Friday, October 30, 2009

Rediscovering Star Wars

We've been watching the Star Wars movies with the kids. Yes, this is the first I've seen them since they were released in theaters (before video, before DVD) back when I was, like, ten. So in a way I'm seeing them fresh, putting the pieces of the story together as we go along. Matt somehow retained this information through the years and has been explaining to Jack and Sophie which characters are on which side of the conflict, which planets they're from, which spaceships they drive, etc.

Matt and I have gotten a kick out of the special effects that were so cutting edge back then. But the best part for me has been watching Jack and Sophie's reactions! Both of them love R2D2 the best, and Sophie's other favorite character is, of course, the princess.

About halfway through The Empire Strikes Back, during a scene with Darth Vader, Sophie folded her arms and said, "That guy is not pleased... He is vewy gwumpy."

Jack has been busily building Star Wars-type spacecraft out of Lego. Most horizontal spaces in our house are currently landing/launching pads for his creations. And he has decided to change his middle name to Jedi.

One morning last week the kids and I were on our way to school when the theme from Star Wars started playing on Classic fm. In the misty autumn morning around us all was calm, but in our car we were rocking out! I turned it up loud and sang along, surprised that I knew the whole thing. Wow, the power of music! I couldn't remember much about the plot line of the movies, but even after all these years I could anticipate each successive movement of the orchestral piece.

I felt full with the energy of youth -- old enough to have experienced this bit of pop culture history but still able to make it seem currently exciting to Jack and Sophie. And then the song ended. And the announcer said, "Ah, there's nothing quite like the theme from Superman to get your morning off to a flying start."

Oh dear. My cover is blown. Jack and Sophie are starting to figure out that their mother is not now, and never has been, cool.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Home in the UK

Well, it's not a good sign that I've only managed one post a month for most of 2009. (Except for July -- an incredible six posts! Yet somehow I can't get it to show up in my sidebar.) I'm not sure what's up with that, but I feel the need to post something before October disappears altogether.

And as a way of marking six months since we left greater London for life in the English countryside (I've come to love it here already! This is such a pretty place and it's not just me -- signs along the A-road next to our house declare it An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), I thought I'd share a few things about life at the moment that reflect the culture in which we live:

*** My car radio is usually tuned to either Classic fm, Absolute (formerly Virgin) Radio or BBC Radio 4. (Does anyone know if there's an American equivalent of Woman's Hour?)

*** I bought myself a flask (American = Thermos) so that I can enjoy a cup of tea anywhere, but especially atop our local lookout point, basking in the clean country air and spectacular view.

*** The day we joined The National Trust I felt a little more complete, somehow.

*** I've learned to use my mirrors and can now back into a parking space with the best of 'em.

*** As a special treat at weekends, Matt sometimes surprises me with a (real! paper!) copy of The Sunday Times.

*** I've added Roast Dinner to the rotation of our family's menu. Usually it's chicken, but I aspire to make my dearest favorite, lamb. Yes, with mint sauce. And seriously, how delicious are roast potatoes???

*** My favorite Saturday breakfast is scrambled eggs, baked beans and toast.

*** Of all the kitchen gadgets I rely on, the one I use most often (and shudder at the thought of ever doing without) is my electric kettle.

*** This time last year I started composting! The London borough we were living in was giving away composting bins, and I loved it so much (composting is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as my kids would say) that I brought the bin with me when we moved. Really. This is incredible but true. Vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags/coffee grounds and the cardboard bit from the inside of paper towel/toilet paper rolls -- just put this stuff into the composting bin with an armful of fallen leaves now and then, and voilà! Over a period of months, it becomes rich, organic fertilizer. (And looks remarkably like, well, dirt. Still, the sense of accomplishment and pride is amazing.)

Composting has become such a distinct part of Living in England for me (along with fairtrade and justice issues in general) that I was excited to read in yesterday's New York Times an article called Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. Here are a few snippets:

Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as “zero waste” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations.

The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can...

Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day...

When apple cores, stale bread and last week’s leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.
Clearly, this topic could/should be a post of its own! But I'll close for now, hoping that I've inspired someone, anyone out there to give it a go themselves. Autumn is the perfect time to begin... What you start making now will be ready in time for gardening in the spring. How's that for incentive?