28 April 2009

... And we're back!

For those of you still reading, we are still here, we're good and we're sorry we've left the blog alone for a few weeks. We could blame it all on Miller, but the truth is we haven't had much to write about.

Well, beyond how much fun it's been to have that little furball waiting for us every evening when we come home. We've been spending as much time as we can out in the park, in the early morning hours and after dropping off our keys and grabbing Miller's ball at the end of the day. Mark's been having Miller join him on his morning runs (only a few more days til the marathon!) and has actually been able to have him off lead. I know Miller's enjoying it because I walk out of the shower in the morning to find him curled back up in his bed, sleeping after the exercise and his breakfast.

This past weekend, the weather forecast was touch and go until Friday afternoon. When we saw the predictions of sunshine, Mark went online and found a hike in the Lake District, several hours north of us.

Saturday morning, we packed up our bags and coaxed Miller into the car. Two hours later, we had left the industrial flatlands behind and found ourselves surrounded by rolling hills and cosy villages. After a bit of difficulty finding parking, we were off:

While the six miles weren't the most grueling we'd ever done, it felt great to get out of the city and see a bit more of the country. It was my first trip to the Lake District, and Mark's second. Keswick, where our hike started and ended, was a pretty little town with a market in full swing. After dodging raindrops on our return, we stumbled into a small vegetarian cafe with a bicycle shop attached. They sweetly welcomed Miller in (we were prepared to sit outside in the rain on benches to eat our lunch) and we had a great meal. Including Miller, who got four dog biscuits at the end for being so good.

The rest of our weekend was spent wedding planning. We've picked our readings and have sketched out the majority of our ceremony service with Carol. I've begun sketching out a website for our guests to learn more about the area and our plans. We've also picked out wedding invites, which I will be printing, assembling, addressing and posting while I'm home in June. We're picking out our wedding bands and trying to pick an engraving.

While at times we've both grown a bit stressed, I know we're both looking forward to the big day. It's just a bit difficult to stay focused on the end goal, and trying not to sweat the small stuff. I've found myself growing increasingly homesick, and I think that's definitely coming into play. It's hard not to feel out of touch and a bit sad when we keep imagining and planning having all the people we care about together - only to realize how far away that day is. 

It will be good to head home in a few weeks...

13 April 2009

Early wake-up

So as Mark has already mentioned, Friday was amazing - it was an early, long gray ride down to Heathrow, but Miller recognizing us and seeing that face and the wagging tail - totally worth it. Especially since Mark drove the whole way back, so I could pass out in the front seat.

We got home and took Miller out to Sefton Park where he was able to fetch one of his new toys and smell all the new England smells, and then returned home to have some Jamaican Me Hungry jerk chicken and watch TV with Miller at our feet. All in all, a great but exhausting day. We briefly discussed the merits of Miller joining us upstairs to sleep, or whether we should try to crate him to get him used to being away from us (the separation anxiety is still a little cute, but we probably shouldn't encourage it)... The decision made, we bade him good night and crept quietly upstairs.

We all fell asleep in moments, which is why it was so disconcerting to be woken up with a loud car alarm in the middle of the night. I lay awake in bed, my eyes squeezed shut, counting on its owner to come out and turn the alarm off. It paused briefly, but began again and I thought to myself - shit! I have no idea what our car alarm sounds like! - so scrambled out of bed and pushed the shade, glowing a soft orange, aside. I stared in disbelief, then reached back to the nightstand to put on my glasses.

What I saw was this (but imagine that it's darker, and thus more ominous):
"Mark, Mark! Wake up! The car's on fire!" 
(admittedly, a little ambiguous, but I was sleepy)

"..."

"Mark, I'm serious! Wake up!!"

"Shut up."

"MARK, I AM STARING AT FLAMES OUTSIDE. There is a car on fire, we've got to move our car! We need to call the fire department!"

At this point, Mark started cursing and joined me at the window. When he saw the 10 foot flames climb higher, he jumped into action. I started throwing jeans on and ran downstairs. I picked up the phone and tried to remember the emergency number we'd seen posted in London (they don't have 911 here) while Mark scrambled down the stairs looking for the car keys.

I called 999 and watched as Mark ducked into the car. At this point, the fire had moved from the back of the pickup toward the cab of the truck, and we both worried about the gas tank exploding. Unfortunately, our street is very narrow and at night there are cars parked on both sides. We always turn our car around when we park (for an easy exit the next day) but that forced Mark to drive slowly (and closely!) by the burning truck in order to move the car far away. I watched as a horn began honking (I thought it was Mark freaking out, but the extreme heat and the alarm on the truck caused the honking sound).

Suddenly, I remembered I was on the phone. I heard a woman's voice repeating itself:

"Miss, ambulance or police?"

I tried to explain that there was a fire but she just kept repeating her question. I finally took a stab: "Police, please" and again tried to explain where we were located but found that I was speaking to no one - I was being transferred. I explained myself to the police woman who answered the call but she said we needed fire. I told her our address and she hung up to contact the fire department.

At this point, Mark ran back into the house and said we needed to get out. We took Miller out of the crate and I put on the first shoes I could find. As we ran out of the house, we could hear small explosions (at the time, I thought fuel, but in retrospect I think it was the windows exploding from the heat) and ran to the end of the street. I looked up and could see a fire engine struggling to pull down our street (it only made it part way) and the firemen running to the fire.

After another five minutes or so, a young man in a leather jacket ran out of the house three doors down from us and toward the fire. A woman in a bathrobe came out of her house at the end of the street and chatted with us briefly before returning to the house. I think she made fun of us for evacuating our house, but Mark could verify.

It turns out that the truck belongs to the young guy, our neighbor. He seemed OK about it (as OK as you can be at 5AM on a Sat morning upon discovering your car is ablaze) so Mark is thinking insurance scam. I think it's a cigarette butt, or possibly some of the kids down our street who are out all hours of the night, playing ball where it is clearly marked "Polite Notice, No Ball Playing." The saddest part is that the next day, we peered into the back of the truck and it was full of Easter chocolate, now charred and inedible. 

Also, guess who joined us in the bedroom at 530AM? And has been sleeping with us ever since?

12 April 2009

blah blah blah dog blah blah blah

So this has been a pretty fantastic weekend thus far. In addition to the fact that we got four days off for the Easter holiday, and that two of those days have been blue bird and sunny, our good friend Miller aka Millhouse aka Milldog aka Miller Time aka Ole Dirty Miller (notice I did not mention ‘Mi-mi’ Nikki!) has finally arrived on our shores. As most of you know we have been eagerly awaiting this and spending a lot of time stressing over it. We both heard a few horror stories about dogs coming over and not having their paperwork in order and having to go into quarantine. Therefore despite the fact that we checked all of the details a million times, we were both a bit nervous driving down to Heathrow on Friday morning.

However everything went perfectly according to plan. We got down to the Animal Reception Center, signed in and waited about 10 minutes. Soon enough they called our name, we signed a quick document and they walked him out. He was cowering a bit and nervously shaking his hind quarters but he saw us and his eyes lit up. He even came right over and licked my face just like the first time we met. This coupled with the fact that he urinated on the floor due to nerves assured us that all was exactly as we had left. Kathleen took him out right away and they frolicked a bit.

We drove him home and immediately took him out for a long walk around Sefton Park. Here he immediately fell in love with his new ball thingie with feet and horns and showed off how well he has gotten at fetching. He was incredibly jet lagged though so we called it an early night and put him to bed rather early.

We did not have a completely restful night, but Kathleen will fill you in on that next post.

On Saturday we headed down to the river to check out the promenade. On the way, we discovered Pleasure Island (or what is left of it) but this again will have to wait for another post. As I said earlier, it was a beautiful day and it was perfect for just bumming around down by the river. Miller met a few friends and was again the envy of pretty much everybody. We then headed over to an outdoor beer garden and posted up with the pup for a few pints. It was one of those perfect spring days to sit in the sun and have a few drinks. Easter weekend is pretty rad over here…

Today is Sunday and we knew it was going to be sunny again, so we took Miller to his third country: Wales. We took him to Conwy for a six mile hike up and across the ridges of Mt. Conwy. At only 995 feet, it was not the most strenuous hike, but it sits right on the coastline and there were some killer views. There were also feral ponies that sparked a discussion on how much time really needs to pass between feral and wild. We also wondered why little girls want ponies so badly. Kathleen was really no help in this department, but she said a few times how much she wanted one when she was younger.


After descending the astounding heights we had reached, our hike cut through a few sheep farms. Again, I was amazed how so much land here is okayed for public use. We just walked through people's farms and it was no issue at all. Well, not to the farmers anyway. Miller distinctly dislikes both sheep and lambs. He does not really enjoy being close to domesticated ponies either.

We made it back to town alright and I grabbed a few paninis while Kathleen and Miller hung about and watched traffic. We have noticed that he has gotten some separation anxieties, but who can blame him? Whenever one of us leaves, he freaks out a bit until the person returns. It is kinda cute at this point, but hopefully will not get worse. We did leave him alone in the crate for a few hours yesterday and he was cool.

So all in all, we are feeling pretty great to have him here. So big thank you’s to all who helped us get him here, especially Nikki and Dave and my parents. You will now go to Heaven. I found out today, so you are psyched.

Oh yeah. I got a sunburn today on my bald spot. That kinda sucks but is funny too.

video

09 April 2009

T-12 hours

Last weekend we were blessed with a truly rare occurrence in Northwest England: an entire weekend of gorgeous, sunny weather.  
video
What else... Oh, yes! You may have already heard, but Miller Brosnahan Yates is due to arrive in the United Kingdom in twelve hours. In fact we might have already told you, ad nauseum, about how much we missed him, how we counted the days until he would join us, how teary-eyed I became while watching ten second videos sent over by his Aunt Nikki.  Allow me to nauseate you further.

Saturday was spent driving out of the city to suburbia and strip malls... Home of 'Pets at Home,' our closest pet supply store. There Mark and I wandered the aisles examining unfamiliar brand names and debating the merits of attractive packaging and pronounceable ingredient lists. Having settled on 15 kilos of food for Milhouse, we then made our way to the bed section, unloading our entire Miller-is-finally-joining-us saga to an unsuspecting couple purchasing a new bed for their dog while we pulled beds out and debated the value of houndstooth patterns vs. a supportive mattress. Our selection made, we then filled the rest of the cart with assorted toys, treats, shampoo, brushes, toys, treats, a new leash and collar... All to the tune of £130. Which really is just  a drop in the bucket, considering how much his one-way airfare cost.
video
And it's all worth it. Though I have to be honest, the cookies at the end are really more about Mark finishing his last ginormous training run (twenty miles!) before running the Belfast Marathon on May 4th. Because I want to be sure to replace all the healthy things he did, like burning calories, with butter. And Green & Black's chocolate.
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The video below has been making the rounds at work. I cried the first time I watched it and then immediately grew suspicious that I was being 'had,' as they say. A quick check on Snopes.com verified the story, and I convinced a few colleagues to watch it again today. And I cried, again. I may be a giant sucker, but let's just say that Mark's Flip camera might be recording a few poignant moments tomorrow afternoon, and we'll see if I'm the only one crying this time...

04 April 2009

Outlaws!


One of the best parts about living in Somerville was that we were in very close proximity to my parents. Most couples would worry that being so close to parents (especially retired ones) would result in surprise visits and a lot of obligations to spend time with them. I think the opposite was true for us, as we were the ones who would most often drop in on them for the weekend, take up residence, and not go home until the last possible moment. My parents must have realized quite soon on that they would miss our constant presence and hearing the senseless bickering of Kathleen and I, because they started to plan their visit relatively soon after we had left the US.

They had set their trip up so that we would have to minimize the time needed off from work and yet they would still be able to spend a lot of time with us. They would spend the weekend with us, then take a trip up to Scotland and the Lake District, and then return on for a long weekend back here. This also turned out to be a good plan, because there just isn’t a lot to do around here for long stretches at a time, and having the trip split up took some of the stress of.

For the first weekend, we decided to give them an intro to Liverpool and Manchester. It was a beautiful day on Friday, but unfortunately by Saturday it had turned grey and cold. We did the usual rounds of museums and sites, but where we really scored again was with the food. On Friday, I took them for an amazing lunch at Leaf which despite the horrid sausages Kathleen had on our last trip serves up some amazing other dishes. My parents noted that they felt like they were in Brooklyn and I realized again how much I loved the vibe of the place. That night for dinner, we went out to The Moon and Pea. I still cannot get over how amazing this food is. It is one of the least pretentious environs I have been in, yet the food is incredible. Anyone who comes to visit us should demand a visit here! On Sunday we went to the Museum of Science and explored around the city a bit more.


Since we were looking for new things to do, we decided to ride the gigantic ferris wheel in the city. Kathleen was a bit… well you can see the picture:

She is apparently afraid of heights but managed ok, and we were all proud of her.

The following week at work was super busy for myself and Kathleen had to travel. I skated at night and just generally relaxed while my parents were off having adventures of their own (including clipping a woman’s handbag while they were driving, but I am not going to go into that…).

Kathleen and I were off the following Friday and we took my parents up north to the beach at Formby. I remember one of my parent’s favourite parts of our trip to the Netherlands was just seeing the beach, so I showed them what our beaches look like. Again, they were a total mess from trash but the Irish Sea was quite dramatic. The wind was blowing hard on shore and generated quite a bit of wind swell out in the sea. The waves were not really clean at all but there was some size to them and a few shoulders could be seen… I can’t wait to surf again!

We dined at Paul’s on Friday night which was again excellent, and explored the cathedrals in Liverpool on Saturday. Again, everyone preferred the old traditional Anglican, rather than the new modern Catholic. Kathleen commented about how intimidating it was and I thought a lot about how some religions really profit on putting fear into their congregation. As much as I love the look and feel of the place, it did make me look at in a different manner.

One of the reasons my parents decided to come when they did was that I had signed my mother and I up for the Liverpool Half Marathon. Although the numbers did not fit in exactly with my training, I played around with the schedule a bit and made it work. The race was set for Sunday morning and with all the wind and grey skies the few days prior, we were a bit nervous. There was no need to worry however because we woke up on race day to absolute blue bird skies! It was so bright and sunny, it seemed like the perfect day to get out and run 13.1. Kathleen and my Dad once again got prepared to deliver us to the start, planned out where they would catch us half way, and made arrangements to get to the finish line in time. I’d have to say they both make running these things much easier in terms of transportation, ‘sherpa’ing, and supporting us both. The race itself was wonderful. We ran from downtown Liverpool, through Albert dock and up into some of the better parks in the area. It then wound down to the river and the final 4 miles or so were a long the banks of the river Mersey. It got a bit tight at times so I found myself weaving between people a lot but everyone was in great form and the sights were amazing. However one of the most memorable parts was at the start when my father disappeared amidst the thousands of people gathered. No sooner than we noticed he was gone, we heard a familiar American voice booming over the PA system. He managed to get on the mic and wish my mother and I luck for everyone to hear. I think he enjoyed himself. All in all a great race day and I would highly recommend it for any runners looking for a new race.

Kathleen had to head down to London for some science thingie, so Sunday afternoon and Monday were just my parents and I. Both my mother and I were wiped from the race so we really just relaxed around the house and watched some movies. We decided on the Moon and Pea for dinner again (it does not get old) and then went to a local open mic night that an acquaintance of mine put on. He had wanted my Dad to get up and play his new banjo, but we were all exhausted and called it an early night. All in all, it was a great trip and I was glad to have my parents travel abroad again to visit me. Some people would not really enjoy being abroad with their parents, but I would have to say mine are pretty laid back and it was great (the two bottles of Irish they brought with them were nice too!). I think I give them a good excuse to get out of the neighbourhood from time to time and it was great to have a piece of home around for a few days.

Now it Saturday morning and I am sitting in our dismal Laundromat. I ran 20 miles after work yesterday and it was pretty tough, but the sun is shining and it promises to be a great weekend. We are headed out for a long walk in a bit and then off to the pet store… I think the next post will have some recent pictures of Milldog if we can take the time away from him to update this!