Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Last Post Here.

This is my last post from England. I have created a new blog for our lives in Virginia. I have toyed with making it private because it may give away more about our lives, for the benefit of the kids' family here in England. It is still a work in progress, but despite the fact that I've been working on it for months, I just ran out of time. You can see it here: Across The Pond And Back Again (tentative title).

We've had a busy week here.

Nid had a going away do at La Tosca on Wednesday a week ago with his best mates: Martin, Petros, Pravin and Matthew.

 Then on Saturday he went to The Coronation pub with all his football mates. They came and went, but these ate dinner together: Utpal, Mitul, Hiren, Lou, Lee, Dharmesh and Pravin.

Sunday he went to visit our friends Utpal and Sejal, who live in London but had come up so Utpal could go to Nid's dinner. He got this cute picture with Utpal and baby Perissa:

Tuesday we went to town for the last time, and we went to the Market. We talked to a record guy who use to work in Richmond, near where I use to live. He started a brewery there and loved the area and wished us the best. It was a pretty weird coincidence. We finished getting Nid's football kit for when he finds a team in the US, as prices here seem to be so much better. We also got him this cool hat:

Tuesday night Nid and I went out with our friends Matthew and Jacqui in town. We met at The Globe, which is the only pub Nid and I had ever been to, and the first place the four of us ever went when I first moved here. We sat in the "snug" because the music was too loud in the rest of the place. We'd only been there a very short time when hippy drummers started piling in, giving us looks, saying they met there every Tuesday night, and telling us how loud it was going to get. At first it was one, two, three.... and then it was 10 or 15 of them and they were all looking at us like we were putting them out. I got up and said "thanks for ruining my last night out in England" and walked out. I was really upset, but managed to not cry until we had found another place to go. I'm sure part of it was stress, part of it really was that that was "our" place too, and why did they not reserve it? If it was not reserved with signs, I feel it should have been first come first serve. But what do I know? I also was not feeling well. I am pretty sure I have acid reflux disease, which can be caused by diet, stress, and various other things that all apply to me. I've had some very unpleasant symptoms, and eating before going out really made me feel horrible. I had about two sips of one of Nid's beers, but couldn't bear to think about drinking anything. It was a real bummer. Nid took some pictures with his phone. Boy, do I look rough:

Wednesday night I went with Nid to his last football game with The Cobblers. I took a bunch of photos, but because it was late, daylight went quickly and the artificial light played havoc on my camera. I did get this great team photo right before the game:

Thursday was a marathon packing session. It's those last minute things that really hang me up when it comes to packing. We were up until 3am Friday morning, and then up again at 8 Friday to finish up. The shipping company was due between 10 and 12 and they were here about 10:30. Our stuff was pulling out by 11:40. I hope we see it again some day... please don't sink ship!

See ya in 4-6 weeks baby!

 Just kidding :)

We ended up going back to town to get something for my niece that I did not get on Tuesday. Then we came back home and crashed. It had been a long couple of days. Saturday we were going to go out to Gorse Hill City Farm, but Nid also had to go and visit some friends and neighbors to say goodbye. Between the heat, having to go to the grocery store, and visiting people, we were too tired to go to the farm as well. I was a little sad because they have these baby lambs there that looked so darn cute on their website, but it was two buses and a walk and I just couldn't manage it.

Now it is Sunday and we just got a call that John and Ann will be here in about an hour with the children. They spent the week with them in Wales. Today is either going to go too quickly or drag by because we don't really have anything to do. We'll go visit the couple at the corner shop later to say our last goodbye. Nid was down there the other day and got this picture with Subhash. He and his wife, Kirti, own the shop and have been very good to Nid over the years.

The landlord and his family are coming round at 10pm tonight to say their goodbyes. They lived in this house when Nid moved in across the street in 1996. When they moved out in 2006, Nid moved in, so they have a long history with the family.

I have lots more to do today before we lose internet. We won't have anything at our new house for a while, so I need to take advantage of what I have now. Thank you all for being interested and following along on my blog this last year or so.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Random Tuesday Is For The Birds.


I've got a new little bird visiting my back yard this week, a Blackbird. My visitor is a female. How do I know? Well, because Nid told me, not because they are black. Female Blackbirds are not black. They are brown.

Female Cardinals (Virginia State Bird) are brown as well, while the males are a vibrant red. It's not fair to the girls, but at least they aren't called Redbirds that aren't red.

For more random, visit Keely at The Un Mom

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eager? Anxious!

Our suitcases are packed. Because we have to make sure everything fits - not because I'm that eager.
People here keep saying to me "oh, I bet you can't wait to get back to the States" and it is driving me nuts. To me, that implies that I am the reason that we are moving. Because I don't like it here or miss my family. It's so wrong. A huge part of me doesn't want to move. We're only doing it because of the housing opportunity that came our way. I want to see Ireland and Scotland. I want to go back to Paris (with Nid not on crutches). I want to see where he grew up and there were all these places he wanted to show me from different times in his life. We'll never get to do those things, and it makes me sad. I want to move the least of all the members of my family, but people keep saying things that make me out to be the one that wants to go the most.

I do miss my family, but I lived two hours from them for seven years and some years only saw them three to four times in the whole year. I've only talked to my mom on the phone a handful of times since I moved here, and I go weeks and months without talking to my friends and other family members. Only since the new year have my sister and I gotten on an every week schedule, but that doesn't always work out either.

It might sound wrong, but I miss my animals the most.  Before moving I'd only ever been away from them for a few days at a time in 10 years. They were my day to day companions. Smudge will move in with us once we get settled, but Bearette won't be. It makes me sadder to think of seeing her regularly at my parents house and leaving her over and over again than to think of never seeing her again. I miss her so much I cry every time I think of her. I'm crying now. But is it going to be worse when I see her every week, maybe more than once a week and can't bring her home with me? I think it's going to suck royally! So, when people say "you must be so happy to be moving back" I just want to scream at them.

I am happy about a lot of things. We've got a great deal with our little cottage. The kids will have grandparents three miles away. They'll have the great outdoors at their doorstep. The move is a good idea. It will be good for us. All of us. But I just feel, over and over, that I need to defend the fact that I am not the reason we are moving. It is not because I don't like it here. It is not because I have not "settled" or anything of the sort. It is because it is a good idea for our family, and the timing is right.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The English Countryside.

Monday our friend Martin picked us up and took us to Bradgate Park just outside Leicester. It was my first time going, and I am really glad that I got to see it. And especially glad that we got to see it with Martin, who was an encyclopedia of information about the land, plants and animals in the park.

The walk starts up a gently sloping hill, which was actually a volcano. We saw several small ponds with loads of tadpoles in them. I learned about newts, bracken, and oak trees, and monkey-puzzle trees.

At the top of the hill is Old John, which was built in 1784. There is a medallion next to Old John which points out directions and mileages to various locations.

We saw red deer, fallow deer, and many birds: cuckoo, carrion crows, wagtails. The cuckoos were cooing, the wagtails' little tails were wagging, and one of the crows was lifting stones in the creek looking for insects hiding underneath them. I was fascinated by how smart he was!

After our walk, we lunched at The Bradgate, once known as The Bradgate Arms in Newtown Linford, a short walk from Bradgate Park itself. Nid got STEAK! and I had posh fish and chips:

I loved looking at the old houses, with thatched or slate roofs and exposed wooden beams. We also saw wild garlic growing on the side of the road:

Old fashioned police box. Nobody was home.

My full album of photos is available here:
Video will be added at some point, but it takes ages to load.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our Weekend.

Friday afternoon our friend Luan (from York) came for a visit. We had a great time catching up - the last time we'd seen her was when we visited her in November of last year. She and I had a fun time playing with her iPhone when Nid went to football that night. I would never get ANYTHING done if I had one of those. The games were completely silly... but addicting!

Saturday morning I fixed an all-American breakfast for us. We had bacon, scrambled eggs, buttermilk biscuits (made from scratch), and pancakes (made from scratch). There was going to be sausage gravy (made from scratch), but the other stuff took so long to fix that I didn't fix that in the end. As it was we had plenty of food left over.

In the late afternoon Nid and I walked to the grocery store. We had just left the house when we saw a young man running up the street towards us. He was running in the road, which was strange to me. He looked over his shoulder and I thought "what did he do?" but didn't say it out loud. Then another 50 feet down the sidewalk we saw a guy handcuffing someone on the other side of the street. My first thought was that something hinky was going on, but then Nid made the more logical conclusion that he was an undercover cop. So I was right, that guy did do something, and he was running from the cops! Oh, the drama. Then we saw a lady running up the sidewalk to the other two. I looked back as we got the corner and she must have been the other cop as she was standing there with them. There was a family standing down at the corner near the entrance to the park looking up the sidewalk, so we think something happened there. Crazy.

Then in the grocery store there was more weird. It seemed like everybody in there had a baby or young child with them. Apparently Saturday afternoons are family day. I don't think I've ever seen that many children in one place outside of a school.

We bought some chips while we were there, but I didn't try them until this morning. I have written about the crazy chip flavors they have here in England before, but I'd never tried any of them before. Because of the World Cup this year, Walkers has started a new contest with 15 new flavors.

The flavours are:
  • English Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
  • American Cheeseburger
  • Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak
  • Australian BBQ Kangaroo
  • Brazilian Salsa
  • Dutch Edam Cheese
  • French Garlic Bread
  • German Bratwurst Sausage
  • Irish Stew
  • Italian Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Japanese Teriyaki Chicken
  • Scottish Haggis
  • South African Sweet Chutney
  • Spanish Chicken Paella
  • Welsh Rarebit
 Interesting, right? And some are just flat out gross. So, because we are a multi-national family, we got these:
I tried them this morning. I started with the English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding because that was Nid's bag and I just had the one chip. OMG. It really tasted like roast beef and Yorkshire pud! I couldn't believe it. My mouth started watering and I was a little bit freaked out. I could taste potatoes and carrots. I tentatively tasted the American Cheeseburger. Again, I was surprised. I could taste the mustard and pickle. Actually, it had a bit too much pickle for my tastes. At first I wasn't going to eat them. One was enough from Nid's bag and one was enough from mine. But he didn't want them and the longer they sat there the more I ate. I'll never get them again, but I am glad that I tried them.

Saturday night we also watched a movie. Kick-Ass. I was doubtful. I was not interested at all. I was wrong, as it turns out. It was more interesting than I thought it would be and I even stayed awake for the whole movie (barely), which is more than I can say about most movies and TV we watch these days. The movie was funny and entertaining, and definitely for adults. It was crude, violent, sexual, and there was a lot of very bad language in it, including from the 10 year old girl! I don't need to hear that. It does not make a movie more "realistic" to me, as I do not associate with the type of person that does that much cursing in public. Briony had gone out with friends the other weekend and they were going to see it. The theatre actually sold her and one of her friend tickets, but they would not let her other friend in so they had to trade the tickets in for another movie. Here in the UK it is rated 15. That means that 15 year olds are allowed into the movie by themselves. Briony is not 15 until next February. I do not think that she should see this movie now or in 10 months. I do not see what difference 10 months will make. In the US it is rated R, which means that no one under the age of 18 can get in without an adult present. I realize that things are more out in the open here in the UK, that there is more sex and foul language here than in the US. I am regularly surprised by what I see and hear though, and I am glad that by moving to the US we can preserve our children's childhoods a few extra years.

This reminds me of something I learned about a while back. The Page 3 Girl. The Page 3 Girl is a topless model that is featured on page three of many British tabloid newspapers. I first read about this practice in a blog that I read called Pond Parleys. The link directly to the post I mention is here.  It talked about Page 3 Girls and a How-To segment on a morning news show about how to... Well, I'll let you click and read all about it yourself. Let's just say they weren't wrong when they titled the post Never In America! My only experience with Page 3 Girls came while we were at the Embassy for our interviews. I was sitting, looking around at everyone nearby, too anxious to focus on the book I brought. To my right, and one row up was a guy reading a paper. But what I really noticed was the full page photo of a nude woman. Her breasts took up most of the page, and this is a full sized tabloid, maybe 15 inches tall by 10 inches wide (definitely bigger than the Enquirer in the US). I am pretty sure that my jaw dropped. I felt violated. I felt angry. My children were sitting right next to me and could easily have seen this same thing. I am not a prude, I do not feel that we should be ashamed of our bodies. HOWEVER, I do not feel that that means that we can display our private parts for the world to see either. You can read a brief history about the girls here, or about the short lived Page 7 Fella here.

I'll end this blog on a good note, and share with you all how our new house is coming. My dad and sister have been painting and getting it ready for us. We picked blue for our bedroom and light yellow for the bath. My dad is giving the kids fresh white for now, and he is going to let them help him paint an accent wall in a color of their choice in each of their rooms when we get there. They are very excited about that, and I am excited that I don't have to paint at all! Until I decide to do the kitchen cabinets and some of the other wooden furniture we have...

Monday, May 3, 2010

My, How Time Flies.

I don't know where the last few weeks have gone. There was so much waiting and anticipating leading up to our London trip, and now I am sort of caught in a downward spiral. What have I done with myself? It is a bit of a blur, but here is what I have been up to:

I have done a LOT of packing - household stuff and the kids things. We have a row of big black trash bags lining our kitchen wall, just waiting to be put in our bin (and the neighbor's bin late at night the night before trash day).

Our landlords have already got a renter for the house, and have said we can leave any furniture/furnishings and they will keep it or get rid of it. What a relief! I didn't want to have to pay to have this stuff hauled off.

I have narrowed down our shipping company options to two companies, one that is cheaper but takes 12 weeks, the other is more expensive but takes 4. I'm pretty sure we'll go with the 4, but I'm stalling because then I have to start filling out insurance forms and customs forms, and I do not think it is going to be fun. At. All.

I opened a website! Well, I took over Nid's website, Somebody Like You Fans, a Keith Urban and Country Music Fan Site, and moved it to a new location - same company, different server. I had to start from scratch and transfer over 400 threads from the old board to the new board. It was complicated and time consuming, but it's done! And we are getting a lot of traffic. By taking over the website, I have also taken over the Twitter Page, the Myspace Page, the Facebook Fan Page, and the Facebook Group. It has been keeping me very very busy!

Nid completely redid his website, Dierks Fans, as well. It had a soft opening over the weekend, but the grand opening is today. He really has done his from scratch, as it is an actual website, and not a free hosted message board like mine. I am very proud of him.

I have also been working on my new blog for when we move. I'm still not sure about the title, but I have some very nice backgrounds to chose from, and I am working on some cool fonts/features. I hope it comes out alright in the end.

What have I not been doing? All the little stuff. I need to call the utility companies and tell them our last day here. I need to decide if we are going to forward our mail to the US, which is super expensive. I need to find a job! Technically, I have been working on that, and have applied for many things so far.

I also need to catch up on my blog reading. I haven't thought about it in weeks, and today I logged into Google Reader to find this:
168 new blogs? That's almost too daunting to bear. I may just mark all as read and start fresh. I really enjoy reading them, but at 168 it's more like a job than a hobby and I lose interest. Sorry :(

I saw a Blue Tit in our back yard yesterday. I had never seen one before, and I called Nid in to identify it for me. It was already gone by the time he got there, but he knew what it was just by my (rather poor) description. This is what it looked like, it's just so darn cute!

I have been trying to get a picture of what I am calling my pet Magpie. She comes every couple of weeks and sits on the roof of the house or the wall of the yard. I was taken in by her beauty from the very first moment I saw her and asked Nid to identify her for me. He knows all about birds, which is very handy. This is not my Magpie, but she looks just like it. She is larger than this picture indicates.

Well, that is my life in a nutshell right now. I'll try to be better about blogging, but other than the above I haven't really done much to write about.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Am A Guest Poster.

I am please to say that I am a guest poster over at Mid-Atlantic English today. Last month she asked for volunteers, and she has had some great guest posters. I feel honored to be among them, and included on her blog. I have very much enjoyed reading it for the last year.

To read my post, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Date Has Been Set.

We've done. We picked a moving day and bought the tickets today. We will be flying out of London Heathrow early in the morning on June 7th.

It is only 40 days away, and there is still a lot to do. Tomorrow I have a shipping company coming to look at our belongings and give us a quote. I have already spoken to several other companies, and after tomorrow will book with one of them. Most likely we will be taking a taxi to the airport, and we have already gotten quotes for the trip. It is not as expensive as I would have thought. And much easier than taking our bags on the train and then having to take a taxi to the airport, as Heathrow is a bit of a hike from where the train comes into London. Tomorrow I start calling the utility companies.

I am going "back home" in 40 days. It's a weird feeling. I miss my family and friends. I miss the comfort of knowing what things are called, I miss the comfort that familiar food brings. I miss driving and the ability to go to Walmart at midnight. Though now that I have a family I don't imagine I'll be doing that so much anymore. But I could if I wanted to!

My home is where my family is. And right now, my home is Leicester. It is where Nid, Briony, Cale and I became a family. It is where all of our memories are. It is the last time that I will ever see this house, Leicester, England. I knew when I left Virginia that I would see it again. I know that when I leave England I will never see it again. It makes me sad in a way, while at the same time I am so happy to be going "back home."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random Tuesday... It's All I've Got.


I have approximately 200 cubic feet of belongings to ship to America. 90% of it is stacked in my living room. The rest of our household we are getting rid of. It's a weird life we're living right now.

We (Nid and the children) got approved for their US visas last week. Now the countdown to their adjustment of status in two years and citizenship in three. My life is one big countdown...

I just ordered my second 700 foot roll of bubble wrap. That's a lot of bubbles.

I think that pigeons are smarter than we give them credit for. They have been trying to build a nest in our alley, and we've been chasing them away with a tennis racket. Yesterday tennis racket to pigeon contact was made and they haven't come back. I would have though it would have taken more effort on our part. 

Stop by Keely's Blog at the UnMom for more randomness!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

US Embassy Review: It's a YES!

We traveled to London on Thursday night (April 15) for our interview on Friday morning. I had everything  timed just right on Thursday, as the kids went to school as usual, but we had to get baths and dinner  taken care of before we got our taxi at 6:30 to the station. We arrived in London just after 9pm. It was  a five minute walk to the hotel (Kings Cross Travelodge). We checked in and got ready for bed right away.  We had to be up at 6 the next morning, so we wanted to get a good night's sleep. The hotel was nothing  special (you have to use your key card to get to the elevator, to make the elevator work, to get to the  hall your room is on... and they don't work great sometimes we had to put the card in 5+ times to get the  door unlocked) but it is relatively cheap and it was clean, if sparse.

Friday morning we were up and on our way at 7:20. We had to take two trains and walk aways to get to the  Embassy, and were there for 8:20. It took about 20 minutes to get through the two check points and  through security to get into the Embassy. We got our number I910 and found a seat. It was just before  9am. The room is very large, with high ceilings and one entire wall is windows facing out over Grosvenor  Square. But with the sun streaming in it was very unpleasant and hot. There were 11 windows (like bank  teller windows) in our room and 13 more around the corner. Numbers were being called constantly, but they  were N numbers (non-immigrant) and we were I (immigrant). When we first got seated they called I901. It  was two hours before they got to us. We went to the window and handed over their passports and US photos  we'd had taken. Then we sat down. 20 minutes or so later he called us back and sent me to pay for the  visas. While I was gone, he fingerprinted Nid and Briony, but Cale didn't have to have his done because  of his age. Then he asked for the documents, one at a time and very organized. The gentleman was very  nice and easy to understand, which was amazing because he was speaking through glass and the numbers were  being announced through a speaker right over our heads. He gave us Nid's x-ray and their medical reports  in an envelope and we sat back down. It was about 11am then.

We were keeping an eye on the I numbers that were getting called up again. At about 11:40 we were called  back to a window in the other room for our interview. This guy was American and was still shuffling  through papers, so apologized a few times for making us wait. He had all of our original documents ready  for me to take back. He fingerprinted Nid and Briony to confirm their identity and then made them hold up  their right hands and swear that the information on the forms and anything they told him today was the  truth. That done, he asked Nid where we were moving to. He told us he was from North Carolina. He asked  how long I had been in England, and I told him about 14 months. He explained about domicile, and how I  did not have to be living in the US to take my family there, but I had to prove that I still had ties  there. I was so anxious for him to stop talking because I had an entire folder full of documents proving  my US domicile. When he was done explaining why I needed to show him I had domicile, I said I have a  lease and slid a letter that I had prepared under the glass. He looked at it and said, it says here you  have a voter registration card? I said yes, do you need the copy or the original? He said the copy was  fine, so I slid it along with our emailed lease under the glass. He looked at them, slid them back and  said great. I had nearly 20 things proving my domicile and intention to move back, but that was all he  wanted. He said everything is done here, you'll need to pay the courier on your way out, and you'll  receive your passports and visas within a week. Then he finished with "Welcome to Virginia. Welcome to  the US.")

I paid at the courier desk, and we were leaving the Embassy right at noon. It was all very surreal. Even  though I'd read dozens of reviews on the immigration forums that I frequent, I still was surprised by the  process. The waiting was killer (and the chairs were horrid, uncomfortable contraptions) but when it was  over, it was hard to believe it was over. I've been so focused on this moment since October/November, and  now it's done. The work isn't over of course. I still have to manage the move and the shipping company  and weeding through our belongings, but the question of can we is gone. We can. We will. Very shortly.

Everyone we talked to was very nice, from the people checking our documents in the que to the document  guy and interviewer. We really couldn't have had a better day (unless we'd had less of a wait time, but  we didn't get there as early as I had planned, and we were prepared with snacks and books).

Because we had to be prepared to stay at the Embassy for hours and hours, we had booked two nights at our  hotel. We went back to the hotel to relax for an hour or so, and then we took the Tube to Westminster to  show the kids Big Ben, Westminster and the London Eye. We went to a gift shop that Nid and I had been to  in November and I got Caitlin a gift that I didn't get then and have been regretting since. After that we  thought about going to Buckingham Palace, but the Tube was getting really busy and there were lines  closed because of a "person under train." It shouldn't have been comedic, but it was because they just  kept playing it over and over on the intercom system. I know why they were doing it, to put blame on the  person, alleviating their responsibility for running behind schedule, but still...

We decided to go back and get some dinner, as by then it was after 4pm. We ate at the Burger King right  next to St. Pancras, where we'd eaten when we went to London for the medicals back in January. After that  we went back to the hotel and started showers/getting ready for bed. We watch a couple of hours of really  bad tv and turned in at 9.

This morning we caught the 10:15 train (First Class) and were home by noon. Lunch and laundry and  everything is back to normal, with the exception of the enormous pile of emails to go through.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Well, I can't say just now, but it's a rather short period of time, in the scheme of things, until we have our interview and know - yes or no - if a June move date is feasible. It's not a matter of can we move, as we have done everything right and there is no reason that they can think up to stop us from moving, it's just when can we move.

Today's goal is to sort out the papers. I've started a dozen times in the last few weeks, but I keep getting frustrated and giving up. If there was just one application, piece of cake! But with three, I don't know which pile to put certain documents in. There are originals and copies of certificates and legal documents, but only one original of some, and multiple copies of others. It's a mess. Literally. A mess piled up on the dining room table that gets shuffled around each day to make room for other stuff.. you know, eating. But today is the day that I will sort it out.

The children came home yesterday. Briony and I had a great chat about paint colors and furniture. She's picked a daring green for an accent wall in her room. It is a very appealing shade. Her description of Cale's color choice was "orange" but it turned out to be less orange and and all yellow. That's if he gets an accent wall. If he gets all four walls painted, he'd like a light green. I said we'd wait to see how the renovations looked and then he could decide. It's all very exciting.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Day Behind...

Is it me, or is Virginia behind the times? Or at least, behind by a day...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Packing Commences.

I have a lot to do! I thought I had a shipping company that I liked, but I am going to re-evaluate my options now that I have a better idea of how much we're taking. In order to get an estimate with a company, you have to tell them how much you are taking in cubic feet. Sounds simple enough, right? Okay, then you do it. It's not as easy as it sounds. A cubic foot is quite small. I needed to have a visual, something physical that I could look at and say "that is a cubic foot." What I came up with is my laptop. With the lid up, if you imagine the lid coming forward and down, that is approximately a cubic foot. That is freaking small! I have been to sites where you just plug in a number, other where you plug in how many of each size box you will need, I have measured and guessed.

So, you plug your number into the website and get an estimate. It is just an estimate. And my measurements are just estimates. That leaves a lot of leeway, and I like concrete facts. Because it is basically all guessing, not only do I have to compare the numbers side by side, but I also have to compare the price per cubic foot side by side. If you are under a certain square footage, the price per foot is higher. So if I overestimated and have less than I thought, I might end up paying the same as if I had more in the end. If I go over, how much are those fees, is insurance higher the larger my load?

Until everything is in a box, we don't know how much we have. But some of the companies have to pack it themselves in order to ship it with insurance. Other companies come and pick up what you've already packed. Those have different prices too. Is it worth it just to pay someone to do it for you and for the peace of mind that that brings? I'd say yes, but then where do we put all the stuff that is waiting to be packed? Until we collect it all together somewhere, we don't know how much we have and how much we are looking at spending.

I could go on and on, but it will not lead anywhere. Kind of like my search for a shipping company has not lead anywhere. It is our goal this week while the children are gone to work on sorting things out. We bought a VCR on e-bay and a cable to connect it to the computer. Nid has been busy converting his old tapes to digital so that we do not have a bunch of UK videos that will not play in the US. What a relief it is that it works and is fairly simple to do. I have sorted through all of our clothes and have a pile to get rid of now, a pile to wear until we move, then get rid of, a pile to pack up now that we won't be wearing between now and then and can be packed for shipping, and a pile that we will take with us on the plane. Whew, that's a lot of piles. The toss out pile is bigger than any of the others, so that's a relief at least.

Today is trash day and the bin is already full with more stuff sitting out next to in the yard. It is a great feeling to get rid of things we don't need anymore, but I hate looking out the window and seeing it. I just want it to be gone, already!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts.


I'm not a regular Random Tuesday Blog girl... does that make this even more Random?!

My GP called me an "older woman" on the phone the other day. Then he took it back. Wise man. He knew what my expression was even though he couldn't see me.

There is such a thing as "too organic" when it comes to the food I eat:
Hold the feathers, please :)

This poster is currently hanging in the locker room at my gym:
And right below it is this poster:
I don't know if it should, but it makes me laugh. Oh well.

I do not say this to offend any of my English friends, however,
NOTHING makes sense about spelling MATH with an "s."

Today is one of those days when I wish I'd documented the weather. It has rained approximately six times.
In between each bout of rain it has been sunny.
Just now it was hailing.
Actually, it's not. It's just England.

Click the button above to go to Keely's site The Unmom

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interview Part Two.

After getting our official letters from the Embassy with our interview date in late May, I called the Extortion Line and got an email address and weekly code number so that I could email them and request an earlier date. I had read online about people having luck with this, but if there are no dates available, then obviously we'd be out of luck. I got an email four days later giving us a new date in mid-April, and the letters arrived yesterday. What a relief!

We booked the trains and hotels and I just have to put all the documents in easy to sort through piles. We are getting closer, and it is such a relief. The boxes are beginning to pile up in the living room, but next week will really be our busiest as the children are going to Wales for Easter and we'll be able to dig out the closet and not worry about the mess or covering every surface downstairs until it's done and boxed up.

We're also super excited because Nid got a new computer last week, and after a week of setting it up, it's just about the way he wants it. We were going to upgrade when we got to the US, but since we may not have internet, we decided it would be best to just bite the bullet and do it now so that he can download everything he needs to make it just right. We just need to borrow a VCR off someone so that he can import all his VHS tapes into digital before we move. That'll be the biggest project we have to do aside from the general packing. But it's all coming along, and going smoothly for now *fingers crossed and knocking on wood.*

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happiness Award.

Jane at Midwest to Midlands has been kind enough to give me this Happiness Award. Jane is an American living in England, and I have been enjoying her blog for quite a while now. I recommend it to everyone. Thank you Jane!

Here are the rules:
1. When you have received this award you must thank the person that awarded you in a new post. 
2. Name the 10 things that make you happy. 
3. Pass this award onto 10 other bloggers and inform the winners.

10 Things That Make Me Happy:
(In no particular order)

1. Quiet time with my husband.
2. When the kids come home excited about their day at school.
3. Live music on a warm night.
4. My three year old niece.
5. Daffodils blooming in early spring/late winter.
6. Being in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
7. Learning new things.
8. Planning our new life "back home" in Virginia.
9. My pets, Bearette and Smudge, who I will be re-united with in a few months. They were my babies before I became a mother to:
10. My children.

Unfortunately, I haven't read a blog in weeks, so I don't know who has and has not already received a Happiness Award. My favorite blogs are listed in the right column of this blog, so you should check them all out! Please forgive me for breaking the rules, but there is a *lot* going on here, which is why I have not been blogging with my semi-regular frequency lately.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Interview Date Received.

Well, we got it. Packet 4: Our London Interview Date. I think it should be capitalized because of it's significance in our lives. When I saw the letters on the floor by the front door I was so excited. I may have even squealed. I let Nid open his and I opened the kids. At the bottom was the date: May xx, 2010. (There actually was a date, I'd just rather not announce to the world when we'll be out of town). May. Not even the beginning of May. I may have cried.

This whole process is so emotional. Yes, it is better than the process of moving here. I'm not concerned that we will be turned down. I'm not alone like I was last time. I'm not leaving a job and hoping my boss doesn't let me go before I am set to move like last time. But it is still frustrating. So many things are in limbo. Booking flights, letting our new landlord know when we'll arrive, re-instating my auto insurance and such. Booking our shipping company and getting rid of the rest of our stuff. Letting our current landlord know when we'll be leaving...

I've been online and talking to others on the immigration forums I am a member of. I have just been offered some advice, and will be calling the embassy tomorrow. They (on the forums) kindly refer to it as the Extortion line, at £1.20/minute, but at least then we'll know we did everything we could.

On a completely happy note, today is Mother's Day in the UK and the kids made me amazing cards. I may have cried. Just a bit :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Year. And One Day.

That's how long I have been in England.

On March 8, 2009 at approximately 11:45pm, I landed at London Heathrow and met Nid (and Martin) at the gate.

My new life began officially that day. Part of me cannot believe that it has been that long. Another part of me cannot believe that's all it's been. We've experienced so much this year. In one year, I've gained a husband, a daughter, a son, and a lifetime of memories. However, at times (most of the time?) since last fall, I have been so focused on us moving back to the US, that I have let time slide right past us. It's always one more step and one more thing we're waiting for. Months, weeks, days, hours, seconds until we move.

More importantly than that is that we're running out of time. We've only got months, weeks, days, hours, seconds left in England. We'll be in the US forever. We'll (Nid and I) probably never come back to England. I need to remember to cherish this family time together. When else will we be able to live modestly without working full time (or more) jobs? So today I am going to change my thinking. I am not only going to focus on what we need to do to get to the US, but also on what we (I) need to do so that I do not regret anything once we leave England. There are many places that I wanted Nid and I to go together. There are places I've wanted to go since I was a girl. We won't get to those places. But that does not mean that we won't have memories just as strong, just as wonderful from the places we do go together. Even if it is just to town to gawk at people shop.

Happy Anniversary to me! I cannot imagine what my life would be like without my family. You all mean the world to me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sweden, February 2010.

Back in October Nid and I booked a holiday in Sweden. Who goes to Sweden in February, you may ask? Well, it's not as random as it appears. Nid has two friends, Johan and Anna, who live there. They came and visited Nid here in Leicester several years ago, and figuring this may be our last chance to go, we jumped at the opportunity.

On Saturday, February 13, 2010 Nid and I left bright and early. Our journey took us from Leicester to London Stansted Airport to Gothenburg, Sweden. We had first class tickets on the train, and our seats were in this cute little part of the train with just seven other seats, and only one of them was taken. It was great! Sweden is an hour ahead of us, and we got there just before 4pm their time. I am not a great flier. I just don't enjoy it. At all. Nid loves to fly. Landing in Sweden was an experience. It was a smooth enough landing, I suppose. Aside from the fact that we BOUNCED once before slowing to a stop. In the middle of the runway, where they let us off and we had to walk across ice and snow to get into the terminal.

We did not want to deal with pay for extra luggage, so we each only had our one carry on backpack, so getting through customs was pretty quick for us. Nid got to go right in because this is the European Union and he has a British passport. I had to go up to the window and tell them why I was there. The guy was really nice.

Customs agent: Are you familiar with Richmond?
Me: I lived there for six years before moving to England.
CA: Do you know Lamb Of God?
Me: I know *of* them, but I've not heard them.
CA: They are my favorite band, and they're coming to Gothenburg next month.

Needless to say, I was surprised by the whole conversation. Passport stamped, we continued out the waiting room where Johan was waiting for us. The Gothenburg City Airport is tiny. Tiny. We greeted Johan and set off for his home, about two hours from Gothenburg. The main thing I learned that first day, was that Sweden looked a lot like Virginia! They drive on the right side of the road, they have a million trees, and mountains! Even the building construction is more like Virginia than England. It was like going home again. They even had a couple feet of snow on the ground, which is what it's been like this winter in Virginia as well. I ended up sleeping for most of the journey to their city home. We met his wife Anna there, their 18 year old son Anton, and their two rottweilers Lewis and Tasha. We had a bit of cake there (Anton's birthday was earlier in the week) and then drove about 30 minutes to their country house, where we were going to be staying for the week. It's located on 200 acres of beautiful land. We stopped on the way at a grocery store, and it was weird seeing familiar items with foreign names on them. Johan fixed us dinner of Venison burgers and chips, which was delicious! We drank some local beers and had some wine, and had a nice relaxed evening.

Sunday was our First Wedding Anniversary! We all slept in, and when we'd had some breakfast went for a long walk. A really long walk. The first part was along a road that was cleared for trucks to take out lumber. It was lovely, and easy to walk. When we got to the end of it, they said do you want to go back the way we came, or go the longer route? Nid deferred to me, so I said, lets do the longer route. Through knee deep snow. For miles! Well, it seemed like miles. I know it was at least a couple. I'm too short to walk that far through snow that deep. Once we emerged from the deep snow, Nid and Johan went through more deep snow back to the house while Anna and I walked the long way around on the plowed road. About a mile (or more) from the house Nid and Johan came into sight in the car. They drove us home. I was exhausted. We'd been walking for nearly two hours, and while I can walk all day under normal circumstances, that just killed me. I wouldn't have traded the experience, but I was glad to get home and have a hot shower!
Once we were cleaned up we went into town and got dinner at a Max's. It was fast food, and the menu was all in Swedish, so I picked out a burger that looked good and Johan told me what was on it. It was very nice. After that we went to a hockey game. HC Dalen is the local team. I had never been to a hockey game, and learned a lot about the sport that night. Nid tried a Swedish hotdog, but I was too full from dinner. After the game we went to the a large store called COOP, but pronounced Co-Op. It was like a Super Walmart, a little of everything and a lot of groceries. I got a little bag of chocolate covered banana chips. Yummy!

Monday morning we (the four of us) went into Jönköping for some sightseeing. We drove through the town of Huskvarna, and saw their factory. We tried to go to the Match Museum, but it was closed. We went to a coffee shop and had a Semla and I tried a Chocolate Ball. We went to Polkapojkarna and got handmade peppermint sticks for the kids. At another shop I got some chocolate chip biscuits. We went to a pier on the lake in Jönköping and walked to the end of it. The lake is mostly frozen, and it was so beautiful how the ice had frozen in ripples. Later in the day we saw on the news that a body was found frozen in the ice right next to that very pier. I searched my photos, but did not see any signs of a body. I am so morbid. At home again we watched an episode of East Enders and Withnail And I. Not really my taste, but it was good exposure to British TV, since we don't watch any at home.

Tuesday Anna had to go back to work, so Johan took Nid and I to Gothenburg. We walked around the city, and I continued to be amazed by how well they deal with snow there. It was piled high, but the roads were cleared (or at least the snow was packed). We went to the City Museum, and Nid and Johan entertained themselves making up history and stories to make the less interesting parts more interesting. The Viking section was quite good. Unfortunately, the 18th Century was closed. That led to quite a few jokes during the day. We went into a tourist shop, where I got a cool platter/serving tray with moose on it. Sweden is famous for it's painted wooden horses, but the Germans apparently like the moose. In fact, they like them so much that they use to steal moose crossing signs, so now they sell them in the shops to reduce the number of street signs that were being stolen. It was hard picking a souvenir because we are downsizing for the move, but I figured a tray would be usable for serving coffee, or decorating the mantle in the winter. It was a bargain, as well.

Speaking of bargain, I should explain the money. In Sweden they have Krona. The exchange rate while we were there was about 13 Krona to a British Pound (£), which is about $1.60 US Dollars. At first everything looked so expensive, but then I got in the hang of dividing it by 13. Of course, it would've been easier if it was an easier number to divide by, but I did pretty good. Post cards were nearly 50p each, which I thought was outrageous, so I only bought a few.

Wednesday we went to Jönköping again. The Match Museum was open, and a lot more interesting than we had thought it might be. We bought a collection of safety matches that are 'Made In Sweden.' We went to a shopping mall, and I enjoyed looking in some of the housewares stores. At one place I saw some place mats and hand towels that I really liked, but did not get. We left the mall but ended up going back. I was still hesitant, so Nid bought them for himself. Love you baby! We went to coffee shop and had another Semla. This time, we had the one that was voted Best In Gothenburg. Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday. In England, it is also known as Pancake Day. In Sweden, Semla Day. The newspaper rates the best Semlas in the city, using match sticks instead of stars. The more match sticks, the better the Semla. Apparently people wait in lines down the street to get them. On Wednesday, however, there were no lines.

Thursday we took a drive around to the local ski slope. It was cold and windy, and I just don't know why people would want to slide down a mountain, but they seemed to be enjoying it. The view was beautiful. We saw 5 moose on the way there, and that was pretty cool. When we got back we took a nap, and all of us overslept. We almost didn't get up in time to pick Anna up from work. After we did, we went to Ikea. I'd seen an Ikea every day that we'd been there, but this was the first time we went in one. It was so very similar, yet so very different. Some of the styles were a bit crazy, and of course I couldn't read any of the details, but I did get some ideas for things when we move into the new house. For dinner, we went to a little pizza joint.

Friday was our last day in Sweden. We thought. We got four inches of snow overnight. Anna was off, and we took a tour of the buildings on the farm, through knee/thigh high snow. We watched the Olympics (we'd done this most days, but it was all in Swedish, so not always easy to follow) and napped. We had dinner in Jönköping, and Nid got his favorite food. Steak. It was a very nice restaurant, and I had a lovely desert of Belgian waffle with ice cream and raspberry sauce on the side. We were seated right next to a fire place, and it was a great ending to a great day. We went home and went to bed early, because we had to be up at four am and out of the house by five.

Saturday morning it was a bit sad getting ready to leave. We had had the most amazing week. Good food and good friends, what more can you ask for? After saying goodbye to Anna, we were out the door right at five. Because it had been snowing since Friday, we were not sure how the roads would be. We were the first car out to the main road, but once there the roads were okay. I napped. I tend to do that when I am riding in cars. We got to the airport at 7:30, and were pretty much the only people there. We said goodbye to Johan, and he headed back home. It was still snowing. Our flight was at 10:15, with check-in starting at 8:15. There was nothing open in the airport at this time of day. When the check in window opened, I got my papers stamped. Then we went through security. We waited there for about 20 minutes until Passport Control opened. When we got to the next room, we should have known we were in trouble. Through the glass wall, we could see the runway. Or rather, if there wasn't several inches of snow, we could have seen the runway. There were trucks and plows, but they were not winning the battle. It was still snowing, and the wind was whipping. But I figured, it's Sweden, they know what to do with snow. But it turns out that this is the worst winter they've had in decades. Excellent, right?

Our flight was to depart at 10:15. At about that time, with us all standing in queue to board, they canceled the flight. Not delayed, canceled. I was stunned. What do we do?! We had been talking to a really nice guy from London, Khuram, who traveled regularly to Sweden. He explained what normally happens in these cases. We started filing out, but since we were the first in line, we were at the back of the new line. Or we would have been if we'd have had to collect bags. We stood in a little hallway for ages, then finally pushed our way out. The lobby was packed. There were over 200 passengers all lined (10-15 wide) up to talk to the people at Information. Information was two desks. We went and sat in another waiting room to let the room clear. I kept checking it. When I saw Khuram about 10 people back from the desk I asked him about what he was hearing - they were offering full refunds or to book on another flight. The only problem was, the airport was so small, only two flights to and from London came and went each day. I went and got Nid and we stood in line with Khurum. It took us nearly 30 minutes to get to the window. Khurum got the last Sunday night flight, his friend got the last Sunday morning flight, and Nid and I got put on Sunday night. There were only six left at that point. I was so frustrated at that point, because we'd had first class train tickets to get from London to Leicester, and we were losing our money on that. We were in communication with Johan via text, and he offered to book us a hotel if we could get to town. The bus from the airport to town wasn't running regular with the weather, so no one could tell us when it would be coming. I waited in line again at Information, and while I was there, a nice young Swedish girl offered me her bus ticket to town because her parents were coming back to pick her up. While in line (this was the end of the original line from our flight) I heard them booking people for Tuesday flights to London. I was so glad that we didn't have to wait that long to leave, but realized that if our flight didn't go out Sunday night, we'd be looking at Wednesday or later. Information finally confirmed that the bus would be coming (I didn't want to buy tickets if it was not going to show) and I went and told Nid and went to the shop to buy them. A lady we had talked to before heard me and offered me her tickets from town to the airport that the bus driver had not collected that morning. I was so grateful! Instead of having to pay 120 Krona round trip for each of us, I only had to pay 60. We had to go out to the front of the airport where there were no seats to watch for the bus. After several trips back to the Information booth, they finally said it was on it's way. Thank goodness!

It was 3:15pm when we got on the bus. It was suppose to be a 25 minute ride. At 3:30 the bus ran off the road into a ditch. I was tossed from my seat, but managed to hold onto the railing, preventing myself from falling to the other side of the bus. It hurt my elbow that was injured in my bike accident pretty bad, and I had to dig out ibuprofen to ease the pain. The bus driver, in halting English, tried to be jovial. He said that if anyone was in a hurry, he could call a taxi and they could go through the roof hatch. Right. I was crying and cold (he had to turn the bus off) and tired. We should have been home in Leicester already. Thankfully, the tow truck didn't take too long, and it got us out pretty quickly. It was actually pretty interesting. There was a photographer with the tow truck, and he was taking photos. So I took some of him. We wondered if we would make it into the paper. We set off again, and got to Gothenburg around 4:40-5pm. We caught a taxi to the hotel, and got swindled. We had been warned to only take Gothenburg Taxi taxis, and this one said it. But when he offered us a flat rate and did not use the meter, we should have known. But it had been a long day.

The sight of the hotel was glorious. It had a beautiful entrance, and the guy at the desk was just great. We were in our room in less than a minute or two. We dropped our things and set off to find dinner. We ended up at the same Burger King we ate at on Tuesday, when we were in Gothenburg. When Nid asked the cashier (Carl) if he spoke English, we were delighted when he said that he actually preferred to speak English over Swedish. We had a nice chat with him while we were waiting for our food. This had been one of the most stressful days of my life. We'd been texting John and Ann, and they were going to bring the kids to our house and stay the night Sunday. When we were walking up the street, a lady spat at us and I assumed cussed us. We turned as she passed and she was turned back to us muttering. We've no idea what she was saying, but based on her expression it can't have been good. Back in the hotel, we watched some TV and crashed.

Sunday morning. The hotel had a very nice breakfast, which I was grateful for. The same guy was at the front desk, and we chatted while I checked my email and the Ryanair website on the lobby computer. There were some conflicting reports on the Gothenburg City Airport website and the Ryanair website, which had me worried. Right before we checked out, Nid got a text from Khurum saying he was on his flight and planes had been landing and taking off all morning. We were happy about that, but we don't know why he didn't go out Saturday night. The desk clerk told us he saw the photo of our bus in the paper. He showed us, and then gave us the paper to keep. We made the front page! The taxi came and it cost half what we'd paid the night before to get to the bus station. Thankfully this bus did not crash, and we got to the airport at 1:30pm. Our flight wasn't until 9:15, but we did not want to risk not being able to get to the airport. It was a long afternoon, just sitting and sitting and more sitting.

I know I said before that the airport is tiny. It's really tiny. Outside of security there is a cafeteria, a small gift shop, and only five sofas. The rest are plastic chairs, all but about ten of them are in the cafeteria. Before you get through security there is a lady who checks your passport and tickets (again), checks that you only have one bag and weighs it. I am amazed that ours were under 10kg! Once you go through security, there is a small bar and another gift shop. You wait there until Passport Control opens. You get your passport checked and stamped to exit the country. Then you go into one of the two boarding areas. There is nothing in these rooms but one bathroom and a lot of plastic chairs. But not enough, it turns out for the entire flight of people.

They started checking in our flight at 7:15pm. We were the first in every line. On Ryanair, you don't get assigned seating, so it really is first come first serve, and people sometimes do not end up sitting next to the person they are traveling with. The room we waited in after Passport Control was a disgrace. There were wine glasses and beer bottles sitting around the room. Nothing stopped someone from putting it in their luggage and boarding the plane with it. A broken off beer bottle makes a hell of a weapon! Nid went and told the lady at Passport Control. Ages later a security guard came in. If Nid hadn't pointed them out to him, he'd have never found them (laying out in easy view). He gathered them all together in a pile next to a chair and left. What?! Ages after that, a cleaning lady came in. The security guard must have told her to. Nope, she cleaned the bathrooms, swept up some trash, and left it. I guess nobody in Gothenburg is worried about security, terrorism, or their passengers lives. Great.

We boarded the plane about the time it was suppose to take off. We were waiting for Engineers that were working on another plane to finish so we could take them back to London. We sat on the plane for an hour and a half. It finally took off. I was so uncomfortable for the whole flight. I just couldn't bear sitting anymore!

We got to London at 11:45pm. We had a seemingly miles long walk to Passport Control. Where I had a bit of a meltdown. They didn't tell me I had to fill out a form, and they didn't have any pens with which to fill the form out with. What kind of shoddy business was this? A security/customs guy came over and asked what was wrong, and after I told him, he was completely on my side. He's coming to visit the US this summer. I may have said something to the effect of I was moving back in the summer and couldn't wait to get out of England. But it was all a blur, so I don't remember the exact words. Customs stamped me in, and if they were confused about why I had one entry stamp into Sweden and two exit stamps, I think all they had to do was look at my face at that point.

We walked the miles down to the bus station and bought overpriced tickets home. The bus arrived 30 minutes later and a LONG three hour, motion sick journey home we stopped in Leicester. I have never felt the need to vomit for such an extended period of time. My head was swimming and I was tired and in pain. We got a taxi and got home just before four am.

I unpacked what I could, started a load of laundry, and went on line, because I was too tired to sleep and had to be up in three hours anyway. Nid slept on the living room floor for a couple of hours because the grandparents were asleep upstairs in our room. I thought I would take a hot bath at about five, but the water didn't run hot. It was a very short, chilly bath, which only further frustrated me. It turns out someone had accidentally adjusted the water temperature instead of the radiator temperature. Good to know it wasn't just broken, but still sad that I had a cold bath after all that.

Monday morning the kids got up at seven, and left for school just before eight. John and Ann left around nine. Nid and I headed to the hospital for my doctor's appointment just before ten

What is the break-down of our journey?

We had 7 glorious days in Sweden.
It took us 36 hours to leave Sweden.
We were "coming home" for 44 hours.
We spent 19 hours in the airport.
We spent 1 hour stuck in a bus in a ditch.
We got spat at on the street.
Swedish people are very nice in general.
We had been awake for 40 hours when we went to bed on Monday night.
We slept for 12 hours Monday night.   My new pillowcase:

At my doctor's appointment Monday morning, a very nice Dr. Wheeler had my elbow x-rayed. Turns out I did break it in November when I wrecked my bike. It's still healing, which is why it still bothers me. Go figure, I broke my arm! And didn't even get it treated.

All of my photos are in the process of being uploaded here. There's nearly 700, so it is not a quick process.