Thursday, 30 April 2015

April in England

Is it spring? 


Do we really live in England? 

Are you sure?

Why am I asking such silly questions?  Because of the crazy, awesome, beautiful, sunny weather we’ve been having here.  Except for yesterday.  It rained yesterday.  But no biggie because it was actually a welcome change from the crazy, awesome, beautiful, sunny weather we’ve been having here.   

This is not the English weather I was expecting, and definitely not in the spring, and definitely not in April which back in Indiana seems to be the month the nasty storms like to roll through the state over and over and over again.  In England, there are no thunderstorms in spring, or any other time of the year for that matter.  I love not having to worry every time the sky darkens, turning on the TV to check the weather report, staying glued to the TV for a few hours if there are storm warnings and even worse, tornado warnings.  We have heard thunder exactly once since moving to England back in September.  And by once, I literally mean one clap of thunder and that was all she wrote.  And lightning – what the heck is lightning?   

Last week on the way to school, my neighbor asked about the twisters we have in the US.  Twisters - her word, not mine.  Is that what they call them here?  What a weird thing to hear here say because twister seems like the slang word for tornado that only an American would use.  Then it dawned on me - the movie!  That's why she's calling them twisters.  Most people in England and most of Europe for that matter do not know much about tornadoes because they don't have them here.  They've had an extremely rare tornado here and there a few times in Europe but that is it.  Twisters, tornadoes - whatever you call them, I don't have to worry about them here in England and I am digging this weather.  That is something I never expected to say when I moved here.

April in England may not be the proper title for this post because we actually weren’t here for half the month.  We were in Italy for the first couple of weeks during the girls' two-week break from school.  The school year here goes into July so they get a longer spring break.  And it was a much needed break from school I might add.  We were all getting burned out on the same old routine before we left, but the trip to Italy and the break from school seems to have recharged our batteries.  Bring on the school lunches, homework, and loads of laundry that need to be done trying to keep those school uniforms clean!

Sunset over Florence, and quite possibly the best photo Eric has taken yet!
And Italy was everything we had dreamed of and more, but I don't think I need to share too much about Italy with you in this post.  I've covering all of that in my Italy posts - my many Italy posts.  I hope you are ready for them.

While we were in Italy, Ellie turned 10.  

I can’t believe it.  
I don’t really want to accept it.  
I had a harder time with her turning 10 than I did when I turned 40.   
My baby girl is growing up.   
How exciting to have spent her birthday in Italy.  I may have been more excited about that than she was because she is only 10 after all.  But she was awfully excited when we arrived in Cinque Terre where we were met by Sergio, the man who owns the amazing guest cottage we stayed in (and incidentally built by hand himself which I will share in a future blog post so check back), who showed up with a beautifully wrapped Italian birthday cake for Ellie.  Well, not really a cake per say – I’m not sure what the correct name for it is, but rest assured, it was flaky and custardy and chocolaty and delicious!  

When we arrived at the guest cottage early in the afternoon that day, the first thing we did was have lunch outside on the patio and then enjoy some of Ellie’s birthday cake with the sparkling blue Mediterranean off in the distance.  What a place for a birthday lunch.  AMAZING!!!  Just like Ellie!

Back in England, the star of the show in the countryside during April is definitely the rapeseed fields.  The countryside looks like a patchwork quilt of brown, green and vibrant yellow.  The fields are beautiful anytime of the day, but first thing in the morning as the sun slowly peaks over the horizon and again in the evening as it’s getting ready to set for the night is when the fields really shine, or maybe glow is a better description.   

There’s a rapeseed field right across the street from our house and every morning when I walk into Ellie and Leah’s rooms to wake them for the day, the vibrant yellow field seems to call out and greet me.  I stop for a few moments and just gaze at it, mesmerized. 

We’ve watched this field across the street since we moved into our house in late September.  Back then, there was just a little bit of green peaking out of rich brown soil and we had no idea what was growing there, but over the fall and into the winter, the green grew taller, and by March, the growth seemed to accelerate.  When we left for Italy in the end of March, it was a bed of green.  When we returned two weeks later, the field had transformed into a stunning sea of yellow.  This field of rapeseed will be turned into canola oil when harvested.  It’s a winter crop and I’m not sure when exactly it will be harvested, but it probably won’t be too long now. I'll be sad when it goes.  It seems like anything that could be planted in the field will pale in comparison to this beautiful bright field of yellow.

Oh, those rapeseed fields!  When I saw this picture, I thought of the Wizard of Oz.  Maybe because it looks like the setting in a fairytale.
Bike riding – a sure sign that spring has arrived.  The only problem – we had no bikes here.  This bothered me because the girls had just started riding bikes right before we moved to England – and for Leah, I mean she literally learned right before we moved.  The week before in fact.  How sad would it be if she has to wait two whole years to practice some more and get past the wobbly, I still don’t know how to use the brakes, phase.  And then Eric came to the rescue.  He came home the other afternoon after being gone for two days on a business trip (to France and he drove – you can do that when you live in England – drive to France for a business trip) with a surprise in the boot of the car (boot is the trunk here in the UK) – two bicycles!  The girls were thrilled, even if they weren’t the pretty bikes they would normally choose.  They also needed some TLC since Eric had rescued the bicycles from a coworkers cluttered garage.  He and the girls didn't waste anytime getting them cleaned up and ready to go and by that evening, we took them out for their first spin here in England.

We have the perfect bike riding trail just down the street from our house and that is exactly where we headed after dinner.  Ellie jumped on and away she went.  Leah was a little rusty.  After running into me, and then Ellie, daddy gave her some help.  

At one point, she was stopped on the trail trying to get herself started again when Eric passed by and started walking down the trail ahead of her.  Leah says, "Daddy, I don't think it's a very good idea to walk in front of me."  Good advice!  

She didn't need help for long.  She knows how to ride a bike, the problem was just getting it to go straight. 

Still a little wobbly.

Oh, trying to hard to just go straight.

Aaaaaand - she got it! 

We've created a monster.  She wants to ride bike all the time now.  That's my girl!

We finally visited a farmers' market in England.  Every third weekend of the month they have one in Ashby, a town not far from here.  April was the first month we've actually been at home on the third weekend or I would have gone to the farmers' market earlier.  It's basically the same as the farmers markets in the US:  vegetables, meat, fresh fish (the salmon we bought was melt in your mouth delicious), cheese, lots of breads and pastries, homemade doggy biscuits, a coffee truck so you can get a cup of coffee to go with your pastries.  What's different about the farmers' markets in England?  Well, for one you can get scotch eggs - a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage seasoned with a variety of spices, coated in breadcrumbs and either baked or deep fried.  They're delicious!  I'll have to take a picture next time because I forgot this time.  The second thing that is different about the farmers' market in England is the backdrop, or at least the one in Ashby as they all probably can't make this claim - it sits in front of a castle, or what use to be a castle anyways as it's more the ruins of a castle now, but still very majestic.  

After purchasing some food, we sat in the sunshine by the castle enjoying our coffee and pastries.  What a way to spend Saturday morning.

Friday nights are pizza night here in the Engebretsen household, and I don't mean takeout pizza (because there isn't anywhere near here to get takeout pizza).  I mean the good old made from scratch variety.  I saved some of our farmers' market purchases until the following Friday so I could wrestle up a good pizza with some fresh local ingredients.  There have been a lot of Fridays since we moved here and henceforth, a lot of pizzas, but never one this good.  Please let me introduce the Carmelized Red Onion, Spinach and Bacon pizza.  Oh yum, yum, yum, this was goooood!

And that my friends, was pretty much our April in England!  And Italy!  Where are we off to next month?  Well, I'll give you a little hint and see if anyone can figure this out.  Ha det bra!

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