Monday, 17 June 2013

What Does Your House Look Like?

Wherever life takes you, you have to embrace that culture.  You have to make it your HOME for the time you live there.  We were very fortunate to find a lovely house to make our HOME here in England for the past year and a half.  Many people picture us living in an attached, 2 bedroom flat in London with a tiny kitchen.  We actually live in a detached, 4 bedroom house in a neighborhood.  We have a long driveway, which is unusual in England.  We also have a good-sized "garden" (yard).  The rooms are all a decent size, and we have three "loos" (bathrooms).  Here are some long overdue BEFORE and AFTER pictures of our house...

Pulling into our long driveway
Fence to the left is a neighbor's backyard.  Brick wall to the right is two neighbors' backyards.  They like to build the houses very close to each other here.

Downstairs window is the formal dining room which we made a playroom.
The large window upstairs is Dylan's room.
The small window upstairs is Cora's room.

 Our backyard...playing soccer with Grandpa Trost and Ben


We took these doors down as well as the door into the family room.

 Family Room


Downstairs Bathroom 

 Master Bedroom

Master Bathroom.  Small shower to the left


 Dylan's Room

 Amelia's Room

 Cora's Room

 Upstairs Bathroom
(Notice Eric changed the faucet so the water mixes and comes out of one tap.)
I made the curtains out of a shower curtain.

This house is not perfect.  It is not huge, and it does not have a great deal of storage.  We found that we did not really need extra space and more things.  We even hosted 4 adults at one time here, and we took turns sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast.  We always made it work, and it did.  In the end, this house was wonderful to us.  I am always a little sad when we pack up and leave a house because of all the memories made there.  But I look forward to returning to the states and OWNING a future home so we can paint the walls, hang shelves and make it our own.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Laundry, the American Way

It's been a while since I've posted.  My time here in the U.K is coming to end soon, so I am going to try and post a few times this week about some things that are different here in England.  Today's topic is LAUNDRY.  Doing laundry is a chore for anyone.  I never really used to mind it until I moved here. 

First of all, the washing machine is in the kitchen.  Some people might think that is convenient, but I think laundry needs it's own space.  

Our cozy kitchen.  The washing machine is in the left corner.

Secondly, most homes here do not have a tumble dryer.  They hang almost everything to dry.  Sometimes they hang it on racks in front of the fire or racks on the radiators.  When it is above 40 degrees and not raining, they hang it out on the line.  I am not kidding when I say that we see laundry on the line in very cold and windy weather.  We often see neighbors running out to grab it when it starts to rain.  Well, I might be the only one in our town who does not hang clothes on the line.  I use the dryer for almost everything.  We are fortunate to have a dryer, but here's the's in the garage.  No big deal, right?  Even though our garage is connected to the house, there is no door between them.  So I have to go out the front door, unlock the garage, roll the big door up (no garage opener here) and make my way to the dryer amongst bikes, balls and dirtbikes.

My laundry journey...out the front door and roll up the garage door to the dryer

The view from Dylan's window of neighbor's laundry

The view from Amelia's window of neighbor's laundry

Both the washer and dryer hold smaller loads than what I was used to in the U.S.  They also take SOOOO much longer for regular washing and drying cycles.  I think the main reason I dread laundry so much here is that it takes so long.  I start with sorting it upstairs, wash it in the kitchen and then transfer it to the garage.  When I can get back out there after around 90 minutes of drying, I then take it to my room to fold it.  It just seems like laundry here is never-ending!  We did purchase a washer/dryer all-in-one, but let me tell you that it takes at least 3 hours if not longer to wash and dry one load.  It dries using the steam from hot water, and I do not care for the way it makes our clothes smell.  I do hang some things to dry in our one closet upstairs.  It has the hot water heater in it, and I refer to it as the "hot closet".

Clothes drying in our "hot closet"  

The containers of detergent are smaller too.  No SAM's-sized Tide here.  I feel like I am constantly buying more detergent.  The dryers here do not take dryer sheets.  They do not even sell them here.  I tried some Snuggle sheets that we brought from the US, but it went straight to the lint collector.  We use liquid fabric softener in the wash.  It's not bad, but our towels and washcloths have become almost water resistent because of all the fabric softener.  I prefer soft towels though.   

 I look forward to doing laundry the American way when we return...a laundry room with a large washer and dryer side by side and an industrial sized detergent bottle where 3 loads can be washed, dried and folded in the same time I can complete one load here.  

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Our Wonderful Trip to IRELAND!

Our "holiday" (as they say here) to Ireland was one of our best trips ever!  We moved around Ireland to experience different areas, and there was so much to see and do.  The city of Dublin has a great deal of history as well as an inviting area full of pubs and shopping.  The majestic beauty of the countryside made us say "wow" over and over.  The smaller towns and villages are very quaint and unique.  The Irish people were all very friendly, welcoming and hospitable.  The one downside of visiting Ireland was the numerous narrow, bumpy and curvy roads.  Aside from some minor car sickness from some of us, we truly enjoyed driving around Ireland and taking in the gorgeous views of mountains, fields, sheep and several castles.

My parents met us in Dublin.  It was great to see them and spend this week together!  My dad's grandparents lived in Ireland until they migrated to the U.S. in the 1920's.  We were able to go to the area where both of them lived, and we stood on the land that was my great-grandfather's farm.  How cool is that?  We stayed busy each day exploring new areas and enjoying dinner in the pubs.  I am creating a photo book of our Ireland pictures, but here are some highlights from each day.

MONDAY: Dublin Zoo
Visiting a zoo is always a hit with our kids.  It was a very nice zoo with most of the typical zoo animals.  That was our coldest day.  No one seemed to mind the cold, and Cora slept in the backpack for an hour and a half.

TUESDAY: Gigi and Grandpa arrived!  After spoiling the kids with gifts and treats, we set out on the double decker tour bus to explore Dublin.  We stopped at the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral, and we experienced the amazing tour at the Guinness Storehouse complete with a magnificent view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar with a free pint of Guinness.

St. Patrick's Cathedral...

 Guinness Storehouse...


Dinner in the Temple Bar Area...

 WEDNESDAY: We continued the bus tour of Dublin with a stop at the Natural History Museum followed by a drink at the Jameson Wiskey Distillery.  That evening, we enjoyed a special dinner and theater show with Irish singing and dancing. 
Natural History Museum...

Jameson Wiskey Distillery...

I almost bought this hat for Dylan because he looked SO cute in it, but he said he wouldn't wear it.

 Dinner and Irish Music & Dancing Show...

THURSDAY: We packed up and made the smooth motorway drive to Waterford.  The tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory was interesting and impressive to all of us.  Then we made a VERY rough drive on country roads to Killarney where we spent the next two nights.

Scenery from our drive...

This is how we rolled. Thank God for 7 passenger vehicles!

FRIDAY: We drove to the Dingle Peninsula and found the land that used to be my great-grandfather's farm.  There is now a school on the land.  It was still very neat to see and imagine living there years ago.  We stopped in a quilt shopped owned by a Foley and a pub where Foley's like to belly up for a drink, but we were not able to find any relation to our Foley heritage.  When we returned to Killarney (which was our favorite area of Ireland), we took a horse and carriage ride through a state park to a castle.  The highlight was that Dylan and Amelia each got to drive the horse!  It was one of our best days of the trip! 

My great-grandparents "on" their farm

Three generations standing on my great-grandfather's farm

The school that is currently on the land

Mountain view across the street and water view on this side...beautiful!

It was 11:00am, and they did not sell food here.  I guess it was 5:00 somewhere.

Our horse and carriage ride to the castle...

Ross Castle from a distance

Dinner in Killarney...

SATURDAY: We drove to Doolin, near the Cliffs of Moher, and made a stop along the way at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.  It was a beautiful day to explore the castle and walk through the reconstructed village of Ireland over a century ago.  My mom and I enjoyed apple pie with cream for lunch!  When we arrived in Doolin, we settled into our bed and breakfast and enjoyed the nice weather.  After dinner at the local pub, we put on our dancing shoes and boogied to the live Irish music.


Awesome castle playground



SUNDAY: Unfortunately, the weather turned cold and very windy overnight.  We still bundled up and set out for our boat tour of Inisheer Island and the Cliffs of Moher.  It was a VERY rough ride on the water, and we ended up just stopping at the island for lunch and returning back to Doolin due to the strong winds and rough seas.  So we did not get a close view of the cliffs by water, but the boys drove up to the cliffs and took the walking tour from above while the girls snuggled on the couch with hot tea and hot chocolate.
 Freezing at the pier waiting for our boat ride



 The boys' view of the cliffs from the walking tour

Dinner at yet another pub... 

MONDAY: My mom and I couldn't let some cold weather and wind keep us from seeing the Cliffs of Moher.  Eric took us there in the morning, and we did the walking tour with the kids.  It was AMAZING!  One of those things you have to see in person.  Then, we made the 3+ hour drive back to Dublin for our final night.

 See this boat?...

...It was that tiny spec down there in the water.

Back in Dublin enjoying dinner together on our last night...

We are already saying we want to go back to Ireland again and see more.  It is truly a beautiful country with so much to offer any tourists.  We had an amazing week with my parents full of laughs and memories we will cherish forever.