Happy New Year

January 2, 2014

A belated Happy New Year, but it is only January 2nd so it is not too late.  Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?  I did and one of them is to keep this a little better up to date as the blog was severely neglected last year.  My resolution is to do at least 1 post a week no matter how short and I will typically aim to add this on either a Saturday or a Sunday.

Plans for the New Year?  Yes, yesterday we purchased tickets to spend the Summer with the family back in England.  Miss K will celebrate her 7th Birthday surrounded by family both old and new as she, and I, will have several cousins that we have not yet met, and one is still to be born.  To say that we’re both excited is an understatement.  John will join us for the last 3 weeks but Kirsten and I will have 7 weeks in total with a couple of trips within trips too.  She’s already asking if she can take certain items with her.  There is no way we can do a count down for just under 5 months.  I am going to have to purchase a calendar for her room so that she can mark it off there herself.  Some of you may remember from years back that we did a 7 week countdown for a 5 week trip to England for Christmas and that was exhausting.  Anyone any other ideas or suggestions?


Trip to the UK: March 13 – April 3 (Part 3 – Highworth/Swindon)

August 5, 2012

Finally I get to the last section.  John’s parents rented a mini van and were kind enough to drive us up to Highworth (a small town just outside of Swindon, Wiltshire where my parents live) on Thursday 22 March.  We more than appreciated that they did this as it was a long day for them driving us up and then staying for lunch before driving home to Worthing again.  After Ann and Bill had left we took a gentle walk into Highworth (only 5 minutes from my parents) and then finished the trip by coming back past the park so that Kirsten could let off some steam.  Kirsten also found the trampoline in Nanny and Grampy’s garden that belongs to her older cousin, Chloe, and had many hours of fun on that during our stay.  Nora and Steve came over a little later once Steve had got home from work, with their son, my nephew, Simson.  This was our first time of getting to meet him and he was 13.5 months old.  Kirsten and Simson hit it off straight away.

I have to admit I don’t really remember what we did on Friday 23.  Saturday though we met up with Nora and family and their friend, Ben, who was also visiting and we drove off to a local farm, Roves Farm.  It was beautiful weather and we all had a wonderful time seeing the animals and walking the nature trail.  Nora helped Kirsten complete the nature trail leaflet (there were stamps all along the trail) which meant Kirsten got to hand it in and get a lollipop.  We drove back via Asda/Walmart and picked up dinner for everyone as my Mother had been at Cirencester Farmers’ Market that morning.  She has had a stall with a number of women selling home made foods and preserves for about the last 10-15 years and so has a very early start and is exhausted at the end of the day. Kirsten was exhausted too when we got “home” and fell asleep on the sofa in the living room, which for those of you who know us, also know that this never happens.

Sunday morning the three of us met up with Steve and Ben at the car park for the Uffington White Horse.  Again, another glorious day.  We were so lucky with the weather on this trip that we made the most of every last minute of it.  The Uffington White Horse is only about a 20 minute drive from my parents house and that was with me trying to remember the way in my head through the country lanes after not having been in over 10 years.  After a walk around the hillside for a couple of hours we decided to head across to Lechlade, the source of the River Thames.  Steve and Ben were going to come too, but after a chat with Nora they headed home to help out with Simson for a litle while.  Lechlade turned out to be extremely popular that afternoon due to the weather, but we managed to find a parking spot and had our walk along the Thames. When we got back to my parents in Highworth we found my father working with his bees.  Yes, he’s a Beekeeper and has been for over 20 years.  He also trains people that want to become beekeepers.  My Grandmother arrived a few minutes after us.  She has also lived in Highworth for about 20 years and typically joins my parents for dinner at least one day at the weekend.  It is slow, but she walks from her house to my parents although typically someone will drive her home again. She is in her 90s!  Nora, Steve, Simson and Ben then arrived to have dinner at my parents too.  My Mum loves to have a full house.  She’s used to a family of 6 but any excuse for a gathering and we’re all there.

Monday we drove across to Bicester to go to the Outlets.  We try and get here every visit and we noticed there had been a big change since our last visit.  There had been an expansion and they really, truly now are Designer outlets.  Kirsten passed out in the car back to my parents which is just as well as by the time we got back, my niece Chloe, she was 12 at the time, had arrived after school and my Aunt and Uncle, Kate and Stephen, who actually live in Chicago, were visiting the UK and spending the night with my Grandmother came over to my parents to say hello too.  My cousin, Rose, their daughter, was then staying on for a couple of months.  Rose had actually visited us in Phoenix for a night a couple of years ago when Kirsten was only a few years old.

Tuesday morning, Nora had invited us over to keep her and Simson company at their house in Wroughton.  It was a relaxing time and Kirsten got to spend some quality time with her cousin.  They even did some art work together that I brought home and had framed.  It is now hanging on her bedroom wall as a reminder of a lovely morning.  We left when Simson needed to go down for his nap after lunch.  Kirsten spent the afternoon trying to master the balance beam in the back garden at my parents house.  That evening John and I went out to curry with some of my friends to celebrate my birthday.  The Indian Restaurant was in Wanborough.  The restaurant was called The Burj and although I was out of practice in understanding the accents of the waiters they gave me a souvenir mug to take home as a birthday gift.  The food was delicious and the company of my friends was equally as good.  My friend, Kerry, organises an Indian meal out every time we return to visit England and both John and I appreciate this very much.

Wednesday was our last day before family and friends were due to start arriving from Norway.  Again, the weather was beautiful so we decided to take a day trip up to Cadbury World.  Definitely worth at least one visit in your lifetime especially if you have a sweet tooth and love your chocolate.  I enjoy chocolate, but Kirsten and John have extreme sweet teeth.  We didn’t book our tickets in advance but purchased them on the day.  Thankfully we arrived early in the day as there were a lot of school trips.  Word to the wise, if you are not going to arrive soon after opening make sure you have booked your tickets in advance.  On entering the exhibit you are each provided with a couple of full size bars of chocolate.  Trying to explain to Kirsten she could not eat these all at once was not easy and by the end of our visit although she’d not eaten everything she’d had more than enough chocolate.  On our return to Highworth/Swindon area we decided to make a surprise visit to the older of my two brothers, Magnus, and his partner, Kim and their children.  They were just getting home from shopping so that was perfect.  We spent a couple of hours with them before heading back to my parents house.

Thursday my friend Irene was flying in from Norway to visit for my birthday weekend.  Irene and I met when I was at Seljord Folkehogskole from 1990-1991.  We have managed to see each other a couple of times since this time.  A visit for a 5 year reunion; then Irene met myself and John in Denmark in late 2006 when I was pregnant and travelling with John on a business trip; then most recently when Kirsten and I went to Norway for the long weekend end of 2010 we took the bus to Larvik, where Irene lives, and stayed overnight with her and her family.  I was thrilled that Irene had agreed to come over to England to help celebrate my birthday.  John, Kirsten and I drove to Heathrow to collect Irene as she was staying with us at my parents house.  My Aunt, Anne, well she’s really my Mum’s best friend from childhood and is classed as “Aunt” was also flying into Heathrow today, but not till later.  She was bringing her daughter, Margrethe, with her.  Margrethe is my Mother’s Goddaughter.  They were staying at a local bed and breakfast during their stay.  Anne and Margrethe fly to England for every special event that they get invited to.  It was a leisurely late afternoon and evening.

Friday.  Well it’s my 40th birthday and we had decided to go and visit the sites starting out at Stonehenge and finishing at Avebury to see the Stone Circles.  It was a little overcast, but what a fantastic memory for my big day.  Thank you to everyone.  We were at Avebury Stone Circles and bumped into John’s parents.  They were coming to my party tomorrow, Saturday, but hadn’t known previously if they were going to come down the night before or not.  I insisted that they come over to my parents house later that day for Fish and Chip supper.  Anne and Margrethe also joined us for dinner.  I think the total was in the region of 12 or 13 and then my Aunt and Uncle and daughter, Clare, Thom and Victoria arrived a little later.  They had driven down from Edinburgh and were going to stay with my Grandmother.  Of course, we can’t forget that my cousin Rose, from Chicago, was also staying with my Grandmother so Victoria actually stayed at one of the local Bed and Breakfasts.  It was a lovely evening.

Saturday morning arrived and everyone was getting excited.  Today was my official birthday party and was being held at a Twelve Oaks Golf Club in Highworth. Over 40 members of friends and family came along.  My Dad went round and gave everyone labels so that people could tell how I met them.  I had friends from secondary school, friends from Norway, family, nieces and nephews.  It was wonderful that so many people wanted to help me celebrate.  Apologies to anyone that I forgot to mention.  Dinner was amazing and the room was large and spacious allowing us all room to move around and chat.  For those who could, we then went back to my parents house for tea and cake (very British I know for my American friends).  I can’t say it enough, but I had a wonderful day.

Sunday morning saw us going to the local craft shops.  Irene, like myself is also a craft enthusiast but, if I do say so myself, so much better.  She had asked to go to a local craft store.  My sister recommended Hobbycraft.  I’d never been as this was a new shop since we’d left England but would highly recommend.  Irene was in heaven.  The cost of craft supplies in Norway are extremely high so she made sure she stocked up. We had to say goodbye later that afternoon to Irene, Anne, Margrethe, my youngest brother, Conrad and his wife Marie-Clare.  Conrad and MC were driving home to Worthing and the others were all flying back to Norway on the same flight believe it or not.  My Dad drove them back to Heathrow this time.

Monday, our last day.  I had to work out the packing of everything.  Thankfully we had thought ahead and already prepaid an extra suitcase.  Definitely worth while and far cheaper.  It actually worked out cheaper than sending a package over.  There was a lot of weighing on the scales to distribute the weight back evenly.  We also drove across to see my Grandmother at her house and spend some time before saying goodbye plus took a last trip to the shops.  What a vacation.  We made the most of the beautiful weather.  In the 11 years (well almost) that we have been in Phoenix and traveled back for visits this was the best weather so far and we made the best of it.

Can you believe we flew home on Tuesday and John and I were back at work Wednesday morning and Kirsten was back in school too.  Yes, we were exhausted but it helped to get our body clocks back in sync that little bit faster.

Trip to the UK: March 13 – April 3 (Part 2, Worthing)

June 3, 2012

Saturday morning we vacated the hotel and took a taxi to the station where we then took the train down to Worthing.  John’s parents met us at the station.  There was a slight drizzle so Ann (John’s mother) and I walked home whilst John and Kirsten went with Bill (John’s Dad) back to the house with the cases.  There wasn’t room for all of us in the car and I was quite glad for the fresh air and time to chat with Ann.  We popped over to visit Karen and Guy in their house later that afternoon and saw all the work they’d done in the 15 months since our previous visit.

We were only staying until Thursday and managed to find plenty to keep us occupied.  On Sunday it had been arranged that many of John’s family members would come down for a visit.  I think in the end there were an additional 10.  It was wonderful to catch up with both old and new family members.  Kirsten hit it off with Ivanka, Will’s fiance.  I think it was a mutual admiration society going on.  Kirsten also got to play with her second cousins, Jessica and Adam.  Jessica is 5 weeks older than Kirsten.

On Monday we discovered Conrad (Sigrid’s youngest brother) was off work.  He and his wife MC also happen to live in Worthing so he came across and picked us up to take back to their house.  Last time we saw the house was before they had officially moved in so again it was good to see the changes.  The 4 of us (MC was at work) walked into Worthing and spent a number of hours ambling around town before heading back to the house.  Conrad was then kind enough to take us back to Ann and Bill’s in time for dinner.

Tuesday morning we headed out for a local walk to help Kirsten burn off some energy.  We got back just before John’s Uncle arrived.  After lunch we then all headed down to the beach front for another walk.  It was cold but the tide was out so Kirsten had a wonderful time.

Wednesday was then our last day in town so we took a trip into Chichester.  The weather was perfect and we had a lovely time.  In the evening we finished off with family dinner in a local restaurant (7 of us total) which was really nice.  We knew it wasn’t a total goodbye as John’s parents and sister and husband were all going to come up to Highworth a week later to help celebrate my 40th.

London Photo Update

June 3, 2012

Just a quick note.  On reading the last blog post that I’d written my husband turned round and said “what do you mean you’ve deleted the pictures…they’re on my phone!?  So you see turning 40 completely mushed my memory.  The pictures that were on his phone included one that was taken on our brief visit into the Apple Store at Covent Garden then numerous from our visit with my Godmother including pictures of Kirsten’s nails (the one hand done at Hamleys and the other done at Harrods). There are also a number of pictures that were taken in and around Hamleys and in and around Harrods too.

I am thrilled that I found that I’d not lost these so I hope you enjoy seeing them too.

Trip to the UK: March 13 – April 3 (Part 1, London)

May 6, 2012

So we’ve been back a month and I’m not sure we’re over the trip yet as Kirsten has been ill twice.  The first time round with sickness which is often how she gets with exhaustion/excitement but last week she was off school for almost a week with an extreme fever.  Nothing else was wrong, and by the time she went back to school both of us had cabin fever.  Let me tell you a little about our trip to England.

We left Phoenix on the overnight flight with British Airways to Heathrow on 13 March which got us into London (local time) around 2pm.   We had booked to stay in London for a couple of days so were reliant on public transport.  We used the Heathrow Express to take us from Heathrow to Paddington Station and then used a taxi to take us to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Regent’s Park.  We were checked in and unpacked by 4pm and decided the rest of the day was about Kirsten as she’d just spent 10 plus hours on an airplane so we walked to the Disney Store Oxford Street.  She went to bed easily enough that night but had a bought of jet lag through the night.

Thursday we were all booked up in London for the Duck Tour; the London Eye and also a London Eye River Cruise as we had purchased a package.  All the tickets had been purchased online prior to our trip and I highly recommend all these.  We were also so lucky with the weather with brilliant weather which is highly unusual. After all of these activities we then took the underground (having bought ourselves a day pass) to Leicester Square and walked through to Covent Garden.  We asked someone for a recommendation for dinner and ended up at a restaurant called Nandos (definitely recommend). We got back to our hotel around 9pm and couldn’t believe that Kirsten was still on her feet.

Friday we started out by walking down to Hamleys and letting Kirsten wander around the store for about 90 minutes.  We came out having spent less than I thought which I am proud of but did make sure that we purchased our Paddington Bear supplies.  Whilst in Hamleys Kirsten also got the nails done on one hand.  It was really cute, but unfortunately I was silly enough to delete the photos off my phone without saving them so I can’t show you what they looked like.  We then made our way to Fortnum and Mason as we were meeting my Godmother, Jennifer, and her husband Charles there.  We were lucky enough to be taken to lunch by them at the Fountain Restaurant in Fortnum and Mason.  We all highly recommend the fish and chips.  Nothing will ever surpass that.  After lunch we said goodbye to Charles and the rest of us took the bus across to Kensington and Harrods.  We ended up in the toy department where Jennifer treated Kirsten to her first Harrods Bear.  I was treated to a bear from Harrods by Jennifer many years ago too.  Thank you Jennifer.  Kirsten also managed to get the nails on her other hand painted, again, silly, but deleted off the pictures from my phone without saving (duh)!

We then had to say goodbye to Jennifer and she pointed us in the right direction (the number 74 bus to Baker Street Station) and then walked back to our hotel past Madame Tassauds, Royal School of Music and Harley Street for our last night in London.

I will continue the next part of our stay in my next post.

Trip To England – Third and Final Part (December 25 – January 4, 2011)

February 14, 2011

After opening our stockings and eating our breakfast on Christmas morning we drove from my parents in Highworth, Wiltshire to John’s parents in Worthing, West Sussex.  For those of you who still aren’t sure the best I could explain is it is a little further round the coast from Brighton.  On arrival in Worthing (we made it by 1pm) John’s Uncle, Uncle John, had arrived minutes before us.    He had driven down to spend the day with us and enjoy Christmas dinner made by John’s mother.  

Our first full day in Worthing, Boxing Day, John, Kirsten and myself decided to take a walk along the sea front.  We made it to the pier just as the Boxing Day Dippers   were running into the sea for charity.  I have done some stupid things in my time but I would never do this for charity or not but I admire those who did as I hasten to add that it was all of about 32F outside of the water.  The afternoon was spent back with John’s parents and also John’s sister, Karen and her husband, Guy.  We ate another Christmas dinner (not complaining there) and yet another selection of gifts to open.  Kirsten was introduced to the book/film of “The Gruffalo”.  Her Uncle provided her with the small soft toys of both The Gruffalo and the mouse too.

We are lucky in that all our family is spread between 2 towns in England.  My parents, the older of my 2 brothers and my sister all live in the Swindon area.  In Worthing it is John’s parents, sister and husband and then the younger of my 2 brothers and his wife.  This meant that we also got to see a fair bit of my brother, Conrad and his wife Marie-Claire.

  December 27 we decided to drive across to Chichester and do a little shopping.  It meant we also got a chance to see some of the sales.  I spent some of Kirsten’s Christmas money and bought her a beautiful smocked Cath Kidston dress and myself a book but other than that we managed to refrain from spending too much money.  On the Thursday evening, December 30, we all went out to see the pantomime of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  Kirsten was a little scared at parts of it, but all in all we had a great time and discovered that Kirsten is now old enough to sit through a performance.  Eight of us went in all: John’s Mum; the 3 of us; Karen and Guy (John’s sister and husband); and my brother and wife.  We started New Year’s Eve out by going to Arundel.  I had never been there although it is only about 20 minutes drive from Worthing.    We drive past whenever we go to John’s parents but we had never actually gone into the town to discover how beautiful it was.  We started out at Swanbourne Lake so that Kirsten could feed the ducks although I think it was more like feeding the fish as right beneath where we were standing was a huge fish, and everytime Kirsten threw in some breadcrumbs it came up and ate them.    That fish, whatever it was, would have made a very nice meal for a large family.  That evening, we met up again with Karen, Guy, Conrad and Marie-Claire for dinner at one of the local eateries  followed by seeing the New Year in at John’s parents.  Conrad and Marie-Claire actually left us around 10pm or rather I took them to their new house as they were in the process of moving out of a flat and into a house and they wanted to see the New Year in in their new house.  That made perfect sense to us.  I cheated and took pictures of the fireworks in London on the tv as Big Ben chimed us in.

  We spent New Year’s Day with Conrad and MC in Brighton and my other brother, Magnus, and his partner, Kim drove down and met us there a little later in the day.  We did a lot of walking around the town and enjoying the weather.  Magnus and Kim met up with us on the sea front just as we were heading to the pier.  Kirsten, during the course of this trip, had started enjoying all the rides  that we kept seeing so she cost us a small fortune but she had fun and plenty of memories which I felt played an important role in this trip.  We finished the day out by heading back to Worthing and getting a quick guided tour around Conrad and MC’s new house   (they had not yet moved in) before having pizza for dinner back at their flat.  Kirsten’s big intrigue was disovering that they even had special Christmas toilet paper.  Suffice to say that she was so fascinated by it that the next thing we know, on her next visit to the bathroom, she managed to unwind almost the entire roll.  Yup!

Sunday 2 was time for our final walk along the beach front in Worthing.  Again it was all of 32F but Kirsten and I both had an ice cream whilst on the Pier.  Kirsten also had a couple of lollipops too. We finished our couple of miles out by letting Kirsten play in the playground close to where we had parked before all heading back to John’s parents for dinner. 

Little Miss Super Cool!

Our last full day in Worthing included a trip to Tesco to pick up any last minute items/groceries that we wanted/needed to bring back with us and then I was trying to fit everything into our cases.  I managed to get most of it in, but they were all overweight so had to pay for excess baggage on check-in to British Airways.  Oh well.  It was a great trip but I also have to admit it was nice to get home.

We have a lot of wonderful memories, even more pictures, and yes, although I was behind in getting the blog up-to-date and keeping you all  informed of what was going on the Shutterfly photo book is completed and printed, the flip videos have been emailed out and our Shutterfly share site is up-to-date!

Talk to you all again soon and let you know of the current goings on.

Finally Trip to England Part 2 (December 15 – Christmas Morning)

February 14, 2011

Hip hurray I’m finally sitting down and writing part 2.  John arrived in England on Wednesday 15 and I think it was the next day that everything ground to a halt because of the excessive snow.    We didn’t do as much out and about as we had thought we might as we just couldn’t get anywhere but it did mean we got to spend far more time with friends and family locally.  The last Saturday before Christmas, December 18, we went to the Designer Outlet Village in Swindon.  This should have been the busiest shopping day of the year and we arrived at about 4pm.  Within 30 minutes of us arriving they announced that due to the weather conditions they were closing at 5pm (3 hours early).  It didn’t really affect the customers are there just weren’t any!!!    On the Sunday morning we took a short walk from my parents house to Highworth Public Golf Course.    Although John and I have been together 10 years and it is a 2 minute walk from my parents’ house I had never taken John there before.  The scenery in the snow was spectacular.  It looked as though we were miles from anyone and anywhere which of course was not the case.  Kirsten was not happy having to walk with all the extra clothing on and because she was cold.  This was the case during much of our visit.  After 5 weeks I would say she was just about used to it.  At least now back in AZ where we have had some unusually low temperatures she has not fought with me over having to wear more clothing than normal.

Back to our visit.  The remainder of our stay in Highworth continued much as the first half with catching up with friends and spending a vast amount of time with my sister who had finished work and was on maternity leave.  Christmas Eve morning we all headed across to the small Cotswold town of Burford.  When I first met John this was where he lived and we lived there together for almost a year before moving out to Arizona.    Burford High Street is on a hill and we, or rather I, decided to park in the public car park at the bottom of the hill.  This was covered in snow and ice, and yes, when it came time to leave, we needed a little push in order to get out.  We were rather surprised that no effort had been made by the town to keep the car park or the road to it clear.  What we also found quite funny was that there was a sign in the car park asking patrons to park in marked bays only…what marked bays all we could see was snow.  Kirsten and Nora in front of Burford Church  For those of you who have never been to the Cotswolds go.  Burford is one of many small beautiful towns and is only a 20 minute drive from my parents, not that most of you would be visiting them.

I was extremely worried about my sister as we walked around Burford so was constantly holding onto her.  She was 7.5 months pregnant and I most certainly didn’t need her falling!!  Kirsten was happy though to have Aunty Nora along.

Served with cinnamon and lingonberry juice

  We went back to my parents in Highworth for lunch where we continued with one of many traditions I was raised with.  My mother is Norwegian so we typically have rice porridge.  My mother hides an almond in the main dish and whoever discovers the almond in their bowl of porridge wins a marzipan pig.  We eat our porridge with cinnamon and lingonberry juice on it.  Many others eat it with sugar and butter.  It is down to preference but it is a warm and filling dish.  My Mum had actually forgotten to buy a marzipan pig this year on our trip to Norway so my Dad found the almond and was given a selection box of chocolates which were shared around everyone at the dinner table.  All the girls (3 generations of Gregory women)

We had a relatively relaxing afternoon of my parents, my grandmother, Kirsten, my niece Chloe, John and myself,  and not forgetting my sister, Nora.  At about 4pm the girls (minus my grandmother) headed off to the nativity service at Highworth Church.  I have to admit we’re not church goers but growing up Christmas and Easter we always went.  The bonus was that when we got to the church they asked Chloe and Kirsten if they wanted to borrow Angel costumes so that they could participate in the nativity story.    Both of them were thrilled.  Highworth Church was beautiful with the snow and winter lights.  It definitely felt more like Christmas than if we had been here at home in Arizona, and I loved having the opportunity to spend it with my family.