Thursday, July 31, 2008

All I Really Need To Know...

I learned in Kindergarten.

It's too bad I forget things sometimes.

Though I'm sure the same will happen with Eliza as she grows up, raising my oldest daughter, Hannah, during these precarious pre-intermediate school years has offered me a refresher course in some of life's most basic principles. That is, as I help my daughter learn how to be a good friend, a responsible citizen, a respectful student, and an overall kind human being, I'm reminded of how I too should go about accomplishing these goals. Her peer network is becoming more fraught as she enters fourth grade, and the groundwork is being laid for the coping skills she'll need to survive high school and beyond. This past weekend, she had what I can only hope was a learning moment, while I had a priceless (re)learning moment.

After having a sleepover with a friend on Friday night, then playing with this friend most of Saturday, she came home Saturday evening in tears. Another neighborhood girl had joined them that afternoon, and Sleepover Friend and Neighborhood Girl began planning their own sleepover for Saturday night. In front of Hannah, the two girls chatted excitedly about the awesome Wii games they'd play and what they'd get to do together on Sunday morning. Hannah was crushed. She felt left out and hurt, at which point she came home (across the street) seeking comfort and advice.

My initial response was to explain to her that, throughout life, she just wouldn't be able to participate in every "thing" her friends do (every sleepover, playdate, night at the movies, etc.). She seemed to understand this, though, and she explained that she was hurt not merely because she'd been left out of the plans, but because the girls were talking about their plans in front of her. Hannah has been taught that this (like whispering in front of others) is rude behavior. And it is. Talking about plans one has made with one person (or a group of people) in front of another person (or persons) who've been excluded from the plans is rude, inconsiderate, and hurtful.

So, the question became: What to do? This is when I realized that Hannah's dilemma was bigger than the moment. Bigger than a 9-year old's problem. This kind of stuff happens forever. Elementary school, junior high, high school...many of the nightmares we go through during our youth resurface in our adult lives. The roles/personas remain strikingly similar. The prom queen is still the prom queen; the mean girls often turn into mean women, and my stepdad is just as nerdy now as he ever was in high school. Surprisingly, the circumstances are largely unchanged. The thing that has the most potential to change is how we handle ourselves.

My first response to Hannah was "Try to toughen up, grow a thicker skin." Knowing how sensitive she is (part of ADHD) and how easily she gets her feelings hurt, I immediately put the burden on a 9-year child to change a defining characteristic of her being. Yeah, not my greatest parenting moment.

After thinking about it more, though, I realized that this is decent advice if used alongside two other suggestions. The first was to leave - just walk away - because who would want to play with people who are being rude to you anyway? The second was to have the strength to be honest and direct by calmly pointing out to the girls, "I'm sure you didn't mean to be hurtful or rude, but talking about your plans right in front of me really upset me." The purpose is not necessarily that Hannah can change their behavior; she probably won't. Rather, the purpose is gaining the confidence to speak up when something isn't right. Historically speaking, aren't those the people we esteem?

I don't know if any of those solutions made Hannah feel better in the moment, but I hope she remembers the advice I gave her in the future, because, unfortunately, she'll face countless more situations like this one. I'm thankful for the lessons she inadvertently teaches me along our parent/child journey, as it is easier to be strong when you're the one a child is looking to for strength.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's a Lifestyle Kind of Change

For my birthday earlier this month, Eliza and Hannah gave me Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious.

I'd heard of the book a while back, but never thought much more of it since, until she recently appeared on the Oprah show. I just happened to catch the show while Hubby and I were at home early one afternoon, and I mentioned that I'd like to have it. Hannah is generally happy to eat all vegetables. Eliza, on the other hand, likes broccoli and...broccoli. That's about it for the veggies. She's more of a carbs girls (noodles, bread, rice, etc.). My policy on cooking for the family is that everyone eats a little bit of everything, and 90% of the time, I cook complete, balanced meals: meat, starch, at least two veggies, one of which is green. This works for everyone except Eliza, so she's who I had in mind when I mentioned wanting to have the cookbook. My theory was that I need to get her used to the tastes of as many veggies as possible while her taste buds are still developing.*

As you may know, the premise for the book is that you puree the hell out of fruits and veggies and sneak them into food so that your kids get healthy food without a fight at the dinner table. They never taste the difference, and they get their veggies, while also developing an increasingly mature palate.

The first step, then, is the food processor, which I was able to purchase after receiving some belated birthday money. A nice little ($40) 3-cup Cuisinart Mini-Processor - perfect for my new experiments. So, this past weekend, I went out and bought beets, fresh baby spinach, squash, and carrots. First up on the recipe list: Lemon Rasberry Muffins. Starbucks used to have GREAT ones, and I never found a copycat recipe, so I had to try these. The recipe incorporated pureed beets and squash, and I have to admit that I was skeptical about both tast and texture.

To my utter delight and glee, they are AWESOME! So good in fact, I went beet happy, and Sunday morning I made Pink Pancakes by adding about 1/3 c. beet puree to my regular store-bought pancake mix. The girls loved the pink color (so girly!), and Eliza ate one and half pancakes by herself!! She literally couldn't shove them in her mouth fast enough. I just sat there, stunned yet pleased as punch with myself for taking the time to incorporate this new routine into my weekend schedule. Then, I cooked more!

Sloppy Joes with squash --- totally yummy! Brownies -- low-cal and good (but there is a tiny hint of the spinach taste). Spaghetti with pureed carrots -- you can't taste anything different! I've already used the food processor almost a dozen times, and it couldn't be easier. It takes no hands on time to cook the veggies, and it only takes two minutes to puree. After this, you bag the purees, and you're set for the week (or longer if you store some in the freezer).

I'm most surprised at how easy it was to slip this new "thing" into my Saturday afternoon. I'll probably move it to Sunday afternoons in the future, but it's so easy, so fast, and more importantly, the benefits are so worth it. Today, for example, Eliza had veggies in her breakfast, dinner, and dessert (she LOVES the brownies!) damn cool is that?? And all of this is on top of the veggie side dish that I still provide at dinnertime, so that she's encouraged to knowingly eat her veggies, and Hubby, Hannah, and I provide models for healthy eating.

Few things work so effectively at making me distinctly feel like I'm doing something really good for my children. This cookbook accomplished that, and it's been one of the highlights of the past few days!

*As it turns out, there's a scientific reason children don't usually like the taste of vegetables. Dr. Oz explained this on the Oprah, and he also wrote the forward for the cookbook. Knowing the science behind this phenomenon really made sense of it for me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Green Light: Let the Chaos Begin

During a long meeting with my advisor yesterday, she gave me the official Green Light to pursue an opportunity for publishing a section of a dissertation chapter (the piece I presented at the England conference). This was both good and bad news. On one hand, she finally said "Yes, you should go for this!" It feels like I've been waiting forever to hear her say this, because she's consistently encouraged me to stay focused on writing and researching for the diss, rather than let myself get distracted with the business of writing, revising, and submitting for publication (even though I've had work solicited early in the process). This is also welcome news because it coincides with the choice of a writing sample. If I'm revising this work for submission to a journal, then it only makes sense to use it as my writing sample and thus kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.

On the other hand, this is the least polished chunk of writing in my diss right now. I revised it sufficiently for conference presentation, but a conference paper is 10 pages max, which means I need to significantly expand this section. Not just expand, but frame and contextualize it within the space of what comes before and after it in the longer project. Basically, A LOT of work is still needed. Also discussed was the quite full plate I've prepared for myself this fall: teaching, revising diss chapters, organizing symposium for working group, and steering committee work for a national conference we're bringing to campus, and...oh yeah, going on the job market. Knowing how much I love and need my timelines, plans, and schedules, my advisor simply wanted to give me the standard "We'll-do-our-best-to-stick-to-the-plan-but-be-prepared-for-the-plan-get-adjusted schtick." So maybe next May won't be the graduation date; maybe August is more reasonable, and I'm okay with that. I'm entering my fifth year, so I'm still on track...

Anywho, I have a writing sample to revise and job materials to develop, but I'd feel much better if I could get a draft of my final body chapter finished before the end of August and the beginning of my life being sucked away for the fall. I'm having a hard time determining what the reasonable expectations are that I should have for myself. I'm notorious for putting twice as much stuff on my to-do list as is humanly possible to accomplish, and I don't want to make myself any crazier than usual...bleh. No real point here, just trying to figure things out before passing Go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We Have an Offer

As Hubby and I have busily worked throughout the summer, our attorney has been forcefully "on the case." The case of Us vs. Insurance Company of Idiot That Totalled Our Car, that is. Hubby went through physical therapy, doctor's visits, etc. and was given a clean bill of health in mid-May. At that point, all bills were compiled, paperwork was completed, and the attorney sent everything was sent off to ICITTOC (funny enough, they're known by an acronym in real life). Here's how it worked out:

Attorney offered: $7500 to settle

ICITTOC countered: $2750

Note: the medical bills total $2000, and the attorney gets $600-$800.

Yeah....let's try this again.

Apparently, ICITTOC expects to negotiate and come up on their offer. Our attorney will work to get their settlement offer raised, while also working to get our medical insurance to accept less in reimbursement, because they wouldn't be getting anything if it weren't for us going through the effort of hiring an attorney and pursuing a settlement. In the end, the attorney said he's hoping to be able to get us $2000-$2500 free and clear (maybe more).

It doesn't undo what happened or take away the unbelievable nightmare that was the 20-minute drive it took me to get to my family after the accident. It doesn't payoff the vehicle we were forced to buy, tag, title, and insure as a result of the accident. And it doesn't take away the fear Hannah still has when we're driving in the rain (she remembers and mentions the wreck every time). But, it's better than nothing, and it's definitely been worth us not having to lift a finger to get this settled. I just hope I never have to go through anything like this again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You've Come a Long Way Baby!: In the Wrong Direction

As if baby pageants and beauty contests for little girls (and sometimes boys too) wasn't sufficient evidence for the continued cultural practice of sexing our kids up for adult pleasure, parents of daughters can now dress their baby girls in the latest hooker wear! Heelarious is happy to provide the latest in sexpot footwear for your infant daughter. It's perfect for lounging in the crib or a playdate at her pimp's house.

The only thing worse than the mere concept of high heels for infants is the fact that the vice-president of the company is a woman: Lindsay Lefler. The story for how the company got started is a failed attempt to make the product seem harmless, as well as excuse the cluelessness of its founders as to the implications this product holds for baby girls and the parents who purchase the stripper shoes.

Though I don't necessarily agree with every word, a more in-depth critique of the many problems with this product can be found here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Skipping School

I'm so tickled! Hubby and I are skipping school this afternoon to go see The Dark Knight! We *never* take the time away from work to do things like this, so it's really a special treat. It's nice too because both of the girls will be in there respective "schools," thus no need for a babysitter. I just love, love Heath Ledger, and the trailer for the film looks amazing...Add this to the fact that I sent my first revised chapter to the rest of my committee members yesterday, and I'm a happy girl!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feminism: Could It Be Any More Difficult?

After reading ld's great post on her female students' response to identifying themselves as feminists; this post at Tenured Radical, which discusses the teaching of second-wave feminism; and the comment that follows the post, which quotes Gloria Steinem, I'm left frustrated at the explicit notion that graduate school somehow "brainwashes" female graduate students, who then go on to face undergraduates that have no ability (possibly no need) to be familiar with a very basic history of feminism (i.e. that feminism doesn't equal man-hating lesbians).

The quote offered by lesboprof (keep in mind it's not direct) was that she believed someone told her in grad school that "[Gloria] Steinem said it took women 3-5 years to recover from every year they spent in grad school."

My problems with this idea begin with the premises on which it appears to be based. The idea implies:

1) that women are "brainwashed" by feminist ideology throughout graduate school. As if we get to graduate school only to have our professors reveal that we've been oppressed all our lives and we must immediately join The Fight Against the Patriarchy;

2) that female graduate students then believe everything they are taught about feminism in graduate school. Yep, we eat it all up...hook, line, and sinker, cause you know, we can't think for ourselves yet, right?

3) that we then graduate, only to spend the next 15-25 years "recovering" from this brainwashing, implicitly discovering some other sort of reality or truth...I'm still not sure how this works.

Did I miss something here? First, yes, I knew very little about the history of feminism before starting graduate school, but I also knew very little about the history of ANY school of ideology or literary criticism. Learning more about the history of important schools of literary and linguistic thought is, as I understand it, one of the benefits/expectations of graduate school, as it prepares one for a career as a academic in literary studies.

Second, if I'm smart enough to understand Derrida, Lacan, Butler, and all the other theorists that I had to read throughout coursework, then it's pretty likely I've got the intellectual hardware to be critical of those writers and thinkers, as well as critical of the choices of specific texts in any given course. Never did I have a professor claim that one theory, ideology, literary school of thought, etc. was The One True Way that I must follow. No professor told me I'd been oppressed, limited, screwed over, sheltered (although that was actually the case), or unenlightened. What my professors did was expose me to texts that made me think critically about the values, beliefs, and systems of thought I'd previously understood as natural, right, common, true, etc. I asked questions I'd never asked. Good questions! Really fucking hard questions. Painful questions. Questions that definitely changed the way I see the world around me on a daily basis. I also had the freedom and encouragement to challenge the texts I read, the professors who assigned them, and those scholars and students who've responded to both. To imply that I suffered in a way that requires "recovery" is, to me, ridiculous, especially framed in terms of what academics "do" with feminism.

Finally, using the term "recover" implies some sort of healing, as if I've suffered a wound or an illness. Yes, many times graduate school makes me sick, but not in that way. When I finish next year, am I going to "see the light" or unlearn everything that my feminist professors have taught me (or more accurately, what they've let me learn)? What does this "recovery" mean?

I'm hoping people will visit and read this posts and join this query, because I'm really a bit befuddled. Feminism in the academy doesn't inherently equal evil, tragedy, brainwashing, or political manhandling, as many would like to argue. Learning is often about what each student makes of it, so the range of experiences is infinite. What, then, are we (by we I mean those who identify themselves as feminists or make use of feminist literary theory and practice) to make of these various posts?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maybe there really is "No Place Like Home"?

Today's Chronicle offers an interesting little list for those of us about to go on the market this fall. Despite the obvious fact that non-Ivy PhD's have little choice in today's job market, everyone manages to have a few preferences in terms of location or what type of school they'd like to work for. Hubby and I have pretty much ruled out anything in the northeast, California, or the Pacific northwest. We've done so for several reasons, but the most important is cost of living. It makes no sense to accept jobs in places where we'd only be scraping by to afford schools and a house in a safe neighborhood while also paying back student loans. Interestingly enough, my home state has an incredibly low cost of living and two Home State universities consistently made almost every category (in their respective size listings) in the Chronicle's list of 2008 Great Colleges to Work For. Most of the criteria aren't things we'd previously considered when discussing how we would determine which jobs to apply for, but now that I've seen this I'll be keeping them in mind as I pore over the MLA job list in October.

The thing is, I'd NEVER planned on returning to Home State. Sure, it would be great to be closer to family, and a couple of the bigger towns in Home State are really nice places to raise a family. However, the institutions there aren't the kind of places that I see as stepping stones for my career and more importantly, they don't offer much in terms of my field (no major early modern work going on in any of these schools). According to the list, though, there are some really great schools to work for in Home State. In fact, a colleague of mine took a job at one of them last year, and he loves it there.

I guess there's no real point to this post except to say that I've never experienced such a vast Period of the Unknown in my life. It might help us on the market that we're not looking at the typical places academics want to work, but what are we sacrificing in that process? Ultimately, our priority is making the decision that's best for The Family, but there are so many factors in that decision that it's utterly exhausting to think about.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sexy Much?

At Separation of Spheres, M's post on two celebrities' experiences with feeling sexy (or not) during pregnancy introduces a topic that I've always found interesting: the sexy maternal body. As Hubby and I are about two weeks away from our first efforts to conceive our third child, the idea of being pregnant all over again is both exciting and somewhat....well, bleh. I love being pregnant, I really do! No matter the morning sickness, the sore boobs, the stretch marks and back pain, I never feel more content in life than when pregnant. It brings me a peace that I never experience at any other time in my life. But, after two pregnancies, I learned that each one is different. This means that, despite my experience at this, the third time could and likely will bring some possibly unwelcome surprises. I don't like surprises folks. I dont' want to get ahead of myself, so I'll stop here...But I do want this [pregnancy] to happen again, and with my hormone issues, it's just not a guarantee that it will happen easily or quickly. So if everyone could send some happy fertility thoughts my way, I'd be most grateful.

Happy Dance-Worthy Dissertation News

This just in from my advisor regarding my most recent chapter, which was my first effort at a substantial revision: "it's solid"! She liked it, she really liked it! Enough so that there isn't even an end page of comments for further revision. Rather, she's indicated what she calls "quirky asides" and some suggestions for presentation/arrangement. The thing I'm focusing on right now is her comment that the chapter demonstrated a "confidence with what other scholars have previously argued, their readings, etc., while balancing my own convincing argument and evidence." The best thing about her feedback isn't that she liked it though, it's the fact that I had a "feeling" about this chapter when I submitted it. I really felt like it worked, like I'd addressed the most important issues raised by other critics and worked hard to select and work through the texts that were absolutely the best ones for my project, and that I'd paid attention to the critical stakes of my claims at both the micro and macrolevel. I wasn't sure I could trust my instincts, however, until reading what she had to say. Now, I think I can proceed with the *final* body chapter, intro, conclusion, and revisions and sort of know whether or not I'm doing what needs to be done. That is, I have a better grasp or understanding of what kind of work and time each step in the rest of the process will take.

Most importantly, of course, is a) this chapter can go forward to other committee members and b) my timeline for finishing next May seems completely achievable! This is one of those rare days when I actually believe I know what I'm doing and will walk out of this department next year with something called a PhD. Maybe even for the first time since beginning the dissertation, I really *know* I can do this. Holy shit this is cool!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Favorite Things: London Edition

*Heads up: this is a long post.* In the spirit of not focusing on the things that went wrong during my stay in England and the daytrip to Paris (where I not-so-conveniently found out that Discover card is accepted nowhere in Europe), I’m posting a few more pics and details about the things that stand out as my favorites.

The first represents one of the main reasons for the trip: the treasure trove that is the British Library. What a privilege it is to be able to take advantage of the resources of one of the world's greatest collections of human knowledge. To be able to walk in, register, and then be granted access to manuscripts dating back to 1695, to read the marginal notes left by one Elizabeth Ashley in her copy of a collection of plays, to see the material differences in the three different copies of a printed play that had, just one year prior to publication, failed so badly in performance that the theater briefly fucking cool is that? I never thought I'd do archival research. Indeed, as I sat in the Bibliography and Research Methods Course my first year in this program and listened to the professor explain how archival research is often little more than a matter of serendipity, I remember thinking, "Well, I know how to get around that problem: don't do anything that requires archival research dumbass!" But the dissertation takes you places you never thought you'd be, and so it goes that I fell in love with the British Library and, dare I admit it, with archival research. This statue of Isaac Newton trying to figure out the world with his compass stands outside the library. I still haven't figured out why he had to be naked....
The next item is my room at the Morgan House Hotel. A single room with a shower and toilet just down the hall cost 52 quid per night. Anyone who has travelled to London recently will understand that this is a pretty great rate for a place that’s very close to a tube station and located in a pretty happening part of town (Victoria). The room was typically small, but I was only there long enough to sleep every night. It’s one of my favorites because it was the place where I was finally able to rest each evening and get a decent sleep, despite having a room that faced the somewhat busy Ebury St. Honestly, this made the list because of one amenity the hotel room had hiding in the closet. A thing without which I can have no restful sleep. There was a fan! It was nothing short of a miracle I tell you. I’m a fan person. My mother is a fan person, and she put fans in mine and my brother’s bedrooms from the time we were infants. So, from the very beginning of time, I remember drifting off to sleep with the constant whirring and the light breeze of a fan on my face. The fan alone was worth every penny of the hotel room price.

Okay, technically the next thing isn’t really one of my favorites, it was just really damn cute. I mean, look at this dress! It is beyond gorgeous, and I’d totally love to see it on Eliza.* I was walking down one of the many busy streets in one of London's many shopping districts, and I saw this dress and stopped in my tracks to take a picture. The only thing better than this dress is the name of the store where it was being sold. It’s a high-end, childrens wear store…like Dolce and Gabbana for kids! The name of the boutique: please, mum? Isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever heard of?

The following goes without saying for many people who study British Literature, especially between1500-1800. Westminster Abbey was amazing, stuffed to the brim, and surprisingly beautiful - inside and out. I realize I'm a total dork, but I actually shed a few tears over Aphra Behn's stone. I just kept thinking, "I'm writing about you! You're important, you were a great writer and a super cool chick...for God's sake you were a freaking spy! How can they NOT have put you in Poet's Corner!"

Ahhh, the theater. Her Majesty's Theater to be exact. The original was built in 1705, and though it's been through several new designs since then, I got the distinct impression that it retains much of the 18th-c. theater elements. The physical space is nothing like any theater I've been in here in the U.S. The seats are small, crammed together, and the overall amount of space within the theater is quite limited. Intimate is the best way to describe it. I sat there watching Phantom of the Opera with mouth agape with childlike wonder and glee at everything about the performance: the sound of the soprano voices, the mobile stage pieces, the power of the music, the bodily presence of so many players on stage dancing, singing, moving like clockwork. My absolute favorite scene is the masquerade, as it highlighted one of the key cultural moments in the period I study. Bottom line, the entire experience brought to life major aspects of the plays I'm using in my dissertation. I felt, saw, and heard components of theater that are just as integral to stage productions now as they would have been in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, making the experience just as worthy as my trip to the library.

*Yes, that's my youngest daughter's name. I've decided to get rid of the alphabet-letter pseudonyms. My kids have names that truly match their personalities, and I don't feel that I'm putting either of them at any risk by using their real names. So, yes, my oldest daughter is Hannah, and Eliza is the toddler.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Travelling Nightmare, and Highlights

You know every traveller's worst nightmare: you don't make the plane home? It happened to me yesterday. The Piccadilly tube line to Heathrow was shut down unexpectedly, and it just so happened that there was a fatality accident on The Road to Heathrow (where all other roads converge to the airport). Not only did I spend 100 pounds! for the 2 1/2 hour taxi ride, but I also was unable to make my 10:30 a.m. flight. Yes, my friends, there were more tears. I'm quite sure that all of London has seen my ugly cry now.

Anyway, I won't get into all the details, but I was able to catch a later flight home yesterday, and Hubby and E were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. Nothing made my heart happier than to have E come running into my arms upon seeing me :-) Too bad H wasn't there; she'd gone back to Home State with my mom for some more time with the grandparents and her (other) dad.

There are over 350 pics of the trip, so I'll give only a few here and there (most would bore everyone anyway). I decided to reflect on some of my most favorite sights and experiences, so here they are.
"Ginger" and all the other lovely treasures to be found at the British Museum. This mummy has been lovingly given its name because of the reddish hair that can still be found on the skull. The museum was amazing! I could have spent a month inside! I can't wait to take the kids there some day.
Below is the entry view of Saint-Chapelle's famous stained glass windows. I've never seen anything like it, even throughout Italy. The light and the colors are simply inexpressible in their beauty.

Here is the lovely tray I received while having champagne tea at Pret-a-Portea in The Berkeley Hotel. The little savory treats on the bottom plate were mere okay; I discovered that I do not like smoked salmon. At all. The polka-dot sweet treat on the second plate, however, was a piece of chocolate heaven! So yummy!! The top plate, on the right, with the pink flower, was a grapefruit mousse that was refreshingly light, and the champagne served beforehand was the coldest, tastiest champagne I've ever had. The whole time there, I thought about H and how much she would've loved to do this. She would've felt so special getting dressed up and eating off of fancy designer bone china.

More to come...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Letters from London, No. 2

A very quick post on my last night here (I ran out of juice on my laptop):

- Paris was lovely yesterday! I had an apricot crepe next to Notre Dame, and I got "made up" at the Sephora store on the Champs d'Elysees!
- Sunday and today in London went extremely well. I've totally mastered the tube system (which doesn't take much effort, but is very useful), and London did not kick my arse.
- The Phantom of the Opera was nothing short of magnificent! I was just in love with the actor who played the Phantom by the time it was finished.
- I had dim sum for the first time today, and it was delish!!
- I finished my research at the British Library --yay!

The not-so-great part of the day?
- Dinner....Here's a tip: stay away from Porter's English restaurant!! The crab tasted like what I would imagine cat food tastes like, and it took more than 2 hours to complete the simple service (without a dessert, mind you)!

I have lots more to blog about, so you'll probably get tired of hearing about the details, but more will come when I return. For now, it's after 11:00 p.m., and I still need to pack for my flight out tomorrow :-(

Hopping back to my side of the pond,