Monday, February 23, 2015

Ice, Ice Baby

Icemageddon swept through Middle Tennessee at the beginning of last week, leaving roads impassable, stores closed, power outages and a thick layer of ice everywhere.  School has been out all week and we've been pretty much stuck at home for the duration, which the kids have, of course, loved.  We did have a break mid-week when things almost returned to normal, but then the next wave of ice came.

I've spent over 4 years of my life living in the Dakotas, where we experienced massive blizzards that shut everything down for a day or two, but life always returned to normal very quickly.  This ice storm, however, was totally different to anything I've ever experienced before.   Because we generally don't get much snow or ice here at all, it takes a long time to restore roads and get things running normally again, even after a dusting of snow.  Grocery stores are chaos before anything hits - bread, milk and eggs always sell out immediately.  We knew this storm was coming so we stayed away from the stores, unlike most of the residents of Middle Tennessee.  After it hit, the ice was everywhere.  Our driveway was totally impassable and the dog refused to leave the house to go to the bathroom.  All our trees were bent over from the weight of the ice with their branches touching the ground.  Power lines were covered and trees and branches were coming down all over the place.  It was beautiful, but totally paralyzing.

The trees looked like Christmas decorations!
The dog refused to go near our icy steps of death

My poor lil' bent over tree!

When severe weather hits Britain, we're happy to stay home, have a cup of tea and eat some biscuits.  Continuing in this tradition, I'd stocked up on Hobnobs a few days before, so the kids and me happily munched through a couple of boxes during our captivity.  Chocolate biscuits make everything more bearable (of course, so does beer).  I'm so lucky that the Publix down the road has a British section where I can grab some goodies from home at extortionate prices if I feel the need, so thank you Publix!



We've already experienced a few major events as a family.  Blizzards in North and South Dakota, a typhoon in South Korea, Kim Jong Il's threats to annihilate us (again in South Korea) and an earthquake in Washington DC.  The worst event, however, was the great pumpkin shortage of 2009 at Osan AFB, I kid you not.  My fellow Osan-ites know exactly what I'm talking about.  During Thanksgiving and Christmas of that year, nary a can of pumpkin could be found on the South Korean peninsula, sending us all into a frenzy of trying to procure the goods to make our pies for the holiday season.  It got desperate people.  If rumor started that a tray of canned pumpkin was on the commissary shelves, we'd all sprint down there like crazy people to try and grab a can.  Most of us with family in the States ended up begging them to send us some cans, which my Mother in Law very kindly did.  A few months later when the shelves were finally stocked with pumpkin, every single one of us started to hoard for the future.  To this day, I always have several cans of pumpkin in my pantry for 'just in case', possibly a mild form of pumpkin PTSD, which I'm pretty sure my fellow Korea survivors suffer from too ;)   

Things are progressing on our move.  We'd planned on flying our dog to Seattle before the kids and me went, so that the husband could pick her up from the airport and take care of her in his bachelor pad in downtown Seattle until we got there.  But...  What do you do when your vet tells you your dog is in fact, too old to fly to your new home?  You plan a massive, mega, cross country driving trip of 2420 miles, so that your fur baby can still come with you of course!  I actually like this plan better anyway for selfish reasons, because I'd miss her the few weeks she'd be in Seattle.  She's my morning wake up call, my crumb cleaner-upper, my home security system and best of all, she's always makes me smile, even when I'm feeling grumpy.  It's going to take us a few days to do the drive, but it's going to be amazing showing the kids all the different states that we'll be driving through.  I'm most excited to see some of Montana, I'm not too excited at the prospect of the kids squabbling in the back of the van for all of those miles though, or at the prospect of my old lady joints freezing after sitting still for such a long time.  I'm pretty sure we'll see some crazy things to blog about though! 

So, it's safe to say that I'll be happy never to see ice again, although if we do, at least I'll always have a stock of pumpkin in the pantry for if we run out of food.  Have a good week y'all!




Monday, February 16, 2015

Recently...

...it's been pretty hectic around here, between selling the house, sick kiddos, husband working in Seattle, and the all usual weekly activities.  I could whine for Scotland, but instead, I'll share some things that sucked, followed by things that were fabulous to make up for it.  Here goes. 

IT SUCKED

1.  Finding out I have arthritis in 3 different places on my knee, I have lost a significant amount of cartilage, I have a misaligned knee joint, and I also have something called a popliteal cyst on the back of my knee.  A steroid injection didn't make much difference.  The doc said my running days are over, I prefer to think of it as no running for a little while, or at least until I find a new doctor in Seattle who will be more proactive in getting me back in my Mizunos...

2.  Being told that mostly due to my age, I now need to wear bifocals every single day for the rest of my life.  I've never even worn glasses till now, apart from reading glasses - without which, I can't read menus any more.  Not that I have anything against glasses, but it'll take a bit of getting used to.  On the bright side, they're progressive lenses so don't have the old lady bifocal line on them, but I haven't mastered the art of drinking tea and managing not to steam them up yet!  And I sure as heck don't feel bloody well old, although I may look it - I don't really know, because I can't see properly in the mirror these days... 

3.  Filling in a ridiculous amount of house selling paperwork, and having to wait for all involved parties to complete their parts.  While it's great that we have a relocation company working with us, it sure does add a lot of required signatures and approvals.  Plus with the husband not being here, there's a lot of extra scanning and emailing going on. 

4.  Youngest kiddo projectile vomiting all over the bathroom.

5.  Middle kiddo being sent home from school sick.

6.  Regularly being told by people that I'm not being fair to the kids by moving to Seattle and starting them in a new school in the middle of the school year.   I personally think (hope) that moving mid school year, the kids will have time to make friends at their new school before the summer holidays, and will therefore have friends to play with when school is out.  Also, many people have reacted negatively to our news saying "Oh no, how awful" or "Oh no, the weather is awful up there".  Our family is used to moving every couple of years from our time in the military and many of our friends still move every couple of  years with no adverse effects, so I think we'll be just fine.  So there! 

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE

1.  A fun afternoon was spent drinking champagne and eating cookies outside (in February no less) with my good friend and neighbor.  Plus, later on in the week, a fun morning of pedicures followed by lunch with the same friend.  Can't complain about that! 

2.  The fact that the projectile vomiting happened in the tiled bathroom and not on the carpet made for easy clean up!  Yippee! 

3.  The house is under contract!  Every time our lovely realtor comes out to the house, she brings a box of cookies for the kids,which of course have to be sampled by Mummy first.  I sure seem to be eating a lot of cookies these days... 

4.  So much help from my previously mentioned friend and neighbor with printing and scanning the zillions of pages of house related stuff, because my own printer keeps messing up.  I really don't know what I'd do without you JW!

5.  Middle kiddo had a soccer game at 7am on Saturday morning, which meant waking everybody up at 5.30am.  I'd normally complain about that if it wasn't for the fact that his recent games have mostly been at 9pm on a Friday evening, therefore spoiling my usual Friday afternoon beverage time.  So, 7am on a Saturday morning?  I'll take it! 

6.  Although my knee hurts like heck, I can still practice my beloved hot yoga.  I'm thankfully only limited in a few poses.

7.  Scandal and The Walking Dead.  Olivia Pope and Rick Grimes make me happy.  Yes, I do know they're not real.     

8.  We're going to Scotland in the summer on vacation!  It's been 2 years since we last visited, so this trip is long overdue. I intend to stuff my face with square sausage, proper bacon, twiglets, proper bread, massive amounts of British chocolate, every cake that Asher's Bakery has to offer and many other foods I miss from back home.  I may or may not weigh at least 10 lbs heavier at the end of this vacation...

Anyway, I hopefully managed not to whine too much, and even found a couple of extra good things to compare to the sucky ones so it's not all bad!  Hopefully, normal blogging operations will be resumed next week.  See y'all then! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Battle of the Soaps - UK/US

I'd like to start this week's blog post by asking if anybody knows what a sex funeral is.  Apparently someone, somewhere out there in cyberspace, googled "sex funeral" and ended up on this here blog of mine.  While I'm pretty sure they must have been extremely disappointed with my blog's content, it's kinda freaky that somebody would even google that in the first place - shudder.  Anyway, enough of that kind of thing, let's talk about soap operas! 

Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre in Coronation Street (a highly popular UK soap opera) recently died after a short illness.  It was all over the UK media and many people were saddened by her passing.  It got me thinking about the major differences between soap operas in the UK and the US.

RIP Anne Kirkbride aka Deirdre Barlow.  A soap icon in the UK.

Soap operas are hugely popular over here, and back home in the UK.  Soaps here in the US are shown during the day and therefore have a more limited audience, while in the UK, the main soaps are shown during prime time in the evening and therefore have a much wider audience.

American soap stars look mostly like this:

This is Susan Lucci, I have no idea what soap opera she is in because apparently American soap stars regularly switch between shows!


This is Carly from General Hospital.  I have no idea what her real name is either.  GH is actually one of the only American soaps I have ever watched. 




Jason Morgan, again from GH, and again, I have no idea what his real name is.  Just Whoarrr!!!

You get the picture.  American soap stars are glamorous, beautiful and not really similar to normal, everyday kind of people. British soap stars on the other hand, mostly look like this:


Gail from Coronation Street, real name Helen Worth.


Tyrone from Coronation Street.  Not exactly Jason Morgan...

Mo from Eastenders, definitely not American soap opera material!


Although obviously there are also some attractive people on Coronation Street and Eastenders too, British soaps are so much more realistic.  It's rare to see outside shots in American soaps, most are set in studios and have the obligatory fuzz/golden lighting to make everybody look even more beautiful.  British soaps have scenes in the street, down the market, in the garden, you name it.  It's real life baby! 

British soap stars pretty much have celebrity status throughout the UK.  Even if you don't watch the show, it's pretty likely that you'll have heard of most of the major characters in it or read about them in one of the national newspapers.  The 2 main soaps, Coronation Street and Eastenders are watched by millions and even have Christmas Day specials, usually filled with doom and gloom, that are actually a part of most families' Christmas viewing.  Not so over here.

Even the soap names are totally different.  The Young and The Restless, The Bold and The Beautiful, Days of Our Lives - compare that with Eastenders and Coronation Street.  I guess because Britain is such a small place compared to over here that it's only natural soap stars will be more widely known.  You definitely don't get actresses like Anne Kirkbride or  Helen Worth on US soaps.

Although I'm not really a fan of American soaps, I did watch General Hospital for a while when the husband was deployed to Afghanistan, and I enjoyed the little bit of escapism it offered.  But I definitely enjoy the more gritty, sometimes comical soaps from back home a lot more.  I'm sure most Americans probably wouldn't enjoy our type of soaps either, so I guess, each to his own.  But even the husband agrees that British soaps are more entertaining and realistic than those over here, and it's not very often that he even watches TV!  I'd be interested to hear my readers' thoughts on soaps too, so please feel free to comment, just as long as you're not into sex funerals...!










Monday, February 2, 2015

Our Trip To The Emerald City



We recently returned from a 4 day trip to Seattle to check out our new home and the surrounding area.  On countless occasions during the trip, I kept saying "This is so much like Scotland",  both in and out of the city.  The city itself is beautiful, with a mix of old and new, stunning views at the end of roads and my favorite thing - TOTAL WALKABILITY!!!!  I've lived in 4 states so far and none of them have had decent sidewalks and public transport as we do in the UK to speak of.  Seattle, I am happy to say, is the total opposite.  There really are Starbucks everywhere, and crazy people, and friendly people, and dogs - I've never seen so many dogs.  We even saw somebody walking their cat on a leash down a busy street.  The husband intends to take our Molly to his work to see how she does.  Apparently it's the norm at the campus where he'll be working, which I think is hilarious!  We did a few touristy things too - we gagged at the sight of the gum wall, watched huge salmon being thrown around at Pike Place Market and ate a massive pile of crab legs and shrimp at The Crab Pot before riding the Ferris Wheel.   While I did also want to visit Uncle Ike's, I didn't really think it would be appropriate with the kiddos...! 

Just walking around!


Delicious crab legs!


The nasty gum wall :)


Seattle had recentlymade it to the Superbowl Final, so there were blue and green lights and Seahawks flags and signs everywhere.  I know jack about American Football, but it's easy to feel the excitement going on for the local team.  My soccer mad child is more excited to see the Seattle Sounders play, so of course, we bought both the boys Sounders shirts to the dismay of our friend Lennie, who is a Portland Timbers fanatic :) Unfortunately, the Hawks didn't win the Super Bowl, but man, they sure had a lot of support!



Our hotel, The Fairmont, was amazing.  We had afternoon tea in their Georgian Tearoom which was a great experience for the kiddos.  The hotel was in the middle of downtown, so we walked to lots of different restaurants and for once, no arguments about who had to abstain from drinking to drive us home.  We visited The Space Needle which was great fun - for the husband and the kids.  I suffer from vertigo attacks every couple of years, so just going in the elevator to the top had me sweating and nauseous.   I literally took a couple of photos of the amazing views at the top, then went straight back down to the bottom to wait for the rest of the family, who luckily aren't affected by such ridiculous things.  If you come to visit us, I will gladly take you to the Space Needle, but I sure as hell will not be going up top with you!   

The fancy Georgian Tearoom

Afternoon Tea, yes please!

Trying to be posh...


View from the top of the Needle before rushing down!


We drove out to Snoqualmie which is about 30 miles to the east of Seattle, and where our rental house is situated.  Our landlord was happy to show us round as the kids and me hadn't actually seen it yet. Luckily, the husband chose well and we all loved it.  Snoqualmie is pretty rural and is surrounded by trees, mountains and gorgeous scenery, there's even a ski resort 20 minutes away.  The spectacular Snoqualmie Falls are a mere 2 miles from our new home and can actually be walked or biked to from our front door.  Snoqualmie also has it's own Brewery, which of course, we had to try out.  The beer was amazing and I'm pretty sure we'll become regulars there.  The closest Walmart is about 28 miles away, so my tales of woe from the Walmart parking lot will be discontinued, but that's definitely not a bad thing :)  There are enough stores around that we won't starve, and there are more than enough activities, trails, restaurants etc around that I have a feeling we will love living there.  The only down side I can think of is that houses up there are twice the price of those here in Tennessee - and half the size, but as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.  Less to clean right? 


Snoqualmie River

Snoqualmie Falls - 2 miles from our house!!

It did rain for our first couple of days, but to be honest, because it was a lot warmer than here in Tennessee, it didn't really matter and never felt uncomfortable.  It certainly doesn't stop the locals from doing outdoor activities, there were still people running, hiking, biking and just outside doing their thing.  Just like Scotland really!  We also took a drive out to Rattlesnake Lake which is pretty close to Snoqualmie and had a hike around the crystal clear lake and into the woods.  People were so friendly, literally everybody said hello and the kids had a blast petting people's dogs.  There are walking trails everywhere, we will never be stuck for something to do for sure.  When the sun does come out, the views are just incredible.  Mount Rainier is massive and looks like it's been superimposed above the landscape.  Just amazing!  We took a drive out to Kirkland which is a lovely wee town on the banks of a lake.  Again, another very walkable place with lots of cute restaurants, bars and stores and a nice walk along the lakefront. 

Pretty Kirkland

Rattlesnake Lake

So, it's safe to say that our trip to the Northwest was definitely a success, and the kiddos are really excited for when we move there at the end of March.  They were especially pleased to hear that school there doesn't start until 9am - a massive hour and a half later than here in Tennessee.  Me, I was pleased to see that I can utilize Amazon Fresh at our new address, and even more happy when I saw that they also deliver wine, beer and my favorite champers to your door.   Yep, its the small things in life...! 















Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The News

So, before I begin this week's rant/whine/observation, I must start by saying that I have a news anchor friend who is both lovely and professional on air.  I enjoyed watching her on the news when we lived in the same town and I'm sure that I would still enjoy watching her at her new station.  She was always herself when reading the news, but still managed to be professional at the same time - which to me, is the perfect combination.  Plus, she is hot and wears fabulous clothes :)  You know who you are KKF!  However...

American news programs drive me NUTS.  As in throw things, and scream at the TV nuts.  I can hardly bring myself to watch the news over here!  Most local programs look like they were filmed in the 70's, complete with grainy pictures and bad outfits.  The American national icon of news, Barbara Walters, is never shown without 'fuzz' - they make her all blurry and golden looking.  It hurts my eyes just trying to focus on her!  Why do they do this?  Don't get me started on the Fox Clones - they're all so highly made up and you really can't tell them apart. Were they cloned especially to work on Fox News?  

The Permanently Fuzzy Barbara


The other channels are not much better.  Robin Meade for example.  Perky, pretty, and a very nice person I'm sure, but OMG, her dramatic facial expressions and chummy banter are wooden and embarassing.  Stop!!  I'm not going to go into the politics of the main news channels here - we all know who is right wing, who is left wing and all that goes with it.  But what makes me scream the loudest is when Fox News constantly proclaims itself to be "fair and balanced".  It's as fair and balanced as I'm tall and big boobed.  If you don't know me, believe me, I'm anything but. 


Thankfully, we do get BBC America news.  It's a haven of peace, tranquility and normalcy for me.  No judging expressions when reading news stories (Megyn Kelly on Fox News is the queen of dramatic faces) and no dramatic pauses between words when the story is something that the newsreader disagrees with (Megyn Kelly again).  I know the BBC has come under a lot of criticism for its news programs back home recently, but I miss the BBC news immensely.  They read the stories plain, simple, impartial and without embellishment.  Isn't that how the news should be read?  I miss the deadpan Moira Stuart and her like (I know, she doesn't work for the BBC any more).  Serious with a bit of polite banter at the end.  Perfect!

The lovely Moira :)

At home, we have half an hour of world and national news, followed by half an hour of local news.  Simple, no drama.  The weather isn't drawn out like it is on the local channels here.  At the beginning of the hour of local news, they tell you that they will tell you (confused?) what's coming up weather-wise in 10 minutes.  At the 10 minute point, they tease you with a small piece of weather information and then announce that they will tell you more in a further 10 minutes.  This continues all the way through the program.  All I want to see is the bloody weather forecast!!!!!  Want some international news?  Forget it.  The international news is usually the shortest part of most programs.

Anyway, so ends my wee rant about the American news.   I guess I'm getting old because when I was younger, I hated watching the news.  But shouldn't news be just that, NEWS?  Not judging, drama and criticism?  So today, I leave you with a cute video of some random puppy - this is actually normal on news channels here.  To fill in gaps?  Who knows.  I just know that I don't watch the news to see cute animals!!!!  Have a good week peeps!










Monday, January 19, 2015

First World Problems

Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, mostly because I'm not exactly Martha Stewart in the kitchen.  One thing that always surprises me here in America though, is that even in some of the fancier restaurants, you are mostly expected to use the same cutlery for each course.  When I finish my appetizer, I always put my knife and fork together, vertically on the plate for the server to take away before the next course is served.  So I really hate when they pick up these utensils and place them back on the table when removing the plate, either that, or they gesture for you to do so.  Yuck!!!  Why can't I have clean cutlery for my next course without having to ask for it specially?  I personally think it's pretty gross to have your used cutlery sitting on the table between courses, I don't remember this happening in the UK!

One thing I have become used to, however, is the practice of being given your bill promptly - sometimes before you've even finished eating.  I hated this when we first moved here, but I guess some things are easier to get used to than others.  Nowadays, if I don't get the bill promptly, I start looking for the waiter and get all twitchy.  If we ever move back to the UK, I wonder if I'd find it difficult getting back to having to ask for the bill again.  Ah, first world problems...!

The High School in our neighborhood has a massive parking lot which is always full of cars belonging to students and teachers.  It got me wondering what happens at lunch time.  Do hundreds of students get in their cars to go out for lunch?  That would be total chaos!  In Scotland, we have an hour for lunch.  You can opt to stay in school and eat, or you can leave to go and have your lunch elsewhere - at home, the local chippy, or wherever you like.  We would walk down the High Street and grab a tomato soup and iced bun from the bakery before walking slowly back up to school.   Even when we lived in Glasgow where the school was a lot bigger, we would leave school and walk downtown for lunch.  You're not allowed to do so here, lunch must be eaten in the cafeteria and either brought from home or purchased there.  I don't know if students here even have a full hour for lunch, but I'm glad I experienced being able to leave school in the middle of the day for a wee break. 

It would appear that they have changed the chocolate used for Cadbury's Creme Eggs in the UK.  There has been a major outcry and no bleedin' wonder!  Sorry America, but I always describe your chocolate as being dumbed down.  It just doesn't compare with the creamy, melt in your mouth chocolate we get back home.  Don't get me wrong, it does fine and I have been known to eat copious quantities on occasion, but it just isn't as good as British chocolate - especially the legendary Cadbury's Dairy Milk.  Cadbury's was bought by Kraft however, and they have decided to change the chocolate used in the British eggs to a standard Cadbury's chocolate.  I'm sure it will be good, but for goodness sake, why change something that isn't broken?!  And as if that's not bad enough, they've also reduced the number of eggs sold in multi-packs, without reducing the price!  Sort it out Cadbury's/Kraft.  The Creme Egg is an icon and should remain the same.  Imagine if they changed the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup over here?  Outrage would ensue!  Yep, another first world problem!

On that note, I'm off for a brew.  I'm craving a Creme Egg now, so it's probably just as well that there are none in the house.  Happy eating y'all!



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts on moving so far...

Thankfully I'm used to moving every couple of years from our time in the military.  It's actually enjoyable for me to declutter and dejunk the house.  Seattle is going to be a lot more expensive than here, and our new house will be half the size of our Tennessee McMansion, so Goodwill and the dump have had several visits already on my quest to have a minimal amount of 'stuff'.  Our family of 5 fit into a 3 bedroom apartment when we lived in Korea, we managed fine and it was actually very liberating living in a smaller space than we were used to.  Less crap means less cleaning and less stuff to tidy up which is never a bad thing!

Some places we've lived, it took several months before we truly settled.  It was different here.  It was so easy to settle down, get in a routine, make friends and get on with life.  It could have been so much worse - this was the first place we lived when the husband retired from the military, so it was definitely a leap into the unknown, but it was totally painless, mostly thanks to the lovely people of Murfreesboro!  

Seattle is a huge distance from here.  Huge, as in it might as well be an international move (we've done a few of those too!)  Plus, seeing as I'm not from America, it might as well be an international move because it will be very different from Middle Tennessee!  So far in the US, we've lived in North Dakota (yes, it was freezing in the winter, but the people were lovely), South Dakota (one of my favorite places in the world), and Virginia (not one of my favorite places in the world) and here in Tennessee.  The Pacific North West will be a complete change of scenery and pace from Murfreesboro for sure.

We were really worried about how the kids would react to moving, so we made them a power point presentation about Seattle (which most of you have probably already seen on Facebook), talking about beautiful scenery, wildlife, crab legs and camping in teepees!  They watched it, were silent for a few seconds and then started screaming with excitement.  Now the hard thing will be to live up to the hype we created!

Things are happening very quickly.  The realtor has already taken the photos and put the "Coming Soon" sign up in the yard, the house has been inspected, the moving company have been to see how much crap we have and we've told pretty much everybody we know that we are moving.  I'm not really looking forward to the day that the house goes on the market because it's not fun trying to hide all evidence of family life - 3 kids and a dog, at a moment's notice to make the house look good for showings.  It's also going to be heartbreaking saying "see you later" to all of our friends here, but I'm not going to think about that until the day comes.  And anyway, I do believe it will be "see you later" and not "goodbye"!

A lot of people can't believe we're still moving around after leaving the military, but we're not ready  just yet to put down roots anywhere and we're fortunate that the husband's job has many opportunities for us in different locations.  It's an adventure and we're very lucky we get to still do this in the civilian world.  Without going into too much detail, it's been a lot easier to move as a civilian so far.   Way less paperwork and chasing around after signatures!

So for now, we're house hunting in and around Seattle, trying to suss out good schools, karate clubs, soccer clubs and all that you need to know when you move with young children.  I'd be lying if I said I haven't been looking at all the Hot Yoga studios for myself too :)  We actually don't have too much time before we leave, so it's all a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm hopeful it will all turn out fine.  I'll keep you posted!