Thursday, April 30, 2009

Home Improvements

We painted the living room last week. Aside from a few touch ups, it is done and looks fantastic! It went from yellow to First Dawn (blue). The dining room is next. It is currently sea foam green, but we'll paint it the same color blue since it connects right to the dining room. It is such a pretty color, and so fresh looking. The whole room is brighter, which you wouldn't necessarily think it would be, going from yellow to blue, but it is!

This comes on the heels of me finally getting the bathtub re-caulked. It does help when you buy the right caulk. Kitchen caulk is NOT the same as bathroom caulk, in case you are wondering. :)

Sunday Roast

Most Sundays we have a traditional Sunday Dinner. Nid will cook a whole chicken, and all the fixings to go with it. This week we had roast beef! And we had it on Monday because we were busy painting the living room on Sunday (see future post about this). Now, Nid cooks us a large meal from scratch every night. But this was a particularly large and filling meal. I am truly getting spoiled. Pictured is roast beef with onions, peas, parsnips with maple syrup, cauliflower, roasted potatoes, mashed swede and carrots with butter, yorkshire pudding, and gravy drizzled over all. AMAZING!

Comedy Club

On April 18th Nid and I went to JONGLUERS comedy club to celebrate our friend Jacqui's 40th Birthday. We went to a place next door for drinks and to wait for everyone to arrive (there were about 20 of us in all). We had ordered food in advance, so shortly after we arrived at the comedy club, we were served our meals. The food was alright, but the portions were quite small. This was my first time ever in a comedy club. It was alright. The first comedian was a bit crude. The second one was better. The last one, his accent was so strong I didn't know half of what he was saying. Nid translated a few things for me, but I don't think it was the same at all. It was a good night out, however!

Abbey Park

ABBEY PARK is a short walk from our house, and earlier in the month we took the children there. It was a beautiful day, if a little too breezy. We packed a picnic lunch and bought dessert at a little cafe there and ate sitting on the rock wall of the Abbey Ruins. Afterwards, we went to Pets Corner, and saw birds, mini goats, and guinea pigs... not all of the animals were out as it was still chilly at night. We only walked around about half of the park because we wanted to leave time for the Fun Fair! Nid took turns driving the bumper cars with the children and I filmed it. Unfortunately, when our computer crashed later that week, most of the photos were lost, so I only have these four left:


Since we have just discussed dessert, why not continue with another new item that has been introduced to me. The MAGNUM. This is an ice cream bar, but it is so much more than that. The ice cream is sooo creamy, and the outside is dark chocolate. OMG!


Several weeks ago we went out to dinner with some friends to a little Italian place, and I wanted to try something different, so I got PROFITEROLES for dessert. I'd never had them, never heard of them. But they were so delish, that the next week when we went out with different friends, I had them again. My new favorite dessert when we go out. Served with ice cream and whipped cream and chocolate sauce dribbled all over. These are a CANNOT MISS item!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Asda / Walmart

Today Nid and I took the bus to Asda, which is Walmart. Some stores even have both names written on them, though this one does not. It was very similar to Walmarts in the States. Their clothing line is called George, like in the US, and they have similar styles. The selection is much smaller though. I would say this store is the same size physically as other Walmarts that I have been in, however the isles are spread out more. They are probably 10 feet, which means you can't get as many isles in the store. The food section was almost identical, except they sell hard liquor. Actually, all stores that sell food do. But what they do not have... GRAPE JELLY! I've checked three grocery stores and none of them have it. I'm settling for Blackcurrant at the moment. I like peanut butter and strawberry jelly alright, but I'm really missing my grape :(

Then we went to McDonalds and had a Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal. Yummy!

We went to an athletics store so Nid could get some new trainers and goal keeping gloves. He's starting back playing football on Monday night. We went into Boots, which is like a CVS, and went past a TK Maxx, their version of TJ Maxx. They also have Claire's here. I took this photo waiting for the bus. This one's for you Mom! It's tiny, but the logo is there and it is the same.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Beer!

The great thing about a good quality Guiness with just the right amount of foam... you can play in it!

That same day we had a little bit of Americana in the way of Burger King :)

Discrimination ... ?

Are the English so much better than Americans that they need their own MUSTARD?!?!

When to get people to come to their circus' they call it the American Circus as a publicity stunt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Better!

FINALLY! It has been a long road to health here in the UK, but I am finally 99% healthy again. This also means that I will hopefully be a little more interesting and have something to share with everyone :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Same..... Yet Different. Bread.

I knew that there were differences between what I'm use to and what I'll find here. But some things have taken my by surprise a little.


They have English Muffins... but they are like McDonald's McMuffin, they have NO NOOKS AND CRANNIES!

They have Crumpets, and they LOOK like American English Muffins, but they feel and taste kind of like American Pancakes.

They have Pancakes that look like American Pancakes, and they sell them already cooked and in packages in the bread isle at the grocery store.... but apparently they are nothing like what Nid makes and calls Pancakes. Which are then filled with ice cream and black cherry pie filling and sprinkled with sugar. Yummy!

They have Scones, and the plain ones feel and taste just like an American Breakfast Biscuit, the kind you think of when you say Biscuit.

They have Biscuits, but they are cookies! Thin and flat, round, and often one side has a layer of chocolate.

It makes my head spin!

The Same..... Yet Different. Chips.

I learned this bit in October, and it came into play in February, trying to make sure Nid and I were talking about the same thing when we were discussing food.


In England, there are chips and there are crisps. This seemed simple to me at first. Potato Chips are Crisps
Chips are Fries... French Fries/Steak Fries what have you.

But it can't be as easy as that, can it?

The above is true...
Potato Chips are called Crisps.
French Fries are called Chips.
Except when Potato Chips are called Chips.

WHAT?! They can't BE BOTH! It's absurd :)

So now, when asked if I want chips. I say french fry chips or potato chip chips? Because you just don't know what someone else is thinking when they use the word.

And then there are the flavors... Ready Salted, Cheese and Onion, Salt and Vinegar, Steak and Onion, Smokey Bacon, Roast Chicken, Prawn Cocktail, Pickled Onion, Tomato Ketchup, BBQ Rib, Worcester Sauce, Mango Chili, Bacon and Cheddar, Sour Cream and Chive, Chargrilled Steak, Paprika... REALLY!??!?! And, they are currently having a contest for the next flavor, all of which are out on the shelves for the time being: Builders Breakfast, Chili and Chocolate, Crispy Duck and Hoisen, Cajun Squirel, Fish and Chips, Onion Bhaji.

Being Sick In The UK

Much of the last two weeks has been a blur and not terribly exciting. The main reason for that is, I've been sick! I had come prepared for what hoops I may need to jump through to get registered with a local doctor, but of course it couldn't go smoothly...

I arrived on 8 March, and on the 12th, went to Nid's GP (walking distance from the house). They gave me an "application" form and made a copy of my passport and US drivers license. Then they wanted proof of where I was living. We had already called the utilities to get my name put on bills so I could get added to his bank account, but it would be weeks potentially before anything came in the mail. I told them that. I also showed them on the visa where it lists my husbands name (he's in their system) as my spouse, so of course we lived at the same location. They told me to bring a copy of my marriage certificate and gave me a slip of paper with their info on it and said to call in 10 days to find out if I had been approved as a patient. I returned with the marriage cert the next business day and they made a copy of that.

The next week, I started getting a sore throat, which I assumed was normal adjusting to a new climate things, so I let it go. On the 18th my lymph nodes in my neck started swelling and it hurt to swallow and I was achy. I knew I still had a week to hear back from the GP, so I got OTC cold and flu meds which helped the aches but not the throat. On the 10th day, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating ear pain. I waited until the office opened, and called. I explained that I was told to call and she said no, I had to wait until they called me. I said I was sick, and she said I still had to wait to get approved before I could make an appointment. I called the NHS direct, who said that if I didn't get better in 4 days, to seek emergency care, or before then if it got worse.

For 4 days I was miserable. More miserable than I had been. Then Nid calls the GP upset and they said that I was advised incorrectly. I was instructed to come up and fill in a form (not medically related, it was all about religion) and then return home and wait for a doctor to call me. Two hours later he did and told me to come in in 45 minutes. I did, he gave me antibiotics, and sent me on my way. Later in the day, a nurse called to tell me I have a new patient exam at the end of April.

The good news is I finally got treated. The bad news is, it's been 4 days ad I am barely better, and it is 5:50 am and here I am because I can't sleep AGAIN!

And FYI, I did not get an exam with this visit. A quick peek in my ear and throat, and I was outta there. No temp taken, no blood pressure.. although they did ask me if I had a fever... I didn't know, of course.. Now I've got more symptoms, including an entire head full of junk that I can't get out! I can barely hear out of both ears... and I cannot sleep!

So, that's the good and bad of my National Health care experience. Sure, it's FREE, but they don't HAVE to see you... And yes I could have gone to the emergency room, but they are notorious for having crazy 8-10 hour waiting times. It really was a no win situation :(

My First Week In England

Needless to say, Monday we slept in. It had been a late night, and with the traveling and rushing I'd done, I crashed hard! When we finally did get up, we walked around the neighborhood, and just caught up on stuff. It was a bit surreal, and for days I would be like... "I'm here..." :)

Tuesday we had to get up early and get a taxi to the hospital for Nid's surgery. We had to be there at 7:30. The form said surgery at 9am. When we got there, there was a room full of people all with surgery for that day. They finally took him at 10:45 and he was back just after Noon. They decided to only do a local block on his arm, instead of full anesthesia, which was more of a risk, so he was awake, but because there was nothing to do, he started napping. They took that to mean he wasn't ready to go home. What it meant was we were up early to come to the hospital. Apparently I fell asleep in the chair next to him for awhile. I finally asked a nurse when he'd be ready to go (this was about 3) and she said as soon as he stops needing to sleep. So when he woke up I told him and we started the process of discharging. Which took until about 4:30... We called a taxi, and got home right about 5. It was pizza delivery for us for dinner, and fairly early to bed.

The rest of the week, we didn't do much but hang out. I got the paper on Wednesday, which has a job section, and have been looking through that. Thankfully I can take a little time to get use to stuff. Things are different, but the same, and it does take a bit of getting use to.

So, on Sunday we had a Sunday Roast, roasted chicken and potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy. Fantastic!

The Trip

I was up at 5:30 on Sunday to get ready. Heather was there by 6, and we were gone by 6:30. I won't go into detail about how hard it was to leave my animals. I still don't know what's going to be done with them long term, and it still breaks my heart. My mom didn't come with us, so we said good-bye at the house and it was really hard.

I drove the first leg of the trip, back to DC for the 4th time in as many weeks. Dad and Heather helped me carry all my bags in and get them checked. The lady was confused by my ticket, the machine wouldn't automatically print it out, and she didn't know why I only had a one way ticket. I had to explain the visa and I was moving and eventually she found someone who could do it for me. The 48 pounder came in at 51.5 and I moved the only thing out that I could that would fit in my backpack, and it was 51 pounds. She marked it as overweight, but took it without making me pay for it. I just did not have any room left to negotiate space...

They walked me to the gate to security, where just 2 weeks before I'd had to say good-bye to Nid. It's weird, this wanting to be somewhere else so badly thing... You want to be there, but that doesn't mean you want to leave where you are. Sometimes it's hard to work out in your own head and I have to remind myself of that or the guilt or something will eat you up. We said good-bye and I had to turn and walk away. I was a bit sick to my stomach at that point. It was hard, but I was so happy too...

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Security and lines and waiting around. My seat was the last row of Economy Plus, which means that I got an extra 5 inches of leg space. And it was nice! I'm going to remember how many rows there are on that type of plane and try to get that again when we travel back as a family to visit. I chatted with a couple of people around me. A lady who was visiting her daughter who'd married an Englishman 2 years ago and moved here then. Another lady was English living in the US but was coming back to visit her dad who'd taken ill. It was a nice distraction.

I arrived at London early, even though we'd had to circle a few times. It was just about 10pm when I cleared customs, which was no hassle at all, a relief to be sure. Nid was there at the gate with his friend Martin, who had come over for the wedding. It should have take an hour and a half to get home. But they'd closed parts of the interstate down for construction, being late on a Sunday, and we sat in traffic for ages! It was nearly 2 when we got home. Tired and with all my heavy heavy bags to lug up the stairs. It was wonderful though. The kids had stayed at a friends house for the night, so we didn't have to get up in the morning, thankfully. I'd had 3 or 4 nights in a row with 4-6 hours of sleep, and I am use to 8-10. I was exhausted!

Anxiously Waiting For News And What Comes After

Friday morning I went to work, and had to tell my boss I didn't know if it was going to be my last day or not... a weird conversation, but it went alright. I had just clocked out for lunch at 1:15 and my cell went off. It was the courier, and they had my visa in their hand. So they Fedexed that to me for Saturday delivery. I called Nid and told him and went to my boss and told him. I sent out texts to my family and tried to finish my day, but really that wasn't happening, so I decided to go home. On my way to the parking lot, my sister called and asked if I wanted to pick up Caitlin from daycare early and spend some alone time with her. I did that and we had a great afternoon hanging out, just the two of us for about two hours. Then Jimmy and Heather got home and we visited a little more, but I had to get home to pack!

Saturday I was up early and packing. It started out okay, but as the suitcase fills up and you realized that you haven't packed any of the things you really want or need, it's a bit depressing. FedEx delivered my package around noon, and I immediately went to my sisters to use her internet to book my ticket. It took a while to find the best price, but during the process, I found a flight I hadn't seen all week. Most flights to Europe are overnight. Leave Sunday, arrive Monday morning. But you don't really want your ride to have to deal with London traffic on a Monday during rush hour, which were when all the flights arrived. Then I saw one that left Sunday morning, arrived Sunday night. I called my family, and they all said do the best for me and they would work around it. So I booked that flight and we made arrangements to have dinner on Saturday night at Sal's, our little hometown restaurant. I visited the rest of the afternoon with Heather and Caitlin, and then we all met up for dinner. After dinner I had a lot left to do, so I went back home and packed until late and I couldn't get anything else in. My suitcases came in at 48 and 45 pounds. And I had a carry on suitcase and a backpack fully loaded.

The Application Process

Things started happening faster than we had originally thought, even back right after the wedding. I was able the Tuesday after to get my name changed and get the legal documents I needed. I mailed off my passport renewal expedited service on the 19th of February, a full week or more sooner than I had thought I would be able to.

I was trying to follow it online, but it was saying that "expedited" service meant 2 weeks as opposed to 3, and I wasn't really impressed with that. However, I did get it back on the 28th (Saturday). I then went online and completed my visa application. I had gone through this process once to practice, so I knew I had everything I needed to fill in. I completed that, and made my biometrics appointment (digital photo and fingerprints) at an immigration office near Washington DC. The earliest one was March 3 (Tuesday) at 10am. That gave me three days to finish my notebook of documents (just the final touches needed to be done).

Tuesday the 3rd I drove to DC and on the way back with my stamped biometrics sheet, I stopped at FedEx and mailed it overnight to a passport and visa "expediting" company. I still don't know EXACTLY how it works, but reports on the internet were that people who had mailed in or even Fedexed in their documents directly to the embassy in LA (where I had to send mine) back in November and December were still waiting to hear their decision. So I was panicked. This company claimed to be able to get an answer the same day. So I sent my package overnight to them, they were going to get it on Wed, hand deliver it to the embassy on Thursday, and have an answer for me Thursday afternoon, and FedEx it back to me to have in my hand on Friday. When we learned that this was an option, I jumped at it. Nid had surgery scheduled on his elbow for Tuesday the 10th, and we had just assumed I would miss it, but with the opportunity to be there now present, I really wanted to do it. So all day Thursday I was a nervous wreck. I had to take into consideration I was 3 hours ahead of CA time, which didn't help. At 4:15 PST I called and they said that the courier had picked up at 4 and they should have my papers on their desk within the hour and they would call. At 5:30 PST they called and said the consulate told them to "try back tomorrow." What did that mean? They didn't know. So I had to wait. It was a really long night, too.


Welcome to my Adventures In England!

I've been thinking about doing this for a while now. In fact, I started writing down things the week I moved, but I just couldn't commit to it. But I've done that now. So here we go. I'm not sure how often this will be updated, but I'll do my best to keep everyone in the loop with what is going on with me these days. Can't promise it will always be interesting, but hey, that's life!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


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