the true (rather than tempered) anticipation of moving into a permanent home, which is really only temporary (as is everyone’s).
      We’ll send out an email soon with our new address and phone number.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Favorite Tube Stop Names, Part 2

1. Chorleywood
2. Gallions Reach
3. St. James's Park [for proper use of the apostrophe]
4. Morden [you can see how easy it was for Tolkien to get his inspiration]