Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who's watching the watcher

I just wanted to clarify that the "Art of the YouTube resonse video" post below was erroneously posted by Oliver under my name. I would almost certainly never write, "Who's watching the watcher?" Almost.


kid quotes

Home for the holidays and hanging out with my niece (4) and nephew (6), the following interesting phrases have come up:

While eating ice cream -
Marisa: "Ow, that nut just hurt the special part of my mouth."
Jacob: "Oh yeah. You mean by where the spitmaker is."

After spending 15 minutes outside re-wiring the Christmas lights on his own, crying due to coooold hands -
Jacob: "I had to stick my hands in the snow to touch the power strip."

And the best ever, while riding to school with his mom at 8:30 in the morning -
Jacob: "So Mom, did you know that people were trying to kill Jesus?"

Chomsky would love this stuff.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Settling in?

So perchance we are finally settling in. We made a trip to the Encants outdoor market that's open on the weekends in search of a few items to warm up our emptyish apartment. We found a nice blue wooden chair for Lily there. Later at IKEA, we found a mismatched table and red chair to go with the initial find, a felt mobile of bunnies and sheep, and a rug with roads and castles on it. So, all-in-all, Lil has had a pretty cool learning area added to her now-much-cooler play area. In the street the next night, we found a cool worn blue wooden table which is playing the role of end table for the time being.

The little table and chairs have helped focus Lily's oft bountiful energy such that we can actually get her to sit and talk ABCs and animals for 10 minutes or so at a time. She has also taken a great interest in writing in the last weeks. Grasping her fat crayons like pencils, placing her elbows firmly on the table and hunching over her paper so that her nose is only an inch from it, she spends long periods making wispy strings of pretend cursive. She also reads nonsense stories to us in a garbled Lily language, running her finger over the words on the pages of books or backs of DVD boxes. And finally, she loves listening to nursery rhymes, and I quite enjoy watching her drag the big nursery rhyme book from the coffee table to our bedroom at bedtime.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Poor Elmer

Today Lily was doing really well with her diaper off, running over to the potty a few times during the morning to do pees.

Later I went to make a cup of tea, leaving her playing in the family room. After a minute, she started shouting and crying, so I went to go see what was wrong. I was completely shocked to find Lily had shat on her toy elephant, I think by accident. This however, was not the source of her stress. The shit on her hand was.

It will be a while before I recover from the sight of that turd on poor Elmer the Elephant’s hind wheel, and I don’t know if Elmer will ever be the same.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Art of the YouTube response video

Watch our friend Dave's Art of a Bike Messenger video, filmed on the streets of Chicago:

And our response video of Lily watching his video:

I would like this post to initiate a discussion of the implications of this revolutionary type of response video and leave you wondering: Who's watching the watcher?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Get involved with Skype (Americans!)

Us lonely travellers stranded out here in the entrails of oblivion quite fancy a good old skype conference call, with video if you prefer, on the day of the Giving of Thanks. I know most of you have got a decent internet connection and laptop so why not download the program and enjoy some live video conferencing with Lily, Angela and myself.

My username is 'olibeaks', Angela's is 'AJRuiter' and Rooney's is 'Kevin-Rooney'. Get involved.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Home for the Holidays

Hi. We're here cooking dinner with Kevin Rooney, who, it seems, will be our flatmate for about 9 months. Actually, he's cooking and Oli and I are hanging out near him. Our internet connection comes in strongest in the kitchen, so I'm reading up on all the Chicago blogging I've missed out on in the last months and I sure do miss you guys. Heavy Metal Drummer came up on my playlist earlier (the Seeleys were just here for a few days and brought my computer out from England, so I can finally listen to MY music) and I was all, "Oh, Chicago and being a young and whatnot" (That's not a gloss but is actually what I thought.).

Let it be known that Lily and I will arrive in Chicago on December 14th, and Oli on the 21st. We'll be about until the 8th of January, staying in Tinley Park but planning to make visits to other parts of the Land of Lincoln.

Lily says, "Hi guys."


Friday, November 16, 2007


Those of you who read Angela's January 2005 entry "Tibidabo: The Last Temptation of Chaos" on her old blog ( may particularly enjoy this video.

Selling up and moving on, with Radiohead

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Potty on, Wayne. Potty on, Garth.

And potty on, Lily. We had our first pee on the potty today.

I had tried the whole no diaper in the house thing while we were in the Barceloneta flat, but that just led to Lily holding in poo and pee and doing them slyly on our balcony when I had to pay attention to cooking dinner. So I figured she needed a little more time to be comfortable and would open up (haha) to the potty thing with time.

In our local Oriental Bazaar shop Lily fell in love with a little plastic potty (in photo), so we bought it right away. At home, she would sit on it from time to time, then jump up after about a second to see if anything had materialized. Now that we are more settled and she likes her potty, I set yesterday as the day to give real potty training another go.

Yesterday I once again realized that long periods of diaperlessness wouldn’t work as she holds it ‘til I look away. But short periods when it’s quite certain she’ll have to go (after waking up in the morning, after nap, when making grunting poo noises) do work. So now at these times we pull the potty into the family room (the bathroom is next to our flatmates’ room and they don’t want to hear me talking about pee-pee and poo-poo for ten minutes at a time) and play with other things until Lily has to go.

This morning was the first go with the new method, and what do you know, within two minutes she sat and peed. I was so surprised when she stood up and there was actually pee in the potty that I spilled my tea everywhere, including on me. I was able to snap a quick shot, seen here. My tea in the background is actually all over the table and floor, but you can’t really tell. Let’s see if we can get a same-day repeat but all the same, well done Lily!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ye fotos

At the beach with Timo
The most Euro couple ever in the background
Practicing parkour
Dwarfed by sculpture
Riding mom while she gets a 7euro beach massage
A man we sat and listened to for an hour on Montjuic
Listenin' to tunes and eatin' snacks

Our home in blurry photos

The main living and working spaces and our nice view.
Side note: Lily now says "nice," but only to mean "niiiice," not that something or someone is kind.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Ol' Blog

‘Ello, ‘Ello. From the land of Joan Miró, Antoní Gaudí, Manu Chao and that lady who said she was a 9/11 survivor but wasn’t, we greet thee.

Please share in a collective moment of thanks as we once again have the internet, in the form of a strong free wireless signal pulsing through two rooms of our home. Now we can call people via Skype (to land lines even!), read the news, listen to NPR and BBC radio, and just generally communicate with the world beyond that which lies within our skulls.

We’ve actually had this internet connection for two weeks now, the length of time we’ve been in our new place….it just took me that long to find time to write anything.

So below is a big ol’ blog regarding logistical challenges we have faced in the last month. I have a lot of further bloggin’ to do on topics such as:
- The quarter-life crisis I am going through that makes me cry (both happy and sad tears alike) about once a day when I a) think about my childhood or b) wonder what the hell we’re going to do with our lives
- Leeann and Violet, a British mum and her daughter who is exactly Lily’s age, who we met at the park and now hang out with. They’re fun.
- Lily’s development. She’s so cool!
- How I went through (and probably will continue to go through) unexpected culture shock and hated Barcelona for a while there and really wanted to tell Catalan people to stop telling me how to do things and looking at me like I was a freak
- Me being an at-home mom now and doing all the things that Oli’s mum and my mom do…and wanting to perhaps not be working at all anymore

So, the amazing flat I wrote about weeks ago didn’t pan out because the little old man who owns it was afraid of foreigners as he went through a long court battle with the last tenants, and if the same were to happen with us, the court battle would take twice as long.

While all the paperwork was pending on that place (before we were told no), I found us a short-term rental for three weeks in a duplex in Barceloneta, the zone along the beach, so that Oli and Lily could come out to Barcelona in time for Oli to begin work. This duplex had been rented by a girl from Toronto and a guy from NY. The girl would be in Toronto for a few weeks and the guy wasn’t finished with his previous place, so they both wanted to sublet for the month of October. The place was just finishing being rehabbed. When I saw it, it was still under construction, but the girl told me the agency had guaranteed it would be complete by Oct 1, and we would move in on Oct 2 or 3. Being Spain, I highly doubted it would be ready on the 1st, especially when the girl added the word “guaranteed,” but I was desperate for a short-term rental that wouldn’t cost me my first born and I figured what wasn’t complete in the flat would be finished soon. Boy, was I surprised when on the 3rd it looked hardly complete and had no furniture.

Acually, the IKEA bed and wardrobe in our room had been assembled. By our second day in the place, a table and credenza had been pieced together in the kitchen, and IKEA dishes added. The kitchen chairs were to arrive within a week, but never did materialize in all the time we were there, so we always sat on a manky mattress on the floor that we stole from the IKEA fold-out couch on the second floor of the duplex. We learned that furniture is really important, especially when you have a child you’re trying to feed. Thank God we had Lily’s little booster seat with slide-on tray.

In addition to the lack of furniture, there were men from Mexico who came at 8am each morning for a week to finish the work, but all they finished was painting the staircase leading up to the flat, using a very nice rag-roll effect. While they were doing that, we were noticing that none of the doors that opened to the outside (the balcony doors and main entrance from the building stairwell) closed completely, that the washing machine leaked water across the kitchen during the spin cycle (we became accustomed to mopping the floor being part of the laundry-doing process), the air conditioner hadn’t been installed (large pipes protruding from the ceiling were the first clue), and that the hot water only worked for about 5 minutes (no side note needed).

On top of these odds and ends within the flat, it seems I had failed to notice on my preliminary visit that two buildings on that small street were under construction, meaning that at 8am each day, hammering began, and that at 2:30, immediately after Lily would go down for her nap, men would begin hoisting a bucket up on a pulley in the building next door yielding a horrible repetitive squealing noise. After a week of this, construction of some sort began in the flat below ours, producing hammering each day at exactly 2:35pm. In our last week in the place, scaffolding was erected in front of a third building on our street, and further work began there. Between this nearby construction and that which had taken place within our duplex, the grooves in the modern gray clay tiles of our flat were perpetually filled with a dust that we could not eliminate with all the sweeping and mopping in the world. Thus, our feet were perpetually filthy and the floor perpetually covered in dirty shmeers, particularly after running the washing machine.

Yet, when we moved, we knew we would miss Barceloneta. It has lovely old buildings and a great big market for buying fresh food. When you’re in your apartment, sure, you can hear everything happening in the street and see other families making dinner in their places just across the way, but it was kind of nice to always have signs of life around. Heck, all Oli had to do to get the current football score when we had no TV was hang his head out the window and ask the boy Alex who lived across the street and up two floors. In the road we quickly made friends with our favorite old ladies who would call up , “Mi vida, mi vida! Cántame algo!” to Lily when she would sing on our balcony. And, we were five minutes from the Mediterranean. Ah.

Our compatriot in all that duplex and Barceloneta had to throw at us was Georgia, a Romanian girl doing a master’s in English studies here in Barcelona. She, too, was subletting while looking for a longer term apartment for her and her boyfriend Mirce who would come out to join her at the end of Oct (Mirce is a successful events/concerts organizer whose last thing to organize before coming out to Barcelona was a Beyoncé concert sponsored by Coca-Cola. He just took Georgia to London for the week to meet up with some agents, see the Cinematic Orchestra, see Sigur Ros play live before seeing their documentary, then head out to the VIP party to meet the band.). She, too, suffered in that duplex, had little time to look for a new place, and was well loved by Lily, so when the agency we were working with showed us a flat we liked enough to take with time running out on us and all, we invited her and Mirce to come rent our third bedroom.

So, now here we are in a modern flat on the 11th floor, the top floor, of a giant building, with a balcony looking out to the sea. We’re very near to where Oli and I used to live, but more centrally located in this barrio/zone. It’s a very family-friendly area, but most of the city is as the city planning here is excellent; that’s Catalans for you (except when it comes to immigration; see below). You’re basically never far from a library, park, market, or civic center and each zone of the city has guides available that tell you all the activities and resources the city and other private organizations have available for residents to utilize in that area. Right behind our building is the train station that takes one down to the cities south of Barcelona, which have great beaches. On the other side of our building is a giant park with a lake filled with ducks and fish, a grassy tree-covered area, sporty area, and playpark complete with coffee bar for the moms. While we weren’t expecting to live in a modern-ish apartment, we’re getting happier and happier with it and are really enjoying the area we live in.

On the other hand, we’ve noticed a few things don’t work in out flat. The washing machine floods the back utility balcony it is on, and water spills on to the utility balconies of the flats below. I didn’t know this and the first and only time I used the machine, the result was furious ringing of my doorbell by two separate neighbors while Lily was napping and I was desperately trying to mop up the water faster than it could escape onto others’ balconies below. I always think of such clever things to say to rude Spanish people ten minutes too late. In English I have that margin down to five minutes. Anyway, other problems include: two of the burners/hobs of the stove don’t work, the bidet doesn’t work (we don’t care), and if you turn on one of the heat/aircon units, the electricity in the apartment goes out. The toilet also began to leak at the base today……

So I emailed the agency about all this and a week later, they called me (there was a two-day holiday in there, so in reality, it only was a four-day delay). Basically, the typical Spanish repair process has begun and in about six months, we might have one or two things repaired. Our friend Timo has been trying to get a leak in his bathroom repaired for nine months. Once every three months the lampista that works for his flat’s managing agency will come out, peak through the little hole he made in a tile and grumble about not being able to figure out the problem without a better view. Timo once suggested the lampista take off a few tiles, but he said that was ridiculous because then he’d have to put them back up. On the last visit the lampista did figure out what the problem was. So maybe on the next visit he’ll fix it?

In addition to flat trials, I’m still trying to sort out my immigration status. I went at 7am to wait in line with the other immigrants last week and when the doors opened at 9, I immediately got to go see someone….who instantly told me my American marriage certificate wouldn’t do, that they needed something from a British authority recognizing our marital union. The woman suggested I take my American marriage certificate to the British consulate and get a letter written saying we were married. This was good enough she said. Hm, this letter written by Jemma Smith of Pikey-ville, UK would do, but not my stamped and water-marked marriage certificate…. I repeat, hm. Having been througb Oli’s immigration process in the US, I knew this was crap and that consulates don’t do such things, but I called the British consulate just to check. I was right, so now I have to start over and call the Catalunya immigrant hotline to find out what exactly they want from me. Mind you, none of this is written anywhere and no one ever knows what to expect when they go to any public office here. You kind of start at the office where you pick up the application, then just ask people who may or may not know where you go to process the application and present documents, that you may or may not know you need. Personally, I just think the immigration lady I spoke to that day was on her period.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

the mighty boosh

Moved into our new flat. Happy days.
It's funny, but after 4 weeks in Spain I find myself needing to learn some set phrases for situations that frequently occur. You might imagine this to be an exchange at the market, introductions to new people etc. You would be wrong. I need witty invective to dress down seriously rude Catalan people who don't wait for you to exit the underground train before barging their way on (even when you have a stroller/pram), who try and run you over in the street (happened today) and who lack every common courtesy familiar to those of us from the civilised world.

In other news, we played some ronders on the beach today (pre-cursor and girl-like version of baseball) with some colleagues from our school. We're living with some delightful Romanians who organise festivals and beyonce concerts when not transporting Ikea furniture for us. Got a hair cut the other day. Thought it was good 'cause he gave me a face massage, but when I got home I realised he'd given me a Spanish. This is long at the back of the neck and on top, but short at the sides. Disgusting. I'd rather a Wicker Park side parting and tight jeans combo any day.

Other than that, Barcelona is fuckin' A and I'm glad to be back. Feels very much like home.

I left my camera in the rain so bought a new one and took some photos in B&W. This is them:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not captured by gypsies

In response to emails asking after us, know that we are alive.
We've just been busy and currently living in conditions lacking regular access to internet and phone.

As a quick update:
The dream flat didn't work out. The owner is old and afraid of foreign renters due to a whole court battle incident he had with the last tenants.

The same agency showed us another place in the same area and although it is a newer apartment lacking the old charm, it has all the appliances and space we need, and has a spectacular 11th floor view to the sea. Nice.

Kevin Rooney will likely be living with us for a bit while he settles into BCN. He's in a hostel now and traveling for a couple weeks as of this weekend, but will return thereafter to make a life for himself here. Betsy and Casey were just here passing through and we had a nice day at Park Guell. Michael McAndrew also gave us a random phone call last Saturday at 8am noting that he was in BCN and wondering if we wanted to hang out. So really, even though we're living in a flat that is under construction (story for later), we've had a lot of distraction and found temporarily living 5min from the sea a happy repayment for the crappy home conditions.

Oli works A LOT. Things will get easier once we have internet and phone, and my computer comes over form England.

My classes are good. I teach 14-year olds and adult beginners. I love my beginners and forgot how easy it is to teach the zero level because every class they have such a high learning curve and are not yet disillusioned. Teens are teens.

I actually must go now and plan a lesson based on High School Musical. My students have demanded a lesson that includes some of its songs.

Oh! Lily is such a big kid -
She wasn't eating vegetables and fruit, just bread and meat, for a while there. I realized if I offered her something, she would always say no, but if it was mine, she wanted it. So now I just prepare food in front of her or with her and wait for her to ask about it. It has worked and today she had cucumbers, carrots and green beans at lunch. Laura Hartrich will understand the immense implications here and how good I feel right now.

She speaks loads and we have little conversations. She even says "sí" or nods her head, a big improvement over weeks of "no" being the response to everything. Everything. She speaks more Spanish now, not just caca, but also pan and bús. Every day when we go in a panadería, we get something free because of how cute she is asking for pan over and over.

OK, more soon. High School Musical calls.

Saturday, September 29, 2007



I have found our dream flat.

It is in a classic 1940s building complete with shiny glass and wood elevator. The apartment is on the 5th floor and two of the rooms have an adjoining balcony overlooking a lovely avenue which has a large median lined with cafe seating and play parks every few 100 feet. Children play there all day and old people read newspapers. At the end of the avenue is Plaça Espanya, which is pretty, but more importantly, is where Oli can catch transport to all his classes. Beyond the plaza is Montjüic, a mini mountain that overlooks the sea and is covered in paths and pretty gardens, a palace and an olympic stadium.

The flat itself is huge, with 4 bedrooms and has light filtering in from all directions. It has classic Spanish tile and tall wood and glass doors. Lily could run around all day and in the winter and be a happy little camper. Best of all, the monthly rent is within our price range. Old people who own flats seem to have a thing for keeping rent low. We like this.

On Monday, after returning from Almería, I went back to the big administrador´s (like agents but different) website and did a big search for 3-bedroom flats. Then I looked up their locations on the city´s online map. I grouped apartments that I was interested in by their nearest metro stop. Then that night I walked for an hour and a half past the 8 flats that were near my friend´s place, deciding based on the look of each building and neighborhood if I wanted to call for an appointment to see them. I did the same in another area on Tuesday and that´s when I came upon Avenida Mistral, which I never knew existed. When I saw the building and the location, I knew instantly that I wanted my Lily to live there. I called and got an appointment for Thursday evening, only after they made sure it was clear that the flat was not for students, the elevator functions in a way such that it only takes people up, not down, and that up to a 9 month´s aval bancario (like a deposit, kind of) could be necessary. None of this bothered me because when you find the right place for your girl to live, you just do what you have to do.

When I approached the building on Thursday, I was bummed to see three people out front. Often when seeing places, the administrador will set up like 10 people to come see it at once, which is instantly depressing. But alas, these people were two old ladies representing the owner and a very nice middle-aged lady who was the agent. They were extremely sweet to me, and even though the place could absolutely sell itself, they kept pointing out things that were great or classic, trying to convince me.

All we have to do now is turn in all our proof of identity, income and savings so the little old man owner can decide if we´ll have to pay a 6 or 9 month aval bancario and then sign a contract, and then do all the other fun things like buying some appliances on Craigslist/Loquo (yeah, there´s no fridge and washing machine), getting some basic furniture, and transferring the utilities into our name. Whatever, I could care less as long as we have a home we´re happy in!

Oli and Lily are coming out to Barcelona on Sunday afternoon and we´ll be staying in a duplex near the beach for three weeks while we sort all this out. The duplex belongs to a Canadian girl who´s going home for a few weeks.

In other news, as a thanks, I took Timo, Eddie and Carla out for a huge Indian dinner and drinks last night after we watched England kill Tonga in the Rugby World Cup. I am now tired and must buy groceries because nothing is open on Sundays (tomorrow) and MY FAMILY is arriving then!!!

PS - I often only blog when good things happen. The last couple weeks have been a real shit most of the time, and I will detail some of the crappiest highlights for you later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When the going gets tough, go to Almería

So we almost lost our nerve and just moved to London last week.
More on that later.

Over the weekend, Oli and I met up in the south of Spain and we went on a long-time-in-the-making holiday to Almería with the Milford Krü:

The Anadlucians were really wondering what we guiris were doing when orchestrating that beach photo.

We are rejuvenated and back at it, me in BCN, Ol and Lil in England...but they´ll be joining me in just a couple days.....and the flat prospects are looking good...again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy belated brithday, me

Thank you to all those of you who sent me birthday wishes by email yesterday. That was nice.

While I did spend the big 2-5 alone in Barcelona, it was not wholly bad. I finished sorting out our work schedules at Oxford House where if all continues as is, we will have a very nice non-overlapping schedule of classes. Everyone there has been lovely and helpful and I´m excited to get back into things there.

Housing may also be sorted, but still waiting to hear. We´ve decided to go with a flat that a course director from another company has available as he and his family are moving out to a bigger place. The only issue is that they´re still living there....thus the waiting game.

After dealing with all that, I planned to go shopping or to the beach, but the sky got overcast and I was tired, so I tried watching Lost in Translation and ended up feeling pretty cheated after watching the first third of the movie only to find that the DVD was scratched such that it wouldn´t function starting from the scene when Bill and Scarlett meet through the karaoke scene..... So I went out and bought Timo and his roommate Eddie some household supplies (dishsoap and toilet paper) and then went for a swim in their rooftop pool that overlooks the city. I finished the night with Eddie, who is quite fun, watching Real Madrid play in the Champion´s League. They won, though I don´t really care because I hate Real Madrid.

Today, I shop.

If we get a sense today of when we can move into that apartment, then Oli and I will be in Almeria this weekend with all the Milford friends on a camping expedition that has been months in the making. We will then move our operation, including Lily, to Barcelona next week (if we can´t move into the apartment at that time, we´ll be getting a vacation rental apartment until we can move in).

Yes, I still REALLY REALLY miss Oli and Lily. Yesterday Oli wrote me this:
´I have enjoyed my time with Lily and we had a good walk today and we learned about the sun and mushrooms and she kicked me in the face.´

How could I not miss being around THAT?! On Tuesday he sent me a short video over Facebook that showed Lily sleeping in his arms and I started crying in a locutorio (internet cafe). They called me yesterday and Lily said hi into the phone. I cried. Evidently she has been picking up the phone at random times saying ´Hi, Mommy´and when I was first gone, looking for me under the blankets in our bed. !!!

Anyway, we are nearing a finish to this drawn-out moving saga and will shortly be complaining about having too much work to do and how much we annoy each other. I can´t wait!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back in the old world

I´m house hunting in Barcelona while Oli and Lily are back in England. Our old flatmate Timo has been kind enough to let me crash in his living room and it has been extremely good to catch up on all of the bizarre things happening in this city over the last two years.

Timo is doing well having stolen one of his former business English company´s clients, meaning he now teaches all the English classes in that client´s offices as a free-lance teacher and they pay him twice what his old company did because they´re not being gouged. Timo´s also got a flourishing free-lance art journalist career going, writing for magazines based in various European countries. Nice. His girlfriend Carla is Catalan and an interpreter for the police. She knows every pickpocket trick in the book as she translates for all the poor Americans and English who get whacked.

Work is sorting itself out. Teaching jobs are lining up and I´m meeting for coffee with a guy tomorrow who runs an English lesson website and develops bars. He´s looking for someone to help create English lessons with explanations in Spanish for his new Barcelona website that already has a thriving Madrid sister, a job I could do from home, and is thusly ideal.

House-hunting is full of ups and downs but my most recent up has been an 82-year-old man. I tend to really get on with the old Spanish men (recall my former student Juan and our gleeful shouting matches), I think perhaps because they talk a lot and don´t care if I respond or if what I respond with makes no sense. They also speak slowly, so I am actually able to understand them. What they say is often quite humorous as well, as they pontificate on everything from the horrors of discotecos to the importance of having a good doorman.

So, this Señor and his wife have two properties that they rent, former homes of theirs, and they rent them at cheap prices to people they deem trustworthy: families and couples. I was the first person to contact him and he shouted with glee when I told him we were a family. He said it usually takes him weeks to get through the phone calls from drunks and students replying to the ad for a three-bedroom apartment with a low rent. Anyway, the flat has three bedrooms, two baths, a giant living space, kitchen and two large balconies...and costs less than every other flat I´ve looked at...and is just off Passeig de Gracia and Diagonal, like living at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive for the Chicagoans out there.

So after listening to the gentleman for about 20 minutes, we arranged to meet tomorrow afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed that it´s not an apartment full of old people furniture.

I am missing my Lily and my Oliver VERY much. I can´t possibly come up with more words to express how much so let´s leave it at that.

But, I did take advantage of being single and was out on Friday night and in a bit of pain on Saturday as I generally don´t drink but was given many free that night. At the good old Black Horse pub we watched England lose big time to South Africa in the rugby world cup, moved on to a swanky bar with a mojito special, wolfed down kabaps (like gyros and the favorite food of drunk people) on the Ramblas like real tourists, moved on to an acquaintance´s bar where drinks were cheap for us, and then went home in a cab that saw Timo´s girlfriend puke out the window. I don´t think I´ll go out for another year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

more photos

Do you see what I have to put up with?

A photo stolen from Michael McAndrew's Facebook photo album showing the Seeley family in Hampstead Heath. Lily is sending the camera a very clear message.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Checking in

1. Got stung in the face by a bee two days ago, right under my eye, and it still looks like Oli beat me. I've been telling people that "I got chavved on the high street," which elicits an, "Oh my God, what did you say to them?!" each time. Should have taken a picture yesterday when it was at its worst - the part under my eye that is normally sunken was puffed up to the level of my cheek and beyond. If I took a picture of me today you'd be unimpressed with my predicament.

2. Lily has finally started pointing at things when we ask her where they are and we realize how many things she knew and was hiding from us for her own reasons.

3. Lily has also chilled out the tantruming quite a bit and become quite the little buddy. She gives me hugs all the time, chats it up quite a bit and actually listens to me when I ask her not to do things. Whoa. I have this whole philosophy of not shouting no at her except when she is on the verge of doing something that could instantly kill her. I figured she was too young to understand why I was telling her no and that shouting would just urge her to do the act in question even more. Anyone who knows Lily knows that she is willful and wiley. I figured she might ultimately understand my reason for saying no when her language abilities improved or that she would realize on her own why it was better not to do certain things. So I just gently say no without making a big fuss and then try to redirect, as when she sticks her hands in her milk at dinner, which generallly yields spilt milk. I figured this method of "the gentle no" would not yield immediate results, but would keep Lily from hating me and would get her to understand that I actually have good reason for saying no when I say it. And alas, I am finally reaping the fruit of my labor as she listens to my explanations of dangerous or naughty things and heeds my commands thereafter! For the time being I am feeling like super mom who is buddies with her toddler while successfully keeping her alive and well behaved. This will likely all change by next month when Lily next morphs, but for now, Oli and I are awesome parents.

4. Expecting to go to BCN later this week. Have an interview with OHC on Friday. Thinking to go for renting a house outside the city so Lil can have more room! Basically, work is our last priority behind finding the right place to live for Lil.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Barça recon

Oli and I are in Barcelona in Lawson´s bar (see below) doing recon without Lily for a few days. Flat hunting has gone poorly but all together we´ve been successful in that we´ve reconnected with old contacts and pals who seem to have the Barça thing down:

Former flatmate Lawson is living in a 3-storey house in Maresme outside Barcelona and running his own bar in port town Masnou. The bar, which is full of beautiful old carved furniture and Scottish parafrenalia (including a sporran that just arrived by mail on Tuesday), faces out on to the port of sailboats and yachts and looks great. Law has many bright ideas for keeping the place fun and profitable and is happy that it has improved his Spanish and Catalan. Oli´s hoping to take a weekly shift to help him in the same way.

Neal, a former course director of Oli´s, met with us in his new business´s office and we´re stopping by in the morning to see the lady in charge of hiring. Unsure how much business English teaching is in our futures as it can be tedious, but it´s important to check out all options....

Oxford House College is still where we left it in Oxford Press´ former BCN offices. Got some good flat hunting advice from one of the adminitrators and are hoping to get some work there as it is a social lively place with further training/certification options and use for my Spanish.

Friends Antony and Marta are finishing off their cafe which will open in just a few weeks. Very exciting stuff on which we will likely report more soon...

As for housing, we´re thinking we´ll do a short-term rental starting next week and ending at the end of the month so that we can continue the housing hunt and solidify some work options. A friend of Marta´s and the contact at Oxford House both turned us on to an administradors website that we have found to show waaay better apartments at waaaay cheaper prices. There are more terms and conditions because they want to rent to serious people, but we are serious people, so no trouble is forseen. In fact, many of the terms and conditions are quite good for us. I really want to have a terrace (BIG balconies that are generally walled in) so Lil has some outdoor space attached to our home, so I´m being pretty picky about the places we call on.

This post has gone all factual, so I´ll end it and go watch the boys play video soccer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nana Anne's 96th Birthday

Lisa's mum turned 96 this week and family gathered to celebrate:

Lily and Hannah

Friend Mal's baby Aldous (with Lily's blanket Diti in the background)

Lily, Hannah and Dylan (cousin who lives in Wales)


A proper garden party

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Surrey by bike

Kevin Rooney has stayed with us in Buckleigh House for a few days and has been subjected to Lisa's excellent cooking, allowing us all to be treated to specialties like Sunday roast. Lisa has a great 25-mile bike route that Kevin, Oli and I tackled on Monday. It took us through the woods to a tiny valley full of horses, cows and sheep, down a big hill into the valley, and along the canal to home. Photos are here:

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Running out the door in a moment with Oli to head to Brighton for a music festival we will spend the day at with Chicago friend Kevin Rooney (saved up some money, quit job and is now traveling 'round Europe for some months) as well as Milford friends Ben Milner and Michael McAndrew.

Lily is out looking for blackberries in the woods with Nana Lisa and Papa Ray is out for a walk somewhere else.

We're thinking we'll be heading back to Barcelona in September in order to make the transition easier on ourselves, since we are already familiar with how things work there. It's a little unrealistic to just pick a town in Spain and move there when we're not even in Spain right now! So we'll do some further traveling on weekends once we're settled to see if there are any smaller places we'd like to try. We've found a house with a yard that we are very interested to rent in Barcelona and I am most likely flying out on Monday or Tuesday to handle those arrangements. (Anyone in Barca want to put me up?)

Otherwise, the Milfrod Krü met up last night from their unique corners of the world and fun was had.

More later this week when we go on a canal boat trip to celebrate Nana Lisa's birthday, which was this past Thursday.


Monday, August 13, 2007

We're alive...

...and in good old Milford.

Flights and all were fine (Aer Lingus is GREAT; service was excellent and the planes state-of-the-art), though we did miss our connecting flight and ended up spending three extra hours in Shannon, Ireland, but not really a problem. Oddly, Shannon seems like the American place to lay over. There were Americans everywhere and passengers on US-bound flights go through US customs and border patrol in Shannon before boarding, so in a way, it is treated as a domestic US you know.

On Friday Oli’s olderst brother Alex and his daughter Hannah (20 months old) came over to play. The girls got on very well; Lily pushed Hannah on the swing and Hannah kept bringing Lily her sippy cup whenever she came upon it. On Saturday friends Charlotte and Mal came over with their respective sprogs, Hermione (almost 19 months old) and Aldous (3 months old). Lily was pretty fragile this day.

Buckleigh House has turned into a real child’s paradise with toys and books ‘round every corner inside, and outside a sand play table (like in pre-school), swing, slide and pop-up gazebo.

Last night Lisa (Oli’s mom) and I went on a bike ride and she showed me all the sites of stories I have heard – the Seeley’s old house, the theatre where Oli did pantomine and Lisa directed plays, a friend’s house in the woods where Oli spent much of his youth. I have to say, it is so beautiful around here and the weather is so cool and balmy right now, I felt pretty Jane Austen-y sitting up straight on my bike, whizzing down hills in the woods and coming out on big golden fields bathed in sunset. The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that is causing several paths to be blocked off also adds to that Olde England feel.

Today Oli and Lily are in Brighton and I am home alone doing Spain research...and posting to the blog.

I’m starting to feel all nostalgic and old and sad and strange about what mine and Oli’s relationship and plans mean for our relationships with our own families and friends. Makes me feel a bit numb and unable to write properly, thus the simple factoids above. I’ll write more when I’m less jet lagged (still am after a few days of being here and after a month of house-moving activities) and more clearly introspective.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Our former Barcelona flatmates Todd and Matt recorded a video/song about Oli and I and put it up on Facebook.

We recorded the response below. Sorry if it's all inside jokes, but that's how these things go. I think you'll still get a kick out of Oli's guitar skills and our vocals. A regular Johnny Cash and June Carter pair, we are.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

big shoulders (DONE)

Big strong shoulders required to move disgustingly oversized furniture from our apartment tomorrow at 9am. 3 pairs required. text or call 312 391 0388 if you can help.

Thanks to the mercenaries pictured above who drove all the way up from Louisville, Kentucky, having read my blog late last night. I hope the $60 I paid them covers their travel costs.