Friday, April 29, 2016

Spring Aint Sprung Yet

Lord have mercy, y'all... I'm beginning to think we're gonna skip right over spring and go straight to summer. There were some initial signs in March and early April with temps warming into the low 60s, tulips in bloom and trees starting to bud. The teen's school grounds greened up and they switched over to spring uniform. Spring break and Easter were celebrated. Even the doggy daycare centre weekly updates were yammering about how much the dogs and humans were enjoying early spring.

That's the school pictured above, not too far from the swan and duck pond on the south side of campus. Below you'll see Ollie snuffling through the grass at daycare last week, hanging with his doggy friends.

It certainly wasn't shorts, sandals and pretty pedis time yet, but I know I'm not the only one who switched out the turtlenecks and quilted vests in my closest for pink and yellow 3/4 sleeve cardis. I obviously got all ahead of myself and turned off the heated towels bars in my bathroom as well as the daughter's. And then this arrived on Tuesday. Seriously. Snowflakes and hail mixed in with the rain. Overnight lows in the 30s and highs in the mid 50s. Maybe we'll SPRING into some milder temps as we turn the calendar page to May this weekend. With no AC in the house, I've gotta admit I'll take cooler than normal temps over a British heat wave any day of the week.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Come and Get It

Chicken lettuce wraps - it's what's for supper at least every 10 days in our house. The first time we moved to England, the husband bought a couple of those restaurant copycat recipe books for moi. Hope springs eternal, right? Maybe I'd pull a June Cleaver after being in the workforce my entire adult life (going back to my first job at age 15, yo) and suddenly develop this compulsion to slave away in the kitchen preparing home cooked meals for the family. Uh yeah, didn't happen. Dare I say never gonna happen, whether I'm working or staying at home. I'm sure my granny, a woman that loved to cook for her family and friends, is undoubtedly rolling over in her grave as I type these words. I just don't enjoy the cooking experience.

So when I do gird my loins and head into the kitchen to prepare a meal, I want something that isn't too fussy. We have what I call the staples here at our house, things the teenager will eat. Chicken enchiladas or tacos, chicken noodle soup, shrimp fettuccine alfredo and chicken lettuce wraps. Before the college coed left home, I cooked a greater variety of meals because I knew she and the husband would eat most anything. The younger daughter would make a PB&J sandwich if she wasn't interested. But now I'm cooking for just the husband and picky pants palate, although she has broadened her culinary horizons, a bit, over the years.

One of our favourite meals from the copycat recipe book that everyone enjoys is PF Chang's chicken lettuce wraps. If you're within driving distance of an upscale shopping mall, then you know what I'm talking about. 

I've never been able to find those kinda crispy white noodle thingies at any of our local grocery stores - in the UK or Texas - but we enjoy them just the same.

 I chop up all of the ingredients, mix the sauce, pour about half of it over the mixture and let it sit in the fridge for a while to soak up the flavours. Then I toss it all into a hot skillet for about 10-12 minutes and voila - a mostly healthy meal as long as you don't pile on spoonfuls of the sauce. That stuff is tasty, but not particularly good for the waistline. Best thing about this meal is the fact that we always have enough for leftovers.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Birthday Squared

Exactly 21 years ago today, the husband skipped his law school classes so we could welcome our first daughter into the world at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. Poor guy - 1994 was the last year the husband had his own birthday celebration since she was born the day he turned 27. I've been fortunate to celebrate birthdays with these two for over two decades. May God continue to bless them with health, happiness and many more to come!

Friday, April 22, 2016

On Patrol

Our resident shorty fervently wishes the hedge was thinner or he was taller so that he'd have a clear view into the neighbour's back garden. Then he could maintain a lookout for the local foxes that use it as a cut through to the field beyond. No doubt there would be a lot more barking and racing back and forth along the hedge fence line if he could eyeball the bushy tailed trespassers.

Dutch Texans Touring the UK

I normally take a boatload of pics, mainly because I'm the only person in the family documenting our travels via a blog. When my childhood friend and her mom were visiting while my mother was also here in the UK, I turned over photography to the professional writer in our group. She did a tremendous job of snapping cool pics everywhere we visited. I didn't realize how few pics I took of our UK adventures until I started looking for photos to add to this post. 

On our first full day of touring, we visited Windsor Castle. Pics of the interior were not allowed. And I didn't think to take a pic when we sat down to eat at the Duchess of Cambridge pub in Windsor. Or in the fudge shop - fond memories there. Here is a video and pic of the changing of the guardsin a different place than I've ever witnessed it before. I believe that was my 6th tour of Windsor Castle. 

On our second day, I drove us down to the coast at Brighton. We toured the Royal Pavilion, visited the fun and funky Choccywoccydoodah shop (had it's own TV series for a while), had lunch at a Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant and then posed for some cheesy pics while viewing the pebble beach with it's carousel and boardwalk in the background.

On Wednesday, we did the £13 taxi tour from Waterloo Station to Harrod's. We drove across the Westminster Bridge, past Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. We did some window shopping at Harrod's - Prada purses, anyone - then we haunted the food halls admiring all of the tasty treats. We hopped back into one of the iconic black London taxis for lunch at Brown's. Finally, we wrapped up the afternoon by attending the "Wicked" matinee. The next morning it was onward to the continent for a long weekend in my friend's adopted country of Holland.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pet Peeving via Memes

Facebook is truly a modern technological marvel. With the push of a button, I know where people are traveling for summer vacation, what they cooked for supper, what color dress their daughter wore to prom, who the grand babies look like and if I need to move them to acquaintance status because they're backing Hillary or Donald for president.

As handy and informative as Facebook can be, it is also equally aggravating. These memes cover some of the things that irk me to the nth degree.

OMG, y'all, you've got another splinter, hangnail and fungal infection between your toes. Or callous on your thumbs from posting about all the various ailments or mishaps so people will give you some attention. Cancer is a biggie, but that zit on your cheek or flat tire you get once every decade is not.

Boy howdy, you beat the bushes and rustled up a new significant other. In record time, I might add. You're not picky and selective, but rather lonely. So now we all have to hear about how he/she is the love of your life after a couple months. It's great that you're spending time with someone, but we don't need to hear about every fast food drive thru run or trip to refill meds at Walmart that is yet another gloriously happy, no one has ever been in love like us experience with your new guy/gal.

These drive me insane because the nosey rosey me wants to hear the whole story. Whether it's the ex-wife driving you nuts, co-worker making you crazy or health scare you had with that suspicious wart on your butt. Post the deets for everyone to see, or don't bother sharing at all. You're praising God and glad to be alive because ______? 

Mutilated, abused, crippled... it's all the same to me. I HATE seeing these sorts of animal posts on Facebook, even the ones that have a happy ending. Just.Don't. It's shocking and sad and makes me worry about the fate of a society where some individuals think animals are disposable. We know you hate it - so do most of us on the planet. So please, I'd consider it a public service if you would quite sharing the sad animal posts. However, feel free to keep the dog shaming pics or cute baby animal videos a comin'.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Guest Room Debut

I'm always encouraging friends and family to come visit us in England, but I seldom have any takers. I attribute that to the cost of getting here. Plus some folks just don't like long haul international flights. Fortunately, all three of our guest rooms got some use recently with a visit from my mother, hometown friend and her mom. 

Everyone arrived on Saturday, April 2, from Texas and Holland. My friend is a long term expat in Holland, so I'd almost consider her local if she didn't live on the other side of the English Channel. We kicked off the Mamarazzi Tour with lunch at The Anchor pub in Pyrford that sits along a canal. Long boats coasted lazily past us. Dogs were game for some exercise with their owners along the canal path in a typical spring mix of sun as well as clouds that spit out some sprinkles.

It wouldn't be a full on pub meal without fish and chips, so these two obliged with the traditional favourite. Everyone got settled for the week and we kicked off our touring the next day at Kensington Palace. Since no pics were allowed in the interior, and the exterior was underwhelming, I've got nothing to share. 

We were impressed with the Whole Foods Market we passed on the way from the tube station to Hyde Park when we dashed in to let the moms use the toilets. The highlight at Kensington for the moms was the temporary exhibit of dresses worn through the years by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. It was an interesting contrast to an original mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria in her later years on exhibit. The widow's weeds were quite voluminous and not at all flattering, even when worn by royalty. Brown stitching on black fabric is beyond blah.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Easter Sunday 2016

Now that our company is gone and we're finished with travels until summer vacation, it's time to wrap up our Easter weekend tour of the south coast with a final blog post about Easter Sunday.

The weather all weekend was crap - intermittent rain bands heralded in by sustained winds of around 25-30 mph that gusted up to 40 quite often. This picture pretty much sums up the state of things. The air temp was in the low 50s, but it felt much colder thanks to the whipping winds.

We started out the morning with breakfast at our B&B. Then we drove to the Isle of Portland, just southwest of Weymouth where we were staying. While there, we stopped to check out some very rough seas and one of the lighthouses.

Below is the view from the daughter's room on the third floor of the B&B, looking out over the tops of houses to the water, in-between rain showers.

After returning to the B&B to gather up our gear, we drove west along the coast to Charmouth. I had tried to book a private three hour fossil hunting guide, but he was unavailable on Sunday - understandable since it was Easter. So I opted to sign us up for a two hour group fossil hunting walk with the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. While we were hearing the initial spiel inside the centre from the resident palaeontologist, it was raining buckets. By the time we bought our £1 fossil guide booklet and were ready to go, the rain had passed. We headed off with our guided group to the rock and pebble beach to get down to the business of finding and attempting to identify fossils that are millions of years old.

Needle in a haystack, you say? Sorta. We all adopted the same approach of parking it on a big rock, then sifting in the rocks all around us. We found some lovely examples like the one you see below. Plus a lot of beach glass. I definitely want to return at some point for a bit more fossil hunting in better weather. Maybe hit the beach at nearby Lyme Regis, too, since they're also good fossil hunting grounds. We got splattered with some sprinkles while on the beach, but nothing too bad. As we looked out to sea, we could see where the rain was headed and were just glad it wasn't directly over us.

We wrapped up our Easter Sunday with fish and chips at a local place in Weymouth along the harbour. It was a nontraditional holiday weekend spent on the road touring some of our adopted country and we enjoyed the experience.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Two weeks ago, I was prepping for my mother (aka Mimi) to arrive, as well as a childhood friend and her mom coming for a visit. With the last goodbye this morning, I'll be getting back to the same old same old around here. Until I have a chance to sort our pics from the family/friends visit, in addition to taking pics of our Jurassic Coast fossil finds from Easter weekend, here is a shot of Ollie. Every week his doggy daycare sends out an email that includes random photos of the dogs at "school". Our Ollie is on the right, hanging out with his Cairn doppelgänger.