Jon’s birthday fun times!

Birthday! On Monday, Jon turned 28, and we celebrated with a day of hanging out and wandering around Brighton. Awesomely enough, the company he works for gives you a half day off on your birthday. Lucky duck.

We picked up a new pair of jeans for Jon (our new diet has solved most of his health problems and made him shed a couple of inches around the waist in the process, turning my already thin husband positively waif-like) and I gave him the fabulous watch he’s been wanting. We had a delicious sushi lunch at Yo! Sushi and an amazing steak dinner at a cute/weird little pub that evening with Jon’s parents and siblings. When we came home we toasted my favorite dude with some paleo-friendly brownies I made earlier that turned out astonishingly great (served with whipped coconut cream!). As you can see, most of Jon’s birthday revolved around eating. He’s pretty easy to please, when it comes down to it. And as far as I can tell he had a great day, which he 100% deserves.

Here’s to hoping 28 is a great year for Jon (and for me too, haha). Birthday, wooo!

Family Dynamics

For those who aren’t used to it, it’s kind of strange seeing your spouse interact with their whole family. With Jon’s granny dying, this means what limited family that exists out in the world is in the process of congregating in England. This lends itself to more familial interaction than I’ve seen in the nearly 4 years Jon and I have been together, basically, since our wedding day, which was the last time Jon’s immediate family was reunited. Jon’s brother lives nearby, and Jon’s sister flew over from Canada, so it’s been a full house these past 4 or so days! (Also, on a side note, Jon’s sister married a Canadian, Jon married an American….I think it’s fair to say the Norris children love North America. Can’t blame them, it is pretty awesome. Plus-we have seasons).

What has been brought to my attention is the sort of family dynamics that come to the surface when grown children are reunited, and how everyone seems to revert to…something. Obviously I wasn’t around when Jon and his siblings were young, but I can see whatever remnants remain when the three of them are together-the baby brother as the golden child who can do no wrong in the eyes of his parents, the oldest sister that loves to boss everyone around (sometimes nicely and sometimes not) and my dude, the perpetual middle child, fading into the background and taking the most flack, and responding to it all by either ignoring the whole spectacle, or coming back with a withering sarcastic comment in return.

It’s not exactly fun all the time, to be honest, because I’m an oldest child myself and I just end up sticking up for Jon in places where he either doesn’t give a shit anyway, or where he could defend himself better than I can due to his a) being related to those in question, and b) being more easily able to quell an emotional response (I am constantly a tightly-wound ball of emotion and rage, guyz). It’s just weird. And kind of stressful. Obviously I want to stand up for my partner, but it’s hard to do so and so fully insert oneself into someone else’s family dynamic. Especially when, let’s be honest, that family doesn’t all get together very often at all. And also, most of it isn’t worth arguing over. But that’s family, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s just because in my family we all either chill out or yell at each other. We’re equal opportunity fighters! There is no sulking or even any awkward silences. If you have something to say to someone, they will, no doubt, have something to say right back. No need to defend anyone because they are there, defending themselves, or at the very least spouting off their  (usually pretty strong) opinions. No wilting flowers from whence I came. And I think that making a new place in a different family brings all this to light, because everyone’s place is so easy to see. Another family’s dynamics, of which I am now a part. Hmm. Something to get used to.

 

And then there are times when everyone is around and we play scrabble together and enjoy each other’s company…..that’s pretty cool. So…family! In-laws!

our christmas

We had a lovely, if a bit melancholy on my part, Christmas. I’m so bad at being away from home around the holidays! It’s not as if I’m dying to be back in Ohio, but as it is I think I’m doing fine, I’m spending time with Jon and we’re opening presents and running around doing all the Christmassy things and then-bam!-I’m crying in Jon’s old bedroom at his parents’ house on Christmas eve because I miss my mom.

Expat life, dudes. Harrumph.

But really, our Christmas was nice. This was perhaps the first year ever that I ticked nearly every box in the imaginary checklist in my mind of what I want to do before the big day arrives-make and send good cards to people I love, buy and wrap (and ship) presents, make cookies, drink mulled wine, have various get togethers, wear fabulous sweaters, decorate and enjoy our tree, watch all my favorite Christmas movies…..all of it. It’s quite a list. And this year, without stressing, it all came together. And I’m thankful for that, and for a nice partner who indulges my childlike enjoyment of this season.

jonashleychristmas2012

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Chilly walks by the sea (with a red cup in hand)

Yesterday I took a little mid-day break from CELTA-ing to go for a seaside walk with Jon. It was brisk and pretty chilly, but we managed to time it just right, as a dark, cloudy front was creeping up behind us the whole walk home. Gotta get the vitamin D while you can!

We also hit up Starbucks on our way for a special deal that got us buy one/get one free to kick off the red cup season. I don’t know what it is, but I drink so much more Starbucks here than I ever did in Ohio….maybe it’s just a taste of home, and the fact that the CEO stopped building them on every corner and instead decided to focus on quality and fair trading (okay, I know there are issues here…). Oh, and I hate Costa and Coffee Republic and Cafe Nero, the English coffee chains. Of course I love and support all the tiny coffee shops in Brighton-I’m a Small Batch girl all the way-but I’m not saying no to two for the price of one, feel me? Anyway, to cut this coffee monologue short, it turns out that the winter flavors for coffee in English Starbucks are different-no peppermint mocha! So a gingerbread latte it was for me, and a praline mocha for the mister. And neither of our names were spelled right. This happens to Jon all the time, but choosing the more convoluted spelling of Ashley, just off the cuff? Weird.

We walked down along Adelaide Crescent and then back towards our place, sipping our coffees and enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous blue skies. Really-it was a beautiful day. Until the sun set at 4:30, which, hello, is still so early. I don’t think I’ll be getting used to that anytime soon. My body still thinks that if it’s getting dark at 4:30, it must be December, and that’s just not true over here. Hopefully I’ll adjust at some point. Probably not.

There were an intrepid few other walkers among us on the seafront. The whole vibe down there shifts so much when the season changes. All the students and families and seasonal travelers are gone, and only a few people go on the actual beach. No more laying around boozing on the rocky shores in the sunshine….

Most of the buskers are gone too. You see the more hard-core athletes, the dog walkers and the families with children on scooters (oh how I hate scooters!) and ladies like this one, ignoring the wintery temperatures and practicing her hula hooping skills barefoot, in cut off jeans and a tank top.

Rock on, hula lady. You be careful out there! I hope you don’t catch pneumonia.

And just a special shout-out to this guy, who has been extra supportive over these past three weeks while I’ve suffered through CELTA. My emotions have been on edge and I’ve had a steady stream of work, leaving all housework and most of the cooking/survival type things to fall completely on him. I am completely not carrying my weight at chez Sheets-Norris.  And he hasn’t complained one bit! What a trooper. Only one more week!

Ohio flashback: Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio

I can’t believe this was so long ago now, but looking back at these pictures of our visit to Kingwood Center in Ohio I’m reminded of a lovely day wandering amid late summer greenery with my husband and my mom, and that’s pretty cool. In comparison, today Brighton was blanketed in the thickest fog you’ve ever seen. It was eerie and seasonally appropriate and summer could not feel further away.

Jon made friends with all sorts of birds, strangely enough. Ducks and peacocks, and a goose or two. Even though he usually doesn’t have the best luck with birds…true story. He has multiple “attacked by avian beings” stories, and it’s weird. Apparently Ohio birds don’t hate him.

Ahhh romance…

Hi mom!

Nearly ten years ago I actually had some of my high school senior pictures taken here (non-American readers, those are pictures you take before graduating from high school. Everyone has them and they are cheesy yet awesome and soooo good to hold on to and show your incredulous future husband at some point). Another thing I can’t believe was as long ago as it was (whoa, that’s a messy sentence!)-high school, man. Ten years ago I finished it. What? Anyway, I had to recreate (sort of, ha) one of my senior pics in the actual spot it was taken. See?

Week 2 of CELTA is proving to be as exhausting as the first, with more and more piling on. One of the women in our class dropped out today. Gotta keep on powering through though….chug chug chug. And now, back to lesson planning…

Birthday’d

Yesterday was lovely. I turned 28 on a sunshiney, chilly day in Brighton, and Jon and I had what we like to call a “good Brighton day”, where we just sort of wander around and enjoy all the weird and fabulous stuff happening in this city (a walk by the beach? check. shirtless dudes even though it’s barely 60 degrees  out? check. parade of activists going down the street, in this case chanting “meat is murder”? checkity check) We made our way over to some sort of arts festival that I never caught the name of, but that Jon thought would be right up my alley-he’s always right. This was after birthday pancakes and presents of course:)

I somehow managed to keep myself from buying books at this festival (as they always have used book sellers, and I can rarely say no), but I’ve got too many to-read books as it is in my house, and even cheap books aren’t as good as free books from the library, amirite? We did, however, purchase a screen print from a local artist featuring a whale saying hello in Welsh. Looking forward to framing that in our little abode!

Birthday part two was a bit more exciting. Jon surprised me with reservations at a cool little wine bar in town, and I loved it. Some of our friends met up with us there, and we caught up with Colin’s stories from his recent trip to Japan, and talked of other things. Eventually we moseyed over to the North Laines Brewery and colored some free children’s coloring pages while I drank cherry stout and enjoyed being an old lady. I was a little disappointed that no one could be bothered to go dancing or karaoking with me, but c’est la vie-people aren’t as crazy as they used to be in their early 20s, I guess!

The finished product of all our hard work. 

And this guy might be in this year’s Christmas card, perhaps with photoshopped santa hats and elves all around us…

The night ended with a visit and a drink at our friend/neighbor Lois’ place. She’s a fellow October birthday girl and we bid adieu to my birthday at midnight as we ushered hers right on in. I have to admit I was feeling a bit melancholy about the whole thing-not about getting older, but about only having Jon with me, and none of my old friends or family around. It was…a little emotional at times, which surprised me. But overall it was a nice day, and I’m a lucky lady.

How I looked on the way home.

Peace out 27! You were…okay, I guess. On to bigger and better things!