Monday, 5 January 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from England!  It’s hard to believe 2014 is over and my, what a year it was.  We spent the first half of the year wondering if this great adventure of ours was going to come to fruition, and the second half preparing for it and make the move across the pond.  We only spent three months of 2014 in Europe, but we’ve already been to seven different countries and seen so many amazing sights and made memories that will last a lifetime.  Now, into 2015 we go.  We will spend the entire year living in Europe.  Chances are, this will never happen again for us.  I wonder what this year will bring?  There will be the usual routines - school for the girls, work for Eric, and for me, blogging, chauffeur, head cook, laundress, afterschool tutor, etc.  But we’ll also be doing as much traveling as we can afford the time and money to do, as well as welcoming some of our family over to England for visits, which we are all very much looking forward to.  And, we’ll be making a much anticipated trip back to the states for a few weeks in the summer to visit family and friends because, despite all the wonderful adventures we are having here, we really miss home. 

We spent a wonderfully lazy, relaxing week here at home in England after returning from our trip to Austria on December 28, a day later than planned as a snow storm blew across Europe canceling two of our flights and delaying the rest.  We had nothing to rush home to anyway with another week off of school and work, so we weren’t put out by the delay at all.  We did spend the first couple of days back home worrying about our luggage though, which didn’t seem to make it onto the same plane we flew back to England on.  On Monday, two of our three bags showed up, and good thing too as those were the bags that contained two very special blankets and a bunny that the girls were very worried about.  We came back from our family shopping trip to Ashby (we needed to restock our empty kitchen shelves) to find a note on the door that said, “Left two bags at Laurel House.”  Hmmm – two bags?  We are missing three.  And, where exactly is Laurel House?  We are still new here and while everyone else living in the village may know each and every house here by it’s name, we certainly don’t.  If someone is going to leave something for us at a neighbor’s house, there is really only one logical place as we are on a corner with no houses in front of us and the one behind is rather difficult to reach from here with hedges and fences to contend with.  We went next door and knocked.  No, the bags had not been dropped off there, but luckily for us, they thought Laurel House was the house across the street and back one, the one with the gate and the yippy dog.  Yes, we know that house.  Every time we go out our back door, even though that yippy dog can’t see us through the hedges, he lets us know he knows we are outside.  As we walked up to the gate, sure enough, there is a sign on the iron gate that says “Laurel House,” and there are our bags sitting in their open garage.  Our third bag showed up the following day.  Sigh of relief all around.

  The rest of the week was spent reading, going for walks in the afternoon, putting a puzzle together, decorating cookies, watching movies, and eating good food.  The girls spent Saturday afternoon running back and forth between our house and the house behind us where one of their friends from school lives, sharing their new Christmas toys with each other.  And we all got to play in some snow.  We came back from our trip to find a very unexpected couple of inches of snow on the ground here in England that stuck around until Thursday.   Snowball fights, snowman contest - never thought that would be a part of our time here in England so we thoroughly enjoyed it.

 We ran out of time before Christmas to make and decorate gingerbread cookies so we decided to do it right before New Years.  We've never made them before.  I hunted and hunted for molasses for the cookie recipe but alas, I could not find any here in England.  What I did find is something called Black Treacle, sort of like molasses but not exactly molasses.  When I opened the can, I found a very strong smelling pitch black sludge with a molasses like consistency.  Into the cookie batter it went and the gingerbread men turned out just fine.  A little strong in flavor, but add some sugar icing and sprinkles on top and you balance out the flavor.

So serious about her cookie decorating.
 Santa came on New Year’s since we weren’t home on Christmas, so the girls got to spend plenty of time playing with their new toys and drawing and writing in their new journals.   And Eric and I had some fun making paella for our New Year's feast.  Paella is a Spanish rice dish with chicken, sausage, and seafood.  It was delicious!  Turned out even better than I had hoped.  And of course we had some sangria with it. 

We also had baked Camembert cheese with garlic and rosemary for the first time.  Camembert cheese seems to be a popular thing here in England and it was ooey, gooey cheesy deliciousness.

  On Friday, we headed to a little town not far from here and had lunch at a wonderful old pub called Harpur’s.  When we walked through the door, a warm fire crackling away in the fireplace with a glowing Christmas tree standing next to it greeted us.  After a leisurely lunch, we hiked to the edge of town and found the trail that if we followed for 6 miles south would lead right to our front door.  Maybe someday.

 Oh, and Sunday, I celebrated my first birthday here in England.  Eric and the girls treated me to some wood fired pizza at the Bull's Head in Repton.  They know the way to my heart.  

And Eric, what did he do?  Well, besides partaking in all of the above, he also spent time going through the 1700 photos he took on our trip.  Yes my friends, you read that right – 1700 photos.  At first, I thought he said 700 photos and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of photos.”  Then he correct me and said, “No, 1700 photos.”  That is a lot of photos, but let me tell you, he outdid himself this time beautifully capturing so many of the things we saw on this trip that I can’t wait to share them with you, which is exactly what I will be doing over the next few days.  Don’t worry, I don’t plan to share all 1700 with you.  He’s weeded through them all and pulled out the highlights.  As I’ve done with past trips, I’ll split the posts up so as not to overwhelm you or me.  

This was one of my all time favorite trips and I can’t wait to share Austria, Germany and Amsterdam (where we unexpected had to spend a night) with all of you.  I fell head over heals in love with Salzburg and the Austrian Alps.  The blog journey will begin tomorrow.  Until then, auf wiedersehen!

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