Monday, October 31, 2011

Stonehenge Adventure

Yes, we went to Stonehenge. :)

Once Paul flew in to meet us we decided that since we were only an hour away from Stonehenge that we should all go and see it.

Sounds simple enough, but the GPS was out to get us.

A certain person, who was not me but will rename nameless, used the GPS a week earlier and set it to "avoid major roads" ...and you can guess what happened.

We drove for two hours on the backroads of England, through the tiniest of towns/villages... some towns were even just one lane and to drive through the "town" we had to wait for a traffic signal so we could take turns with the traffic going the other way.

After two hours of driving through lovely little meandering roads we not seen a single sign for Stonehenge. We just kept following that dumb GPS ...until it's battery died and we realized the car chargers didn't work. Now we were two hours into the middle of nowhere England... and without a GPS. See the excitement of the situation?

Oh, but it gets better because it always does...

Andrea throws up.

All over. We had a change of clothes and we get her cleaned up.

Ten minutes later Scotty throws up. No change of clothes though...

...and we are still in the middle of nowhere England and still without a GPS.

So we stopped at a roadside pub to get out of the puke-mobile and take a break. We ate some British food. I had a jacket potato (baked potato filled with stuff), Happy and Sierra had fish and chips, and Michaela had this... it was called yorkshire pudding. The yorkshire pudding Happy's mom makes is WAY better. :)

At least we were in a country that spoke English, so as we were leaving I asked the bartender guy how to get to Stonehenge. He looked confused and said we were an hour away. HA! I explained to him that we were an hour out when we started nearly three hours earlier!

As he was trying to give me directions a guy drinking a beer at the end of the bar said he was headed that way and that we could follow him... So we followed a toothless drunk man to Stonehenge. ...but the toothless drunk man was very nice and was sure to drive slow for me so I could keep up... and he wasn't really drunk. :)

Please keep in mind I'm still on the wrong side of the road and the only one authorized to drive the rental car. WHEEEEE.......

We followed him most of the way and then we used Happy's cell phone's map to get us the rest of the way there. What a mess, but by then we were pretty determined to get there.

We finally saw a sign and had a small little celebration in the car. Turns out Stonehenge is right next to a "Major Road", that we could have followed straight from Ingrid's house... for an hour.

But we made it and got to see The England Countryside too.... :)

On the way home I got on the freeway towards London and refused to leave it. After disregarding a couple GPS directions to get off the freeway we finally figured out the dumb thing was set to avoid the only road we needed.

We were home at Ingrid's house just an hour later... (PS...For the ride home the GPS was only working because we found a charger in the trunk that worked... we had charged it while driving with Happy's phone.)

The End!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vacation Report: London

Michaela was obviously there too... but she took the picture. :)

While in England we did travel into London for a day. Our family has been to London before so we had seen all the big things, but when you are just an hour away, you need to go. :) We hopped on the tube and off we went.

As a mom it's a huge deal to "give" your day to someone, so I really do appreciate that Ingrid escorted us the five of us through London from place to place. She was an outstanding tour guide and I'd highly recommend her services!!! :) I didn't have to look at a map once which was a nice break!!

While in London we basically just went shopping. :) We went to a HUGE book store and Michaela picked out books for her birthday. It was a really nice book store, but Borders makes me happy enough when it comes to book stores. :)

Then we also went to a HUGE toy store and it was slightly unreal. Hamleys is HUGE. Five floors and every floor has a different theme! They had a floor for girls, one for boys, one for stuffed animals, one for crafts, for one for something else, games maybe? Can't remember. It was enormous though and the best part was that it was very well designed so that you just keep walking in circles and you can see everything.... no roaming aimlessly. :) We roamed with purpose...

They also had demonstrations all over the place so the kids could watch magic shows or watch flying helicopters or swirly markers. I realize all the demonstrations were to in order to sell things to us, but it was still fun and the kids loved it, especially the magic ones.. It felt very Disneyland-ish; the California one, not Paris. :)

There was even an entire corner dedicated to Teddy Bears... not to mention the Build a Bear corner! :) However big you are picturing this toy store in your mind... it's bigger.

Because I had not yet spent enough money, Ingrid found an American food store. :) We bought some root beer and some candy and also got some snacks for later. I even splurged and bought these FRUITY PEBBLES!

England is tricky because they use the Sterling Pound as their currency, it looks like it could be dollars.... 5.85 would be a reasonable amount of American dollars for me to spend on this one small box of Fruity Pebbles. 5.85 pounds is a bit more ridiculous though. To convert to US Dollars you nearly double it this sill box cost almost ten dollars!! But I hope Ingrid's kids are enjoying every bowl full... because we forgot it there. :) Ingrid don't let them go stale, if your kids don't like them then share with the eye-closed, hoola-hooping, singers. :)

If Ingrid writes on her blog about the Jiffy Pop we bought I'll post a link, because it was fun to show her family how Jiffy Pop works. :)

We even made it to Princess Diana's playground, which was really cute! We hung out there for a while and then made our way back home.

Andrea is a pouter. If you tell her something that doesn't make her happy she will flop to the ground and "pout". I guess being a "pouter" is better than being a "temper-tantrum-er". It's much more quiet and almost funny.

I also learned that, in London, cabs are black... "Black Cabs". I might have already known this, but I doubt I'd ever thought about it. Our family is way past the "fitting into a cab" stage. :) You don't even notice them as much because they are black, not bright yellow. :) Of course I still like the yellow ones more though because I'm a loyal American and yellow is even my favorite color, but the black ones are still cute.

That was our day in London. :) Thanks Ingrid. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I didn't crash!!

We have been to London a few times, but NEVER have we been brave enough to drive. I guess it hasn't been a matter of fear, it's just that between double decker buses, black cabs, and the maze of underground tube lines, you don't really even need a car.

However, Ingrid lives about an hour outside of London's city center... and once you start factoring in the price of train tickets for all of us, and the extra traveling time, it just made sense to rent a car.

So I did.

I rented a car when I arrived with the children at the Stansted airport on Tuesday afternoon. For this trip, Paul, again, got left behind :( At least he was able to meet up with us Thursday night and spend the weekend with us... He's an important boy with important things going on at work.... :)

So I had the wonderful opportunity to drive a car with the steering wheel in the wrong place and on the wrong side of the road!! BUT it gets better, because it always does....

I didn't have a GPS.

My portable GPS was in my car, which Paul had taken on a short business trip. The day we left I had his pretty car with the built in GPS... so I had no GPS to bring with me. Super!

I was too cheap to rent a GPS for the same price I could have bought one, so I figured that if I could just make it to Ingrid's house... on the other side of London... it would be fine and Paul could simply bring our GPS with him when he came.

So I printed a map from Google Maps. HA! Who does that anymore?!!

I studied the maps and verified the directions with Ingrid. It seemed simple enough ...until I had to do it all on the wrong side of the road!

**Long story short, I drove through London ...using a map.

Okay, fine, it was mostly freeways, but there were times when I couldn't believe I picked the right way.

What I learned about driving in England:

1. The seatbelt is not over your left shoulder.
- I would flail my arm around searching for it every time I got in the car... then I realized the seatbelt is over my right shoulder and that I needed to use my left hand to grab it.

2. There IS a rear view mirror. It's just in the middle of the car ...which is on your left.
- I drove the entire week and finally as I was frustrated I couldn't see behind me Paul told me to use the rear view mirror and I said, "Oh yah". I hadn't thought to look left all ...for the entire week.

3. The other cars... and motorcycles are also driving on the "wrong" side of the road.
- You have to remember which way cars are supposed to be coming from ...and it's not the direction you think!

4. Roundabouts are evil.

5. Shifting with your left hand would be impossible.
- Thankfully the car rental place only had an automatic to give me. It was hard enough to go from drive to reverse with my left hand. I had never even thought about it. I would have been in real trouble trying to shift with the "wrong" hand.

6. To drive the car you need to get in on the right side of the car.
- It took a few days of actually opening the left door before I realized that if I wanted to drive I'd need to go open the right door. When we picked up the car from the rental place at the airport I actually sat down in the left front seat and paused for a minute... I thought the rental guy was going to take the keys back.

7. Left means left and right means right.
- When someone would give me directions and say, "Turn left at the light." I'd think in my head... "Okay, left, so that really means right because everything is backwards" ...and I'd get myself all confused. I don't understand how I would think that it would mean the opposite, but I did and I kinda spent the week not really knowing which of my hands were left or right.

...and you have to turn into the correct lane when you turn ...and parking lots are pretty sketchy... and cars come from the lane where you wouldn't expect them... and roundabouts are a whole new world, but all in all driving wasn't that bad and I'd do it again.

Oh, and roundabouts... There are no such things as roundabouts in Germany or Denmark. The "roundabouts" they have here are tiny little circles in which you can see every car that is involved. They should be called "baby circle roads".

A real roundabout is a mess of lights, arrows, street markings, and merging cars coming from several directions. They are so big and even come with their own maps to help you navigate them. They are rarely even round! Roundabouts are more like a giant oval with many, many roads branching off in every direction; not just four like in a German "baby circle road." Some roundabouts had roads going through the middle and some were more like "Figure 8-abouts". Simply crazy...

However, after all of that, I would still tell everyone that driving on the wrong side of the road is something that you should try to do at least once in your life. It was just plain weird. :)

...and Paul never gave his driver's license information to the car rental place so he didn't get to experience the JOY I had... guess we are headed back to Ingrid's in the future so he can have a turn. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Home from Potato Break!

We are home.

But I really didn't mention we left. :)

The kids were off of school last week for Potato Break so we went to England to see Swedish Ingrid, who we first met in Denmark many, many, many years ago... but now her family lives outside of London. :)

Ingrid is one of the nicest people on earth and her family is just great! Really though... they are one of the sweetest families I know. The kids are kind and caring and helpful, her husband is one of the best behaved husbands I know of. He has been well trained and even cooked dinner one night while we were out shopping in London. :)

I never even hear their kids argue, but maybe that's what all that Swedish was about. :) I think I will learn German just so I can have another language to threaten the kids in.

"Verhalten oder Ich werde dich in einen Schrank sperren und futtern Sie toast fur drei tage." sounds much nicer than, "Behave or I will lock you in a closet and feed you toast for three days."

Speaking of Swedish... Ingrid's family speaks perfect English, all of them do, and English seems to be pretty easy for them, but when we plain ole' English speakers are not in the room, they change to Swedish... because that's their language. :)

As soon as we boring English speakers enter... they immediately switch from Swedish to English ...even if their conversation means absolutely nothing to us. It was just a polite thing they do and they were so aware of it all the time.... Once I just kept walking in and out of the room to hear them go back and forth between languages. :)

See? Nicest couple on earth... We arrived the day after Michaela's 13th birthday and Ingrid had a cake waiting. I love these two people... I really do!

Here are the kids, who I also love...

....and more friends, ...makes me happy.

Another good friend who I miss a lot also moved from Denmark to England... She brought her family to visit with us for a day and it was so nice to see them again. Thanks so much to her for coming out!!! :) This is a picture of us running to each other, open arms... :) It was like a movie. :) :) I miss them and hope we can figure out a way to get her oldest out here to spent a week or two!!

Seems as if I'm finally cashing in on the International Lifestyle we have going on here. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm a Sand Collector

I'm a sand collector!! :) Cool huh?

It started off as kinda a joke, but after getting a few different sands, they really do look different and it's kinda fun. :)
So I have about 15 different sands from all over the place. If you go somewhere cool, send me some sand!!


Here are the long awaited pictures of the newest rodent of the family. Chibi.

He sleeps all day and about the time Sierra goes to bed he gets into his little plastic wheel and runs like a tiny little cheetah. I've never seen such tiny little legs go so fast!! It's hilarious.

...and when he runs it's unbelievably LOUD. I can't believe the noise this thing makes ...I can't believe Sierra can sleep through the noise this thing can make. I guess they are the perfect match for each other. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Hamburg Freezers ....lost.


Happy has a season pass so we are now official Hamburg Freezer fans... except after tonight it will be tough, because it was so frustrating to watch the Freezers take 145 shots on goal and miss all but two. ...but that's another story.

It's not real hockey, it's European hockey, but I don't really know the difference so it was still fun. :) Maybe tomorrow I'll try to watch the game in which the Hamburg Freezers play a real live NHL team as part of a special something ...but probably not. :)

At today's game:

- Michaela was bored out of her mind. I had to tell her to pretend to watch.

- Sierra watched with me and tried to figure out the scoreboard and the rules and why people had to go sit in the "naughty box".

- Scotty's favorite part is the watching the Zamboni, clapping to the loud music, and eating ice cream during the breaks. :)

- Andrea thought it was too loud, but it held her interest because of the clapping and dancing that was involved ...and the giant TVs.

Anyways... Today we all went to the game and it was a tie. 2 to 2. Then they had another five minutes to play. Still a tie. Then there was a shoot out, which doesn't seem fair at all, but it was fun to watch. :) ...and in the end the Other German City Roosters won. I don't think Roosters or Freezers are even German words. That's odd.

HEY Shelly, this picture is for you. :) See the guy in the yellow shirt? HE'S THE PRETZEL BOY! He carries his checkered fabric lined, wicker basket up and down the aisles selling PRETZELS!! :) I thought of you the second I saw him!


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