Monday, August 31, 2009

Paradise Found

We have arrived in paradise. 
After a long night of flying, we arrived on our island in the Maldives and are enjoying the VERY intense and hot sun, along with the crystal clear water and white sand. Despite our best efforts of applying 50 SPF sunscreen protection, we still managed to burn! Not sure if we should blame it on our skin turning to that of British quality where it burns upon first glimpse of sunshine, or if the sun is just that much more intense down here since we are pretty darn close to the equator. Those factors, combined with the severe jet lag of our first day on the island have left us with finger paint type sunburns on various body parts - Scott's ankles, my back, and other random red marks that have appeared from a mediocre job of applying sunscreen and taking a nap in the afternoon sun.  Not to worry, it will not hinder our time here - we are spending our days being completely lazy (now covered in t-shirts for more sun protection!) and are venturing out into the Indian Ocean to snorkel around the reefs that are just a mere 20-30 feet off the shore of this island. As far as we can tell, this place is as close to paradise as we think we'll find....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunny Skies Ahead...

Sunny skies are ahead for us as long as Scott can tear himself away from his work so we can leave town in another day! We are headed to the Maldives & Dubai for a 10 day trip (happy early birthday to me!!)....
is where we are headed....a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only about 45 beach bungalows on the entire island. After we land in the capital of the Maldives (Male), we take a sea plane to our island which should be interesting! I am not sure we ever would have chosen the Maldives as a vacation destination if we were in the US given that it is so far away, but since we are half way there, we decided to book a trip before the islands disappear. 
No TVs or big night clubs will be found on this island, so are packing quite a few books, our new snorkel gear, swimsuits, and plenty of sunscreen for a hopefully relaxing time in this tropical paradise. From my latest check on the weather in the Maldives, the current forecast is still sitting at a balmy 28 degree Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at 10:30pm there at night, so I am positive the days and nights will be warm! 
Sorry to leave the rain in England but sunnier skies are calling....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spiders in the Car "wing" mirrors

I have expressed my discontent with the high number of spiders this country has to offer, mainly the ones I find living in my house. Today, I have seen 5 who are taking up residence in my home. Sigh. I killed the two in the kitchen (well Scott did on my behalf!) because it disgusts me to have spiders in the food preparation area. The others who are living in the corners of rooms will get to live for today....tomorrow may be a different story.

Beyond the spiders that seem to multiply in our house, I am now finding spiders living in the "wing" (side) mirrors of our cars. Maybe I wasn't as aware of this situation when we first moved here, but now it seems to be happening on every car I see in a parking lot. The spider seems to live inside the mirror area and then spins its web in between the mirror, car window and door frame. I will have to take a photo to post sometime soon. I already got angry with the spiders this morning and destroyed their webs with a stick when I pulled back home into the driveway. I know there are at least two of them in one of our cars because as I was driving today along the motorway, they BOTH crawled out onto their webs at nearly the same time. As I was looking to change lanes, I glanced in the side mirrors and saw big brown spiders crawling around out there!!! uggh. I just fear they will crawl inside my car (correction, I have already found webs inside the volvo on the passenger's side - GROSS!) - but I fear they will crawl inside while I am driving just to irritate me. 

I do not remember walking through a parking lot of cars in the US to find every other car wing mirror covered with a spider web....I am wondering is it just another UK phenomenon? I just googled the situation and was amused to find other people wonder about these spiders who reside inside their car mirrors as well.
There were quite a few other sites I found about this topic, but I will quit my ranting about it now and will hope that someday I'll be back in a land where I do not find spiders popping out every day at me. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ONE YEAR in the UK!

It is hard to believe how quickly and yet how slowly (at times...) the past year has gone by while living here in the UK. It has officially been one year since we arrived on this island. 
For the most part, I would say we assumed "normal" life pretty quickly and by now most things no longer feel as foreign as they did in the beginning. I will admit there are definitely things I still miss about the US and things I find strange or irritating about life over here, but there are now things about the UK that I am sure I will miss once we return to the US. 

In no random order, here are some things I still really do miss about the US: 
- Being close to our families. We are lucky enough to have had our families over here to visit, and they will return within the next year, but it is still sad at times not to see them as often as we did before. Same story with our good friends!
- Various products: unsweetened chocolate squares (no good substitutes of any kind of over here), Cheetos (terrible I know), marshmallows, cheez-its, tootsie rolls, big bags of chocolate chips (Trader Joe's semi-sweet brand to be specific), applesauce, CHEX cereal, PAM spray, and peanut butter are just a few.... and looking at this list, I realize there is nothing really healthy on there! 
- Dining out. Restaurants in our area, although charming, are not quite as prolific and of the same quality as we experienced on a regular basis in Chicago. We were spoiled with the dining options in the city of Chicago and miss our good steaks, hamburgers, deep dish pizza, sushi, and weekend brunch restaurants the most. No good substitutes over here in our area.
- Buttered movie theater popcorn. They offer "salt" or "sweet" popcorn choices at the movie theater over here and while we have not attended more than a handful of movies in the last year, I miss the kind slathered in liquid butter and topped with salt. (again, realizing another thing I miss about the US is really not that healthy!)
- Fast customer service. I suspect that by the time we move back to the US, the mediocre customer service that the US cable company will offer me will feel like lighting speed compared to the experiences I have had over here.
- Fabric Stores - i.e. Jo-Ann Fabrics or any other big chain or independent quilting/fabric shop in the US. I am sure my wallet (and Scott!) appreciates the lack of such stores over here but I could spend hours just wandering the aisles of a good fabric store. There is a story called Hobby Craft over here that is a very watered down version of a Michael's but really it doesn't even hold a candle to any type of "superstore" craft store in the US. 
- Window Screens and air-conditioning in the house. Have you seen my posts about spiders before???? I often feel like I am living at a summer camp because I see and kill so many spiders!
- Target. There is no substitute.
- Stores open past 5:30pm. I cannot wait to be back in the US where I can run out to the store at 7pm just because I would like to go shopping later in the evening. I will never take 24 hour stores for granted after living over here! 

Again, in no random order, some things I have really grown to enjoy on this side of the pond:
- Boden. I have recently discovered this online shopping outlet. I LOVE it. My poor wallet (and Scott)! I especially love it because they offer LONG options for dresses and pants which is a golden find for someone like me who is taller than most. I am even more thrilled to know that they now have a US division of their company so once we move back to the US, I will still be able to indulge in this shopping habit.
- Waitrose Grocery Store. It is really a fabulous grocery store and makes Dominicks or Jewel in Chicago look pretty dismal. They have a wonderful selection of bakery products, fresh fish, and more - although it all comes with a price!
- Percy Pigs from M&S. I am slightly addicted to these "soft gums" as they call them here. Basically they are chewy gummy candies. 
- Custard Cream Biscuits. These cookies are cheaper than buying a bottle of water. They are simple vanilla wafers with cream filling on the inside but they are served frequently with your coffee or tea, or during a meeting, and I eat them all too often as a result! They are a tasty little treat though...
- Salt & Vinegar Crisps. Salt & Vinegar seems to be a very popular flavor chip (as known by Americans) and Scott & I both really enjoy the flavor. It seems that every brand of chips offers this flavor and they are all good.
- The slower pace of life and extended amount of vacation time. It seems to be a love/hate relationship we have with the pace of life over here - it is frustrating that things move much slower than we are used to at times, but then on the flip side, it is very nice to be able to take a step back and slow down a bit. Stores physically close earlier here and everyone takes their allotted 5 weeks of yearly vacation. Such parameters have actually allowed us to spend more time together and have given us plenty of time to travel. Sometimes it feels like we are on vacation every other month. (not that we are complaining - but it is a wonder how things get done when people are on holiday so often!).  
- The access to Europe and beyond. We have been able to see so many amazing places over here that we know we never would have the opportunity to see with such ease if living in the US. 
- Scott's office being located just 2 miles away from where we live. His short commute has been a complete change from his days in Chicago when he drove for over an hour (or more) each way to and from work. He now is able to come home from work in the middle of the day for lunch, and even though he works more hours than he did in Chicago, he is actually home earlier (sometimes) than he was a year ago. 
- The weather. How could the weather be a positive when it rains so much over here, you ask?!?!? Again, compared to the weather in Chicago (mainly the winters there), a year round fall-like climate with rain really seems to be a nice improvement over digging a car out of a foot of snow in below-zero temperature! Besides, if we miss the sun in the summer months, we just can hop on a plane and head to southern France or Italy for a week. :)

Overall, we are glad to be celebrating our first year of living abroad and hope that our future time here brings as many wonderful discoveries as we have had within the first year. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Sunday Car Boot Sale

Car "Boot" sales as they are called over here in England happen quite often during the summer months. The best way to describe this scene is to say it is one large garage sale that occurs in an open field. Sellers drive their cars onto the grassy area and open the "boot" of the car (trunk as it is commonly known to Americans) and display their wares for sale out of the back of their car, or on a table right next to their vehicle. Attendees drive their car into the parking area of the field, and then no admission is charged those who wish to browse. I suspect a small sum might be required of the sellers in order to participate. 

One of these weekly summer car boot sales takes place near our town and so I have been saying I would like to attend for a while, just to see what it is. So, today we woke up and I suggested we should go to the car boot sale! What an interesting scene....

We did not purchase anything (probably because there was just a lot of junk there!) but it appeared that many people walked away with a number of treasures to take home. 
People at the car boot sale walking throughout the informal "aisles" of the sellers displaying their goods.
A typical set up at the car boot sale - a van with all of the seller's goods displayed in front of the vehicle. 
Car boots are open and a seller set up his table at the back of his car. These events tend to be a family affair - lots of kids and quite a few dogs were walking around the event this morning. 
There was even a portable barber shop on site! We didn't see anyone going for a haircut, but it was a clever little trailer set up. 
Some sellers just display their goods all over the ground - quite a variety of things for sale! 
Scott's only find that he thought was worthy of a possible purchase consideration - a "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" themed motorcycle/vespa type vehicle. Luckily for me, this gem was not up for sale, and it remained where it belongs - with its current owner! 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's just another morning commute....

over here in the middle of England....My sight this morning while driving along the motorway......
Yes, those are COWS crossing the bridge over the highway!!! The first time I saw this sight I could not believe my eyes, but it does happen occasionally and today I had my phone close enough to capture it via mobile phone (no accidents occurred while capturing this image). 

I guess it's just another daily sight seen over here in jolly old England! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Baking Disaster....

I was just going along baking some treats this afternoon and I needed to make icing for some muffins. I went to Sainsbury's today and purchased two new boxes of powdered sugar. So I opened one of the boxes and poured in some liquid ingredients into the bowl and then poured in the powdered sugar - I started to stir the mixture when I saw a thick black spider coming out of the powdered sugar I had just dumped in there! Scott just happened to walk in the front door at this very time and heard me scream in sheer disgust. 

He luckily came into the kitchen and disposed of the spider and then I dumped the entire mixture out and started a new. 

I tell you I have encountered MORE spiders in this country than I ever thought possible. Earlier today, I thought it was terrible that I had killed 5 spiders I found in our house, but I am pretty sure this icing incident tops any spider hanging out in a corner or crack in our house!!!!!!!!