Saturday, September 27, 2008

C&C in Paris

Carrie & I just returned from our trip to Paris this past week. We enjoyed our fair share of pastries, sweets and crepes in our short time there. We stayed in the Montparnasse neighborhood but explored many of the Parisen neighborhoods via Metro and foot. We packed a lot of sightseeing into a short amount of time, but the time we spent wandering along the streets of Paris and the enjoying the local foods were probably the most favorite parts of our visit. 
Ahh...Paris along the Seine!
Our first tourist stop off of the Metro was a visit to Notre Dame. Cassie in front of Notre Dame.
The Pont Alexander Bridge which is quite regal. 
One of the beautiful flower stands along the streets of Paris.
An afternoon stop at a cafe for yet another cafe au lait....
Carrie in front of the Place de la Concorde Fountain near the Opera Quarter. 
Carrie with her nutella crepe - yum!
The view of the Eiffel Tower at night as we approached it up close before going on the Seine River cruise. 
We took a river boat cruise along the Seine River one evening. 
Here we are listening to the river cruise commentary as we ride along (in about 6 different languages!).
Carrie (standing in the middle of the Champs de Elysees!) and in front of the Arc De Triomphe for a photo.
Our delicious breakfast each day of croissants, un cafe creme, and orange juice. Probably not the most well-balanced meal, but it was sure tasty.
The famous Laduree on the Champs de Elysees. We went there to see the original store and also to enjoy their delicious french macaroons.  
The beautiful assortment of french macaroons on display at Laduree. We enjoyed some of the vanilla (my personal favorite), chocolate, pistachio, and cafe flavored macaroons. It is actually interesting to learn that once these macaroons are cooked and filled, they are put aside for 2 days before they are sold in the store, in order to achieve their best flavor. 
A beautiful view of the Seine and the fall colors from a bridge along our travels. 
The pretty fall colored leaves around the city.
We wandered around the Ile Saint Louis neighborhood and stopped at the main location of Berthillon. This shop is supposed to have the best ice cream in Paris. 
And so, we tried two kinds. Carrie had coffee (cafe) ice cream and I had chocolate. 

Carrie with the Eiffel tower in the distance - a photo taken near Rue Cler after we did some market shopping there. 
Cassie on the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
It's au revoir to Paris and time to pack for our next trip...we are off to Dublin tomorrow morning. Scott, sadly, has to work so it is another girl's trip ahead. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

English Tea

I have decided to start a china tea cup collection while we are living in England. The number of antique shops and markets are plentiful and there are SO many pretty antique patterns to be found! 

I found my first tea cup for my collection this past week at the Portobello Market in Notting Hill while Carrie & I were in London. And I cannot wait to find the next addition to this soon-to-be growing collection....
My first tea cup purchase. A pretty pattern in circa 1920's English china. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

C&C in London

My sister, Carrie, and I went to London this past week for a few days so we could explore the city since it is Carrie's first trip to England. We took the train from our town and landed at Paddington Station and then stayed nearby in Hyde Park. After depositing our suitcase at the hotel, our first stop off the Tube was Westminster. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, and then went to Westminster Abbey. We had a tremendous time touring the Abbey and were in awe of the hundreds of very famous dead people who are buried there. 
The beautiful front of Westminster Abbey. 
Carrie in Parliament square with Big Ben in the background.
The next morning, we went to the Kensington area and not only did we tour the only Whole Foods in England (I found Libby's canned pumpkin which I am very pleased about for fall baking - it is no where to be found in the local grocery stores here), but we also toured Kensington Palace. The palace currently has an exhibit displaying some of Princess Diana's dresses which was probably best seen with my sister as opposed to my husband
Cassie in front of Kensington Palace. These are the famous gates that were blanketed with mounds of flowers when Princess Diana died.
That afternoon, Carrie treated me to a birthday outing with tickets to see CHICAGO. We sat in great seats and loved every minute of the performance!
C&C outside the Cambridge Theater before seeing CHICAGO. 
Our final day in London was packed with more sightseeing - a visit to the Portobello Market in Notting Hill, to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards, an afternoon break for an extravagant ice cream sundae at Fortnum & Mason, and then a quick visit to see London Bridge and the Tower of London.
A vendor at Portobello Market. I could not believe how many beautiful antique silver pieces were being sold by vendors at this market. I could have spent all day browsing around!
The changing of the guard ceremony in front of Buckingham Palace. One of the guards actually passed out in the middle of the ceremony (unfortunately no photo taken of that incident).
Here we are in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace. 
Our afternoon "snack" at Fortnum & Mason in the Parlor Restaurant. Yum! 
Carrie in front of London Bridge. 
Our final meal in London could not have been less English but could not have been early dinner at the Texas Embassy - probably the only Mexican restaurant on this island! 
Our sister travels continue tomorrow, as we head to Paris for a few days and I must get packing! 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An IKEA Sunday

We spent the day reliving what it was like to move into our first apartments today and put together all of our furniture for it. We spent the majority of the day assembling the myriad of storage units and additional pieces of furniture we recently purchased from IKEA
Scott assembling our wardrobes in the back room.
Our entire house here in England is outfitted and furnished with IKEA furniture. The kitchen cabinets and even the medicine cabinets in our bathrooms are from the store. We cannot fault the landlords for providing such furniture. After all, if we had been in their shoes and had tenants who required a house to be furnished for rental; We would have done the same thing as they did, and went to IKEA to purchased all of the necessary fittings for a house.

While there is nothing wrong with IKEA furniture, we have chuckled about the fact that when Scott & I bought our townhouse in Chicago, I made sure we eliminated as much of our straight-out-of-college furniture as possible, and were investing and working towards acquiring nicer pieces of furniture that would last us for years to come. For the next few years, though, we are back to self-assembled kind of furniture for which IKEA has become famous. 

Although our landlords have provided us with a "furnished" house here, we still do not seem to have enough storage space. Actually, we have no storage space within the house. There is a not a SINGLE closet anywhere here. Since so many houses are so old here in England, it is a common problem people tend to have. Thus, they utilize wardrobes.
Today, we assembled an additional two wardrobes for our storage needs. One will house all of Scott's clothes, and the other will house our extra bathroom and bed linens, as well as a few of my barrels of fabric that I brought with me to this country. We also put together a desk, chair, and my new sewing and craft table. It was a long day of hammering ply board and aligning plastic shelves into the ply board cabinets, but we are pleased with the additional storage and working spaces that these new pieces of furniture will provide us. 
The IKEA furniture all put together. The two wardrobes for storage and a desk (with a few things still on it that will not fit in to the wardrobes!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back to School

Yesterday, I became a college student again. I am taking a 12 week upholstery class at the local college as a part-time student, near our house. I thought it would be a good way to meet people and would give me something to do for a while. Of course, I am the youngest person in the class by about 30 years, but that's ok. The other students were all quite nice and were all interested in why I live here now, what brought me to England, and how I heard about the class. They all call the instructor their "tutor" which is a bit different than a college in the US. 

Here is my "subject" for the next 12 weeks...a small rocking chair I just bought off of the UK ebay. I was surprised when the tutor told me she thought it would take me the full 12 weeks to finish. However, after my first full class, I understood why she told me it would take 12 classes to finish it. I spent the entire time removing the staples from only the underside and the backside of the chair!
My "subject." I was glad to find this chair on ebay and luckily the previous owner lived just one exit off to motorway from our house, so I think it was a perfect fit for this very situation.
The chair after my first class showing the removal of the backside of the fabric of the chair

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

House Woes

We are having house woes here and we do not even own this place! Late this past weekend, Scott & I decided to move some furniture in one of the back bedrooms so that we could go to IKEA to buy more storage units for the extra bedrooms. As we started to move the wardrobe, a spot on the bottom of the backside of this piece of furniture caught my eye. Upon closer inspection, we realized the bottom half of this wardrobe was completely covered in mold and mildew! Gross. 
Scott then moved the small bed and frame in that bedroom, out of the way, and as he moved that, he discovered mold (mould as they say here) spots all over the underside of the bed mattress. We immediately took out the digital camera to snap photos of this mess to send to our agent and called her to make sure she would actually consider this situation an urgent one. (Mind you, nothing in this country is ever urgent so we knew this one would not be either). I have not posted the photos of the mould here in order to protect your eyes.

Monday morning, as my sister was showering, I was in the kitchen doing dishes and I happened to walk over to our mini fridge where the ceiling caught my eye. I looked up, and saw that there was water coming through our kitchen ceiling from the guest bathroom upstairs! 

So, today, the owners of our house came over to inspect the mould and water situations and they deemed them as problems. I am guessing in about another week, we should have action on these household issues....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The touring of England begins

My sister Carrie arrived just in time this past week to become a migrant worker in our household. We ordered a barbecue grill (the barbie as they say here) and it was delivered on Friday morning. I put Carrie and Scott to work to assemble the grill so that we could grill hamburgers for dinner. The cheeseburgers coupled with home made (Paula Deen style) macaroni and cheese rounded out the request I had for my birthday dinner this year. 
Scott and Carrie setting up the grill inside (due to the rain - again - outside)
This is what it's like to grill in England. Umbrellas are necessary.  :( 
My birthday dinner with Jason, Emma (only partially shown), Lauri, Carrie, and me with my cake. (Scott is the photographer). 

On Saturday, we began touring the country. Our first stop was Stonehenge. 
The entrance to Stonehenge and an explanation of the site.
Scott listening to his audio tour at Stonehenge. Does he look like an American in those shorts????
Cassie, Scott, and Carrie at Stonehenge. 
After Stonehenge, we drove to Cheddar, England. Yes, it is the birthplace of Cheddar Cheese! 
The river that runs through the village of Cheddar.
The village of Cheddar has two main attractions - the making of cheddar cheese and the Cheddar Gorge and caves. While we did not hike into the Gorge and caves, we did visit a local cheese shop and tasted some of the products. 
We visited the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company and tasted their products.
The wide selection of cheese at the shop. The mature cheddar cheese was my favorite. 
After a long Saturday of sightseeing, we then spent Sunday a bit closer to home - at IKEA. This morning, I am now waiting for the delivery men to deliver of our new wardrobes, desk, and my sewing table. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The arrival of things....

The UK moving truck full of our boxes....
Our household goods from Chicago arrived last week, and although we do not have everything completely put away, I am so happy to have a kitchen full of my own things! It is glorious to have extra time so I have been baking/trying new recipes and have also been making nice dinners every night. We were both so tired of eating out after a full month on the road and in hotels, that it has been a treat to cook every night. 
We seem to be missing a few things that we thought had been in our shipment of goods, and also ended up with a few things we had directed to storage (such as an ice cream maker, random mirror, etc.) but overall, the house is starting to feel a bit more like our own since we have our "things" with us. 
 Our new kitchen (my "work" right now) in disarray with our items out after the packers unpacked the boxes.
The best arrival of all, was the one that I collected sister arrived via London to stay with us for almost the next month! It is quite a treat to have her here with us to visit for a while. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to the neighborhood

There is nothing like a warm welcome when you are new to an area. We received our nice English welcome last week right before our shipment of goods arrived.
First, a drunken fool starting pounding on our front door at 11:15pm demanding that I let him into our house. No thanks! 
I am sure he saw me sitting on the couch in our front room because our blinds are completely see-through (a probably at the moment about which we are fighting with our landlords). I panicked; I then ran upstairs and woke up Scott who was fast asleep and told him he needed to go downstairs and deal with the drunken fool. Scott went downstairs, turned off all of our house lights, and went back to bed.
I then called the police to make sure this fool went to bed himself! 
The next morning, I was making sure the house was in order for the arrival of our goods, and I found this lovely sight in one of our back bedrooms. 
Yes, we were egged!!!!
A nice close up view of the egging action.
I guess the residents of our town (or our neighbors as we suspect) and thrilled to have Americans in the neighborhood!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Feels like Home (soon we hope!)

A few good things from our end...

1. The spiders are slowly becoming less prevalent throughout our house (outside the house is a different story). Living here for a few days and a few professional and thorough cleanings have helped the situation overall. We have, however, encountered a fleet of moths in our bathroom. I left the window open ajar the other night before going to sleep and when Scott came up to use the bathroom before bed, the room was swarming with moths! I have learned not to keep the windows open at night.

2. Our things from the states arrive tomorrow! We are both excited to add variety back into our wardrobes and are excited about simple things, such as a trash can for our bathroom (rather than the hanging plastic bag from the door handle). I am excited to have my kitchen intact and baking tools at hand so I can start baking and cooking with some of my free time. I will be glad to have our things here in order to make this place feel more like our own home.

3. I took my first 2 hour driving lesson today. I have been driving some, but it is a nerve-racking experience for both me, as the driver, and Scott, as the passenger. Mr. Singeh, my instructor, did say I was a good driver and should be fine to pass the British driving test and exam with a few more lessons and quite a bit more practice. It is strange to drive here because there are basically no stop signs. Our county has 3 in total. The round-about is preferred here.

4. I joined the local library this week. I have not been to a library to check out a book in years. I have been going there each day to read the paper and then also have checked out a number of books. I have been checking out cookbooks and travel books, so I can plan both my future meals and trips in my spare time.

And the not-so-great things from our end....

1. Our experience with customer service for a number of services for our new house. The phone company is coming to install our line for our phone tomorrow, but they (the same company) cannot turn on the phone, cable, or internet service in our house until the end of September! I am not sure why it takes over ONE month to execute such a request, but I do know that EVERYTHING in this country works and moves slower than I have ever experienced before. I had been warned about this level of service before we arrived here and I thought maybe things had improved since these people were last here. It has not.

2. The Laundry Situation. We have a washer and no dryer. Due to the great number of bugs outside in our back yard, I am not keen on hanging our clothes out there to dry. So, I have drying the clothes on a make-shift clothes line in our kitchen. And since our internet is not working at the house yet, I cannot download the photo of my "laundry room" to my computer in order to post here. As soon as I can post it, the photo will explain the situation best.