29 September 2009

Location, Location, Location

I would LOVE to have a photo to go along with this post but that will be thrown on the pile of frustrations. I forgot to bring the cord that would allow me to transfer pics from my camera to the computer. I hope to get one soon. I also forgot the charger for my computer so I won't have computer access for the next two days while Mark is in London with his. :-(

Yesterday we moved into our house. The reason I need a photo for this blog is simple. The view is absolutely stunning from the living room, the kitchen and the terrace. Yes, we have a terrace. We are looking out on the Solent, the water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland of England. We can see the lights of the mainland twinkling at night and can see landmarks on the shore by day. There are always large cargo boats, passenger ferries and sailboats drifting by. It helps relieve any loneliness when there is so much activity right outside your window. We are perched high atop a hill so the view is unobstructed. Most of the homes here have names similar to beach houses on the Gulf Coast. Our home is Folly Hill. It is a lovely home filled with antiques, paintings and books- SO COZY! Elise has her own room although she doesn't appreciate it and keeps asking to join the older girls. Both Sam and Mary Elizabeth were lobbying hard for that room. No luck! They are each sharing a room with a bunk bed, Mary Elizabeth with Anne and Sam with William. They don't mind too much because everyone is happy with the house.

There is a sun room off the living room (which they call the lounge). It is nice and warm in the afternoon for this Southern girl who isn't used to the constant chill. The heated bathroom floors are a nice touch. There is a lovely backyard with lots of greenery, which a gardener tends, and it backs up to a big public park complete with tennis courts and miniature golf! The stately oak standing just outside our gate transports me to Audubon Park.

With a house comes many appliance. The fridge is tiny by American standards and doesn't include a freezer. Thankfully we have another in the sun room and a separate freezer as well. There is a washing machine, dryer and dishwasher. The washing machine fits about 4 pieces of clothing. Okay, I admit I am exaggerating for effect. It fits 7 pieces! Now, imagine choosing between washing clothes at 30, 60 or 90 degrees Celsius with a spin cycle of 1200, 1000, 800 or 600. WHAT?! I loaded the machine, put in some tablets that I hoped were laundry detergent, pressed a few other buttons then held my breathe as I pressed start. The clothes survived and smelled clean so I guess I succeeded. After drying the clothes, I wasn't willing to tackle the dishwasher so I am washing by hand for now. Worked the toaster, stove and oven without much trouble, bringing the grand total to 5 appliances. Mark on the other hand, broke the first one he touched. Don't ask. Long, sordid tea kettle story. Suffice it to say, we will be buying a new one for the home after cleaning melted kettle bits from the stove. He's off to London tomorrow so all the appliances are safe for a few days.

Well, I have so much more to tell but I am out of time. Stay tuned for a trip to the grocery store, a $65 lunch at Pizza Hut and photos of the house.

Now that we have a house, come one, come all. Remember the terrace I mentioned? I'll serve you tea there with a fabulous view. Elise will happily give up her double bed to bunk with her sisters. Last one to visit us is a rotten egg!

25 September 2009

New Orleans Classic, UK Style

We were eating at an American-style diner and there was an item on the menu called "chip butty". I couldn't imagine what that was so I asked the waitress. She explained it was chips on a sandwich. I told her we had those back home in New Orleans but we call them french fry po'boys. I told her that we even put gravy on it and she thought that was a little strange. You mean to tell me you are willing to put french fries on bread and eat it but you won't go the extra calorie mile and put gravy?! Geez, New Orleanians have to teach people to how to live a little, everywhere we go.

Have a good weekend!

24 September 2009

Gripe Water

It is 1 am and I am awake because there was a false fire alarm at our bed and breakfast. The Fire brigade came, as they call it. Can't go right back to bed, so I am taking the time to stay connected on facebook, etc.

Wanted to tell you about the funniest thing I saw on the pharmacy shelf, in the baby section. It is called "Gripe Water". The box said, "For relief of wind and gripe." Anyone who has had a colicky baby knows about Mylicon drops. That is basically what gripe water is! I just thought that was the funniest way to describe it.

Hmmm... Wind and gripe? Anyone need me to send some for their husband?


22 September 2009

Lingo and Give Me a Nudge

Hi, this is another post from Sam. I'll start with lingo. One thing about the U.K. is the language difference. Diapers are called nappies, and chips are called crisps. Mary E. isn't in on the lingo, she hates it when we call french fries chips. Pastie, what the heck is it? It is a pastry except instead of delicious sweet things inside, it is filled with veggies, meat or a mixture. I had one with cheese, onion, tomato & basil. Also, at Subway if they ask, "Do you want salad on this?" It means lettuce or no lettuce. "Give me a nudge," is what the slot machine said to me earlier. If I knew what that meant I could have won 1 pound. Anyway, you learn something new everyday whether or not it matters a lot, or the tiniest bit=) Thanks for reading, keep the comments coming please.

21 September 2009

NFLess Sunday

Okay- is this what it took to get the Saints on the road to the Superbowl? Did we actually have to MOVE OUT OF THE COUNTRY?!!! Sundays are SO hard without the NFL. As soon as we get settled in our house, we will explore EVERY options to view ANY American football games. Dare I say I am desperate enough to watch the Dallas Cowboys? No. I am not that far gone. Try me again next month.

Yesterday we were eating at a place called Fat Harry's. Yes, you read that right. The guy serving us asked where we were from and when we said New Orleans, his immediate response was, "Oh, you've got a great football team!" I held myself back from leaping up to give him a big hug!

Please enjoy all the Black and Gold mania at home for us.

Seven Lonely Who Dats

19 September 2009

Sunny Saturday

We found a house!!! The catch is we can't move in for another week. Oh well, there is a light at the end of the tunnel so I can just count down the days.

Today was a beautiful day. It was sunny and about 73 degrees. We walked all morning along the shore and had lunch at a lovely cafe. They serve pasties and jacket potatoes. Pasties are pastry stuffed with various fillings- chicken and veggies or maybe feta and spinach. Jacket potatoes are just baked potatoes in their skin. Isn't that such a cute name? Potatoes in their jackets! Some of the kids had fish tiddlers- little fish cakes. That name cracks me up.

Since it was so warm (for England) we brought the kids back to the beach in their suits in the early evening. It makes me happy to watch them run on the beach, play in the tide pools and collect rocks. Those are the simple kinds of things I have been looking forward to.

Hope you are having a good weekend. I cannot tell you how much your thoughts and prayers are helping.


17 September 2009

Forty-Six Pence

Hi, readers. This is a post from Sam. First, you might be wondering about the title. It is called 46 pence because today I gambled and won 46 pence so I figured why not. Today was a good day, we nearly finalized the house rental, I gambled and won money, and I bowled. Now I am going to list a lot of surprises we've had over the past few days. Did you know that if I just walk a few blocks there is a restaurant called Chicken and Pizza Land which sells chicken, pizza, kebabs, and burgers. There are also 2 Chinese restaurants, and Indian restaurant, and a burger place. So it's not just fish and chips. Did I also mention that if you are able to put money into a slot and push a button you are allowed to gamble. In the words of my mom, "We won't be having a lot of Ben & Jerry's ice cream there." Guess what the airport was filled with? You got it, Ben & Jerry's vending machines. Plus, half of the houses we've gone to see were advertised furnished but weren't. Also, there are places called zebra crossings where cars must yield to pedestrians. Hope you enjoyed my thoughts. Please comment, Sam.

16 September 2009

Growing Weary

We are close to renting a house but not close enough for me. I am REALLY tired of eating out, paying too much money to have our laundry done and cramped quarters for 7 people and about 25 pieces of luggage. I would love to be waxing eloquently about the scenery on the Isle or the differences and similarities we have found between England and America but I am just too mentally and emotionally exhausted. Those posts will come. Please be patient. Thanks for the e-mails and comments. They really help keep me going and smiling. I hope to be posting a picture of our new home soon but until them enjoy this photo of the Zeldens playing on the beach in 65 degree weather.

13 September 2009

Back to the story of our arrival...

After going through immigration COMPLETE chaos ensued! First, the car we thought we had reserved at the airport was actually in London about 40 minutes away. We looked a sight with 5 kids and about 25 bags and no way to get anywhere. Honestly, I wanted to cry and jump back on the next flight home. We looked like pigs on roller skates trying to maneuver 3 "trolleys" full of luggage down these ramps and keep track of all the kids. Rather quickly we found a car to rent that would fit all of us but not with our bags. We had to get an additional small car and then we were off to Portsmouth to catch the ferry.

Mark and I were completely exhausted and now were trying to drive on the left side of the road. It was scary but hilarious. Even crossing the street on foot is a challenge because you keep looking the wrong way for the traffic. We got to Portsmouth with no problem and got to the ferry but it was SO expensive to cross with 2 cars we decided to spend the night and consider our options in the morning. Found a cheap, decent hotel then slept and slept and slept.

Next day worked things out and booked online to save money for the ferry. We were feeling much better after a good sleep. Once we crossed to the island we felt we were making progress. We headed to the rental office to immediately begin looking for a house to rent. Next we headed to a recommended inn to spend a night or two. It was a beautiful drive around the island to get there. When we arrived they had no room for us but let us use their phone and phone book to find something. There was NOTHING available. I was just about to panic when the manager took pity on me and offered to try to squeeze us in. We spent the night in one double and 2 single beds with kids hanging from our heads and some on the floor.

The next morning Mark and Sam had to ferry back to return the small car. I had no phone service so we couldn't call each other. He left about 5 am and we arranged to find each other in the town of Newport at the tourist center. I said 2 rosaries over the next few hours. I was so nervous to separate with no way to contact each other. It all worked out and we met up as planned. I was never happier to see Mark and hug him.

We had no idea we were arriving just in time for a big festival and most places were completely booked. I guess it would be a bit like arriving in New Orleans around Mardi Gras. After many failed attempts- I was beginning to feel like Mary and Joseph with "no room in the inn"- we happened upon a nice bed and breakfast with the kindest people in all of England. They have treated us like family. We have a full English breakfast every morning which means, fried egg, toast, sausage and ham with beans and tomato. These people put beans with everything!

The house hunt has been quite frustrating so please keep us in your prayers. Mark will be gone for two days to London and I will be without a computer. No posts until Wednesday... Miss home but I am enjoying getting to know the culture and people. Everyone we have encountered so far has been helpful and friendly. I wasn't expecting them to be so warm. I think we Americans think of the Brits as rather cold and stand-offish.

GO TIGERS AND SAINTS! It was tough to spend Saturday and Sunday with no football. :-(

12 September 2009

Filling in the Blanks

I am really enjoying reading everyone's comments. It helps me feel connected to family and friends so far away. There are already SO many stories and observations to share I don't know where to begin. I will put those off, however, just to catch up those of you who got a crazy postcard about our adventure but didn't get any of the story leading up to our decision.

In a nutshell: In March several of Mark's clients were talking about work they would be doing out west. One in particular asked Mark to consider relocating to Las Vegas. It seemed to be a good move professionally so we thought- what the heck? We would go there for a few years and make the best of it, although it is really the LAST place we wanted to be. We began everything it takes to move- getting the house ready to sell, telling the kids, our family and friends, but most of all getting emotionally ready to leave a place you love as dearly as we love New Orleans.

After 2 months of preparation, the client shared with Mark the fact that things weren't going that well for his business. That is all we needed to hear. No Las Vegas, no problem! The only thing was, we had gotten ourselves used to the idea of leaving. We realized, with the ages of our kids, it was now or never. We decided to follow through with our dream of seeing what it would be like to live out of the country. We picked England because we didn't want to add a language barrier to the already daunting task. Mark talked to his clients and business partners who were fine with the move so we began the process around early June and here we are for four months.

Mark does have some professional possibilities around Europe. If something pans out, we may stay longer. If not, we will have had a great adventure! Hope that explains things.

Please sign up to get e-mail updates. The box is on the right side of the blog. It should be easy. If not, please let me know and KEEP THE COMMENTS COMING. :-)


11 September 2009

Welcome to England

I had told many of you that we had no place to stay in England. We figured it would be fine and we could "wing it" like we often do. It didn't bother me to tell family and friends this bit of information because most people know us well enough to think, "I could never do that but Mark and Dina are a little crazy anyway."

Well, let me tell you, it was NOT so funny to stand in front of the immigration officer who raised her eyebrows and proclaimed- "You've come to England with 5 children and you are telling me you've got no place to stay?!"

My heart was beating out of my chest and I thought for a moment we would be back on the next plane to the good old US of A. Mark's lobbying skills came in handy and he had won her over in a few minutes though it felt like hours!

There is SO much to tell and not much time since we are barely keeping our heads above water. More later...


06 September 2009

So Long, Louisiana Friends

I am writing this from the Charlotte airport. I can't believe the day has finally arrived. After all the talking and planning we are REALLY beginning our trip.

I was sent this in an e-mail some time ago. It reminded me of the many reasons I will miss my friends but especially my Louisiana friends. Please keep in touch.

FRIENDS: Never ask for food.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Always bring the food.
FRIENDS: Will say 'hello'.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Will give you a big hug and a kiss..
FRIENDS: Call your parents Mr. and Mrs.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Call your parents Mom and Dad.
FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.
FRIENDS: Will eat at your dinner table and leave.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, playing dominoes or cards and just being together.
FRIENDS: Know a few things about you.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.
FRIENDS: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Will kick the whole crowds' back-ends that left you.
FRIENDS: Would knock on your door.
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: Walk right in and say, 'I'm home!'.
FRIENDS: will visit you in the hospital when you're sick
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: will cut your grass and clean your house then come spend the night with you in the hospital and cook for you when you come home
FRIENDS: have you on speed dial
LOUISIANA FRIENDS: have your number memorized.
FRIENDS: Are for a while.