Saturday, November 24

Wet, Windy, Wales

As some of you know, this past weekend I took a horseback riding trip to Wales. This was a much anticipated weekend with my visa student group, and since I had never seen Wales, I was so excited to get that opportunity. The trip started off being delayed by almost 3 hours, for boring reasons I won't go into. So, late as we were, the journey to Wales began. Our first stop on the road was Chepstow Castle, the oldest castle in England and Wales. It was almost exactly what I would picture a castle to look like.


After the castle, it was off to Tintern Abbey, which was my favorite destination of the entire trip! It was so beautiful, especially with the backdrop of autumn leaves. It reminded me of someplace from the storybooks. I can only imagine a time when this place was inhabited and not ruined! wow!


A short 20 minute walk up the hillside by Tintern Abbey lands you at an old ruined church. This isn't any church, however, it is a site where black magic was used and everyone inside caught fire and burned alive... very interesting. It was a very creepy place, and I would never go there alone, but with the group it was kinda fun!



Towards the end of the day we went to this cute little town called Hay-On-Wye, and I should have you know that it is the sister town to Timbuktu. They have a 1 pound bookshop with all new books, so I bought a couple goodies, it was really fantastic!

That night we stayed at a hostle, this being my first experience staying at one, I didn't really know what to expect. This particular hostle, was in the middle of nowhere, and it had the only nightclub within a 50 mile radius so people were literally bussed in from all the surrounding villages to party there. Because we stayed at the hostle, we got free admission to the night club, so since I can't resist anything free, I decided to give it a go. I do believe I am the only person ever to leave there sober. This club was a bit diffrent, really wild and crazy, and lots of underage drinking, and just all out madness. But I have to admit, I did enjoy it a tad, though the look on my face most of the time was something like this:

Because seriously guys, I saw some crazy stuff.

So Sunday we woke up and, much to my horror, it was raining. At this point it was only a drizzle, so we went to saddle em up and get out there like a native would no matter what the weather. I was thinking to myself, "yeah, I'm young, I can handle it. So what if I get a little wet." And that was where I couldn't be more wrong, I didn't get a little wet, I got drenched. I am talkin' I-just-jumped-into-a-pool-of-arctic-water-with-all-my-rain-gear wet, and this is only after the first hour. We were out there for three and a half miserable hours on whiny dis-heartened ponies. The wind was blowing at a thousand miles an hour and the rain kept mercilessly pouring on us. I was quite literally a popsicle. It came to about the 2nd hour when I thought that maybe I would actually die out here, I was looking around at things I could use to make a shelter should I choose to hop off my horse and refuse to continue another step. It was a nice idea, however, I was frozen stuck to the horse and it would get some prying to get me off. Finally hour 3 came, and I can quite honestly say I have never been that cold in my entire life. I was solid as stone with no feeling in any of my limbs, and only a faint heartbeat was left inside my chest. I think 5 more minutes out there and I would have drifted to a sleep and nobody would have noticed I was dead until I fell off my horse-which would have been a while because, like I said, I was stuck to it. Good thing we made it back to the stables just in time, when I chipped away the ice that was holding me to the beast I hopped off, and when I hit the ground I felt a little tiny tingle in my feet-which was good because it meant I still had some feeling left!

The Ponies in the Stables

This is a picture of my friend Charmaign (pictured with me above at the club). This is the only time I took my camera out because a) we had to stop b) it stopped pouring (it was still raining) and c) I could still move my hands enough at this point to reach my camera. Notice how wet the horse is, and my friend. It was bad.

After I changed into some semi dry clothes we got back on the coach, and only then did I take a picture of the landscape. Note that it had stopped raining at this time, and about 5 minutes after I took the photo it started to snow.

The trip back was just as bad. The coach was leaking water on me, and only on me from the roof. If the coach had not been pack full I might have changed seats. Instead I was left shivering with water dripping on me. Then, the windscreen wipers stopped working on the bus, so we had to stop and wait for the train to come-which was delayed. By the time I got to my London station where I would catch the train home I found out that no trains were leaving the station that day, and I had to wait for the next shuttle train to another station. 20 minutes later I hopped on the shuttle. 5 minutes later I boarded the train for home which was, you guessed it, delayed. So 45 minutes later we left London, and the trip that was supposed to have me home by 9:30 had me home at 12:30-wet, shivering cold, and frustrated. All of those images of me racing through the Welsh countryside with the (light) wind in my hair and sunshine on my face had disappeared long ago. I crawled into bed with 2 heaters on full blast in my room, shivered for another hour and finally got to sleep.

And I guess that is what I get for planning a trip on a Sunday. Never Again!

Thursday, November 15

Observations

Observation #1
People don't eat birthday cake at birthday parties, nor do they open gifts.

Thats right, it is a long time observation and it took a few times for me to realize that this is a customary thing, and not just an "opps we didn't have time for cake" thing. Birthday Parties always include the following:
-An outrageous activity or theme that tops the party of last week's birthday boy or girl.
-A delicious, sometimes catered, dinner menu with starters and desserts (not cake though)
-Funtastic party bags that leave half the kids with back aches the next day from having to carry them from the party to the car.
-A "wowie" to remember. This would be something extraordinary that happened at the party that sets it apart from any other party and burns in the children's minds for years...or at least until the next party!
- They don't open presents. Nope presents are left promptly at the door and are left untouched for the entire party. Personally, I don't know how the kids stand just leaving their gifts there to stand idle by themselves. I get so anxious to watch the recipient open the gift that I am practically ripping off the paper before it even touches their hands. Self control I guess, self control.
- Never make a home-baked cake. why waste hours of time when you can pop into your local Salisbury's and pick up a professionally made cake? And though they are nowhere near Costco cake deliciousness, they look really awesome! (note: replace the word awesome with one like "lovely" or "quite nice")

Observation #2
Among all the foreign food and sugary treats, people around here don't know the difference between a no bake cookie and a quesadilla.

You read correctly, they don't have quesadillas, fajitas, no bake cookies, graham crackers, butterfingers, or Mexican Restaurants, or any restaurant that is not Indian, American, or Coffee!

Yeah this one revolves around food. But isn't food one thing that distinguishes one culture from another? Yes, thank you it is. And I find it strange that among all the many nationalities here there is not one single places to get a Mexican dish. So, naturally, I had to make Chicken Quesadillas. And, to nobody's suprise really because they are so good, they were a big hit! Everyone loved them! They are also Fajita fans as well. I also showed them how to make a simple and delicious no bake cookie- shabam another hit! They loved them, I think I am on a role here- if you have any more recipies you think I should make for my English family let me know!!

Observation #3
Paris is less than 2 and a half hours away.

Now this is a point you would have thought I'd noticed by now. But because I am rather slow, and this is a recent observation, tonight I sat at my computer and booked myself a weekend trip to Paris. Sacrebleu! I am excited! I think it will be amazing to see all the lights this time of year in Paris. Hopefully I will find someone to go with me, but if not- its a solo trip! And you know what? I am going to love every minute of it!

Observation #4
(Speaking of Paris) Paris Hilton needs a life, a real job, and a severe dose of reality.

A couple times a week I will flick to the Deseret News home page or the Salt Lake Tribune to see what is going on back in the good ol state of Utah. Among several rather amusing articles, I came across one that made me very nearly drop of out my seat laughing. First of all, the title couldn't have been more ridiculous, and it was so insanely long it has no business being a headline- it should be a short story. And I must say, I do hate drawing any attention whatsoever to this certain celebrity, but this is defiantly chuckle worthy! "Paris Hilton's efforts to save binge-drinking elephants are praised by conservationists". First of all, let me just say that Paris Hilton would get praised for picking her nose, and an award for flicking it. So it's no surprise that some lowly conservationist is jumping up to kiss her in the rear for this cause. I just think it's funny-of all the causes in the world! Drunken elephants! I am still laughing!

Friday, November 9

Tea for Two

Quaint little tea shops are one of my favorite things about England. It's part of the way of life here, tea, and I absolutely love it. It's nice to take those few minutes out of your day to just sit and relax, have a nice hot drink, and either socialize with your friends or just sit and think to yourself. It's a refreshing part of the day, and I think we as an American society should adapt this ritual for our own benefit, to slow down our lives a little...even if it's only for 10 minutes, it is so worth it!

Recently Gemma broke her wrist, and has been unable to do the last two hours of school where they play sports, so I pick her up early and we make our way to our favorite little tea shop where we sit and enjoy ourselves while we wait for Callum to finish up school. Let me tell you, this shop is the cutest little thing you ever did see! It is a charity tea shop for hospice, so while I am spending my pennies they are going to a good cause-makes me feel all warm inside...or maybe that's the hot chocolate...I don't know, but I like it. That is what Gem and I always get while we are there, hot chocolate + a flapjack. Now maybe I was deprived as a child or hit on the head one too many times by my brothers, but I had no idea what a flapjack was before I tried one at our tea shop. Lets just say, it was love at first bite. But the flapjacks aren't the sweetest thing in the shop, the little old ladies that work there are by far the icing on the cake. They are always so happy to see you and they smile big denture-y similes at you when you walk in the door. I think the wal-mart greeters should take some lessons from these folks-cause believe me-they are good. In fact they are half the reason this place is so charming, why we just can't get enough! They even hum show tunes while they clean off the tables...now that is happiness!

I guess one of the reasons this tea shop is special to me is because one of my dreams came true there! You see, just last week Gems and I were there for our "regular", sitting at our regular table, and everything was perfect. As we were sitting there in the perfectness, it happened. The nice old lady came to take our order and looked up from her notepad and said, "Well Hi Miss Salt Lake City!" The smile on my face was the size of Texas, because I have always had this dream, so to say, of being a regular at a coffee shop/tea shop. Of having the people in there know my face, and know what I am going to order before I order it-right down to the specifics. Even though they don't know my real name, Miss Salt Lake City works for me! I love my tea shop!

Monday, November 5

Wine and Cheese


"Remember, remember the fifth of November." Thats the rhyme that the kids keep repeating for the 5th. I would compare the festivities to those of the Fourth of July- fireworks, BBQs, the whole sha-bang. We went to the kids school to watch fireworks and let me tell you, it was the best firework show I have ever seen! And yes, I have been to the BYU show almost every year, and this show made the others look like the fireworks I set off on my driveway in comparison. What is the reason for this fantastic display of color and mind popping enjoyment? Why, Guy Fawkes of course. Who is this Guy anyways? Well, I will spare you the history lesson on this blog, but if you would like to hear (or read, rather) a tale of conspiracy, torture, fire and death- simply click here. For those of you who decided not to click the link let me sum it up for you. Guy was a guy (ha ha...) who wanted to overthrow the government, so he got 36 barrels of gunpowder and planned to blow up the houses of parliament. Turns out the plot was foiled on November 5th, and Fawkes was caught and tortured and executed. So we have fireworks and a bonfire to celebrate the capture of this crazy man. Seems reason enough? Anyways, we had a really nice evening.

After the fireworks/bonfire we were invited around to one of the Mum's from school's houses. When she called to invite us she spoke to me on the phone in a thick Danish accent to ask if we wanted to come over for Wine and Cheese. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself, I have never heard anybody invite someone else over for that combination before. It was so nice, they had a really impressive display of cheeses, one was even wrapped in brown leaves. They had loads of fruit and veg to eat with the cheese, along with bread and crackers and the most delicious wine... not that I would know personally, but my coke was great tasting too.

So I decided that when I get home, all of you are invited over to my house for "Wine and Cheese". Of course we may need to make a substitution here and there, but I am really going to do it. I want to hear the sound of disbelief on the other end of the line when I say, in my best english accent, "would you like to join me at my house for some juice and cheese?" Now that is odd sounding. So get excited my friends, cause when I get home- it's cheese and peppers all night looonnnngggg. Maybe we can top it off with some sparklers, just for fun. :)

Sunday, November 4

I Heart My Brother

It's true, I adore all of my siblings from my giant brother all the way down, but none of us get along the same way that Sticky and I do. Stick, is my fond nickname for my sweetie brother Josh. How did he get this name you might ask? I have to admit that Darwin would appreciate the evolution that this particular nickname has gone through. It started out as Mr. Stinky Pants, a name lovingly given by myself for the impressive stink that this boy can produce out of his...you know. Turns out this is quite a mouthful when hollering through the house when the phone is for him, or someone is at the door, or you need someone to fetch you a cup of water from the next story of the house. Anyways, it turned into just Stinky. Then it proved to be too hard to pronounce the "n" in Stinky when speaking in my chipmunk voice, so it turned into Sticky. This is just as fitting as Mr. Stinky Pants because even though sometimes he lays some pretty nastoid eggs, he is always as thin as a stick. For those of you who have had the privilege of seeing the infamous "Skeleton Man" you totally agree with me. Stick is the boy version of me, but better in my opinion, and I hope he doesn't mind me saying that! We laugh at all the same jokes, love all the same television shows, have the same sense of humor, we both tend to look around at times and realize our head is way up in the clouds, we are both shorties, we are both awesome. Ok that last one is a lot more him than me, but you get the picture.

Since it is Sunday I thought I would ease up a smidge on the text (because I am brain dead and can't really think of anything to write about) and leave you with some impressive videos that Stick and I came across while talking today. We found them both funny and entertaining and fun for a Sunday screening.

We decided we are going to build a Teeterboard in the back yard when we get home. Don't worry, we will test it out on Jake to make sure we can get the hight we need.


This one is just really awesome, because they really did this to the buildings- no special effects!


This one used the most Play Doh ever, like over 1 ton in weight worth of play doh...impressive.


I am going to learn to do this some day...


We also discussed how much we love Jim Halpert from the office, I don't think a cooler guy exists, and our plans for future skydiving-surprise mom! Love you Sticky!