Thursday, 29 December 2011

Holiday Hangover

Well, we survived! It was only about 48 hours of hustle and bustle, food, drink, children, and presents.

On Christmas Eve we had 14 people from the ages of 7 months to 75 years in the house, all hungry and filled with anticipation for what the weekend would bring. Unfortunately my husband had to work and was one of the last to arrive. He quickly jumped into his role as sous chef. Fortunately the menu was fairly simple and much of it was made already.

A few went home that evening but the total head count for the remainder of the holiday was 9. My husband and I slept on the couch, his parents in the guest beds, and his sister's family in the master suite with the children on mattresses on the floor in the dressing area.

Christmas morning the children woke up several times to see if "Father Christmas" found them at our house. Before they made it down stairs we snuck away to the gym for a quick swim and they opened their stockings.

The rest of the day was again filled with food, drink, and presents for all. The after dinner opening took a few hours to get through as the sessions are very slow and controlled compared to what I grew up with. One gift at a time each person watching the others open their gifts.

Boxing day was filled with leftovers after a few of us went to the carol services at Fountains Abbey (see my previous blog post). My sister in law and her family went home that afternoon and the American cats were finally let out of their room to get some exercise.

My husband's parents went home the following morning. I had grand plans of cleaning and starting some new projects, but I spent the day watching movies on tv!

After loads of leftovers have been eaten, the fridge is still jam packed full. Tonight will be a relaxing evening. Dinner tonight, steaks for a change from leftovers. As you can see, we still have quite a few to get through!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day at Fountains Abbey

Last year my husband had to work but I came in the snow for the carol service with my in laws. This year my husband was able to join us.

The grounds are lovely and the service is quite traditional and similar to the Catholic Christmas Eve Mass I would attend with my family. There is loads of space and you can choose how much you would like to participate. I have taken some pictures from the 'room' to the side of the chapel area where the service was held. You can hear the service very well and yet enjoy the outdoors and beauty of the Abbey. It is really quite impressive to think it was all built in the 12th century. I do think this will be a tradition to keep as long as we spend Christmas in England!

Check out my Facebook page for some videos too!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and God bless us every one. I hope Santa has been good to everyone this year.

We had a great Christmas with a houseful of family and friends. It was such a flurry of activity i didn't manage any pictures

This morning went to the gym to swim before more food and for some peace from the excited children. We did a quick 360 meters, just enough to give us the energy to cook a huge meal and open loads of presents!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Winter Solstice

I have made it. Although today is the official start of winter and I have many more months of cold and gloomy weather to look forward to there is a silver lining to the gloomy cloud. Today is the shortest day of the year. Starting tomorrow the sunsets will get progressively later and will be much appreciated. As Floridian and self diagnosed seasonal affective disorder sufferer even an increase of a minute of sunshine a day will be noticed. I have discussed with my husband on our last year in the UK going to Stonehenge for the winter solstice so I can stick my tongue out at winter (figuratively, don't want it to get too cold lol) and let it know that it has not nor will it beat me, especially as we are moving to Florida lol.

The weather in North Yorkshire has been especially beautiful today. I know from growing up in Western PA that winter is long and although the days are getting longer it does not mean they are getting warmer. So I took full advantage of the mild weather and went for a walk along the river (check out my pictures on instagram) and collected some twigs, seeds, berries, and buds for our Christmas arrangements.

I suppose that is enough play time as I must continue baking and getting ready for the weekend!

Here are a few pictures of our lovely day, baking pictures soon to follow!

(my spoils, our pampas grass, and a lady bug that has waken from hibernation)

Happy Winter!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Fa la la la largh!?!

We have been back in the country for 10 days now and have just 10 more days until the family arrive for Christmas.

As always I have taken on a major project in addition to getting ready. Instead of just cleaning up after all the cats and decking the halls, I started painting our dining room. Previously i started painting one of our guest bedrooms prior to a family overnight visit. Someone did sleep in a room that wasn't quite finished but it was not the end of the world. This is a bit more involved since we will be serving two very large meals and a few small ones from this room.

The good news is I am more than half way done with my plan since we returned from the States. Two Christmas trees are lit and I just have to find ornament hooks to finish decorating them. Might be making ones out of twine at this rate. Note to self, have family buy package after Christmas and bring back with me next trip out!

Food is also well underway. Sauce and lasagna rolls made, sausage stuffing is on the list for tomorrow as well as the baked goods. Turkey has been ordered from the local butcher, a free range herb fed bird! Cocktail sausages and streaky bacon from the butcher as well, no store bought frozen stuff this year! Vegetarians not to fear, plenty of meat free options as well!

Gift shopping is nearly there. Will be cataloging our shop against my list in the Evernote App tomorrow. Now I just have to figure out how to get a few surprises for my husband... Not so easy living in a tiny village with no car. Might be doing a bit of Internet shopping tomorrow!

Most importantly the ever important frock for Christmas Eve has been purchased and it should keep me motivated to not pick on the previously mentioned baked goods!

Nearing the end of my 'workday' and managed to get both trees decorated and a chicken is in the oven for supper tonight. As long as I don't wimp out about leaving my warm and cozy room to go to the gym today will be rather successful!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The American suburbanite returns to rural England

The last time my husband and I were in the States together, he had to leave me behind while I waited for my visa application to be processed. Not this time, for the first time in our 3 year relationship we are flying out and back together!

This has not been my healthiest trip unfortunately. I arrived in PA and started coughing so badly I went to the Doctors on Monday,had one of the worst stiff necks/shoulders in my life (even worse than after one of the several car accidents I have been in) and topped it all off with a migraine. We have made the best of our northern leg of our holiday though and I will be sure to post some pictures soon.

In the mean time the view from my seat as I post in JFK airport.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Oh Christmas tree...

Since my husband and I have scheduled our vacation the week after Thanksgiving instead of the week before, my family have scheduled their annual tree cutting during our visit.

We are at Nutbrown's Christmas tree farm (1) helping the family find their perfect trees! Once found we cut them down ourselves. Then time to decorate...again. This is tree number 5 for my sister, my parents have 2 trees, and the only tree for my brother.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Tis the season

Well thanksgiving is over and decking the halls has begun!

We are staying with my sister and her husband while in PA and awoke to boxes and boxes of decorations. Our first seasonal job of the day has been this tree. One down four to go...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

American suburbanite is on her way to Florida!

We are on our way to Florida and I am so looking forward to some warm weather. For the past month I have been sniffling and "streaming" as my mother-n-law described it. I have not felt I'll for weeks, but my nose hasn't got the message! As I think about it, when I lived in PA I had issues with my sinuses routinely. Nothing a little Florida sunshine won't cure and I have 6 days ahead of me!

Watching "the Inbetweeners" on the inflight entertainment now and we have already watched "Hangover 2". It's been a great way to catchup on films.

I hope that I can post daily with my new toy. We are planning on getting a 3G SIMM card while we are in the States.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

The American Suburbanite goes to Wembley

NFL takes Wembley Stadium
Last week, my husband and I woke up early to catch a train to London.  What were we heading to London for?  Football...American Football that is.  It was the 5th regular season game in the international series of the NFL.  Not a 'friendly' or preseason game this game counts towards the season for both teams.  

Trafalgar Squares Lions at NFL Fan Rally
We arrived in London and to our hotel around 1130.  Our check in time was not until 1500 so we dropped off our luggage with the concierge and headed to Trafalgar Square for the fan rally. The NFL dominated the tourist attraction with a giant bear (inflatable), a pirate ship with a full crew aboard as well as the normal long snap, quarterback toss, and kicking attempts.

When we first arrived things were just warming up.  A band was on stage and people were milling around.  As the band wrapped up, things seemed to take a more football focus. 

Some Buccaneers of Tampa Bay invaded Trafalgar Square to give Lord Nelson a run for his money!

The ever popular Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders took the stage as well as a few of the players themselves.

Followed by the Chicago Bears and their drum line. 

The commissioner and Dan Rooney(complete surprise) even made an appearance!  I bet if you look at Mr. Rooney's pictures you will see me and my black and gold union jack!

Dan Rooney, a true gentleman of the game

Could there be an NFL team in the UK?

Then there was the reason we stayed on Trafalgar Square as long as we did came on stage, Jerome 'The Bus' Bettis.  I made a poster just for his appearance which gathered lots of attention throughout the two days in London.  I was snapped by the event photographers, you can find some of the photos here at Concerts Captured website gallery.  I even got a thumbs up from The Bus himself on Sunday before the game at the tailgate party.  

Proudly showing off his hardware!

After the Superbowl champion left the stage, another band took the stage and we headed back to the Hotel Grange St. Paul.  We took a hot bath in our nice big tub and shower in our lovely multi jet shower!  It was great for warming us up even if it wasn't very good for washing long thick hair. 

We met up with a few friends for dinner at Sartori in Piccadilly.  The menu had plenty of great choices.  As a starter, I had mozzarella and prosciutto and my husband had calamari.  Then we all shared an enormous pizza.  It gave us plenty of energy to prepare for the next day.

We had a leisurely morning with croissants and pan au chocolate with pears for breakfast.  Read the newspaper and watched the weather on TV so we were fully prepared for the evening game.  We set off towards Wembley in the early afternoon.

A girl from the 'Burgh
Steeler Nation UK
It was a fairly easy journey on the tube once we figured out which lines were running.  We even met a Steeler fan on the train who was interested in my husbands English Steeler Fan t-shirt! Once in Wembley, we stopped for the sandwich deal at Tesco (in order to get something healthy instead of fast food). 

When we arrived at the Stadium we made our way to the tailgate party, where we the atmosphere was similar to Trafalgar Square (or even a Superbowl).  Jerome Bettis even donned a jersey (from a fan) and ran the ball in to the 'endzone' of the stage! 

Our seats were absolutely amazing in the Buccaneers end zone, unfortunately we did not see them in there enough times. 

Pre-game festivities: cheerleaders, GooGoo dolls and both US and UK armed forces
Buccaneers take the field proud to be in the UK

A few of the other highlights of the game?

A squirrel not sure where to go once he made it on the field.  After about 15 minutes, he made it under the stands, poor little thing. 

Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel!

And a streaker who had some good moves avoiding a couple of tackles from security.  If you look at the middle photo, a woman is not going to let him get passed if her coleague misses his tackle!

Wish these pictures were a bit closer, they told me I was not allowed to use my camera (a Cannon Rebel eos dSLR), only the press were aloud to use 'those professional cameras' as the man told me.  Now, no one said anything to me as I walked in with it around my neck, searched and patted down multiple times.   I did not put the camera completely away, but I kept the standard lens on it as opposed to switching back up to my 200mm telephoto lens. 

Anyway, we had a great weekend sharing American football in the UK!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

On a down town train...

Ok, so it is not a down town train, but it is a train going to town.  Even though it was a day off for my husband we woke up to our alarms while it was still dark outside to catch a train down to London at 0828 this morning.  We are heading in for the International Series NFL game tomorrow.

When we get into London we are hoping to get into Trafalgar Square to see form Pittsburgh Steeler Champion "The Bus" Jerome Bettis.

Our hotel is near St. Paul's Cathedral and the protesters for occupy London have been moved out of the financial district and wound up there.  Hopefully they won't be too much problem in their tent city.

Oh well, thought I would be able to capture picture from my web cam for the blog, but no such luck... pictures soon to follow :)

Monday, 17 October 2011

The American Suburbanite in Paris

La Tour Eiffel
During our summer holiday we spent several days in Paris.  I studied French for 6 years in high shool and college and always had the fairytale view of Paris.  we caught the Eurostar from ebbsfleet train station and made it across the channel quite easily.  I was really surprised by how laid back customs and security are on the trains.  I suppose it is no less relaxed than interstate travel in the States, just seemed strange between countries. 

The State of a Nation

My fantasy view of Paris was quickly changed once arriving at Gare du Nord in Paris.  First, it was not very well signed to find the metro system into Paris.  Another very disturbing trend found throughout the city were the number of homeless and begging.  Most of these were not people who were native to France, but seemed prolific.  Groups of young women (girls really) were gathered at metro stations and tourist attractions throughout the city with clip boards.  They were so insistent upon getting you to cooperate with them that when you refused, their English skills were shown in the profanity that they would shout at you.  There seemed to be one man with each group of women, and he would hurry them along to a new spot if the police were seen  coming around.  Thankfully, they were easy to spot and avoid through out most of the city. 

After checking in at our hotel, we took in a bit of the city and headed towards La Tour Eiffel.  Our hotel was near the Catacombs, the opposite side of the city!  We thought the TomTom sat nav would help make our walk a bit easier, but it was more hassle than it was worth. In and amongst the tall buildings I think we were walking faster than the directions were coming through.  After several stops to get my bearings and pulling out my reading glasses to read the map, we were headed in the right direction, sans TomTom. 

Along the way, we stopped at a cafe.  The sun was warm and lovely, though my husband had to drink his very large beer rather quickly! 
Our first sighting!

We continued along our way, I again needed to pull out my glasses several times to head in the right direction.  It is quite frustrating how an object so large can hide behind trees and buildings so well!  When we finally made it we found a place on the lawn in the park and relaxed in the shadow of the tower.  We had tickets to go up the tower on Sunday (our final day) so we headed across the Seine (camera snapping away the whole time). 

going up?

view from across the Seine

Walked to l'arc de triomphe

Down the Champs Elysees

In front of the Louvre

Finally took the metro back to our room.  I'll talk about our experience in the hotel another time!  At least we did not have a 3am fire alarm like we did on my first visit to London!