Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween and Guy Fawkes/Bon Fire Night

Halloween


Halloween was pretty low-key this year.  My mother made Zoe's costume for her and I only had to secure the accessories.  In order to participate in the costume parade at school, Zoe had to dress as a storybook character, so she picked Fancy Nancy.






Class parade:


 Class parade- her teacher was Viola Swamp



Noah's class did not participate in the costume parade and therefore he only wore his costume in the evening.  He wanted to be a Minecraft creeper and I spent more time than I care to admit gluing green squares to a cardboard box to make his "head".  He got a lot of compliments, though, and that made me feel it was worth all the time spent.



My kids wanted to pass out candy rather than go trick-or-treating and I was completely fine with that, so I parked them in front of the door with a giant cauldron full of candy and was actually surprised with the number of trick-or-treaters and amount of candy we went through.  Zoe decided after the evening got off to a good start that she wanted to go trick-or-treating but I told her we had to stay home and pass out candy now but thankfully, our friends stopped by to get candy and they took the kids around with them to hit a few houses.





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Guy Fawkes



November 5th is the date the English celebrate Guy Fawkes/ Bon Fire night.  This goes back to the foiling of a plot to overthrow the King and government in 1605.

Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 and many of the Catholics in England hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of them as they were persecuted under Elizabeth's rule.  James did not turn out to be any more tolerant of Catholics than Elizabeth and so a plot was formed by a few men to blow up Parliament with hopes of killing the King, members of Parliament and overthrowing the government.

Thirty- six barrels of gunpowder were placed in a cellar beneath the House of Lords in anticipation of carrying out the plot.  They were betrayed, though and on November 5, 1605, the authorities stormed the cellar and found Guy Fawkes with the barrels of gunpowder. He was tortured and killed.  All around London, bonfires were lit in celebration of the safety of the King and this has become a tradition ever since with the addition of throwing effigies of Guy Fawkes on the fire for burning.  There is even a poem that is recited about the event:

Remember remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

On the night of November fifth and often the weekend closest to the date, villages all over England have bonfires and fireworks.  Our village had a bonfire and fireworks this past weekend.  The fireworks show was excellent and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the whole event.


in front of the bon fire (it had died down, it was big) with a Flat Stanley with are hosting:






effigies for the fire:


If you would like to read more information about Guy Fawkes, you can find it here.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our English House, Part 5

So- I kind of left y'all hanging.  I was all into showing you different parts of my house and then I just quit blogging.  Sorry about that.  I have no excuse except that life gets in the way.  I intend to blog- especially with family so far away -I want to keep y'all updated about what is going on with us, but it just doesn't happen.  A big reason is that I can't post a blog heavy with pictures at night- the internet is too slow.  And I am used to getting things done at night. If I plan ahead (like I did today, but that doesn't happen often) I can upload the pictures earlier in the day and then write the blog at night.  But, yeah... that kind of planning is not a regular thing here.

For a refresher or if you missed the first four parts, I brought you inside my kitchen and three of the bedrooms in part one.  In part two, I mainly concentrated on the outside and now reading it again, I remembered that I wanted to take more pictures of the outside when everything in the garden was in bloom.  And now that has all passed and I forgot.  Oops.  Hopefully, I remember next summer.  We took a look in my craft room (an out building) and the office in part three.  And part four brought you inside the dining room for a cup of tea beside the wood-burning stove.

I decided today was a good day to take a look in the bathroom since my lavender is in bloom outside and I have been waiting for it to bloom so I could put a few sprigs in there.

The entry:



 In England, there are no electrical outlets or light switches in bathrooms. Because of their 220 voltage, they fear the possibility of electrocution with all that moisture in the bath.  So, older homes have these pull cord light switches that turn the light on (newer homes have a light switch OUTSIDE the bathroom door in the hallway).  The other cord you see there is a pull cord that turns on the shower.



 I was elated to see this clawfoot tub when we looked at the house- and it is beautiful.  But, the reality is that it is pretty cold in this cavernous bathroom and you can freeze to death while sitting in that bath.  It is also quite a pain to clean.  



 I found a beautiful pitcher and wash basin at an antique store and thought it would go nicely in this bathroom.



 I found the towel rack at an antique shop but it was in bad shape.  I gave it a nice little paint job and now it looks great!



 The picture there on the wall is a canvas print of one of my photos I took this past summer of the roses around the back door of the house.



 I found this little plaque while shopping one day and had to have it!  I have also placed the little bottle here with sprigs of lavender from the plants I put in a few months ago in the back garden.



 Lavender from my lavender plants:






 The shower:




I think the only rooms left are the guest bedroom and the living room. Hopefully, I will get to them before we leave (in two years).

In other news, the kids started their new year of school end of August.  Noah is now in his last year of elementary school and I am choosing not to think about the fact I will be the parent of a middle school kid next year.  Zoe is trucking along in first grade, working on reading and memorizing poems for class.  

Noah starts back up with piano lessons and his new piano teacher (the last one moved back to the US) this week.  Both kids started swim lessons two weeks ago and are doing well considering their hatred for getting their faces wet. They are still in the "armband" class and I imagine will be in that class for some time.  I feel bad for Noah, though, because he is ten years old and in a class, wearing floaties, with a bunch of children all five and under.  Even Zoe seems a little old for the class, but they both have to learn.  As much of a lover of the water as I am, I did not pass that trait on to either of my children and I was unable to teach them to swim.  

As for school, they are both currently working on a project for the librarian sponsored by the PTO.  They are hosting a pumpkin decorating contest where the children are required to decorate a pumpkin like a storybook character and the pumpkins will be used as fall decor for the library and school.  Both kids know what they are aiming for and I am going to a craft store tomorrow to see if I can find supplies.  Stay tuned for those reveals later.  

And last, I have mentioned over and over how the Air Force world is a small one and it is amazing how we tend to cross paths over and over again or with people that have mutual friends.  Back in New Jersey, I had a friend that I made when we were both pregnant with our first kids and our husbands (in the same squadron) were deployed at the same time.  Our boys were born 6 weeks apart and were each other's first friends.  They left New Jersey in 2006 and we haven't seen them since.  Well, they found out last summer they were moving to England this fall.  Her husband arrived today and she and the kids will arrive on Friday.  We are so very excited to see them again.  DJ met up with Jeff today to take him to get a rental car and hopefully, once Claudia gets here, we can maybe see them this weekend.  Here's hoping they can find a place to live near us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Geocaching

Back in 2009, one of my friends that lives in CA was talking about geocaching with her kids and posting pictures of her family hiking these beautiful, fun mountain trails on the hunt for them.  I had no idea what geocaching was, so I decided to look it up.

From the geocaching website:


Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

At its simplest level, geocaching requires these 8 steps:

  1. Register for a free Basic Membership.
  2. Visit the "Hide & Seek a Cache" page.
  3. Enter your postal code and click "search."
  4. Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.
  5. Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.
  6. Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
  7. Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
  8. Share your geocaching stories and photos online.
There are many other levels to the game. Keep reading the guide to learn more!

Rules of geocaching:


  1. If you take something from the geocache (or "cache"), leave something of equal or greater value.
  2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
  3. Log your experience at www.geocaching.com  

There is a ton of information on their website under their Geocaching 101 page located here.  The very short version is that it is like a global treasure hunt.  People hide geocaches and list them online, you can search for one near you (they are all over the world), plug it's coordinates into a GPS device or GPS enabled smart phone and head out to search for it.  It sounded like a blast, so I signed my family up for a free membership and then started searching the area in New Jersey where we lived.

It was not as fabulous as what I had envisioned (or seen through my friend's photos).  There were a few in my area, but they all had hints and comments like, "Bring your waders- had to wade through a small bog to get to this one.", "Spiders, spiders, loads of spiders have taken up residence here.", "Found it- but after cleaning out quite a few cobwebs and nearly being carried away by the mosquitos."

So.. ummm... yeah.  We never went on a single hunt.

Fast forward four years.  This past June, school was out, England (where we live now) was enjoying a very nice summer and I couldn't get my kids outdoors.  They just wanted to lie around on the couches playing video games and watching television.  I turned the tv off and took the games away and instead of going outside or doing something creative, they just got demanding; always asking for food, something to do, water or entertainment.  One day (probably day TWO of summer vacation), I had enough.  I was trying to think of something to do outdoors that would peak their interest.  I suddenly remembered geocaching.

I looked up the site again, verified we did still have an account and then searched for caches in my area.  Much to my surprise, there were loads.  I would love to tell you that the kids and I happily talked about it, set out on our first hunt, found it, had a good Brady Bunch moment in the woods where the kids said, "Gee, golly, Mom, this is SWELL!  Can we do it again?  I LOVE spending time with you in the outdoors!"  But, that didn't happen either.

The first three attempts over about a week to locate one resulted in me sifting through stinging nettle (ouch) and digging in various wooded areas while the kids stood on the path and whined and moaned that they were (pick one): bored/ tired/hot/hungry/thirsty/being subjected to child abuse.  I am stubborn, so I spent up to an hour in each location looking while the kids got increasingly crabby and totally ruined family fun outing time.

And then something miraculous happened.  One day, we found one.  And we opened it and there were prizes inside the kids could swap and suddenly they were interested.  That is until the next time I mentioned it and they moaned and groaned and had to be forced out of the house and into the car.  But then, we found another one... and a third and suddenly, they were hooked.  From that point on, they were constantly over my shoulder looking at the listings online, trying to figure out which one we would attempt next and plotting our "attack".  When we would arrive at  "ground zero" and could practically smell the geocache, they would frantically begin searching, trying to be the first to find it.

What started out looking like a LONG summer where I yell at the kids and throw them outside, turned into a wonderful adventure that seemed to pass very quickly.  We found geocaches during the week while my husband was at work.






 We all looked for geoaches while we were out on the weekends.











We even found one in Germany and two in France while we were on our summer vacation!

 (Germany)


(yes- that IS a lipstick container!!  In France)

Geocaching forced us to go places and see things we wouldn't otherwise have visited.

 (caching in England)



 (caching in England)


 (Le Jardin de la Liberte- Liberty Garden- in Gravelines, France.  There is a geocache in the garden, but not where this picture is taken)



(geocaching in England)

We have definitely caught the "bug" and although our momentum has slowed considerably since the kids are back in school, I hope to continue to find a few here and there throughout the school year until next summer when we can go full force again!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Afternoon Tea Party

Zoe's birthday was last week and I had promised her a birthday party.  You see, I was great at having birthday parties for her in the past.  She had a Pink Poodles in Paris first birthday party, a Circus themed second birthday and the mother of all parties, an ice cream sundae parlor themed party for her third birthday. After that third birthday, I was exhausted.

The following year, for her fourth, we were in Texas visiting family, so we had a pool party at my dad's house and bought Hello Kitty party supplies.  I got off really easy on that one.

Last year, for her fifth, we had just moved overseas and were still staying in temporary lodging.  It was very low-key.  I bought a few tinker bell decorations to hang while she was sleeping so she could feel a little special when she awakened the next morning.  It wasn't a great celebration as we were busy trying to find a house, still without all of our things, and essentially homeless.

This year I promised she could have a party.  We settled on a tea party theme (what better theme when in England?) and went to work.  From the moment we moved into our house last summer, I envisioned a garden tea party out amongst the flowers with twinkling fairy lights hanging from trees.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.

Even though we had to cram five little girls and their mothers indoors, I think the party went well and Zoe had a great time!

Here is the invitation I made using Photoshop with all of the personal information blocked out:



I made place cards using Photoshop as well:




Luckily, there are loads of antique and second-hand stores here and I was able to find tea trios for fairly cheap, so I purchased one for each girl for about £5 ($7.50) per set.




 In order to make all of the chairs uniform, I found some Cath Kidston pillow cases on ebay and used them as chair covers.  The bows came from The Range.

The bunting hanging on the cabinet was also purchased at The Range.



The paper lanterns and plastic tablecloth came from Oriental Trading (thankfully, I ordered them back in June, because they took almost two months to get here in the mail)



 The cookies were made by a local baker- a military wife with a phenomenal talent.




The plates and napkins came from Oriental Trading as well.



When the party was going to be outdoors, I had planned to set up a blue backdrop with a bunting on it and let the girls dress up and have a photo booth.  Since the party had to be moved indoors, I had the bucket of supplies on the side in case someone wanted to wear something.  They really didn't wear anything during the party, but after the party was over, everyone picked something from the bucket and I took them outside for a group shot. (it had stopped raining).  I do not have the permission of any of the girls' parents to post their photo, so just know it is cute, but will not be included in this post.


The paper bunting came from Oriental trading too.  It was supposed to be a cake topper but looked silly on the cake, so I decided to prop it up as a backdrop for the tea.  Just an hour before the party started, I was trying to figure out how to make them stand up when I remembered I had pink and white pearl cupcake sprinkles, so I poured them in wine glasses to anchor the bunting.  The tea I served was regular black tea, rose, Earl Grey and an herbal tea for our caffeine-free guests.



I had scones with lemon curd, raspberry preserve or strawberry wine preserves along with shortbread biscuits and homemade pound cake and lemon cookies.  On the sandwich tray, I had nutella sandwiches (the ONLY sandwich apart from pb&j that Zoe will eat), turkey sandwiches and chicken salad with fresh dill using greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise.



 The same girl that made the cookies also made the cake.






Each girl took two cookies and a china trio home as her party favor.




 I loved this photo I captured of Zoe blowing out her candles.  I blurred the girl in the background's face as I do not have permission to post it.



It was no ice cream party, but I think as a whole, it went well, and Zoe was pleased.

I hope to get back into blogging more soon and apologize to my friends and family that are keeping up with us through my blog.  The problem I have run into is that the best time for me to blog is at night and our internet is so slow at night, that it isn't worth it.  I just sat here for over an hour while the above photos loaded.  And now it is past 11pm and I have to get up in the morning.  The internet is considerably faster during the daytime, but I don't have much time for blogging during the day.  Again, my apologies- I hope to figure it out and start blogging more so my family back in the US can follow our adventures.