Friday, 17 December 2010

(Chronicled in Pictures, mostly)
            Remember the beginning of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” how Snowman Sam talks about the terrible winter storm that hit that year right before Christmas? Well, that’s what it was like here pretty much for over a week after Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. Our big snow storm actually started Thanksgiving Day with just a powdery dusting of snow. Then Friday it started and snowed every day for over a week. By the end of the storm, we got over 3 feet of snow and the temperatures did not get above freezing for two weeks straight. The following is pictures I took to document the storm on my phone.
Oh, and about the Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”: Robbie had NEVER seen it! Oh yes, he had heard the song but had never seen the show. It came up in conversation when I was unpacking my collectable Rudolph village set I have had for years. He had never heard of Clarisse, Yukon Cornelius or Herbie and he didn’t know that “Bumbles bounce”! I have to say, I was flabbergasted.
So, since it was Saturday we sat down and searched YouTube and was able to find it. The one bad part was that since YouTube videos are broken up into separate parts we couldn’t find the last few minutes after Santa asks Rudolph to lead the sleigh. I tried to tell him what happened: they do go to the Island of Misfit Toys and pick them up and Santa takes them with him and drops them off with umbrellas, but he wanted to see it. He had to leave and take his auntie to do her Saturday shopping and I told him I would try to find it while he was gone. He was very anxious to watch it so I’m glad I was able to find it for him. Can you imagine?
There are some other things I’ve since found out that we in the US take for granted or know exactly what they are or are iconic that Robbie (and others in the UK probably)  have never heard of, other than in the movies or since he’s met me. I’m making a list of those so that will be for a future post.
Here, now, are the pictures I took of our storm:

11/27 You can still see our pumpkins on the wall

11/27 Just a few inches dusting in the back.
Not too much piled on the bench or railing.

11/27 Neighbors had started shoveling a bit in the front.
Piling up on the fence

11/27 Starting to shovel some off the hill. 

11/27  Same view from inside the house

11/27 Tried to get a picture of the cute little snow plows they use here.
Picture a fork-lift with a shovel on the front.

11/27 Couldn't get the camera in time so had to take a picture of him going back down the hill.

11/28 Next day the snow had been cleared off the roads
but those dark grey clouds are bringing more snow!

11/29 Trees are covered now and you can't see the pumpkins anymore

11/29 Lots more snow on the fence roofs. Trees do look pretty in the snow.

11/29 Hill relatively clear but you can see the snow piling up on the windowsill and piles outside

11/29 You can see how the snow is piling up on the fence and garage roof next door

11/30 A rather blurry picture. It had been snowing most of the day and I wanted to try to get a picture of it snowing that evening.

11/30 A better picture taken that evening--well, it was actually only 4:10. It gets dark early here in the winter. I don't think you can tell but it's snowing.

11/30 No, it's not Nanook of the North, it's Robbie of Scotland. You can tell the deepness of the snow  by where he's standing. That's not been shoveled and piled to the sides either. Look at the snow on the fence. Right after this picture was taken, Robbie valiantly went out and tried to get some groceries for us, his auntie and another elderly lady from the church. When he asked his auntie what he could get for her she said, "Biscuits (cookies) and bananas" and the other lady wanted oranges and lemons. I was thinking canned soup, milk and bread but I guess some people have other priorities! I don't think poor Robbie was too happy to be delivery boy for that! Poor thing.

12/1 Still snowing. This makes 5 days of daily snowfall.

2/1 I took lots of pictures of the front and back while the sun was shining. The sky got this beautiful blue color and it just looked lovely especially with the snow on the trees:

 12/1 This was not a smudge on the film in the top but an icicle.
We had trouble with a lot of BIG icicles.

12/1 Tried to get a picture of the poinsettia and the snow

12/2 View out the back door. Can you see any steps? Now you see why I can't go out of the house!

12/7 These are the front steps. After so much snow in such a long time the salt and grit bins were empty so we had no way to clean the steps properly. 

12/7 Again, that glorious blue sky when the sun shines and the lovely trees

12/7  After 10 days of continual snow this is what the back looks like

12/7 Most of the snow seems to be over and now the fences have disappeared!

12/7 What should be the back steps and tiny path Robbie cleared to get out.

12/7 This is the best the neighbors and Robbie could do with a little help occasionally from the little plows. Only one neighbor had an actual snow shovel and Robbie used a plain old garden spade. One of my nurses, Alison, told me about a week before any of this hit she had tried to buy a snow shovel at B&Q (big box home improvement store over here) and they told her it was too early, they wouldn't have them out for another week or two (not enough room either with the Christmas stuff out).

After 10 days of snow we had a bit of a respite and last week the temperatures got a bit (just a bit!) above freezing, mostly in the daytime. The snow has mostly melted but then the difficulty became the ice that would form at night when it would go below freezing again. Two nights ago we had a few inches snowfall overnight on top of some of the ice. 

I was able to get out to the hospital last evening and the worst part of it was the getting down our hill to the main road and back up again. The main roads there and back were pretty much cleared there and back. We might get some more snow this weekend but it will definitely be cold. The forecast is for only highs in the teens. 

So it looks like, unless something drastic changes, we'll have a White Christmas this year, just like last year. With all this bad weather it's been hard to get out to the store and impossible sometimes for deliveries to come. We couldn't even get Asda or Tesco to deliver groceries. So Christmas might be sparse and dinner might be spaghetti but that's ok. I'm determined not to stress about it. After all, what will happen will happen and memories will be made no matter how many cookies I bake (or don't bake). Besides, if I think back, most of my favorite Christmas memories didn't cost a cent! 

Stay warm, then, have your favorite hot beverage and relax. I hope if you're looking at the snow it's from the inside looking out!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


            Happily, this year we were all pretty healthy so I was looking forward to sharing a very American holiday with some folks over here.  As  you probably know, or can guess, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here so it’s been really odd to have businesses carry on as usual and Robbie have to go off to work. Last year, Robbie and I just shared some turkey and stuffing as our usual dinner.  It can really make you miss your family and friends.

            Let me go back a bit to pick up the beginning of the story. Last month, as part of my treatment I told you about the circulation tests they did on my legs and the specialist nurse I met named Ruth.  She had prescribed pressure bandages for my legs and we set up an appointment for her to make a home visit to me here on November 25th.  At the time it never occurred to me that that day was Thanksgiving.  Later, when I thought about it and realized I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to not only thank some of the lovely ladies that have taken care of me but to bring some people into, what in the past had been just a rather lonely non-celebration.

Then, it all sort of snowballed. One of the things I’ve talked about is my addiction to my computer games that I play for recreation in my spare (ha! Sure!) time... Anyway, on one of the games, CafĂ© World, we were working toward completing a goal by baking pumpkin pies (yes, imaginary ones). A couple of Robbie’s nieces play the game too and I sent a message to one that if she wanted to taste real pumpkin pie to come over for Thanksgiving. Of course I couldn’t invite one niece without inviting the rest and the whole family so I set up an Event on Facebook and invited everyone in the area for Thanksgiving. I thought I’d just have it a sort of open house forum—show up when and if you can. I was already going to have the food for the nurses so anyone else that could come by was welcome.

There was a time in my life when I could cook meals, bake oodles and clean the house in a few days but those days are long gone.  I am older and, hopefully a bit wiser. The days of baking three kinds of cookies, full Christmas dinner and a cake are gone and rightly so. That kind of craziness only got me a lot of leftovers and a stressed out, exhausted hostess, making my family’s life a misery in the process. Now I’m better to myself and to those around me by cutting way down.  I knew we didn’t have sit-down facilities for a big dinner and since, as I already said, it was going to be an open-house, show up when you can type of thing, I could only do a buffet-style.

Besides the pumpkin pie I planned to make my grandmother’s apple salad (recipe to follow) and I had some leftover peanut butter cookies I had made for a meeting Robbie had. Rather than having a turkey and side dishes I just ordered a pre-stuffed turkey breast and baked it a day ahead. On the day I sliced it into lovely home-baked rolls for cold turkey sandwiches. A jar of cranberry relish was on the side for anyone who wanted it. I figured that menu pretty much “ticked all the boxes” as they say over here, or in other words, checked all the American boxes for Thanksgiving. I also frozen mashed potatoes and corn in case we wanted to have a more full-on dinner later in the evening.

Because Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday over here I had to make do with some homemade decorations. I printed out some clip art pictures I had from an old book on CD and cut them out and just stuck them around the table. Robbie had gotten me a tablecloth to cover the old table and with the last minute decorations it didn’t look too bad. I had a bit of leftover candy corn too and that added a bit of autumn color. I ordered what are supposed to be Christmas napkins with pictures of mince pies on them but to me, they looked more “Thanksgiving-y” than for Christmas. All in all, with what I had to work with it wasn’t such a badly cobbled together Thanksgiving table. Oh, and of course we brought out the “good china” i.e. paper plates!

Thanksgiving day I convinced Robbie to take the day off. He didn’t want to, in fact the man won’t call off work for anything—he’s definitely more dependable than the post office (especially over here!). He actually was still having difficulty getting over his cold and had spent the night coughing so much so that in the morning he had nearly lost his voice. That was mainly what convinced him that he couldn’t really do his job properly; he couldn’t work if he couldn’t talk. I really needed him here anyway to make and help serve tea, etc. Which he’s really good at.

Around 11:30 Robbie’s niece Denise arrived with her little girl Abbie straight from nursery school. Abbie was shy at first but soon warmed up and enjoyed tasting and trying cookies, a blueberry muffin Uncle Robbie tried to foist on her and even drank her own cup of tea. Mr. Moosletoes, my soft furry moose friend even came down for a cuddle. 

It was so nice to sit and chat with Denise and get to know her a little better. Unfortunately she was on a diet and didn’t eat much. While Denise was with us, it began to snow, a little bit of a powdered sugar dusting on the road and ground. I wish I had taken some pictures of them but I forgot.

The nurses, Alison and Ruth were supposed to arrive around 2:00 but they were a bit delayed and just after they had arrived, Robbie’s cousin Robert Owen came too. Robbie took him out to the kitchen to make him a cup of coffee and talk while the nurses looked at and worked on my leg. Ruth, the specialist nurse had suggested, like Janice the nurse at the hospital, that since the pressure bandages didn’t work they might try a stocking, like a knee sock, that would hold it up. That’s still up in the air since they haven’t yet gotten back to me on it.

One of the first things they said, though, was something I love to hear: how nice the house smelled! I think they quite appreciated a chance to relax and have a cup of tea and pie and being a “holiday” gave me an excuse to treat them a bit without any awkwardness since I am so grateful for their care. These nurses are the best! Robert Owen, the family photographer, took pictures of us all but since I haven’t asked their permission, and it was, in a way, during working hours, I’m not going to publish the pictures here.  I can report, though, that pumpkin pie was enjoyed by all!

After the nurses left, Robert Owen stayed and had sandwiches with us and this was the first time I’d been able to grab something to eat myself. Robert snapped our pictures then too although he’s been having trouble with his camera and the colors and shadows are a little off. 

Later on in the evening, around dinner time, Robbie went up and picked up his Auntie and brought her down to have sandwiches and pie.  When she left I got to call Ben and talk to him and hear about his holiday activities.

On the whole, I must say, it was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had since I’ve been here. In some small way I was able to gather a few family and friends of a sort for a bit of a feast. Like I had said to Alison a few weeks back, one of the harder things to living far away from home is trying to hold on to old traditions and holidays as part of your identity. And that’s always a good thing to try to do—especially when it involves pie! 

Robbie took the rest of the pumpkin pie to a prayer meeting at Nancy Waddle's house the Saturday after and introduced more people to pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, since you can't get canned pumpkin puree here it really doesn't do any good to develop a taste for it. Unless maybe we can start a campaign to get Libby's to ship it to the UK. What do you think?

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get this posted. I’m still experiencing a learning curve with my new phone camera and I’ve been having trouble loading some graphics on the blog site. Also a lot of time and attention has been taken with last week’s Big Freeze and snow. Our internet connection was sometimes erratic because of the weather.  Now that excuses are out of the way, hope everyone is able to take a breather now and then and not letting the holiday pressure get to you! Remember, life is too short and the best memories can’t be bought. 

As promised, here's my grandma's apple salad recipe:

 Grandma Carson's Apple Salad

Apples (Grandma usually used golden delicious)
Chopped Walnuts
Celery, chopped
Bananas (optional)

1 egg - 2 if small (Grandma used 2)
2 Tablespoons Flour (more if necessary)
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Beat egg and stir into Flour;  Add Water and Sugar; Cook over Medium heat - Do not let boil;  Afterwards bring to an easy boil until mixture thickens.  Add Vanilla. Allow to cool and pour over apples. Stir to coat and chill before serving.
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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Better Late Than Never...

In my last post I talked about Halloween and here it is almost Thanksgiving. I realized that I hadn't added the pictures I took from Halloween this year. I have them up on Facebook but didn't put them up on my blog so here they are. This was the first time Robbie had ever carved a pumpkin so I had to give him a few lessons. He seemed to enjoy it and we both had a fun evening! Also, this year we ended up getting 17 Trick-or-Treaters and we ran out of candy! We had to go scrounge in the cupboard and luckily had a packet of cookie bars that had been in there forever! It was a good night and we had the traditional pizza for dinner when Trick-or-Treat was over! I've got some plans for Thanksgiving and am hoping that I will be able to share pumpkin pie (pumpkin from a can I brought--not these!) with people. More about that later:

Oh no, what happened to Robbie?
Robbie's First Pumpkin
Our finished pumpkins from the outside
Robbie says, "Which is the pumpkinhead?"
Robbie's finished product