Category Archives: Holidays and Merrymaking

Everyone Needs a Christmas Break

In the midst of moving, the LAST thing I wanted to deal with was two weeks of holiday house guests… even if said “house guests” were my family.

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It’s not that I didn’t want to see them… or didn’t miss them like crazy.

After having gone from seeing them all the time to never ever, nothing could be further from the truth…

It’s just with NO IDEA where we’ll be living in California, plotting a cross-country drive with a toddler, and packing, packing, packing… I just didn’t think I could handle a two week break from everything going on.

Well, what do you know… a break was exactly what I needed and even though I declared “only gifts for Avery this year” (i.e. I can’t handle shopping on top of everything else right now), hanging out with  my favorite crazies was the BEST present I could have ever gotten.

(Well, that and the fabulous  new digital SLR awaiting me in the States…hehe)

My family being in town also gave us a chance to do some sightseeing, which we probably wouldn’t have been very motivated to do on our own. We started with a bus trip to Leeds, Canterbury, and Dover…

Okay, so we’ve been to Leeds Castle before, but not at Christmas time when the entire castle is decked out “Nutcracker theme”, which was both delightful…

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… and SCARY!

img_22961(Why, yes. It IS a giant rat surrounded by dozens of smaller rats in the royal bedchamber. Sweet Dreams and Merry Christmas.)

Next stop, the white cliffs of Dover and the fr-fr-freezing British coastline.

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I’m told, on a clear day, you can invade… er, I mean see France from this beach.

And for our final destination, Canterbury Cathedral… beautiful stained glass windows, site of a famous murder-turned-martyrdom, medieval tales of pilgrimage

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Sorry, but there really is no way to make this stuff funny…

What was funny, however, was running into this family from Houston. They found out we’re from Dallas/Fort Worth and wanted to know everything about us… and guess what, my family proceeded to tell them everything about us.

Oh friendly, outspoken Texans! How I miss you!

You see, all of the things one would consider standard small talk — “where are you from”, “what do you do”, “how do you like…”, “Hi, I’m… what’s your name?”, etc., the Brits consider instrusive and off-putting… or so I’ve been told.

I ask anyway, which probably explains why I only have one British friend, and I think she only puts up with me because she lived in the US for a bit and is “used” to  Americans…

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In other family news… I got a (future) brother (in-law) for Christmas!

(Because it’s all about ME. ha!)

My family took a  side trip to Paris before heading  home and in the most romantic gesture ever, my sister’s boyfriend proposed at the Eiffel Tower.

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Alex (or “Mr. Alex” as we have had Avery call him so as to not be presumptuous) has been part of the family ever since first I met him. He’s good peoples and everything I could every want in a brother.

Could not be more excited for them!

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Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking, Sightseeing

2008 Signing Off

Whoa! Whoa Whoa! When did 2009 sneak up on us?

Wait! Was it while I was drowning in packing peanuts and cardboard or having my fifth anxiety attack over the logistics of our trans-Atlantic/cross-country move…

It’s funny to think back to my New Year’s resolution for 2008…

LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT ALL READY!

Little did I know at the time that all it would take was a few simple changes to my daily routine… drinking more water, fitness boot camp, moving to London, giving up my car, moving back from London…

Little things really.

Of course, I fully expect to gain it all back in 2009, but I’m totally okay with that. (No, really. I assure you, I am very, very, very happy about this pregnancy. Trust me.)

All in all, I really can’t complain about 2008. Employment uncertainty, worldwide economic collapse, and threats of deportation aside, it truly has been great year for us.

I know, I use the word “adventure” a lot, but there’s no better way to describe our past year.  Okay, so we didn’t exactly give it all up to help feed orphans in a third world country, but we took a risk nonetheless and are all the better for it.

We’ve learned a lot… and not just how to pack up and move overseas in 30 days or less. We’ve grown a lot and have memories that we will cherish for a lifetime, provided our family and friends won’t be too sick of our “Well, in LONDON…” stories.

Thanks for everything 2008. It’s been fun while it lasted, but it looks as if 2009 is already giving you a run for your (bailout) money with Baby #2 on the way, a new American city ahead of us, and an OBAMA PRESIDENCY. Whew- Hew!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Filed under Holidays and Merrymaking, Packing Up and Moving

Happy Boxing Day

There’s been some debate at my house over what the heck is Boxing Day, which just so happens to be TODAY!

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My sister says it’s the day we’re supposed to box up all of the Christmas decorations. I say it’s the day you give the servants gifts and the day off.

Since I neither have servants nor the inclination to pack up our (sad) little Christmas tree, we settled for sleeping late, flying the London Eye, and taking a boat ride on the Thames with my family!

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Not a bad Boxing Day if you ask me… whatever it is.

Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population… It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a “shopping holiday” associated with after-Christmas sales.

Boxing Day dates back to past centuries when it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or to people in a lower social class, most especially to household servants and other service personnel.

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Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking

Glad Tiddings To You And Yours…

Four days ago, my parents, my two younger sisters, and one sister’s boyfriend flew in from Texas to celebrate our first (and presumably LAST) London Christmas with us.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of eating, sightseeing, eating, laughing. eating, shopping, eating… and well, more eating… and it has been FAN-TASTIC!

Of course, when my family planned their trip to London back in September, we were still expecting (hoping for) a much, much, MUCH longer stay abroad…

“Who knows when we’ll get to see one another again. Come on over, Mom and Dad!”

HA!

It cracks me up that I’m actually going to see them again in two weeks. At least, I’ve  managed to convince each of them to take home an extra suitcase filled with our stuff.

Favors aside, it really has been so much fun to have my family here, which explains the total abandonment of my blog.

Don’t worry. There’s more fodder being generated every single day…

But while we’re in the holiday spirit…  here are the Christmas cards (yes, multiple cards) that I designed in OCTOBER, but no one, not friends, not family, will ever see  them (in print) all because I couldn’t FIND a decent photo developer.

Yes, I’m sure London, of ALL places, has them.

Yes, I could have searched further… asked around more… shlepped myself all over town…

Except that by November, I clearly had several OTHER things on my mind and settled for one designed by Kodakgallery.co.uk

Sorry, I’ll do better next year… Promise.

Still, I’m rather proud of myself for doing something with Photoshop beyond cropping, so I’d like to share them anyway…

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! God Bless us, every one!

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Princess Diana Memorial Playground, Kennsington

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Leeds Castle

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Stonehenge

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Bringing The Indian to the First Thanksgiving

Wow! SO politically incorrect, except I really am talking about Indian (spices) and this was my very first Thanksgiving to do the cooking.

There’s some irony in the fact that I had to move to England (i.e. the land pilgrims were escaping) to finally roast my first turkey.

I was a little apprehensive, especially when I woke up at 4 am this morning after several dreams in which I blow up the kitchen. Not a good way to start the day.

Fortunately, I’ve spent the better part of this week researching recipes and roasting techniques, combining everything I learned into one massive production.

Along the way, I also learned that there are a LOT of American foods that the British find… well, gross.

For instance, mixing peanut butter and chocolate (a la delicious Reese Peanut Butter Cups) or combining sweet and savoury (a la marshmallows on sweet potatoes).

“No, that IS weird,” my one and only British friend confirmed.

To that I retort, “You eat Marmite…

marmite… and you love it!”

In any case, I opted to try a savoury recipe calling for chili powder and cumin,  both of which I found in the Indian food section of my grocery store. (read: They didn’t carry decent-sized marshmallows)

Okay. So Indian chili powder, even at 1/8th of what the recipe calls for, kicks our pansy-ass American chili powder in the butt fifty time over… and then it eats its shorts.

As for cumin… Yeah. Ground cumin and whole cumin seeds. Not interchangeable in the same quantities.

To put in another way, Mike, who is unfailingly good-natured about my “culinary experiments” (ahem, flops), tasted it before popping it into the oven. He turned to me and said…

(cough, cough) (raspy voice) “I’ll run to the store to get you more sweet potatoes” (gasping for air)

“Are you sure?”

(more coughing… possibly choking)

“NO! Really! (more gasping) I don’t mind”

(struggling out the front door)

So, here is the beginnings of a little dish I’ve dubbed “Sweet Potato Re-do”.

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By the way, I HAND mashed it with a wooden spoon in the absence of such turn-of-the-NINETEENTH-century appliances like my beloved food processor as a way of penance for turning my back on All-American Thanksgiving.

Oh, and I mixed in some butter and maple syrup. Yeah. That’s right it’s sweet and savoury… HA!

The mac n’ cheese was pretty, but not the same without Velveeta.

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The green bean casserole with dried onions in lieu of “French Fried Onions” was tasty in it’s own wrong way.

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The cinnamon-orange cranberry sauce was divine. No canned stuff for me!

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We were, however, divided on the bread stuffing…

img_1247Mike: Meh.

Me: Yeah.

Avery: Ice Cream now please?

(Shh! not until after you eat more sweet potatoes…)

… and for my crowning achievement of the day.

I did NOT blow up the kitchen.

Oh, and I made this.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Homies!

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Filed under Family, Foodie, Holidays and Merrymaking, Life In The States

Friendly Fire… Isn’t

This post is directed to my British readers…

I would like to know when you will STOP celebrating your little pro-hate free-for-all (a.k.a Guy Fawkes Month Day)?

Seriously. WHEN?

Two weeks ago, when the fireworks starting going off it was… um, mildly annoying.

Even though our two-year-old son awoke with every pop, bang, and whizz and eventually just stopped sleeping at night entirely, we were willing to overlook it. After all, we ARE guests in your country and mere observers to your culture…

Besides, it would be over soon, right?

When the entire world was celebrating on November 5th and it actually was Guy Fawkes Day/”Bonfire Night,” it was great! Expected. Welcomed. Obviously, we were excited too!

It is FIVE DAYS LATER, people. Why, oh why, are rockets still flaring over our roof every single night? They were going until 2am last night. TWO AM!!!!

I know we live in the kingdom where anti-Catholicism was institutionalized, but really… is it THAT exciting?

Is this going to end soon, or should I consider firing back?

Because I totally will.

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London’s Burning

I got so excited when I spotted the first, albeit paltry, selection of children’s costumes at Marks and Spencer (department store) last month.

Then, my hopes quickly were dashed when one of Mike’s co-workers informed us that Halloween is more of a holiday for yobs (British shorthand for rowdy, drunken, and disorderly teenagers picking fights, vandalizing property, and generally being punks).

It’s just an excuse for more trick, rather then treat, and certainly not a night for going out after dark with a toddler…

“It is catching on though”, one British mum informed me. Every major store offers a smattering of Halloween candy, decorations, and such, but it’s still not as widely observed as it is in the States.

Sure enough, my expat friends confirmed more of the same. Although they live in a neighborhood full of young families, no one came around for “trick-or-treating” last year. NO ONE. Chances are our neighborhood is much the same.

I got the idea that most of their kid-friendly Halloween fun either revolve around the American Embassy or parties at school, neither of which we are personally associated with.

The closest thing we got invited to is a “Saints and Angels” party in honor of the Feast of All Saints the following day. The hostess said that she “doesn’t really care for all of the ghouls and witches”.

So, I reluctantly decided to pass on getting Avery a costume this year.

It was VERY DIFFICULT, especially since I bought him two costumes last year. TWO! Just because I couldn’t decide which was cuter…

The “angry” bee?

Or, the one that matched his best friend’s?

(Man, I can’t believe that was a year ago… Sniffle)

Okay, so the Brits don’t do Halloween (very well). They do, however, celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on Nov 5. Apparently, he tried to blow up Parliament a long, long time ago.

(My attention to detail and historical accuracy is astounding, huh?)

To celebrate this treasonous act, the Brits burn him in effigy on the streets, have drunken bonfires, and shoot fireworks. The very posh and very gourmet grocery store where I buy the overpriced milk that I usually forget to get at the regular-priced grocery store is selling 2-for-1 fireworks this week, because yes, they ARE street legal here…

… in London, the city famous for burning to the ground.

Judging from the ’round-the-clock “gun fire” in my ‘hood, they seem to be selling rather well. I swear, it’s like living in Compton. (Like I would know anything about that…)

Happy Halloween, y’all!

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