Archive for December, 2005

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

December 29, 2005

In my inbox this morning:

“Application Type: I485 , Application to Register Permanent Residence or
to Adjust Status

Current Status:

On December 23, 2005, the card order was completed and we mailed the
applicant’s new card directly to him or her. ”

WOOOOOO!! I hope this is for real because it seems to be telling me that my application for US residency has finally been approved after a long two year wait! (I sent my forms off the day after we got married in 2003!)

Ooooh, looking forward to seeing what is waiting for me in the post when we get back to Atlanta. Hopefully this means I can now work again and will now be allowed to leave the US without having to worry about being denied reentry or abandoning my status. Being able to work or freelance properly will be a godsend this year with the baby coming and us needing to scrape the cash together to cover all Sam’s expenses. (Did I mention baby Allen is going to be a Samuel?) Bill was made redundant at Thanksgiving and although he’s clever and now has a new job lined up and ready to start on the 2nd it was very scary worrying about we were going to do financially as my work permit had expired and we were really relying on his income.

I’m slightly dubious and not wanting to jinx anything quite yet though as it seems to have been approved without an interview, and without me being asked for the required vaccination supplement. Weird.

I think hubby and I may go out for a meal together this evening to celebrate, hoorah!

Please be true! I want to see that (pink) Green Card in the post when we arrive back home!

Christmas Day

December 25, 2005

Hope you everyone is having a fantastic Christmas. It’s a beautiful crisp and clear day here today and so we went up to Pork Hill for a short walk before dinner. That’s where my Nanna Downes’ ashes are scattered right up where she has a fantastic view looking across the moors and down to Tavistock. It was terribly cold and windy up there though so we didn’t stay long. There were several people around braving the weather but it really was bitter. No ice cream van today!

Mary and Hank would have loved to see the Dartmoor Ponies grazing up there today though. Some naughty person had brought a load of carrots and scattered them up by the car park so they were all milling around and seemingly trying to warm themselves by hot engines!

On our way out to Pork Hill at the bottom of our lane we passed some poor unfortunate person’s car on fire. On our return we couldn’t get back up the lane as the fire engine had arrived and was blocking the way. The fire was now safely out and all the firemen were gathered around eating mince pies! Merry Christmas!

Bill and I then decided to walk Molly up to the Pimple (that small building above an underground reservoir on the moors above Ashridge) and we’ve just got back from chasing her around and throwing sticks. Three years ago today Bill was with us at Ashridge for Christmas and marched me up to the Pimple after dinner, in the cold and wet I may add, and proposed to me. Had a little snuggly moment together looking out over Whitchurch Down. Love my hubby.

Dinner is still underway at the moment and everyone is getting very hungry with all the delicious smells wafting around the house. Can’t wait to tuck in and then spend the afternoon being very full and content in front of the fire.

At present opening time I was relieved to see that Bill really liked the watch I bought him, not to mention his bottle of Piddle in the Hole beer and flag of St Pirrin! Mum was thrilled with her Crocs plastic beach shoes, though it looks like I’ll have to exchange them for a size smaller for her, and Dad was happy with The Modern Antiquarian book I got for him. Success all around I think.

Our best wishes to everyone from all at Ashridge. Have a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year.

December 24, 2005

Kay is making me do an entry in her journal (as opposed to my own) so here goes:

And here we are, two years later, expecting our first child and as happy as can be. 🙂

Happy Anniversary Babe!

Love you more than I ever thought was possible, and thanks for The Chuckle Brothers.

Happy Birthdays!…Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!

December 24, 2005

Started the day off with a little ditty from Purple Ronnie:

William, it’s your birthday
So all I want to say
Is you’re the smashing Birthday Bloke
So have a brilliant day!”

and made hubby a very happy man indeed when I broke the news to him that he is actually a year younger today than he thought he was. Silly Bill!

Upon opening his pressie from me, Bill chortled and chuckled as a mug adorned with the lovely image of Quincy and Genghis in the bath together was unwrapped. Hee hee!

His special birthday surprise though was to come a little later in the day. I had a secret outing planned and wouldn’t tell him what I had up my sleeve. I made him dress up smartly, even got him to iron his shirt *giggle* and drove him into Plymouth this afternoon. He had no idea what was going on until I led a dubious Bill down the street into the Plymouth Theatre Royal and he started laughing when he saw the posters advertising this season’s panto offering. Yup! Tis Panto time in England and I had tickets to immerse Bill in this bastion of bawdy British culture for the afternoon!

I was a little nervous myself as I really had no idea what Bill would make of this birthday offering, especially as I knew he would be disappointed to not be going to a footy game. I shouldn’t have worried though as I think it turned out to be the perfect birthday experience to make his 38th a day to remember!

This year the pantomime on offer was Jack and the Beanstalk, starring the Chuckle Brothers. I hate the Chuckle Brothers!..but I felt that Bill’s first pantomime was long overdue so it just had to be done.


Helloooo!

Nicky was also supposed to be in attendance to see how mystified Bill would be at men playing widows, pantomime cows, “oh no it isn’t!” and “it’s behind you!”s, but unfortunately she called just as we were leaving Ashridge to bail out as she wasn’t feeling well. We tried to get Dad to come along and use her ticket but it was too short notice for him and so it was just the two of us in the end. Bah. They both missed out on a good entertaining afternoon, the silly sausages.

The theatre was packed, full of children and Mums and Dads. Bill soon got into the spirit of things and was booing and hissing away at the villain with the best of them when the curtains opened and the panto began. I was so amused at the beginning that I couldn’t stop giggling and tears were running down my face.

The Chuckle Brothers were in fact excellent and my opinion of them did a complete 180 degrees. Though, I will still refuse to allow Chucklevision on any telly of mine. The side skit they did of a circus act was particularly amusing and involved incredible feats of acrobatics and balancing in mid air. (a darkened stage, UV costumes and wires were involved!)

I was a little disappointed that Jack was played by a man, and not a thigh slapping young lady. Apparently, this is not the done thing any more?! However, most of the main constituents of panto were in abundance and the panto was a lot of fun. We were seated in the Upper Circle and safely out of range of any water soakers, bags of crisps, and custard pies that made it out to the unfortunate chaps and chapesses on the lower levels. Phew.

I think Bill was somewhat taken aback by his birthday outing but he had a big grin on his face so it can’t have scarred him too badly.

Afterwards Bill was ravenous and fancied a pizza so we crossed the road and devoured some tea at Pizza Hut. This wasn’t as festive as Bill’s last British Pizza hut experience when all the staff were dressed up in a hierarchy of Christmas costumes, but the pizza went down well none the less.

Back at Ashridge my parents and I then finished off the Birthday celebrations with the time honoured tradition of birthday cake, candles and singing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy. Bill had decided that in the absence of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, he wanted a hedgehog cake. I happily obliged and had done my best to recreate a little forest fellow in chocolate cake form:

Happy Birthday Bill!!

***

Of course, eight days ago it was my Daddy’s birthday too. I think he must be as old as the hills which would explain why he knows so much about them around these parts! His birthday outing consisted of a trip to Chagford with Mumsy, Molly and I. Unfortunately poor Mowgli just got to stay in the car and didn’t partake in the tour of the few shops there, or enjoy a coffee and cake in the cafe, but I’m sure she enjoyed the ride in the car and not being left on her own at home.

Dad also got a Kay made birthday cake, though this one was almost a complete disaster. I’d got up early to make it as soon as Daddy had left to go to work in the morning. Everything was going swimmingly until I put it in the oven and the top managed to catch on fire. This accident remedied the cake was still not cooked and on a lower shelf was left to continue its baking.

Upon checking on the progress I was dismayed to discover that instead of rising evenly, one side of the cake had dramatically taken off vertically and was producing a rather odd angled cake. Arrgh!! No problem, we Downes’ are quite cunning and after rummaging around the house Mum and I found a little toy car with which to decorate the cake in an attempt to fool Dad into thinking it was purposeful and really, in fact, Hill Climb themed! Genius! Second disaster averted!

At this point Mel and Simon called and while yakking on the phone to Australia I was unable to give the cake my full attention. Mum ended up taking it out of the oven for me and leaving it to cool. Unfortunately however when I then went to ice it I discovered it was still liquid in the middle and attempted to put it back in the oven to bake. This damn cake must’ve spent hours and hours cooking away and still wouldn’t bake! Grrrr.

With half an hour to Dad’s return Daddy’s birthday cake take two was underway. Thankfully I got it right the second time, but unfortunately was unable to have it all all iced and ready to surprise him when he finished work at 1pm. Rats!

Happy Birthday Daddy!

*Much love to the Birthday Boys*

Gatwick take 2

December 17, 2005

I’ve got a Bill! I’ve got a Bill! I’ve got a Bill!

Dad and I drove up to Gatwick again yesterday in the early hours and retrieved a very tired Bill from the airport. Hoorah! He’s now fast asleep in bed next to me, and it’s great.

While we’ve been apart I’ve started noticing baby moving occasionally. The first time I was in the car with Nicky and it felt like someone was running a feather backwards and forwards along my insides. This was then followed up with a *whump* which made me jump.

Last night Bill was able to put his hand on my tummy and feel some of the movements himself. This is probably the only time he could put his hand down my trousers in front of my parents without them batting an eyelid!.

Nothing and Curry

December 15, 2005

Had a good old lazy day yesterday to ensure I’d be up for going into Plymouth with Nicky in the evening to meet some of her friends for a curry.

Drove Mum over to Whitchurch Post Office so that she could post some parcels and get a few items. She’s doing really well, much better than I expected. Before the op she was talking about not being able to leave the house while I was visiting but here she is wandering around completely at ease on her crutches. She was so determined not to be grubby that she’s even managed to get in and out of the shower on her own now too (with Dad or I on hand just in case). Very proud of her.

Back at the house I then stripped the beds and swapped rooms with Dad in anticipation of Bill’s arrival. Last night I slept in Sy and Mel’s old room. Until now I’ve been in my old room on a single camp bed so there would have been no room for Bill, now I’m rolling around in a double bed on my own he’s really being missed.

Not been too bad though as I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night around 5am, logging on and just catching Bill before he retires for the night. That’s been nice. And tomorrow will be better because tonight I have to go to bed early so that Dad and I can get up at stupid o’clock to drive back to Gatwick to pick up Bill. Hoorah! Looking forward to his aeroplane landing tomorrow and giving him big hugs from Sproglet and I.

Nicky came around in the evening and took me to the Barbican for good eats. We went to The Gangees and I was very impressed to find that everything on the menu was 50% off…whoo!! Stuffed myself silly with saag panaar, mushroom bahjee and much more. Delish. Sproglet seemed to like curry too, or at least he didn’t object! What a good son.

It’s a…!

December 12, 2005

Woah! How could I have forgotten to write this entry?!! Oh yes, that’s because I’ve been putting off finding a scanner to make record of the new images of baby we’ve got! Will do that in a bit, promise!

Anyway, last Monday Bill and I went to the doctor’s for my twenty week ultrasound (in reality this was nineteen weeks as I’m in England for week twenty). This was terribly exciting as this was the big chance to have a peep and see whether I’m carrying a little baby boy or a girl.

I was a little nervous as I’d been told that it’s not always possible to tell and I so wanted to be able to go home for Christmas and be able to share the news with Mum and Dad. Turns out my fears were unfounded though as once the technician ascertained that we did indeed want to know the sex she apparently had no difficulty at all in evaluating the evidence. Our baby is somewhat of an exhibitionist it seems and kept flashing the lady!

Yeah, I know, the ultrasound was to have a look to check baby is developing properly, screen for complications and accurately establish the baby’s age, and all we were excited about was finding out the sex! Silly!

The ultrasound was weird. This time I had the full jelly on the belly deal. Having heard horror tales of pregnant ladies having to drink glasses of water to fill their bladders and then lie uncomfortably on the table willing themselves to keep it all in I was relieved to be asked to use the toilet before hand. Phew, no such torture for me. (Sound waves travel better through water so a full bladder can help act as a window and achieve a better image) I was expecting the transducer to be moved across my tummy but once she had found the baby the technician kept it in practically one spot and merely angled it to get different views.

She started off by looking directly down at baby’s head and taking measurements. At this point I had no idea what she was looking at as it was like squinting at one of those Magic Eye pictures on the monitor. Then she angled the transducer and lo and behold a baby appeared on screen! Most of the time this was a fuzzy mess of pixels but then it would suddenly spring into focus before elusively collapsing into a pulsing ants nest again. Those moments of clarity though were quite amazing.

Baby got a thorough check up. Everything apparently looks great and the lady was even able to take a good look at his mouth and make sure the upper lip has formed correctly, so no cleft palette for our little one.

We got to see a fantastic view of the four chambers of the heart, and we could even see a valve opening and shutting on screen. She also checked out the brain, pointing out the hemispheres to us, and that is also apparently developing well.

Bill and I were very excited and afterwards we were given a clutch of images to take home with us to show the parents. One of which has a nice little cursor carefully positioned to point out the pixels which supposedly make up a little penis! Yes, it’s a BOY!

Here’s a scan of the best picture we got, I’ve also turned it on its side because I think it’s easier to make out what is going on when you look at it that way round. Definitely looks like a baby now!

Bill is thrilled. I’m resigned to having a house full of men. Hehe nah, I’m happy too! I had a feeling Sproglet was going to be male. Since getting pregnant whenever I have dreamed about our future child he’s always been a little boy.

Out of amusement I should also mention that the Ancient Chinese guessed right too! There was a chart on the office wall saying this baby sex predictor was found in a tomb in China. You just find the age the mother will be at birth, and the month of conception and, in my case, hey presto….it’s a boy! Probably bogus, but amusing.

***
More baby stuff…

When I arrived at Mum and Dad’s on Thursday they took me up to my bedroom and I was overwhelmed to find a heap of tiny little presents for my little boy. They’ve gone mad and spoilt the little chap already. I now have some really cute white newborn babygrows and bodysuits with little pictures of animals on them. Baby also got a pack of three yellow rubber ducks and a most fantastic gymnasium. The gymnasium is one of those colourful play mats (or tents really) with the soft fabric cross bars from which all sorts of fun things hang to play with. It’s very cool and I’m sure little Sproglet will have much fun with it.

Oh! here it is:

I also got to see Baddit Jr! Oh my God! My Dad is the best! He’s very different to my rabbit, a little less seventies without corduroy dungarees on but adorable none the less. He’s not quite finished yet but I’m very impressed. I think Dad did have to delegate the knitted jumper to Mum as he said he started to knit it up but if he’d carried on he’d still be working on it five years from now!

Mum’s got the knitting bug at the moment anyway. She’s spending her convalescence hoping to do lots of art and crafts and has started off well by making herself a cardigan and then following that up with a cardy for baby. We’re thinking even a May baby might get chilly in the evenings in Atlanta. I went down town to get her some wool so I got to choose the colour…I wanted orange but was out of luck there so it is going to be bright red instead! No minging stereotypical baby pastel blues, yellows or white here!

Can you tell I’m a tad excited?

Pork Hill to Windy Cross

December 12, 2005

Had another jaunt on the moors with Daddy and Molly on Sunday. We took the Saab and parked up at the Pork Hill car park where I was very impressed to see that the ice cream van still camps out year round.

We set off across and down towards Vixen Tor and I was very disappointed to hear that it’s no longer open to the public. Apparently it’s now surrounded with barbed wire and fenced off as the owner is a miserable lady. It’s always been a popular crag as it’s the tallest tor on Dartmoor and loved by climbers and ramblers but ownership changed in 2003 and people are now forbidden access and the new owner has removed stiles and daubed “Private Property – Keep Out!” with spray paint around the site. Apparently she has also fallen foul of DEFRA and prosecuted by “improving” the land by spreading seaweed and manure over the area changing the field from open moorland habitat to semi-improved pasture.

Dad says she also had an altercation with some climbers up there and cut their ropes. This action ended up with her in court in London and much to everyone’s disgust she wasn’t charged and her appeal against the mapping of Vixen Tor as “open access” was upheld. It’s very sad and I can’t believe the public are no longer able to visit this great tor.

There are many legends told about Dartmoor and I guess it’s quite apt that folklore surrounding Vixen Tor concerns an evil witch called Vixana. She lived in a cave at the bottom of the tor and as she hated other people she would watch for weary travellers and conjure up thick fog if any crossed her path. She would cackle as the travellers lost their way and got sucked into the great bogs surrounding Vixen Tor. Once trapped, she is said to have cleared the fog so as to watch the struggle for life, and gloat. From one angle, the tor even looks like an evil craggy old woman.

We walked up to Windy Cross which is a granite cross by the side of the Grimstone and Sortridge Leat, marking the Abbot’s Way and Dad pointed out the bulls-eye in the leat. This is an inch hole allowing a measured amount of water through a granite block in the leat.

As we walked Molly fished stones out of the leat and brought them over to Dad for him to throw back into the water for her. He’d tend to throw a nice sized stone in for her and every time she’s come wagging back carrying the largest stone she could carry in her mouth! There must have been another dog ahead of us doing the same thing as occasionally we would spot other stones that glistened with water having recently been removed from the channel.

Dad has got terribly informed about local history and also pointed out all sorts of things as we walked along. We spotted a few bronze age stone circles and then when we saw a similar but smaller mark on the landscape he explained that that was instead the work of the army in the 40s.

He also pointed out the wooden launder taking water across the moors, he pointed out towards a kist (an ancient tomb covered by a granite lid) that can be found about half a mile South of the Pork Hill car park and explained that the bizarre herringbone effect in the landscape was the manmade result of strip tin mining over the centuries. We entered a valley where it was clear miners had worked up and down looking for tin, and which now seemed to be a valley of the horses as it was full of Dartmoor ponies sheltering from the elements.

As we continued up the valley it got soggier and soggier and eventually we discovered a spring bubbling up from the ground. Molly thought this was fantastic and tried to stick her head right into it after happily padding it about with her paws.

That was as far as we went before heading back to the car as although Molly and Daddy would usually carry on for a much longer walk my tummy was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable and in need of a lie down. Sorry Dad.

Back at the car park a trio of pony trekkers were gathered around the ice cream van buying 99s but we were good, no ice cream for us today.

Miss Sprout

December 12, 2005

Was very energetic on Friday for after my hectic trip around Tavistock, and the jaunt on the moors with dog and Dad I then ventured out to the farm to see Nicky. Again, no problems driving out there and I had fun tootling through the country lanes scaring the rabbits.

Hung out at the farm for a bit supping tea and hugging on Nicky’s little dogs. They have eight crazy dirty muddy dogs on the farm now, three of which consider Nicky to be mum. She sat on the sofa with her Jack Russells sound asleep draped all over her while we watched Space Cadets on the telly.

Didn’t stay long, but was very cool to go out and chill with the Sprout. Will hopefully get hold of her later today and venture out there again this afternoon.

I also got to see Nicky on Saturday when she came out to Tavy and we went around the shops. It was crazy busy down there and a trip through Woolworths was a battle. Of course, we had to look at the baby section in all the shops and go gooey at all the cute things! Woolys had fantastic Tigger baby jumpsuits and I was soo tempted because I’ve been keeping an eye out for one of those, but I was good and kept my wallet shut. I just wasn’t sure what size to get anyway as it would be too warm for a newborn to wear in May, and I have no idea what size to go for to prepare for baby’s winter! I guess “up to six months” would’ve done it so maybe I’ll have to go back and make a purchase later!! Sooo cute! It had a hoody with ears and everything!

I started feeling quite worn out rather quickly so Nicky and I adjourned to a cafe for drinks and nibbles. I succumbed to a toasted tea cake while she gorged herself on a slice of banoffee pie and then looked quite sick but pleased with herself afterwards.

The shops then started to close on us around five o’clock so we headed to Do It All to choose some Crimble decorations for her tree (found some nice sparkly wire butterflies in a bargain bin!) and then back to Ashridge where Nicky was invited to stay for tea.

By this point I’d had enough and although managed to make it through the meal was beginning to fade rapidly. Had to say goodbye to Nicky and do some collapsing!

I did come home from Tavy clutching a packet of little navy blue newborn cotton socks featuring TIGGER!! on them! Mum has since used them to show me how to get tiny socks onto mini feet as I had to try to put some socks on her cause she can’t manage that yet and I guess I made a pig’s ear of it!

The lure of the pasty and a woolly jumper

December 12, 2005

Dad had to go to work on Friday morning and I had intended to wait for him to get home before adventuring out in the Saab and getting used to driving in the UK again. However, I woke up bright and early with the taste of pasty on my mind. It was no good, I simply had to go down to Tavy and purchase a cheese and mushroom oggy for my lunch!

It was a little nervewracking manoeuvering the big ol’ Saab around in the drive and getting out into the lane but I managed it and from then on it was plain sailing. No idea what I was worried about. Felt absolutely great to be tootling around and reverting back to gears was like riding a bike.

Parking in Tavistock on the other hand was a complete nightmare! Friday is market day so the town was packed solid. I didn’t even try to find a free space to squeeze into. Instead, I elected to park over in the Bedford Car Park and (when I eventually found a space) squealed in terror at the cost of parking now.

I only had enough on me for an hour so this resulted in me racing around Tavistock like a loon trying to do all my errands and leave room for pasty appreciation.

First stop was the bank where I was finally able to update my details and become Mrs Kay Allen, then onwards to Mainly Stationary for some supplies for Mum. Charlie was in chirpy attendance and said to say hello to Sy and Mel for her. So…”hello Sy and Mel!” Was terribly fun to go shopping and run into someone I know for a gossip and cheery exchange.

I’d hoped to have more of an explore and check out some charity shops but I quickly ran out of time and had to race back to the car, clutching my oggy in one hand of course!

Back at home oggy got demolished and then it was back out into the sunshine with Daddy and Molly for a nice walk over at Pew Tor. We took Mowgs up to the abandoned quarry and let her get nicely wet and muddy. She carried a tennis ball which Dad would throw out to her to retrieve. Sometimes he’d then be a tease and as she had her back turned he’d dart off into the bushes and hunker down. Molls would get the ball, turn around and with no Daddy in sight begin to cry. She’d whine and pine all the way back out of the water and frantically race around looking for the old fart, ignoring me completely. Of course, she always found him and then went back to get her ball for another go!

Dad found one letterbox nestled beneath an outcrop as we were out walking. Named “Woolly Jumper” the stamp featured a sheep. Molly is apparently very good at finding these boxes as she leads Dad to places where people have recently been and investigates.

For those that don’t know (ie, waves at Don and Fran), a letterbox is usually a rubber stamp and a visitor’s book placed in a watertight container (tupperware or sometimes an old army ammo box) and hidden out on the moors. Armed with map, compass and a set of clues people then try to track down these boxes. Once found they write or use their own stamp to record their visit in the book, and then make a print of the letterbox in their own archive before putting it back exactly where they found it for the next person. Often letterboxers have their own personal signatures and become famous in their own right. When we used to go out letterboxing I would be “The Trollenberg Terror” and sign using an inky thumbprint with hands and legs.

This was a result of walking in Wales up in the Black Mountains near our home and being told scare stories by Dad about this Trollenberg Terror who would hide in the clouds looking for victims. He would come up behind a straggler and “tickle behind the neck, tickle behind the legs, and snap you in two”. I think the only thing to fend off this beast was coal tar soap.

Visitor’s books often also contain clues for more letterboxes and so can lead you on a treasure trail.

An example clue would be:

BATTERY MIRE. Tallest stone in circle = 009.5º, Hut = 306.5º, Wall corner = 207.5º. Box plugged on top of mound 3p from small horseshoe shaped peat bank.

Wow, this hobby originated on Dartmoor but I just googled and judging by all the websites Stateside it seems to be going strong in America now too.

With the sun threatening to set we then walked up to the tor before ambling back down to the car as the warmth began to be sucked from the air.