For this week’s week of gratitude, I couldn’t think which member of my family I’m most grateful to – and for! But as much as I love every member of my family and I’m thankful to them all for one thing or another, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to my amazing late grandfather.
Goodness, where do I start with my grandfatheIt’ssell I think I can begin by saying that he was a real character. He was one of those people who would make you laugh with the things he said and did – problem was he was not trying to be humorous! There was many a time that a sneaky snigger was turned into a cough when he caught sight of us.
As strange as this may sound, I always knew that my grandfather was my grandfather before I knew he was my mum’s dad! I just thought it was some really bizarre coincidence that he happened to be her father as well as my grandfather. I was probably pushing three, and at that age I really didn’t know how these things worked!
I always describe him as a fearless, no-nonsense old army man. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and wouldn’t put up with any rubbish from anyone. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to put a stroppy teen in their place or tell a snooty, up -themselves person exactly where to go! And should you have the misfortune to ask for advice, he would tell it to you like how it was – and he didn’t mince his words either! Well you asked!
Quirks aside, Grandad really was the nicest, kindest, most generous human being ever. When he gave, he gave from the heart, whether it was time, money or his efforts to help others. And it was helping others that Grandad was known for. Most people would get fed-up with the phone ringing endlessly or constant knocks on the door with people needing help, advice, favours etc. But Grandad was always ready and happy to help – especially as it meant that he could dole out his own brand of tough love. And still the people kept coming!
Helping people wasn’t just because of his good heart. I believe it also helped fill the void after my nanna passed away when the focus of his life became his family and close friends, the church, and helping others. Well that and his social life! At an age where most people would be slowing down, grandad was always out and about – sometimes even coming home at two in the morning! My friends would laugh at my octogenarian grandfather who was a bigger raver than I am!
It’s been eight years since we lost him and there really isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel that loss and miss his presence. It’s impossible to sum up everything about grandad in one post. My grandfather may not have been perfect and faultless. I can’t pretend that he never got things wrong. But I’m so thankful that God made him my grandfather. I’m also thankful to my grandfather for making me the person I am today. The things I do, the way I behave, the way I treat others… Its all because of him. From the time I was a mini-human, he played his part in making sure that I grew up to be a decent person. Whether I am or not probably isn’t for me to say, but I know I’m a better person because of him. Admittedly my ditziness has nothing to do with him, and even though I’m just a fraction of a fraction of the person that he was, I hope as I get older I will become more like him.
I write this post with a slight bit of embarrassment as we are now in March but I’m only on week three! I think I misunderstood and thought this challenge was called Twelve Months of Gratitude! Never mind – I’ve promised myself that come the end of the year, I’ll have completed all fifty two weeks. In fact I’m grateful to be on week three at all!
OK, this week’s topic is family which is interesting considering that I didn’t get off to a good start with mine this morning. My sister woke me up by WhatsApping me with the latest family drama – and before I’ve had a coffee that’s dangerous!
I consider myself to be a very family minded person. That’s the way I was raised. I never understood people who claimed that they were not close to their aunts and uncles or used phrases like “Oh, he’s only my cousin.” In my family we were raised to believe that there was no such distinction between immediate and extended family and distant relatives. If we shared DNA, we were family – end of!
Sadly now that I’ve reached adulthood, my circle of family has gotten smaller. This is due to people wanting to go their own way for whatever reason. I also understand that I have relatives who don’t know the meaning of ‘family loyalty’ and the ties of family are such that I cannot cut them off no matter how much I want to, so for the sake of my emotional well-being, I have been left with no choice but to keep certain relatives at two arms length – and I don’t feel guilty about it.
So the bottom line is that I have family, and I have people I just happen to be related to.
So far you’re probably thinking that where my family are concerned, I don’t have a lot to be grateful for. Not at all! As far as I’m concerned my family consists of Mr. D. our immediate families, and a handful of extended relatives.
I’d like to make out like we’re the perfect family – like my mum has convinced herself that we are – but we’re not. I don’t mind admitting that my family are totally bonkers! There are a multitude of characters and personalities, and we all have our eccentricities and oddities, and are more than just a little on the dysfunctional side! There’s always some drama or stressful situation that we’re trying to resolve – but at least no one could ever accuse us of being dull and the in-flight entertainment is always worth watching (although we’d rather you didn’t!)
When I was growing up I always wished that we could be like the families you saw on TV. I also thought that my friends and classmates had better, more ‘together,’ families than I did. Now that I’m an adult, I realise that there’s no such thing as the perfect family. We all have our own struggles and own problems that we’re trying to overcome. And past experience has taught me that its often the families who claim to be the most perfect who often have the most issues.
Coming from a seemingly ordinary, perfect family is no guarantee, as I’ve learned, that you’ll turn out ‘right’. Growing up was hard and I used to blame many of my problems on the fact that I didn’t come from a ‘normal’ family. But I now feel that coming from such a family has given me a resilience that I may not have had. I feel like I can handle anything and I’ve learned to embrace my weird family and my own weirdness. As my dad once said ” Who wants to be normal?”
In recent years my immediate family and I have had a lot of issues which meant that we weren’t as close as we should have been. It was a very sad period of our lives but I’m glad that even though certain issues are not fully resolved, we are all back in each others lives and our bond has grown stronger and there’s definitely more than enough unconditional love here. We don’t take anything for granted any more and we all know that when push comes to shove, we are always there for each other.
And there’s other things I’m thankful for when it comes to family. I’m thrilled there there are many different nationalities here and different languages spoken. We’re like a mini UN! Some people think it’s a little ‘confusing’ but it’s not. We have learned so much from each other and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Not to mention there’s always something for everyone when it’s potluck at family gatherings!
I also love the big pool of talent that exists in our family as we all have different interests, skills and areas of expertise. There are creatives, techies, sports enthusiasts, business brains, problem solvers, culinary geniuses, fashionistas… We all bring something different to the table.
My family have made me who I am, so for all their craziness and zaniness, I have to be grateful that God put me in with this nutty bunch. There’s tons more fabulous stuff I could say about why I’m so grateful for my family but I’ll just end by saying that the greatest blessing to be bestowed on our family is definitely the next generation – our gorgeous nieces and nephews. Not only are they a constant joy to be around – even when they’ve tired you out – but they’ve played a major part in healing our family and bringing people together. We may never be a TV family – unless you’re thinking of The Adams Family – but it’s thanks to those amazing kids that we can try to do ‘normal’…Sometimes!
I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal, I’d say that this post has come at the right time.
When I met Mr. D almost ten years ago, I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him, despite my intention to stay in contact. We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again. I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!
Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got together think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.
Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!
But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate, forgiving, non-judgemental and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve. He’s the last person you’ll ever find bitching about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances and being the life and soul Mr. Popularity, down-to-earth Mr. D. really couldn’t care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s not just me, but why my family and friends love him him as well.
I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.
A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.
Mr. D. is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.
And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!
Our houses are so much more than just shelter from the elements. It’s the place where we expect to find peace; feel safe; be ourselves; relax; represent who we are; have friends over, and most of all, be happy!
As an excited first-time homeowner, it’s so important that the place that Mr.D and I call home is somewhere that brings us a lot of peace and happiness – a place that we can’t wait to come home to every day. And happiness doesn’t always come from designer kitchens, finished basements, and Olympic sized pools – although I wouldn’t say no to any of those! But quite often it’s the simple things that that make a house a home and bring a sense of peace, happiness, and well-being. These are the things that make mine a happy home.
1. LET’S GET PERSONAL
Many of us would like to live in the kind of home that wouldn’t look out of place among the pages of Home and Garden – or in my case, MTV Cribs! But in trying to do so, we get so bogged down with the details concerning our chosen theme or colour scheme that we discard anything that doesn’t ‘go’ with the decor – even though quite often these are the very things that reflect our personality and gives the home we live in a sense of identity and signs of life.
I’m often quite underwhelmed by homes that don’t seem to contain anything personal or tell me anything about the people who live there. To me it feels a little soulless. So I love to see photographs, artwork, holiday souvenirs, collections on display, a library of well-loved books, home made furnishings, home-grown flowers in a vase… anything that tells a story and says something about the habits, interests and personality about the owner of the house.
True there should be some flow between personal objects and the style of the house but with a little imagination, you can bring together the most eclectic of objects bound together in your own inimitable style. So our house is most definitely going to refect our love of travel, rock music, food, family and friends, 1980s nostalgia, angels and… Lego! Now that’s some story to tell!
2. DISPLAY PHOTOS
There’s hardly anyone out there who doesn’t carry some kind of device for taking photos which means that they can literally snap away any time, any place, anywhere. Taking photos has never been easier. But unfortunately most people have a tendency to just leave the photos on their phones or tablets or upload them on to social media and then just forget about them. When I worked in a gift shop, most of my customers would only really buy photo frames or albums as a last resort. “Well that’s what Facebook’s for,” they’d say.
Well I personally think that’s a waste of a good photo.
When I lived at home with my family, I was photo mad. My room was a shrine to me and Mr.D. which some people found nauseating but who cares! Then I framed photos and put them all over the house which annoyed my family as they kept knocking them over. Which in turn annoyed me if the photos were just left lying there, or worse the frame was broken. And when we moved to the States, I couldn’t bring my mammoth collection with me but I made sure I had enough to put all over the apartment.
I love displaying photos and I don’t think a home feels complete without them. There’s nothing like seeing the faces of the people you love most every day, especially when they can’t be with you in person as often as you’d like. Each photo tells a story and gives you the chance to relive memories. I’ve also found that photos can be a real talking point when you have guests over – especially with people you don’t know very well.
And there’s an array of gorgeous frames available to suit everyone’s taste, to simple and elegant to colourful and funky. Yep, I’ve got the lot!
3. A SOFT SPOT FOR SOFT FURNISHINGS
As the child of parents who own a soft furnishings business, I definitely have a liking for soft furnishings – much more than Mr. D does. I think they add a touch of luxury and a lot of comfort and really make a house feel like a home. True, I’m not into doilies, you’ll never find chairbacks or armcaps on my sofa, and I’m not sure how fussed I am about tablecloths.
But I know that I’m most definitely a fan of curtains. I appreciate the beauty of a well dressed window as well as the practicalities of providing privacy and retaining warmth. Beautiful bedding is a must; beanbags and floor cushions provide extra, informal seating for guests, and I don’t believe that a couch is really a couch unless is got throws – perfect for snuggling under when you’re watching TV or surfing the net – and a truckload of cushions. Not that Mr. D would agree with me!
And what I love most about soft furnishings is that it really is the quickest, most convenient, and possibly the cheapest way of instantly changing the appearance of a room.
4. SIMPLY SCENTSATIONAL
Like songs, certain aromas are highly evocative and have an effect on our moods, feelings and well-being. But quite often how fab – or unfab – your home smells is often overlooked.
When I used to live in a house-share, some of the highly pungent foods that my housemates used to cook would make me want to gag. I would have to hold my breath as I walked into the kitchen and I would be afraid that the not-so-sweet fragrances would be lingering on my clothes. And I couldn’t even escape it in my bedroom where the dreaded smell would be wafting up into my room. So even though I do have happy memories of my time in the house-share, this was not one of them!
But pleasant aromas can have a positive effect on us and can make us feel refreshed, calm, energised and can induce sleep. Everyone knows why people eager to sell their homes are keen to have the aroma of freshly baked goodies wafting around their home, and its that same smell that can be delightfully welcoming to a guest visiting your home. That and freshly ground coffee, and beautifully-scented cut flowers.
I’m not really a fan of air freshener or highly fragranced cleaning products with that ghastly synthetic smell, so I wouldn’t use those. But I do love good quality scented candles and incense sticks; good old-fashioned drawer liners and lavender sachets; essential oils being used in oil burners, floral-scented water spritzed over bedding, and an aromatic bath doesn’t just do wonders for you but also makes your bathroom smell divine.
And although I wouldn’t normally have it in the house the rest of the year, I really don’t think Christmas is Christmas without some festive-looking and festival smelling pot pourri!
5. MAKE TEA-TIME A REAL TREAT
It wasn’t anything as grand as afternoon tea in a posh hotel or quaint tea-room but growing up, tea-time was a pretty big deal in my family – especially when I went to Granddad’s house. Everything stopped for tea! I guess that’s where I get my love of afternoon tea from.
Unfortunately with the hours most of us work, tea at four o’clock every day is impossible. It would however make a fabulous, relaxing weekend treat – just what’s needed to help you unwind. And why not go to town by using real china, cake stands and serving lots of scrumptious, sweet, creamy delicacies?
There’s no reason why tea-time at home shouldn’t be every bit as enjoyable as at your local tea shop.
6. HAVE A BAKE-IN!
Closely linked to number five, baking used to be regarded as something that your mum or gran would do especially if you needed cheering up or deserved a treat. But for a long time it wasn’t really considered cool or especially trendy. When we wanted a birthday cake or fresh bread, we headed over to our local bakery rather than whip something up ourselves. We all live such hectic lives that when we get home after a hard day’s work, the last thing we feel like doing is creaming butter and sugar!
But baking can be relaxing, enjoyable and therapeutic. And shows such as Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and Next Great Baker have reignited our enthusiasm for baking and enabled us to get happy with the mixing bowl again.
Baking is an activity which involves all five of the senses. Who doesn’t love the sight of prettily iced cupcakes; the texture of bread as it’s being kneaded; the taste of choc chip cookies; the aroma of delicious home baking, and best of all, the sound of everyone happily tucking in!
If there’s something else I think that makes a home complete other than framed photos out on display, it’s candles – and lots of them. And if they’re scented candles then that’s even better. There’s nothing like the cosy, warm glow of candlelight to bring that touch of magic into your home. It’s great for when you want to unwind, meditate, or get romantic. Candlelight is also great to fall asleep to but for this I would strongly recommend the common sense option of battery operated candles.
8. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE
When Mr.D and I lived in London, we had to make do with a flat that was a little on the cosy side! But despite this, Mr.D and I both marked out places that were our ‘spots.’ These were places where we could put our feet up; watch a bit of telly; read; have a cuppa; blog or do crafts (me!) play computer games (definitely Mr. D!) and have it looking the way we wanted it to look.
When you live with others, I think it’s important for you to pick a place in the house that you can call your own: a place where you can talk on the phone; read a novel; write etc. and generally just slow down, enjoy your own company and be lost in your own thoughts. Absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Your own space could be a comfy armchair by the window; a window seat with a nearby bookcase containing your fave novels; a corner of the room with bean bags, floor cushions and a side table with all your fave knick-knacks on it. In fact who even says it has to be indoors? Maybe you could relax on a blanket beside gorgeous, sweetly scented rose bushes in your garden, or a bench under a tree.
In one episode of Wife Swap, I came across a lady who had built a thirty thousand dollar meditation feature in her garden, which she never used for meditating but she did like sitting out there and admiring it (admittedly, we don’t all have the budget for that!)
9. TO READ OR NOT TO READ
Knowing that printed literature is fast becoming obsolete makes me feel sad as just looking at a book puts me in a better mood. To say that I am a bookworm is something of an understatement. I grew up with books, newspapers, and magazines and I cannot imagine a world without them.
Yes, I know that E-readers are all the rage and that everyone reads newspapers and magazines online these days. But when I was growing up, the focal point of the sitting room were the bookshelves that contained Dad’s vast collection of books which he used to sit and read most evenings in ‘his space’. And I like the fact that some kind of reading material perched on a coffee table gives a home a nice ‘lived-in’ feel.
And taking a look at people’s bookshelves also tells you a lot about them. Mine reveal my love of crafts, writing, studying languages and chick lit. My mum’s extensive collection of recipe books gives away her love of cooking, being a bit of a feeder, and ambition to be the next Masterchef! My brother’s books show that he’s sports mad, while Mr. D’s reading material point towards being a Trekkie and avid watcher of Game Of Thrones and that he loved Brian Jacques books as a kid.
10. WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS
Sleep: the one thing that most of us can’t get enough of and would never say no to more of – if only we had the time!
When I’m sleep deprived I am not a happy bunny but then, who is? That’s why it’s so important that your bedroom is a tranquil haven where you can nod off easily and get adequate hours of peaceful slumber. And when I’m not sleeping, my bedroom is the place where I lounge around, read, and meditate, so it really is the place where I get some much needed rest and relaxation.
That’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe that, if it can be helped, you should never use your bedroom for working or studying in. It should ideally be kept clutter-free and as device- free as possible which, yes I know is hard, but we all know how technological gadgets interfere with our sleep. And if you suffer from allergies like Mr. D and me, then its important to keep your sleeping area clean, tidy and dust-free.
Even though my bedroom when I lived at home was pretty loud (which wasn’t a problem for me) most people would generally decorate their rooms in calming, serene colours or darker colours which help them to nod off more easily. Use adequate blinds, curtains and poles for windows as early morning sunlight seeping into your room might cause you to wake up sooner than you would like.
You can decorate your home any way you like but it’s the people we love who bring the happiness and laughter into our homes. And being a born hostess who loves nothing better than to entertain, I love having friends over to watch movies, major sports games or to stay for the weekend. I enjoy throwing parties and gatherings; hosting formal dinner parties or informal supper nights, and my famous cocktail and canapés events.
By now most people will have heard of Kenny Harmon, the grandfather from Oklahoma who makes a mean hamburger, and is now affectionately known as Papaw. He made headlines around the world after a photo posted on social media of him tucking into a hamburger went viral. OK, so there’s nothing remarkable about a photo of a man eating a hamburger – but the story behind it is!
THE STORY SO FAR…
The doting grandad had invited his six grandchildren over for dinner, and set about creating a hamburger meal for them, complete with twelve – that’s right, twelve – hamburgers! However come dinnertime, five of them were a no-show. The only grandchild who did turn up – Kelsey Harmon – took a snap of Papaw as he tucked into his dinner and posted it to her Twitter account, explaining that dinner for eight had become dinner for two. Then before you could ask for more burger sauce, the post totally blew up on social media with thousands of people commenting.
THE PUBLIC HAVE SPOKEN!
A lot of people commented that the look of disappointment etched on Papaw’s face made them a little teary, especially when they heard about how much effort he’d gone to. Many agreed that they wanted Papaw to be their grandad too. Others wanted to know what had happened to the remaining burgers – and rightly so! A few sad cases declared that Papaw couldn’t be a very good grandfather if his grandkids didn’t want to spend time with him, while the odd couple of lost causes made death threats against the kids who didn’t turn up. Seriously people, get a life!
Just about everyone had an opinion regarding hamburgergate although the response to Papaw’s photo was generally very good. And one thing this photo succeeded in doing was make us think about our own grandparents and the role we played – or for those lucky ones, still continue to play – in their lives. And it certainly made me think about mine.
OUR ROLE MODELS
When it comes to grandparents, Mr. D. and I consider ourselves to be extremely blessed. Our grandparents were exactly what you would expect grandparents to be and served as excellent role models, not just to us kids, but to many other people who also looked up to them. We were adored by our grandparents who spoilt us rotten but were wise enough to know when to stop. And in an age where marriages collapse faster than an undercooked chocolate fondant, our grandfathers were devoted to their wives – quite simply they couldn’t live without them. If Mr. D. and I could have just half of what they had, we’re on our way to a very successful marriage.
Our grandparents may no longer still be with us but they are still the people we aspire to be like. They played a massive role in our upbringing and helped shape us into the people we are today. It saddens us that they didn’t live long enough to see us marry and guide us through our married life.
BUT WE WEREN’T PERFECT…
But I’m sorry to say that although Mr. D. and I had the perfect grandparents, we weren’t always the perfect grandkids. As we went from sweet kids to rebellious teens, we swapped sleepovers at our grandparents for raucous nights out with our friends, followed by all night swotting before exams at uni, before getting started in our chosen careers. So as we got older, even though our grandparents were always in our thoughts, we didn’t always visit or call as often as we should have. It was never intentional but it’s something that fills me with shame to this day.
WHY WE WERE MOVED BY PAPAW
Papaw’s story is both heartwarming and inspiring because it illustrated that in a world where people don’t get enough quality family time, there are still people who make an effort to get their familes together. In an age where the family unit isn’t as cohesive as it once was, there are still grandparents out there who want to play an active role in their grandkids lives. And although some people have passed judgement on the absentee grandchildren, I know just how easy it is to let the demands of real life get in the easy of things we really ought to do. And even though its been a zillion years since I was a teenager, I remember putting off visits to my own grandfather to go and join in with my friends’ crazy antics.
Its not that teenagers and young adults don’t love their grandparents of course. Its just that at that age, we often forget that the time we have with them is limited; we think that they’ll be around forever and that we’ll never see a time when they’re not around. At least that’s how it was for me. I think Papaw’s story has reminded us to make every second count when it comes to our loved ones.
WE LOVE OUR GRANDPARENTS…
Most of us really do the very best we can for our grandparents. Where I grew up in Northwest London, I saw even the roughest, toughest kids turn into big softies when it came to their grandparents and they couldn’t do enough for them. And even after their grandparents pass away, they’re never forgotten with their grandchildren marking birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.
…BUT SADLY SOME ARE FORGOTTEN
I’m glad that Papaw’s story had a positive outcome but it also made me feel sad because I thought of the grandparents who are not made to feel loved or valued – and believe me I’ve come across plenty of them. Many elderly people I know talk about their huge families – complete with grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren – with pride. But these are the same people who struggle with the simplest of tasks as they go about their daily lives, depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even strangers rather than burden their children and grandchildren. In fact I know of people who usually see their grandchildren when they turn up demanding a handout!
I can’t help but feel a little angry at situations like this and marvel at peoples carelessness and lack of common sense. Surely if your family is bigger than the average village, than the responsibility of looking after grandma or grandpa should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? Well apparently not! I may not have called in as often as I could have but whenever Grandad needed help with anything, one of us was always there.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT
When my grandfather passed away, I regretted that I didn’t spend enough time with him. It was only after his death I realised just how much he lived for his grandchildren and how every moment with us brought him so much happiness. But as a few people told me, no matter how much you did for your parents and grandparents, no matter how much time you spent with them even if it was every waking moment, it would NEVER be enough. And grandparents understand that we have things we need to do in life and we can’t always be there and nor would they want to stand in our way. As long as you show that you care, and that you love and value them, that makes them happy. So instead of feeling guilty, we should treasure the time we did get to spend together, know that we did the best we could and take comfort from those memories.
If there’s anything we can take away from Papaw’s story, it’s that awesome grandparents never stop giving, no matter how old their grandkids get. And despite a few exceptions, grandchildren never stop being loving – they just get busy! Modern life is frantic but we should do the very best we can to find even just a little time to let our grandparents know what they mean to us.
The Harmon family’s story did get a happy ending in that Kenny Harmon was reunited with all six of his grandchildren a week later for a special buffet lunch. And I did wonder just how many of those who wanted Papaw to be their adopted grandfather actually made the effort with their own grandparents. Well it seems that the other good thing about this story is that it actually made people reach out to their own grandparents immediately rather than putting off contact to another day.
Go Papaw… and grandparents everywhere!
We’ve been in America for over six weeks now and I am slowly getting a feel for our new home. Im gradually adjusting to life in a new country, with a new way of doing things, though thankfully not a new language – although sometimes that’s debatable!
This is my second attempt at life in the USA. The first time admittedly I threw in the towel too soon but everyone puts that down to wrong place, wrong time and I’m inclined to agree with them. This time I feel more prepared and I am liking Massachusetts a lot. I hope this time will be second time lucky!
WHERE WE’VE BEEN
We landed in Ohio where we spent almost a week before beginning the ten hour journey to our new home in Massachusetts. A few weeks later we did another road trip though this time to Delaware which took longer than it should have thanks to Mr. D. getting lost and not wanting to admit it!
We were supposed to go to Pennsylvania but unfortunately there wasn’t time but we will fit that in later in the year as well as a visit to North Carolina and a cross-country trip. Woo!
Oh and the number of States I’ve visited has now increased by three – Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware – which brings the total up to a groundbreaking… eleven!
WHO WE’VE SEEN
Mr D.and I have family and friends scattered all over the country and we obviously haven’t got round to see everyone yet – hence the numerous trips planned. But we did get to catch up with Mr. D.’s parents and younger siblings as well as meeting our brother-in-law and the best bit – wait for it – our super cute nephew who was born three weeks after we arrived here. We couldn’t get enough of the little fella!
WHAT WE’VE EXPERIENCED:
I thought coming from England, I knew all about the cold. I was wrong. Yes people, believe it or not there are places far, far, colder than England!
Anyone who follows the news will have been aware of the horrendous snowstorm that struck the northeastern states. Thankfully we made it to Massachusetts before we ran into any real difficulty but apart from being pelted by a thick blanket of icy, white stuff while dashing out to the supermarket, and feeling as though we were living in an ice-box despite having the heating on at home, we were much more fortunate than a lot of other people. You only had to see the images on the news channels to see how people were suffering. And our phones were ringing constantly with concerned family and friends wanting to know if we were all right.
Snow… beautiful to look at… Not always beautiful to be in.
We thought we were pretty much sorted with the perfect apartment when just a few days before we were due to arrive in Massachusetts, we realised we were being scammed. It seemed too good to be true and it always pays to listen to your instincts. To cut a long story short, the little s**t got reported and he didn’t get any of our hard earned dosh despite his best efforts – but I still hope that Karma will bite a nice big chunk out of his bum! There’s tons of scammers out there who are ripping off innocent people who are just looking for a decent place to live – almost happened to us in London as well – so be careful, people!
So it meant we arrived in Boston with no apartment to move into and had to stay in motels for over a week. Looking for somewhere suitable to live can be every bit as tricky as trying to find something semi -decent in London, and as we knew we were going to be without a car for a while, we had to find something as close as possible to Mr. D.’s workplace.
This narrowed our choices down to two, and reluctant to do a house share again, we opted for a basement flat which although wasn’t fantastic (the landlady’s words funnily enough) and was far more expensive, it meant that we had our privacy and the one thing we never had, living in our cramped London studio – space and tons of it! Not only that but we had access to the mini gym, and the garden which boasts a pool and a hot tub. OK, obviously we can’t take full advantage of it during these freezing cold winter months but spring is around the corner and we’d love to put them to use then.
Many of the locals will tell you that Massachusetts isn’t cheap when it comes to property so I hope they never visit London because they’ll get the shock of their lives! Our monthly rent now is more or less what we were paying for the little shoebox we just moved from!
BUYING A NEW CAR
In a land where cars are like names – simply everybody has one – to tell an American that you don’t own a car will incur the same reaction as telling them that you don’t own a toothbrush! You’ll be met with a reaction that is a cross between pity, ridicule, confusion and incredulous amazement that you’ve made it this far in life! Whenever we told people that we “don’t have a car at the moment,” the response we usually get is:
“What’s wrong with it? When will they have it ready by?”
We realised that it was far better to let people think that somewhere in town, a mechanic was tinkering away on our nonexistent car. Well nonexistent wasn’t exactly true. Mr. D. is actually the proud owner of a jeep that he’d had for many years but it had to be left in Ohio for several reasons. Furthermore Mr. D. was adamant that we could get by without a motor – especially as his main priority was to buy a house before committing to the expense of owning a car. Plus in an effort to get fit, he wanted to bike more as he had done in Portland.
However, this isn’t Portland and poor Mr. D was having to bike into work in not so pleasant weather conditions, although when the weather was really ghastly he would cycle to the nearest bus stop and wait for the bus, while ignoring the stares of passing motorists who were trying to work out what the hell was wrong with the strange guy on a bike!
Thankfully it was the birth of our nephew that prompted Mr. D. to finally concede defeat and get a car as there wasn’t a more convenient way of going over to visit. It’s true what everyone says; to live here you really do need a vehicle to get around and it does make life so much easier. I’m so glad we’ve finally got a set of wheels – and I don’t mean bicycle ones!
This is a country that definitely takes their sports seriously. Which is bad news for me because I’m not in the least bit sporty. When we arrived here, football fever was already well under way. The Patriots suffered a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down well with the locals and disappointed me too, as having just arrived in New England I would have loved to have seen them make it to the final.
And watching my first ever Super Bowl proved to be very memorable – and not just any Super Bowl but Super Bowl 50 no less – where the Carolina Panthers took on the Denver Broncos – and lost! I was glad because I had my money on the Broncos even though admittedly I didn’t know which was the better of the two teams. I just got lucky!
I was pretty chuffed to be in America as they celebrated the fiftieth Super Bowl but of course, I didn’t have a clue what was going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times. But then that’s hardly a surprise as I don’t even know the rules of soccer (also known as real football!) and I grew up in a football (soccer) mad family! Sporty I may not be but I will have to make an effort to understand more about the more popular sports in the States because when in Rome…
WHAT WE’RE UP TO
Mr. D. is a month into his new job and he is loving it! He’s much happier doing what he’s doing now than he was in his old post in London. That reason alone has made the move worth it.
I’ve gone from being an English teacher at one of the most well-established schools in Central London to being a housewife in New England for the time being- and there’s nowt wrong with that! It means that I get to spend more time with Mr. D. than I did when we lived in London, and it’s great that after years in a fast-paced job that got extremely demanding towards the end, I can take a little time out to chill and get used to my new surroundings.
I’m also brushing up on my language skills (comes in very handy in my job!) and working on business ideas that I’d put on the back burner. It’s a case of now or never and I have the time so I’m going for it. And most of our weekends are taken up with house hunting as we search to find a place we’re happy to call home not to mention accommodate the bands of visitors we’re expecting, who we can’t wait to see – just not all at the same time!
Of course I’m missing my family, my friends, my job and my city but we are only a five hour flight away so even though I can’t fly home every week, I can still make a few trips home a year. But this is such an exciting stage in our lives and I’m determined to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.
Let the good times begin!
Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!
Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)
Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!
So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!
So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’
1. TO CHURCH IN THE MORNING
For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now so there won’t be a special Thanksgiving mass in any of the churches but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.
2. PANCAKE BREAKFAST
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to number 5, you’ll understand why!
3. ROAST TURKEY DINNER
What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I put it very politely.
We always have turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.
And of course there’ll be a round of sandwiches the next day!
4. TURKEY MUST BE TOPPED WITH BACON
I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey, do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!
5. A VERY, VERY, LATE DINNER
This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!
I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.
So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!
6. FAMILY MOVIE MARATHON
Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!
7. GAMES WITH FRIENDS
If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.
8. DEATH AT A FUNERAL
This may seem like an odd choice but it started out as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, we’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.
There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.
And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.
10. CHEESE BOARD
OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.
I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.
11. I AM THANKFUL POEM
I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:
I AM THANKFUL
I am thankful for…
The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.
The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.
Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.
Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!