Thursday, January 26, 2012

Running the Gauntlet

This is Ollie's second week of doggie daycare (DDC) and I hope we don't become dropouts.  I would hate to hurt his little doggie self esteem and take him away from his new friends, but the short drive to DDC is beginning to resemble an episode of "American Wipeout".  If you're not familiar with this show, take a look at the clip below.  It's all look out and watch out and be careful you don't hurt yourself trying to get from point A to B.

First mistake - the DDC provides pickup and drop off but that eats into Ollie's time.  This is not a big deal on his full day but definitely a big deal on his half day since he'll spend a window of his 4 hours in transit.  The DDC is located about 2 miles from the house, so when I set it all up I decided I would just drive him to and fro.

The DDC is on a couple acres down a road that is only partially paved.  Once you hit the dirt track, you take your life into your own hands.  The road is a bit elevated and has only enough room for one vehicle.  There are ditches on either side so that if you slide off into one you're gonna need a tow truck with a winch to get you out of there.  And I've noticed that the water running down/standing in the ditches is a brilliant orange color.  I haven't seen a fertilizer plant or sewage treatment facility nearby, so my imagination can only run wild as I contemplate the source.

The dirt track leading to the DDC entrance could really use a good grading because there are some craters that threaten to swallow my little car.  I've hesitated to take the SUV, even though it has four wheel drive and all sorts of offroading bells and whistles for the serious mudder, because that leaves absolutely no room for error in between the ditches.  And the SUV is our newer/nicer vehicle that cost 3x what the little car cost, so I hesitate to let a muddy-footed Ollie jump all over the passenger seat area for fear it will never come clean.  Plus he has this annoying habit of licking the passenger door and gear shift on occasion - go figure.

Being England and all, it rained last week as well as this week.  Therefore, the road began to look as if an overcrowded hogpen full of zealous pineywoods rooters had made a few laps up and down the dirt road.  Clods of mud are sticking to the undercarriage and wheel wells of my car, then falling off here in the driveway after I return home.  It's bad enough that I have poop patrol in the backyard, but now I have mud patrol in the front drive.  

The best part is that on Wednesdays when Ollie attends from 9:00-1:00, the herd of walkers for the local greyhound rescue organization - located on the paved stretch of this road (lucky ducks) - are using the dirt track for exercise when I go back to collect Ollie.  Yesterday I counted 14 of these former racers being led through the mud and muck by folks wearing wellies.  I honestly thought this breed was pretty bright, but the walkers invariably have to push and pull to get them over to the side of the road so I can safely pass.  They're always in their doggie coats since they probably have something like 1.3% bodyfat - wish I could relate.  Maybe I need to tie a plush bunny toy to the back of my car with some string and give those dogs some real exercise by flooring it.  Of course, if I go much over 10 mph my teeth would start rattling in my head with enough force to tear loose a couple fillings and I'm afraid the car engine would get bounced out onto the middle of the road.

I guess I need to call the DDC owner to see about getting Ollie on the drop off and pick up schedule so momma doesn't have to pull him from the program.  He does seem to enjoy the place and always comes home all played out with his little doggie buddies that appear to be regulars - the black lab, pitbull, border terrier, labradoodle, cocker spaniel and chihuahua.    

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Growing up in the swamps southeastern part of Texas, dead animals were just a part of life.  The most common critters to get squashed were armadillos, opossums and skunks.  You would also see the occasional raccoon.  The local vulture population stayed fat and sassy, chowing down on this seemingly endless Vegas style buffet of carrion.  

When we moved to the Texas hill country, I realized you just don't see as many dead animals on the road in this part of the state.  Probably the most common roadkill was a whitetail or axis deer.  I had to slam on my brakes more than once to avoid hitting them.  And during the fall mating season, the stretch of Interstate 10 from Kerrville to San Antonio is littered with bucks and does that had skittered across several lanes of traffic yet weren't quite fast enough to outrun a vehicle going 70 mph.  Needless to say, they're gonna do a lot more damage to your car than an ugly old leprosy carrying armadillo.

Here in the suburbs of London, the most common dead critter on the our local roads is the fox.  I've spotted them crossing lanes of traffic on several occasions while I was driving and it's usually at dusk when it's difficult to see them.  They tend to lope rather than run outright so it's no wonder they get taken down by cars.  I've never seen a dead fox here in our neighborhood, but I have seen about one dead squirrel per week since we got the dog.

Last week I was walking Ollie and an Audi sped by going much faster than the posted 20 mph.  Now that I'm middle-aged, I get angry with these idiots who have lead feet.  There are always people out walking, jogging and biking plus residents like me with dogs on leashes or kids in strollers.  I rounded a bend in this little side road and discovered a dead squirrel that I surmised had just been run over by the speeding Audi - fresh blood everywhere.  Awww, poor thing!  

Yesterday I was out walking Ollie down a different side road in the 'hood when I just about stepped upon another freshly dead squirrel.  I let out a squeak as I had been looking up in search of a woodpecker as I strolled along listening to the tap-tap-tap while trying to locate it amongst the bare branches.  Ollie was obviously intrigued by the new smell and I had to drag him away as he lunged with all his might (8 lbs these days) to catch just one more whiff of the recently pancaked squirrel with its fluffy tail still intact and ruffling in the breeze.

I don't know what it is with the local squirrels always getting nailed by cars.  Cars going too fast all the time?  Squirrels immune to the sound of cars since they're so common?  Faulty genetics that have led to local squirrels being nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic?  Obese and/or lazy squirrels that just can't get out of the way quick enough?  Or maybe it's the worldwide affliction of indecision, where the squirrel gets halfway across the road, changes its mind and goes back the same way it came so that the driver erroneously anticipates it continuing forward and swerves in the opposite direction to make a direct hit of the wishy-washy squirrel.  Why did the squirrel cross the road?  Beats me!

It makes me sad to see a dead animal on the road, even lowly tree dwelling rodents that like to steal birdseed from my feeder, thus knocking it off the branch onto the ground so that it requires a bit of repair.  I guess it could be worse a la southeast Texas when the toads hatch out and they're smashed in masses all over the road.  Ollie would absolutely love sniffing his way amongst the froggy carcasses - a veritable minefield of foul smelling frog guts that would require him to stop, drop and roll, no doubt.

Friday, January 20, 2012

York, Dec 2011 - Part 2

We started out the next morning with a tour inside the York Minster.  It is a beautiful cathedral and was decorated for Christmas, which made it even more special.  I thought it apropos that one of the chapels inside the minster is dedicated to St. Nicholas.

The current cathedral was consecrated way back in 1472.  I stood in awe of all the stained glass - the largest expanse of medieval stained glass still intact today.  To save it from the German bombs during World War II, panes were removed and hidden away in the homes of local citizens.  Below is a pic of the oldest daughter inside the attached octagonal chapter house.

I just love the picture above, looking from the west end down to the east end where the altar is located.  Brides had better wear some really practical shoes when they take a walk down this aisle because it seems to stretch into eternity.

The exterior of the minster was equally beautiful.  Below I've included a rather boring shot of the west end door while beneath that is a more interesting picture.  We were strolling to the museums our first day through the cute little old town streets to grab something warm to drink at Starbucks (yes, they are indeed everywhere) when I looked to my left and saw this.  The sun was just starting its climb into the sky and this is the only bit of the exterior I could see in-between the buildings lining the street.  I imagine the stained glass window, appropriately called the Rose window, as seen from within the cathedral was just breathtaking with the sun streaming through it.

In the afternoon, we hiked over to the National Railway Museum... in the rain because I guess Mother Nature figured we weren't miserable enough in just the cold, windy weather.  It houses over 100 locomotives.  The engines in the roundhouse were cool, but I was really fascinated by the royal train cars on display.  I felt a bit like a peeping tom, peering in all of the cars they had for us to view.  

The girls were excited about seeing Hogwarts Express, the train they used in the Harry Potter movie franchise.  We searched high and low to no avail, so I finally asked a white haired museum volunteer where we could find it.  We were indeed sad to learn that it is only there on a rotating basis and would not be returning until February.  The girls were ever so glad we made them tromp through the bitterly cold rain with the lure of the Hogwarts train and some really cool pics held out like a carrot in front of their little donkey noses just to find out there would be no magical memories made that afternoon.

By the time we got back to the old city centre, we were feeling a bit peckish and made our way to Betty's Tea Room.  Betty is one famous gal if the line out the doors of both her primary and secondary establishments were to be believed.  After standing around waiting for about 20-25 minutes, we were seated in front of a fire.  Heaven!  Believe me, it was well worth the wait.  I had been holding out all day for some of Betty's fine fare while the three hogs rest of the family had already eaten lunch.  

I had a glorious Caesar salad.  I know, you're thinking to yourself salad, what's the big deal.  It truly was.  They had cunningly wrapped the slivers of succulent chicken breast in bacon and grilled it - delicious.  It was tossed in a homemade dressing with these croutons that had just the right bite of garlicky butter and were light as air, not the rocks they sometimes toss on your greens as an afterthought.  The husband had cream tea and all but licked the bowls of clotted cream and strawberry marmalade that wouldn't fit on his fresh-from-the-oven scone.  The youngest daughter had hot chocolate and a slice of chocolate torte - just can't get enough of the chocolate food group in her diet on a daily basis - while the older daughter had a cappuccino and fairy cake, which is just English speak for white cake with sugar icing that looked like a large petit four.  And the Christmas tea - I drank every drop of it.  This trip was a lovely way for our family to kick off the holiday season.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

York, Dec 2011 - Part 1

It certainly has taken me a while to finally get this little trip blogged.  I had originally thought we might go to Venice for 3-4 nights before flying to Texas to celebrate Christmas with family.  However, the husband just wasn't jazzed about it.  Last year England had a lot of snow and ice around the holidays, so we thought it might be best if we toured somewhere closer to home.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to York we go... or make that went almost a month ago.

It's a four hour drive to York from our house in Surrey, so we decided it might be fun to take the train for a change.  It was only a two hour ride from Kings Cross station in London and I didn't have to hit the highways and byways and zillion roundabouts between here and there.  

Rick Steves had suggested a lovely B&B in his England book, right around the corner from Bootham Bar, one of York's famous gates in the old city wall.  It was perfect, with a two bedroom apartment in the attic where we had a nice view of the minster (cathedral).  If you ever get to York, and I highly recommend it, then you should consider staying at The Hazelwood. 

Our first evening in York, we found a lovely fish and chips place that was just delicious.  It wasn't your typical greasy take-away fare, but rather a sit down restaurant with attentive service where everything tasted very fresh.  We ended up detouring through Monsoon, which is a bit like Claire's back in the US.  The biggest difference is that it has some other accessories like purses, scarves, hats and mittens.  As usual, the teen was more concerned about how she looked rather than the real possibility of being miserably cold while freezing her patootie off in the winter weather.  Therefore, we got her a humonguous scarf on the walk back to our B&B from dinner before she broke a tooth with her nonstop chattering.  The lows and highs weren't too far apart for our visit, hovering somewhere in the 30s.  That same evening, our pretty little magpie also had to drag us into this frou-frou boutique when she spied party dresses so she could try on a potential prom dress.  She only has until mid May to find the right one, dontcha know.

Our first full day was spent tromping through the very pedestrian friendly old town centre, entering via the gate below that was originally built by the Romans in the 3rd century.  I just love it that the more "modern" walls and gates were built between the 12th and 14th centuries.  A year after moving here, I'm still in awe of all the really fascinating artifacts you see in England that just seem to be everywhere.

If you climb up the stairs onto the wall, you can walk around the perimeter of the old town centre for a couple miles.  We walked a bit of it as we were headed back to the B&B and would have kept going, but the girls mutinied since we had been on our feet all day touring.  

We had fun checking out all of the fascinating exhibits in the York Castle Museum, which included the York Castle Prison.  I thought it was hilarious that the PUNISHMENT back in its heyday was being sent to the colonies - America or Australia.  Isn't that a hoot?  Below is a pic of Clifford's Tower, located right across from this museum.  It was built by William the Conqueror to subdue rebels in the north.

We also visited the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens.  On the grounds we discovered the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey that was dismantled during the reign of Henry VIII when he broke with the Catholic church.  It was a haunting sight in the waning light of 3:30 pm.  Yes, Virginia, that is when it starts to get dark in England during the month of December, a few days before the winter solstice.

Goofball that I am, I just had to include this shot.  It's a plaque in the ground that denotes where the abbey's altar was located.  However, a piece of grass had fallen on the letter P in apse so that it looked like arse.  I did a doubletake as I was walking by and just had to laugh.  

We also visited the very cheesy Jorvik Viking Centre.  These marauders from the north captured York during the 9th century and controlled the region until William's conquest.  It was reminiscent of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  It included smell-o-vision, but I thought it was just a foul miasma that made me suspect they were having sewer troubles... though I guess that might have been the eau de 10th century aroma of an authentic Viking settlement.

No visit to York would be complete without a visit to this place and my husband (the only person in our family who felt it necessary to partake of a pig sandwich) said it was quite tasty.

We ended our day at a sweets shop where we got some fudge and invalid toffee.  I have no idea why the toffee was given that name, but it was quite tasty and my granny would have enjoyed it since I recall her having a fondness for Heath toffee bars.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Ollie is a Cairn Terrier.  In addition to the Cesar Millan book, I also purchased a breed specific book about Cairns so I could read up on their general traits and characteristics.  They're reputedly stubborn.  Check.  They like to try and be boss.  Check.  They have a strong prey drive and chase instinct.  Not so much.

I've been worried that Ollie would spend the bulk of his time standing at one of the two sets of french doors leading out onto the back garden, barking his fool head off at the squirrels who live in our trees.  Or that he would drive me mad chasing them and then standing at the base of a tree to bark his annoyance at the feisty little furry-tailed critters that dared set foot in his territory.  And I figured he would practically drag me to my knees when we were out for walks in our very leafy neighborhood as he would spy the squirrels that cross the road, scurry up trees or bounce through the underbrush in the greenbelts.  Uh no, that would all be incorrect.

Ollie seems to be totally unaware of the squirrels.  I've even taken to "helping" him by stopping him and trying to get him to take notice of the squirrels practically prancing by under his nose.  He just looks up at me with his little Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip eyes because he's blind to the furry little acorn burying, birdseed stealing varmints.  He's completely oblivious to their existence.  Ollie is all about the birds and airplanes.

For some reason, Ollie is fascinated with the sky.  Anytime he spots or bird or plane, he stops to stare.  He seems to be especially aware of planes at night when we go out for potty breaks and will even bark at them.  Last night I heard something - presumably one of our local foxes - rooting around in the leaves on the other side of our privacy fence.  Even Helen Keller could have heard the ruckus they were making.  Ollie appeared to have no knowledge of any such ruckus and proceeded to snuffle around the grass in search of a good spot to do his business.  

Here is a pic of Ollie and the 5th grader last week.  I had taken him on two separate 1.5 mile walks that day and he was really tired.  This daughter likes to hold Ollie like a baby when he's all relaxed... and less likely to nibble on her toes.  He just loves to play that game because she's so obliging, hopping around as if she's dancing on hot coals.  Maybe he doesn't have the urge to chase squirrels, but he's all about the 11-year-old toes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Godfather... UK version

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood, the sun peeking through the clouds and a temp in the low 50s.  Heck, that's almost swimsuit and shorts weather around here.  I had to take the little beast out for his noon potty break and was throwing the obnoxious orange squeaky ball that he loves to fetch.  All was well in the world as I had poop scooped yesterday and didn't have to watch every step I was making.

After the bird incident (Dead Dove 2012) of last week, I was surprised to notice a small gathering of downy little feathers near the back of the yard next to some landscaped hedges.  I threw the ball for Ollie to distract him and walked over to take a look, thinking that I must be really oblivious because I thought I had picked up all evidence from the bird slaying last week.  

As I was walking to take a gander at the feathers, I stepped over what I initially thought was a chunk of stick that had fallen off one of the large trees which rim the yard.  Last week we had some winds gusting into the 40-50 mph range and the lawn service guys haven't made it out yet to clean up the bits of debris.  I did a double take, however, when I saw that the "stick" had a beak.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the head of another dead bird.  Lovely, just lovely.

I know it's a bit gruesome to include a pic, but I just couldn't help myself.  It immediately brought to mind that scene in The Godfather when the movie studio mogul finds the severed head of his prize racehorse in bed with him.  So are my local foxes trying to send me a message.  I guess I should just be glad they didn't leave it on the back step, or better yet, find a way to get it into the house.

Yesterday morning when I took Ollie out for his potty break, because I would swear that I trot out the back door every two seconds with him to facilitate the housebreaking process, I noticed that the foxes had pooped on top of a pile of Ollie's poop.  I know - too much information!  But again, what sort of signal is this.  Is it an example of trying to one-up each other with the poo.  Is this some sort of crazy caca contest, feces fiasco or excrement extravaganza, letting the newbie know they were here first.  It's not as if I enjoy donning a double layer of gloves to scoop up poop every week.  I've had some close calls with the ol' gag reflex.  And then there was the time Ollie decided to chomp on and swing from the plastic garbage bag full of the little presents he leaves all over the yard just as I was finishing the poop scooping.  I guess I should be grateful he's taking care of business (mostly) in the yard instead of the house.  I just wish the foxes would knock it off with all these dominance displays and find some other yard to frequent.

So now for your viewing pleasure - the famous horse head scene.  And just to clarify, I didn't scream like a girl.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If trees had stunt doubles

They're alive... or at least the trees in my neighborhood LOOK as if they could give you a good thrashing or strike up a conversation about the unseasonably warm weather we've been experiencing lately.  Remember these famous trees, the one from The Wizard of Oz as well as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?  

This guy didn't like Dorothy plucking apples from his branches and decided to tell her just that.  Plus he got a little handsy - so typical of a man.

Then there was this tree on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the aptly named Whomping Willow.  Nothing worse than a magical tree that decides to exact a bit of revenge when you inadvertently drive your car into it.

As I take Ollie on his daily walks through the 'hood, I try to do my best imitation of Cesar Millan.  We're all business, out to get some exercise, with my head up and shoulders back, keeping a calm assertive grip on the leash.  Because lemme tell you, if I didn't then Mr. I-think-I'm-the-alpha, all 7 pounds of him, would have me twisted up in the leash as he drags me around the block a time or two.  So to keep myself focused and upright, I've started looking at the trees.  And boy do we have some intriguing ones along our route.

This appears to be the inspiration for some sort of magical tree.  It's even more interesting since it's devoid of leaves here in the wintertime.

Here is a shot of the same tree looking up through its branches. 

A squirrel scurried up the next tree as if it had been shot in the butt and thus brought it to my attention... the tree, not the squirrel butt.

The tree pictured below has to be one of my all-time favorites.  There's another tree that rivals it, but I'll have to walk a different route to snap a pic of it.  This one looks as if it has gone a couple rounds with lightning - or maybe a herd of squirrels on a bark binge - and suffered miserably - deciduous hideous.  The tree's exterior is reminiscent of acne or cankers or cysts.  In my opinion, it's the floral equivalent of the Elephant Man and certainly won't win any prizes for prettying up the neighborhood, but it certainly is a conversation piece along the side of the road.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gone to the dogs

As I was clicking through our December pics today that I conned the husband into downloading onto one of the computers for me, I realized that my in-laws are the real geniuses in our family because they're the only ones withOUT any dogs.  

Here is the ruler of our roost right now, the furry family member that dictates when I have to make a lap around the 'hood twice a day and how many times I have to haul myself out to the backyard for doggy potty breaks.  And why I rush home from whatever errand I'm running because I feel guilty about Ollie having to spend more than an hour or so in his crate.  Who could resist that cute little mug... even when it's munching on yet another piece of landscaping bark that I have to pry out of his mouth for the umpteenth time this week.  I think Ollie just likes to hear me squeal and chase him around the backyard, trying to save us a trip to the vet to remove any of the crap he tries to get lodged in his gullet.

My sister and her family have two dogs... in addition to four cats.  The schnauzer is named Rocky and the corgi is Amigo.  They're quite the pair and remind me of that nursery rhyme - Jack Sprat (Rocky) could eat no fat, his wife (Amigo) could eat no lean...  Amigo's stomach doesn't drag the ground - yet.  I'm thinking he sneaks more than his fair share of cat food when no one is looking.

My husband's brother and his family are up to 4 dogs with the addition of the latest family member, Roscoe the English bulldog.  Lullabelle is the bloodhound, Bronte is the Great Dane and Eli (in the separate pic) is a Shih Tzu.  It's a good thing their house sits on a couple acres so they don't have to do the two-step around big piles of dog poo every time they walk out the back door.

And then there's my mother and her pair of pugs, Max and Ruby.  They are so sweet and so terribly spoiled.  Really - they think they're human, her canine lap babies that love nothing better than to stay stuck up under her being petted and living the good life.  

My husband's parents are the only close family members that can just up and leave on a trip without first making reservations at a kennel or finding someone to come over and feed the beasts while they're gone.  They can walk right outta the house without first locating one of those sticky roller thingies to get all the animal hair off their clothes.  And they're at the mercy of no one else's feeding and potty schedule except their own.  I'm just wondering if Ollie will qualify as some sort of quasi grandchild so that we can guilt them into keeping him once we get back to Texas and want to go on the occasional road trip or long weekend.

Friday, January 6, 2012

They grow up so fast

There's a country western song by Mark Chesnutt titled "I'm Gonna Get a Life".  Silly me should have taken ol' Mark's advice instead of my own... gonna get a dog.  Ollie's still the cutest little Cairn, but gosh darn my world now revolves around him.  

I swear it's like having a toddler in the house - lots of fun and keeps me entertained with his cute little antics.  The best part is that he doesn't have to be monitored as closely as a toddler, but he can be just as demanding and destructive as a two-year-old.  Plus there's that whole bit where I can shove him in his crate whereas Child Protective Services would have a serious problem with me doing the same to one of the kids.

Toilet training with the girls involved me doing some bribing with M&M's for using the potty.  Ollie successfully taking a tinkle or poo outside involves me cranking up my high-pitched babytalk voice to teeth grinding levels of sugary sweetness when the little beast does his thing outside instead of on his puppy pads in the laundry room.  And I don't care if I sound just like my mother talking to her pugs (as my husband and oldest daughter snicker in the adjacent room upon overhearing said babytalk) if that's what it takes to get some positive results with the housebreaking.

I'm still adhering to Cesar's decree that a tired dog is a calm and happy dog.  A dog that won't use your hand, face or shoelace as a teething ring.  And develop this annoying habit of hopping into the dirty clothes basket in the laundry room in search of a smelly old sock to chew.  If Ollie has been for his 45 min walk through the neighborhood in the AM followed by a session of fetch or another stroll in the PM, then he's (usually) less likely to make my life miserable by adopting annoying or destructive behaviors.

Like most dogs, Ollie is very motivated by food.  I feed him his expensive dog food by strictly adhering to the age/weight guidelines so that he won't become an obese fellow.  This makes it ridiculously easy to bribe him with little treats so that I easily taught him to sit and the youngest daughter taught him down.  The next step is gonna be stay because the stairs are just too much temptation to resist and he has a tendency to dash up to the second floor at top speed before we can catch him.  

One dirty little habit Ollie has developed that I doubt would be exhibited by a toddler is the ability to exact revenge.  When I put him over the baby gate into his very comfortable and spacious area right off the kitchen and he doesn't want to be there, then he dashes over to his puppy pads where he proceeds to chew them to shreds.  Of course, the minute I hear ripping I rush over with my "NO" and the finger (index, not middle one) that I'm using as what Cesar calls the I don't agree with this behavior signal/noise.  Cesar uses his now famous tcccccht while I have NO and the finger.  It's hilarious because when I do this he will usually stop the behavior and stare, which is my signal to distract him with a toy or rawhide.  The trick is that sometimes Ollie thinks I'm just kidding around rather than being serious, so he adopts this feisty in-your-face 'tude where he thinks it's fun to yap defiantly and lunge at my finger with his sharp little teeth.  I think I'm starting to see a bit of tween-teen behavior from my precious little pup.

Below is a short video I made this morning while Ollie was out in the back garden, post walk, to play a bit of ball before going in for some downtime in his playpen crate.  A month ago he could only push the deflated pink volleyball across the ground and now he's toting it in his mouth.  The darling little puppy months have passed in the blink of an eye.  Before you know it he'll be hiking his leg on every signpost and blade of grass in the neighborhood.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Not with a whimper, but rather a bang courtesy of the neighbors

We ushered in 2012 with a lot of booms and bangs... or rather the neighbors did their part to wake the dead with a fabulously long and LOUD fireworks display at midnight.  We were reluctant partiers since we had been asleep since 7:30 that evening.  

Our very long day(s) began at 6 am Friday, Dec. 30th, when we gathered up all six suitcases full of our family belongings (two more than we brought to Texas, so it's a good thing Wal-Mart keeps the big old cheap suitcases in stock) and shuffled off to the San Antonio airport to begin our journey back to England.

The flight to Houston got off on time and we had a nice long layover that allowed us to have a big seafood lunch at Pappadeaux's in the airport.  This has become a bit of a tradition, to enjoy one final fried food meal as well as free iced tea refills before boarding the big bird for the long trip.

After teasing us with a late departure, the airline then recanted and got us off just a bit later than scheduled, making up that time en route so that we actually arrived at Heathrow on time.  The oldest daughter slept on and off for the second half of the flight.  However, the youngest daughter didn't doze off until we were about 90 minutes from landing.  We were pleased to discover that the plane wasn't anywhere near full and so my husband coaxed the youngest daughter to join him in his row since the two seats next to him were empty.  It was heaven for everyone to be able to spread out a bit and be more comfortable for the 9+ hours we were in the air.

After clearing customs, we connected with the car service and were home in record time new years eve morning around 7:45.  We wrestled our suitcases into the house and promptly hopped into the car to collect Ollie at the carer's home... back over near Heathrow.  

I swear the little twit has doubled in size since we left him two weeks ago.  I could tell the lady took really good care of him and even went so far as to buy him a new doggie toy for Christmas.  We definitely intend to try and place him with her again when we travel to Rome for winter break in February.  

Once we got Ollie home, I made a trip to the local grocery store to stock up on basics as well as the makings for cheese and chocolate fondue - YUM!  We gobbled up our fondue as a late lunch/early dinner and then tried to keep our eyes open through a movie.  By 7:30 pm, we were staggeringly tired and headed for bed.  We begrudgingly enjoyed the fireworks at midnight which roused us enough to stay awake for several hours before heading back for some much-needed sleep.  I woke up again at 7, 9 and 11 am to let Ollie out for a potty break, whereupon he promptly found all the fireworks debris.  It's a good thing we have a very private backyard since I padded around in my slippers and old yellow chenille robe my mother gave me eons ago to pick up the bits and pieces leftover from the big celebration.

We were able to roll the girls out of bed with the lure of pancakes around noon.  It has just started raining, so I think that's my cue to begin packing away the Christmas decor instead of taking Ollie for a walk.  It will be interesting to see what 2012 has in store for us after such an interesting 2011.  I sincerely hope we will all be blessed with a happy and healthy new year.