Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve.


This is a big day for us. Actually, the whole holiday season has been big for us. Our first Thanksgiving together. Our first Christmas together. And now our first New Years together. If that wasn't enough to make the holidays special, each one of those was also our last... Thanksgiving in England, Christmas in England, and New Years in England. It's kind of a big deal. Tonight it is just Nid and myself, as the children are in Wales this week with Grandma and Taid. They called earlier and are having a great time.

It's cold out today. The warm spell we had (with highs in the 40s) has gone, but it's not too windy, which always makes it feel colder. Nid and I walked to the corner shop and he got some advocaat that he ordered the other day, and I got a bottle of white wine. We are getting ready to watch a double feature of Final Destination 3 and 4. We've already seen 1 and 2 this week. Thought a bit of fun and nonsense would be a good run up to midnight tonight.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

America and God Save The Queen.

randomtuesday

I happened upon the Queen's Christmas message via another blog that I read, and it reminded me of something I discovered this past July when Nid and I were watching Pops Goes The 4th.

When Boston Pops began playing America / My Country, Tis of Thee Nid recognized the melody of God Save the Queen. I forgot about it and never looked it up, but then I heard it during the Queen's speech, so I've now confirmed.
From Wikipedia:
My Country, 'Tis of Thee", also known as "America", is an American patriotic song, whose lyrics were written by Samuel Francis Smith. The melody is that of the British national anthem, God Save the Queen, although Smith encountered it by way of a German adaptation. The song served as a de facto national anthem of the United States before the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official anthem.

Here is America (My Country 'Tis Of Thee):

And God Save The Queen as covered by the Sex Pistols:

If you want to hear the "official" version you can listen to the beginning of the Queen's speech.

Just a bit of random trivia  for you all.

Enjoy more randomness at Keely's place, The Un Mom.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day.

I suppose I should start today's entry with the fact that late on Christmas I remembered to look up the time of the Leicester City Foxes football game we were to attend. Our tickets said 1500, but after running into our neighbor on Christmas Eve, and him telling us that the game was on TV, we thought we should check because sometimes they change the time for television. They did. Instead of 1500, it was to start at 1800. I'm so glad we checked, because getting there three hours early would have really sucked.


Our day started out with another sleep in. I got up and showered while Nid started the bacon and sausages and mushrooms. I made the scrambled eggs, gravy, and buttermilk biscuits. It was a wonderful meal, and a great start to Boxing Day.

After breakfast, which was about 11am I think, we cleaned up and then watched our daily movie. We heated up the apple pie and served it with caramel cinnamon waffle ice cream. It was amazing, and I am so glad waited and had it when we were not full from Christmas Dinner. After the movie, the children started their baths and got ready.

Our taxi arrived at 5pm. We only took it part of the way. For two reasons. The first is that it was more in the spirit to walk with everyone else walking to the stadium. The second was because it was Boxing Day, so the buses were not running and the taxis were charging fare and a half (because they could). We got to the stadium the same time as the police escorted away fans that had been bused in. I bought a program for the game, at a very reasonable £3 fee. We found our seats, and I was quite pleased with them. We were half way between the half way line and the goal, second row up. The hard core fans were almost directly behind us, and the away fans were in the corner closest to us, so we really were immersed in the spirit of the game.

This was my first live football game (with the exception of an under 21 US v Chili World Cup game at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville in... 1993?). It was very exciting. I didn't always know what was going on, but it's okay when it's live. Though instant replay would've been great! I caught a penalty in action on my camera, and then I also captured the goal scored as a result of the penalty. Leicester scored twice in the first half, and Sheffield United scored once in the second. We had a lot of attempts on goal, and it was very exciting for me. There were some colo(u)rful chants coming from the hard core fans behind us, my favo(u)rite one being when the Sheffield keeper made a goal kick, our fans sang "oooooOOOOOO YOU'RE SH*T AAAAhhhhhh!" I caught that on tape as well.



 
At the end of the game we walked a good ways from the stadium. It was much more crowded leaving and we all held on to each other pretty tightly to keep from getting separated. We stopped and called a taxi to take us the rest of the way, which I was glad of as the sidewalks were much slipperier than they had been on the way in. As we were stopped at a traffic light, we were entertained by some weirdly clad women walking by. I was trying to get pictures of the shoes/outfits when they turned to cross the road and I realized that the woman in 5+ inch high heeled shoes that could barely make it down the slight slope to the road from the sidewalk was pregnant! Unfortunately between shooting through the windows of the taxi and the street and headlights, I did not get a good shot. But it was one of those moments where you just go "WHY?" Why would you? I don't know.

We got home right before the children's bedtime. Nid and I watched a movie and then went to bed. It had been a long few days.

Click HERE for more photos.

Here are the highlights of the game. I took video myself, but this is easier.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day.

We slept in on Christmas day. The kids knew we were going to, and they were okay with it. Actually, I was up before Briony, and when she got up I got her to help me fix my share of Christmas Dinner. She mixed up all the ingredients for the watergate salad and mixed the liquid parts of the green bean casserole. I explained the other steps, whipping the cream and adding it later so it wouldn't go flat, and mixing the beans with the sauce right before putting it in the oven. We also made the cornbread. Nid was in charge of the turkey, potatoes, parsnips... and everything else. After all the kitchen stuff got finished and cleaned up, I met the family in the living room to open presents. It took a while to sort everything out into piles, but it made it much more organized, and that was well worth it.

This year there was a lot of candy given and received. Because of the upcoming move, it didn't make a lot of sense to have a lot of stuff sent over from America that would either need to be left or shipped back. So my mom and my aunt and grandma all shipped edible presents. The children loved it! We told them it was their candy and they could all that they wanted, however we did expect them to eat three meals a day, and to eat all of their Christmas dinner (even if they had 5 candy bars right before it). They actually surprised me and only ate a bit at a time. I was really impressed. I'm going to make mine last till summer! After the presents were opened, the children went upstairs to play, and Nid and I started putting together the rest of the dinner.


Around mid-day I started to feel ill. At first I thought it was because I'd only had some toast for breakfast, and then a bit of chocolate, but I snacked on the corner of the cornbread for a while and it didn't help. Then I blamed our friends Matt and Jacqui (so sorry guys, it didn't end up being you at all!) because when they came over they'd both just recovered from being quite ill. By the time dinner was served, I could barely look at my plate brimming over without feeling even more ill. So as the family started eating, I nursed a Eno (like alka-seltzer) until everyone was nearly finished. We forgot to open our Crackers at the beginning of the meal, so we opened them. The package had 12, so we kept opening them until we ran out. I'd never participated in this tradition, and rather enjoyed it. I've heard it's near impossible to get them in the US (and when you do they are expensive) so it may be our only year with them, so I am glad that we did it. Reminder when you look at the photos, I was feeling rather ill at the time. I finally felt well enough to start eating, but it was slow going, and by the time I'd finished, Nid had put away the left overs, and the kids had already done all the washing up.


After a rest, we watched our daily movie, but were still too full to eat dessert. I called my mom and we had a nice long chat. I was really tired at the end of the day, and honestly cannot remember what else happened. I think I went to bed early....

Click HERE for more photos.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve.

Our Christmas Eve wasn't exactly traditional this year. I had forgotten the veg (vegetable to those of you not in the UK), so we had to go back to Sainsbury's to get that. Because we had a busy day, we were there at 8 am. We ran into one of our neighbors on the way, who mentioned that the Leicester City game we were going to was going to be televised on Saturday. I'll get back to that later. Thankfully there was no crowd at the grocery store, and we were back home by 8:45, when we started our daily holiday movies.

The movie finished with 10 minutes to spare to get to the doctor's office. Nid and the children had appointments to get vaccines for the move. I had printed out documents, compared them to the children's baby books, and had a list of questions. Not all of Cale's book was filled out, so I had to find out if he hadn't gotten them all or if they just hadn't been filled in. Also, some of the vaccines were slightly different in his book (a later edition of the same style), so I just wanted to make sure they had both everything they needed in general for their ages, as well as for the trip. The nurse we saw was a joke! He did not seem to entirely understand what I was saying, and I suppose part of that could be a language barrier issue, however part of it certainly was a he's an idiot barrier. He needed an exact date for travel. We don't have an exact date. Finally we agreed I could make one up. Then he was looking at his computer and said they had all that they needed. I said they needed Hepatitis B. His helpful comment was that that was usually done under private insurance. And that's all he'd say. I had to practically beat him over the head, asking him if we could pay for it, (it's usually done under private insurance he said again). I asked if he could give it (it's usually done under private insurance he said yet again). I asked if he had it in the building (it's usually done under private insurance he said YET AGAIN!). I asked, if I paid him money, could he physically do it!?!?!?!? I was really getting tense at this point, and I do believe that my voice was starting to get higher and higher pitched. I said to Nid, let's just get it at the Embassy when we go to London. So he says, what he'll do for us is give them Hepatitis A&B. He cannot give us B for free, but he can give us A&B for free under the NHS. What?! Okay, we agree on that. He then refuses to give them TDap. I say that the CDC says it can be reboostered at ages 11-13. He says we have to wait to get a letter telling us that it's due, and we'll get that when the children are aged 14, 15, or 16 before they leave school. He won't even give it to us if we pay for it. I say fine, as I know we can get it at the medicals or when we get to the US.

Briony was up first, and immediately after her injection she starts to feel sick. We move her to a cot and she lays down for a while. Nid gets his vaccines next. He gets two, and feels fine. When Briony is feeling better we send Cale in to get his and I go out with Briony to the waiting room. She still isn't feeling well. Cale bounces (literally) out of the exam room a few minutes later and we head home. About 50 yards down the street, he starts seeing bright lights and feels light headed. I take Briony, Nid takes Cale, and we finally get home. I fixed them both some toast and water, handed out the paracetamol (acetaminphin in the US) and they rest on the sofa until they start to feel a little better. Both have sore arms (as does Nid) so I give strict orders (per the nurse) for them to be careful on the stairs, not to lift anything heavy, or rough house for the afternoon.

It was only about a half hour until Nid's friend Kev from Sommerset arrived with his daughter Jasmine for a visit. Kev had come up to Kettering to visit his mother for the holiday, and they took the train to Leicester to visit Nid. It had been years since they'd seen each other, and it is great that they were able to have an in person visit before we move. There is talk about the four of us visiting Kev at his place, but we are quickly running out of time to do so.

We also had a visit from our friends Matt and Jacqui. They stopped by for a short time for a coffee. We've made tentative plans to see Avatar 2D next week with them. Nid saw it in 3D with his friend Petros the other week, but would like to see it in 2D as well, and I'm afraid I'd be motion sick with 3D, so it's a good plan. Matt and Jacqui are going to Spain for a few days after the holiday, so we'll hook up with them when they return.

When Kev and Jasmine left, I just didn't feel much like cooking, so we had chips from the chippy and sausages I had in the fridge and it was actually quite nice (and easy!). I called Heather after dinner and Caitlin was so talkative! She normally doesn't like to talk on the phone, but Heather had me on speaker and I just can't believe how grown up she is. We haven't webcamed in months, and I've missed her ever so much. At the end of the call she told me she loved me bunches and wished me a Merry Christmas. It was too cute! I can't wait to see her again. I just hope she warms back up to me quickly and doesn't think I'm a stranger.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little Shopping And Holiday Movie Week.

Well, apparently now that I'm a parent, I have officially joined the ranks of those who go Christmas shopping in the last few days before Christmas. Admittedly, we've been hampered a bit by the rain and snow of recent weeks, and as much as biking to town in the cold is unappealing, it's worse in rain and/or snow. As it was this morning, there were patches of ice, but little enough traffic that we could avoid it fairly easily. Speaking of traffic, because the sidewalks were icier than the road, we went the whole way on the road. Usually it's a combination of both. I have to be honest. I don't like roundabouts when riding in a car. I really don't like them riding on A BIKE!
Photobucket
They are evil and confusing and... anyway that's not the subject of this particular post, so I'm letting it go. Deep breath... move on...

We rode into town early, arriving right about 9am, before the crowds got there. Now, not only were we doing our Christmas shopping three days before The Day. We didn't really know what we were getting. We had some ideas, but did not know where or exactly what... We had success at almost every place we went. We also scouted out some really nice hiking boots for our trip to Sweden in February. They've got a great sale going on right now, that they think will last through New Years, so we'll probably go back next week and get something. I only have the one pair of shoes here now (gave my spare pair of sneakers to Cale because he kept wearing through the ones we'd get him within days or weeks). And now my one pair are wearing out and have started giving me blisters and arch pain. I am really looking forward to these hiking boots. I'd just worn out my favorite pair back home and threw them away before the move. With shopping success, we had a quick lunch at Burger King (of course!) and headed home. I made the kids stay out of the dining room and wrapped everything up. I now understand why my mother started using gift bags with us all those years ago. Presents wrapped, everything put away. And now I'm sitting here, and hour or so later still shivering. The cold was okay while I was out in it, wearing a coat, hat and gloves. But now it's still in me, and I think I need to put on some more layers. Or take a hot bath.

But that will have to wait because today is day two of our Holiday Movie Week. Here is our plan:

There have been quite a few adjustments to it over the last 24 hours, and a few things have been taken off. It's not just classic American holiday shows, it's my favorites. The ones that I watch every year. I want to share these with my new family, who has never seen any of them (well, Nid's seen a couple). Yesterday's movie went over very well, and we'll be starting todays shortly. And last night Nid and I watched the less kid-friendly Christmas movie Die Hard!

Oh, and I nearly forgot! We missed our package delivery today. It left NJ on the 13th. It got scanned late yesterday somewhere in the UK. We thought it might get delivered  today, so we made sure to get back from town in a timely manner. We walked in the door and the children said there was a knock at the door and they left a notice. Of course they did! But then they said... about two minutes ago. Really? Just our luck. But it turns out we are lucky, because the call tag says they are dropping it at the same post office that they left the last one. It is closer than the main package delivery place, and it says we can pick it up tomorrow. We need to go to the PO anyway to get more gas and electric, so it all worked out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice.

Today, December 21, 2009 is Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year.

When I first became interested in my family's genealogy and history, going back to Ireland and Scotland, I learned a lot about Celtic and Pagan traditions. I learned about a place in Ireland called Newgrange. It is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world. It is approximately 5,000 years old, and predates Stonehenge by about 1,000 years. Newgrange was designed so that on the shortest day of the year, the sunrise would shine all the way down the passage and illuminate the room at the end of a 60 foot long passage for 17 minutes. It is a true marvel of history and construction. You can read more about Newgrange at Knowth.com

You can read all about the Pagan origins of Christmas at these sites:
zenzibar.com
Pagan roots of Christmas
Christmas
ReligiousTolerance.org
suite101.com's paganismwicca
circlesanctuary.org

Earlier today we opened a few Solstice presents from Nanna and Grandma Vickey and Granddad Purcell. Nid burned some CDs for the kids and I gave everyone an ornament with their first initial on that I had bought last year and brought with me. It will be a new tradition for us, to have these ornaments on the tree every year.


After opening presents, we made kettle corn and cracked open the sweets Grandma Vickey sent and all sat down to watch It's A Wonderful Life. We've got a movie (or several cartoons) planned for each day this week. It's a movie that I watch every year. Nid had only seen it once as a child, and the children had never seen it. I was worried a little because it was made in 1946 and is 2 hours and 10 minutes, that the children would get bored, but they stuck it out and really seemed to enjoy it.

We topped off our day with a grand dinner!




A huge thank you to Nid for putting this all together for us.

You can see more photos HERE!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The US Embassy, London.

They've gone on Winter Holiday. All of them that work there, they must have! Do you want to know why I know this to be true? Let me explain...

I am a member of a website for Expats. Members of this website post data for others to see. They post things like when and where they applied for various visa. They post how long it took to get notifications for each stage and any problems they had or things they missed or should have done. It's been as much a help with the move back to the US as UK Yankee was in getting here in the first place. It's been a life saver. But now I know that the Embassy can work faster and is not (because they must have all gone on vacation last month) and it is a bit of a let down. ****Note, if you work at the Embassy and are reading this, please don't reject us simply because I am stressed and venting****

Four other couples in addition to us posted their data. The website compiles this and gives statistics.
The average time between mailing the I-130(s) and receiving NOA1 was 11 days.
We got our in 4 days.
The average time between NOA1 and NOA2 was 20 days.
It's been 38 days and I still haven't heard anything.

The Embassy website says that as of December 9th, they are processing petitions filed November 10th. Our NOA1 was November 10th. That should be us they are processing. But where is our NOA2? Before this update, it said that as of November 27th, they were processing petitions filed on December 9th. So in 18 days, they only made their way to the next day's petitions? Are they getting that many?

This next step is just that. One of many more steps we have to take. The next statistic is the number of days between NOA2 and the interview in London. Based on only 2 couples (the only two that have gotten interviews of the 5 of us) the number is 56 days. If we got notified today, we would have an interview date probably sometime in late February or early March. If we're lucky. If they don't get further and further behind. If I don't run into any trouble getting my Christmas package that includes documents I need to submit at the interview.

I just want to take the next step. Waiting for the interview is going to be hard enough, without the waiting to hear how long we have to wait for the interview... it's just a waiting game, and those of you who know me personally know I'm not so good at waiting. And also, being the overzealous planner that I am, not knowing until March (or later!) when we can move is killer. I want to book the shipping and tell my family when to expect us. I want to know when I have to buckle down and start looking online for jobs.

It is a weird feeling, right now. There are things I want... a bathrobe, for example. I've wanted one since I got here. We kept putting it off, and then we were going to get new ones for Christmas. But before we did that, we decided to move. And now it doesn't make sense to get bathrobes. There won't be room in our carry on luggage when we move. We could include them in the shipping container, but then we won't have them for 6-8 weeks after we arrive, and they are pretty bulky (though I do have spacebags) so we'd be paying for them when we could probably just get new ones again. So, we aren't getting bathrobes for Christmas. We aren't getting them until we move. That's the first example that came to mind, but there are other things like this. We're in limbo. We don't want to buy things we'll just have to get rid of in 6 or 7 months.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Snow.

So, I was just on my iGoogle homepage checking the current news, and I saw this:

I said to Nid, "It's snowing." (I didn't really mean it, I was being sarcastic)
He says "Where?"
I say "Leicester."
He looks out the crack between the curtains and the window and says "Oh yeah, it is."

I of course didn't believe him. Of course it wasn't snowing, he wasn't going to fool me! I even flat out said he was lying to me (I know, I'm a horrible person, but I meant it good-naturedly). So finally he opens the curtains (the sun comes right into our eyes when we sit at the computer, so we have to keep it closed till early afternoon when the buildings block it).

It was snowing. So I got out my camera... and took a half dozen photos. In most of them you can't even tell it's snowing. In the ones you can tell, it looks like rain. Oh well. I am documenting it... my first snow fall in England. And by the time I closed the door and came inside it had stopped. Good timing on our parts, or we'd have never known!

Those little bits really are big fluffy snowflakes!

Addendum:
Friday, 18 December 2009 I woke up to this on the sidewalk:

















This is our street:










It's so pretty!
Ironically, this is what Google says the weather is today:

Partially sunny it is. Clear it is not...
Oh well, it's snowing!

We do however, have to go to both the grocery store and the post office, both of which are in opposite directions from home, and we are centered pretty much smack in the middle. We'll see how I feel about snow after our trek.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Results Of Random Tuesday.

Yesterday I ranted about the postal delivery service. And today they delivered the package from my parents. Yesterday it said it was still in New Jersey. This morning it said it arrived in the UK yesterday, and was scheduled for delivery on Thursday. It said that last time, but delivered the day before, so I went to the shop by myself and Nid stayed home in case they came. They didn't. We got a package last week from Nanna (Nid's stepmom) and they delivered at noon. At 1ish, I figured it wasn't coming. At 1:30 there was a loud knock at the door. It was Parcel Force with our package. I opened it and sorted all the goodies, some of which needed some extra tape on them, but nothing was damaged. Then I pulled everything out from under the tree and sorted everything and put it back. It was quite a process, but it looks great.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our Holiday Card 2009.

This year, in lieu of mailing out Holiday cards, we are going digital. This is our card.

Random Tuesday Thoughts.

randomtuesday
This is my first go at Random Tuesday Thoughts... lets see how it goes:

I am waiting for packages from the US. It's not that I'm greedy, I just don't want them to get lost. Because the senders who spent major bucks to ship them. What's up with the price of postage, anyway?!

Package number one was sent on December 4 and was last scanned in New Jersey (last US port for international mail) on December 9.

Package number two was sent on December 9 and was last scanned in New Jersey on December 13.

Where are they now, you might ask? That would be the question. Are they taking the ferry across the pond? Could be at this rate...

I hope you enjoyed my randomness, though really I suppose I'm always this random, so there is probably nothing special about this Tuesday post after all. You decide.

You can click the link above to go to Keely's site, The Un Mom, to read more randomness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like...

Winter!

It's been chilly for a while now. But we've still got our heat turned down to the lowest level it will go, and it's been pretty comfortable in the house. There have been days that I didn't wear my coat over my sweater when we went out. I still haven't gotten out my winter coat yet. But that may change this week. This is what Google tells me is coming:










Not unreasonable weather by any means, and it does make it a little more "seasonal." We've had rain part of most days of the last week I think (the days all tend to blur together for me), and with the dip in temperatures, there is a chance of snow. Snow!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NHS Orthodontic Treatment. Or not.

We took Briony to the orthodontist today. What a waste. The dentist wrote to the orthodontist last May saying she needed an appointment. We got a letter from the orthodontist in October saying our appointment was the last weekend of November. Briony was out of town that day so I called to reschedule... for today. All this just to be seen. The orthodontist says that yes, she is entitled to free orthodontic care through the NHS. The nurse talks to us. The first appointment (after this) will be photos and molds (understandable). The second appointment will be to discuss the treatment options and agree to a plan of action (okay). Then the third will be starting treatment (right).

THEN she says because they are only allowed to start treatment on so many NHS patients a month, we should expect a letter with a first appointment date around May, with treatment probably starting in July/August. REALLY?!?!

We didn't say anything about the move, thinking maybe we could get lucky with a cancellation or something. Originally we thought she'd get the braces on closer to now, and by the time we'd moved be well on her way, making treatment in the US less costly.

The picture is of the orthodontist examining her bite. They gave her groovy sunglasses to wear so that the bright light didn't go in her eyes. And I just want to say, her feet are not really that big, it's just the perspective of the shot.

I googled for Orthodontists back home (looking for my old one but couldn't find them). Anyway, I found one with a really good website that said email us with any questions. So I did. I wasn't really hopeful, I was expecting the reply, we need to see your child, we cannot blah blah blah. That is so not what I got. The lady was very helpful. She said that because different practices used different tools and equipment, it was better to not switch mid treatment, but of course possible. She also said it usually cost MORE when switched in the middle because they have to do some tests/molds/xrays themselves to verify the other work that has been done. She said that they do take into account how much you've already paid, but in our case it would be nothing.

Then she answered the question that I really wanted to know about, insurance. I don't think it paid for my sister's or my care when I was younger, but their website mentioned it, so I asked. If treatment has already been started when insurance kicks in, it is considered pre-existing, and they will not cover anything. Depending on what kind of insurance we get (and orthodontist care is usually an add on), they will often pay 50%, which is $1,000-$2,000. So we're going to wait. Hopefully I'll be able to find good work with good insurance, because $4,000 for braces is staggering. They also offer free initial exams, so at least taking her in and getting an estimate for final costs will be free. Whew. And Cale will probably need them as well.

I was very happy with this practice, though, and will definitely keep them in mind for when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Goodies From America.

We got a package today! It was a long road to get it though. My aunt Kim and my Nanny (my grandmother) put this package together for us and mailed it on November 19th. We did our usual, anticipating when it might arrive, wanting to be home for delivery, as it was over 25 pounds, and we were trying to make it easy for ourselves. Well, it didn't come. And it didn't come. Only on the last package that took so long did we learn that you can track these things through their customs forms. But Kim had gone on vacation right after it was sent, so I wasn't able to contact her to get the tracking number. I waited (impatiently, I'll admit). Well, Kim got back into town the other day and had a message from me waiting for her. Ironically, she didn't mail it, Nanny did, so I could've called her for the number. But anyway, lesson learned. I plugged in the tracking number this morning and.... they showed attempted delivery twice on November 27th. A day that we were home most of, at least for one of the attempts, and probably for both. We made a quick last minute run to the grocery store for Thanksgiving supplies, but we were not gone long.

So we started making calls at 7:45am this morning. We called Royal Mail, but when we finally got through, she said I had to call Parcel Force, because they do international packages. So I called them. And they confirmed attempted delivery on the 27th, and said it had been left at a local post office. This is not common for packages to get left at a post office. There is a sorting office a few miles away where packages usually get taken if you are not home. You get a little card saying they missed you and how many hours/days you need to wait before going to pick it up. Well we never got a card. The post office isn't exactly in our neighborhood, but we were making the hike to the kid's school for Review Day today, and coming back we were able to detour there. The line was pretty long (as they usually are) but moving pretty fast (compared to usual). When I say post office here, I mean a small corner shop/general store. The post office counter handles postage/mail ans well as money. You can pay your bills, send wire transfers, get cash, etc. And you never know what the person in front of you is going to ask for. Thankfully the regular shop purchases go to the front counter so there is not just one line for everything.

Anyway, I digress. We got to the counter and I said I tracked a package and it was suppose to be there, but we did not get a card saying delivery had been attempted. He looked a little... baffled? by this lack of protocol. He asked when it was suppose to have been left there, and I told him. I also told him it was about 25 pounds, if that helped to locate the box (it had to be a decent size at that weight) since they don't keep a lot of packages there. He asked someone something and I heard him say, I wonder if that's the one out there? I didn't have time to wonder what that meant because he comes to the window and says, "Can you check that package there (behind us on the floor of the general store) to see if it's for you?" I looked around and was surprised to see it sitting right there in the middle of the room, basically. I checked, yes it was ours. He came out and got a sticker and my passport for ID and scanned some stuff. He suggested I complain to the company, as it had been there so long and no one had contacted us. We've been happy with our deliveries up until this point, but I think someone does need to address the issue that they never knocked on our door, and if by some tiny, teeny weenie chance they did, they did not leave us a ticket telling us to collect it.

I had brought backpacks with me, so we opened the package, transfered all the goodies, and headed home. I spent the afternoon sorting through things. A lot of it is American foods, and I documented everything so it will be easier to do my weekly meal plans. All the sweets I divied up and wrapped since it's so close to Christmas. Nid and I may have sampled a few of the sweets before repackaging them. But shhh, don't tell the children, as they don't know what's in the packages :)
 
Thank you again, Kim and Nanny!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nestor, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey.

I'm not big on the religious side of Christmas. If you are one of those who believe that there is no non-religious Christmas, I do not aim to offend, nor discuss my beliefs at this time. I am merely prefacing this blog post (advertisement, really) because people who know me personally would probably not expect me to appreciate this Christmas cartoon.

Nestor, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey. I just watched it for the first time, and I cried like a baby. I remember seeing an advertisement for it on TV... years ago, it must have been. But I never got around to watching it. This year, being so far away from friends and family, I wanted to have something homey around me. I started a list of shows and movies that are always on American television at the holidays. It's A Wonderful Life, Rudolf and the Island of Misfit Toys... things I would watch every year just because. This year, while writing this list, I remembered Nestor, and looked it up on YouTube.

I just had the opportunity to watch, and I really am glad that I did. It does have Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in it, but it's not about that. It is very much like Rudolf, in that poor little Nestor is born with really long ears, and he gets teased his whole little life. He loses his mother and wanders aimlessly until an angel leads him to the stable where Mary and Joseph come to buy a donkey to take them to Bethlehem. Like Rudolf's nose, that guides Santa and saves the day, Nestor's ears shield Mary during a storm, and he guides them to a stable because he knows how warm they can be. In the end, everyone loves him and celebrates him. It is a really touching story, one that I think most people will enjoy.








Screencaps are from the above link, video by donkeylongears

Everyone knows about Rudolph
Our fleet-footed friend from the north
Who light sent his way through the darkness
As he drives his sleigh back and forth
But there's someone else we should mention
If we want the whole story told
He carried the first gift of Christmas
More precious than diamonds or gold
Nestor was a donkey who seldom laughed or played
'Cause no one ever used him in the stable where he stayed,
All the camels teased him, and the other donkeys too;
They said, look at little Nestor, there's nothing he can do.

Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his feet,
when he looks at his reflection, ears are all he sees.
Nestor's heart was broken and his eyes were full of tears,
If only there was something he could do about his ears.

One dark night two strangers gave Nestor a surprise
They chose him from all others for they loved his gentle eyes.
A man was called by Joseph, and Mary was his bride
She needed help to Bethlehem and Nestor's back to ride.

They travelled through the desert but hadn't gone too far
When winter clouds no longer let them see their guiding star.
But Nestor heard a secret as he listened to the sound,
And the angels gave directions to the ears that touched his knees.

Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his feet, when he looks at hire reflection, ears are all he sees.
Nestor's heart was broken and his eyes were full of tears
If only there was something he could do about his ears

And so it was that Nestor found the manger where they stayed
Where kings and wise men bowed before the baby where he lay
Mary bore our Saviour and Nestor brought them there
A gift of love from God above for all the world to share.

Though, Rudolph, I just love you, I know you'd want it said
Nestor's ears are lovely as a reindeer's nose is red
So children, if you're happy when you trim your Christmas trees
You might thank a little donkey whose ears hung to his knees

Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his feet
They shouted as they praised him and his friends were all so pleased.
Nestor was so happy and his eyes held no more tears
Now all the world knows Nestor for his laughter and his ears.


Click Here To Watch Part 1 

Click Here To Watch Part 2

Click Here To Watch Part 3

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Twinkies.

I have a friend back in Virginia who I am doing a favor for, enabling her to give someone a Christmas gift that you can only buy in England. Well, this week she returned the favor with a goodie box!
She sent Twinkies, because Nid had never had one and we had seen a few references to Twinkies in movies/tv lately. She also sent a number of Hershey's products (can't get any of them here) and GRAPE JELLY!
This is what he had to say after having his very first Twinkie: "I could eat these all day."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Famous.

I'm famous. Just a little bit. Country Music Tattle Tale is a blog that Nid follows. They are supporters of Taylor Swift, standing up for her against those who do not think she deserves the recognition and success that she has gotten. After our trip to London, Nid emailed them a link to the review I put on on my blog, and they've published that link in their most recent post about the London show. CLICK HERE to read their latest blog post, with excerpts from both Nid's and my reviews as well two photos that I took. At the bottom is a link to my blog. I've already had a few visitors come by from that link. How exciting, I'm even more famous than I was! Famous in my own mind that is... Thank you Country Music Tattle Tale!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving : The Meal


Yesterday we had our first Thanksgiving together. I started cooking Friday, mixing up the watergate salad (minus the whipped cream), and making the pumpkin pie. From scratch. They don't have graham crackers in the UK, and finding canned pumpkin is a challenge. So I had to buy a pumpkin (the last one Sainsbury's had weeks ago) and keep it in the fridge to stay fresh. Friday I cut it up, boiled it, and made myself a pie. The crust didn't turn out the way it was suppose to (oh, how I miss you store bought graham cracker pie crusts) but it was manageable. I left it to chill overnight in the fridge.

Saturday morning first thing I made cornbread and biscuits. American biscuits! I have missed them. I may have to find a recipe for biscuits from scratch and make them occasionally. These ones were from a packet mix my mom sent me. I mixed all/most of  the ingredients for the green bean casserole and the sweet potato casserole and stored them in the fridge for cooking later.

Nid started the turkey, which we cooked in a roasting bag with a half a bottle of sparkling wine. Then Nid made us each a Buck's Fizz which those of you in the US will know as a Mimosa with the left over sparkling wine and the orange juice from the sweet potato casserole. An hour before dinner was to be served I put the casseroles in the oven, baked for 35 minutes, put the bread back in the oven for a quick heat up with the turkey and we served. There was so much food it didn't hardly fit on our table, which thankfully has pull out extensions on both ends.

I suppose it is worth mentioning that Friday night I went to bed with a little bitty clogged nose, and Saturday  morning woke up with a cough and runny nose. I couldn't believe it! I took some Dayquil right away and that helped, so I was at least not miserable while doing the cooking. And the cooking did go smoother than I thought it would. I had a slight mishap with the whipping cream. Because of course here they don't have Cool Whip, I had to buy whipping cream (which Nid and Jacqui helped whip before dinner), but that was after I dropped the container on the floor and spilled half. Which ironically left me with exactly the amount I needed for the watergate salad and the topping for the pumpkin pie.

Anyway, the meal went great, and everybody loved everything (at least they said they did). Here is a list of everything we had.

TURKEY BREAST CROWN
SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
STOVE TOP STUFFING
BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
CORNBREAD
COUNTRY GRAVY
WATERGATE SALAD
PUMPKIN PIE

I remember as I cooked that I kept thinking, I need to put this in my blog and I need to put that in my blog... but whether it just wasn't that important or whether the cold and/or cold medicine is jumbling my brain, I can't remember any of the funny anecdotes I was going to include. Oh well. The meal was a success, everyone was stuffed and happy, and we've got yummy left overs for dinner tonight, so I am well satisfied with how the day went. Thank you again, Matt and Jacqui for coming over. Thank you Briony and Cale for being so wonderful and helping with the cleaning up without complaining. And thank you Nid for putting up with me while I was sick and stressed about the cooking. I am a lucky girl.

Oh! And Virginia Tech beat the University of Virginia 42 to 13 at UVA. Go HOKIES!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: The Tree.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving, but because Briony is out of town this week, we have postponed our big dinner until Saturday. I was not, however, going to give up my tradition of putting up the tree on the actual day of Thanksgiving. I even had a few presents wrapped to put under it, which does make it a little more festive.

Saturday I will be cooking for the four of us, plus two friends of ours, Matthew and Jacqui. I've never cooked Thanksgiving. For the six years I lived in Richmond I alternated between treating myself to Chinese or pizza when I couldn't get back home to celebrate with the family. It should be an experience!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

London & Taylor Swift.

We have had a busy few days! Monday started with us all making sure we had everything we needed. Because the children are in school, we were not able to take them with us, so they had to pack bags for their overnight stay with one of the neighbors. Briony left on a field trip with the school Tuesday so we left her taxi money so she could get all her gear to school. She’s away for three days on an eco challenge type school funded trip that only a few students were chosen for.

So, our taxi picked Nid and I up just after 9am Monday. We got to the train station very quickly, and had a bit of a wait until ours arrived. I was exhausted starting the day, which was unfortunate. Sunday my left foot and ankle swelled up for no reason, so in order to help it, I stayed off it all day, which mainly meant I napped. Because of that, I did not sleep well at all Sunday night, and so Monday morning was pretty hard on me. We were very grateful that we had reserved First Class seats, because the extra room was great. We had facing seats, across a little table, with no seats next to us on our side of the isle. We were served a hot beverage (coffee or tea) a newspaper, a water bottle (distilled or sparkling) and a cake (flapjack, fruit cake, cookie something or other). I chose a spiced gingerbread cake and it was lovely. Just a little something to take the edge off, since we’d already been up for hours and breakfast had been some time ago. We only had one stop on our journey to London, and that was in Market Harborough. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to get to London.

The St. Pancras station is huge, but it was familiar (from our trip last October), which is always nice. We got day passes for the metro (called the Tube here) and took the Tube to Westminster. As soon as you step out of the station, you are standing 20 feet from Big Ben. Across the River Thames we could see the London Eye. We walked across Westminster Bridge and down by the London Eye. Nid rode it last year, and was not terribly impressed with it. Not liking heights particularly, I wasn’t terribly bothered to not go on it. It’s like a giant ferris wheel that never stops, and it takes an hour to go full circle. We had a bit of drizzle while we were walking there, but I still got some great shots of the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We went into a restaurant called Enough To Feed An Elephant, which had a London Underground theme. We each had a cheeseburger and chips. It was very good, and very filling. After that, I was already for a nap, but I think it was the heat of the building that did it to me. When we went back outside, the sun was out, and the rest of the day it was dry, but windy.

We walked along the river to the Jubilee Bridge (I think, it is the footbridge adjacent to Hungerford Bridge). We got our only (and tiny) look at the Gherkin through the tubing of the bridge. We made fun of a button in the elevator, that initially we thought said “press alarm button for 3 seconds of assistance” but it turns out it said “for 3 seconds for assistance.” It kept us entertained, anyway. We walked along Northumberland Avenue to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. We walked under the Admiralty Arch and down along The Mall to… Buckingham Palace. The flag was flying high, which meant the Queen was home. I was surprised to see that the guards are actually up at the building, not at the fence, like you see in movies. Because we all know that what you see in movies is just like real life. We sat for a few minutes at the Queen Victoria Memorial, and I took a picture of the marble, worn smooth where everyone sits on it, but rough and aged where behinds do not make contact. After a little break there, we walked through Green Park to the Green Park Tube Station.

We took the Tube to Kingsbury, which is where our friends Utpal and Sejal live. When we stepped out of the station, it was like we were transported back to Leicester. It looked just like it does around here, which is kind of cool. We were early, so Nid got a pint of Guinness at Hennesey’s, which was run by actual Irish folk (not like the majority of Irish pubs I’ve been to in the States – what a concept!). In fact, it was so traditional, that when he ordered his drink, the barkeep told him he’d bring it to him when it was ready. There is actually a “proper” way to pour a pint of Guinness, I saw it on a Discovery Channel special once. It should take 119.5 seconds to pour, and a few minutes to settle. Here’s a clip I found of what it looks like. It’s quite interesting, actually.  Guinness Settling.

It was a short walk from the pub to Utpal’s house through a quiet neighborhood of houses. Sejal was the only one home when we got there, and we sat and talked for quite a while before Utpal got home. Dinner was egg curry and rice and naan bread. I do love that bread! I wish I’d taken a picture of dinner, because it was just lovely. And I am also very grateful to Sejal, who left out the chili because I can’t handle spices.

As soon as we were finished dinner, Utpal drove us to Wembley Arena and dropped us off. It was only about a 10 minute ride, and I was grateful to not have to walk back to the Tube station and take that, though it was only one stop. We went in and the place was packed with little girls! There was a decent percentage of grown ups there as well, and not just with the little girls. I was disappointed in the number of pre-teens wearing make-up, however. This country has a very high teen pregnancy rate, often attributed to the fact that in years past, if a girl got pregnant the government would give her a house to live in. This has changed a bit in the past years, as apparently they are now moving single parents into hostels, and the rates have gone down slightly. Anyway, my theory on this epidemic is these *children* are not being properly raised. Girls the ages that I saw last night should not be wearing make-up. And I’m not talking lip gloss, I’m talking full on mascara, eye liner, and foundation. Little tramps in training, I think.

Okay, so on to the show. We stood in line at the merch booth and got Briony a t-shirt. I wanted to get her a bracelet, but they’d sold out by the time we got up there. While we were in line, the opening act came on. The crowd went wild. I’m still not sure why. His name was Justin Bieber, and he had to have been all of, I don’t know, 12? His hair was all “done” and brushed straight forward to his face. He hasn’t hit puberty yet, and his voice was all cracky and childlike. He had back up dancers break dancing behind him. It was all very Mickey Mouse Club in my opinion. The girls next to us kept screaming and Nid and I would just look at each other and laugh. His act was cut short, and his little DJ said it was due to technical difficulties. It turns out he broke his foot during his last song before the encore.

During a short intermission, during which music played through the sound system (including a Keith Urban song), we watched guys climb ladders to the lighting rigging. They pulled the ladders up after them and settled in for a night of lighting. In a day and age where computers run everything, I thought it was kind of cool that there were actual people running the spotlights. Later in the night I counted 4 more that had climbed up behind the curtains.

Shortly after they got settled, a video started playing on the two screens adjacent to the stage. The video featured various famous people, including Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, among others describe what “Fearless” means to them. The question appeared to have been asked at different events they attended. It was kind an alright intro, as intros go. The last person describing Fearless was of course Taylor, the curtain rose, and she was atop a towering stage wearing a cheerleading outfit singing You Belong With Me. During the song, her dancers ripped off her outfit and below she was wearing a shimmery silver and black dress. I’m not good at remembering set lists, so I’m not going to bother with those minute details. After the second or third song she talked with the audience, said how she’d never forget how she sold out the Wembley Arena (I didn’t know this, very cool).

During the concert, she and her band were very interactive with the crowd. She prefaced some songs explaining a little about where they came from, what they meant to her. Her band seemed to be really having a good time, and they got involved in the costume changes as well. She wore eight outfits total: the cheerleading outfit, removed on stage to become a black/silver shimmery dress, a red sequined dress, a blue floral dress, a red renaissance dress removed on stage to become a white dress, a black patterned dress, and a black finale dress… For different songs, the band would change their outfits slightly as well, it was all very much a team activity. There were also dancers that came out during certain songs, dressed to match/coordinate with Taylor.

During one costume change, a video played called “Crimes of Passion” in which Taylor was the criminal, writing songs about people and “ruining” their lives. It ended with Tim McGraw, and she started performing in the back of the arena right among the crowd, on floor level for a few songs, then made her way to another location halfway up the floor. After performing there, she hugged *everyone* between there and the stage, and it took quite a while for her to make her way back. I thought it took a little longer than it needed to, as those of us not getting hugged couldn’t see a thing. Even the cameras were partially blocked there were so many people between Taylor and them.

At one point, Taylor and her violin player had a “drum off” competing for the guy, and huge oil drums were set up on stage and they banged away at them for quite a while, Taylor of course actually winning the guy in the end.

There was one other video clip that had Taylor being interviewed by a news anchor (I recognized her, but don’t know her name) about how she expects to have guys want to date her if she’s just going to write a song about her. Her answer they shouldn’t do bad things if they don’t want to be written about, and lead her into another song during which she actually threw an overstuffed chair from the upper level of her stage to the lower level.

I did learn something new about Taylor. She plays the piano, as well as the guitar. She played it for the whole of You’re Not Sorry, and then did a cover song on it as well of Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around. During that part of the performance I also learned why she’s not concerned about wearing those little tiny dresses on stage. She appeared to be wearing a flesh covered pair of bike shorts underneath, which I noticed while she was “dancing” sitting on the piano bench facing the audience while up on the top part of her stage.

The show was theatrical, but not over the top so. And Taylor has the energy to maintain a full action show. The crowd certainly loved her. She got a standing ovation (though really, most everyone was standing anyway) that lasted (according to reports) six minutes. And this wasn’t at the end of the show, this was smack in the middle. It was pretty awesome, and you could tell she was overwhelmed and grateful.

Having been to a lot of concerts in Virginia and the surround states, I have to say that I was impressed by the venue. It was well laid out, with plenty of staff around to help. There were tons of bathrooms, which lead to virtually no lines), and the traffic cleared very quickly. Also, Taylor rocked. She was a great performer, a great entertainer, and an all around good person. I can’t imagine anyone walked away from that show last night disappointed.

Here’s what London is saying about last night’s show.

After the show, we were picked back up and after a few minutes chatting, were ready for bed. I think I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow. It had been a wonderful day, but a long one, and not having slept the night before, I was ready for this day to end.

We had every intention of getting up Tuesday morning to say goodbye to our gracious guests, but they leave for work at 7am, and though alarms were set, we just didn’t get out of bed until 8:30. Because we thought it was a possibility, we had already said goodbye the night before, thankfully. We had a quick breakfast and headed back to the Tube station. It was drizzling again, but when we got back to the city (40 minute ride) it was clear. We got off at Baker Street, which is where we caught our open top tour bus ride last year. We walked along Baker Street (where the fictional Sherlock Holmes lived) to Oxford Street, one of “the” shopping districts here. I took in the window displays of Selfridges, which is a huge four story, two city blocks store. The window displays were bizarre, and quite frankly, did not make me want to go in to see what the fuss was all about. We walked up Oxford Street to the Bond Street Station and took the Tube to Westminster and transferred to the Circle Line and continued on back to St. Pancras. We ventured outside to find a cheaper place to eat, and had a burger and fries at a really nice little place right across the street from the station.

We got back to the boarding area just before they opened the gates, which was good because there were only a handful of seats and they were all taken. Our car was nearly at the end of the train, so it was a long walk, but oh so nice to finally get to our seats (First Class again) and sit. I slept the whole way, I think, which was well needed. We caught a taxi home and Nid was great and helped me put our things away. We’d only taken a back pack each, so it wasn’t much, but I hate the putting away part after you get home from a trip. He also ran me a really really hot bath. He really is the best husband ever! I started copying my pictures immediately from my camera, and it said it was going to take an hour, so I left it while I went to soak away the travel, as it was still an hour before Cale was due home from school.

Well, that’s the story of our trip to London. It was a really great time, and I am so glad that my foot held up for the duration. It’s hardly swollen at all now (still not sure why it was in the first place). All the emails and news we missed is caught up on and we’ve just had dinner (pizza, a treat for all of us).

All the photos will be published on my Pictures Site tonight.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Randomness About Town.

Yesterday we went to town to do a few things, one of them led us here:
This is the Leicester County Court. It was a longer walk than we thought it would be, but thankfully once we got there things were quicker than we had anticipated. We filed for me to have Parental Responsibility given to me as well as Nid. I had my forms all filled out, and all the documents we needed, passports, birth certificates, etc. They must not do many of these there, because the lady seemed a bit lost. I of course had all my documents in order, and in fact she did not ask for some of them (even though the form said they were needed). Oh well, not my problem, as we got her signature and that's what we needed. We are mailing them off to London today, and as soon as they get logged it will take effect.

We wandered around awhile, and I saw some places I hadn't seen before. A really nice shoe store. Too bad I have no need for shoes at the moment :(

We had a soundtrack to a good part of our shopping. Or I should say window shopping, as we were on a mission to find plain silver balls for the Christmas tree, and were unsuccessful. Outside of Marks & Spencer guy was decked out in a kilt "playing" bagpipes. I suppose you can guess the reason I put playing in quotes. He thought he was playing, I'm sure. In fact, he had CDs for sale... for £6.50! There were occasional notes that didn't suck, but they were definitely rare. There are often people set up playing music in the town square, but unlike the bagpipes, when you walk a distance from them you stop hearing them. This noise traveled a long way. Nid made a comment coming out of a store that he hated the bagpipes, in general. I commented that I didn't dislike bagpipes, right as we walked out the door. To which a lady turns around and replies, "not when they're played right, but that guy is not playing them well" or something to that effect. I told her that's what I meant, not him, but in general I like them. Nid commented that I would make a comment about bagpipes walking out of a store and have the only Scottish person in Leicester hear me. I thought it was funny.

So, as we're walking I see this business ahead. I of course jumped straight to PIMP Recruiting, which if you pronounce PMP as a word, not as initials, that's what it says. Not my fault, I didn't name it! Made me laugh, though.

Then we went to Boots in search of ornaments and we decided to ride the elevator down from upstairs... and there was this button.

The possibilities are endless, aren't they? I mean, how boring is a button that says "push to close doors?" PUSH TO TRAVEL... Can I go anywhere I want? Calgon, take me away! Lovely!

We also passed a PRIVATE SHOP but I didn't get a picture of it. I do wonder, though, who is allowed to shop there? Was it always private? Is it invitation only, and if so, how does one get an invitation? It's not a very catchy name, if you ask me. Not like the Pound Stretcher, which is in fact not a Pounds Store (which we do have, equal to the Dollar Tree's in the US). The Pound Stretcher is more like a Dollar General, except they sell everything from candy to beds. Oh right, and also Reindeer Ponchos, which Nid thinks he needs. I'll let you all decide whether or not we actually bought him one :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Little Randomness & A Contest.

There's not a lot to report from my neck of the woods today. The US Embassy has taken payment for our visas, so that's something. Hoping to get something in the mail this week or next so we can proceed to the next step. Waiting is not something I do well. But even if things do proceed quickly, it's still 8 months till the big move. 8 months of waiting. Excellent.

We're back to riding our bikes. My elbow is very nearly back to it's old self, but it still causes me discomfort, so we're only taking short bike trips. I'd like to keep track of our distance, so I've bought TWO bike computers, and neither one of them has worked. That's been a bit frustrating for me. Today was so windy going to the grocery store that my pant leg blew into the chain and got caught. I did NOT wreck, for those of you who think so little of me ;) as to think I'd do THAT again! But I did get a little tiny hole in the ankle of my pants. Nobody will notice but me. As I stare and pick at it until it's big enough for everyone to notice.

That's about it for me, but I do want to share with you a little competition that I'm entering, and you can as well. If you go to Mid-Atlantic English you can read all about it. It's a great blog that I've been following awhile now, and enjoy very much. She's an American Expat as well, only she's been here 20 years. You should definitely check out her blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Town, Bike, Visiting Friends.

Yesterday we returned my bike to the place we got it from. It was a great bike, but just a little too tall for me and my short legs. It was a bit sad to part with it, but the blow was softened by the fact that I have a new bike! Our friend Jacqui had a bike that she didn't use anymore, so she sold me it. It's a Trek 4300 Alpha with front suspension, and is INCREDIBLE! I have been aiming for bumps just to experience the lack of bumpiness. Childish maybe, but satisfying none the less.

Anyway, Nid rode my bike in and I took the bus and met him. The town center is in the process of getting all decorated for the holidays. I imagine at night with lights on, it will be quite pretty. I finally got my day planner for 2010. I was disappointed with the selection and styles of planners they had. It's not what I would get normally, but it will do the job. And the job is keeping us straight in the new year with the move and all that we have to do. So of course I came straight home and spent the afternoon putting in birthdays, anniversaries, days the children are out of school, etc. Then I color coordinated those things with highlighters. After all that was done, I liked my little planner much more.

Today our friend Martin picked us up to take us to his and his girlfriend Karen's home in Burbage, which is just outside of Leicester. They have a very nice home and bunnies! It was a cold rainy day, so we didn't get to go outside much, but we did walk to the pub for lunch, and Martin pointed out historical facts about his little village. The Butler's House Restaurant & Bar was the name of the place, and the food was delicious. We got the 3 course lunch special, which we started with a beer and bread and butter. We all chose the creamy garlic mushrooms for our starter. I had turkey escalopes with an orange and red onion sauce (served with potatoes, cauliflower, beans, and broccoli). It was very nice, but not a taste combination I've experienced before. It's not even LIKE anything else I've had. I finished with chocolate profiteroles! I absolutely love them. There were only two, which was sad at first, but they were HUGE! I got a good 5-6 bites out of each one.

I didn't get to visit with their bunnies Nora and Dora much. Nora (Gnaw-Ra) is so named because when she's allowed to run free she will gnaw on anything. And Dora the Explorer because when she's free she has her nose into everything investigating. It was chilly on their enclosed porch, and they just huddled together because apparently they do not like cold weather. They did let me pet them, which apparently is not all that common for strangers to be allowed to do. I feel honored!

It was so nice to see Martin and Karen again today. They traveled all the way to Virginia for our Wedding, but we've only been out with them once since I moved here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Immigration Process Started.

Yesterday I mailed the first of our immigration forms, the I-130 Petition for Alien Spouse and Children. Now the waiting game begins. Once this form is approved, we'll do another. I'm already gathering paperwork for that one. It would be nice to hear something by the New Year, but according to the online statistics, that could be pushing it.
Anyway, we don't know the actual date that we'll be moving, but plus or minus a week (or there abouts):

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Package Has Landed.

After weeks of waiting, our package has arrived. I was advised yesterday that it had a scheduled delivery date of Nov 6. I was all excited because we'd been waiting to go to town until it arrived. Then I thought, what if they were wrong and we were not here, after days of sitting and waiting for it. So we stayed home. I had actually gone upstairs to take a nap and Nid came and woke me up... with a picture on his cell phone of the box on our couch. What a relief! More than anything towards the end, I just didn't want it to be lost in the mail for all eternity. But now it is here. We unpacked and unpacked and unpacked. It seemed never ending. Then we lay it all out on the dining table. But we didn't want to eat anything until the children got home so we could do a photo op to send my mom. It was a long few hours, I'll tell you that! But they both finally got home.


The whole lot of photos are on my photo site.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Various And Sundry.

On immigration news, the passport applications are off. We had to wait until we could get a "professional" person to verify Nid and the children's identity because of their ages. It was still easier than in the US, where for the first passport (no matter how old) you have to go in person and wait in line and it's only open certain days for certain hours... Am I hostile? Not really... not anymore... it was just a pain when I did it last summer. So they were sent of yesterday. We upgraded to special delivery, because supposedly that means they won't be affected by our current postal strike... it's confusing to me since we don't watch TV news. The postal union is striking certain days of certain weeks, and only some of them on some days and the others on the other days. I'm not really that bothered with it.

EXCEPT that I don't want the birth certificates to get lost in the mail. AND we are waiting on a package from my mom. It was sent 11 days ago today. It can take as little as 6 days (4 business days) for mail and packages to arrive. So now we're at 7 business days (I think). It's not that we're greedy and want the package, though we do want it... it's just that we can't leave the house at the same time while we are expecting it. It's 21 pounds. If we are not here when the delivery people come, they will leave us a slip that says it can be retrieved in 24 or 48 hours (we've had both in the past). But the place we have to go pick it up is about 2 miles away. I don't fancy carrying a 21 pound box home 2 miles. At least getting there is uphill, so coming home is downhill... I guess. So, because of this Nid and I are taking turns leaving the house. Yesterday he went to Sainsbury's to pump up my bike tire. Then I went to Sainsbury's for groceries. When I got home, he went to the post office (other direction) to mail the passport applications. Today I had to stay home while he went to his meeting in town. I was really looking forward to going into town. We had to cancel our last trip because of my bike wreck. And yesterday I was told by our friend David that something else was in the mail to us. It's like Christmas come early!

Speaking of Christmas, I got a new bike. Another new bike, technically. We are making arrangements with the bike place to return the one I got before. It's just not working for me. The height of the frame or something combined with my short little legs is just too much for me. So I'm going to return that. We contacted them over a month ago and they said they'd keep their eyes out for a smaller one, but we haven't heard from them. It was a really nice bike, and I'm a little sad to part with it. It was an event for Nid and me to get them. And on my Birthday even. But it just wasn't working. Our friend Jacqui was recently returned a bike she bought years ago, and hadn't ridden very much. She offered it to us for a bargain. It's a Trek 4300 Alpha. It's a NICE bike! Mine was a Raleigh, and really nice. But this is NICE! It's got front suspension and gears like I've never seen before. One of the tires was low, so Nid walked it up to Sainsbury's yesterday for air. He rode it home, and said it was amazing. I still haven't ridden it because the air is going out again. Hopefully he's going to get a replacement one in town today, as they didn't have any at the grocery store. I did do a bit of PT on my bad arm though. I sat on the bike and squeezed the brake with my left had repeatedly. At first it really hurt, but the more I did it, the less it hurt. I imagine it will be a bit painful initially, but I have found that the more I move my arm (even though it hurts) the less it hurts the next time. I really need to get riding again. I feel myself getting less and less healthy again.

What else is there to say... Oh, our first immigration form, the I-130 will be mailed off by the end of the week. Then the waiting game begins. That is my petition to allow Nid and the children to apply for permanent residency. I guess the point of this form is to verify that they have the right to enter the US, based on my qualifications. After this there will be another form that will be their application for permanent US residency, followed by a trip to London for an interview and medical exams.

On a lighter note, my "fan club" has been entertaining the heck out of us! If you are new here, you can read about my fan club here. So, the day that I broke the news that I had a fan club was a funny day for us. Nid has this software that prevents people from hiding their IPs from us. Two of these programs are Hide My Ass and Hide My IP. Only, there is software out there that prevents people from hiding their IPs when they visit our sites. So not only have IPs not been hidden, but I know when they are trying to be hidden. If you could see this list of visits, it's so funny, the frequency with which they come. Actually, I just checked, and they've been on it since I started typing this. Now, I certainly don't want to discourage visitors. The exact opposite, I want visitors. I want my family and friends to know what is going on with us. I want to share my experiences with others. HOWEVER, I do not want sneaky mean people to think they are getting away with anything. I know every single time you come to my blog. I know when you don't come. I know when you come 3+ times per day. And every time we see you've been there we laugh at your lack of having anything better going on in your life than to snoop on our lives. You are not going to find anything here to make you feel better. To those of you who are not evil, I'd like you to know that the only reason I started tracking visitors was because it was cool to see where different visitors came from, not because I want to be nosy about it.

Alrighty, well I think that about concludes this longer than intended blog today.