22 April, 2011

Don't mess with Texas.

Coming out of arrivals was amusing. I was SICK, turbulence doesn't exactly agree with Jelly Bean. Airplane food either, for that matter, so we were not happy campers. However, my mother was there waiting when I drearily rolled my suitcases through the final set of doors, and she ran down the aisle to hug me and (of course) rub my belly. Monster Brother was there with her, but his attention span for waiting in airports is not huge, so he was lounging on a couch grumpily and refused to greet me until I informed him of the presence of airplane cookies in my bag with his name on them. I got a hug at that point.

Walking out the doors into Texas weather was a bit of a shock, the turbulence on landing had been caused by a weather system moving into the DFW area, and the humidity had me not only feeling like I was swimming through the air, but also had me sporting a giant afro, which let me tell you was VERY attractive. My first real surprise came at the car, though. Monster Bro has a new trick... he went to the passenger side of the car, opened it, waited for me to get in, then gently shut the door after me. Such a gentleman. *snort*

In the few days I've been here, I've cooked dinner and had dinner cooked for me, I've taken lunch to my mom at her school and visited with her teacher cronies, I've eaten an inordinate amount of salad (one of JB's faves), I've tried vegan cheese and vegan sour cream, I've been to the Highlands and the mall and Whole Foods Market, I've been to the grocery store every day, I've bullied the insurance company of the kid who hit my grandmother's car into giving her a replacement faster than they wanted to, and I've hung out with all my siblings at one point or another (even though to see Brother 1 it had to be at his new workplace because if he's at home, he's holed up in his room like a hibernating bear). I've been a busy gal. The Mimi keeps trying to get me to sit down and put my feet up... *grin*

I've had a few preggo moments as well... I've had a funny time of it with the jet lag this time, mostly because I have to get up to pee five times a night, but the first morning I was in town I found myself awake and unable to reclaim sleep at quarter to four in the morning. Gabs was a grumpy girl. Anyway, I always call Himself first thing, I try to make him the first person I talk to every day (speaking of which, just managed to get him on the phone and he's only gone and bought a car, more to follow), and that day I read for a while, got up and made my bed, faffed around with a bowl of cereal and waited for The Mimi to wake up. I was meeting Sister 2 and Other Mother (my stepmother, 2's mom) at half two, just to see them and because 2 had a spare phone I could use while I'm in town. Now, 2 is notoriously late everywhere she goes, and my pregnant brain conveniently forgot this fact and turned up on time. Half an hour later, she's still not there, and me without a phone. Luckily, Texas is ridiculously accommodating and the restaurant where we were meeting let me use their phone to call and find out where she was. She got "caught up" at her mother's office, and in response to this, Preggo Gabs reared her ugly head... "Okay, fair enough, but you know I don't have a phone, and I'm sitting here waiting for you, and I'M TIRED." Yeah. Not a good look.

That, and the other day U2 came on the radio in the truck and I was happily singing along until it hit me that they're Himself's favourite band and I burst into tears. *sigh*

Sister 4 has been hysterically funny about the whole pregnancy thing. She keeps squealing out of nowhere "I can't believe you're going to be a mom!" and she can't keep her hands off my belly (in direct contrast to Sister 2, who ran away when I suggested she feel the top of my uterus... *lol*). She keeps looking at me and saying "you're SO pregnant". She also almost burst into tears when Sister 1 made me sit in her lap and then triumphantly crowed "I held the baby first!!!"... Family. *grin* That said, I'm realising that I'm no longer me. I mean, I'm me, but "me" is now a walking incubator for Jelly Bean, who is MUCH more important than I ever was. When I went for dinner at my aunt's house, her daughter ran to the door and dropped to belly height with a war cry of "BABY!!!"...

All told, it's been a pretty good visit so far. I'm not making serious plans for the time I'm here. There are a few little bits I'm going to do, but mostly I just want to spend some time with family and friends (and eat LOADS, which is coming along nicely). I'm off today to Prairiefest with my college roommate and her fam, her husband is wildly talented and his band is playing, which is not to be missed. Plus, it means I get to hang out with her insanely cool son. Bonus. I'm dragging whichever sisters fancy the outing along with me, and hopefully my mom will make it as well. I'll post on that one tomorrow when I wake up at my usual time of 6AM. Until then, folks.

18 April, 2011

I'm a seasoned traveller.

I'm packing. And crying a little, but that's only because I'm pregnant and hormonal.

That's right, folks, I'm leaving our 'appy 'ome for a little hiatus in Texas. I'm off tomorrow and will be back in mid-June.

Most of me is excited. Most of me can't wait to see my family and spend the longest amount of concentrated time with them that I've had since I left in 2003. I'm looking forward to spending time in Austin with Sisters One and Three, and throwing an English tea party with Sister Two in her apartment in Denton. I'm looking forward to staying with The Mimi, and watching her taste the stuff I cook that she's never even heard of. I'm looking forward to hanging out with The Terror that is my youngest brother, we've made plans to go swimming (and eat nachos, of course). Speaking of nachos, I'm looking forward to Texan food.

Then there's the part of me that's cringing a little at the prospect of almost two months without Himself. But I'm sure I'll be fine. Fine. Perfectly fine. Peachy, in fact. *sniffle*

On a less pathetic note, this week JB's ears develop to the point that he hears actual noises, rather than just feeling vibrations. I foresee rather a lot of being spoken to at navel-height while I'm stateside... and I *might* have made Himself tell JB good morning and to have a good day before he left for work this morning...

Anyway, I have more packing and sniffling to do, so I'm going to get on with that. The next you hear from me, I'll be stuffing my face stateside. Matter of fact, that might be a good blog feature, "Texan Food Tuesdays" or something. I'll have a think about that.

17 April, 2011

Cheesecake saves lives.

That's right. I made our family's slightly infamous cheesecake for a friend's birthday, and made sure to send the uneaten portion home with anyone who would take it. Those take-home portions apparently caused some threatened violence unless the recipe was attained, and as I can't have blood shed over cheesecake, here's the recipe:

1 cup crushed graham crackers (I used oaty biscuits due to lack of graham crackers in the UK, but ginger is nice too)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (I omitted this step due to some people not liking nuts, just added an extra 1/4 cup biscuits)
1 1/2 (plus 1/3 cup for sour cream layer) cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted margarine
three 8oz packages of cream cheese (softened) which is 680g, just less than three 200g packages
4 eggs
3 tsp vanilla
1 pint sour cream (this is an American liquid measurement, it's 473 ml in the UK)

Preheat oven to 375F (190C)

Mix the crushed biscuits, pecans, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and margarine

Press into spring-form pan

Mix cream cheese, eggs, 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour onto crust and bake for 30-35 minutes (if your oven is fan assisted, check after about 25, if it's beginning to colour, take it out)

Increase the oven temperature to 475F (246C)

Let the cheesecake stand to cool for 15 minutes

Mix sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour the sour cream mixture onto the cream cheese layer and bake for 10 more minutes

Refrigerate overnight


12 April, 2011

CatWatch 2011.

This morning as I stood outside chatting to a neighbour, I heard a faint yowling from somewhere above my head. When I looked up, what do you think I saw?

That's right. Kit got brave.

The yowling was because while she had been brave, she had overestimated her powers of climbing back down.

I tried tuna. I tried taking Sophie out to lure her down. I tried taking our (woefully inadequate) ladder out in the hopes that if I got closer to her, she'd come down. Nada.

I tried the RSPCA, who told me (twice, over two hours) that they'd call me back and let me know when somebody could come out and help me. After I called a third time, I finally got a call back. They informed me that she'd have to have been up there for at least 24 hours before they'd even send someone out to assess the situation, and that even then they'd only call the fire department out to get her down. And the point of the RSPCA is? No clue.

I called the fire department, who informed me that they NEVER come out to get cats down out of trees, for any reason. Somebody's lying to me...

I finally called a tree surgeon, who came out within an hour with his guys. He climbed up with his rappelling gear, but unfortunately the noise he made getting up there scared her even further out towards the tips of the branches she was on. Did I mention she was a good 25 feet up? Did I mention that the tips of the branches are over the street? Yeah.

I can tell you're wondering where this fascinating tale will lead next. Imagine this:

A rope slung around the branch upon which Kit rests. A burly Englishman (who in the course of his tree climbing activities did that blowing the nose with no tissue thing) yanking on the rope as hard as he can while Kit clings for dear life to the branch, as the tree minions hold out a tarp between them upon which to break her fall. A yowling Kit, dangling above the street, finally losing her grip and plummeting to earth, landing safely on the bag and then being confined to the house while yours truly ran into town to get the £50 the tree surgeon charged for his services. Mind you, with the amount of trouble he had getting her down, he definitely would have charged more... if before he came I hadn't dashed upstairs and put on a dress that makes me look REALLY pregnant... and if I hadn't used a REALLY southern accent while he was here. You use what you got.

The moral of the story? We have inside cats.

10 April, 2011

Lazy weekend.

Bliss. Sun, moglets, sun, loads of good food, sun, and Himself. Good combo, let me tell you.

We let the moggies out sans leads for the first time on Thursday (sporting their new collars and tags, and freshly dosed with flea drops), just for about an hour to see how they handled it. Both of them tore headlong into the flowerbeds in search of new smells and the occasional bug to eat. On Friday I left the back doors of the conservatory flung open to let the seriously amazing weather in and the felines out. This turned into me sitting in the conservatory for longer than I'd care to admit, book discarded to one side because watching them chase bees, butterflies and each other was more amusing.

Saturday morning dawned clear and sunny, so I hied myself down to the conservatory (as I woke up around half six and thought Himself might rather sleep a LITTLE longer...) for a bowl of muesli, a cup of peppermint tea, some reading and yet more book neglecting as I watched the lunatics continue the insanity in and amongst my forget-me-nots. Himself made his way downstairs around nine o'clock for his brekkie and some moglet-watching, and then tore apart the pre-existing cat door at the side of the conservatory to allow the furry ones constant access to the outdoors. I went out into the alley outside the door, Himself caught Kit and Sophie, and we spent a minute shoving them back and forth through the door until they got the hang of it. This of course meant that Kit darted straight back out the cat door and into the neighbour's overgrown jungle of hydrangeas the first chance she got, but I guess I'm just going to have to get used to them running around the neighbourhood unsupervised. *sniffle* My babies are growing up.

Himself and I headed out to have a picnic lunch in the local park, but shortly after eating lunch it turned out to be just a leetle too breezy for yours truly and we headed back home. Where did we end up, you ask? On the picnic blanket, spread out in our own (sheltered) sun trap of a garden. He sprawled out with his shirt off to read the paper, I had my fairly neglected book, and the mogs took turns divebombing us for bouts of attention. I ate six pickles. That's of no real import other than the fact that I'm fairly impressed with my pickle eating capabilities. It was a lovely, relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

We did leave the house again, went to see "Sucker Punch" as we'd both been keen to see it from the trailers that had been running for a month or so. Unfortunately, neither one of us was wildly impressed, but it was worth a go. We came home, made falafel and homemade hummus/houmous/however you like it spelled, watched some rubbish telly and went to bed. Perfect.

In other news, I'm slightly amused at the reaction my recent turn to veganism has yielded from the family. I mean, yeah, veganism is a severe change for me, but it's the questions like "have you done any research into whether this is healthy for the baby?" that do my head in. Not in an angry way, mind you, I'm just a little dumbfounded by the thought that anybody could think I'd undertake a dietary change like this without having done the research as to whether it's going to harm the human I'm currently growing. Honestly, peeps, I'm fine. As a matter of fact, I'm being very cautious as to how far I take the whole soy-substitute thing and for the moment am only having a minimal amount of soya milk on my muesli in the mornings. Also, I feel incredible. I mean, no more nausea kind of incredible. And I haven't had a migraine since I cut dairy out of my diet. So, it's all good here, and thanks for your concern/advice.

Now I just have to get used to the fact that when Kit finally deigns to return to the foot of the bed for the night, she leaves half a ton of dirt behind. *sigh* I foresee a lot of laundry in the near future.

07 April, 2011

Snifflin', sneezin' and soya snackishness.

Himself is sick. Not in the twisted sense (although that could be argued on occasion) but in the sniffly, snotty, snowdrifts of tissues sense. He came home from work on Friday feeling fluey and it deteriorated from there. Of course, he still managed to make it out to Portobello with myself and Sister 2's Texas flatmate who's here studying abroad for a semester (she spent the weekend with us, we'll call her B-Dizzle)... apparently the draw of the Germans was simply too strong.

A good time was had by all, we did Portobello, Westfield, Camden, Soho, Carnaby, King's Cross for Harry Potterage, Chinatown and Charing Cross Road, all over three days. There was a lot of walking, and B-Dizzle proved her limitless capacity for "busting a munch". Let me expound. On Sunday, we got up and went for a full English at a local pub. B and I both went for the veggie option, and all three of us went for the extra large version of our respective breakfasts. We finished around half eleven and she and I headed into town to go to Camden while Himself went home to "rest" (which in his definition apparently means "cut the grass and re-seal the bathroom window"). We made it out there around one, where B bought a latte, then ate a veggie burger, then ate a Camden donut (for those of you not in the know, they're about the size of your face) then bought a chocolate bar to eat on the tube ride home. We got home and ordered an indian takeaway for dinner, and she did that one proper justice as well. I had been unable to eat lunch after the mahoosive fry-up. *lol* It's definitely not every day that I'm out-eaten, so to B-Dizzle I tip my cap.

We also hit up at least one secondhand bookshop in each area of town. B reads a lot, a la moi, and it's rare for me to find someone who doesn't just humour me with my book addiction and instead actively aids and abets my habit. Several happy hours were spent perusing the delightfully musty depths of shelves, and a few purchases were made. For my sins, one of those purchases was "Skinny Bitch - Bun in the Oven". I say for my sins because of the following: I've not managed to eat meat, dairy or eggs since I read it. That's right folks, I'm flirting with becoming a vegan. B-Dizzle was a vegan for a while, and read the original "Skinny Bitch", so she practically twisted my arm in two when we found the "Bun in the Oven" version for £3. I started reading it on the tube on the way home from Camden, and as it's a crazy fast read, had completely ruined my appetite by the next morning. Now that I know what they do to dairy, I'm incapable of eating it. Or drinking it. And I love milk. Well, I loveD milk.

Don't get me wrong. Jelly Bean was already forcing my previous vegetarian tendencies to reassert themselves. I'd also noticed a definite slacking off in my dairy appetites (even before the book), where before I would have put a handful of cheese I began putting twenty or so individual shreds instead, just enough to taste it a little bit. However, reading that book made my overpoweringly strong imagination kick into overdrive, and my capacity to swallow dairy flew out the window. I won't go into detail about what I now picture when I imagine putting dairy in my mouth, but let's just say you wouldn't want it in your mouth either. *shudder* So I went out yesterday and bought soya milk, soya margarine, soya yoghurts and soya chocolate pudding (because it was there and looked interesting). I had soya milk on my muesli this morning, and not only did it not taste bad (as himself swore vociferously it would), it didn't kick my imagination into overdrive and make me never want to eat again. Bonus.

The other bonus in the last few days has definitely been the weather. Over the weekend was sunnier than it had been, but there was still a definite chill in the air. Yesterday and today have been downright balmy by comparison. Yesterday saw yours truly lounging in the garden with a book in my pajamas catching some rays along with my vitamin D, and this morning I hung the laundry outside for the first time since moving into the new house. The moglets are soon to venture outside alone for the first time, I just need to get their tags sorted out in case Kit decides to attempt to take up residence with some random local granny who'll feed her endless tins of tuna...

Physically, I'm doing okay. Still have the nausea occasionally, and the migraines don't appear to be taking their leave any time soon, but I'm working around it. For now, I'll just stick with the random bursts of activity when I feel human, hopefully I can at least keep Himself in clean pants. *grin*