Tuesday, November 29, 2011

10th Anniversary Visit to Canada

Our wedding anniversary was on Thanksgiving Day this year. As it was  our 10th anniversary we decided to go with the kids to Canada. Niagara Falls to be more specific. I was last there about 17 years ago so I was looking forward to going again.

We left right after the kids got out of school on the Wednesday and stayed in a hotel in Cleveland, Ohio for the night before continuing on to Canada on Thursday morning.

We were hoping to go on the Maid of the Mist but it was closed for the winter season. We did consider doing a Journey Behind the Falls tour but decided against it.

We did wander around the area and took lots of photos. Ben also got to rollerblade near the Falls and he was very pleased to check that off this wish list of things to do.

We stayed in a very nice hotel. The kids loved the fact that the bathroom had a window with a retractable blind and a whirpool tub!

We were on the 22nd floor so got a great view of the Falls from our window. One downside of being on the 22nd floor is that when the fire alarm went off, like it did at 3am on Saturday morning, we had to walk down 22 flights of stairs! I had to carry K the whole way as she was sleepy and didn't put her shoes on before we left our room.

We had dinner the first night at the Hard Rock Cafe. We were going to go to the Skylon but the prices were just a little bit too high for us.

Overall the weather was really good for us. It wasn't warm but we were in Canada at the end of November so would not have expected it to be warm.

I went to the casino opposite our hotel on Friday night. I bet $20 and won $201.95! We used that money to get some treats and have dinner out on Saturday evening.

On the way back we got to the Rainbow Bridge to come back over to the US at 9am and sat in the car waiting to hand our passports over to the CBP Officer. The car in front of us did get us a bit worried though.

They drove up behind the car in front of them even though they were supposed to wait at the Stop sign until it was their turn. Their licence plates were from New Hampshire and had 'Live Free or Die' on them. When it was their turn the driver handed over what looked like a drivers licence and a piece of A4 paper. The CBP Officer then put something under the car to stop them driving off. Next thing we know 6 CBP Officers are surrounding their car and asking them to get out. After a few minutes they finally emerged. The driver was a young Asian looking man of around 18 or 19 and the passenger was a very old white man of about 80. They made for a very odd looking pair. When it was our turn we drove up and handed over the 7 passports for the 4 of us. The CBP Officer looked at them and then asked us all individually where we were from. When he asked Z where he was from Z said "England. Can't you tell by my accent?!" The officer laughed and gave us our passports back and said we were good to go. We didn't get new I-94s in our passports though as we were told the ones we had were still valid.

We then drove back to Indiana. From the time we left the border to the time we got back home, it took us 12 and a half hours. It rained almost the entire time! Z and K did well to not go mad with boredom in the back of the car. They watched some movies and read some books they had brought with them whilst the light was good.

We all had a great time and enjoyed our visit to Canada.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Holiday on the Square, Carmel 2011

We went to the lighting of the Christmas tree in Carmel tonight at the Holiday on the Square.

This is the 3rd time we have been and this is the first time the kids actually got to see Santa. The line has always been super long but we got there a bit early this year so we decided to wait to see Santa. The got their picture taken, told him what they wanted for Christmas and got a goodie bag full of stuff.

We stayed until the lights were switched on. The Mayor called all the kids to the tree and asked them to help him count down from 10 to turn the lights on. There were no reindeers this year but we saw an eagle and the K got to meet the mascot of Chick-fil-A(!) They were one of the sponsors of the event.

We had cookies, chips & dip, little pastry type things and hot chocolate and the kids each got a candy cane that they decorated to look like a reindeer! All free!

We then went to Red Robin as a reward for Z having a really great week at school. He was told he could choose a reward and he wanted to go to Red Robin!

Friday, November 18, 2011

My "Freebie List"

People magazine have revealed their "Sexiest Man Alive 2011" and this year it is Bradley Cooper. He is attractive but he wouldn't be on my List. Is the People Sexiest Man Alive list any different to the Maxim Hot 100?

As I have been sick this week, and not really feeling up to doing a whole lot of stuff, I started thinking about who would be on my list and so I started compiling one.

I think I may have gotten carried away as I seem to have more that 5. At least I didn't laminate it like Ross did in that episode of Friends!

So in no particular order:    

                                                                   Dylan McDermott


Do you think I have a "type"?

Normal Expat service will resume soon. We are going to the Christmas Market and Christmas Lights switch on in Carmel at the weekend so I will have pictures and a post about that soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coca Cola Christmas Commercials

I have been developing a cold and have been feeling a bit sorry for myself. Hopefully I will be able to shift it before Thanksgiving as I really don't want to be ill on our trip to Canada!

To make myself feel better I have been looking at the Coca Cola Christmas Commericals on YouTube.

There are some of the Coke Christmas commercials along with the newest one.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"British" Pub Food? I Don't Think So

I use the term British Pub Food very loosely!

After hearing good things about the Red Lion Grog House in Indianapolis, and quickly reading some reviews online, we decided to go there for lunch.

We will not be going again! The menu sounds decent enough and the pictures are ok but my meal did not look like the picture on the menu!

Under no circumstances could the fish and chips I had, be confused with fish and chips you would get at a pub in the UK.

The "Fish and Chips" were very fatty and I could taste the oil in the fish batter. If they want to do proper 'English' fish and chips then they need to do steak fries.  The fries were very dark and looked like they could have been the end of a batch or been in the fryer for a while as they were not golden by any stretch of the imagination.

Ben thought the fries were made with old potatoes due to their consistency.

The Scotch Egg I got as a started was alright but I have had better. Ben got the chips with curry sauce. The curry sauce tasted a bit like Homepride Curry Sauce but with a bit more curry powder mixed in without being mixed very well.

The rice that came with Ben's Chicken Tikka Masala was VERY sticky. There also wasn't a lot of it and what he did pick up on his fork seemed to all come at once.

Service was quick and relatively pleasant. We were there on a Saturday afternoon and there was only about 7 or 8 other people there so if the service had been slow I would have been very annoyed!

As I am a British Expat living in Indy so maybe I had higher expectations after reading through a few reviews. I am doubtful I will try the food here again.

New Phone App I'm Currently Enjoying

I got the new iPhone 4S when it came out a few weeks ago. Just recently I discovered a camera app where I can play around with the photos a little bit. I hadn't been aware of Instagr.am or Hipstamatic at that point. The one I have on my phone is camera+.

I have been enjoying taking pictures of my kids, me, around Indianapolis and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and playing with the features of this app to enhance the photos.

I may be slightly obsessed now! I found myself taking pictures today of  things I would not ordinarily take photos of!

I will keep taking regular pictures but it is too much fun playing with the color and giving the pictures borders. I just have to do it!

I will have to find out if there is a computer program or something I can download that will let me play with photos I already have on my computer.

Too much fun!

I think I may have an addictive personality!

Children's Museum of Indianapolis Visit #28,745,629

It certainly feels like we have been there millions of times! Luckily we have membership and it has been well worth over cent!

Kids still enjoy every visit and always want to look at everything!

We saw the Dinosaurs again. We saw the Barbie Exhibit again. We saw the Egypt Exhibit again. We saw the new Frog Exhibit. Bumblebee is still there. Jolly Days opens the day after Thanksgiving.

We thought if we got there early it would not been too busy. We were very wrong! There was so many people there today! I think it is because of the Bands of America Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil this weekend. There were lots of groups wandering around the museum and they all had stickers on saying they were in groups.

Girl Scout Pajama Party

Last night I went to a Girl Scout pajama party with my Girl Scout troop and met with other Girl Scouts associated with Carmel Elementary School. This was the first time there has been a pajama party at CE and they hope it will be a regular thing. All the girls donated a pair of new pajamas to go to The Pajama Program.

K wore a pair of bright pink 'Hello Kitty' pajamas and I wore some Indianapolis Colts lounge pants and a Colts t-shirt that I got when I went to try to give blood a week or so ago.

We took snacks and all the troops performed a dance and taught it to the other girls. As my troop were not in unanimous decision as to what dance we should do, I decided that we were doing the Chicken Dance.

The girls all got a special fun patch and seemed to have a good time running around and dancing. They also got in a few rounds of doing the limbo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 - Armistice Day - Thank You Veterans

On this Armistice Day I want to thank active military serving now, those military veterans who served in the past and those who gave their lives so we could be safe whilst putting themselves in harms way. Thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christmas Comes Early....Again

I mentioned Christmas earlier today and I mentioned waiting for a copy of my friends book "Home For Christmas" in the mail from Amazon.co.uk. It is an early Christmas gift for myself. I have also had another early Christmas gift as I got my new "Stella & Dot" jewelry in the mail on Wednesday.

Today I took delivery of my purchases from World Market that I ordered from the Christmas section on their website. There is a treat for me, a treat for the kids and a treat for Ben along with some things to share.

Sometimes lovely stuff comes in the mail, you know, stuff that is not bills!

All I Want For Christmas

This year will be my 3rd Christmas in the US. It's not even Thanksgiving yet here but already people are decorating their houses, the Christmas ads are on TV and Christmas movies are coming out. The stores have had Christmas goodies in for weeks already!

I've been told that I am difficult to buy for. I have to give very specific clues to what I want or just simply write out a very precise list which includes the name of the store to get the item from! My favorite things about Christmas are the twinkling lights that decorate peoples homes and line the streets and I love buying gifts for people. The first year here I actually went Christmas gift shopping for Ben, Z & K on Christmas Eve at Castleton Square Mall. Yes, you read that right, I bought ALL of the Christmas gifts for my husband and 2 children the day before Christmas!

I love the fact that my kids are so different when it comes to opening presents. K tears into things and can be done in a matter of minutes while her brother takes his time, he'll open something, look at it and then move on to the next one. I love watching them and the reaction to whatever it is they get, be it a pair of socks, a toy or a bicycle!

My dad has almost always given me money for my birthday or Christmas as he never knows what to get for me. My mum would almost always get me a gift card for a store she knows I like, however since moving to the US it would be a bit difficult to use them! I tend to know what to get for Ben and it helps that he never knows what he wants. K likes things that are pink or have sparkles on them as she is very girly and not at all like me. Z likes dinosaurs and reptiles but I'm not too keen on those so he can keep them for himself. One thing that I do have in common with Z is that he loves books. (K loves to read to but not as much as her brother. She's getting there though.) He absolutely loves to read. He will read almost anything. He prefers non fiction but I am guiding him towards chapter books too. It is important to me that he loves books as it helps him with his ADD. While he finds it difficult to concentrate in class and can play with his pencils or fidget in his seat, when he has a book in his hands he will sit and read it. He reads books that have words in them that I can't even pronounce. I have always loved books too, ever since I was a little girl. At Christmas time I have always gotten a book of some description as a gift for myself and for each of my children. It is something of a tradition that will continue as Z and K get older and I hope if they have children they will do the same.

Christmas is known as being the season of giving. Who doesn't like getting a gift? I know of lots of people who love giving gifts as much as they love getting gifts. Some gifts can't be wrapped though. Sometimes the biggest gift is knowing that you are loved. My favorite Christmas gift I ever got is not something that was wrapped and waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning. In December 2002 I found out I was getting the best gift ever but I would have to wait 9 months for it to arrive. I found out I was expecting Z.

People want different things for Christmas. Some want a baby whilst some want a new flatscreen TV. Some want to lose weight for the holidays and others want to know the person they are with loves them. That last thing isn't just for the holidays but it is the time that people can become more aware of their life, the people in  it and if they are living their happiest life.

I love to read books and a lot of people get and give books as Christmas gifts. If you are looking for a good book to give to someone then you could try the book written by a writer friend of mine whose second book comes out this month. I read Cally's first book 'Heaven Can Wait' and I really loved it. Her 2nd book is called 'Home For Christmas'. I'm getting my copy as an early Christmas gift to myself and it is currently winging its way to me from the UK as we speak. All the main character wants for Christmas is to hear 3 little words. That goes back to what I was just saying, people want to know they are loved and that they are living their happiest life and are on their way to having their own happy ever after.

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Word Map of the British Isles

At the end of last week I took possession of my newest purchase. Thanks to some Expat friends I found out about Snowhome and their word map of the British Isles designed by Alison Hardcastle. I ordered the large 70 x 100cm version and after a friend returned from a trip to the UK he brought some back. (Saved on shipping as there was a lot of us wanting some!) Now I just have to buy a frame for it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Married with Children

It is approaching my 10th wedding anniversary. I do find it hard to believe that I have been married for 10 years. I don’t feel old enough. Don’t mention the fact that I have 2 children, a mortgage and have moved to another country whilst keeping the mortgage. Anyway, I am approaching the 10th year of being married to the man I have known for almost 16 years.

I never really thought about being married. I never pretended to walk down the aisle with one of my mothers’ net curtains draped over my head pretending it was a veil. I didn’t buy wedding magazines and create a scrapbook of my dream wedding. I just met a guy, got engaged, planned a wedding and got married in a church. (Bit of a shocker there with that last part as I am not religious)

However, I had no problems getting married. It was all very simple and no one had any objections to us marrying. Not even the fact that I am not religious and was planning to get married in a church and being a big hypocrite.

After being married for a little while we thought about having kids. We tried for a while and in the space of 2 years we had 2 children, a boy and a girl. The only comments that were made during the entire duration of my pregnancies were the fact that I was (and still am) overweight and people wondering if the fact that my kids would be born in England be a problem seeing as I am Scottish!

So, I got married and had 2 kids before I was 30. No one cared. It did not offend anyone. We just got on with it.

If I was gay then it would not have been so easy. I would not have been able to get married in the UK, I would have had to enter in a ‘Civil Union’ which to me sounds very cold and clinical. It just seems like a legal term and not at all an event carried out because two people are in love and want to spend their lives together. If I was gay in the USA (where I currently live) I would be able to have a same sex marriage in a couple of states and in a few others be in a ‘union’ which grants similar rights to marriage. In some states a same sex marriage is recognized but is not performed. For a while in California it was legal to have a same sex marriage but as of right now it is not. There are a handful of countries around the world that allow same sex marriage but there are more that do not.

For the life of me I do not understand why that is. It is easier, and more acceptable, for people who are related to marry each other than it is for people of the same sex to marry. Apparently some people worry about the ‘sanctity of marriage’ being tarnished if same sex couples were given the same rights as opposite sex couples. Other people say the point of being married is to have children and gay people can’t have children.  Apparently some people think if you want to be married you must be willing and able to produce children. If you can’t then you have no business being married. Well isn’t that the most logical argument you have ever heard?!

Of course I have a few problems with that:

1. Not all opposite sex couples want to have kids. Does that mean they should not be allowed to marry?
2. Not all opposite sex couples can have kids so have IVF, Surrogacy or adopt, all of which can be used by same sex couples. So kids will still be born!
3. The divorce rate is very high amongst opposite sex couples.
4. Some people marry multiple times.  They love it so much they have to do it over and over and over again! Of course maybe they just like cake.
5. Some people marry and divorce within the space of a few months citing ‘irreconcilable differences’. Well they are clearing focused on the sanctity of marriage then aren’t they?!

Why is it more acceptable for relations to marry and create a bit of a ‘gene puddle’ than it is for opposite sex couples to marry and adopt children and give them a loving home?

If someone can give me a logical, reasonable, not covered in bigotry/ignorance reason why same sex people should not be legally allowed to marry or have/adopt children then I am all ears. Not sure I'll buy it though.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Joint Swimming Lesson

Z and K have started swimming lessons again and for the first time ever they are in the same class. As they are almost 2 years apart in age we have gotten used to them always being in separate classes but as K has been slightly more confident in swimming that her older brother, she has caught up with him and is now in the same level class as he is.

Ben and I were worried that they would just chat with each other and not concentrate on what their teacher was telling them to do. If they have had to do anything together before they almost always mess around and don't do what is asked of them.

We didn't need to be worried. They each seemed to forget that the other one was there! They both chatted with the person next to them but made no attempt to speak to each other.

Also by a bizarre coincidence their swim instructor this week was English!

Reading Recommendations for Z

Z loves to read books and I am always looking for recommendations. A friend suggested the Hank Zipzer books written by Henry Winkler (aka 'The Fonz'). I am on Twitter so I tweeted something about them asking if anyone would recommend them. I knew Henry Winkler had a Twitter account so I mentioned him in the tweet. I did not imagine for 1 second that he would reply, but he did, twice! Z was very impressed although he doesn't know who he is actually is!

As we go to the library every week without fail, we checked out one of the Hank Zipzer books. The 1st in the series wasn't there so we got the 2nd one.

Z has to read for at least 15 minutes every day as part of his 2nd grade homework and on Thursday evening he has to write something about one of the books he has read during the week. Today he started with the Hank Zipzer book. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on with it.

14 year olds & Green Cards

Did you know that you need to get a new green card when you turn 14? Do you know the reason why? No really, I'd like to know why. ...