British life

Where in the World

A not so funny thing happened last month.  One night, I opened up my computer but it was being extremely sluggish.  I decided to try restarting it.  Bad idea…it refused to reboot.  As in, my hard drive decided to just quit and take everything saved there with it.  To say I was upset would be an understatement.  It had been almost two months since I’d backed up all my photos so those were “lost.”  Thankfully, I still had the photos either on my phone or camera SD card.  Anyhow, all this to say I only have more recent photos on my computer.  So I’m going to work on recapping our adventures from the beginning of summer and beyond.  Then maybe I’ll slowly make my way further back, if I can remember that far.

So where have we been since I last posted? A little bit of everywhere including Dover, London (many times), Canterbury, Northern Ireland, Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, the Norfolk coast, Nice, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh and Wales.  Not to mention a plethora of local adventures as well.  And visitors!  We have been blessed to have family and friends who are family come to see us.  Lots and lots to catch up on so I better get started.

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Embarking solo – weeks 2 and 3

After the quick trip to the states for Christmas, I flew back to the UK solo again.  I had about two more weeks alone to get various things done with the most important items being secure a house and start working.  Well, in the UK many places completely shut down the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  That meant the letting agency with the house we were really interested in was closed and I would get no answer until after January 3rd.  So I set up a few last minute viewings on other potential properties with letting agencies that were actually open to see other options while waiting.

But the Brits weren’t the only ones taking time off.  Many people/offices at work were also closed or had very limited hours meaning not much was getting done on that front either.  I accomplished what I could but meant I had a lot of down time.  I took advantage of that and did a bit of sightseeing locally including an amazing cathedral, beautiful gardens and some yummy food.  I also caught up on sleep and reading.

Interior of Ely Cathedral

Interior of Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens

Bury St Edmonds

Bury St Edmonds

 

They day before my first scheduled shift I got word that I would indeed get to start seeing patients, albeit without computer access.  Most of our stuff is still on paper so it wasn’t a big inconvenience.  My first shift was New Year’s Eve followed by New Year’s Day.  Thankfully things weren’t too crazy and I was able to settle in fairly well.

After the holiday weekend I had some bad news.  The owner of the house we were pinning our hopes on decided she wasn’t comfortable with tenants who had a dog despite saying “pets considered” in the ad.  We were bummed but continued looking.  C suggested we offer higher monthly rent or deposit to help ease her fears.  I scoffed at the idea but asked the letting agency anyway.  Sure enough, they accepted our offer!

The next day I flew across the pond yet again to meet up with C & H and officially start our great big adventure together.

Radio Silence

About a month ago I posted the news that I was back in the UK and the rest of the family would be joining shortly.  I had planned to write about the process of finding a house, car, bank, etc and setting up life in a new country.  I thought about creating separate posts for separate topics related to moving overseas with a toddler, dog and 2 adults.  But, I haven’t done any of those things.  Here we are near the end of January and it’s been silence in this space.

Why?  Not for a lack of thoughts, to be honest.  But more so because life has been less than glamorous, a bit tiring (okay very tiring), stressful and sometimes just plain hard.  There has been a lot of stress, frustration, fear and self-doubt in the recent weeks.  I knew it would not be an easy process or else a lot more people would do it.  We have hit more road blocks and issues than anticipated leading to more angst than expected.  However, I can happily report that the road is straightening out a bit, the potholes are becoming fewer and life is getting a little easier.  In the coming days and weeks I’ll be writing a few posts detailing our experiences and getting up to speed with life across the pond. But for now, I have an important appointment with my pillow.

Cheers

Dreaming of the UK

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of funk.  Overall, life is grand, but I keep thinking and dreaming (literally) about England.  Its in large part due to the fact that we’re coming up on a year from when we left.  At this time last year I was stressing out, packing like crazy, cleaning the house and trying to make time to say goodbyes.  We were stressed and anxious but wildly excited.  The world was wide open and we were going to make the best of it.  I also know that it has a lot to due with me being stressed at work, C working a bunch of overtime, less time spend with each other than I’d like, me feeling uneasy/unsettled about various things in life and my crazy urge to jump on a train and visit a new place.

A year later, I’m sitting at home in my PJs watching Real Housewives and wishing I was sitting in our little living room, watching the BBC on our tiny TV and dreading taking the dog for her nighttime walk.  I miss life being simpler like walking across the street for fresh eggs, driving to the farmer’s market on Wednesdays and taking a daily walk through the churchyard.  I miss knowing that I would work 9am-9pm with wonderful people and days off were spent with my wonderful husband exploring new things, cooking in our ill-equipped kitchen, just enjoying each other’s company and relaxing.  I also desperately miss planning new adventures such as which old site to visit, day trip to take or European city to explore.

I know the opportunity we had was amazing and something most people will never have the chance to experience.  However, since it was so short, I can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that our whole adventure was left “unfinished,” for lack of a better word.  We’ve talked about if we would ever make the leap again, moving to the UK or Europe for a defined period of time.  It’s definitely not off the table, but we know the chance may never come back around.  I’m not getting my hopes up or even expecting another shot, but the thought is often present in the back of my mind.  In the meantime, I’ll work hard to be successful in my job, try my best to make time for my husband friends and family, prep for our new addition and maybe, just maybe, actually finish unpacking the bunch of boxes left in storage.

I hate to come here and whine about what may seem trivial to others, but hey, I’m being honest and real.  If I can’t do that on my personal blog, where can I?

2013: A Look Back

To say the last year has been full of adventure would be an understatement.  We started off the year saying it was going to be our year of travel – boy were we right on that one!

We started off by ringing in the New Year with great friends in Columbus

Technically in 2012 but it was part of the Columbus New Year's trip

Technically in 2012 but it was part of the Columbus New Year’s trip

Food and friends on NYE

Food and friends on NYE

 

Our next adventure was a weekend getaway to the Texas Hill Country.  We toured a distillery, did some hiking, drank great wine and just enjoyed each other.

Fredericksburg in January - hiking the Enchanted Rock

Fredericksburg in January – hiking the Enchanted Rock

Lacey even joined in on the fun

Lacey even joined in on the fun

In February we packed our warmest clothes and flew across the pond to visit Dublin, Edinburgh and London.  It was rather chilly but we loved exploring two new cities and finding more fun things in London.  Highlights in Dublin included touring St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and the Guinness Factory.  Edinburgh was beautiful and filled with amazing history – its definitely on the list of places to visit again!  London was fun and we spent a lot of time (and £’s!) watching musicals and staying warm.

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin

Dublin

Dublin

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Holyrood Palace - the Queen's Scotland Home

Holyrood Palace – the Queen’s Scotland Home

One of the 4 shows we saw

One of the 4 shows we saw

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Wimbledon - little did we know we would be back on this court 5 months later

Wimbledon – little did we know we would be back on this court 5 months later watching Andy Murray win a quarterfinal match

After a great trip we had about a month to recoup before jetting off for a trip to paradise celebrating 5 years of wedded bliss.  We stayed for 4 days in a beautiful mountainside plantation in St. Lucia enjoying the sun, nature, pools, cocktails and the ocean.  It was the perfect way to spend our anniversary.

This place was beautiful

This place was beautiful

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I spent a lot of time in the hammock with a book and rum punch

I spent a lot of time in the hammock with a book and rum punch

Sailing away

Sailing away

After our short stint of island life, it was back to the real world and a mad scramble to pack up our Texas lives.  We had just about 6 weeks to make the move to England!!  We learned about 2 weeks before we went to St. Lucia that I was accepted for a contract position for the USAF in England.  They wanted to me start ASAP so we quickly began making plans to get ourselves and Lacey across the pond.  But before we could leave there was one more very important trip we had to make.  Em and Matt were getting married in Ohio and there was no way we were missing out on that!  I was lucky enough to step up as a bridesmaid for the wedding and we had a blast celebrating these two wonderful friends.

We got to take pictures on OSU's football field - so fun!!

We got to take pictures on OSU’s football field – so fun!!

We kinda love these kids

We kinda love these kids

The week after the wedding was our last week working.  It was a bittersweet goodbye to all our coworkers and friends but we were thrilled to start our big adventure.  We had just about a week to say our goodbyes to friends and family, finish packing up our lives and get the dog situated for her portion of the move.  Then, before we knew it we were heading to the airport with our most important belongings stuffed into 4 large suitcases and 4 carry-ons.  Lacey joined us a few days later and within a few weeks we had a house, a car and somewhat of a routine.  The next 5 1/2 months were spent traveling around the UK and Europe, sometimes with Lacey in tow.  We enjoyed time at the beach, a trip to The Championships at Wimbledon, a few day trips to London, the romance of Paris, delicious food in Belgium, royal countryside in Scotland, views and history in Prague and so much more (way to much to recap in a single post!).  We met wonderful people, I worked with great servicemen and women and we experienced so many amazing things.

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds, one of my favorite places

Our quaint home

Our quaint home

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Enjoyed the English seaside

Wimbledon - C's favorite activity/trip of our entire time in the UK

Wimbledon – C’s favorite activity/trip of our entire time in the UK

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In the Royal Deeside, Scotland

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Ah Paris

The pup and I

The pup and I along one of many canals in Amsterdam

Atop the castle grounds with the city behind us

Atop the Prague castle grounds with the city behind us

She loved lying next to the window watching the countryside fly by

Lacey loved the train trips, especially when we had a sleeper cabin in Germany

Unfortunately the adventure came to an end before we originally planned or hoped.  So in October we were making the move back stateside.  Thankfully we were able to get hired back at our previous jobs fairly easily.  I had an extended period before starting work and took advantage of it by taking a trip to Park City, UT with Em and then another trip to CA to visit family and friends.

Disneyland!

Disneyland!

Meeting the first boy on my side of the family (born while we were in the UK)

Meeting the first boy on my side of the family (born while we were in the UK)

So happy to spend some time with Em!

So happy to spend some time with Em!

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Beautiful landscapes in and around Park City

Since starting back at a new position at my old employer life has been busy busy busy!  Both C and I have taken on new responsibilities in our roles and its keeping us on our toes.  We’ve enjoyed being back in Texas, seeing some TCU football games and catching back up with friends and family.  To cap the year we spent Christmas in CA with my entire family.  The first time my parents, all 3 kids, their spouses and all their children were together in almost 6 years!  It was nice seeing everyone in one place again.

TCU Tailgating

TCU Tailgating

I think these guys were happy to see each other again

I think these guys were happy to see each other again

We missed this little lady while away

We missed this little lady while away

A whole lotta kiddos and gifts for Christmas day!

A whole lotta kiddos and gifts for Christmas day!

Family photo day

Family photo day

As you can tell 2013 was a huge year for us!  We knew when it started that it was going to be a busy year with lots of travel, but we had no idea just how great it would be.  It’s been fun looking back at all the great stuff we did and experienced and honestly, it makes me a little sad.  But at the same time, if 2013 was so great, I’m excited to see how 2014 will top it (and I’m pretty sure it can)!

Happy New Year!

It’s not all sunshine and roses

After all, we are living in England, it rains around here!  No, but seriously.  I’ve posted a lot about our travels and adventures and we’re having an amazing time over here, but I don’t want people to think its all great and we don’t have our struggles.  Things have definitely been easier and less stressful since I started earning a paycheck again.  But there have been some hurdles along the way.  From small things like dealing with crummy rental cars that keep breaking, dealing with our house & its tenants back in Texas and the inconvenience of moving money from our US to UK bank account to bigger things like getting homesick.  Living thousands of miles away from family and friends is tough.  Its at least a 5 hour time difference between us and friends on the East Coast, 8 hours from the West Coast.  That makes it extremely difficult to have Skype or Facetime conversations, especially if I have to be up for work the next morning.  We hate that we’ve been not so great at keeping in close touch with people.  But we’re so grateful for people who are understanding and supportive despite it.

One of C’s biggest sacrifices (besides leaving his family & job behind) is sitting out TCU’s football season.  I know it kills him to be missing out on one of the biggest games in our recent history (playing against LSU), but he’s putting on a good face.  Thankfully we were able to sign up for ESPN over here so he can watch the game.  It’ll start around 1am but he’s planning to pull an all-nighter to watch it.  Sadly, I’ll be working the day before and after so I’ll be sleeping.

Lastly, we’re facing a lot of uncertainty right now.  When we first signed up for this adventure it was scheduled to last for 1.5 years.  However, due to circumstances outside of our control, it was cut drastically just a couple weeks before we made the move.  We decided to come out here anyway, make the most of the situation, and hope for an extension.  Well, were nearing the end of my contract and don’t really know what’s going to happen come October.  There’s a good chance we’ll be packing up and moving home, but we’re holding out hope for a small miracle.  People are working on the situation and hopefully we’ll hear something within a week or two.  We could really use some prayers and positive thoughts!

Despite all the hurdles we’ve come across in this process, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  It’s been an amazing adventure, the time of our lives, an unbelievable blessing and I’m so lucky to be sharing it with such a fantastic, supportive and loving husband.

Wimbledon 2013

A few days ago we went to this little tennis competition you may have heard about, The Championships, Wimbledon.  I was able to score Centre Court tickets the morning before we went thanks to persistence on Ticketmaster’s website.  This was great for two reasons: First and foremost, I didn’t have to get up at 3 am to queue for grounds passes.  Second, we had guaranteed seats to watch great players. We went on Wednesday which mean the Men’s Quarterfinals – David Ferrer v. Juan Martin Del Potro followed by Fernando Verdasco v. Andy Murray.

We got up pretty early and drove to the closest Tube station (not that close, by the way).  We hopped on board and settled into our seats.  After a change and total travel time of 1 1/2 hours, we made it to our stop.  A short walk down the road and we were at the gates!  We quickly collected our tickets and made our way to Court 3 to attempt to see the McEnroe brothers play in the Gentlemens’ Senior Doubles Invitational match.  Unfortunately the court was already full, so we headed off to Henman Hill (aka Aorangi Terrace, aka Murray Mound) to watch on the big screen.  Tons of people had already staked out their spots with blankets, picnic baskets, lunch and wine/champagne to watch whatever matches would be shown.  We found a spot and sat for a while watching the comic antics of the McEnroe brothers playing Mansour Bahrami & Henri Leconte.  Those 4 probably had more fun on the court than anyone I’ve ever watched.

The big scoreboard next to Court No.1

The big scoreboard next to Court No.1

Overlooking Henman Hill

Overlooking Henman Hill

Looking over to Centre Court

Looking over to Centre Court

Watching the big screen on Henman Hill

Watching the big screen on Henman Hill

Hooray, tennis!

Hooray, tennis!

It was getting close to the first match on Centre Court so we wandered off to find lunch then made our way to our seats.  Since we scored last minute tickets we were in the very last row of the court.  But it made no difference.  We had a great view of the entire court and got to experience the electric atmosphere of the crowd.  First up was Del Potro vs Ferrer.  C was cheering for Ferrer (I think because of the Spanish connection to Nadal, his favorite player).  I was by default cheering for Ferrer, as well.  He ended up losing in straight sets but took the last set to a tie-break and it was great to watch!

 

A Horned Frog went to Wimbledon...

A Horned Frog went to Wimbledon…

Del Potro & Ferrer

Del Potro & Ferrer

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Our view (actually better than this)

Our view (actually better than this)

Before the last match we took a quick break for liquid refreshment.  I indulged in the Wimbledon tradition of Pimm’s Cup and C helped himself to beer.  We took our beverages back to our seats and settled in to watch Murray.  He dropped the first two sets and made the entire Court very nervous!  Thankfully he got his act together and came back to win it in 5 sets.  The last few games of the final set the entire crowd was on the edge of their seats.  It was hard to keep quiet between & during points because everyone was just so excited.

Murray v. Verdasco

Murray v. Verdasco

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Andy serving

Andy serving

Shaking hands at the end of the match

Shaking hands at the end of the match

Winner!

Winner!

The entire day was an experience we will never forget.  It was a dream come true for C and I loved every minute.  I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go and were able to make it happen.  And, now that Murray has won the Championship we can say we watched him play in the first Wimbledon he won!  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Random musings

The theme of this week and next is work, work, work.  Now that I’ve started working, I just can’t get enough.  No, not really.  But it is really nice to be making money again!  I’m getting settled, figuring everything out and getting good feedback from my coworkers and physicians.  I work the next three days in a row, get two days off, then work another four in a row before two more days off.  It’s going to be tiring (all 12-hour shifts), but I’m looking forward to the days off because we have some exciting stuff coming up!

We were planning to head to Wimbledon today to catch some tennis.  C tried to score tickets online but they sold out in less than a minute.  We then decided to wake up before dawn and head down to London early to join “The Queue” for 2 of the thousands of day-of tickets and passes available.  When the alarm went off at 3:00am we smartly decided to check the weather one last time.  Well, there was a 100% chance of rain and most likely rain all day.  We knew we had no chance of getting Centre Court (the only one with a roof) passes since we didn’t camp overnight and decided we weren’t really that excited about being soaked all day and not actually seeing any tennis, so back to sleep it was!  It was a good decision – most of the games were postponed and not much tennis was played on the outside courts.  However, since I’m such a great wife, I offered to push our beach trip back by a week to give us a 2nd try at Wimbledon glory.  So, we’re going to head out Tuesday and hope for better weather.  The beach will still be there a week later, The Championships won’t.

On a good note, I got a new “driver’s license” today!  It allows me to drive on base and in the UK as well as purchase fuel on base.  This is key because gas on the economy is over $7 per gallon.  From what I hear, gas on base is pretty close to US prices – less than $4 per gallon.  I had to sit through a driver’s ed class on Wednesday morning then take a test to prove I knew the rules of the UK roads.  As much as I was dreading the class, I actually learned quite a bit.  It’s a little scary to think that I’d been driving around for almost 6 weeks without knowing some stuff!  In addition to the driver’s license I picked up a ration card allowing me to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and coffee on base.  The alcohol and cigarettes I knew about, but they ration coffee??  Kinda strange to me, but whatever.

In other great and exciting news we planned another trip!  We’re heading to Paris and Brussels (and possibly Bruges) in August!  And I have another good run of days off in August so we might plan a trip within the UK – we’re looking at Bath/Bristol or Manchester/Liverpool.  Who knows…the more I research trip ideas, the more places I want to visit.

And to close on a totally random thought: Sticky Toffee Pudding.  This stuff is amazing!! It may sound bizarre, but trust me, it’s great.  It’s a mildly spiced, moist gingerbread cake topped with vanilla bean ice cream sitting in a pool of creme anglaise and toffee sauce.  I’ve only ever eaten it at one restaurant a couple times but I think I need to start trying it everywhere.  It just might become one of my favorite sweet indulgences!

Enjoy your weekend!  I’ll be working away ♥

Cooking in the UK

As everyone knows, I absolutely love to cook! Now that we’ve been in our house for 1.5 weeks, I’ve had some time to familiarize myself with our kitchen. In other words, I’ve started learning the difficulties of transitioning from US to UK cooking. Not only are measurements in completely different formats (grams, mLs, or kgs instead of cups or Celsius vs Fahrenheit) but the ingredients aren’t the same either. Plus I came from using a gas stove & range to a flat glass-topped electric stove (aka “hob”) and tiny oven. To make things even more difficult my oven in Texas had digital temperature select to the closest 5 degrees, but the oven here? It has 50, 100, 150, 200 and “max” settings without any markings in between. Oh, and there’s all these choices on the function dial of the oven but instead of words its just symbols which don’t really give a good idea of what each does. I have had to pull out the manual no less than 5 times to figure out what is what. Oi vey!

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Pretty self-explanatory, no?

As I mentioned above, ingredients aren’t named the same or are completely different than in the states.  For example, chocolate chips: We’ve only found them in 100 g packets (in the US a normal bag of Nestle morsels are over 300 g) and they can be a little difficult to find.  Cocoa powder? Look for it in the hot cocoa/coffee/tea aisle, not with the baking items.  Sugar is different too.  Their granulated sugar has much larger granules than the states.  Rather, they bake with caster sugar – a very fine grain (which I actually prefer).  We looked and looked for black beans the other night at our local superstore but with no luck.  We did find them at another grocery – one can for £1.09 (over $1.50)!  Luckily the next aisle over had a large bag of dried beans for slightly less, so we purchased those.  Hey, less sodium that way too, so I suppose its better for us!  I haven’t yet been able to find kosher salt despite looking in 3 different stores.  But on the plus side they have delicious produce (even avocados, pineapples and hot peppers!), crumpets and clotted cream readily available almost everywhere and we found a fantastic farmer’s market last weekend.  And our neighbor across the street sells free range eggs from their chickens for a great price.  Convenient and tasty, and I like the idea that we are helping out a neighbor.

The teeny bag of chocolate chips sold in groceries

The teeny bag of chocolate chips sold in groceries

Farmer's market haul

Farmer’s market haul

Eggs from our neighbor's chickens (laid that morning!)

Eggs from our neighbor’s chickens (laid that morning!)

The brits are on to something with crumpets - you seriously need to try some!

The Brits are on to something with crumpets – you seriously need to try some!

I have had a few cooking flops thanks to the differences, like my chocolate chip cookies that spread way too much thanks to too much butter.  I made an investment in a food scale which I think will help a ton!  I’m slowly adjusting to the differences and hopefully these challenges will make me a better cook moving forward.  I even made some delicious buttermilk biscuits from scratch last night using leftover buttermilk from a chicken recipe plus an entire pan of chewy, rich brownies – bad idea when there’s only two of us at home and I’m not working yet!  Here’s hoping for lots more exploration and success in my kitchen :-)

 Cheers!

Introducing our new home!