Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the road to home ...

We drove out to take another look at our house last week. We're quite anxious for the current renters to move out so we can move in! Here are a few pictures from our drive. I took them all from the car, so I had to work with what I had. The countryside is so beautiful and peaceful .... and quiet!

There are lots and lots of sheep all throughout the Cotswolds. Seems to be the most popular animal, even more so than cows. A tidbit about the Cotswolds ...

The Cotswolds is an area of England about the size of greater Tokyo.
Popular with both the English themselves and visitors from all over the world,the Cotswolds are well-known for gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), sleepy villages and for being so ‘typically English’.

There are famous cities such as Bath, well-known beautiful towns like Cheltenham and hundreds of delightful villages such as Burford and Castle Combe. Above all, the local honey-coloured limestone, used for everything from the stone floors in the houses to the tiles on the roof, has ensured that the area has a magical uniformity of architecture.

Most of the roads in the country are lined with these amazing stone fences, especially the closer you get to the villages.

We're just eight miles out of the town and a few miles from lots of other villages. This sign was 1/2 mile off the side road, which is a mile off the main road.

Many of the houses in the village have names ... ours does, but we're not sure what it is :)

Love, love, love, these amazing flowers!

You'll be glad to know, I'm sure, that as tiny as our village is, we do have a phone booth ...

... and a mailbox. Except it's not this blurry in real life ;)

Here's a tidbit from Wikipedia ...
There is a Manor which dates back from the Elizabethan Era and Elizabeth I was rumored to have stayed there. The Manor was the residence of Mrs. Dent-Brocklehurst the mother in law and grandmother of Sudeley Castle's current owners. The Manor along with the Rectory, Manor Barn and many more are open every Red Cross day for Gardens.

There is a very large Church of England, which along with the Manor, are behind these gates.

I was glad to see this opening leading to the cemetery ... can't wait to wander around in there!

This is the Manor, or at least what you can see of it behind the stone walls :)

I have much more to blog about as we've been quite busy this last week. We took the double decker bus to Gloucester to see the tall ships and visited a castle and a charming Country Show (similar to a County Fair) in a beautiful little town. We're off to Oxford tonight for church ... back soon :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stroud Farmer's Market

Our weekend started out bright and early on Saturday morning with a trip to the Stroud Farmer's Market. It was a beautiful drive through the hills, and a couple of little villages but I don't have any pictures because I was driving! I decided a quiet Saturday morning was a good time to try out my driving skills. I must say it went very well. I think it helped that I'd been riding in the passengers seat for a couple of weeks getting used to everything being backwards :) The biggest challenge I found was getting out of the inside lane of the roundabouts. If you're going more than halfway around the circle, you're supposed to go to the inside lane. Easy enough, but, using my left hand mirror to get out of that lane, isn't as easy. I'll get lots of practice, because every time you blink you're in another roundabout. It is faster since you don't have to stop as much at red lights, but you also don't get that time at the red light to catch your breath!

Back to the Farmer's Market ...

The Farmer's Market was pretty amazing. There were a huge number of vendors with everything from the usual fruits and vegetables ...

... to bread, eggs, lamb, beef, sausage, jellies and jams, toys, hand made items of clothing, soaps, pottery, homemade food, milk, cream, pot pies, lambs wool rugs, books, jewelry, and more, that I can't recall right now!

Sausage (and other delectables!) wrapped in homemade pastry ... how could you not love that!

And of course, the cutest kids to be found ...

We had an awesome breakfast of sausage, bacon, and lamb. The bacon in England is beyond good. Oh my, it's so yummy, we eat it every chance we get!

Mathis ... my number one bag carrier :)

Stroud was a really neat town. The High Street was on a hill with beautiful old shops. The surrounding hills were dotted with stone houses ... so pretty! I don't remember the street being this crowded! Everyone must have run together at the same time to get into my picture :)

The drive home was a little stressful after we missed a turn and the SatNav (GPS) took us the back way through tiny streets up and down hills. We got to see a little more of Stroud than we would have preferred. I was thankful we were driving an automatic and not the manual we had last week!

While Bard and the boys napped, Kate and I headed out to some charity shops (thrift stores :). There are lots and lots of charity shops, but each one is the size of a boutique, so it makes for a lot of options. The selection is small, but they only display top quality clothes, which is nice. The prices are a little more expensive, so I have to be selective, which is a good thing. The only downside is the children's selection is very small. Most of our boys' pants have holes in them from wearing them every other day, so we're in hot pursuit of some new clothes for them. Kate is quite the crazy shopper and finds five or ten things at each shop that she desperately needs!!

Here she is in a few of her finds since we've arrived ...
new skirt (I know this is a school uniform skirt, but it was too cute to pass up!), new blouse, new sunglasses, and new purse. She loves to pay and keep the receipts in her purse. The necklace is mine, although she found several at the shops that she insisted she must take home :)

After Kate wore me out shopping, we all went to a concert in the park near us and then stocked up on a couple days' worth of food and enjoyed some time at the playground. It took me a bit by surprise when the brass band begin playing "My Country 'tis of Thee" at the end of the concert! Ooops, guess that wasn't exactly right!

Sunday was busy with church. We have found a really great church, which we are so excited about. I'll write about that soon.

A few playground pictures ...

Jackson likes to come right up under the camera and look up into it, then he must see the resulting picture ... each time!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Things I Ponder at Night

A few things I don't quite get about this lovely country ...

Mushy peas? Yes, my friends, you will find this on many a menu and seems to be a staple with fish and chips. It came with a fish and chips meal we ordered last week. I gave it a hesitant taste, and yes, indeed, it's mushy peas. Exactly what you might expect from the name. With a little salt added, it was pretty good, if you like peas, and you like them mushy.

Toilets shapes .... it's not a matter of right or wrong, I guess. I just assumed that toilet seats everywhere shared the same oval shape as those that grace the thrones in the old USA.

This little set up is what flushes the toilet.

You push it, it flushes. But what baffles my mind is the division. The smaller button flushes the toilet in the same way as the larger button. So why my friends, are they divided?

Moving on .... in search for a broom I found this at both the apartments we've stayed in.

While handy at sweeping up small spaces, it doesn't seem practical for larger expanses of wood flooring. Upon further searching at the first apartment I found a vacuum cleaner that worked great on the wood floors (I'd like to get one myself!). At the second apartment, however, no such luck, so we decided to buy one at the store. Guess what we found?? Exactly! Lots of these cute, but not so useful sets. So, it begs the question ... what do they have against full sized brooms?

And last, but not least ...

Anyone have insight into these mysterious settings on our stove?

How about these?

We had cold spaghetti for lunch today :)

And because no post is complete without a picture of one of my darling children, here she is, ready for church on Sunday morning. I'm sure when I packed her clothes in late June that this dress was longer and those sweater sleeves reached her wrists! Isn't she adorable?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Our first week in the UK

Hello all! Sorry to have gone so long without updating everyone. This past week has been very busy. We've spent lots of time in the car, looking at houses, going to church, running errands, and trying to find our way around the town. We've spent several hours at the bank (with all four kids, of course!) getting financial matters in order. My time at home with the kids is equally as busy, as it's quite a challenge to keep them occupied in an apartment. They have grown so weary of playing with the few toys we packed when we moved out of our house over a month ago. We try to go for walks and spend time at the park as much as we can. I knew I had to get a post out when people started e-mailing wondering if we were alive! I'm going to answer some of the questions we've recieved. Soooooo, without further ado, here we go .....

How was the flight?

My parents dropped us off at the airport and we breezed through check in and security with only the loss of our bungee cord. We use it to attach the little guys' car seats to luggage carriers which turns them into strollers :) It's a great way to move the kids through the airport. Bard rigged something up using their car seat straps and we were off.

Our flight left at 10 pm, so by the time we got to our seats the kids were pretty hyper. They were so excited to finally be on the plane and on our way to England that it took us nearly two hours to settle them down and get them to sleep. It didn't help that just as they were settling down at about 11:30, they served dinner! They kids slept all night, which was a big blessing. Bard and I dozed off and on, I'm sure we got some sleep, but it didn't feel like it. Our biggest blessing by far came when we went through customs. The line didn't seem incredibly long, about four rows, but when we were ushered to the front of the line we saw a sign at the end of the first row (the one closest to the front of the line) that said the wait from that point was approximately 45 minutes long. Wow! We could have been in that line for hours! Pays to have kids!!

How are you adjusting to the time difference?

Our flight was seven hours long, so when we arrived in London at 10 am local time, it was 5 am EST. We'd had enough sleep that we didn't feel too tired at that point. I think it helped that it was daylight, so our bodies were tricked. We were picked up and had a two hour drive to the town where we'll be living. We all slept most of the way which held us over for the rest of the day. We managed to stay up until 7:30 local time before we all crashed! The two older kids woke up once or twice in the night (about 8pm EST) but because it was dark and I told them it was the middle of the night, they didn't ask questions :) We laid in bed awake for an hour or so and then fell asleep again and slept until 10:30 am! We woke the kids up at 11:00. I'm not sure how long they would have slept! That day (Saturday) was a much easier day, since we weren't exhausted from travel and we went to bed at our regular time. Since then, it's been a breeze. I was so excited! I had planned for a week or so to get us all adjusted, so that short time was a blessing!

Have you found a house?

Not quite! We've been staying in an apartment since we arrived. It's very close to the town centre and we've enjoyed being able to walk to shops and restaurants. It's a beautiful, old apartment with huge windows that let in lots of light. The woodwork (trim and around the ceiling) is amazing.

Today we're moving to a larger place where we'll stay for the next month or so until we move into our house. We looked at houses yesterday and have a few more tomorrow and then we'll decide.

Update: (it's Friday now and was Wednesday when I started this post :)
We've moved to our new apartment, which is much roomier, allowing more room for the kids to be kids.

** all of these pictures came straight from the apartment website, not from my camera :)

It's nice being able to walk to and from restaurants, especially since it's uphill on the way back. Helps compensate for all those meals out! It's been neat to live right in the middle of a busy town for a couple of weeks. Something we won't do permanently, but fun for a short time.

We've looked at more houses and have finally chosen one. I'll post pictures soon (meaning probably not until next week at the rate I'm going :) Here's one from the road that leads to the house ...

How is the weather?

Well, as you can see in the picture, Kate has her jacket tied around her waist. Ahhh, what a refreshing break from summer in Maryland. The day we arrived the lady that showed us our apartment was aghast at how hot and humid it was. We, on the other hand were digging through our bags for extra clothes. The temps are around 65-70 each day. Most days have been sunny, and when it does rain, it doesn't last long. They say the weather changes every 20 minutes and we've found that to be true. We've learned to wear short sleeves and always take our jackets with us.

How is it driving on the other side of the road?

The first day was crazy! When we got home I felt like I was getting the flu because my muscles hurt so much from being so tense. I had to keep telling myself to relax and breathe. It was very unnerving to see cars coming in directions they are not supposed to be coming from, while at the same time trying to drive on the other side of the road and not get killed. We've learned to think of everything as backwards. So, in the US, a right hand turn is pretty easy, and a left turn is more complicated. Here it's the opposite. The other thing we've had to learn is to navigate the circles. They are much bigger than the ones at home (though not nearly as big as I've heard they are in the big cities!). The most confusing part is that the roads don't necessarily come together perpendicularly and intersect. It seems the circle became a necessity because the roads veer off from any point in the circle which makes directions much harder. The roads are referred to as exits off of the circle. The roads are also not as clearly labeled which makes navigating extra challenging. We get lost EVERY time we go out. The nice thing is that the town is small enough, that if we keep driving we come to something we recognize. Bard has been the main driver (since we have a rental and he's the only driver) and I'm the navigator. My job is a bit more than just right and left turns. I also guide Bard as to where on the road we should be driving. He's done an amazing job, especially since at the same time he is also relearning how to drive a standard, with the left hand, instead of the right.

Getting in on the other side of the car is also strange. Even more strange is seeing cars go by and thinking that no one is driving them because the left seat is empty. I saw one mom in the left seat turning around to help her children, and then start to climb into the back seat. I started to panic! It took me a minute to remember that she wasn't the one driving.

Our first night walking around town was pretty crazy, too. The roads in some places come from all different directions and we weren't used to the cars coming from different directions. It seemed almost like a cartoon where cars just drive anywhere they want to, but miraculously, no one gets hurt. It was a bit stressful. It's amazing how quickly we've adjusted in just one week. It feels very normal and quite comfortable to walk and drive around town. I was watching an American show on tv and saw a lady driving in the left hand seat. It looked so strange to me that in my head I thought ... hmm, this show must be set in the UK!! In just a short time, driving on the other side of the road has become normal. Scary, isn't it!!

We're so happy to be here and are looking forward to what's ahead! Thank you to everyone for your concern and especially your prayers!