Thursday, September 23, 2010

Boden Bonanza

This week that clothing store I have come to love dearly, Boden, was hosting a clearance sale near our house. I received a notification in the post and knew I had to put it on my calendar to attend.

The flyer I received said the sale started at 10am, so I wanted to get there as close to 10 as possible. When I arrived at 10:10am, here is what the parking lot looked like already:
Needless to say, I was on the late end of the arrival filled up the field near the exhibition centre.
Upon entering the exhibition centre, I was faced with a sea of British ladies rummaging through all of the clothes as quickly as they could, while trying to stuff all possible options of items into their bags for purchase.
People everywhere! I thought maybe they were giving the clothes away!
While it was bustling at the seams, it was fun to go and be part of the action. Some of the deals were really good (aka the kids clothing items and the coats) but some of the other items did not seem to be as inexpensive as I thought they would be for a "clearance" sale. I wonder if they host the same type of sales in the US too? Maybe when we move back I will offer to organize one for them!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bovey for a Birthday

For my birthday this year, Scott really pulled off a great surprise. He informed me that we would be going away for the weekend - either via car or train - and advised me on how to pack accordingly. I thought we might be going to the south of England because I have been talking for a while about how I would like to see the Devon and/or Cornwall area. He kept his lips sealed and just said I needed to be ready to leave Friday late afternoon when he would come home from work to collect me.

Well, we drove on Friday evening to Devon, England, and we arrived at a place called Castle Bovey in Dartmoor National Park which is where we stayed for the weekend. It was the most exciting birthday surprise he has arranged for me yet....and frankly I am not sure how he will ever top the weekend because it wasn't even a "big" birthday for me! (Although it is the last birthday of just the two of us so I think that was his motive.)
The view of Dartmoor National Park from the back of Castle Bovey on the terrace.
The main driveway leading up to the entrance of Castle Bovey.
The parking area/entrance to Castle Bovey - every part was grand and beautiful.
One of my favorite touches! Wellies were available for all guests to use while staying at the property. So very English!
The view of the valley and park from our room.
Looking out our suite's room, onto the terrace area of the property and into the park.
The roads in Devon were NARROW. I am not sure this photo does our driving experience to get to Castle Bovey justice since we arrived in the very dark of night as our car was brushing the sides of hedges and bushes that lined the sides of these narrow and very windy streets.
The nearby town of Moretonhampstead. I loved the bunting flags that were strung throughout the streets.

On Saturday, we explored the area of Dartmoor National Park and decided to visit one of the National Trust Properties nearby - Lydford Gorge.

We hiked along the trails to explore the Gorge and see the main waterfalls.
Don't I look properly outfitted in my wellies and my raincoat?!?

Scott bravely climbed down to the mouth of the gorge. I photographed the happening from a safer location.

At the White Lady Waterfall.
After a morning and early afternoon of exploring the area, we headed back to Bovey for some relaxation and most importantly - afternoon tea! The hotel was just so lovely, we could have stayed there for days and been fine with just time spent in one of the many libraries or lounge areas, reading a book and sipping tea. Built for Viscout Hambledon - the son of affluent businessman WH Smith – for his private residence in 1906, the Bovey Castle Dartmoor was crafted with no expense spared or corners cut. It is apt, then, that its renovation and transformation to a country house hotel one century later should similarly be an exercise in grand design and bold statement, with the very highest quality fixtures and fittings used throughout. A somewhat eclectic melting pot of styles, Bovey Castle’s remarkable interior draws on influences from medieval, art deco, post-modern and Victorian schools of thought. The result is a hotel with a unique and charming, if slightly eccentric, character.
One of the hallways inside Bovey - it had a sportsman's feel to it.
Another main hallway inside Bovey - leading to the dining room.
One of the libraries with a great view of the park.
One of the libraries. So cozy.
Scott was a sport and had a full proper English afternoon tea with me in the main library of the hotel.
The afternoon tea display and snacks were excellent. Finger sandwiches, scones with official Devonshire clotted cream and jam, and an assortment of pastries - include treacle tarts (possibly my favorite British dessert).
I could really get used to this life!
After tea, we went for a stroll around the property.
There was even a little lake on site.
It felt like a good place for a photo or two...
We wandered the golf course area too, where we could see the Castle in the background.
That evening we enjoyed a nice dinner in Bovey's main restaurant. Dinner was followed by some scotch tasting for Scott in the whisky library. He looks a little too comfortable for his own good here....
The next morning we awoke to a helicopter landing just outside our window on the property's helicopter landing pad. It looked like a little orange bug flying outside the window.
After breakfast on Sunday, Scott said we should go sit in one of the libraries. It was roped off on one door and so I thought he was crazy for moving the rope and making us sit in there. However, then a waitress appeared with a birthday cake for me and I realized he had orchestrated the room to be roped off just for us. He is so thoughtful!
A nice little birthday cake for me. And no "bad icing" on it (as Scott so kindly asked the hotel). What he meant to say was, he preferred not to have fondant icing on it since they seem to love cakes with fondant icing on them over here! Luckily, this one was whipped cream frosting with strawberries.
Out on the terrace of Bovey before it was time to depart. It was really such a nice weekend!
The Birthday weekend was even completed with an appropriate gift upon our return to our house - my own official pair of Hunter wellies!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bun in the Oven...

Recently I have been baking a famous "hometown recipe" - The St. Louis Junior League Cinnamon Rolls. They are quite a bit of work but worth every minute in the kitchen, after you taste the first bit of the warm rolls straight out of the oven! They are not as large as traditional cinnamon rolls but they are gooey and sugary and frankly delicious.
While I have been making a lot of cinnamon buns, there is another type of bun in the oven elsewhere....
This "baby bun" is almost 19 weeks along now and will be debuting around February 4th! I think the baby likes cinnamon sweets quite a bit so there have been a lot of cinnamon rolls consumed already...

Friday, September 3, 2010


Having just returned from a trip to the US for a week, I cannot help but feel a bit displaced. I know the US is "home" and there is no question that we will return there someday to live permanently. However during this visit back to America, flying into Chicago did not feel like we were coming home, it felt more like we were visiting the city for a while. Right now, it feels like our home is in England - and I feel a bit of comfort when we land here and drive home surrounded by fields of cows and sheep on either side of the motorway.

I think part of this displacement is a function of time. We have now lived in England for just over two years. We are settled. We have established friendships, routines, work relationships, know where to eat out - we are vested into a life here. The things I once moaned and complained to no end about, have now come to be part of the charm of life over here.....some of the things I realized when we were back in the US last week.

When we first moved over here, I longed for more convenience....A store to be open past 5:30pm, a proper mall nearby, or even a store semi-resembling a Target. Unfortunately none were found. However, while I was back in the US, I had all of these things (plus more!) at my disposal. My mom, sister and I were at the mall shopping until 9 o'clock at night, made multiple Target runs and could even do that until 10pm if I wanted to! While it was great to have these conveniences back for the week, it made me realize how nice and quiet our evenings are here in England. Scott & I spend more time together here because neither of us are running around, late at night, after a long day of work - because there is no opportunity to do so. While it still does frustrate me at times with the lack of convenience here, it has made me realize how much I value the time for families in this culture.

Further, I noticed other things while I was home this time. Usually when I walk into a store here and the shop keeper asks me if I need any help, I respond politely, and the shop keeper notices that I am not from this country. My accent makes me an outsider or different in England. I had to readjust to the fact that back at home, I was easily able to go unnoticed and no one asked me why I was in the country, did I live here, and what brought me here? I sounded like everyone else and therefore of course I fit in there.

So, while we do not sound like we fit in here in England, we have adapted to more parts of the culture here than I ever thought we would. We have become somewhat woven into the fabric of life here and quite enjoy it for now. We know we want to eventually return "home" to the US, but I now am starting to wonder if we will have to re-adjust to life back in the US when we return? And will it ever be the same for us as it was before we moved overseas?