Monday, September 28, 2015

Just a Jaunt to Germany

Since we're not in the USA, our daughter's school only gives them a one day holiday on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Back in 2011, we had this same three day weekend and opted to visit the south coast of England.

With this same tiny little holiday on the horizon in a couple months, I thought it would be fun for the husband and teen to see one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. And it just so happens that I've been dying to tour the cathedral in Cologne. As luck would have it, Cologne is reputed to have one of the top Christmas markets in Germany, so it's a win-win for all of us.

The flights are booked. The hotel reservations are pending and now we just need to secure a full day private tour of the historic city centre. I'm really excited about this - a short trip, but should be a fun way to kick off the holiday season. It's like the Weihnachts back home in the Texas hill country, only it's the real deal in Germany. This will be an early Frohe Weihnachten, y'all!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Just a Trim

Several weeks ago, I booked a local mobile groomer our vet recommended. She arrived on Thursday afternoon as scheduled, was very personable with Ollie, plugged into an electrical outlet in the garage and commenced to shearing him like there's no tomorrow. Good thing Ollie has some doggy sweaters to keep him warm once the weather turns frosty. Here are the before and after pics. I honestly don't think I'd recognise him in a line up with his new short 'do, especially his little Cairn face.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Decor Debacle

We waited five weeks for the delivery of two sofas from an internationally known Scandinavian flat pack furniture company, and neither one of them was correct. Geez Louise! As I mentioned in an earlier blogpost, one of the sofas was a mishmash of pieces upholstered in brown and gray. Ignorantly assuming the second sofa was correct, we hauled it up to the third floor, tore down the humongous boxes and took them to the recycling centre, and then attempted to put the sofa together Saturday morning when we had sufficient time to wrangle it.

This is as far as it got. As we started putting the eight separate pieces together like a puzzle, we soon realised they sent us two left arms instead of a left and right. Sooooooo, now we've wrestled everything back downstairs awaiting pick up today. 

On a happier note, I've set up an area in the theatre room with some shelving to hold games and a bit of Texas decor. I think the Alamo movie poster is a nice touch.

Our bespoke sofa and swivel chair for the sunroom, located directly off the kitchen, will be delivered a week from today. For the sake of the delivery guys and my sanity, I hope it's correct since we've been (im)patiently waiting for its arrival the past eight weeks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One of these things is not like the other

Actually, it was three of these things not like the other five. How can you send three of four sofa sections covered in the wrong coloured fabric? It's kinda mind-boggling when this Scandinavian based furniture company has a good track record with us for miscellaneous home items on the cheap, yet totally botched one of their pricier sofas.

I opened up the first box of eight and thought hmmm, this isn't how I recall the sample looking, but it was night time and so I thought maybe it was just the lighting. I opened up a second box to the same colour and I'm still not convinced it's right. Then I get to the third box and finally see the brown shade I ordered for these two sofas to put in the third floor cinema room. 

I'm still trying to figure out how this happened, three boxes of gray and one box of brown all bundled together in the same flat. The customer service rep was lovely and is sending out a truck on Sunday, practically unheard of over here, to retrieve the mismatched sofa boxes. Now I'll just have to wait ANOTHER five weeks for the correctly upholstered sofa. And this time we're opening up all four boxes before the delivery truck departs to make sure they got it right on the second go round before we hike it up to the top floor.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let there be light

Finally, five trips later, the electric company installed the chandelier from the ceiling in the ground to first floor staircase. I was told by the older electrician guy we had on the first four visits that it would take about 1.5 hours. Amazingly, it was accomplished in about 20 minutes by two young guys that could have been my sons. Honestly, I wish they had sent these youngsters several visits ago because I'm thinking the job would have been finished in a more timely manner. They had no qualms about shimmying across a board held in place by two ladders to get the fixture attached. Oh to be young and fearless and fast!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Winter Travel Plans

I'm all about the travel planning - book early and get everything nailed down. This works well until you find out minor details like your family is moving to another continent. Sooooo, our Texas to the Smoky Mountains Christmas is now morphing into a Griswold transcontinental holiday that includes 3 flights on 2 separate airlines to meet at 1 fabulous lodge in Gatlinburg with extended family.

You'd think I'd learn to do a bit more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, last minute wrangling of the travel plans after this bit of holiday rearranging, but no. Today I booked us on flights to Iceland for February break. If you envision "Game of Thrones" beyond the wall where the White Walkers are found, you'd be correct. Some of the scenes from this series have been filmed in Iceland.

It's not a very forgiving place, but that is the stark beauty of it. I get a little shivery just thinking about bitter cold, but I believe it will be an amazing experience so long as no one loses a finger, toe, or part of an ear to frostbite. 

No doubt we'll be buying or borrowing "woolies" to stay warm if we opt for ice fishing or snowmobiling. The Blue Lagoon thermal spa south of the city looks wonderfully warm, but I'm afraid a dip in the water involves shedding a robe and baring our swimsuit clad bodies to the frigid air for this memorable experience. 

I think we definitely need to find a resort that serves round the clock hot cocoa or mulled wine. Maybe throws in some pocket hand warmers and ski mask. And we can't forget a roaring fire where we can all jockey for a spot to thaw.

Monday, September 7, 2015

This little light of mine

I was attending a BBQ with a small group of American expats recently and a newbie expat was bemoaning the fact that it has taken her a month to get the dryer repaired correctly. An older and wiser expat chimed in that it takes at least three visits for anything to be repaired. We all laughed and shook our heads because it's so freaking true. 

Case in point, the chandelier in our formal dining room. The husband wanted a dedicated home office and his furniture is Texas-sized, so the daughter and I share the much smaller study and let him have the formal dining room for his precious office space. The only issue in there is the light fixture that hangs in the centre of the room where a large table would be positioned. With his office furniture in place, that fixture is in the perfect location for him to smack his head into it every time he sat down or got up out of his desk chair.

When the leasing company's electrician came around to replace a faulty recessed light, I approached him about moving this dining fixture to the vaulted entryway so I could put a much smaller light in the husband's office. Not counting that initial visit where the electrician scoped it all out - size of fixture and where it's going directly above the stairs - he has been to the house three more times and this is where the fixture currently resides.

Am I on Candid Camera? Are they charging me by the hour or per visit? I swear it's like the Three Stooges are (mis)handling what appears to be a simple operation. On the second visit, the electrician forgot to bring another guy to help him. On the third visit, the ladder wasn't tall enough. Today, the fourth visit, there were two guys with a taller ladder, but it still couldn't be hung. Now they're talking simple scaffolding to git 'er done. I can only hope they'll wrap this up on the 5th visit, but I'm not placing any bets or holding my breath. 

Friday, September 4, 2015


The weather in England is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get from hour to hour. I awoke to gray skies, followed by drizzle. Then the sun popped through the clouds and dried up the damp. 

So I hustled outside to drink a cup of tea on our patio bench and enjoy the garden. But, alas, we're now back to big puffy, low lying gray clouds. 

One of the big differences between Texas and England is the daily chance of rain. A 10% chance of rain in Texas means there's a snowball's chance in hell you're gonna see any precipitation. A 10% chance here in England means you better wear a rain jacket or take an umbrella because it's highly likely you'll experience at least a fine, misty drizzle that drives you mad. Either rain already so I can open an umbrella, or just go away.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

(Almost) Open House 2015

OK, so it's not completely ready for entertaining. But we've hung the new Windsor Castle pano pic of the girls on the wall in the formal living/dining room and now it just feels like home. And when I say hung, I mean used those sticky velcro numbers to put it on the wall since we can't use nails per the lease agreement. We've done a lot of propping and settling for less wall decor since these are temporary digs anyway.

Here is a pic of my fave pic from the photo shoot on the Long Walk at Windsor. I love the brilliant greens of summer with the contrast of their autumn hued clothes and the misty castle in the background. A person off the street would have no clue it's our girls in the pic, but I love the artistic quality of this image.

On the opposite end of the formals room we placed two sofas and a chair. I really like the gas fireplace and plan to crank it up once the temps have dropped sufficiently. Ollie was following me around as I snapped these shots and promptly made himself at home on the sofa. When I sit in there to read, Ollie likes to post himself on the back of the sofa in front of the wall of windows and birdwatch.

The kitchen, with its informal dining and sitting area, is still taking shape, mainly because we made some room adjustments once we got here. Initially intending to have the L-shaped kitchen area filled with both formal and informal dining tables, we did a bit of shuffling in order to have a comfortable seating area adjacent to the kitchen. Here is the informal dining. The seating area opposite it currently consists of a buffet, rug, TV and two wooden chairs plus a barstool we're using as a side table. We'll continue to make do with this little set-up until our bespoke sofa, chair and coffee table arrive at the end of this month. 

In the entryway, we have a large table anchored by a family pic taken when the college junior was the same age as her younger sister (14). I also threw in a coat rack to hold the larger umbrellas and damp jackets. 

The small buffet adjacent to the front door holds a second stretched canvas of the girls taken at Windsor. I also stacked a pewter bowl atop a couple books to hold keys to the front door because we seem to constantly be locking and unlocking it every time you turn around. The drawers are also handy for holding things like Ollie's leash so the doggie daycare gal Chloe has easy access to it.

A home in damp and chilly England wouldn't be complete without a shoe holder at the front door to contain footwear that shouldn't be tromping across the cream tiles or carpet that show every little bit of dirt. I like the bronze colour, and the Texas star is a lovely touch.

The final stop on this initial tour of the house is the area beneath the stairs. It's an odd space that slants. I decided it was an ideal spot for Ollie's kennel - easy access and would have gone unused anyway. The cowhide rug adds a splash of colour. I'm still pondering whether we need a piece of furniture there to make it look complete. I'd love to make a trip to the Sunbury Antiques Market and see if I could find something interesting to put there. Until then, this is as good as it's gonna get.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The Brits do seem to love a good big box store. They'd lay an egg if Target hopped the pond. On Friday I went to the brand new Costco that is much closer to the house than those in Reading or Croydon, and it was busy as a bed of fire ants that's just been run over by a lawnmower. 

I'm convinced it's the samples of food that lure them in droves. You just don't get anything gratis over here like you do in the US. No chips and salsa at the local Tex-Mex place. No bread and butter at the local steakhouse. No peanuts to be cracked and then shells thrown on the floor. You're lucky to get a pitcher of free tap water rather than the bottled still you have to pay for.

Despite the masses, I had a great time cruising up and down every aisle taking in their offerings. I scored some American brownie mix and US sized paper towels. It's a good thing we brought over storage shelves to set up in the garage to store bulk goodies.

I've got an appointment to get my hair coloured in a couple days and the ladies know how important it is to establish service at a local salon. Nothing drags down your self esteem like long gray roots. And my new Precor elliptical will be delivered tomorrow, hallelujah. I joined a local low rent gym and hate it, all of the young 20 somethings and cheap cardio machines. I'll be happy to get back to my usual cardio workouts in the privacy of my own home. I just hope the delivery and set-up guys don't have a problem wrestling it to the top floor (3rd if you're from the US, but 2nd if you're local). 

Stillllllll no danged debit card for me and it's driving me nuts. First it got stalled because they didn't have a copy of my UK visa. Then it was decided I need to cough up proof I actually live at this address with my husband. Alas, my name isn't on any of the utilities and so I've put in a call to the bank rep to see how this can be handled. I've become the queen of cash at the local ATM, paying practically everything in bills like a mafia wife. I had to switch over to a bigger wallet to accommodate my wad of dead presidents queens.

So yeah, slowly but surely we're getting everything fixed and settled. I'm expecting the last of the furniture in a few weeks, so I'll have to post pics of the house once everything gets here. We're expecting our first house guests in December, so I believe we'll be ready for them by then.