Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Happy Christmas Post

Festive greetings to our friends in all continents!

Mel here. This is actually my first ever entry for this blog (contrary to popular opinion) and its purpose is to act as our 'Christmas letter' for 2009. If, after reading this, you feel desperate for even more Edden news and commentary, you can check out the older posts which Richard has been keeping since our return to Baltimore in September.

We are back in the UK for the Christmas period and last night I went to watch the Year 3 and 4 Christmas concert at Howell's Junior School in Cardiff. I had been seated in the front row next to the teacher who was frantically prompting lines and song actions. It was hard to believe that it was myself sat in that chair exactly one year ago! Looking back, the first half of 2009 was, to be honnest, a bit of blur. Teaching kept me very busy and, before I knew it, I had reached the end of my NQT year and was stripping down my classroom walls. The second half of 2009, on the other hand, has been a complete contrast. My american visa does not allow me to work so, once all-things-related-to-an-international-move had been taken care of, I embraced my new-found free time by joining the local library and borrowing a bicycle from a friend. My current lifestyle now mostly features: reading (a mixture of classics-I-should-have-read-years-ago and other fun-looking fiction - suggestions welcome!); cycling around the harbour, mostly to and from Safeway; swimming (in a salt water pool which is "a little like swimming in contact lens solution" apparently!); cooking new receipes (the most successful being a peanut and bok choy stir fry, the most scary, yet tasty, being Mexcian chimichangas made by deep-fat frying); and meeting friends for lunch! So I can't complain really!

So Edden life 'stateside' (as a friend coined it recently) is going well. We have settled quickly into our new apartment, which is in the newly-developed 'Harbor East' neighbourhood of downtown Baltimore. It is close to shops, some fantastic restaurants and supermarkets which is very convenient, especially while we are car-less. Richard is continuing his MRI research back at the Department of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (photo above of the original hospital building which is still on site). He seems to be collaborating with lots of different people on various projects, including maintaining links with Cardiff University (hence us being able to spend some time back in Wales this Christmas - yey!).

We really haven't 'done' much in Baltimore yet that I can log in this letter, except get settled and catch up with some old friends. We have, however, found a fab church and are enjoying making new friends there. Also, Richard's parents were able to combine a wedding in Connecticut with a visit to Baltimore in November. Their visit was intentionally planned to coincide with the 'fall' leaves and we had many enjoyable hikes where we leaf, bird and even chipmonk-spotted. It was lovely having our first guests and showing them where were were living. Hopefully 2010 will bring more visitors?...

Wishing you all a very peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Love from Mel and Rich

Some Photos:

Unpacking our shipment! Very exciting after living with two plates and two bowls for two months!

A view across Baltimore harbour from our roof garden.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday Virus Blues

My baby she left me, da da da da dum,
The dog just left too, da da da da dum,
But my laptop's infection, da da da da dum,
is what's making me blue.

So, if the virus is posing as antivirus software, how do you know who to trust? Luckily Malwarebytes seemed to mop it up, after opening in Safe Mode with Networking and updating it...enough of that.
Thanksgiving in DC was awesome - thanks Justin and Irina. Food was lush, company great too. Friday we went out for lunch in the IMF building in DC, which has a cool fountain to run under... Alix made it first time (one more than Daddy in Baltimore!) and then got a faceful. Haha.
Disclaimer: my baby didn't leave me and I don't have a dog. Poetic licence, dahling.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


After such a long break (is it really 3 weeks since the Eddens snr. left?), it is rather difficult to get back on the horse without some excuse for doing so. Since we have no exciting news, but want to get back on track, today seems a good day for doing it. Today is thanksgiving, which is almost everyone's favorite holiday. Unlike Christmas, which people agree is too materialistic but are divided over whether it is too religious or not religious enough, Thanksgiving celebrates the safe arrival of English travellers (and food glorious food). And everyone is agreed that those are good things. Like the pilgrim fathers, we have received a warm welcome in a potentially hostile place, and we will try not to kill everyone with our new-fangled European viruses.
This morning Mel and I went for a run round the harbor to Broadway and back, and it was a little like being in a zombie movie - very very quiet indeed. Odd. Maybe we have killed everyone with flu?
Our shipment arrived from England and we are slowly filling in the furniture, so our apartment is feeling pretty homey in time for winter... well, in time to come home for CHristmas really.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Unfair advantage?

The title of this posting is not a theological discussion point, but that is where our day started, so that is where the posting starts (this being my blog and not some clever film like Memento). We dropped into the Basilica, which was the first catholic cathedral in the States (a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of religious views, I suppose) and has recently been beautifully restored. As well as the dome, which Latrobe designed to be lit from above by a series of skylights, the crypt is pretty fantastic and there is some incredibly complex brickwork down there, often with three interwoven arches at the same point, and some very interesting inverted arches, whose function I don't quite get. I am sure someone who knows engineering could fill me in. After tea and the rest of the pumpkin roll, we went for a walk round the harbour to run up an appetite for dinner. We found a great new fountain,which has a whole network of jets coming up out of the ground, firing very unpredictably, and just begging you to try and run across. Did Daddy resist the urge? Of course not. And did he remain dry? No - although to be fair only one leg got wet and he didn't slip over and end up in hospital, so in a lot of ways it was the best possible outcome! We poked our heads into the Science Center and it turned out that entry was free as part of the FreeFall program, so we had a play in the hands-on area. Mummy took great delight in using her knowledge of the laws of physics to obliterate a seven-year-old girl in the tug of war. By the time four chidren were pulling on the lever-disadvantaged rope across from her, it was starting to feel rather too much like a pastiche on american racial politics, so we moved to another exhibit.
To top off the day, we had a feast at Cinghiale, the Italian restaurant in the ground floor of our building. This was Mel and my second trip there, and it didn't disappoint. Yum, and yum.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Eddens have landed

After a great trip down from Canada through New York state, Vermont, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the Eddens (senior) are here. It is great to see them and they were (relatively) restrained in the number of exciting things they brought (see photo). Other highlights include some bits of grass, a log stolen out of a beaver lodge and my Selwyn whisky glasses that we bought at graduation!
We had a nice cup of tea and some pumpkin roll, then went for a walk around to Fell's point to work up an appetite for dinner. Spaghetti Bolognese and a nice evening in, hearing all about the trip.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Sunflowers: painting and eating

Another week draws to a close, with Baltimore doing its best impression of Welsh weather. We have spent a lot of Saturday painting a table - got to keep ourselves busy! This is a blue LACK from IKEA to which we added our impression of this sunflower photo.
Friday night, we ate tapas at
PAZO, which did not disappoint and PAZO is still our favorite restaurant in Baltimore. An incomplete lists of ingredients we ate: sunflower seeds; apple; pear; fig; olive oil; rosemary; fennel; aniseed; serrano ham; cheese; duck; pork tenderloin; bread; wine; prawns; potato omelette; prosciutto; caramelised cauliflower; trout; mushrooms; risotto; cardamon cream. A feast for two!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

How do you escape a marathon?

Not, as you might think, the first half of a hilarious new joke, but a real-life problem. This weekend was the Baltimore marathon and half-marathon and unfortunately we live (the photo is runners going down our street) and also rented a car inside the course! It took us an hour and a half to find a street where the po-lice were letting people cross when there were gaps.
Incidentally the house over the road from the car rental place is the house where the american flag that inspired the national anthem was sewn by Mary Pickersgill during the 1812 war. If you're extremely observant, you'll see that the flag only has 15 stars on it - an old-style version of the flag as it was then (each star representing a state) which is flown at historical sites round Baltimore.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Spot the difference

On Thursday, I went to Patterson Park to play basketball. Highlights were an enormous dunk on some poor guy that stopped played for about 3 minutes while everyone else went completely crazy and I stood there feeling slightly embarrassed. So English. During the course of it, I pranged my thumb. In honour of Manus, who is convinced that both his thumbs are unreasonably large, I am posting this picture. For the visually impaired, the spot-the-difference answer is: one thumb is bigger than the other. For the picky, the answer also is: one thumb is a left thumb and one is a right thumb.
In other 'spot-the-difference' news (and this one really is for beginners) can anyone tell me why I am convinced that Wayne Rooney and Lebron James look similar? Expecting a 2-1 win in Ukraine today for England. C'mon.

Fauna of Maryland

Where to start? It appears to be about 2 weeks since the last post, so I'm playing catchup here. Last weekend we went down the Fells Point Festival round the corner, where they had shut down most of the streets for stalls and music and stuff. It was a really fun atmosphere and goregeous weather too. On the way back, we saw some Monarch butterflies on a hanging basket, which have probably just started their long flight down to Mexico for the winter. Amazing.Earlier in the week, Mel saw a praying mantis on the outside of the window. I wanted to claim that it was climbing up the sculpture and was 5 ft tall, but that would have been dishonest, so I didn't. Fortunately it didn't get in the apartment and nobody died - another close escape. It has yet to return to our window (it may have been traumatised by the enormous pink hand), so I am still waiting. It joins 'the beaver' on my sublist of maryland fauna that Mel has seen and I haven't.In the evening, we went to an allegedly impromptu birthday party for Rich Dowd, husband of Patty, ,who is a friend and colleague of Vicky, who went to school with someone from St Andrew's in Impington (who starred in Point Break with Kevin Bacon). It was a really fun night - featuring many animals. Patty is looking after 5 kittens for the animal shelter to get them used to people while they are still tiny. Very cute. And they also have 2 turtles (box turtles?). Not so cute.In non-animal related news, we have learnt that our shipment doesn't arrive in Boston until the 30th (seriously?) and presumably not here until a couple of weeks after. It is starting to feel like a race to get it at all before we go back for Christmas.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Books Books glorious Books, nothing quite like them for...

It is now a week since my last blog. Something of a personal inter-blog record, and a real step in the right direction to get my 'real-world' life back on track. But here I am. Saturday we went to the book festival in Mount Vernon with Gene. I mention this both because it was very fun, but also because they had a 'top 100 best books ever' list there, which Mel has decided to tackle. She has started off with Treasure Island, which came onto the list at number ..... (drum roll) ........ Actually it didn't make it on teh list so far as I can see, but it is definitely a book. Just not one of the 'top 100 best books ever'. I suspect it might be in the top 1000, or the top 100 books about pirates (possibly creeping into the top 10, just above 'That's not my Pirate'). To be fair to Mel she just finished Lorf of the Flies, which is accidentally (in the sense of 'she read it before we saw the list') there at Number 41. The best book ever is Ulysses by James Joyce, which is also the name of a pub round the corner (James Joyce, not Ulysses, which sounds more like a male strip club) so I think I should read it.
So that's books covered - On to sport. This was a great week of results. Everton won away in Europe (after going a goal behind) - Marouane Fellaini's hair scored a goal, and the mighty Ravens trounced someone lame. Also Manchester United and England centre-back Rio Ferdinand is hosting the 2016 Olympics. That's the sport covered then.
Beyond sport there was more good news from the world of hair - Tony Blair's hair may be made the President of Europe.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Marouane Fellaini's magnificent barnet

Everton just beat Portsmouth 1-0. Although Marouane Fellaini's hair only played a minor role in the victory, I think it is something to build a squad around. Jo is getting in on the act, although with less conviction (perhaps appropriate for a late second half substitute). I fear that it may be too late for Tim Howard, who had an excellent game. Who was the last top-flight footballer to play in a wig? Is it legal to do so? Something to think about...
It is a great start to a Saturday to roll out of bed into the lounge downstairs and watch the footie on ESPN2. Mel didn't feel the need to join me, but she did pretend to care about the result when I came back up.
Incidentally, on this showing Portsmouth do not seem as lost a cause as their points total suggests. Everton are now rightly back in the top half of the table after six games and a shaky start.
Off to the farmers' market now... I wonder if the signs risk an apostrophe?

Friday, 25 September 2009

1 quart = 2 pints...

... but are they UK or US pints? Hmmm. And is there a UK and US quart? Who knows?
I am now settling down to blog with a gin and tonic in front of me, listening to this morning's Chris Moyles show in Radio 1. Last night we went down to Annapolis to meet Harvey, Wendy's boxer puppy. He is 4 and a half months old and very cute. Wendy drove us down (she works in Baltimore), we stayed over after a yummy meal at the Chart House, and then Wendy dropped us at home on her way to work in the morning. I forgot my phone and camera, so I stole a picture off Wendy's facebook.
While there, we went to the doggy park which was very interesting. It seemed to me slightly unfair only to have a small fenced off bit of an enormous park where dogs could run free, but it was incredible. It was just like a play group for dogs though; Harvey knew all the other dogs and ran round saying hello to them all when he arrived, and then proceeded to play with the other dogs. Thinking that dogs are pack animals, I suppose it isn't that surprising, but it was very interesting.
On Wednesday night, Kristi came over (officially the fourth person to eat in our apartment) and we can Thai red curry, then sat out on the balcony watching the view and playing Perudo. The Domino Sugar sign came on at 7.45. We are wondering whether this is light-triggered or timed, or what. Only time (or google) will tell.
We have both taken up a free one-month membership at the MAC gym, a block north of the apartment. It is really very nice, and we both went at different times today.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Mobile Phone mis-move

So I am now officially over the comment thing. The majority of replies asssured me that 1) facebook doesn't seem to log my notes as well as Mel's and 2) most people we know only keep in contact with Mel to be polite and that up to 85% of all our friends prefer me. Which is not that important when you're in a happy, sharing relationship like we are.
Back to the point. Before leaving the UK (in the very last week in fact), I went through the following thought process. 1) My phone is broken and quite soon I'll need a new one. 2) America is a little retarded for phones and all their phones are either a bit rubbish or iPhone/Blackberry expensive. 3) I can get a pretty cool Sony Walkman phone that has a radio/camera/mp3 player/internet access for 60 quid, so I'll do that and take it with me.
It is a great phone and let's me take pictures like this. I say photos like this because this photo was taken on our camera. But my phone takes photos like this (the astute amongst you may remark 'only if you point it at stuff like that'). But here is the rub, and where I was right to doubt america's mobile phone pedigree (their cell phone pedigree is just as bad), but wrong in my assumptions. My phone won't connect to the internet. It can, it could, it should, but it won't. I went to the AT&T store (whose GoPhone pay-as-you-go package I have) and they looked at my phone said they didn't do that phone, so maybe I should try looking at the internet. I avoided amusing but ultimately pointless replies to the effect that that was why I was there. I did go to the internet (remembering that other internet access was available) and the much-more-helpful Sony website, downloaded the correct settings for AT&T US internet, and ... still no connection. It pretends to connect, but no information flows forth. I went back to the store and asked them why this would be. They didn't know. I offered them the potential explanation that maybe the GoPhone package doesn't allow internet access and they agreed. Hmph.
I then went to the Verizon Wireless store. Their pay-as-you-go package also fails to give internet access. I am still looking...
I can see that this isn't a big issue. I lived fine before I realised that my old phone connnected to the internet (in the garden of the Pen & Wig, Cardiff, on teh wrong side of some beers), and I can again. BUT I like being able to check my email even more frequently and check football scores anywhere. Which is why I want to find someone to hook my phone up to the internet without getting a $50-a-month contract. Because for that money, I could do all sorts of things. Some of them legal in the state of Maryland.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Pathetic Facebook blog feedback envy

Petty it might be, but I can't help but feel aggrieved. I have been writing a blog now for over a week. I won't lie, the idea of a blog appeals - speaking at great length about my day should come easy, and believing people would care even easier, but is actually slightly difficult to get round to. But I do it. Not only that but I worked out how to get Facebook to link to the blog (not technically true - I actually just found a webpage posted by someone who had, which is similar but less impressive, or more, depending on you views on the effort/results thing).
So here's my gripe. Yes, about to get there now. Out of kindness, I also set Mel's facebook up to link to the blog too. Because we are married and because most of the things we do, we do together. But what I don't get, and what really gets me going, is that people add facebook comments to the postings on Mels' account, not mine. They 'like' the post on her acccount, not the identical one on mine. They leave comments likewise. It's not that I don't love the interaction; it's just that I object to it being directed at Mel. Who doesn't write this blog. Did I mention yet that I do. Not Mel. Just to be clear.
OK. I'm done now. Today is a great day in Baltimore - all sunny and stuff. Plus our bed arrives within the hour. Hurrah.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Happy Birthday to Me(l)

Today is Mel's birthday. We have had a very relaxing time walking around the harbour. We started off with cards (thanks to everyone) and webcamming home, then a great breakfast of pancakes (Mel) and scrambled eggs (Richard) at the Blue Moon Cafe. We then walked right around the waterfront promenade to Canton in lovely sunshine and found the library down there to get out reading books. After walking back, we had scrabble and G+T's on the terrace, then checked the mailbox to find an extra delivery of cards! We are just getting ready to go downstairs to eat at Cinghiale, the italian restaurant that has been recommended by two different people. Here's hoping for a good meal worth missing lunch for!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Cake and Running

Mel met up with Kristi for tea this afternoon, and Kristi gave up an ENORMOUS box of her fantastic pastries, which normally get sent to posh hotels in DC.So we had tea and pastries and scrabble when i got back from work. There were enough calories in there to persuade me (not Mel - that would be very unlikely) to go for a run.I went 1.9 miles without stopping according to the USATF website (to be truthful they can't ratify whether or not I stopped) which is a personal record (at least in a long time). Maybe I will do a run with Catherine some time!

Science Time

This is a brain - and the yellow bits seem to be involved in moving the eyes from side to side. If I told you any more than that, then I'd have to kill you.

Baltimore Roads

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Baltimore's roads are not the best. Not the best in the US, and probably wouldn't be the best in Mexico either. At the risk of adding fuel to Manus's fire by giving his views airtime, I am posting the Baltimore solution to all manner of road problems: stick a metal sheet on it. There's a new hole in the road? Stick a metal sheet on it. You just dug a hole and are going on vacation for a month? Stick a metal sheet on it. You want to make the roads better and aren't quite sure where to start? Sprinkle traffic cones at random around the city, add metal sheets to taste, and hope the people of Baltimore will riseup in exasperation and fix the roads themselves...Enough of that. I have been cycling to work in some gorgeous weather. You can go round hte harbour from our apartment to Fells Point and then straight up Broadway, past a conveniently sited bike shop, ice cream shop and adult cinema. (joking). Ivana is lending Mel her bike so she is coming up to the hospital today to pick up her wheels.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Washington DC for dinner

Taking advantage of the rental car, we drove over to Patty and Rich's after church (visiting the Gallery church in Harbor East) and had a nice catch-up and came away with a table and chairs on loan! In the afternoon, I watched the second half of the Ravens game (a win) in the lounge at the apartment building. After a 2-1 loss to Fulham, my enthusiasm for following the football at home this year needs some bolstering.
We then drove down to DC to Justin and Irina's new apartment (which is gorgeous) for dinner. Tessa Mattholie was also passing through for a wedding, so we had a lovely eveningn together. Justin cooked a Hawaiian feast of slow-cooked pork that was delicioso. Alix, who was born just before we left last time, is now pretty big, but was being very shy for most of the evening, until bedtime arrived. It was a tired drive home to be back for work today.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Star-spangled Banner

The american national anthem celebrates a sea battle in Baltimore harbor during the 1812 war during which the British/Canadians burnt down the White House, but were turned away from Baltimore. This weekend they are celebrating the events at Fort McHenry, and put on a great firework show to mark our first weekend in the apartment. From the garden balcony, you can also see the Domino Sugar sign, which is enormous - about the size of a basketball court.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Saturday Saturday Saturday

After a quite presentable lie-in (getting up after 7!), we went off to the farmer's market on Aliceanna St, just in front of our building. We bought: apples, peaches, aubergines (purple and white), courgettes, beans and onions. Not a bad start to a day of determined support for the American economy. From there we went to the local Hertx (on Pratt St, 5 min walk from here) and picked up a car for the weekend). We then went out to a mall to pick up the second wave of things on Mel's 'essential immediately' list!While there, I found further evidence for the existence of the 'buffalo chicken' in this stylised artists impression from a restaurant largely devoted to the animal.None of the extensive shopping list came close to the excitement induced in Mel by the early arrival of her birthday kettle (Thank you Eddens senior). DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME... In blatant contravention of Parr rules on such matters, Mel decided that this was one present that simply couldn't wait for her birthday.

Friday, 11 September 2009

First week done

After the excitement of American GM-hybrid cuisine, we felt in need of some good old-fashioned English food. So Mel's cooking up a curry. Yum. Wendy T is coming over for dinner, so I hope she likes english food.

While I am on the subject, I just found a photo from last night and I think you can just about make out Michael Phelps's reflection in one of the glasses. Maybe.