February 17, 2010


To spice up an otherwise non-exsistant holiday in the UK, my fabulous parents came to visit for Thanksgiving! So once again, I got to be a tourist in my own town (and parts of Wales). And the funny thing is, I saw almost all different things than I did the last time I played tour guide. There's just so much to see here!
When we first moved here someone gave me a guidebook with a picture of Llangollen (pronounced Thlan-go-thlen... I think... Welsh is a strange language) and I've wanted to go there ever since. So we drove out to the hills of Wales to visit this little village. November isn't exactly tourist season so we were pretty much on our own =)

Just down the road from the town center is the Llangollen Canal. In the spring and summer you can take a ride in the long boats, some of which are horse-drawn.

This is the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct. It spans the Dee River Valley at a height of 126 feet and is over 200 years old, 1,000 feet long, 11 feet wide and 5 feet deep. You can also take a boat across it in the warm season which I will definitely do! It is the longest, highest aquaduct in Britain and was inscribed to the World Heritage List in 2009. If you would like to read more and see more pictures, click here.

Closer to home are the extensive grounds of Tatton Park. There are over 1,000 acres of open land where you can see the Queen's deer pretty much year-round. Although the town of Tatton has disappeared, you can still visit Tatton Hall, built in the early 15th century and formerly the home of Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Chancellor of England. Currently it is home to shops selling hand-made cheeses, baked goods, jams, garden stuff and the usual souvenier items and huge gardens that you can roam around during the spring and summer. The Old Hall has been featured on Britain's Most Haunted and they do period reinactments during tourist season.

We let the girls play hooky one day and headed out to the Welsh coast to visit Conwy Castle. I liked it so much in September with CH & MH I thought I'd bring my parents here as well. And I will bring any of you who come visit.
It was crazy windy but we had a great time. They have a mystery-solving adventure for kids and the girls had so much fun collecting clues and figuring out how the seige of Conwy happened. Peanut even wrote a report for her class to make up for skipping =)

This year Peanut's class did a play about the 1st Thanksgiving. I'm so glad my parents were here to see some of the fun things that the school does. Peanut was a narrator and did a fantastic job, if I do say so myself!

We also took a tour on the Chester Old Bus. It's a double-decker bus that goes all around the city with a tour guide pointing out important sites, buildings and symbolic meanings. I learned so much about the things I see everyday and usually don't think twice about.

Our traditional Thanksgiving dinner was postponed until Saturday because MDH was in London all week. While the turkey and mashed potatoes were pretty much exactly the same as I would have made at home, some substitutions had to be made for the rest of the dinner. No condensed cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole, no pre-made pie crusts (and no way was I making my own!) and no canned pumpkin. But I think everything turned out well in the end.

This year I was thankful for so many things and I'm so glad my parents were here to start the holiday season with us.

November 6, 2009

School Assemblies

The girls' school holds assemblies every Friday (or when something important happens) and this week both of the girls received awards. Each time a student is especially kind or helpful they are awarded a smile and Princess was the smile winner of the week.

And Peanut earned a merit badge this week for academic achievement.

Also this week, Form 1 put on a special assembly for Guy Fawkes day, 5th November. In case you're not familiar with the story, Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who was fed up with the Protestant king and became part of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He was caught before the plan could be carried out and now Britian celebrates the Houses NOT being blown up every year with a big bonfire and fireworks. If you would like to read the whole story, click here.

Princess's class made bonfire pictures.
This is a poem the class learned for the assembly...I missed the first part but I will post the whole thing below.

Gunpowder Treason & Plot

Remember remember the 5th of November
the gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes guy was his intent
to blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
to prove old England's overthrow.

By God's mercy he was catched
with a dark lantern and lighted match.
Holler boys! Holler boys! Let the bells ring!
Holler boys! Holler boys! God save the king!

November 3, 2009


The last week of October marks the half-term for all English students and they get a week-long break. Of course this strikes fear into the hearts of all mums and dads who have to find entertainment for their children. Here is what we found to do during our week of "rest and relaxation"...

Before MDH headed to London for month-end closing, we carved pumpkins that the girls designed. MDH had NEVER carved a pumpkin before! I think these are my favorite pumpkins ever =)

On Monday we went out to Red House Farm up near Manchester. It was a nice drive and pretty country scenery.

At the farm they have pumpkins and other autumn veggies for sale, plus fresh cheeses, meats and all kinds of homemade sweets. This is an enormous turkey we met called Trevor.

We had lots of fun going in the bounce houses, going on a spook hunt and riding the tractor train.

Peanut coughed all night after all the fresh air so Tuesday we had a quiet day inside. Board games, crafts and grocery shopping were all the excitement I felt she could handle until we got the cough under control.

After a great night's sleep we made plans to go out to the Cheshire Candle and Craft Workshop. Here you can make your own candle and candle holder, design a keychain or paint a model.

All around these craft stations are booths where you can buy homemade soaps, sculptured candles, decorative items for the house, jewelry, etc. And there's a cute little cafe attached where you can get yummy ice cream!

It's a pretty neat place, set in some beautiful countryside and the prices are extremely reasonable. We will definitely be going back to do some Christmas shopping!

Peanut has been asking me for months to visit the "hole in the ground". By this she means the Roman amphitheatre ruins down the street from our house. So on Thursday we packed a picnic and walked down to the "hole".

The girls searched for Roman treasures.

And we had enough of our lunch leftover to feed the ducks.

On Friday we were going to go to a giant indoor playplace but when we went to the garage I found I had a boot on my car! Apparently you need a permit to park in your own spot in a private garage. We were all disappointed (actually, I was REALLY mad), so we walked to good ole McDonald's for ice cream cones instead.

The week culminated with Halloween and a party at the neighbors'. Cutest witch and astronaut EVER!

October 13, 2009

Today I Am a Tourist

The last week in September our fabulous friends CH & MH came to visit. Since there are about a million touristy things to do here we had to pick a couple. A castle was an absolute must so I chatted up some of my ex-pat friends about which one we should try and they all agreed that Conwy Castle (in Wales) was the best. So here they are headed up the top of the first tower.

This is the view from the top of the wall surrounding the city and heading towards the castle.

From the tallest of the towers you can look down to see most of the rooms in the castle. This is by far the best-kept castle I've seen since I've been here. You can climb up most of the towers and almost all the rooms are still intact (minus the wooden beams).

After visiting the castle we went to the town of Llandudo to have genuine fish & chips and admire the Welsh coast.

Chester has a beautiful cathedral that I had yet to visit even though I walk past it all the time. You get a free audio tour and it tells all about the history of the cathedral and the city of Chester. It is one of the few previously Catholic cathedrals to have survived the reign of Henry VIII and his reformation of the church. It is now a protestant church and you can still worship there at any time with full services on Sundays.

I didn't get to hear the organ being played the day we were there but you can buy recordings in the gift shop. It's a pretty magnificent structure, my picture doesn't quite do it justice.

This is the clock tower in the middle of town. It was erected in honor of Queen Victoria's 60th year on the throne. It is the 2nd most photographed clock in England under Big Ben.
Foregate Street is the main street through Chester and where the majority of the shops are. Everything from quirky little boutiques to hand-crafted toys and barbershops galore. Amist the quaintness you will also find a Starbucks, a Gap and the obligatory McDonald's.
I've seen so many wonderful things already, but there is still so much more of Chester that I have yet to see, the Roman amphitheatre and gardens, walking the wall all the way around and taking a boat tour down the River Dee. I'm excited to get to continue to explore this wonderful city and country.

October 6, 2009

Birthday Adventure

Now that it's been almost a month since my fabulous birthday trip, I figured I'd better get some pictures up. For my big 3-0 MDH planned a surprise trip to Monte Carlo, Monocco. One of the most beautiful places on Earth!
This is the view from our 9th floor hotel room. Because MDH has spent so much time at the hotel in London, he is a gold member with the Starwood Hotel chain and we got upgraded to a beach view suite instead of the city view room we originally booked. Woohoo!
This is our hotel and private beach (the only one in Monocco!) from the paddle boat we rented.
Peanut and Princess by a landmark written in French. My French is a little rusty since the last time I used it I was 16, so I'm not sure what it says...something in honor of Prince Albert I in 1913.
We figured since we were so close to the ocean we should be taking advantage of the fresh seafood and ordered a seafood pizza, thinking it would be maybe shrimp, scallops, white fish and clams...out of the shell. Imagine our surprise when we opened the box and saw clams and mussels atop our pizza, shell and all! After shucking the shellfish it actually turned out to be a really delicious pizza =)
My fabulous hubby and me outside the Museum which had a really neat ballet exhibit with costumes from around the world dating back to the 1700's. I couldn't read every detail, but I think I got the gist.
Monte Carlo was hosting a volleyball tournament with teams from Brazil, Canada, Croatia, France, Italy, Slovania, Sweden and the US. The final match was between France and the US. France won but we got to take our pictures with the US girls, Jenelle Koester and Saralyn Smith, wearing their silver medals.
After a great weekend we went back to Nice, France to catch our plane home. Monocco marks the 4th country we've visited since moving here. What an adventure!

September 3, 2009

First Day of School

Today is the girls' first day of school at Merton House. I think they are the cutest things I've ever seen in their uniforms!

The headmaster greeted us as we walked up to the building and still remembered the girls' names from the one meeting we had when we first got here, so that was comforting...to me anyway.

The students here didn't finish school until the first week in July so Peanut and Princess have been on vacation a lot longer than most kids. They were so ready to start!

Both of their teachers seemed really nice, but I was a little sad that we didn't have Meet the Teacher night like we do in the states. I look forward to getting to know them better.

Princess was a little hesitent at first and wouldn't let go of me, which of course made me choke up and want to stay with her all day long. But her teacher asked to help her with a project and she decided that maybe it would be okay. I think deep down she was excited to be with her teacher and new potential friends.

Peanut was off doing work in her classroom before I even knew what was happening and I had to go find her just to take this picture. She has always loved school and I'm so glad she's back.

After school the girls told me about all the fun stuff they did. Princess is reading books like crazy (which she had NO interest in doing before) and Peanut is already calling someone her BFF and was really bummed that today is Saturday and she didn't get to go to school.

Here's a picture of day 2, which they loved just as much as the first day =)

Merton House Prayer

Thank you for the yellow sun, the blue sky and the green grass.
For the fun we have with our friends and our family.
For our health so we can play and for our brains so we can work.

Help us to aim high and succeed where we can without being selfish.
Help us to be kind and caring and to help others when they need it.

Thank you for all the people and love in Merton House.


August 20, 2009

Our Piece of Chester

Welcome to Chester! We arrived in town after a short 4 hour drive from London. While getting out of London was one of the biggest automotive challenges we've ever faced, the rest of the drive was much like any American highway drive. Once we got to Chester we phoned our leasing agent and no one answered, we figured since it was the lunch hour that they'd taken a short break. However, when we phoned the agent appointed to us by MDH's company we were told that the owners of the leasing company had taken all the clients' money and skipped town. Not only does this mean we lost our deposit, but the keys to the apartment were also inside the leasing office. To make things even more exciting, Drew had been allowed to put all the luggage that he travelled with originally in the apartment and the owner was on vacation until August 20th. Woohoo! After everyone pulling some fast strings, the owner's mother-in-law drove the spare set of keys to a friend, who met our agent, who brought them back to us and we were finally allowed in our apartment. A huge thank you to the owner who was kind enough to let us in even without any official paperwork...
The girls in our new living room...
Our kitchen...I'm sure you all recognize the oven, but what you can't see it that the next cabinet opens as a dishwasher and the one beside that is the washer/dryer =)
The washer/dryer as one unit with no actual words on it to direct me really scared me at first but I think I've got the hang of it now. And after standing in the laundry soap aisle at the store for 20 minutes I've found something that gets our clothes clean and doesn't irritate anyone's skin =) However, it holds about 1/4 of the amount of clothes as our American washer so I do laundry A LOT. But I can only do warm and hot load in the morning before we lose all the hot water because our hot water heater only reheats at night.
This is the master bedroom before we put sheets on and before all of our stuff was delievered to cover every inch of the floor except for a path to my and MDH's sides of the bed.
This is the park just across the street from our house. It also has a playground and lots of open space to play catch or turn cartwheels or whatever. I don't know what I would do without it, we go there everyday.
This is the train that runs around the park. It only costs 75p for the kids to ride and it's actually pretty fun!

Here is the teeter-totter at the playground, neither girls weighs enough to make it go so I have to help.
In front of our apartment building...
Our trip to the Chester Zoo. The monkeys were the best part. We saw the biggest, hairiest ape I've ever seen. I wish I had been fast enough to get a picture of it.
This is our upper balcony. It's the 4th floor of the building so it has a pretty good view of our part of the city. The weather has been so nice lately we've been able to sit up there quite a bit.
That's our little part of Chester. The next time I go into the heart of the city I will bring my camera and show you around town. Cheers!