Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fast-forward a fortnight

It has been far too long since I posted anything at all on QE, which of course means that there has been a lot going on, which in turn results in there being a potentially huge blog post in the making. However, rather than another epic update post (I think I've done two so far, and I'm pretty confident no one can get more than about halfway through either without needing some form of caffeine to sustain them), I thought I'd do some scheduled posts throughout the week that each deal with new stuff that's been happening in Lloyd Land.

So, in order, the updates will be about:

Our new house and moving adventures

Visa/green card update: biometrics appointment and more waiting

A birthday edging me that bit closer to 30, and a haircut to hopefully hide that fact (!)

Outings and fun times in our new neighbourhood

Photography news: MOL's first show

I will be starting with the house move update today (to be published tomorrow), and then hopefully have one post for every day this week until Sunday, when I will write a retrospective piece about how the début showing of MOL printed photographs at the Bizarre Bazaar went down. It's going to be a big week!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Wedding Photos!

Spanglish Studios have put up a "sweet peek" of our wedding photos. Click on the photo if you want to see them, and please give Spanglish some blog love if you like what you see! Such a wonderful, magical day, and beautifully captured by these talented photographers.

Monday, 16 January 2012

A MOL crossover post

A new post has just been published on my photography blog My Other Limb, and while I don't usually link QE and MOL except when talking about my internship on here, really, today is different. I've been asked to write as a regular guest blogger for skytemedia, a web design company, which in some ways is more like my more text-based posts on QE, and is very exciting! It is another great opportunity to further my portfolio, as well as approach what I love from a different angle: exploring the history, techniques, and art of photography, rather than just taking the photos from my own perspective. Josh Gutteridge, the Creative Director of the company which has been in business since 2006, has recently redesigned the website, and so is starting to include specialty guest bloggers, as well as having a whole new look. Please hop on over and have a read of my post here if you are so inclined, and explore skytemedia, too. It'd be great to get some traffic from QE over to Josh's made-over site!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

We're in!

I've been catching up on photo updates and the MOL blog in our (newly) local Starbucks, as Ben is at work today on a delightful 8-8 shift. As you might imagine, this is exactly how he wanted to spend his Sunday, especially after two moving days totalling 26 hours of actual moving, lugging, building, and unpacking! But we are in the house, we've unpacked pretty much everything, and are waiting on a couple of deliveries to complete things like the dining area (a table) and the lounge (a couch), which we had to order, as we didn't have stuff that would fit.

So, until the internet is installed at the new place, that's all I'm going to say for now, but we are very, very happy in our new home, and I am looking forward to regaling QE with the full story of moving the contents of a third floor apartment out and across the city using only cars, a borrowed "van", and the kindness of friends and family!

P.S. Just because I am becoming a kitchen bore, here is the new set of mixing bowls we treated ourselves to - so colourful! Hee!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

3 months ago today

... I packed all my stuff up and got on a plane to move to the States. Today, we are on the eve of moving to our new house, and the feeling is rather different, and not for the reasons you might think. You see, I had managed to rid myself of a) all furniture; b) all household items (kitchen utensils, random ornaments etc.); c) my car; d) most of my clothes and shoes. Although I have not acquired much since the move over by way of personal items, we have certainly managed to add a lot of new furniture and kitchen stuff to our couple's inventory, to the point that our mostly-packed-up apartment currently looks like this:

And this:

And this:

So, although I might have expected the main difference to be something along the lines of the leap across an ocean, the cultural change, and the leaving of family and friends, it is actually the sheer volume of stuff, and our consequent wealth of packing boxes, that has struck me the most. The dog has given up wandering the place with toy in mouth, and now simply hides under the desk, having accepted his fate of living in a cardboard maze. He is our very own Simple Dog and Helper Dog combined - neurotic and special, love him.

Dog days are over (sorry). 

Passageway to the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.

I think I've now packed as much as I can without totally limiting my ability to live reasonably normally (though yesterday's dinner of cottage cheese, a cheese string, and some salt & vinegar crisps may be evidence to the contrary), and have a pair of jeans, a comfy pair of flats, and two t-shirts I can wear over the next three moving days. I am going to look mighty attractive, I am sure! My last big challenge was getting my wedding dress back into its storage box (the one used to bring it over to the US), which I have been avoiding doing since our wedding day. Not only did I just want to look at it whenever I wanted, but I had to get this...

The dress
 ...into this...

The box
However, despite my reservations, it was actually pretty easy, and I even wrapped it all up in protective tissue paper, and got the veil in there too.



Winning at packing! All there is to do now, once Ben is back from class, is take down all the boxes containing flat pack furniture to the cars, ready for morning, when we are driving over to the attorneys' office to finalise the paperwork, and get the keys. All being well, we should be trundling over to our house at about 10AM EST tomorrow! So, until the internet is installed there, I shall bid QE adieu, and see you on the other side of the box maze. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

And for our next trick...

This is my first post of 2012, and has the potential to be both ridiculously long (to compensate for total lack of updates from just after Christmas to now), or very short, because going through all of that really could just be summed up in a few short sentences. I may even do both, and elaborate on that which I feel requires further discussion - you know, go a bit crazy. It seems that a combination of lack of time, bad sleep hygiene, work, friends, and house buying have all combined to give me no energy and a consequently marked lack of commitment to and confidence in my writing abilities. So, if this post is a total load of pants, I will apologise now, but if I don't get up-to-date then I fear I might abandon the blog forever!

Despite the ridiculous (and fab) photo,
the exhibition is both sincere and fascinating.
The first big thing to have happened since I last wrote was new year. We went to a friend's house party, near to us in Charlotte, and had such a fantastic evening. It was suddenly 3AM without us having realised it - always a sign of a good night! - and we got to spend the evening with some of our beloved NC friends. I am lucky enough to be sharing in Ben's wonderful network of people here, so it feels a lot like home already, without me having to make all brand new friends (although those are also happening, and are very welcome!). I miss my friends back home like mad, and interestingly I've also found that while I miss specific people in particular, I also crave the normalcy of being surrounded by groups of people who all know each other. Evenings like this year's NYE really help with that need. The other thing that really helps is having UK friends to visit, which is another big, recent bit of news! We had my friend Martha come to stay with us, along with a mutual friend of me and Ben's, Matthew,  who is from Fort Wayne, IN, and is in fact someone that neither me, Ben, nor Martha had had the pleasure of meeting in person before now (although we are all online friends). Another wonder of the Internet! They stayed with us for just over three days last week, and we had loads of fun wandering around uptown Charlotte, visiting Discovery Place and seeing the mummies exhibition currently being held there, eating ALL THE FOOD (namely from Amélie's, Cowfish, Brixx, and some home-cooked grub), going to trivia, and generally just spending time together. Hopefully we'll see them again soon.

Ben and Matt
Martha and me

Other than that, life has been pretty much chugging on as it has been (ha! At what point did we establish a routine, exactly?!). I've been at the studio when there has been work on, and trying to keep up with photo projects in the meantime. The aforementioned visit, Christmas, and the upcoming events of January are somewhat dominating my time though, so I've not been as dedicated as I would have liked. However, we have solved the great insurance débâcle detailed in my last post, so I can now drive, even without an NC license, fully insured. I have done this at least five times now, and no one has died, so I think I'm safe. I'll take my test as and when I get my green card through, but for now, I have my wheels. This means there's a lot more potential for a wider range of photo excursions in the near future.

The final two big pieces of news are that, first, we have already received confirmation that our I-485 (application to register permanent residence) along with accompanying documents to allow me to work and travel are being processed. I have a biometrics appointment already (the 19th January) which sounds ominous, but if you read this post on my friend Anthony's blog 'An Englishman in Atlanta', you will hopefully find reassurance as I did that it's not quite the 'Minority Report' situation it might first appear to be. This means we may be mere weeks away from my being able to apply for paid jobs, and only a few months from being a real person with a green card, if all goes well! I am very, very happy about this, and I love how fast things have gone so far. The appointment is scheduled for less than a month after we sent the documentation off, so they're being pretty efficient at the USCIS right now.

Boxes + 3 flights of stairs = fun!
Coincidentally, the second big piece of news is also something that's happened within a month of setting the wheels of the process in motion, and I am still in something of a shocked state about the speed at which it's all fallen into place: the house. We've bought it. It's so wonderful! We complete THIS THURSDAY unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong, but as we've now started the banking transfers and the lawyers have taken their fees, I get the impression we are pretty safe. I mentioned back on Christmas Eve that we had had an offer accepted on what is essentially our dream house, but I didn't want to go into too much detail as we weren't going to end what is called the "due diligence" period until January 10th 2012. This is the time during which the buyer has an inspection done, and can request that the seller put things right if the survey shows up any issues that cause the buyer concern. If these concerns are not addressed, then the buyer and/or seller can agree to back out, with the loss of the inspection fee being the only cost. After this point if both parties are happy to continue, they are legally bound to do so (as far as I understand) and there are penalties for backing out if this is done past the due diligence period end date. For UK readers, it's essentially the point at which contracts are exchanged, but can be done quite a lot further in advance of completion (or "closing" in US English), as it secures the sale for both seller and buyer. Makes sense to me, and reduces the chances of being gazumped. The other factors that fill me with confidence are that a) the seller brought the due diligence period forward (i.e. wanted the sale secured earlier), and got all the repairs/upgrades we asked for done within a week of the inspection; and b) the fact that we visited the house today and the seller has already pretty much vacated! The house has been on the market for just over a year, and so I think she had somewhere in place and really wanted to leave as soon as she could. This works for us too, as happily a friend of ours wanted to move into our apartment complex, and so he is taking over our lease as of next week. Winning at serendipity, it seems!

Just a few things to pack
The other thing that has made it so easy is how amazing Ben has been throughout the whole purchase process. I am the sort of person who can get totally wound up about the tiniest of things, so a house move can inspire neurosis of apocalyptic proportions. Add to that the fact that I knew next to nothing about the housing market in NC, never mind the geography, and there was certainly the potential for one stressed out Mrs. Lloyd to emerge. Ben has managed everything, from contacting the realtors in the first place, organising house viewings, driving, creating a spreadsheet of needs and budgets, finding out what we should be looking for at an inspection, sorting out insurance, and all manner of other things, big and small. This might also be the reason that I feel so detached from it all: I've hardly had to lift a finger, and it has been bizarre, as well as really quite enjoyable! I didn't even ask for him to do it, and he didn't do it in a way that didn't involve me, simply removed the stresses I might normally experience or create and allowed me to do all the fun stuff. He really is a fantastic husband. *pats self on the back for good husband choice* Only kidding! But I am very lucky indeed. Of course, now we have a lot of packing to do (again, for me!), as well as buying all sorts of furniture that has to be stored in our lounge (not to mention lugged up three flights of stairs) as we need it with more immediacy than we first thought. Lots of fun though! Really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Ender seems a bit confused by it all and spends a lot of time pacing the apartment, toy in mouth, contemplating boxes and whining. It will be great for him though, as he will have a big yard to patrol and a lot more space - not to mention fewer steps, which will be good for his older doggy back legs.

Important things first...
Ender copes in the same way as always

So, I will now return to boxing up books, ornaments, and clothes, and watching an unholy amount of US sitcoms while I do so, as well as preparing for a couple of big shoots at the studio this week, which I'm really looking forward to. Tomorrow we have a Pilates company's studio shoot, and then an unknown assignment early on Wednesday morning. It's hard to believe (but just magical to think about) that almost 3 months to the day since moving to the USA, we're married, we're moving, and I'm interning as a photographer's assistant. Time to pinch myself, hard!
And now, back to the studio!
Photo by Kate Cheslak