Thursday, July 30, 2009

One Step Closer to that UK Driver's License

Scott and I are both one step closer to obtaining our UK Driving Licenses....Scott passed his theory test last week and I passed my theory test today! Woo hoo!!! We are glad to be finished with that portion of the test but still have the practical exam looming over our heads. 

Obtaining a UK Driver's License as an American is not an easy task. If you come from Canada, anywhere in the EU, Singapore, Australia, or frankly anywhere else in the world - and move to the UK, all you need to do is turn in your current driving license and you will receive a new UK driver's license. No test required, no major paperwork to complete - just trade one in for the other. 

However, if you come from America and do not posses a license from any of these other countries (many people we know here do have such licenses since they were expats in other countries first), you may drive for ONE ENTIRE year on your US driver's license and then by the end of that year you must obtain a UK Driver's License. I am not complaining about having this year to drive without the hassle of obtaining a rule book or taking these tests, but I do question the fact that they allow you to drive for a full YEAR before needing to test your knowledge of the rules of the road. A tad dangerous maybe for the other drivers we might cut off in those roundabouts or scare when we accidentally pull out onto the wrong side of the road over here???

The process of course has not been simple to obtain a license. First, you must surrender your US passport (for up to 15 business/working days) to apply for and obtain a "provisional license." Then, after receiving the provisional license, you can sign up and then take this theory (written) test. After those two items are successfully completed you must sign up for and take your practical exam. After all three steps are successfully completed, you are then about 150 GBP less rich (probably plus another 150GBP for driving lessons per person!) and are also a licensed driver in the UK until the age of 70. Yes, that's correct - you take the test once and basically have a license with no renewal needed until the age of 70. 

I missed my first time slot to take my theory test due to the swine flu. Of course the driving agency would not simply let me reschedule my test over the phone. If I wanted to reschedule my test and not loose my money, they said I would have to post them a letter explaining my situation and then they would post me a response back and reschedule me another test in approximately 4-6 weeks (their choice of day and time). I am still amazed everyone POSTS letters over here to get things done. Save time and money and use the phone or the Internet!!!  So, I chose to loose my 30 GBP fee for that first test time and signed up for another test and paid another 30 GBP so I did not infect all other test takers at the driving agency with the swine flu.....

I passed my test today and after I got home tonight, I immediately called the driving instructor to book in more lessons for both Scott and myself so we can be prepared for the practical part of our driving exam. After booking the lessons, I decided to go online and schedule my practical exam time slot, since the driving centre advised me it could take up to 6 weeks to get a time slot. 

I should have known it wouldn't be that simple. I logged into the website and as I tried to book a practical exam, I received this message:


30 July to 4 August

For essential IT maintenance work to take place we need to close down DSA's driving test booking systems. From 5.15pm Thursday 30 July to 8.00am Tuesday 4 August, online services to book or amend practical tests will be unavailable. Theory Test services will be available as normal. Please be aware that the Contact Centre will only be able to offer a limited service during the closedown period. Please call 0300 200 11 22 for general enquiries only. DSA apologise for any inconvenience caused.

GO FIGURE! Ahh, I am just so happy to add this bit to my repertoire of great customer service experiences over here .... Hopefully someday I will become a UK Licensed Driver.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My little endeavor

Last fall I took a stab at trying to exhibit at a few craft "fayres" here in the UK to display (and hopefully sell) the baby gifts, personalised items, and children's clothing that I enjoy making as gifts for friends. Making these items started as most of our friends started having children and I wanted to give them personalised (monogrammed) items and found things in the stores that I thought I could make just as easily as I could buy. Since I enjoy sewing, I started trying out different patterns and then once I purchased an embroidery machine it was easy to embroider little gift items to make them personal for the child. 

Over time these gifts have evolved and with the feedback of the moms, I have made some changes to the items to make them hopefully the best items for the children (and for the parent needs as well). 
I have given a few gifts to some British friends who have had babies in our area, and all have raved about the products since personalised items seem difficult to come by over here. Thus, orders started coming in from them for their friends and then the questions about "Do I have a website?", "Where can I see the product listings?" and more started to occur. So, I have tested my VERY limited web skills and have launched my first little website to show some of these handmade products online. I also now have an ETSY site (online handmade selling forum - it's GREAT!) so people can buy my products online. I will ship worldwide!


In really great news, I made my first online sale via etsy yesterday! I was thrilled, as I had only listed the product 24 hours earlier. My first "sale" was a personalised 1st Birthday Cupcake Baby Bib for a little girl. Here is the product: 
I am sure I will post more about my new initiative again, but keep checking the site,, as I add more products for sale.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Killing Birds

I am finally back in the life of the living after a bad bout with the swine flu.....thankfully Scott seems to be unscathed and so we are hopefully he will avoid it all together.
As a result of being out of commission for almost 2 weeks with the flu, I do not have many exciting travels or sight seeing adventures on which to report. The excitement around our house this past weekend revolved around two dead birds. 

The first bird incident occurred when I went out onto our back patio to water my vegetable "garden" (aka pots of vegetables growing well over their containers) and I nearly jumped out of my skin as I went towards the zucchini plants because I saw this dead bird on the ground!
We suspect it flew straight into the window on our garage door and fell to its death. I carefully waited for Scott to get home from work to dispose of this bird. 
Our second bird "incident" occurred on Sunday evening. We invited a friend over for dinner because his wife and children are back in the US starting their annual "home leave" visit with their relatives at the moment. The husband has remained back in the UK for a few weeks and will meet his family at the end of this week. I figured that he probably could use a nice Sunday night meal since his wife is away. 
Sadly, a nice meal is not what was delivered - in fact, the main course was slightly disastrous instead! We made the "beer can chicken" recipe where you take a full chicken, slather it in oil and spices, and then stick the entire chicken cavity on top of the beer can. The process started out just fine until I glanced out the kitchen window and saw flames coming out of our grill! I yelled for Scott and he rushed outside and when we opened the grill, we found our dead bird....
The flaming bird, with completely charred skin (and difficult to see in this photo - beer squirting out of its chest cavity to boot!). At least the meat was cooked and slightly edible....but oh so dry....
Hopefully we will not be killing anymore birds in our neck of the woods anytime soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Down and Out....

I am currently out for the count right now because (no joke) I have the swine flu....sigh. It is possibly the worst flu I have encountered yet and probably the first time I have had the flu in 6 plus years. I am now on day three and my fever is higher, and in the past few days I have consumed a total of 2 pieces of dry toast, a few crackers, a few bites of jello and five sips of Gatorade. None of it worked out very well so I am down to jello and water at the moment....

The doctor's office by us isn't even testing for the swine flu at the moment because the demand is so high (and due to this lovely healthcare system it is taking over 10 days to get test results back) but they told me today that they are pretty sure I have it and my symptoms are on par with the classic symptoms. 

I swear I haven't kissed any pigs or birds or whatever causes one to contract this horrid flu.....
Let's just hope it doesn't drag on for too much longer!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Scott!

Today we celebrated another year of Scott on his birthday! We enjoyed a low-key Sunday at home and around town. Here is a photo of the UK themed birthday cake (chocolate with vanilla buttercream frosting) that I made for him this afternoon. Since it is his first birthday while residing in the UK, I attempted the Union Jack flag and thought it turned out pretty nice. 
One of the downsides of being abroad for celebrations like birthdays, is being away from family. Luckily with the modern technology of SKYPE, we were able to have both sets of our parents sing Happy Birthday to Scott via video conferencing! 
Scott with his birthday cake being sung to by our family members back in the US via the computer/SKYPE. 
I hope the year to come is another great one for you, Scott!! Happy Birthday! xoxo

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

This year is our first Independence Day we have spent abroad. Being far away from America has made us appreciate and feel more connected to our freedom and the country we call home, more now than ever have before. 
We have celebrated America's 4th of July over the past few days....starting with a reception in London at the US Ambassador's residence on Thursday evening. The party was quite nice and they served genuine corn-fed Nebraska beef (cubes as appetizers) as well as barbecued ribs, so we were in heaven just to eat such delicious American foods! Watching the color guard and listening to the National Anthem that evening in such a setting, made us both feel quite proud. We are lucky to be Americans and I was honored to be able to celebrate our national holiday abroad with other Americans, while living in a foreign land. 
Friday night, I went to an ABBA cover band concert with some friends at Warwick Castle, and the show was topped off with fireworks which was a festive start to celebrating the 4th. 
Today we spent the afternoon at a barbecue with the local American club, and then this evening joined some American friends (and their British friends too!) at their house for another barbecue and celebration. We have had a nice few days of celebrating America's Independence Day in the UK and are thankful and proud to be Americans. 

Scott in his festive/summer attire in Regent's Park in London on our way to the Ambassador's event. 
The two of us at the entrance to the American Ambassador's House for the party on Thursday. 

Fireworks on July 3rd at Warwick Castle after an ABBA Coverband concert.
Red, White, & Blue are the colors we know and so cupcakes celebrating the 4th were made for a barbecue this evening. 
Edie & Helena show their American spirit at a barbecue this evening. 
Scott plays basketball at the barbecue, even with the littlest ones, including Emma. 
Joe is setting out with his helmet gear on, ready to start the backyard fireworks show. 
The kids at the barbecue opened up pop toys/bottles to make noise and celebrate the 4th. They followed by singing and dancing to the song "We're the kids from America" which was pretty cute. 
A backyard fireworks show! 
God Bless America!