Rainy Day in Cambridge

Tuesday, 24 April 2012
My mom left early Saturday afternoon, family visits are always too short for my liking but that's life for an expat. She finally received her baggage, at the airport about an hour before she left. To make a long story short, we spent days being passed between different people some said the baggage was at JFK, others said Heathrow and no one could make up their minds which was correct. The day before she left it was finally confirmed to be in Heathrow and had been since Monday morning but at that point she'd bought new clothes and there really was no point of getting it delivered to the house (which they maintained we would have to pay for!) I did finally receive my stow away Hidden Valley Ranch dressing which of course was the main cause of distress with her lost baggage.

Fortunately our schedules allowed for Luke and I to both take a day off work the Wednesday she was here. We were hoping for a sunny Spring day but what we got was the embodiment of 'April showers'. There are so many places close by that we could go, the hardest part was deciding which one to choose (that and getting mom out of bed). In the end we decided to go to Cambridge, a place that all three of us had never been, a small city about an hour away from us, famous for it's medieval streets and of course the University.

By the time we set off it was gone 11:00. The scenery was pretty on the drive, apart from a view industrial parts around Bedford. That's England for you though - driving through countryside one minute, a city the next, and then before you know it you're back in the countryside. Once we reached the outskirts of the city we took the Park & Ride option to get into the centre of town. This allowed us to park up and pay £2.50 each to be dropped off by a double decker bus directly in the centre. The only sane option really given the narrow streets designed long before cars.

Cambridge University

To escape the drizzle we nipped into a pub called the Baron of Beef (English pub names still tickle me) for a spot of lunch. I choose the safe option of a Jacket Potato filled with coleslaw and cheese, Luke had a massive burger and my mom the roast beef wrapped in a massive Yorkshire pudding. I accompanied my mom to the bar to order, during the exchange I felt compelled to tell the barman I lived in England, after he questioned where we were from. Could he not tell I lived here by my choice of ale and helping my mom order a cider? I'll let it pass as I guess my accent was probably a big clue, although I'm told it's softened now  by my mom and others. I can't tell as to me I still sound like I always have, although I do pronounce tomato 'to-mah-to' instead of 'toe-may-to'.

After lunch, it had stopped raining and we walked around the city taking in the scenery and history. We stopped at the University book store and spent ages pouring through all the different texts. I love book stores, especially ones I've never been in before and I always find one hundred-and-one things I want to read before realising I have about fifty-two waiting back home. Being a good girl, I left the store emptied handed, although this was probably more to being overwhelmed by how many books I wanted rather than being good.

Although it was cold and rainy, Cambridge was a lovely day out and a place I'd love to visit again. Albeit on a warm Summer's day so we can go punting in the river or visit the Botanic Garden. But when it comes time for the Oxford v. Cambridge boat race I will still be cheering on Oxford, it is after all the birth place of Alice in Wonderland.

Erin x

The Eagle has FINALLY Landed!

Monday, 16 April 2012
Remember: The Easter holidays in England are the week after Easter, not the week before like in America.

This was the crucial mistake we made when my mom scheduled her trip to come and visit. She set off at 7:00am from Las Vegas and arrived in London nearly 48 hours later because of it. The flights this weekend had been oversold, which isn't an uncommon practice made by the airlines but was to our detriment. JFK was packed with holidaying Brits trying to return home in time to get their kids to school this morning. As my mother stated, "The English usually seem so cordial but not when their flights cancelled."

I would say that's mainly true, the English are usually coridal and are not ones to complain. Whenever I've seen food come to the table that is incorrect, instead of sending it back like most Americans would, the English eat it anyway and blame themselves for the mistake instead of the kitchen. But in my time in England there are two things I've learned, that should never be messed with;
  1. An English person's schedule/routine
  2. An English person's holiday
The airlines did both, and the poor ticket agents really didn't have a chance of not receiving the wrath of an English person with the end-of-holiday blues. Yes, when beginning the journey home the English will usually complain and phrases like "it went too quickly", "I could stay here forever",  and "back to rainy England" are uttered. But secretly they all can't wait to return to proper cups of tea and English telly. My mother was just unfortunately caught in the crossfire. So instead of spending her evening sipping champagne in first class, she spent it in an airport hotel eating dry cereal she stole out of the continental breakfast cupboard.

Her trip did improve, but not by much, she did get on a flight out of New York but instead of first, she was sat in the very back of the plane in a seat that reclined only a centimetre back. But she has arrived to us safe and sound, unfortunately her baggage decided to remain behind in the Big Apple. Rest assured her holiday has improved since arriving at Heathrow, although we did make her walk through a hail storm to see some lambs. In our defense, it wasn't hailing when we started out and the lambs were adorable.

Erin x

My Easter Bank Holiday Weekend

Saturday, 14 April 2012
As far as holidays go, Easter has never been one of my favourites, in fact it probably isn't even in my top 5. It's situated towards the bottom of the list right before Martin Luther King Day. Sure when I was little I enjoyed painting hard boiled eggs and searching for my Easter basket which I think I always knew was hidden by my mother and not some giant pastel bunny. But I've never enjoyed the decorations (excessive pastel always worries me) nor the food which for my family often included ham which I distest the most out of all meats. Easter also always conjurs up memories of playing Clue Jr. when my Grandma was watching me and her allowing me to eat an entire white chocolate bunny, which in turn made me violently sick. A bittersweet memory really as I fondly remember the Clue Jr. part of my evening but to this can't eat white chocolate.

Living in England I'm learning to enjoy Easter a bit more, as now instead of chocolate bunnies I get chocolate eggs (which for some reason I feel more comfortable with eating) and a four day weekend! Most bank holidays are just a chance to relax and hopefully, if the English weather system is cooperating, enjoy the sun. However, Luke and I experienced a rather productive bank holiday weekend, with some fun mixed in of course.

We spent our Friday cleaning up the house, partly for my mom's visit and partly because Neil and Nicola were coming over for dinner, and doing last minute grocery shopping. We had planned to serve them coq au vin, but that plan backfired when we discovered Nicola didn't eat meat on Good Friday only fish, a family tradition passed down from her grandmother. After trying to insist to her that chicken was a white meat, and therefore didn't count as the rule only pertained to red meat we were left to find a suitable alternative. To my surprise it was Luke who found the answer to our problems with a receipe he found on the BBC for monkfish chowder. The little star even cooked it all by himself with me acting as sous-chef, and upon tasting it I can tell you I was very proud of him. It was delicious! That evening we had a load of laughs, which greatly increased the more bottles of wine we drank. After dinner we played Trivia Pursuit, Nicola & Luke v. Neil & I and of course Neil and I were the victors. We didn't just win, we destroyed them! After which we watched 10 minutes of GoldenEye that mainly consisted of impersonating Tina Turner doing the theme song before Neil and Nic decided it might be time to call for the taxi.

On Saturday we really got down to business, mainly with tackling our spare room which we had, until Saturday, been using as a dumping ground for everything we weren't sure where to put or hadn't had a chance to put away properly; tolietries, clothes, you name it and it was probably in there. But after a full day of cleaning and organising I can happily report that we indeed now actually have not a spare room but a guest room! As it was still light out, we celebrated by going for a walk in the fields behind our house to see the little lambs, which are getting so big now! Perhaps they are starting to recognise our smell or perhaps as they get older they get braver but we're able to get much closer to them now. We were able to sit a mere two feet away from a group of as they were playing and feeding. I love lambs, they are just so cute and cuddly and their little bahs just make my heart melt.

Sunday was of course Easter Sunday, and we had arranged to go to Southam as Luke had been invited to play in a memorial match in honour of someone he used to know down the rugby club. As he didn't have a game on in Milton Keynes, and because after all it was his old club, he decided to go down and play for the laugh. I went down to watch from the sidelines with Lindsay and Ian. It was actually, I'm ashamed to say, the first time I've been able to watch him play. When he was playing heavily in Manchester I was in America, he only played a few games in Worcester so I didn't get a chance, and since we've moved to Milton Keynes the games have either conflicted with my plans, away, or I've been dumb enough to get lost en route and turned up too late. I throughly enjoyed watching my man play, and of course I most boast that he was certainly one of the best plays out there.

Luke and Pete

After the game we went to Pam and Mick's house (Ian's parents) to give our little 'nephews', Sam and Isaac, their Easter eggs. As I said people don't give bunnies, they give eggs, and the boys we eager to show us their collection. Another difference, instead of hiding painted eggs for the kids to search for, in England they hide chocolate eggs. So I suppose it shouldn't come as a shock to me that when Sam showed me their collection they had some 20 chocolate eggs. Now these aren't just small egg sized bits of chocolate, each one was about the size of my hand. Even three-year-old Sam knew he had an excessive amount of chocolate, which I'm guessing is why he kept trying to give me his chocolate and not eating any himself. At some point Ian got the brilliant idea to help the boys tie Luke up with gaffa (duct) tape. I'm not sure how exactly it started but next thing I know I have a husband lying on the floor with a three and six year old sitting on his back as Isaac giggled wildly. Sam was a little more reluctant to play, and instead kept putting chocolate in Luke's mouth, which was a nice gesture but not very helpful at the time. The day ended playing Uno with Isaac, who after learning it in Florence with us has gotten really good, while Sam fell asleep in my lap.

Luke and his captors

The next day we awoke to not a bright and sunny morning like we had hoped for, but instead to a rainly and cold one. Not at all what we had hoped for considering we were going to Warwick Racecourse to see some horse racing. Not really my cup of tea as the last time I went was the freezing New Years' Eve 2010. It seems to be a bit of an English tradition though, bank holiday means horse racing. I love horses, I just don't get enjoyment of watching them run around in a circle and contrary to popular belief just because I'm from Las Vegas doesn't mean I enjoy betting. I tried to make sense of the odds, but I might as well have been trying to read ancient Egyptian. While the people around me made bets, Luke and I were people watching. And let me tell you there were some sights to be seen! Girls wearing so much fake tan they looked like oompa loompas walking around in six inch heels and dresses so short had they bent over little would have been left to the imagination. Guys wearing suits three sizes too big for them were even more offensive. I kept finding myself thinking 'has one never heard of a tailor?' In an effort to be more politically correct, let's just say that the day was a cultural experience.

Luke, Lindsay, and I ended up leaving early as it was far too cold and too wet to carry on, and to be honest both Luke and I had had enough of the races by then. After a cup of tea with Lindsay we headed home, and surprisingly were not met with any holiday traffic.The weekend ended curled up in bed with a cup of tea watching Tangled.

My mom was supposed to arrive this morning, but unfortunately the flight she was supposed to take from New York was oversold, as well as the following two flights. Which means she's currently stuck in a dingy airport hotel outside JFK instead of here with us. Fingers crossed she'll be here tomorrow morning.

Erin x

March Madness

Wednesday, 4 April 2012
March has been an absolutely mad month for Luke and I, we always knew it would be busy but I don't think either of us were expecting how busy it truly would end up being. First off, Luke spent the first two weeks of March in Germany for work. (Hence my unusual commute as discussed in my previous post.) He's currently in the middle of a massive transition to the way his work manages business operations. Work has also been incredibly busy for me, I spent March arranging product launches all across Europe. Which included putting together running orders, creating presentations, and shipping off materials. I'll spare you the details, let's just say after a month of launches I'm really looking forward to the bank holiday weekend (we get Good Friday and Easter Monday off in England).

Packing up one of our exhibition stands.
March 17th is of course St. Patrick's Day, and I had a very enjoyable one this year. Luke was playing rugby so I walked down to meet him at the club and watch him play or at least that was the plan. While making my way down to the club, I believed I had discovered a short cut but instead I ended up a bit lost. First I ended up in a pretty neighbourhood, then a park, before making my way to what I thought was the rugby club only to discover it was a secondary school. By the time I finally made it to the correct rugby club the game was over and Luke was waiting bemused for me in the bar. All was not lost as we had prime seats to watch the final of the 6 Nations, England v. Ireland, with some of his teammates. I was told the drinking of Guinness was unpatriotic during the match by some of the lads, but no one shall deny me Guinness of St. Paddy's day! The 'luck of the Irish' wasn't with Ireland, a bit ironic given the date, and England won the match. I felt a bit sorry for the Irish really, but it was a quality match.

Guinness on St. Patrick's Day is a must!

This is going to sound a bit peculiar to my American readers, but March 18th is Mother's Day here in England. This is my second Mother's Day here and I still find the early date odd, as we don't celebrate it in America until May. So of course we went to Southam to celebrate it with Luke's mum. We had a lovely meal, a bit of a Greek buffet with everything homemade by Lindsay (before you scoff at the mother cooking, it had been done the day before and just thrown in the oven). It was a relaxed and enjoyable day.

Now I have received a lot of queries over the past months over the state of our new flat. Well, the battle is still raging on with the estate agents but FINALLY we have new carpets in the hall and lounge, which happened only last Tuesday. We're still waiting for the walls to be repainted, but as the landlady is abroad for three weeks we've been told there is nothing they can do. I know, it was idiotic for them to put the carpets in before they painted, but if they mess up the new carpets that's their issue as they'll have to do them again. We've given up living in a limbo at the house and have started to fully unpack to make it our home. To celebrate this I finally ordered my black, white, and red Moulin Rouge prints for my bedroom! I've been wanted a Moulin Rouge themed room since I can remember and have found some fantastic prints by RenĂ© Gruau! 



Besides the obvious hiccups, the flat is coming along rather nicely. We've got a lot of work to do on it this weekend as the following weekend we're getting a special visitor - my mum! I'm so excited to see her, and of course for her to see our new abode! I just hope the brilliant weather we experienced at the end of March will return for her, as this chilly start to April is not appreciated. But that's quintessentially English weather for you, always unpredictable!

Erin x
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