Thursday, 14 February 2019

A Very Merry Un-Valentine's

At the risk of sounding bah-humbug and party pooper-ish, it's quite liberating being in the UK on Valentine's Day. Nothing required at school, no last minute card-buying for distant relatives and no themed decor. Not a word of a lie - one year in the US, I was even given Valentine's homework for my youngest child to take back in. Coz you know, parents with three kids just don't have enough to do.

Although the shops in England are decked out with Valentine's tat stuff, when I looked for a card to send to my in-laws in the US, there was ONE card available that wasn't for a spouse! No Valentine cards for sons, daughters, grandmas etc. Nothing. It's a romantic affair over here, that's for sure.

In my former life as a mother to kids in an American school, I obviously really didn't have enough to do when I look back on the Valentine's Day things I have made. (It might also have been something to do with getting the kids in bed by 7.30pm and having the whole evening to craft to my heart's content.)

When kids are little, they're often asked to take cards or little gifts into school for their classmates. Never one for store bought rubbish, one year I made 20 little red and pink net bundles, each containing a handful of Hershey kisses (red and silver) and tied with a red bow. I know. Another year I found small doilies in the shape of a heart, so we set about making handmade cards for their friends. (Note - I did rope the kids in once they got old enough.)

I think I peaked when one of the kids was asked to take in something for the whole class, and we made a less faffy version of this - 
Instead of using fresh roses (like that was ever a consideration), we ripped up small pieces of pink and red tissue paper, crunched them up and stuck them onto a cardboard heart (painted red, of course). Two holes punched at the top of the heart, red ribbon strung through, and there's your classroom decoration - which the teacher actually kept and brought out again until it literally fell apart.

Another bit of genius came when I made a mosaic heart, photographed it and used the image for everything remotely Valentine related for about the next five years. (Obviously the crafter in me was beginning to take a back seat.)


These are fiddly but easy to do. You can also do birthday cakes, Xmas trees etc. 

So yes, Valentine's Day in the UK is definitely a calmer occasion, but I did get possibly the poshest box of chocolates I've ever had! 

And look - there's only one missing!!
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Thursday, 24 January 2019

Passport Panics

I was reading a thread the other day on the Two Fat Expats Facebook page, (which I highly recommend). It started with this photo, then immediately launched a flurry of "passport panic" stories, as you'd expect.

Can you just imagine?

I have to say though, (and I realise I might be jinxing things), that in almost 30 years of flying back and forth across the Pond, usually with children in tow, I only had one personal panic, but it still has the capacity to make my stomach flip. 

About three years ago, I was flying from Chicago to London with my youngest, while middle and husband were following in a few days. Being Mrs. Ever-So-Organized, I put middle's passports into a plastic bag, clearly labelled, and pinned it to the ever-so-organised cork board in the kitchen. Got to the airport for our 6pm Friday overnight flight; pulled passports out at check-in desk - to see middle's face staring up at me. 

Everything went blurry until brain kicked in. "Oh don't worry, I can just fly on my other passport", I assured myself. (Which might have caused problems, as they don't like you using your other passport in US airports.) Pulled UK passport out, middle child staring back up again. Yikes. What to do, what to do? And let me tell you, those check in people are sticklers for the correct documentation - Driving licenses? Global Entry cards? I tried everything. I was begging. 

Long story short (me berating myself, making tentative booking onto 9pm flight, texting cousin who was picking me up at Heathrow, etc. etc), miraculously got hold of middle, instructed him to get "his" passport off the notice board, jump in my car and fly like the wind to the airport. How he made it to O'Hare in Friday rush hour traffic in the time he did will remain his little secret, but that was one stressful 40 minutes! Fortunately, we made it with THREE minutes left to check in and a few families nearby actually came up and congratulated me. I must have looked more ashen than usual!

And I'll NEVER do that again. These days, those passports are thoroughly inspected about 5 times before we cross the threshold and as many again en route to the airport.

There were some other hilarious tales on the Facebook thread though -

The women who, to prevent a meltdown, let her two year old hold her own passport in the immigration queue, only to find that when she took it from her to present it, there were no pages inside. Frantic search around the immediate area to locate all the pages, which immigration miraculously allowed through. 

Or the woman who's toddler chewed through the cover. Come to think of it, my husband's passport has two dog teeth marks through the front cover - but it doesn't seem to mess things up, thank goodness.

But I know if my children were still small, I'd be following the recommendation of one mother - who keeps their passports under lock and key!


Monday, 21 January 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Haven't blogged here for a while and was wondering whether to leave it and move on. But I can't. It'd be like leaving one of my children by the side of the road. Come to think of it, I've been more tempted to do that on several occasions. (Mother of the Year award recipient, once again.)


I'm currently writing more at my column on the Anglotopia web site. Initially it was called The Repat Report, but since I've now been back in the UK for about 18 months (Yikes - time flies), it's called A Brit Back Home, and you can catch up with it here.

I've been chatting about things I've noticed that are different about the UK since I moved away in 1990. A lot, considering there wasn't even t'Internet then! Ye Olde Days.

But it's the little things that seem to get conversations going - like the latest post about printed duvets, and whether sheets or duvet covers are the way to go. Who knew that topic would be so polarizing? 


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