…according to the cake, I’m 10 years old today

Yep, it’s my birthday today. ūüôā The candles were the only ones we could find, and unless we wanted to buy 3 packs of candles, my age is capped at 10. Now, when we were in that predicament in the past we would create a mathematical formula that the blue candles represent two years and the green ones three or whatever, but we couldn’t think of a way to make the candles equal 25, so…

It’s OK, in the end it is WAY easier to blow out 10 candles. No complaints here.

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And looking at the photo makes me wonder: Will I ever buy myself a cake plate? Maybe I’ll ask for one for Christmas.

So far, my birthday bounty is thus:

  • An 18 piece drawing set (pencils and charcoal)
  • A drawing pad
  • A blue fishing-scene tea-for-one teapot/cup set
  • A leather jacket in a color which roughly matches my hair
  • 2 cards
  • An e-card
  • And birthday wishes from Facebook as my stateside people wake up

~BONUS: I think Songza added songs to my favorite playlist. I access it by using an add-on in my browser which changes my IP address so it looks like I am in the states still. ūüėČ

It used to be my yearly tradition to spend my birthday/birthday weekend manning my high school art booth at the Thousand Springs Art Festival. This year the venue was changed to Malad Gorge State park, which, while pretty, is most certainly¬†not Ritter Island–an island surrounded by lazy rivers, towering trees, and cliffs bursting with thousands of springs spouting from the side of the rocks. While you are up on the rim, there is nothing but sagebrush, dust (not even sand), and a few struggling stands of crested wheatgrass. Then you go down the grade, and suddenly there’s green, a valley with trees and lush pastures, and at every pool of water there are blackberries as tall as a house and brimming with songbirds, and the water pouring from the cliff is so clear, so pure, falling in a cascade, following the rivets in the landscape down the the valley bottom, to the river which is deceptively deep and cold. There were places open to rent a small canoe so people could mill about the island, go to check out some of the small falls…

Down the river a little ways, there’s one spot at the base of the cliffs where water bubbles up at the bottom of the river. The water there is so clear the sand at the bottom seems to be only a few feet deep, but is in reality closer to thirty or forty. Now the fascinating thing about that part of the river is that there is a blue heart about five feet across at the bottom, created by a deposit of opal-colored clay and shaped by the natural currents. I remember that place with extreme fondness, though I really have no emotional attachment to it besides the fascination of a child. I felt like it was a¬†sign that magic surrounded us in the real world, that you only had to open your eyes to it, to see that such things existed in more than just books.

So, you see,

the gifts above are really quite perfect. My parents (and brothers) gave me the tools to reveal my artistic inclination. I’ve already used the pencils and pad for drawing: A poppy flower, a page of polkadots I did after having a bit too much cider, and today I was working on one of Utah’s arches (this one, actually¬†) ¬†and I decided on a whim to sketch a small dragon behind one of the pillars. …Now my husband gave me the tools to feel writerly. Sometimes, that little boost is something you need to shine a little extra inside.

Till later,

~Nicolette
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Internet! In England.

What a month! I think we actually arrived in our new hometown (city) a month ago exactly. We were on the plane for 18 hours. Thankfully, no delays, plane malfunctions, or even long ticket queues. It was quite the trip from Boise, ID, to Birmingham, England, and one with a lot of plane-switching and waiting around.

In my case, both of my carry-on bags were filled to the brim with my most treasured items, which I had worked all summer long to condense and select. I was pained when required to check one onto the plane destined to Frankfurt, I was constantly worried that it would get lost. Once on the plane, I discovered that a rather rude young man (and his girlfriend, poor soul!) would be sitting next to me–and he was very particular about everything, so I knew right away that my carry-on protruding just slightly out from under the seat would bother him. It did. He wanted me to move it halfway up the plane, on a side of the isle I would not get out on. I told him no, that it contained “my life”. He backed away at that and ignored me the rest of the flight. That was a great relief and I was contented. ¬†Until we got off the plane and I had to tote that bag through the airport. Have you ever been in Frankfurt airport? The portions which are renovated are nice, but what a maze! And hardly a single straight line from one point to another. It’s like the engineers saw those rope obstacles hectic businesses use to zigzag the customers with, and they added a huge circle in the middle and wings to the east and west and maybe the north, and they made the ropes into walls. The place may as well have a sign that says, “Getting through security may be fast, but getting to your terminal is not. Better start running.” And I really did see people running, many people, in fact. To top it off, though, is once we got to our terminal, they scanned our ticket and dropped us down to…a bus! Oh yes, or a bus-like-thing.¬†Then, the bus-like-thing moves and it winds its way around the airport–right back to where we got off our first plane. Oi. So Frankfurt to Birmingham was a short and pleasant flight after our trip over the ocean, but then we get to Birmingham and suddenly we get off the plane into almost nothing. It was like we were wandering around a closed airport. ¬†There was only one person to scan our visas and passports. He took so long inspecting everything I was a little concerned he’d ask us to turn around and get back on the next plane out of England. But obviously, not the case.

Once we found our luggage, we encountered our next obstacle: Getting to our hotel. For that matter, what was our hotel’s address? ¬†It’s so odd. While we were packing, we kept thinking,¬†This is all? All we are moving with, all we can take with us?¬†And then you get off the plane, and you realize¬†Holy smokes, this is too much luggage to port around the city, to take in taxi’s, much less on the bus.¬†Know what? We did it. Taxi to hotel, hotel to train station, train to Leicester, train station to next hotel. Then: working with the real estate agents.

The agents themselves were fine. Some good, some poor, some pushy, some not, some were helpful and considerate. The houses we viewed…a lot were filthy. We were assured this was due to our budget, and we stressed out a number of agents by wanting to move in now. Whenever one of them started to give me a little bit of the pity-me-you’re-asking-too-much-lip, I would turn to them and tell them that while we were stateside (and had a place to live),¬†no one would even talk to us about setting up a viewing, much less leasing over the phone. I would say this as plainly as I could, without sounding angry. A few told us the soonest we could get in, once our application was accepted, was two weeks! To check our references and credit. While we had ample of both, it was in the states, and so we were essentially a blank slate here. There was nothing to check. But it would still take two weeks. Especially since we were¬†internationals (we heard that word used as though it were a racial slur sometimes, not that we did anything but laugh at it) ¬†and my husband was a student, and I a “homemaker” instead of “unemployed”. In other words: We weren’t desirable because no one understood where the money would come from to pay rent. When we first encountered this, I expressed my frustrations with my husband, “But we¬†can¬†pay! It’s a six month contract, we have plenty to pay up front even more than that.” Not to mention that FAFSA (student loans) would kick in far before we began to make a dent in our carefully-hoarded savings–but this is something not commonly seen here. So, the agent heard my comment and suddenly was much happier! I suppose there was an option to instead pay six month’s up front, and that obviously makes the agent and landowner happy. Later we learned that the most dirty (trashed, actually) houses we’d viewed were old student houses, and that the students have a reputation for being the exact definition of “terrible neighbor” and “horrific tenant”. ¬†Anyhow, we finally made a deal on a brand-new flat located in the heart of downtown. It’s pretty. And we don’t need bus passes. And it’s about 20 minutes for my husband to walk to campus, so that’s ideal.

But the trials aren’t over. Obviously there’s a house to establish, but that was pretty minor since we asked the landlord to furnish the flat. Getting internet and phones was a greater drive, but to do that we needed a bank account, and before we could get that we needed a lovely letter from the university. ¬†Which needed time. Time passed, and now here we are at last! Living cozy and comfortable. The local market and small shops recognize us now, and we’ve actually gotten a couple of discounts on minor purchases, which is a lovely gesture. Most people confuse us for locals until they speak to us, which is likely because we’re sort of chameleons about blending into our environment. My husband has a bit of an Irish accent, kept alive on his mother’s side of the family, and my accent seems to be mistaken a lot for Edinburgh. People ask me about that, as though my voice¬†almost¬†fits there but not quite. It’s a bit fascinating. I still have to guess a lot about using grams instead of ounces, and in baking using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. ¬†I brought my favorite set of spoons and measuring cups so I could recreate my favorite recipes without error, and I’ve been glad for the convenience.

I’ve been spending my downtime typing stories. It’s a good life, a simple life, though I miss my furry friends. At least one, Terra, went to my parent’s farm and she seems to enjoy it there, and the rest went with my husband’s family. His black dog has become his father’s best buddy, and our tabby cat has become best buddies with their tabby cat, making identification between two same-size, same-color, same-disposition cats rather difficult. So I can’t feel too sorry about leaving them. This is a new life, and I will say the move has actually been very good for our marriage. It’s time for my husband to start his university studies, and time for me to actually, you know, find a job so we can keep up with our student loans. ¬†Meanwhile, I’ll be typing away like mad!

…and now I should probably get back to writing my CV again. It’s quite a bit different from the art of resume writing, and I find that in no way, shape, or form does my resume make the cut as a CV. I actually think I can use the CV more to my advantage anyway, but being a writer, I can’t just slap my keyboard for two hours, print it off (ha! I need to find a way to do that part, actually…), and call it good. Nope. I’ve got to spend hours researching what makes a CV, what’s desirable, what will beat the keyword algorithms, appeal to employers, match up with the vocabulary differences, and still look attractive and meet the 2 page requirement in the end.

All in all, I don’t think we’ve done too poorly for one month’s work. ūüôā

Tune in later for writing-related stuff. Sorry if this is rambling a little, there’s a lot to catch up, and I know some people are curious!

Oh, and what was in those all-important carry-ons? It was all my handwritten stories, starting from when I was 8 years old.

Nicolette.