Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Lasagna

Well, my four weeks home in America are coming to a quick close.  Can't believe it is almost time to go back to Derry.  I'm not super thrilled about it, I suppose you never want to leave home.  But, I know I have to get back because we've only got five more weeks until baby Concannon arrives and I can't have the baby here...I have no health insurance here...yikes!

So, what have I done in these past 4 weeks?  Let's see...

I've worked part-time at my old job.  It is nice to be able to come and go as you please and pick the hours you work...something which of course I couldn't do when working there full-time.

I had my baby shower which was super cute and nursery rhyme themed.  And, I had to buy another suitcase to fit all the baby stuff in to bring back to Derry with me and ship two boxes.  I can't help but wonder where we're going to put all this stuff in our little one bedroom flat.  How could something so teeny require so much stuff?

I went and saw the Nutcracker with my friend and her two lovely stepchildren, which I really enjoyed. The first time I saw it I wasn't that impressed, but I really liked it this time.

I've had lots of lunches and dinners with my friends and family which I think is evident on me arse.  Oh and of course all the Christmas cookies and candy have assisted with this.

I've seen my stomach (and feet and ankles) nearly double in size since I've gotten here.  Everything is bigger in America I guess...including my belly!

I've Christmas shopped my rear end off and I'm malled out.

I've killed Taco Bell and just about everything on the menu.  And, it in turned, killed my stomach.

I've gone to lots of different Zumba classes and went on lots of walks to keep up with exercise.

I finally learned what Braxton Hicks contractions feel like.

I have discovered that the baby has three inch Shaniqua finger nails.  Or, at least if feels like it!  I feel like my insides are being clawed by a grizzly bear at times.

I've also discovered that regardless of what I eat, the baby gets hiccups.

I enjoyed my mom's annual Christmas party.

I began the process of planning my friend's bridal shower and we picked out my Maid of Honor dress for her wedding in June and ordered it(which was fun doing with a massive baby bump) even though technically I'm the Matron of Honor although that term sounds awful so we're sticking with Maid of Honor.  We actually just ordered the dress online since the bridal shop mislead us in the discount we were to get from the bride having purchased her wedding dress there.  We were supposed to get 25% off the bridesmaid dress, but we're told right before ordering that that was only if you had three or more bridesmaids.  This was followed by a comment from the bride: "What?  I have a problem with that!  That's discrimination!  What if I only have three friends?!"  A question that remained unanswered by the bridal shop so we purchased elsewhere. So, there you silly overpriced, rude bridal shop!

I've caught up on all the driving I've missed.  And, the road rage that comes with it.

I've been tortured with these two questions: "When are you moving back?" and "Are you sure you're okay to fly?"  Answers to these are: "I don't know" and "Yes, of course I am, you can fly up to 36 weeks as long as you're healthy and I'm healthy and I'm not quite 36 weeks yet."  I considered briefly having a shirt made with the answers printed on them.  It reminds me of the questions I got when I announced our engagement. It was always the same question: "Where are you going to live?"  Then, after we got married, it was "When are you moving?"  Then, when I got to Ireland, I heard all the time, "So, how are you settling in?"  or from folks who didn't know me, "Are you from America?"  No worries though, I know everyone doesn't realize how many times I get asked the same thing over and over again lol, how could they I guess.

I enjoyed our annual Christmas dinner of Lasagna followed by a trip to the movies.  Yes, we eat lasagna on Christmas.  No, most Americans don't do this. Since we have the big meals (turkey, ham, potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, etc.) on Thanksgiving and usually for Christmas Eve, we're sick of turkey and ham by Christmas day, so we began having lasagna about 7 or 8 years ago, which I really like.  We saw We Bought a Zoo at the movies...class wee film it was.

And, of course, I've missed my hubby and kitties.

Oh, and I forgot to take photographs of any of this.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home for the holidays

Just a quick and dirty post here.  I've been home for the holidays for about a week and a half now.  I've got to partake in some of my favorite food items, a.k.a. Taco Bell, which was delectable.   But, I have eaten other stuff besides Taco Bell, too.  And, I have one major complaint!  Wendy's changed their burgers!  Gasp!  They now put sweet pickles on their burgers instead of dill pickles!  Guhross!!!!

I won't go on about food.  I have other stuff of note to mention as well. Last weekend was Mom's annual Christmas party.  I'll post some pictures, but they're crap pictures since I forgot to take any during the party, I had to hurry and get them fast before people left just so I'd have something to put up on the blog.  Here are my crap photos:

And, since I've landed in America, the baby has GROWN!  Just 8 more weeks to go! I'm twice the size I was when I left Ireland. With this increase in size has come an increase in pregnancy symptoms which I've been lucky enough to not have to deal with the whole pregnancy.  Yes, I now have a backache, a severe case of pregnancy rhinitis, a waddle that would put a duck to shame, swollen feet which have caused me to have to buy new shoes since all the shoes I've brought with me are too tight, about three new skin tags (yuck!), a baby who never stops hiccuping, leg cramps, terrible fatigue and heartburn that would choke a bear.  Hopefully, that line of hair that grows on your stomach and the stretch marks stay away.  My baby shower is this weekend, so I'll post photos of that, too!

I've also been working part-time at my old job so I'm staying busy!

That is all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The shutter goes down

At 6pm, Thursday, December 8, 2011, Barry locked the door of the shop, Elmwood Stores, and pulled the shutter down for the last time.  Even though Elmwood Stores has been there for many, many years, he has been the shopkeeper for nearly seven years. He has worked his ass off the past year and a half to try and keep things afloat...working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but unfortunately, no amount of work would help the economy recover.  I don't think people understand the amount of blood, sweat and tears he poured into that wee corner store...the hours he worked and the stress he put himself through. I'm very proud of him for his hard work.

After much contemplating, he made the difficult decision to close the doors due to the poor economy.  It seems, especially over the past few months, the economy has gone from bad to worse and unfortunately, staying open was no longer an option.  It is happening everywhere in Derry...shops that have been open for YEARS are deciding to call it quits because there is no business.  How could there be when no one is working?  It's a bad situation and who knows how long it will remain this way.

I know Barry is sad to have to close and so am I.  The shop has been a big part of our lives and it bothers me that our baby will never know this part of his/her parent's lives.  After all, the shop inspired part of my book, Coincidence.  Although, in the book it was named something different, not Elmwood  Stores.  The publication of the book, led to this article in the Derry Journal.  Love in a corner shop indeed.  There was much love there.

The shop also made an appearance in our silent movie, The Wedding Train, which Barry and I made for our 1920s themed wedding.  When the deejay introduced us into the reception, we didn't go in.  Instead, we played this silent movie before entering as a surprise to our guests.

After filming our movie.
The shop was also a place where I was welcomed to Derry:

My first day in Derry after moving here back in March.  Our two wee neighbors welcomed me with flowers.
There are many more photos I could post here of the shop and the many ways in which we've celebrated some of life's milestones within it's walls, but I won't.  It's best to just say the shop has served us well and we're sorry to see it go. But, we know after one door closes, another opens.  So, hopefully, a door will open soon.

Here we are a few days before the doors closed, knowing they would be the last photos of us in there:

Goodbye Elmwood Stores.  Thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Zumba Christmas get together

We had a little night out with some ladies from my Zumba classes on Saturday.  It was funny, especially considering I was the only sober one in the crowd given I'm nearly eight months pregnant.

At the River Inn, Derry, Ireland.
Some of the girlies had shirts made and then jumped out at the bar and performed a Zumba song.  The story behind the shirts is kind of a long story that involves one gal and a pledge to kiss my cats if I bring back an old Zumba song we used to do.
Then they gave me a Best Zumba Instructor in Derry award.  Lovely it was!
Zumba baby was there too!  Nothing classier than being a pregnant lady in a bar!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

So you want to move to another country?

I've gotten a couple of emails recently from some of my blog readers seeking advice for moving to another country.  For some of them, they fantasize about being able to move to a different country and start a different life and for others, they are actually taking that step and doing it.  Either way, talking about it and doing it are two completely different things.  Nothing is ever as you think it will be.  Here is my experience so far.  Keep in mind, I'm still trying to find my way here, too.  So, if you have advice for me, I'll take it haha!

I've been in Derry, Ireland now for nine months.  Cannot believe it has been nine months! Time has flown and it feels like I just got here.  I have to say, it hasn't been easy but, I don't know how easy it is to ever uproot one's life...quitting a job, leaving friends, family, car, basically everything you've ever known.  The hardest part was the first six months and even today, I still don't feel fully settled (maybe when they open a Taco Bell here...but, I dunno).  But, it has gotten easier.

The first six months I think are usually the hardest when it comes to moving to a different country.  Personally, I did my best to put on a brave face, put on my big girl pants and just get on with life.  Of course, that brave face was the one I wore when I was out in public.  At home, I was depressed. I managed to pull myself out of my depression long enough to teach my Zumba classes and I felt great at class, but at home, the depression returned. Barry had to witness the worst of it.  Probably the worst day was when I threw a box of scarves at Barry while I was deep in one of my crying fits.  Don't feel bad for him...it was only scarves, it's not like it was a box of books or anything.  But, the look on his face...one of pure confusion and a did-she-really-just-f******-throw-a-box-of-scarves-at-me look was priceless.  If only I would have thought to turn my video camera on we could have been YouTube sensations.

Anyway, I cried everyday for the first three months at least.  I cried because I wanted to go home. I cried because I had no friends here.  I cried because I missed my car. I cried because I missed my family.  I cried because it was like having to re-learn every aspect of my day-to-day life...aspects that you normally don't think about.  I felt almost as if I were recovering from a head injury.  A few examples of these different aspects are:

  • Even though English is spoken here in Derry of course...a lot of it I didn't understand. Do you know what it means when someone passes you on the street and randomly says "Alright" to you?  I didn't, but now I do (it means hello). Check out this blog post and this blog post to get an idea of some of the language differences.  
  • And, it took me nearly eight months to be able to open my own bank account here simply because I wasn't a citizen.  And, because of that there are about a dozen extra hoops you have to jump through to do the simplest things...like opening a bank account or even getting a established in a doctor's office.  
  • And, I had to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road.  Which, I did...here's proof.
  • I had to re-learn how to use a washing machine and a dishwasher.  Remember this post from my second week here where I babysat Barry's two nieces for a week?
Of course, no one's experiences will be exactly the same as mine, but it may give you an idea.

Now, nine months later, the crying spells have more or less stopped and I'm slowly beginning to feel less and less like a fish out of water.  Of course there are still moments...some weird, some awkward and some just plain hateful, but for the most part it's easier.

Just remember if you ever do move somewhere else, it will be hard, but if you have a good reason to do it, it does make it all worth it.  Here was and is my reason and the only way I think I've kept myself sane throughout this process:

My wonderful husband, Barry.
And, of course, another reason has been my wonderful Zumba classes and participants who have made me feel welcome and at home and have given me energy to keep on keeping on:

Here's a few of them from our Zumba Halloween Party...all dressed up and lookin' good!
Plus, being in a different country makes going home to visit that much more precious and it makes you realize and appreciate your friends and family more which is why I'm so looking forward to going home for Christmas this year...not to mention, I'll be going through the Taco Bell drive through about a dozen times while I'm there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No turkey wurkey for me

It's Thanksgiving week back in America, and I won't be there this Thanksgiving Thursday to partake in the turkey, dressing and all the other deliciousness that comes along with the holiday and..GASP...I won't be there for Black Friday!  Which, may be for the best...the crowds, etc...it's exhausting.  I am looking forward to going home for Christmas though (when I'll also be going to a baby shower being thrown for me by my friends and family...just a few more months to go until Baby Concannon makes his/her debut) so at least there's that.  I did, however, have a dream last night that I was driving in America and I kept driving on the wrong side of the road since I'm so used to the side of the road used here.  Um, hopefully that won't happen.

 It's the first time I've never been home for Thanksgiving, so I'm not super thrilled about it.  Anyway, I thought I'd post a few photos of some previous Thanksgiving days (well just last year) for old times sake.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!  It's the Thanksgiving turkey butcher!  Run turkeys run!  Na...that's just my brother.  I don't think he reads my blog, so I'm sure he won't mind me posting this.
The bird that didn't have a chance.
Me and my niece Madison.

A few of the dessert options...pumpkin pie, pecan pie and yum yum.

The aftermath.  We de-boned that Turkey.
In the end, the turkey won.

I've been asked a few times to explain what Thanksgiving actually is and what it means and I seem to have a hard time explaining it, so for anyone here in Derry that isn't too sure about what it is, here's a link to Wikipedia...maybe they can explain it better haha.

And, it can also be summed up pretty well by Adam Sandler and his Thanksgiving song...listen below:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Winter Wonderland

I've decorated our house and the shop a bit early for Christmas this year.   Actually, I did it just a few days after Halloween.  I figured I might as well since Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here and because I'm going home for Christmas...otherwise I wouldn't be able to enjoy the decorations.  I realize the first week of November is incredibly early, but lucky for me, I'm not the one who has had to listen to people give us a hard time about decorating the shop for Christmas so early...Barry is since he's down there most of the time anyway.  Oh well...I'm spreading the Christmas cheer a little early this year!  Ha!  Take that...yeah!  I'll show you some pics here but don't get your hopes up on how elaborate the decorations are because they're not!  They were all bought at the pound shop...so, they may appear quite cheesy.  Enjoy this Derry winter wonderland.

If you turn your head to the right and try to see how the image is supposed (frickin' blogger) to appear you will see pretty stickers on the soda fridge.  I feel the Christmas spirit already. I think I need to sing as I finish the rest of this blog post. "Rockin' around the Christmas tree..."

I hope Santa leaves us something good in these stockings!  "Sleigh bells ring are you listening..."

Who doesn't love snowmen and Christmas tree stickers on a window!?  "In the meadow we can build a snowman..."

And what could possibly make a display of crisps (chips) more festive than a red bow?  "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..."

Ah...the best part:  Red and gold foil jingle bells taped to the ceiling in key places to add to the holiday charm.  "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."
Our mini Christmas tree in our flat.  "Have a holly jolly Christmas..."

Our intricately hand-designed stockings.  One for me, Barry, Charlie and Fox.  "These three kings..."
Okay...singing done for now.

49 again...

Today's my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday!

At my wedding rehearsal.  Sept. 17, 2010

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday night

It's Saturday night. If my 22 year old self could see me now, she'd be shocked.  As a 22 year old, what constituted a rockin' Saturday night included drinking with my friends at my local favorite college bar in Huntington, West Virginia--The Union.  In fact, one of my best friends and I could knock back about 3 or 4 pitchers of beer between us before racing to Taco Bell and then scooting home to beat the sunrise.

Fast forward 9 years.  Now, I'm 31 and it's Saturday night. What now constitutes a rockin' Saturday night for me and Barry includes playing YouTube videos of cat noises to see what kind of reaction we get from our cats.  Which is what we did tonight.  Please, don't be jealous of our rockin' lifestyle.  Here are some of the videos we played that got the most reaction from our cats:

This one above stressed them out a lot but it amused Barry and I.  It's freakin' cool, actually.

Okay, well that's all for now.  End of boring cat video post.  Back to my rockstar lifestyle now.  Yep, all sex, drugs and rock n' roll here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm a cow and a ram

Not too much to report here in Derry recently...well, besides the fact that my bladder is constantly being dropped kicked by a 2lb fetus.  Can't wait til February when my schedule doesn't revolve around trips to the loo.  Oh, and I decorated Barry's shop for Christmas...yes, a teeny bit early, but since I'm going back to the States for Christmas, I thought it best to go ahead and get them up early so we can enjoy them.  I'll post pics of this winter wonderland courtesy of the pound shop later.  So, in the meantime, here are a few photos taken from when my mom and brother were here visiting last month.

"What are you looking at?"  Those are some fly earrings cow...supa fly.
A waterfall along the causeway coastal route near Benone Beach.

Dunluce Castle

There's a teeny rainbow there in the background.  As there should be!  We get enough rain here I should see a rainbow 24 hours a day.
Slieve League Cliffs in Co. Donegal.
Giant's Causeway
Me and my bro at Victoria's Square in Belfast overlooking the city.
Shot taken from Grianan the ancient ring fort just outside of Derry.

"I'm a ram."
These are some photos taken just a few blocks from where we live in Derry.  These are the famous Bogside Murals by the Bogside Artists.  These murals depict the modern troubles in Derry.