Everything’s Just a Little Different

As you all know, we’ve recently moved from our home in Texas to live in England for a few years.  When Colin got the job offer and we were discussing whether to take it, our children, of course, played a huge role in the conversation.  How would it affect them?  Would they easily adapt to all of the changes?  Would they have a hard time with their new home? I have to tell you in all honesty, they are now helping me with the adjustment without even knowing what they’re doing.

My boys are only 1 and 3, so I can only speak to this young age group.  We haven’t had to deal with older children who are leaving lifelong friends or high school sweethearts behind and I imagine that could result in a totally different outcome.  I must say, though, that I am astounded by how well they’ve done.  Ian, the three year old, has had a lot of questions, and they began as soon as we got off the plane and into our taxi.  He noticed immediately that the driver was sitting on the “wrong” side of the car.  Then it was the double decker buses, the fact that we were living in an apartment, and why his favorite shows weren’t on TV.  The one year old has been absolutely enthralled with little things, like the switches on the electrical outlets and the fact that the washer is in the kitchen, right where he can reach it!  But you know what?  They’ve easily accepted all of the change.

I think it’s easy to forget how set we adults are in our own ways.  While I’m struggling with finding cheese and BBQ sauce that suit my taste buds, my boys are chowing down without question.  I’m still trying to get my normal bedtime lined back out and dealing with exhaustion throughout the day, and they adjusted after the first few days.  It is absolutely astounding how adaptable youngsters can be.  That first day, after noticing so many odd sights around him, Ian kept asking the age old question of “Why?”  I responded by explaining to him that we are on a fun, new adventure in a different country and that “Everything’s just a little different here.”  It has become our family motto and gets tossed about daily.  And lately, he has started noticing all of the similarities between our hold home and our new, like the fact that there are horses in England, just like we used to see in Texas.  🙂

We are a very routine oriented family.  Our schedules might be flexible, but our routines are typically not.  Lunchtime might get pushed to 1 instead of noon, but nap time must follow; that kind of thing.  They’ve held on tightly to their routines and treated everything as normally as possible.  In short, they’re doing great in their new home and are even appreciating the little things that make living here different, but wonderful.  They both get terribly excited when I get the stroller out in the middle of the day to walk to the grocery store and they love watching the magpies out our living room window.  It’s these little things that have helped to keep me grounded and remind me that there’s so much to see and do, and that while, “everything’s just a little different,” it’s also a fun world full of new and exciting details to take in.  It’s also a reminder that no matter how far from home we are, or how different things get, as long as we have each other everything is A-okay!

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My Goal for Me in 2014

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I’m not one for New Year resolutions and frankly, life has been so busy lately that I really didn’t have time to put a lot of thought into one this year.  However, with a new year, there is always a desire in me to start something new; to really make some positive things happen in the upcoming year.  This year, like many, my goal for the year is to get healthier.  I don’t know if it has been the constant food binge of the holidays or all of the uncertainty and instability in my day-to-day life of late, but I definitely need to work on things.  So this year, my health is my goal.

I have struggled with my weight my entire life.  I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t an issue for me.  I’ve lost a little, gained, lost a little, and gained since I first became aware of my weight in the third grade.  I was able to keep it in check through most of high school, largely through starvation dieting.  Healthy, right?  Toward the end of college, I put on quite a bit and knew something had to be done.  So the spring after I graduated and before law school started in the fall, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 62 pounds.  It was a great experience for me.  My confidence was higher, I slept better, and I was happy.  I even met my goal weight and managed to keep it off through most of law school.  Since then, however, I have acquired a husband, two wonderful little boys, and a much, much busier lifestyle that does not necessarily cater to my own needs.  I have also gained all (and a little more) of the weight back.  So again, something must be done.

The primary objective this time is my health, rather than my looks.  I have a 3 year old and 1 year old and within the next few years, we would like to add number three to the mix.  It isn’t possible for me right now, though.  As most moms, I have very little time for myself.  If I get to read a book for 30 minutes before I crash at night, I feel as if I’ve done something.  I’m not complaining, as I feel very blessed to be able to stay home with my little ones, but I know I need to change this.  There is no way I can go into a third pregnancy with the weight still on.  It’s time for a lifestyle change.  And since we’re already making huge changes in the Wier household and because a new year means new goals, today is the day to start changing.  Once we move out of the apartment we are currently in and into a new home, I plan to join Weight Watchers again.  Increased exercise is also part of the plan.  Although I spend very little time sitting down these days, it isn’t the same as actually devoting time to working out.   Just as importantly, my goal is to set aside at least an hour a day for myself; just to recharge my own batteries.

I know New Year’s resolutions and goals aren’t for everyone, but if you are planning something similar for 2014, I would love to hear from you.  Maybe we can offer each other some support and encouragement along the way.  Even if losing weight isn’t your aim, please share.  Happy New Year everyone! (Hey, I’ve been busy over the last few weeks!)  Here’s to a healthier 2014!

Wier Family Update: We Made It!

Hi everybody!  We three ladies have been gone for a while with Christmas, New Years, and all the travelling we’ve done.  I hope you had the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons!  Here in the Wier family, we are definitely ringing in our new year with a bang.   We have made our move to England and are currently all set up in our furnished apartment in Oxford.  A lot of people have been asking how things are going for us, so today’s post is just an update on everything in our family.

Where to begin?  It’s been a crazy few weeks.  We moved out of our house in Texas in the middle of December and it was much more bittersweet than I had expected.  We had wonderful neighbors (seriously…the kind you get once in a lifetime) and after 2 ½ years, we had started to become part of the community.  After the movers came and took all of our things away, we loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies and headed to my Mom and Dad’s in Kentucky for a couple of weeks to celebrate Christmas and New Years.  It was the perfect stopping point.  We were able to spend time with our friends and family and it was incredibly relaxing after the weeks and weeks of move prep we had been doing.

January 1st was move day.  Declan woke us up at 5:30 that morning and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since that’s when we got the notification that our first flight from Lexington to Chicago had been cancelled.  Colin quickly got on the phone and we were able to rebook flights from Charleston, WV to Washington DC to Heathrow.  It was a very long travel day, but I have to say that the boys both did great, considering how exhausted we all were.  Colin and I didn’t get much sleep on the flight over, but the boys slept the whole way.

We were picked up by a driver and arrived at our apartment in Oxford around 1:00 PM on the 2nd and spent the evening unpacking our eight suitcases and four carry-on bags.  We got more than a few odd stares in the airport, but were able to bring all of the boys’ Christmas gifts with us so that they would have plenty of toys to play with until all of our other things arrive at the end of January.

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All of our luggage. 🙂

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Colin squeezed in with all of the luggage on the way to our apartment.

After we all slept between 12-14 hours Thursday night, we woke up on Friday and the real fun started!  Colin picked up the rental car and successfully drove back to the apartment on the “wrong” side to pick us up.  Then it was off to the grocery store.  That was quite the experience.  Did you know that the shopping carts go sideways here?  In the US when you’re pushing your cart it goes forward and backward.  Here, the wheels pivot and you can push it sideways, even spinning it in circles if you’d like.  This is incredibly convenient, but it also means that it can get a little out of control if you aren’t careful.  I almost lost the cart twice on our first trip out.  It was difficult to find anything in the store as I’m not used to where things would be found on the shelves.  The eggs, for example, were not refrigerated.  This threw me, as I was looking for them in the refrigerated section.  When you’re checking out here, there is a cashier sitting behind the register.  She scans the food, but then you have to bag it yourself.  I had been warned of this in advance, but I wasn’t prepared to find only three bags on the counter.  I had $300 worth of groceries and three bags!  I had to act like the American that I am and ask the cashier what to do about the bags.  It turns out that as you use the bags on the counter, she reaches underneath and pulls out a few more for you.  Good to know!

After finishing up at the grocery store, we drove out to meet our estate agent (realtor) and view a house.  We were so pleasantly surprised.  The house was amazing. It was very large, with plenty of space and exactly what we needed.   However, it was 23 miles away from Colin’s work.  With gas prices being so expensive here ($9.58 per gallon as of this morning), that’s a long haul for Colin to drive everyday.  It is also a good possibility that there will be more houses built just behind the house while we’re living there, meaning lots of noise to contend with during construction.

Following that, we drove back to Headington, the part of Oxford where our apartment is located, and were able to set up our bank accounts.  I’ve heard over and over that this would be difficult since we don’t yet have a permanent address, but thankfully, it was not.  Within an hour, we were all set up and the boys had charmed all the ladies at the bank.

Saturday morning, Ashley came over with her family and we finally got to meet Chris!  That was really nice as we’ve felt like we’ve known him forever already.  They watched the boys for us while we went with the estate agent and viewed six more houses.  We found our number one pick and immediately put an offer on it.  It’s less than two miles from Colin’s work , a mile and a half from any shopping we could want, and two miles from what will hopefully be Ian’s school.  We are hoping to know something definite by this evening.  When we came home, the kids were all happily playing and Chris and Ashley didn’t seem to be pulling their hair out, so we all ordered pizza and hung out for a few hours.  It is so wonderful to have family nearby and was like bringing a piece of home to us.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

On Sunday we drove into Oxford.  It is a beautiful, old city that dates back to 900 AD and is home to the world-renowned Oxford University.  We walked around the city for a bit and took some pictures and then headed back to the car to head off for a few more grocery items.  When we got home, we had a much needed lazy afternoon and I cooked a real supper for the first time in what seems like ages.

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One of the many beautiful buildings in Oxford.

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And another. Forgive the poor quality. A photographer I am not. 🙂

So here we are.  We’re all settled in and starting our new life in the UK.  Colin is back at work this morning and me and the boys are settled back into our daily routine.  It has been an exhausting month, really, and the relative normalcy is actually very welcome.  It will get crazy again when all of our belongings arrive and we move into a house, but for now, we are enjoying learning our way around and just being together.

Below are a few fun items I’ll throw at you from the perspective of a brand new expat.  🙂

Things I Have Found Funny/Didn’t Expect.

The thermostats in our apartment are found in every room.  Each room has a door, including the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, etc. so that you can set the heat for the rooms that you are using and you don’t have to worry as much about the other rooms.  The oddest thing, though, is that our thermostats range from 1 to 10.  We still aren’t sure what our “number” is.  I thought these numbers might be the temperature in Celsius, but that’s not it because the range would only be from about 34 to 50 degrees.  We’ve ended up turning them on about 2 in the main rooms and then sometimes opening a window to let more cool air in.  It’s so hard to get the temperature right!

Weird thermostat.

Weird thermostat.

Outlets

The boys are completely enthralled with the outlets here.  Not only do they look different than what they’re used to, but they also have on/off switches on them.  Once you plug something in, you have to turn the outlet on.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Declan playing with these switches.  I’m not sure if they are like that everywhere, or just in our apartment, but it’s a bit maddening!

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The outlets.

Bathrooms

A few notes on the bathrooms as we’ve been house hunting.  The master bathrooms are usually not very big and they have no storage in them.  I’m talking not even a medicine cabinet.  And a double vanity, which is standard in most new houses in my area of the US, is extremely rare.  The light switches to all of the bathrooms are outside the room and there are no electrical outlets in there either.  All of our toiletries and hair products are currently parked in a set of plastic drawers right outside the bathroom.  This is fine, but was definitely a bit of a shock when we got here!

Speed limits

Colin has been doing a great job with the driving.  He’s even gotten really good at the notorious round-abouts that are so difficult to figure out.  As we were driving home from viewing the house on Friday, however, we realized that we had a problem.  We had no clue what the speed limit was!  In the US, if you’re not sure, you can typically just keep driving and soon you’ll find a sign.  Not here!  We drove for miles and miles on what  we would consider a highway and never saw the speed limit!  We’ve since had Chris explain to us how it works.  Apparently, there are “national speed limits” on certain types of roads and if nothing is posted, that’s what you follow.  Good to know!

Most Annoying Thing

Laundry.  Hands down.  We have a very small washer/dryer in the kitchen.  I expected this and immediately started washing when we got here.  The dryer is kind of a joke and we have resorted to air drying everything.  It’s working, but it means that I am going to be ironing Colin’s clothes every day until we move into a new house and can figure out a different solution.  This is annoying, but I really expected it, and we’re living with it; just a minor inconvenience.  🙂

Best Thing So Far

The food!  I’m not talking about restaurant food.  Aside from ordering pizza (which was delicious), we haven’t eaten out yet.  I’m just talking about the groceries.  Plain old sandwich bread is SO much better here.  It tastes like someone baked a loaf of bread, sliced it, and just put it in a bag.  I love it to the point that I’m going to have to watch my intake.  The meats and cheeses are just as good.  It has all just been regular grocery store items that I would buy every week, but it tastes so fresh!

Okay.  That’s a very long post.  If you’ve stayed with me, I’m glad!  Next week’s post will be less rambling and a more fun topic, I’m sure.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Kitchen Tips and Tricks for the Holiday Season

I love being in the kitchen and baking.  I don’t always have a lot of time to do it or a lot of people to feed, but it’s one of my favorite stress relievers.  With the holiday baking season in full force and a lot of parties to host and attend, it seems like a good time to talk about a few kitchen tips and tricks.  I am absolutely not an expert in the kitchen, but I spent some time over the weekend thinking about some things that I’ve learned (often after many flops and failures) that I could pass along.  Hope something in this list helps.  🙂

1.  When it’s time to make those cute cut-out sugar cookies, a rolling pin really makes life easier.  You just roll out your dough, cut out your shapes and you’re ready to bake those cookies, right?  Yeah.  Right.  Have you ever tried to use a rolling pin?  Let me tell you, I’ve made more than a few messes where I’ve ended up with perfectly good cookie dough stuck to the rolling pin and the counter.  I’ve also added so much flour to the cookies to keep them from sticking that they were inedible.  The solution?  Saran wrap or wax paper.  All you have to do is lay down a layer, put your lump of cookie dough in the center, put another layer over that and then use your rolling pin as it was intended.  All you have to do when it’s flat is peel the saran wrap or paper away.  Voila!  Nothing sticks!

2.  To make your cookies last longer, throw a piece of bread into an airtight container with the cookies.  I grew up watching my mom do this and had no clue why until I was grown.  Well, guess what?  It really does work and extends the life of your cookies by days by keeping them soft and moist.  The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and stay soft.  Just change the bread every couple of days as it starts to get hard.

3.  Make sure the butter is the right temperature.  Ever notice how cookies often call for butter at room temperature and pies call for cold butter?  It turns out, it really does make a difference.  If your butter is too warm, it can cause your cookies to “spread” on the pan instead of fluffing up nicely.  If it’s not cold enough for your pastries, it can also cause them to be greasy and not flaky enough.

4.  For the longest time, when I made pies, I couldn’t get the crust to come out evenly.  The center of the pie would be a beautiful, buttery brown, but the edges would be dark and crunchy.  I tried covering the pie with foil until the last few minutes and then uncovering, but it never worked quite right.  Eventually, it occurred to me that I was being stupid.  If the center of the crust was coming out great, there was no need to cover it.  Placing aluminum foil around ONLY the edges was the solution.  Letting the pie bake with the foil around the edges until the last five minutes and then removing the foil was the perfect solution.  Now, I have one of these handy, dandy tools (thanks to the hubby, who is always picking up fun kitchen gadgets for me), but it really isn’t necessary.

The handy dandy pie crust shield.  :)

The handy dandy pie crust shield. 🙂

5.  Read the recipe in its entirety before beginning.  I can’t tell you how many times I have glanced at the ingredients list and thought, “Okay.  I have everything and I’m ready to go,” only to get halfway through the recipe and realize that instead of splitting the milk between two different steps, I already used it all or some such mistake.  It’s important to just read the whole thing through once to make sure you’re not going to screw anything up.  It sounds like common sense, but sometimes, it’s easy to get in a hurry.

6.  When it comes to baking, always mix the dry ingredients together and the wet ingredients together and THEN combine them.  I’ve seen some people say it’s best to add wet to dry and others say its best to add dry to wet.  I’m not sure, but I do know that it really is best to mix the wet and dry separately first.  The reason for this is all about texture, especially when flour is involved.  Once you add flour to the mixture, if you overmix the batter, it will often come out too tough and rubbery.  By mixing separately and then combining, you can ensure that all of the ingredients are well incorporated, but not too overworked.

7.  There is a difference between liquid food coloring and gel food coloring.  Most of us are familiar with liquid food coloring and it is often used in icings and frostings.  It is easy to find in the grocery store and it does the trick.  Gels are a little more difficult to find (although becoming more common; I found some at WalMart), but usually produce more vivid colors, meaning you have to use much less.  And for me, the biggest difference is again, all about texture.  The liquid food coloring is made of, well, liquid.  By the time you add enough to get the vibrant color you want, often your icing has become too thin.  With the gels, you can add very little and do not have to change the consistency of your icing.  This is also pretty important if you are actually dying the baked product, itself, such as the cake in Red Velvet Cake.  If you use too much of the liquid food coloring, you will have to adjust your temperature and bake time accordingly.

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Liquid Food Color

Gel Food Color

Gel Food Color

8.  If the berries or chocolate chips in your cakes and muffins sink to the bottom, the problem is that said berry or morsel is denser than your batter and therefore sinks.  To fix this, simply toss them in flour and add them to the batter at the very end, just before you put it all in the oven.  I have no idea why this works, but it really does.  I had a lot of gooey-on-the-bottom confections before I started doing this.  Now, only a few will sink.  🙂

I hope you have all found something here to help you in the kitchen this holiday season and beyond.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

Our Thanksgiving in San Diego

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Happy Monday, everyone! We’re back!  I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.  My family spent the week at my sister-in-law’s home in San Diego and aside from an unfortunate bout with what we believe to be the norovirus, we had a great time.  All in all, there were 16 of us there for the week and we got into a lot of fun activities.  Let me just say that the San Diego area is stunning.  It was my first trip and the beauty of the area really blew me away with its rolling hills and lush landscaping all bordering the ocean.  It couldn’t have been more beautiful.  I thought I would take some time to review (from a parent’s point of view) some of the local attractions we were able to visit while we were there.

Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland

During our first full day there, we made the trek north to Anaheim to visit Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland.  This place was amazing and was my first experience with the world of Disney.  At 30, I had never been to either Disney World or Disneyland.  Having this experience during the holiday season was especially magical.  We started the day at California Adventure Park visiting the Cars, Monster’s Inc, and Toy Story themed rides in the park and then had lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, where we had a wonderful lunch and then met all of the Disney princesses as they walked through the dining area, spoke to everyone, and took pictures.  After lunch, we headed over to Disneyland (a very short walk from one park to the next).  At Disneyland, we rode the It’s a Small World ride and spent time walking around the park looking at all of the different areas until it was time for the Christmas parade.  This was a favorite part of the trip for me.  The Christmas parade was the perfect start to the holiday season and the castle was decorated beautifully for Christmas, complete with snow on the roof tops.  I loved the entire Disney experience and can’t wait to go back!

That being said, I have to be very honest and say that I don’t think my children were really old enough to appreciate it.  This will not be true of all children and of all situations, but for us, we  need a few more years.  My sons both need naps daily and my oldest will not just fall asleep in the stroller.  Add to that the lights, sounds, and excitement that Disney offers and it was a recipe for very overtired children.  Neither were old enough to really get into the characters, neither cared about meeting the Disney princesses, and both were exhausted well before the parade started at 5:00 p.m.  They fell asleep as soon as we got back to our car, but Ian yelled and screamed in his sleep for much of the trip and neither one slept well that night. Also, since Declan was not yet walking, he ended up in the stroller pretty much all day.  For us, if our family hadn’t been there to join in the fun, it simply would not have been worth the price yet.  For ages 3-9, a one day only hopper pass (the one that allows you to go between California Adventure Park and Disney Land) was $131.  From 10 and up, the cost was $137.  That’s a lot of money for one day of fun not to get the full enjoyment.  We’ll try again once they’re past the napping stage.  🙂

A bit blurry, but it was so beautiful all lit up at night!

A bit blurry, but it was so beautiful all lit up at night!

Legoland

The next day, we all headed to Legoland in San Diego.  This park was great and much more age appropriate.  Everything is built of Legos and the imagination that goes into all of the attractions and rides is amazing!  We all loved it.  The Star Wars area was right up my husband’s alley with the X-Wing fighter.  I loved Miniland USA, which has monuments and landmarks from around the country.  Both boys loved playing in the DUPLO village where they were able to actually put the blocks together and build.  The rides were also very age appropriate and even my one year old was able to ride with me.  The three year old had a blast!   Tickets were $95 (ages 3-12) and $105 (13 and over) and this was good for two days, meaning we had the opportunity to go back the following day.  Legoland was definitely a family favorite!

So many legos!

So many legos!

San Diego Zoo

One of our other main outings was the San Diego Zoo.  We are big zoo people and have had season passes to the Houston Zoo for two years now, so I knew we would love this attraction, but I was honestly blown away by the San Diego zoo.  First of all, it is HUGE!  I’m talking massive.  So big, that they have bus stops at regular intervals so that you can hop on the bus to get to another stop.  There are also inclined moving walkways to help individuals and families get up to the top of the hills.  We started our day by doing a guided tour on a double decker bus.  It was a forty minute ride around the zoo that allowed us to have a great overview of where we wanted to go next and the kids loved riding the bus. After the tour, we were able to then go to specific areas.  Of major interest to us, since the Houston zoo doesn’t have them, were the koala bears (they are just as cute as you think they are), pandas, kangaroos, polar bears, and penguins.  The whole place was amazing and you can tell that they really invest a lot into making their zoo a world class attraction.  The children loved seeing all of the animals and I could have spent days and days just walking around looking at everything!  The cost was also much more reasonable.  A one day pass was $34 (for ages 3-11) and $44 (12 and up).  This made for a great outing and I would love to go back!

These three attractions were enough to keep us super busy, especially with Thanksgiving Day, the aforementioned stomach bug, and the beach right at our doorstep.  I hope these quick reviews might help in making some travel decisions.

Peanut Butter Balls

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In light of the upcoming holidays (and because I’m trying to empty out my pantry before the move), I thought it was time to post another holiday recipe.  These Peanut Butter Balls (aka Buckeyes) are a Christmas staple in our family and are extremely addictive.  They can be a bit time consuming and messy, but in my opinion, they are totally worth the effort.  This recipe makes approximately 60 balls, depending on how big you make them.  That part is personal preference.

  • 5 1/2 – 6 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 block paraffin wax
  • 1 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl and then mix together with the peanut butter and vanilla until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

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2.  Add the powdered sugar.  Be careful to add it slowly.  If you go too fast, you’ll end up with a cloud of powdered sugar and white hair.  Once the sugar is somewhat incorporated into the peanut butter mixture, you can turn the mixer up to a higher speed.

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The completed peanut butter mixture.

The completed peanut butter mixture.

3.  Once this mixture is fully combined, roll these it into small balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  When you have a full pan of peanut butter balls, place the pan in the freezer.  This will allow them to get hard and makes them much easier to handle while you’re dipping them in the chocolate.  They probably need at least 30 minutes in the freezer, but it won’t hurt to leave them in longer and come back to them later.

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4.  Add water to the bottom of a double boiler and the wax and chocolate to the top.  Melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring constantly until fully melted.  I have done this in the microwave, but I have found that it is much easier to scorch the chocolate that way.  If you do not have a double boiler, you can also use two different sized pots and place one inside the other.

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5.  When the chocolate is fully melted, insert a toothpick into the center of the frozen peanut butter balls and dip them in the chocolate, covering fully.  Allow the chocolate to set for a couple of seconds on the toothpick before placing them back on the pan.

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6.  You will notice that there is a small hole left from the toothpick.  You can simply dip the toothpick in chocolate and then drip it over the hole to make it look nicer if you wish.

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That’s all there is to it.  Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.  🙂

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Thank You to Our Veterans

In 1918, 0n the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the fighting of WWI ceased when an armistice went into effect between the Allies and Germany.   A year later, in 1919, the United States once again celebrated the end of the “war to end all wars” and the tradition has continued from year to year.  In 1938, November 11th was made a legal holiday in the US and became known as Armistice Day.  In the years that followed, as we have been involved in more wars, the holiday was renamed to “Veteran’s Day” and now honors all service members who have served our country.  November 11th also continues to be recognized worldwide as a day of remembrance and observation of those who served during WWI.

Here at Three Ladies and Their Babies, we want to say a very sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of our veterans, as well as our current men and women in uniform.  In all of the political controversy and social unease that we hear of in our day to day lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are from a country where freedom is the norm.  We do not live in a society of oppression and persecution and we owe that security to the men and women who have bravely fought our wars for us, leaving their families behind while they sacrifice their own well being on foreign soils.  We hope you will also take some time out of your day to thank any special veterans in your life or to drop some extra change in the bucket of the local veteran’s groups taking up donations at Kroger and WalMart.  We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

One of our favorite veterans! This is our grandpa, John Jacobs, holding Ashley's dad, John (also a veteran), and Stephany and Lisa's mom, Nanette.

One of our favorite veterans! This is our grandpa, Sargeant John Jacobs, holding Ashley’s dad, John (also a veteran), and Stephany and Lisa’s mom, Nanette.

A Day of Defeat and Thankfulness

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We all have days where everything just seems to go wrong.  These are the days where you end up wishing you had just stayed home in bed with the lights off and the blankets pulled up around you.  Healthy, sick, single, married, teenager, adult, we all end up being the bug instead of the windshield once in a while.   Friday, I had one of these days, and boy was it a whopper!

Thursday was Halloween.  After trick or treat, my three year old, Ian, had a few pieces of candy and we decided to have family movie night to give him a chance to wind down.  This is a very special event in our house because sleep is precious around here and it means that we put the baby to bed and Ian gets some alone time with mommy and daddy.  While snuggled under a blanket watching Curious George’s Halloween movie, Ian said to us in a sweet, happy voice, “I’m so glad you’re my grown-ups. I love you so much.”  I went to sleep with a heart full of joy and feeling so incredibly blessed to be the mommy of such wonderful little boys.

Fast forward through the night and I was awakened by a loud rapping on my door at 5:30 the next morning.  Ian was up and ready to go, even though he had gone to bed nearly two hours late the night before.  It did not bode well for the day.  By 6:00 a.m. he was demanding his trick or treat candy.  At 10:00 a.m. he refused to go swimming even though we were at the pool and classes were starting because I had forgotten his ear Band-It (that one was my fault).  By 10:30 he had peed in the floor at the local hair salon we had gone to for his haircut since he didn’t swim (accidents happen, of course).  By 11:00, he was standing in the middle of the hair salon in his underwear (dry underwear, I had no clean pants for him until we could get to the car) and a t-shirt screaming bloody murder for me to buy him a new toy.  A few minutes later, after I had finally managed to carry the 23 pound baby,  my 10 pound purse, and a kicking 43 pound preschooler to the car, he was running away from me through the parking lot still in his underwear.  I got him home and put him straight to bed and took a moment to breathe.  The baby and I ate lunch and he went down for a nap, too.  It was my turn and I took it.

I slept for an hour and a half and woke to the sound of my phone alerting me that I had a new e-mail from the British Consulate in New York.  Turns out they had received my visa application and I had provided the wrong return postage for the visas.  I had to fix it before they could proceed.  Cue the Mommy tears.  I was done.  

Colin came home a few hours later and we pretty much passed in the driveway.  He took care of the kids and I left for a 3 1/4 mile walk.  I needed some alone time, plain and simple.  I told him I would be home before bath time and I just walked and walked and walked until it started getting dark.  While I walked around the beautiful lake in the perfect 70 degree weather, I was able to clear my mind, readjust my mental state, and even get a little laugh over the absurdity of the day.

The point of me telling you all of this (besides to give you a bit of a chuckle over a three year old’s antics), is just to share with you my day.  All too often, we see all of the good things that people post about on Facebook or hear the exciting success stories of the day while waiting to pick our kids up from school.  I love hearing these stories.  And I love sharing them, too.  But sometimes, I really just want to know that other people have days where they melt down, too.   I especially need to hear from other mom’s sometimes.  We’re all so busy trying to be Super Mom (and go us for setting such high standards for ourselves!), but it’s nice to know that someone else has a child who behaves like a holy terror in public, even though they absolutely know better; that someone else is so tired that they make silly little mistakes, too.  If you’re in the same boat (and as I said, I suspect most of us are from time to time), know that you are not alone.  Sometimes we all just have a no-good, terrible day.  The important thing is to end the day being able to look back on it and count our blessings; to see all the things we have to be thankful for.  Friday, I was thankful for my children, but I was oh-so-thankful for my wonderful husband who came home and gave me a little reprieve.  And I was thankful it was Friday, which meant we could all have a do-over together on Saturday.  And as I kissed Ian good night and he told me that he was sorry for throwing a fit over a toy, I was thankful that even though it happened, he knew better and had apparently learned his lesson.  Sometimes, it’s the little things.  🙂

Wier Family Update: The Mile Long To-Do List

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Hi everyone!  Sorry I didn’t post last week.  Things are getting a little nuts around here!  Colin was in Europe for work, so I took the boys to Kentucky for an 11 day visit.  We had a great time and other than the two hours that Declan screamed on the flight home (sorry fellow passengers!), we enjoyed every minute of our trip.  Now that we’re home, the craziness with the England move is in high gear, so I thought I’d take a minute to update those of you who might be interested or have been asking how things are going.   🙂

We landed Wednesday afternoon and were all exhausted.  Colin flew back from Germany, so by the time he met us at baggage claim, he had already been up for 18 hours.  As previously mentioned, I had been dealing with a crying baby for hours.  We were all excited to be reunited, but just really needed sleep.  We grabbed a pizza on the way home, ate dinner as soon as we stepped inside, and all four of us were asleep by 7:45.  It was glorious.  The next morning, the moving company was here to survey our belongings and determine how long it will take them to pack us up and to give us a pack/move date.  They will be packing up our house on December 17th and loading everything into the container on the 18th.  We will fly to Kentucky for Christmas on the 19th.  From there, we’ll leave for England on January 1st.  It’s going to be a crazy holiday season for us!

I spent 6 1/2 hours on Friday filling out the online visa applications for all four of us.  Let me tell you, filling out a visa application is extremely time consuming and stressful.  Filling it out four times with the same information is pure torture.  I’m pretty sure I now have all four of our passport numbers memorized.  But at least that part is done!  Colin and I will attend our biometrics appointment (where they take our fingerprints and a digital photo of our faces) on Wednesday morning.  Luckily, the boys don’t have to do this as they’re too young.  After that, we have to mail hard copies of everything to the consulate in New York and then we wait.  Passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates, oh my!  Let me tell you folks, keep those important documents on hand.  You never know when a government authority might want them!

We're getting there.  Hoping to mail these bad boys out Wednesday afternoon.

We’re getting there. Hoping to mail these bad boys out Wednesday afternoon.

Aside from the movers and getting the visa applications finished, we are also in the process of opening UK bank accounts.  This is also tons of fun (sarcasm).  If you really want to feel stupid, try figuring how to fill a US address into the supplied blanks on a UK form.  Note:  They do not write their home addresses the same way we do. 🙂 Colin said he thinks that it’s all a test to ensure that we are smart enough to live in their country.  If we can properly wade through all of the paperwork, we pass.  I’m starting to think  he’s right!

We’ve also started making our to-do list.  I’m a very typical Type A person, so lists and organization are a part of my everyday existence, but when my fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants husband said, “Are you writing all of this stuff down somewhere?” I knew it was time to start consolidating my lists and getting more organized.  We sat down on Saturday night and spent an hour thinking of everything that needs to be done between now and December 17th.  There are currently 70 items on the list, much of which will be annoying and time consuming (medical records, vaccinations, selling stuff, moving things to storage…blah).  I’m making myself feel better by putting dates beside each item in hopes that it won’t all be last minute.  Let’s just say November is looking crazy and I’m pretty sure we won’t have another relaxing weekend until March.  Today, around having the boys pictures taken and grocery shopping, we did manage to organize the garage into four sections:  Store, Sell, Ship, and Trash.  Item number 1 has been checked off the list.  I’m feeling accomplished!

I’ve decided that I’m going to have to live with the fact that my laundry will not be caught up again before we leave.  And the chances of my house being spotless again are slim to none.  But that’s okay.  Things will all work out.  We’re looking forward to a fun holiday season and we’re still super excited for our European adventure.  Let’s all repeat:  I will be organized.  I will be on top of things.  I will not be stressed.

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Homemade Mac and Cheese for Toddlers and Babies

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As a mom, there are tons of things that I feel guilty about from time to time. Most of these guilts are just little, insignificant things that probably won’t matter at all in the long run. One of my biggest “little” guilts is the fact that my kids love macaroni and cheese; the bright yellow overly processed stuff that only takes 3 1/2 minutes and provides a quick lunch and lots of smiles. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much that they love it. It may be that I’ve seen the warning labels on the boxes of Mac n’ Cheese that are sold in the UK or maybe it’s something about the unnatural color, but I do understand that in the grand scheme of things, it’s really minor. At any rate, since it does bother me, I have adopted my own Macaroni and Cheese recipe over time, so I thought I’d share. Both of my boys (ages 1 and 3) gobble it up! 🙂

Ingredients

2 Tbs Butter

2 Tbs All Purpose Flour

1 1/4 cup 2% milk

6 oz cheese (43 cubes), I like to use Colby Jack

4 oz small shell pasta

1/4 cup peas

1 oz ham

Directions

1. Boil water and prepare pasta according to the directions on the package. I typically use shells because I find it’s easier for my 1 year old to pick it up and eat it without help, but any kind will work.

2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter is melted, whisk in the flour until the mixture is creamy. Slowly add the milk to the mixture. The key to this (and any gravy you might ever make) is to keep stirring. Otherwise, you will develop more of a bread on the bottom than a creamy gravy/sauce.

3. Once the sauce starts to thicken and is creamy, start adding cheese. How much you add is really a matter of preference; I just keep adding it until the sauce tastes right. I find that it’s somewhere around 6 oz. (This ends up being about 43 cubes if you don’t have a scale.) Add the cheese only a little at a time (4-5 cubes) and stir the sauce until the cheese is completely melted. Then add more until all of the cheese is mixed in.

4. After the cheese sauce is completely melted and smooth, add it to the cooked and drained pasta.

5. At this point, you can add anything you want. I usually add peas and ham since my boys enjoy it. If the macaroni (really shells) and cheese is too thick after you’ve mixed everything together, you can also add milk to thin it down.

Note: I have also enjoyed this Mac and Cheese with the boys, but let me warn you that it does need salt for my taste. I just always leave it out when I make it for them and they don’t seem to mind. 🙂

Hope you enjoy!