Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Year Recapped

Originally, 2010 was going to be the year we were scheduled to move back home....since we are ringing in the New Year here in jolly old England, that plan wasn't the one which came to fruition. That said, we could not be more pleased to still be here in England and when looking back at the year, it has been a very good year for us. Now with 2010 coming to a close, I wish I had properly kept track of more facts and figures related this past year, but I will keep better notes for next year! Recounting the major bits of 2010 include:

Travels. More stamps on our passports. Scott's passport actually filled up this year! Our travels included trips to 10 countries on 4 continents - Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. A few countries were visited more than once (I have counted England in there since we did a few long weekends and exploring in our own back yard).
In January, we woke up on New Year's Day in Rome. We left my family members after a nice Italian holiday and returned back to England.
In February, we traveled to Morocco where we stayed in Marrakesh and also visited the nearby Atlas Mountains.
In April, we visited Istanbul, Turkey - one of our most favorite trips we have taken in our time abroad.
In April, we ate schnitzel larger than our head in Vienna, Austria.
And then next we went exploring Budapest, Hungary, where we experienced the traditional Hungarian Baths and a night at the Opera.
In June, we traveled with Scott's parents on a 3-city, whistle-stop tour of Germany. We saw Hamburg, the Berlin wall, and of course drank many steins of local beer in Munich (paired with one too many sausages!).
In July, Scott traveled to the northern land with some friends and they drank their way through the fine scotch of Scotland and golfed some of the world's best courses up there.
In August, we headed towards the sun to see Portugal. We explored Cascais and Lisbon.
October took us north Edinburgh, Scotland, with some friends for a long weekend.
In November, we took our first Eurostar trip and went back to Paris (our 2nd and 3rd times there). We will probably always find more reasons to go back because the city is just that great.

The additional trips we took included three trips each back to the US (two together, and one each alone) - Scott in the spring, both of us in August, I went back in September, and then both of us went back together again in November.
London seemed to be our favorite weekend and/or day trip destination here in England, although I did not track how many train tickets and trips into the city we made in 2010. My guesstimate would be somewhere between 20-24 trips...the city never looses its appeal to either of us.

VISITORS. We welcomed friends and family into our home over here and were thrilled to have such good friends make the journey to see us in England.
In March, Shawna visited.
May - June brought Cris & Craig for a visit.
In July, we hosted Chris, Chad and Andy.
In October, Amy visited.
In December, Sarah visited and the travel gods just didn't want her to she stayed an extra 5 days!

Change. Each year brings more. Part of this year was spent wondering where the year would end - would we still be in England or would we be returning home? The verdict was England for a while longer. With that news came a new job with the same company, and a promotion for Scott. A good change and one that may keep us here through 2011, possibly into 2012.
Meanwhile, I have spent 7 1/2 months out of this year with physical changes by expanding. A strange statement to think about, but it has been happening for a while now....and with a good purpose....
By mid-September, I was already measuring some growth....
And by the end of November, I was really starting to show signs of expansion and weight gain....all because of:
This little baby who will be debuting (hopefully) in early February 2011! Although this photo is slightly ET-ish, I think it is pretty amazing that we can see the baby's features and face from an ultrasound. We cannot wait to welcome this baby into our family and hope he or she arrives as healthy as can be.

We have been fortunate and blessed in 2010 in so many ways. We look forward to more adventures in 2011, and most importantly hope that we can learn to be good parents to our little one.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care....
In hopes that St. Nicolas soon would be there!
Our neighbors brought over a plate of homemade mince pies this evening so we have the perfect treat to leave out for Santa this year since he will be visiting us in England. Sarah & I already tried one each and we think Santa will enjoy!

Merry Christmas Eve!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grocery Store Insanity

Sarah & I decided to brave the grocery store today to go shopping for our Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day food needs. Saying that our local Sainsbury's store was a ZOO is an understatement!
I am sure part of the madness was due to people not having shopped due to the snowstorm, and then there was probably a large part of the craziness due to the Christmas holiday. However, in preparation for the Christmas rush, I would have thought the grocery might have been more prepared. Instead here was the scene in one of the many aisles - the milk aisle.
Luckily the one kind of milk left was the one we tend to drink, however, many of the other items on my list were just completely out of stock and there was no information on when they might be back in stock! It was a rather frustrating day at the grocery but after three other visits to three other local stores, we were able to finish off the items on the list. Glad we didn't wait until Christmas Eve to do all the shopping...

Snowed In!

Over the weekend we awoke to snow in was a bit messy but manageable. We opted to travel around via (very delayed) trains instead of driving but we were lucky in that we didn't have too far to go. Traffic in our little town was a disaster over the weekend, so we were thankful we didn't have to go far to get to the train station. And although our train on either side of our destination was delayed by 2 plus hours, we managed to enjoy a day out in the snow. The town looks very pretty covered in all of the white stuff.
And then we woke up to more snow as the week began! My dear friend Sarah has been in town visiting and she was due to fly out of London back home to the US on Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately the snow and ice have caused complete chaos for this country and her flight (along with 98% of all others going out of London early this week) was cancelled! Thankfully we found out in advance of her going down to the airport but the bad news was she is literally snowed in with us and cannot leave England until after Christmas! While we are more than happy to have her stay extended, we know we are on borrowed time with her husband and family since they will not get to be with her for Christmas this year.
More snow out the morning window!
More snow as of Tuesday - compare with the photo above from the weekend....quite a bit more! It almost feels like we are back home in Chicago (minus the part where the city actually knows how to cope with removing the snow, and people know how to manage in it!)

So, Sarah & I have been taking advantage of being snowed inside. It has really been great fun! We have baked, cooked, and baked some more.....we have stayed in our pj's until well after noon and watched nonsense on TV.....have been enjoying hot cups of afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream and jam.....and have been organizing my closets and extra guest room in preparation for the baby's soon-to-be nursery.....and have even done a bit of sewing and monogramming too.
Sarah turning the made peanut butter chocolate chip biscotti that we baked one afternoon.
We baked even MORE cinnamon rolls today....this time we also made the orange marmalade version instead of just the traditional cinnamon version.
Two more pans of cinnamon rolls ready and waiting for our consumption on Christmas morning!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Baking 2010

Tis the season for baked goods....and it is that time of year when Scott brings in baked holiday gifts to his co-workers. This year I was fortunate enough to have my friend Sarah visiting from the US, so upon her arrival, we spent a day fully engrossed baking treats in the kitchen! The list of items made this year included: Cinnamon rolls (and many more cinnamon rolls!), Ranger cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Mint Cookies, Turtle pretzel treats, Cranberry-orange Shortbread Cookies, Gooey Butter Cookies, and Chocolate Fudge. The house smelled divine and we had sugar coming out of our pores by the end of our baking extravaganza!
A few of the pans of homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.
The platters of cookies Scott took into work with him for his co-workers to enjoy.
Over 24 pans of cinnamon rolls wrapped up for individual gift giving and ready for Scott to take into his co-workers. (The tags should have read: From - Scott & Cassie and Sarah too!)

In total, we made over 200 cinnamon rolls, 12 dozen cookies, and 5 lbs of fudge!!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree

Since we are spending our first full Christmas in England this year, I decided that I would like to put up a real Christmas tree this year in our house. Scott & I were out and about over the weekend so we went shopping for a fresh tree. I am not quite sure how many English homes have trees versus how many American homes have trees, but the trees here seem VERY expensive and VERY short in height compared to the selection in the US! We were out running errands and came across a local nursery with a sign for Christmas trees so we decided to give their nursery a try.
Entering the Christmas tree area of the lot.
Trying out various types of Christmas trees. A bit short?
Still, not much we moved on from this nursery to another tree nursery closer to our house.
Upon entering the lot, these trees looked a bit more promising.
Turns out this nursery actually grows all of their trees on their property. I went to check them out. There were fields of trees growing.
So we selected a tree, had it bundled up in netting, and stuffed it in our front seat (I squished into the backseat!) and brought it home.
Our living room is now complete with stockings and a decorated tree. Probably the perfect height for the space so we chose wisely!
Unfortunately we did not bring any of our Christmas ornaments over to England with us when we moved here (who would have thought we would be here for our 3rd Christmas?!?!) so I purchased a box of just red ornaments in various shapes. We have also acquired a few British themed ornaments during our time here, so our tree now has a red ornament and British theme to it!
I am enjoying the simple decor our tree has this year, although did miss pulling out our own ornaments to decorate the tree this year, since it always brings back nice memories when unwrapping special ornaments.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside!

This past week we had some cold weather...freezing fog and ice. While there wasn't any snow on the ground, every tree, lawn and fence was white from the ice. It looked like a winter wonderland and was really quite beautiful! I wish I had taken my camera out into the countryside but I did not, so these photos from around our town will have to suffice....
Frozen hedges, trees and yards along a street.
A view of the (somewhat warmer) day when the trees were not as frozen as the next but still white and dense with fog.
And of course my favorite part of the great freeze (haha!) the frozen cobwebs all over our garbage cans!!! The frozen webs were also all along our fences and outside all of our windows. Gross!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More American Food Products

Since we were just back in the US, I again used the opportunity to stock up on more American grocery items....
As you can see, the most recent bounty of goods filled up about half of one suitcase but I had the space, so I took advantage of it!
On the shopping list this time ---- Malt-o-Meal (I Love it and I think it could be a pregnancy/ cold weather craving), cans of diced chilies, cans of Rotel, Kosher salt, Ranch Dressing, Dill Pickle slices, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, oyster crackers, Club Crackers, Chex Mix (a must-have for the holiday season!), Baker's Joy spray with flour (since holiday baking time is upon us), mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and yellow cake mix (and no you did not read that incorrectly - I did purchase a boxed cake mix - I usually scorn cake mixes, but I do want to make some STL gooey butter cookies for the holiday season and they require yellow cake mix in the batter....and so my secret is out). I can officially say I am running out of cupboard space at the moment to house my American "stash." I also picked up a few containers of the disposable tupperware containers because the selection over here is just dismal...
I think I should be able to make quite a few of our American favorites over the coming weeks for the holidays with all of these goodies.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts while back in the US

While Scott & I were just back home in the US for a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday, we found ourselves commenting on various bits of life in America that we did not always readily notice before. I thought I would share such thoughts in no particular order....

- Parking Spaces: They are just HUGE in the US compared to the UK. After driving over in the UK now for a while, I felt like I could park four cars in one American parking space. In the US, there is more than enough room to open your door and get out of the car while parked in a lot. In the UK, I often find myself trying to squirm out of my car in the car park because the spaces are so narrow and I have very little room between my car and the one next to mine....
Aisles between parking spaces are much wider too in the US. They must have to be given the gigantic size of the SUVs, Minivans and various other truck-type cars that rule the road in the US...

- Shopping: Americans love to do it. Consumerism is key. Being home on Black Friday was proof that Americans love to consume goods of all kinds. Shops opened at obscene hours of the night (or morning) and due to our jet lag, we were up and awake at such hours. We ventured out in the early hours of the morning on Black Friday and many others were out trying to grab bargains at the stores at those hours too. While we did not have anything specific to shop for, we were still glad to be out in a proper mall and seeing everyone else there reinforced our thought that Americans love to buy things, especially at this time of year.

- Customer Service: It is clear some aspects of life in the UK have rubbed off on us. There is excellent customer service in the US compared to here (and I sometimes have moaned about it before on this blog), however while we were back and out shopping, we almost felt like we were being assaulted in the stores. Within our first five minutes in one store, we had four sales people come up to us and ask if we needed any assistance. We know they were just doing their job and trying to be helpful - but after the fourth sales person asked us and we responded, "No, thank you - we are just browsing," Scott promptly said to me - We need to leave, this is too much to take! It made me chuckle because I always feel I have to hunt a salesperson down in a store over here and ask them for assistance - they are never outwardly waiting to assist me over here (probably to do with the British sense of privacy or greater personal space I think). I think we have grown used to being left alone when browsing in stores now and it is sometimes kind of nice...

- Eggs: I am now used to only brown eggs over here. I was home and made breakfast one morning and felt like the eggs looked pale and sickly to me since they were white. I think I may be a brown egg convert by the time we move back.....

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Thanksgiving Surprise

While living abroad does have many benefits, sometimes it is difficult to be away from family. I probably find it most difficult because I am very close to my family. I talk to my mother daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I speak to my father and sister almost every day as well. Sometimes there is not a lot to say but it's always nice just to hear what has happened in the last day since I have spoken to them and to tell them about something mundane over here. Thank goodness for our vonage phone and skype for being able to keep in touch while living so far away! Having a US phone number over in England is confusing to some, but it does make me feel a bit closer to home.

Thanksgiving week was upon us here and Scott & I attended the American Club's Thanksgiving celebration in advance of the actual holiday. It does feel slightly uneventful here, since of course it is just not acknowledged or celebrated in England. I think my husband could tell I needed to be back with my family. He is a very good husband like that. And so he proposed that we all head back to St. Louis and surprise my parents for Thanksgiving. I think they were missing us just as much as we were missing them. And so we went back to the US and surprised them this past weekend. What a great surprise it was and how nice it was to be back home for a short while!

We were slightly delayed in arriving into St. Louis because there was SNOW falling...
The backyard with the snow starting to fall...
First, my sister Carrie arrived from Denver to surprise my parents on Thanksgiving Day. My parents then called us here in the UK, leaving a message to say we could call them since the surprise was revealed (and it was mid-day in the US at this point and I hadn't spoken to them, a bit unlike me since I speak to them daily). Little did they know at this point we were already on US soil and were awaiting our connection at O'Hare airport!
My Mom was busy finishing her Thanksgiving dinner which she thought was just going to be for her and my Dad. Luckily there was enough food since she was planning for leftovers!
And then Scott & I arrived home! We made it in time for a late Thanksgiving dinner (falling asleep shortly there after due to a long day of travel and jet lag!). It felt so nice to be home and I was very glad to have one more trip back home before this little bambino arrives in about 9 more weeks....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am a bit behind in posting these photos so I will briefly recap our weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, that we took at the end of October. We traveled with our friends BJ & Beth who reside in London. None of us had been to Edinburgh before (Scott being the exception - he had a pass through of the Edinburgh airport this summer...but not a proper stay there) so we decided that we would all meet in Edinburgh for a weekend of exploring the city.
The city is very much one of many townhouses. It is a surprisingly low city with not many buildings much higher than a few stories in height. Our hotel was also a series of townhouses that had been renovated and turned into a hotel (as many are).
The view of the many row houses from our hotel entrance.
The height in the city comes in the old part of town where the castles and the high street are all set on top of some steep hills and lovely old cobblestone streets. Our legs got a work out over the weekend!
On the bridge leading to Old Town - I think this is the North Bridge in Ediburgh.
A scene on the Royal Mile (Edinburgh's main high street leading to the Castle).
The buildings in Edinburgh. All very gray but quite picturesque.
The boys found their way to a whiskey merchant as soon as possible....
Traditional scottish bag pipes being played on the street.
The decor at the bar where the boys spent their afternoon....
Scott & BJ sampling a wide variety of scottish whiskies while Beth & I spent some time shopping...
We celebrated BJ's birthday on Saturday night while we were there. I baked red velvet cupcakes and brought them up for the weekend.
On Sunday we did explore Edinburgh Castle.
Beth & BJ inside the castle walls - a very high vantage point to see the city.
The baby bump at Edinburgh Castle.
The history marker for the castle.

State rooms inside Edinburgh Castle.
After some touring, whiskey drinking and castle sight-seeing, we had seen nearly all the main sights of Edinburgh. It was a nice weekend away without having to go too far!