Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Week.

Well, it's been sort of a blur.

Saturday night Nid and I stayed up. Late. Dierks Bentley was performing on the Grand Ole Opry at 7pm CST. That's 6 hours behind us. I had every intention of taking a nap during the day, but I got sidetracked working on my new blog layout for the blog I will have when we move to Virginia. I did surprisingly well, and 1am came and went and I was good. He performed during the 7pm and 9:30pm showing, so we were up until sometime after 4:30am GMT. We had an online chat at Dierks Fans with a total of 36 Dierks fans stopped by, but we're proud to say that for most of the night we had 19-26 people chatting. Nid recorded the four songs that Dierks sang for everyone to keep for themselves. It was a really great night. I got tired about 3-3:30, but overcame it and thought I was wide awake. Until I got in bed. I think I was asleep within a minute.

Sunday morning we were up at 8:30 because Nid had a football game early. I got up surprisingly easy, and stayed awake all day, but we went to bed early (for us) that night.

Monday was nap day. It was like my body all of a sudden realized that I abused it over the weekend. While we were napping, the mailman left a note in our slot saying I'd missed TWO packages and could pick them up in 20 hours. Random right, 20 hours?

Tuesday we spent the day at the hospital because Nid had some tests, and so we sat. All day we sat. Despite having brought things to do, it was the most boring day. And he couldn't eat. So I didn't eat. It sucked.

This morning we got up early and went to the mail collection place. I got a budget cookbook I'd ordered and this wonderful prize I won on Mid-Atlantic English. It's a London Underground tea tin. I am looking forward to having the tea, and I am going to save the tin to give to my niece for her little kitchen. She has a million kitchen items, but not something like this!

I was very grateful to have received them both. But riding my bike really hurt my elbow that I injured in my bike accident in October. The second I walked in the door, I called the doctor's office. The doctor called me back and I was seen within the hour. Finally, I saw someone who took me seriously. Dr. A listened to what I told him, compared my two arms, twisted and pulled (ouch!) and said that there was definitely something not right, as I could not straighten my arm fully, and it hurt to twist on try to straighten. He offered me an X-Ray or referral to a specialist. I should have an appointment with a specialist within the next 33 days. With my luck, it will be while we are in Sweden, but rescheduling is slightly quicker than getting initial appointments.

So, that has been my week. I'm very proud of what I have accomplished with my new blog, I just need to figure out a name. I am creating my own background image, and getting the sizing and blank spaces to line up are not as easy as it appeared to be in the tutorial, but I'm getting it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


In one of our Christmas packages we got sent a packet of Banana Nut Muffin Mix. However, we do not have a muffin pan, and since we'll be moving, well, it just doesn't make sense to get one. The back of the bag had alternative directions for making pancakes, though, so I decided that today would be a good day for it.

There were a few problems with my plan, however. First, after adding the additional ingredients I did not realize how thin the batter was. I suppose it didn't really matter, as at that point, what could I do about it? I was starting to get a little stressed about how I'd gotten everyone excited about the pancakes and they were ruined, but Nid gave me great support. He pointed out to me that it was my first time making this recipe, my first time cooking them on a gas stove, in our old dented pan, etc. He said it didn't matter what they looked like. What they looked like was rather sad...

So, how did they turn out you may wonder? Well, I was not happy with them, but it had everything to do with aesthetics and nothing to do with the flavour. Because they were so thin, they turned out more like crepes than pancakes. But to my European family, they were perfect! Why? Because here in England, they call crepes.... pancakes! Nid had made me "pancakes" before, and they were crepes with fruit and ice cream with sugar sprinkled on top. I didn't argue with him, as they were delicious. But they were not "pancakes." But, as it turns out he was right.

This is what I just learned on Wiki: American pancakes are actually like pancakes from Scotland, while as here in England, the pancakes are more like French crepes. So while my pancakes today were rather foreign and a disappointment to me, the family loved them. I've also got packaged muffin mix for blueberry and chocolate chip, but I may modify those recipes slightly to see if I can make them thicker.
                                           What I wanted:

                                           What I got (minus the lemons):

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Snow.

The Good.
I had an excellent experience with Knightsbridge Doctor's office in London this week. I called them on Tuesday to book an appointment for the family's medicals for the visa process. Not having any comprehension of how busy they were or how long it would take to be seen, I was dreading this call a little, especially since there were three of us needing appointments, they might not be able to just fit us in. I had my calendar and pencil in front of me and dialed the number. The woman that answered the phone was awesome! She asked if I had a day in mind, but I didn't, I just wanted to get in. She said her first available was only two weeks away, but it was first thing in the morning, so I asked for a mid day appointment, explaining that we'd like to travel down and back the same day. She offered one the next week at 1:10. She went over where we needed to go, which Tube station it was closest to, and what we needed to bring with us. I got off the phone smiling, and happy.

Nid and I discussed our options and decided that though the train was a little more expensive than the bus, it was worth it since we'd be going and coming the same day and saving by not getting a hotel. We'll look into the bus option when we go back for our interviews. We booked the train leaving just before 9am and arriving back in Leicester just after 9pm. It will be a long day, but in theory, depending on how long we're at the doctor's office, we'll have time to see a few things near there, and we're hoping to go to the Science Museum as well. The children have never been to London before, so we're hoping for some better weather than we've been having.

The Bad.
Actually, The Bad is The Snow.
I am normally someone who loves snow. SNOW. NOT ICE. SNOW. However, where we are, because of our elevation (kind of sunk in a little depression) we don't get much snow. I've tried to photograph it, but it's just about half an inch max. The ice however, it is easily a half an inch. Even before the snow came before the holidays, when the temperature dropped, the tops of the cars on the street looked like they'd been snowed on, the frost was so thick in the mornings. That's fine, doesn't affect me. But the ice on the sidewalks is killer.

I've seen some photos and read other blogs that are all talking about their inches of snow and it's so lovely. But the running theme is the ice. The UK just doesn't have enough machinery or supplies to deal with this. I've read that we (as a whole country) have had at least one of the coldest nights 30 in years. Just my luck, right?! Here is a satellite photo that I've seen all over:

That's pretty amazing, and it gives me chills just looking at it. We walk to the grocery store two to three times a week - because they don't use certain preservatives (or something) so things don't stay fresh very long - - this is a whole other blog topic! - and it is downright dangerous! I was questioning Nid the other day as we walked along about why no one shoveled or treated their sidewalks. Not even businesses do it, I was shocked. He thought it was the responsibility of the Council, not the individual owners. I asked if we slipped and got hurt if we could sue, but he didn't think that we could. Oh well, opportunity lost :(

Then I read something this morning talking about the difference between snow/ice clearance in the US and UK. Apparently, there is a chance that if you clear the walkway in front of your house, you open yourself up to a lawsuit if someone got hurt. It's a slim chance, they'd have to prove you maliciously wanted to hurt someone, but still, with a good lawyer a greedy person might be able to accomplish it. I couldn't believe it. I've had friends who had sidewalks and they had to have them clear within a certain number of hours after the snow stopped falling or they got fined. Here we get so very little actual accumulation, it wouldn't take more than a few scoops of rock salt to keep the ice and light snow away, but people just don't do it. As much as I don't like it, I fear for the children. They walk a mile to school each way. On sidewalks in the same condition as around here. It's dangerous.  Thousands of schools are closed across the country. Why are ours not? If they do not offer school buses, they need to think of the safety of the children.

I love this city, and I love this neighborhood. It's been a wonderful experience for me here. And I know that when we move and I have to go out in the cold and snow to shovel a path to the car I'm going to complain. Loudly and often, probably. But at least I'll feel confident that I won't likely break my leg or worse. There is something to be said for that. With only a half inch of snow, I feel completely housebound, and I don't like it!

If you'd like to know more about how the snow is affecting the rest of England here are some links:
Midwest to Midlands talks about gas rationing in her neck of the woods.
The sea is partially frozen in Dorset on the South coast of England.
The Scottish Highlands are nearly as cold as the South Pole.
Michelloui at Mid-Atlantic English has some pretty pictures of her area.
Over at The Bitchin' Wives Club, you can read about a school that ran out of oil so had to cancel school. For a week.

It's pretty crazy around here. And ironic that it's my first/last winter here. It's also pretty crazy that where I'm from in Virginia got record breaking snow (1903 I think) in December, ranging anywhere from 21 to 36 inches at friends' homes. What does it all mean? And has my move somehow brought it all into being? Because of course, the world DOES revolve around me. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Packet 3 Received.

Packet 3. Which actually is not a packet. I think it use to be a packet of forms to fill out, but now it is just a sheet of paper telling me where to go to get forms to print and fill out. This is what we've been waiting for since we heard that our petition to apply for visas was accepted.

I have all the documents and supporting documents (in triplicate) on their way. Thank you soooo much to my Dad who was gracious enough to go ahead and copy everything so I don't have to when it gets here. He's sending me things like my US bank statements and old tax forms. The day I get them I am going to mail off my DS-2001 to London. That officially notifies the US Embassy that I have all my required papers and documents IN MY HAND. They don't want to deal with people making appointments and not being prepared, and who can blame them? It's an extra step, but since you can see everything you'll need online, you don't have to wait until this step to continue, you just have it all ready. I've been a bit of a slacker (I know, it's so unlike me), but I have a (semi) good reason. Really, I do. I was cleaning up my desktop before the holidays - my virtual desktop that is - and deleting shortcuts to programs. Well, amongst the shortcuts I also deleted a couple of folders. The one labeled DIERKS STORE that contained all of my saved designs (not so bad, as a lot of them had been backed up), but also my in progress ones, of which there were quite a few. It depressed me so bad that it took weeks before I could bring myself to face Photoshop and start again, but I did, just this week. The other folder I deleted was called MOVING. Not original folders, but the point was that they would stand out. I guess that didn't work. I lost all the photos of our new house, I lost forms I'd filled in, and emails I'd saved to my hard drive. Thankfully I still had them in my email, so there wasn't anything there that I couldn't type up again or download again, but it had taken me *so long* to get it all sorted in the first place, that I just couldn't bear to deal with it. Especially with the Embassy taking so long on the last step, I just wasn't very motivated. But I got myself back on track last week, got the final list of things to Dad, and he mailed my documents to me the other day. And today we get our Packet 3s. Three of them.

So, what comes next you might ask? Well, that's (relatively) simple. I get my documents and mail off my DS-2001. The Embassy gets it, schedules our interview and sends us a letter telling us when it is. With the arrival of Packet 3, we got our case numbers, which means we can schedule their medical exams. This also has to be done in London, and we had a bit of a dilemma over when to do it, but came to a good decision today. The medical has to be done before the interview. This is a relatively new rule. It use to be that people would book their medicals the day before or after the interview once they got the interview date letter. Now that it has to be done before, if we wait to book it and try to get it done the day before, what happens if they don't have a slot (or three in our case). If we're lucky we could book it for sometime before, but what if the interview date is so soon that there are no slots for the medicals? There were other timing concerns as well, but I won't get involved in that now. They basically all involved risk of not getting medicals done before our interview date.

So we're going to go ahead and book our medical for the first available and make two trips. In theory, we'll go and come back the same day. I called this afternoon and their machine said they were closed until tomorrow. As soon as I get a day and time we'll book something, and hopefully it will be a time conducive to us going and returning the same day. We'll have to stay in a hotel when we go for the interview, as they are usually first thing in the morning, but if we can save a hotel stay for this trip that will be great. I looked at some random dates online, and it looks like we'll be taking the bus. Big yuck, but it's almost half the cost of the train, and that was off peak. Peak travel for the train was 3-4 times the bus. And who wants to be crammed in with a train full of business people anyway?

What happens then? The medical office will send the results to the Embassy, which will keep them until our interview date. That is when we show up with all of our documents and sit for *gasp* HOURS (that's what most people report having to do anyway). If everything looks okay, we could get the visas that day. If not, we'll leave the passports and they'll mail them to us when they decide. It feels so good to be back in the running.

The countdown timer on my blog says we're moving in 5 months..... OMG 5 MONTHS!?!?!? That's so close! That's so far! It's not enough time. It's too long to wait! I'm a jumble of contradictory thoughts and emotions. I miss my family and friends. But I don't miss working like a dog. I miss my dog.... and my cat. I can't wait to see them again. But I'm a little afraid of the scene I'll cause when I do! I'm crying just thinking about it now. Well, lots to do before I start dinner. I've got a list of things I download and print at the library first thing in the morning. Have a good night all my friends in blogland :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts.

Third times a charm for Random Tuesday Thoughts, I think. My last two were alright, but todays randomness is bril :)

2009. Pronounced two thousand nine.
2010. Pronounced twenty ten.
This is currently driving me mad! I do concede that prior to the 2000s, we did say (1999) nineteen ninety nine, and not nineteen hundred ninety nine. And that changed in 1910, because prior to that they would have said nineteen hundred and nine, because nineteen nine is silly. As is twenty nine. But still, it is bothering me way more than it should. I do know this. But knowing it does not prevent it apparently.

We were given these sweets for Christmas. They are the fancy one that come with a map (they should all come with maps, but that's another issue). So, I've picked out the ones I like, and I'm letting Nid have all the others (I know, but what are you gonna do?) and I'm left with ones I that I can't figure out. There are 10 pictures on the map. They are fairly easy to identify, as each one is slightly differently shaped or decorated. Although, on a side note, the foil covered ones (I didn't have any of them) were labeled silver foil and gold foil. But really, it was blue with silver stripes and red with gold stripes. I'd have called them red foil and blue foil, because people (like me) might think they were STUPID! Oh right, back to the map. There are 10 images. And 11 slots in the box. There were two (sets) of one of the sweets. And not even one of the flavours I liked. It took way longer than it should have to realize this, too.

This morning the kids discovered that it had snowed overnight. Cale called the school and the automated line reported that school was closed due to inclement weather. He came upstairs to tell us. A little while later we go get up and they've left a note saying they've gone to school. Briony called back the line and it said school was on. This isn't the first time it's happened, so we know the explanation. When there is bad weather, all the students and parents call the main line that has the opening/closing message. If the line if overwhelmed with calls, it defaults to a school is closed message. When the calls die down, it goes back to it's regular message. Or something like that. How dumb is that?

This morning we were going to Asda to do some shopping. It was pretty early, and I knew I'd get hungry later on, so I fixed a cheese, onion, and mayo sandwich on a whole wheat burger bun for breakfast. Because that didn't seem very breakfasty, I had a side of potato salad so it would seem more lunch like.

Over the counter drugs in the UK. Okay, so this bit started out as random, but has moved on to a rant now that I've investigated the subject enough to somewhat knowledgeably speak on the topic. Apparently there were a lot of suicide attempt using the drug paracetamol (known as acetaminophen/Tylenol in the US) in the past. Prior to moving here, it would never have occurred to me that someone would do that. I know a bit about Tylenol. I personally love it, as it's easier on my stomach than ibuprofen. I know that you shouldn't take it for a hangover as alcohol and acetaminophen are not a good combination for your liver. I know that acetaminophen toxicity in cats is a real problem. But suicide? I never would have thought it. But there you go, it's a fact of life here. So the people in charge got together and said that paracetamol cannot be sold in packets of more than 16 (unless you get it from behind the counter from a Pharmacist I've heard. They've also put this restriction on ibuprofin. Now, I've been known to take my fair share of otc pills. I get headaches regularly, my back has issues off and on, just general aches and pains. Knowing about this restriction, I brought over with me two 500 count bottles of ibuprofen. Which have since run out, so now we're buying little boxes of pills, and it always seems we are running out. It's such a pain. I looked it up, and found that right after the pill restriction, there were 21% less fatalities as a result of overdose. There was a decrease in non-fatal overdoses of the drug. Also, there were less liver transplants. According to this article, people were also overdosing on aspirin products. A later article about a study showed that after the initial decrease in these cases, the rates have now come back and passed the previous numbers of over doses. But we still can't buy 500 count bottles. For the record, it is not my intention to offend or upset anyone who has had to deal with suicide. It is a horrible thing, to be sure. It just doesn't make sense to restrict this drug in this way. It doesn't even work well. And for the record to those of you outside the UK, I've heard that you can buy paracetamol with codeine at the pharmacy, without a prescription. 5-10% of codeine metabolizes into morphine. And if you want a bunch, you just hit up a bunch of pharmacies, don't you? Seems like that's a worse thing to have easy access to, to me.

For more randomness, hop on over to Keely's blog at The Un-Mom.