Sunday, 23 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Going Home

Today is my last full day here in the UK. I am filled with Happiness and Sadness at the same time. How is it possible for two completely different feelings to occupy my thoughts and my heart at one time.

I have for the past 9 years waited for the opportunity to move back to what has been and always will be my home. But now that it is happening I have come to realise how much this is my home too. I have had so many wonderful experiences here. My children were all born here in the wonderful NHS system. I have made some very dear friends here who have showed love and compassion to me in times when I needed it most. Who have always been there and in most cases acted as substitute family to me. My dear in laws are here whom I love so much and who have always taken me in as one of their own and loved me the same as their own daughter or sister. Over the past 9 years this has become my home. I pulled out my journal from when I moved here the other day and was reading about how scared I was. And now 9 years later I have the same feelings about going back to the USA.

I love this country. I love all the quirky bits, all the beautiful and not so beautiful bits, I love the people, the little houses (most houses are little), the shopping, I love everything about it. There will always be a very special place in my heart for everything British. I will continue to carry on all the British Traditions so that my children will always remember this wonderful place and know that this was their home once too.

To my dear family and friend I love you. Thank you for the memories, for caring about me, for helping me when I needed it, for being a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. For all the laughter, for the smiles and for the memories. May God be with you and bless each of you until we meet again.

To all my family and friends and future friends in the USA, I cant wait to make the same memories with each of you. I love you and I am so excited for the future and to see what it holds.

May God bless each and every one of you.

This is likely to be my last post for a few weeks now until I can get set up in Texas. Until then all my love.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Some of My Favorite Places

Over the past nine years we have been able to visit some amazing places. Most the time when people think of England they think of London. In fact rarely do people think of any other places. Almost like the only place in England is London. Though I do love London and have been many times, there are some other places which I love just as much. I am struggling to find loads of pictures from all the places I have visited over here so I will share with you what I have found in the 10 minutes which I have had to find pictures between packing, throwing memories away and taking care of my three beautiful children. I hope you enjoy this little tour of some of my memories.

Me and two of my babies outside the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben in the back ground. London is beautiful.
This is me at Brough Castle. Brough is in the North East of the country. In County Durham. We have been to Durham on several occasions because my husbands mum and dad live near there. Durham is one of my favorite traditional Old Cities. With the Cathedral and the castle side by side. Cobble stone roads, tiny little streets and just absolutely beautiful.
This is Dudley Castle. We went here over this past Summer. It is a stunning castle in the middle of the country, we live in the midlands now, So much history at this castle. This castle was built in the early 700's AD. As you walk through there are signs telling you what each room is or what it used to be. It is awesome. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for things to do. Around the grounds is a Zoo too so it is a lovely family day out.
Lichfield Cathedral. We have spent many hours taking visitors to Lichfield and the Cathedral is a must see when people visit. It is beautiful. One thing I love about this cathedral is that it has three spires. I am a Mormon and as such I believe that the Godhead are three individuals. Most religions see them as the godhead or as one. But on this cathedral each spire signifies each individual member of the Godhead. Which I actually think is really cool. I also love that this was first built in 669. When I walk through the cathedral I try to imagine all those who have been in that building. It is amazing to me.
This might be an odd one to some but on this day we were at the Trentenham Gardens and the Monkey forest. We love it here. The monkeys run wild and come up to you. It is so cool to watch them interact with the people. My children especially just love it here.
Stonehenge is another place we really enjoyed visiting. When we got there I was so surprised at how small the stones actually are. But the history which surrounds these stones is amazing. It is in the middle of no where but it is so worth seeing if you are in that part of the world.

Last picture I could find quickly was of Myself, my daughter and my mom the one and only time she was able to visit. We are in York which I have to say is by far my favorite city. I like York actually better than I like London. It is so beautiful there with so much history. And I think it is such a gem because most of the tourists tend to spend their time in London. Not many travel all the way to the North of the country to see somewhere like York. The cathedral there is Amazing and walking down the shambles is like nothing you can explain. The homes were built so badly that they have started to lean over and the only thing keeping them up is other homes or buildings leaning into them. I love York.

There are so many other places I have been blessed to have the opportunity to visit. I hope that if you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful land that you don't spend your whole trip in London. Though there is lots to see and do there there is so much beauty outside of London.

Friday, 21 October 2011

England Through the eyes of an American - School

One of the things I am worried about moving back for it school for my children. Here in the UK children start reception, kind of equivalent to Kindergarten, at age 4. For the year before that they go to 1 year of half days in Nursery school. After Reception at age 5 they are in Year 1 age 6 year 2 age 7 year 3. My daughter is 7 and in the equivalent of 3rd grade. Where back in the US she would be in 2nd, we will be having her tested to see what grade they are going to put her in when we get there. Plus the children go to High school at the age of 11 here and finish school for good at the age of 16. Yep, that's different.

Here are a few of the things I love about Primary school in the UK
  • There is no separation between church and state like there is in the US. So the children have something called RE (religious education) where they learn about different religions. At the Christmas plays it is actually about the nativity and at some point you will have a Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.
  • They have after school clubs for children as young as 5 years old. Last year my daughter had French Club on a Tuesday, Craft Club on a Wednesday and Keep fit club on a Thursday.
  • The classes at the schools are small and typically you don't have more than 1 or 2 classes of each grade. My daughter has been in 3 schools here in England the school she is at now has 1 1/2 classes of year year and this is the biggest school she has ever been to.
  • School Uniforms. I never have to worry about what the children are going to wear to school and I know exactly how much their clothes are going to cost at the beginning of each school year.
  • Christmas, Spring and Summer Fair. Three times a year the schools we have been in have a family fun day. There are little carnival rides, Carnival games, and loads of other activities where the families go to and just have a great time. All the money goes back into the schools so that the children can do wonderful things like go to the space museum or whatever other outings they decide.
  • Summer break is only 6 weeks long. Over here school is kind of like a year round schedule. The children go for 6 weeks and then have what we call half term where they break up for 1 week. Then 6 weeks later the term end. The first end of Term is Christmas so they have two weeks off for that. The second is Easter and they have two weeks off then and last term is end of July and they are off for 6 weeks then. I think the 6 weeks is just long enough because they don't get to bored. I love having my children home with me. I'm one of those weird moms so the fact that we have so much time together during the school year makes me one happy mommy.
I hope you've enjoyed my description of the school system here. I hope it wasn't to boring :)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Chocolate

This evening we got a knock at the door. When we opened it there was a great big bag of Cadburys chocolate with a lovely little note from some secret friend. And as I was eating a little bar of heaven, I mean chocolate, I thought oh man I am so going to miss Cadbury's chocolate. I know what you are thinking they have Cadbury's in the USA. But Cadbury's in the USA is made by Hersheys and it is not nice. Seriously once you try real European Chocolate you will never go back. I'm so afraid of missing it that I actually have packed 13.22 pounds of chocolate. Also I have looked up where my local British store is so that as soon as I run out I don't have to start having withdraws.

Have any of you ever had British chocolate? If so what do you think? Can you tell a difference. What is your favorite Chocolate bar?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Breakfast

When I was back home I used to love going out to breakfast. There are so many breakfast options in the US. Here in England you are not so lucky. There are no pancakes (except at McDonald's) No waffles, no french toast with maple syrup, no country fried steak I could go on and on.

If you are going to have breakfast out somewhere they have loads of cereal options or a Traditional English Breakfast. This consists of Bacon, Sausage, Fried Egg (And you don't get a choice of how you want your egg cooked, Its always runny) cooked tomato, cooked mushroom, baked beans, hash brown and toast. I was always OK with the Bacon, Sausage, Egg, Hash brown and Toast. But the first time I have a fried tomato, mushrooms and baked beans for breakfast I was a bit surprised. But I'll tell you what these British really know how to make fried tomatoes and Baked Beans. Man alive the baked beans here are so good we eat them at all times of the day (I'm bringing 12 cans of Baked Beans with me in our move)

In short they may not have your traditional American Breakfast, but the British Fry up is Very good!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American -A Fork and a Knife

Back home in the USA they have so many finger foods. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise the first time I went to Pizza Hut and everyone was using a Fork and a Knife to cut and eat their pizza. I was even more surprised the first time I saw someone eat a hamburger with a fork and knife. This is very common here in England. You ALWAYS have a fork and a knife with your meals and everyone knows how to use both. Even the small children.

I now love it and cant imagine not using a fork and a knife for all my main meals (not cereal of course). It is very rare that we don't use both a fork and a knife to eat our food. And I now feel very improper if I am not using both.

Monday, 17 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Public Transport

When I was living back home I could hardly bear the idea of walking anywhere and in the small town I came from we had no kind of Public Transport. Everyone ad a car even if it was an old clunker at least you had one. Last time I was home I needed to "nip" (another very British word) out to the shops. There is a corner petrol station just 1/2 a mile from my moms house. I expressed how I was going to walk up to the shop and you should have seen the surprise on my mom and sisters faces. It was kind of like what? How dare you! Walking is what teenagers do before they get their driving license or if they get in trouble. Its a punishment.

Things in England are so very different. We have quiet a few modes of Transportation.

Lets start with the Bus:

The buses in England are so regular. You can get almost anywhere on a bus. Our car broke at the beginning of June and at first I thought Oh. My. Word. What am I going to do. But I sorted out the bus timetables and have been going anywhere I need to on the bus when I can.

Buses are pretty cheap. I can get a Local Day Saver which allows me to travel anywhere in my county all day for only £3.80. Not to bad huh!

Next The Train:

If you need for any reason to go on a long journey there is always the option of the train. It is very reasonable if you look on places like I can normally get a single (One Way) to London for about £9.00 of course I am not allowed to travel during peak times which are weekdays between 6 am and 10 am and then again from 3:30 pm and 6:30pm. During those times I can expect to pay well over £120 round trip. But it is very reasonable the other times.

The Tube or Underground in London or the Metro in Manchester (AKA Subway):

This is again another cheap form of transportation normally we add this onto our train ticket. In fact often you can get an bus/tube/train ticket for really reasonable. These run all day at very regular intervals.


There are Taxis everywhere here. No not the typical yellow cabs you see in towns like NY just normal cars which are now taxis or hackney cabs. They are a good way to get somewhere quick or if you have a lot of things to take with you. Taxis can get expensive but again at times are worth it.

The last form of transportation is not a form of any kind it is merely walking or bike riding. It always amazed me when I first got here how many people walk. You can see someone walking on most streets almost all the time. Not having a car for the past 4 months I have really grown to love walking everywhere. I have been having to take the children to school and back 3 times a day and it is 2 miles each way. But not once have I felt embarrassed about walking in fact there are probably more children who walk to school than who don't. Plus if there is one thing you should know about me its that I love to look people in the eye and smile or say hello. And this has been so much fun while walking to and from school. Never mind the fantastic exercise I have been getting.

So there you go if you ever decide to come and visit you now know the most common modes of transportation here in England.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Petrol & Deisel = Gas

Over the past few months so many of my American friends and Family have been complaining about the ever increasing fuel prices. To them I laugh. Here are our Fuel prices:

There are a few things to notice in the pictures. First we don't have unleaded or leaded gas we just have petrol, which is unleaded, and Diesel.

May I first point out to you that the prices are per litre. There are approximately 4 liters to a US gallon. Which means straight away I pay for my diesel car £5.43 per gallon. Next you have to convert this amount to Dollars £1 = $1.62 so that means for a single gallon of diesel I would way $8.80. Yep I think we win on paying the most. Over the summer when the exchange rate was higher it was even worse.

In the British defense I will say you can go a long way on a little fuel. Our car was 11 gallon take and it would last us a week or two easy. Happy Driving!!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Accents

To the average American people from the UK have two accents English (England) and Scottish. I too fell into the trap of thinking that all British people sounded pretty much the same. I mean how could they sound different the whole country is the same size as most states.

In the USA I never really noticed to much of a difference in regional accent. I basically heard 3 or 4 different accents. The West coast, Midwest, Deep South and the East Coast Mostly North East coast.

In England that is completely different. Not only are the accents based on the region you come from but they also use different words. For example based upon where you live if you want a sandwich you would ask for a sarnie, a barm, a butty, a sandwich, or a bap it just depends on where you live.

The accent also changes from one region to the next. In order to help you out on your next visit to the UK as to what to expect from where I thought I would share this regional accent map. Hope it helps :) It is so fun to listen to the difference!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Shopping Trolley Coin Lock

A word to the wise. If you want to go shopping in the grocery store and plan on getting a lot of stuff, make sure you have a £ coin. If you don't you wont be able to get a Shopping Trolley as we call them here because almost all trolleys have Trolley Locks on them and cost £1 to use it. Don't worry you can have it back at the end of your shopping as long as you return the trolley to its rightful place :)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Market Day

I love the market. I never experienced anything like this when I was back home. That doesn't say that it doesn't exist. Its just saying that it didn't exist in any of the places I lived or that I was to young to appreciate them if they did :)

In the town where I live market day is every Tuesday and Saturday. I often take the children to school and head straight to the market to walk around for a couple of hours, which is what I did today. I thought I would take you on a tour of the Market in my lovely town of Tamworth which is about 12 miles outside of Birmingham.

Here is what I see when I first approach the market. Loads of market stalls. They line the streets and are full of in expensive market goodness :)

Here are a few more stalls at the back of our market. If you click on the picture you can see how diverse the market is. At the front is a fresh produce. Next to that they were selling gardening plants. Back a bit further is handbags in one stall, clothing in one and cushions in another. Any one fancy some fruit? Any bowl £1.00

Ahhh yes all that fresh baked bread goodness. The British LOVE their bread. There are so many different types of bread. Man I am so going to miss this. Oh and by the way ITS CHEAP!! A loaf of bread will set you back 85p for the really nice stuff. Which is only $1.30 Yummy!

A trip to the market wouldn't be a trip to the market without the Butcher shouting out his wonderful prices on the loud speaker. "Hey you, there in the green top you need some sausages don't you? Awe come one fresh lovely British Pork Sausages 6 for £1.50 bargain" Yep that is the lovely butcher.
And the newsagents as we call them here. They sell all the magazines and newspapers available in the UK.

There are loads of sweets stalls. This one is one of our favorites because they sell yummy cakes along with loads of yummy sweets.
When the children come with me to the market this is the first place we have to go... DONUTS!! We get 6 donuts for £1.50 and they are delicious. He makes then right there in front of you. Oh man Krispy Kreme has nothing on the market donut man!
When I first moved here I loved walking to the market at the end of the day when the produce stalls were about to close. There would be 2 or 3 men trying to sell off everything because they knew it wouldn't be fresh come next market do so they would be shouting "BANANA'S GET YOUR BANANA'S 1 HAND 50p" or "MUSHROOMS, WHOLE BOX OF MUSHROOMS £1.00" Once I bought a whole box of mushrooms and then when I got home thought what am I going to do with these now?

Clothing is so cheap in the market. There are probably about 15 stalls in our market of just clothing. They sell everything from trousers, tops, skirts, socks and underwear even Lingerie.

Another one of my favorite things in the market is all the performers. There is always someone playing an instrument or a mime doing a performance. Sometimes there are animals from various charities. The children LOVE putting money in their pots.

A trip to the market is never complete for me without a visit to our charity shops. I never like charity shops until I moved here and I am certain that is because I am now a bit older and can appreciate all the crafty and lovely goodness a charity shop has to offer. It is so true when they say one mans junk is another mans treasure.

Well I hope that you enjoyed my trip to town today. I loved it and I am sad that I only have two more weeks to visit. I am going to have to make sure to make the most of the market over the next two weeks.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

England through the eyes of an American - Food Shopping in England!

I know most of you are expecting Alisha, but she's asked me to re-post an entry I did on my own blog about shopping in England. I guess since I am an American living in England - I see things while shopping the same way Alisha does - either that or she didn't want to make a fool of herself taking pictures at the local grocery store like I did (lol).

Shall we begin the tour?

So here we go on a tour of my local shop (beware – lots of pictures, oh and sorry about the occasional finger in the picture – I was trying to be discreet):


When you first walk in – there are shelves of fresh sandwiches.


Here is customer services/tobacco counter.


They shops here have TONS of magazine options, pretty much if you are interested in it, they’ll have it – oh and this is just one section – there is a whole other wall full.


The “pound shop”.


The stairs go up to the Café, where weary shoppers can get a cup of tea or some generally overcooked, overpriced food.


The Pharmacy – did you know they sell codeine and antibiotics over the counter here?


Clothes section – right across from the veggies.


Courgettes (zucchini), Aubergines (eggplants), and TONS of brussel sprouts.


Takeaway food and the Delicatessen.


The butcher and the fishmonger.


Care for some jellied eels, no seriously??


Even the bacon is different!!


The Reduced to Clear section where you can find some real treasures or just real rubbish.


The English love their lamb.


Yummmmm bakery – they bake most of the things in the store – while dieting I just stay away.


“American Style” hotdogs – being American, I don’t think I’ve see hot dogs in America in a tin with brine – but maybe I’m wrong – at any rate, I don’t eat hot dogs from a tin, no matter how many American flags they have on them.


Baked Beans section – the English sure do love their baked beans.


In America they have a section of ethnic Mexican food, here in England there ethnic section is for the Eastern Europeans, mostly written in Polish.

** I must stop here and tell a short story. About at this point in the store a woman walked up to me and Chris and said, “EXCUSE me, its against the law to take pictures in the store. Would you delete them please?” (typing cannot express the rudeness that she said it). I quickly said, “Ummmm yes…” and put the camera (phone in my pocket). Chris then said, “It isn't against the law! Who says its against the law???” I don’t think she was expecting anyone to argue with her and started to mutter, “it is against the law…” while turning up the isle. I don’t know what her problem was, I didn’t even take a picture of her (although now I wish I had). So we waited until she was out of sight and continued taking pictures… silly woman.

The tour continues:



TONS of alcohol. Now, maybe it is just my sheltered upbringing but here in England, that much at the grocery store seems a bit excessive.


Squash – here in England it isn't a veggie, it is a concentrated fruit drink.


Tea – my camera lens wasn’t wide enough to get in all the options – they love their tea!


The tills, or checkouts.


Crisps – These are just some of them but I LOVE the names: Quavers, Skips, Wotsits, Nik-Naks, Discos, Twiglets – sounds like a different language.



The ceiling – if you look up there you would be forgiven for thinking you are in a warehouse.


Kitchen roll and toilet roll (paper towels and toilet paper).


The milk here is shaped differently too (by milk, obviously milk cartons lol). I think it is so it can fit in the tiny fridges a bit better.


Here are some puddings, and by puddings I mean desserts.


On diet – must resist.


Now that I live in England, I often bypass things that as a visitor, might find interesting – like this post box. Down in London people take pictures of these to show family when they get home from their vacation – here I walk past it every day. Are there post boxes (mailboxes) in American grocery stores? I forget.


These are where they shallow trolleys go – trolleys in England aren't a mode of transportation, but a cart. And in England the wheels on said trolleys aren't fixed straight ahead, but turn all the way around. This causes problems for me because they are hard to control, but Chris hates the trolleys in America – he finds them hard to steer. I guess it is just what you’re used to!


Crossings to help us safely return to our car.


In the car park there are various way to recycle pretty much anything you own – clothes, books, glass, etc..

We’ve reached the end our of our tour. Are you still there or did you give up past the first 100 pictures?? If you want to get a close up of the pictures just click on them.

Thank you.... have a nice day... please come again... ta... cheers....