Thursday, March 28, 2013

Platform 9 3/4

On Monday when I arrived at Kings Cross in London, I thought you needed a ticket to get into the area where Platform 9 3/4 would be located. Well, I was wrong. Sorry! But have no fear, pictures are here!!! (Pics are at the bottom of this blog because I don't know how to add pictures in the middle of posts when I'm using the blogger app... anyone wanna help a sista out with that??)

I arrived at the train station this morning way too early (like 45 min). But not a big deal because I wanted to figure out how I could see this platform. On Monday, it was super duper busy (it was rush hour), and I was already nervous about figuring out the rest of my journey, so it is probably best that I didn't "sight-see" that day.

When you walk up to the area where platforms 9-11 are located (picture 1 below), to the right, there are some shops and one of them is the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4 (picture 2 below). And sure enough, a brick wall located a little bit to the right of the shop, was the sign for Platform 9 3/4 (picture 3 below). It included half of a trolley cart with luggage and of course Hedwig's cage on it as if it is on its way into the magical platform.

So it's a little misleading because this sign is not located between platforms 9 and 10 like it should be (picture 4 below). In fact, platforms 9-11 at Kings Cross are very modern, and the brick wall that comes with Platform 9 3/4 does not fit with the decor. In case the sight gets too busy, ropes are in place to create a line to take pictures of yourself pushing the trolley through the wall (picture 5 below).

After taking a few pictures of the sign and the area around the sign, I browsed the shop because, um, Harry Potter stuff is nothing less than awesome! Pretty much what you would expect: wands, magnets, keychains, scarves, sweaters, mugs, etc (pictures 6 & 7 below). I didn't purchase anything because I have hopes of visiting Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Florida one day where I will chug chug chug some butterbeer and purchase my very own wand... for much less than this shop was selling them for.

I'm on the train back to Aberdeen now. Luke and I made an offer on a home, but we are still waiting to here back. Until it is all finalized, I will not be posting any House Hunters International posts. Hopefully soon though!

Platforms 4 and 5 at Kings Cross were used in the Harry Potter films instead of platforms 9 and 10. (I just boarded from platform 4!!)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homes Galore!

Yesterday, Luke and I did day 1 of house hunting. We stayed within the London Borough of Merton in an area called Wimbledon. Yep, that's where the famous annual tennis tournament takes place. We passed by the tennis park and even viewed three flats that overlooked the stadium... although not enough to be able to see any matches. Pretty neat though!

We saw around 16 places on day 1. We have A LOT to choose from but the realtor kept saying, "there isn't a whole lot available." Not sure what he was talking about! Last night, Luke and I discussed and discussed and we were pretty much on the same page. Thank GOD for that!

We plan to see a few of those places again today as a second viewing and also a few new properties. It's going to be a tough choice, but we no doubt will have a home that we will enjoy and can afford!

Steve-O (from MTV's Jackass) used to reside, or still resides not sure which, in Wimbledon. Or maybe he was born there. Anyway, he is listed as a notable resident of Wimbledon on Wikipedia.


I plan to do another House Hunters International post. Until then, here are some pics of a few different places:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

London by Train

Yesterday, I made the journey from Aberdeen to Kings Cross. It was a long journey, but I got there! And I did it all by myself!! Actually, I can't take full credit because I had tons of help from the London CityMapper app. So basically, if you're traveling to London and plan to use public transportation, that is a great app to use! If I can do it, ANYONE can do it. Trust me!

Anyway, I tried to do some research before making the trip but really didn't do too much, so I relied on signs to tell me where to go. From what I've seen so far, I think London has well marked signs. If you know what train/underground you're looking for, a sign will tell you exactly where to go. Now, I did have some practice with this in Paris, but I do believe London has got Paris beat when it comes to the signs.

A few weeks ago, Luke ordered public transportation cards, the Oyster Card, for each of us. It's one of those cards that can top up automatically when it gets to a certain minimum. Since I had this card, I saved a ton of time at the stations. I did not have to worry about purchasing tickets for each of my journeys. I just tapped in to get to my stop and tapped out when I was leaving. So. Much. Easier!

When I arrived at Kings Cross yesterday, I was in search for Platform 9 and 3/4. I arrived on platform 7, so I was close. But when I found where "Platforms 9-11" were located, I realized I needed a ticket to get in. Booooooooo!!!!! So maybe Thursday, when I am leaving, I can get a view of the infamous platform!

Anyway, after being totally bummed out, I had to search for the underground station called Kings Cross St Pancras. It is a separate station from the train station so I had to leave Kings Cross and go "underground" - imagine that!?! - the two stations are like 50ft apart, big deal.

I searched for my tube line, which like I said was clearly marked and easy to find. I was expecting this tube station to be insanely packed. But it wasn't too bad. Or maybe I was so focused on my destination and pretending I knew what I was doing that I didn't notice the amount of people. Either way, I didn't have to throw any bows. So, I hopped on the tube which again wasn't too terribly crowded.

When I got off the tube, I needed to find the net train station. This was the only part where I got a little confused. Looking at a map, it looks as if the train station and the tube station are the same but they are not. At Vauxhall, I had to go back above ground and cross a small street to the train station. Only like 50ft, no big deal, but there weren't any signs so I wasn't sure exactly here to go. I just followed the crowd and sure enough they pointed me in the right direction. Then, I only had to wait a few minutes for my train to take me to my final destination.

All in all, it was a good trip and went SO MUCH SMOOTHER than I expected. For one, I've never traveled alone like this before so I was really nervous about that. For two, I was nervous I was going to be just a small sardine in a extra extra large can and get trampled. The journey from door to door was about 9.5hrs. But mostly because I walked to and from each train station rather than taking a cab.

Hopefully this is a sign for good things to come! I appreciate all of the encouragement from each of you. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts!

Now... on to house hunting!

The system of the London Underground serves 270 stations and has 250 miles of track, 45 percent of which is underground


Monday, March 25, 2013

London Baby!

I am currently on a train across the Great Britain Island. And in less than two weeks from now, I will do this journey again but in a car! And be living in London Baby! Oh yeah, many of you don't know what's up, so here is a MAJOR update:

Today, Mar 25: I am traveling by train to London Baby!
Tomorrow and Wednesday, Mar 26&27: Luke and I are doing our home search in London Baby!
Thursday, Mar 28: I am traveling by train back to Aberdeen, Luke is flying back
Friday, Mar 29: Hanging out with our friends at Christo's Greek for our leaving do (aka going away party)
Saturday-Monday, Mar 30-Apr 1: Preparing our house for pack up by separating things in the house and comparing pictures from before we moved in
Tuesday and Wednesday, Apr 2&3: Movers come to pack up the house
Thursday and Friday, Apr 4&5: cleaning the house and putting it back to its original state
Saturday, Apr 6: leaving Aberdeen and driving toward London Baby! where will most likely stay in Manchester where there just happens to be a Taco Bell!!!!!
Sunday, Apr 7: arrive in London Baby! where we begin a new chapter in our lives

It's a busy two weeks but we have left ourselves some extra time to make sure things are done correctly which helps dial down the stress. Luke sure needs a break... I don't think I have ever seen him work so hard and so much. So I'm doing as much as I can to help him out which is definitely more than I did during our first relocation.

So since I have been on this train for 30 minutes now (and have 6hr and 30min to go) I have so far witnessed a few things: 1.) at Aberdeen Union Station, trains between Aberdeen and Inverness have been delayed/canceled because someone had been struck by a train, which does not effect me I just thought I would share, 2.) an Asian guy talking really loudly on his cell phone in his native language of not English, I want to sssshhhhhhh him, 3.) same Asian guy has a really long eye brow hair sticking straight out, just one hair, like an inch long, all other hairs laying normal, not sure how he does not notice this, shall I offer him my tweezers?, 4.) pink hair girl with tons of piercings was supposed to sit next to me until York, but moved so I have an empty seat next to me, wahoo! I can eat my peanut butter with a little bit of apple in peace, 5.) the Cairngorms look pretty white with snow, 6.) weather still looks absolutely terrible, hoping London Baby! will have better weather.

Wish me luck because when I arrive at Kings Cross, I MUST FIND PLATFORM 9 AND 3/4. If you don't know what that is from, then we cannot be friends. And then from there I need to find the correct tube line. And then get off at the correct stop. And then get on the correct train. And then get off on the correct stop. And then walk my way to the hotel. Oh and alllllll of that is between 5pm and 6pm.... prime London Baby! rush hour time. WISH ME LUCK!!!!!!!!

There is no platform 9 and 3/4 but there is a sign for it.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Confessional Friday

It's Friday y'all!! 
That means, I cannot eat meat today. Bummer!!! 
That means that my hubby comes home today. Yippee!!!!

I have a few confessions... a few that I MUST get off my chest and share with the blogging world. 

1.) I ate baked treats. 
I know! I know! I know! That is what I gave up for lent. I know!!!! I am a terrible terrible person. But I have excuses, and I think they are valid. Hear me out, will ya? See, when we went skiing, the Chalet Angels  baked treats for us to eat when we got back from skiing. I had been on the mountain for 5-6 hours, burning God knows how many calories, so when we got home, there it was sitting all nice and pretty on the table - tea and a baked treat. Guess what? I didn't eat a single one of those!!! I resisted. See, I am not so bad! Well, the four course dinner rolled around, and the third course was dessert. The Chalet Angels worked their behinds off preparing and dishing out desserts and placing it in front of my face. I mean, right there. In my face. Dessert. I ate them all. It would have been rude if I hadn't! So, I am a terrible person who considers other people's feelings. That's all. Will you forgive me?

2.) I listen to and love electronic music.
This goes WAY BACK to high school. When I was going through my house before moving to Aberdeen, I found most of my old electro CD's in the attic that I listened to in high school. I literally jumped up and down (and am actually amazed I didn't fall through the floor, by the way). Anyway, I put them all on the computer, they are on my iPod, and it is what I listen to when I jog. LOVES it!

3.) I don't care if I eat horse.
I eat cows. I eat pigs. I eat alligators. I eat ground up innards. What's wrong with horse? This whole "horse meat being found in ground beef meat" thing doesn't bother me.  

4.) I am obsessed with spin class.
I started attending spin class a couple of months ago and quickly became obsessed because it is a great workout and different than my usual jog. I realized yesterday that I will not be able to attend any more classes and that Wednesday was the last time for me due all of the events coming up these next few weeks. I am seriously having withdrawals and it has only been two days! How will I survive?!?

5.) I have been sticking a knife into the peanut butter jar and licking it, like three fold.
Yes, I have been licking a knife! Why a knife? Because I use a knife to cut my apple. And then use said knife to put peanut butter on the slices. And then said peanut butter on those slices was not enough peanut butter, so I need more peanut butter. And then one lick is not enough, so I need like four more. Therefore, if you want to eat peanut butter at my house, bring your own jar. Will you forgive me?

I feel sooooooo much better now that I have opened up. Remember... please forgive me :-)
Happy weekending!

I am all ears eyes... What confessions do you need to get off of your chest?

Technically, I didn't cheat while eating baked treats during lent because I ate 4 days worth of baked desserts and there are actually 6 Sundays during lent. HAH! Take that rules!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

#TBT: Die Hard Fans!

Lori. Is. Going. To. Kill. Me.
Can I come hide at your house?

Die Hard Fans!
Lori and me

Back in college in 2005, Lori and I double dated one time to go see the Houston Aeros play (professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League). More important than Hockey (gasp!), we wanted to watch our friend, Tammy, dance as she was part of the Aero Dynamics dance team that year. I like to pretend that I get my moves from Tam, but I think she might disown me as her friend if I say that, so I will say that I get my moves from my mom (love ya, mom). Anyway, I was so super duper excited when we were greeted at the arena door by people handing out Harry Potter glasses. I mean, seriously, how awesome are those??!!!!? Since I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I was jumping for joy at the chance to try out my charms and spells (whichever to get me more alcohol at the game), but that only proved me a Muggle. We had a super fun night where we cheered and screamed like die hard hockey dance team fans. Go Tam! Go Tam! Go Tam! Tammy. Is. Going. To. Kill. Us.

Tammy and me after the game - "Take It or Leaf It" y'all!!!

Our obnoxious cheering worked though because the Aeros won their game! But Tammy didn't speak to us for a few days afterward because we totally embarrassed her. Hey, what are friends for???

The Houston Aeros were founded in 1994 and have won two championship cups since their existence.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

London Relocation Update

Its been a while now since I have even mentioned our move to London. I will admit, I have been in denial, and am still a little bit in denial that our relocation is even happening. I may have already had a few small crying sessions. LOVE the 'Deen! It isn't so much Aberdeen that I love as is it the friends that I have made here. Eight months just wasn't long enough!

Here is an update on just a few aspects of our relocation:

1.) VISA
To work in the UK, Luke was required to get a VISA. I had to piggy back on his VISA to live in the nation as well. There were a variety of "rumors" about if the VISA is still valid after switching jobs, companies, locations, etc. Luckily, since Luke is still doing the same assignment, his VISA only needs updating by its location. Which means we do not need to go through the process of waiting on a new one. Goal #1! (apparently, I have picked up on this "football" thing)

2.) Medical Exam
Luke's company required us to both get full medical exams before we were cleared to relocate to Aberdeen.  Since we have only been in Aberdeen for 8 months, our exams are still valid, so no need to go through that process again. Goal #2!

3.) Breaking our lease in Aberdeen
Because we have only been here for 8 months, we still have a lease agreement. Luckily, it seems that we will not have any issues with the contract... let's hope it stays that way!

4.) Leaving our Aberdeen home
Since Luke and I are renting a home in Aberdeen, there are a few things in our lease agreement that we need to take care of before we move out. Such as power washing the back patio, washing the windows, cleaning the house, making it look exactly as it was when we arrived. Most of the furniture in the house is not ours so we have to put it back where it was. The kitchen was fully stocked so every little cup and spoon must go back in its original place. Luckily we took pictures of EVERYTHING so we have to pull those out (like the one where Chandler cleaned the apartment <-- funny stuff) and compare each room.

5.) Home search
This is probably the most stressful part of the whole process. I remember it being stressful coming to Aberdeen, but London is so much different. Last Friday, Luke toured a few different areas with a realtor to get a feel of where we might want to live. While touring, he was able to see a few homes to get an idea of what we can get in our budget. Let me just say, it doesn't sound pretty. Anyway, we are trying to arrange a home search BEFORE we leave Aberdeen, that way we can have a home and receive our shipment earlier than usual. Unfortunately, getting me down to London will be on our dime, and you know the Buisson's are with their pennies!

6.) Temporary Living
If all goes planned, we will have a home ready for us when we arrive in London. But that might be a long shot, so we may need to be in temporary living for a few days or even weeks before we get into our permanent residence.

7.) Transportation
In this circumstance, Luke and I are hoping to drive the car because we will have left over refrigerator food (even though I am doing my best to eat everything like the one when Joey's fridge breaks <-- seriously super funny <-- and seriously my life is Friends) and pressurized containers (hair spray, pledge, etc) that cannot be packed by the movers. Luke and I do NOT throw out things that are still useful, so we must get these to London somehow and that somehow is using the car.

8.) Shipment
Yesterday, the moving company came to the house to access our "stuff". It seems our stuff will need two days which is about what I expected. The man told me that 3 Glaswegians will be packing our stuff. If you remember the blog on when we received our shipment, the Glaswegians are extremely difficult to understand. And if all goes to plan, we will be packing up in two weeks. TWO.WEEKS!

Luke and I are still working out all of the details, but it seems to be coming together. Stay tuned for more information!

Many rental properties in London display rent in terms of per week rather than per month.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Egg Mayo Sammiches

Last Wednesday was a terrible terrible day. I woke up in the morning, opened the blinds and BAM! Snow!
And just like always, there was a line of traffic in the street because Just like how But that's a whole other blog post...

Anyway, the day went a little something like this:
Inside Debbie's head: "I was going to go to the AWA meeting, but I ain't walkin' in this."
Inside Debbie's head: "I will go to the gym in a little while."
an hour passes...
Inside Debbie's head: "I ain't drivin' in this."
Inside Debbie's head: "I will walk to the gym."
a few minutes pass...
Inside Debbie's head: "I ain't walkin' in this."
Inside Debbie's head: "I will wait it out and then jog outside."
an hour passes...
Inside Debbie's head: "I ain't joggin' in this."
Inside Debbie's head: "I will make Egg Mayo instead."
By the way, it was really awkward when that guy walked by and I was videoing him. And raise your hand if you just watched the same video 4 times.
The purpose of Egg Mayo was for lent. I have found that I am starving all day long on Friday's due to this "no meat" rule. And then I stuff my face with meat on Saturday's. A fellow expat told me to boil eggs and also eat avocado. So, that suggestion turned into Egg Mayo for the week.

Egg Mayo Sammiches

Total Time: 20 minutes (includes egg boiling time)
Servings: approx. 6 sammiches

6 eggs, hard boiled, sliced into pieces
3 tbsp chopped red onion
6 tbsp mayo, or until moist enough
1 tsp dijon mustard 
pepper, to taste
Tony's, to taste

Method: it's a difficult one y'all
Mix it all together and season to your liking. Toast some bread. Smother the egg mayo onto the bread.
At first I didn't think it was enough onion, but it was plenty. I also added avocado slices to my sammich and considered adding cheese, but did not. And being the classy lady that I am, I cut my sammich into triangles and ate it on a paper plate. I believe that is how the Queen does it! And I may or may not have eaten a little bit more "Luke Buisson style" after finishing my sammich.

When I was finished, I felt the need to eat more since I did not do a single minute of exercise previously other than stirring eggs and mayo together. So I sliced up some apple and put what totaled probably a cup of peanut butter on it. For my sister, check out Tanvi's blog on making Almond Butter to use on apple slices.
After that was all done, I looked outside and saw sunshine out the wahzoo!
And sure enough it, stayed that way for the rest of the day while I sat on the couch in an egg, mayo, and peanut butter coma. Like I said in the beginning, it was a terrible terrible day. Only in Aberdeen, Scotland can weather be this confusing!

In Aberdeen, eggs are brown. The yolks are a darker orange color, the shell is more difficult to crack, and you buy them at room temperature.


Today, I have linked up with Alissa at 33 Shades of Green for Tasty Tuesday.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My POV: Skiing in the Alps

Before I went skiing in the Alps in the area of Portes du Soleil, I was really curious about what it was like compared to the Rockies. If you read my blog posts on my experiences with skiing in the Rockies (here and here), you know that I have not been to very many places. I was nervous heading to France that I was not going to enjoy it much because I To give those of you an idea who are also curious what it is like, this post might be right up your alley!

1.) Color Coding of the Slopes
-Greens in the Alps- The Greens in the Alps are like the easy greens in the Rockies. We went down maybe two of these in the very beginning and realized that it was pretty impossible for Luke the Snowboarder to go anywhere. They are really flat.
-Blues in the Alps- The Blues in the Alps have a wide... very wide... very very wide range. They range from what would be a normal green in the Rockies all the way to a blue in the Rockies. I assume that what makes the easy ones a Blue is because those runs lead to more difficult ones, so they make sure an inexperienced skier doesn't get stuck on a tough slope. Sometimes these blues can be pretty narrow also. We came across moguls every once in a while, but luckily they weren't too bad. They really should break down the Blue slopes by category (like they do in Crested Butte) to be something like "Blue", "Double Blue", etc.
-Reds in the Alps- These are a little steeper than the Blues in the Alps, but they are much longer. I guess I would consider these to be like Double Blues in the Rockies. The steep part is for much longer, so there aren't many flatter areas to take a rest. Occasionally, you will find moguls. We didn't do many of these because we had 6 days and didn't want to push it too much. Some Reds may have been similar to a Black in the Rockies.
-Blacks in the Alps- Most Blacks in the Alps had moguls. They were usually about as steep and long as a Red but included moguls. Some Blacks may be similar to a double black in the Rockies, but I think most of those were closed.
The blue sign is what the signs look like while going down a slope.
2.) Signs on the Slopes
At the top of a lift, the names on the signs usually told you the direction to the next lift rather than the direction of the slope. So when beginning, you had to know which lift you were heading to next and then follow the lift name on the signs while going down. The name of the slope you were on was in smaller writing on the lift name sign, so you really couldn't even see it from far away. Signs for lift names were located at points where slopes split off into a few different runs.
While going down a run, signs were posted with the slope name, slope color and also how far you are to the end of the run (see picture above). I liked the numbers because you could tell when you were close to the bottom or if you still had a long way to go. The signs counted down and were spaced anywhere from 25yds to 100yds.
'Proclou' is the name of a lift. It shows blue because that is the color of the slope to get to the lift.
The black pictures shows what kind of lift it is.
You can also see really small print which is the name of the run to get to the lift.
3.) Lift Passes
Our lift passes gave us access to the whole area of Portes du Soleil, but we could have ordered passes for access to only one mountain base for a cheaper price. The price for our all mountain lift passes were approximately 41 a day (approx $53). Comparing that to Crested Butte Mountain where the same type of pass at the same time in the season would be approximately $65. It was cheaper!
Lift passes were hands-free, so you can put the card into your pocket and never have to pull it out again. Each lift had an access point where you walked up and rubbed that pocket against a scanning device, and then the turnstile let you pass after it read your pass.
4.) Avalanches
I hadn't really seen any areas where an avalanche had occurred before being in the Alps. I know in Crested Butte, they create their own avalanches to prevent them from happening while skiers are on the mountain. In the Alps, we saw a few places where an avalanche had already occurred and another was ready to fall. At that point, we saw mountain patrol putting up fences along a ski run in case the avalanche went onto the slope.
5.) Lifts and Lift Lines (a couple of different points here)
The lines were ridiculous! People do not know how to wait... don't know if it is the French or the British or the Swiss, but whoever it was obviously was not taught how to queue. We would be standing in line and someone would just come shoving their way up next to you. And then because of that, they would usually end up in front of you in line. Actually, the word "line" shouldn't even be used here because there was no line. It was just a crowd of people inching their way forward as quickly as possible without caring who may or may not have been waiting before you. It was pretty much guaranteed that we would be sitting next to a stranger on every lift because it was really difficult to get us all on together. We actually got all 6 of us together at one point... not sure how that happened!
To get on to each lift, you had to scan your lift pass. Even if you were on the top of a mountain, going up just a little bit farther, you had to scan your pass and go through a turnstile. There was no assuming that because you had made it that far up that you had paid.
There are a ton of lifts! It seemed that pretty much every single slope had its own lift. It wasn't the type of mountain where you could go up a lift, then ski down one run, make your way to another run, another run and then be at the bottom of a lift where you could take a few different routes to get to the same lift. It was mostly ski down the one and only route to get to this lift. We did just about as much skiing as we did sitting on lifts. There are pros and cons to this... lifts always give you a good break and cool you down, BUT waiting in the lift lines was not fun.
There are four lifts in this picture all going to the same base.
Many lifts from the town to the main base are bubble lifts (indoor gondolas that usually hold 6 people). They are used rather than chair lifts because non-skiers can take them up the mountain to get to the 'base' or area with a bunch of restaurants just to hang out for the day.
Inside a bubble lift. Skis are placed in holders on the outside, and poles come inside the lift with you.
One of the areas with about 5 different places to eat.
The Alpians (I made that up) are big big big fans of button lifts aka drag lifts or what James likes to call lollipops. We avoided them the whole trip, but decided to make our last lift a button lift. They are not as difficult as they seem, but you don't really get a rest like you do on a chair lift. (I'll be the third to post this video.)
Last point on the lifts - If you didn't put the lift bar down, you would get yelled at. The previous times I had been skiing, we would put the bar down maybe half of the time. Not here. If you were on the lift for more than 5 seconds and you hadn't pulled the bar down, you would get a "blooblooblaahbloo, s'il vous plait!!" which apparently means, "pull down the bar, please!!" There was also one lift we went on that had an automatic bar. It went down within the first 5 seconds and then went up just 5 seconds before getting off of it. The chairs also had high backs... I could have fallen asleep on that baby.
6.) Mini Skiers
I don't feel that there were as many little ones on the slopes as I have seen in the Rockies. By little ones, I mean like 2-3 years old. I saw quite a few that were 4-6 years old, but not as many of the super tiny ones which is the most adorable thing to watch. When we did see little ones, they were usually part of ski school and part of the long line of ducklings. I don't feel there were as many that skied down the tougher slopes on their own like I have seen in the Rockies. I also saw quite a few young children skiing with poles which is not something I have really seen before (and actually I saw quite a few adults without poles). Just an observation.
Speaking of Ski School - For our group, ski school was not at the very bottom of the mountain. They had to go up the main lift (bubble lift) to get to the 'base' area where ski school was located.
7.) Powder
I can't really say if the powder was different than the Rockies. It hadn't snowed for a week, so there were definitely many icy patches, but that's to be expected without snowfall. A freshly groomed slope was definitely a little difficult to go down because you were basically skiing on groomed ice. We could definitely tell the difference of the powder from one side of a mountain to the next which all depended on which side of the mountain the sun shined.
8.) Mountain Views
Last but not least, the views while on top of a mountain were SPECTACULAR! Maybe it was the fact that I knew where I was - in the Alps - and it was just awesome to see the mountains all around me. Endless mountain tops that I don't think I ever "saw" while in the Rockies - again maybe I was a bit biased. There was one point where Falene, Julia and I were skiing down and all three of us saw this amazing view that forced us all to stop and take pictures. We did this without saying a word to each other. It was kinda funny! We stood there for a few minutes just looking at the view. Beautiful!
The girls saw something 'sparkly' and had to stop for a picture!
I enjoyed skiing in the Alps despite my love for Mount Crested Butte. Like I said, just being in the Alps was a really great experience. Bucket list item for sure! Since Luke and I both enjoy the sport, we would love to make skiing an annual trip whether it's in the Rockies, the Alps, Japan, Norway, wherever (I may have just given him a heart attack because it is so expensive to ski). If you're into it also, maybe we can go together some day! (If you are still reading... thanks for putting up with my extremely long post!)

If you have skied in the Rockies in the States and in the Alps, what other things do you find different?

Other posts on skiing in Portes du Soleil: Post 1, Post 2

FACTS OF PORTES DU SOLEIL: (taken from Wikipedia)
Top Elevation of 2466 meters (8,090 feet)
280 total runs (149 easy, 105 intermediate, 26 difficult)
201 total lifts (106 of them are drag lifts)
10 terrain parks
694 snowmaking cannons


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Patty vs. Paddy

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I did not wear green. I did not even drink any beer. Apparently this 30 year old has lost her swag. Yeah, thats right! I just said swag!

What's the purpose for my special Sunday post? Two reasons!
1.) I am using the blogger app to write and make this post which I have never done before! And since this is a short post, I thought it would be a good time to try it out.
2.) I got distracted while on the Internet earlier (who doesn't get distracted while on the Internet?) and decided to look up the difference between Patty and Paddy when it comes to this Irish holiday. So I felt obligated to share that info with you in case you use the wrong term in front of an Irishman.

I did a little research and found a website ( which is kinda funny and distinguishes between the two names and also clears up a few more things related to my Island neighbor. Definitely check it out!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday! Hope it was a fun day!

St. Patrick's Day was observed on April 3 in 1940 and on March 14 in 2008 because it coincided with Holy Week. This will not happen again until 2160.


Friday, March 15, 2013

#FBF: Four of a Kind

Since yesterday was my 100th day post, I am replacing my Throw Back Thursday with FLASH BACK FRIDAY.... oooohhh... aaaahhhhh!

But FIRST: A few weeks ago, I introduced a few of you to Google Reader. Well, unfortunately, as of July 1st, Google Reader is dunzo. So sad! How will we read our blogs? How will we live??!!! Eat Yourself Skinny posted another reader site on her blog yesterday that I have not used, but it seems to work the same - Bloglovin. And, of course, there is an app for that! Anyway, I thought I would inform you all of this devastating change.
Click here to follow my blog with Bloglovin

Four of a Kind
Me, Kelli, Becca, Kari - possibly 1991???

The Brown's lived just 4 houses down from the Zalewski's. Our families met each other in 1989 when the Zalewski's moved from Ohio. The neighborhood was brand new, and very few homes were occupied and very few were even halfway completed.

Kari and Becca are the same age, Kelli is a year younger than them, and I am a year younger than Kelli. Since we were so close in age, we were BEST BUDDIES. Sisters pretty much. We would fight like sisters. I remember kicking Kari in the shin one time because I was mad at her... she always got her way... Kelli never got her way. It's a total inside joke how those two things always played out.

We made up all kinds of games to play - indoors and outdoors. The carpet was lava and we would seriously ride curtains from one side of a window to the next to avoid getting burned. How the curtains didn't break, not sure. We would play hide and seek and hide on the top shelf in closets and hide in mailboxes (not a typical mailbox, but it was still about the size of a computer paper box). Seriously. We went to the pool everyday during the summer where we would sing 'Batman!' as we ran off the diving board. We made up a song for National Night Out (the crime watch night) and taught all of the kids in the neighborhood the song for a parade we did in the street - yes, we were the cool kids. We had a secret society that met in our closet underneath the stairs (where it got really hot and there is still writing on the walls). We were OBSESSED with New Kids On The Block, Debbie Gibson, and Paula Abdul. We rarely watched TV. We had sleepovers practically every weekend. The only difference between the Zalewski's and the Brown's was religion and sports. Inseparable to the point of where we refused to play with other girls who came to our house to play. Yup, we were THOSE girls.

Nowadays, these ladies have THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN in the world. Except for me of course. We loved our childhood... those days are priceless!
same girls, but years later - 1999

The Batman Theme Song was released in 1966 for the Batman TV series.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's 100 day!!!

How many of you remember 100 day at school?
OMG, such a fun day! One year, I wore a sweatshirt with 100 buttons sewn on it. That's right. I was cool.

Well, this is my 100th post!

Amazingly, I have stuck with this blogging thing. And amazingly, I feel like I have gotten better at it. I told y'all a few weeks ago, that I was stumped... but I feel it has gotten better. Anyway, I tell A LOT of stories... a lot. I ramble A LOT... a lot. So for my 100th post, I feel it is only necessary to make this post 100 words long. (Crap, I'm already at 114 words!) Soooooooo.... staaaartiiiiiiiiiiiing.... NOW!

I want to thank each of you for standing by me! Thank you to my family who checks in everyday to see what new random thing I have come up with here in Scotland. Thank you to my friends who read my ramblings, but still come back to see what else I have to say. All of you are such special people in my life, and I appreciate that you take the time out of your day to read my posts. Thank you from me and also from Luke! I could not keep going without your support! We love you all!!

*having trouble not writing anymore words*

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

French Chalet = Heaven on Earth

Actual date of this event: 3-10 March

Luke and I don't normally "live large" or at least we don't think we do. When the planning for our group ski trip began, Luke and I were worried that the cost of our group ski trip was going to be way more expensive than what we would normally spend ourselves. For privacy reasons, I am going to keep the cost off of the blog, but I will say that when you break it down by day, it actually wasn't bad for various reasons that I will cover throughout this post. PLUS all Luke and I had to do was pay the bill. Falene really did a terrific job in finding all of us a home for the week, and we cannot thank her enough for it!!
We stayed at Chalet Doux Abri which is part of a company called Mountain Spaces (a couple owns three chalets in this company) and was about a mile to the Morzine mountain bases. The chalet accommodated 14 guests with 6 bedrooms, 6 showers, and 6 toilets - I say it that way because not all rooms had showers and not all rooms had toilets and some had neither. There was a kitchen, dining area, sitting area with a fireplace, living room with a TV, wrap around deck, hot tub, sauna, boot/ski room, and coat area. It also came with two cooks... which we like to call Chalet Angels.
View from the Chalet
The Chalet Angels had Wednesday off, but were on duty for every other day during our stay. These were their daily tasks:
1.) arrive by 7 am to clean up the previous night's mess, set the table for breakfast, prepare breakfast
2.) serve breakfast at 8am which included a different type of egg each day
3.) transport us by van to the mountain base... two rounds because we were a large group
4.) clean everything after breakfast
5.) make beds, wash towels, clean up various parts of the home, bake the afternoon treat
6.) set out afternoon tea and the afternoon treat
7.) they have a break from 11am to 4pm, but sometimes this time is used to do the Chalet grocery shopping
8.) pick up the groups from the mountain base in the afternoon
9.) begin preparing dinner
10.) set the table for dinner
11.) prepare and serve pre-dinner drinks and a light appeteaser at 7pm
12.) serve dinner at 7:30pm which included a starter dish, main course, dessert, cheese tray, all the wine we wanted
13.) clean dishes from dinner and the rest of the kitchen
14.) leave at 9pm or when they get their nightly duties finished

Now, can you see why we called them Chalet Angels? These two were amazing! And I am sure they had so many more behind the scenes tasks. They were both from England, so there was no language barrier. They cooked some pretty delicious food and made changes when someone wasn't eating or needed a different type of food. They put up with our Americanisms which included eating dinner in our PJs, yelling (because Americans talk loud), saying completely inappropriate things to them (although that was a Welshism - ahem, James) and singing & dancing to Ace of Base (Angelica liked that, Angelico not so much). They also helped us when we needed to make changes to our ski gear, figure out the lost ski lift pass, make phone calls in French, etc. They were actually younger than most of us, so it was fun to swap stories and also hear about previous guests. Both of them were super sweet, and God Bless Them for keeping calm while working with their partner - because they were BFGF... you know... boyfriendgirlfriend.

Aside from all of that, the Chalet arranged for our transportation to and from the airport. They also arranged the ski and boot rentals. They pre-paid and picked up our ski lift passes for us. Like I said in the beginning, this trip may have been a little more expensive than Luke and I normally spend but it was so relaxing! Aside from the skiing part. We didn't have to lift a finger and it was so nice to come back from a long day of skiing and just sit on the couch in comfy clothes and do nothing. We tried to get the Chalet Angels to come back to Aberdeen with us because we really don't know how to manage without them anymore!

Since the Chalet Angels had Wednesday off, they set out breakfast the night before which means we did not get eggs for breakfast. We also cleaned up our dishes, and put them in the dishwasher. It meant that we also had to figure out something for dinner. Like I said, how do we manage without them? Earlier in the week, the Angels gave us a few recommendations for restaurants, and we chose the one that had Fondue. Yay! Fondue!!!! This meant that we all needed to be appropriate by 6:30pm for dinner. We had to shower. We had to dry our hair. We had to put on make-up. We had to leave the house. We had to wear something other than pajamas. Say what!?!??

The Fondue idea started out as a terrific idea... and it really was for MOST of the group. The girls shared a bottle of wine and then a carafe of wine. A few girls got Onion Soup to start... the REAL french onion soup! Yummy! Nine girls shared food that was for six people. For 3 people: fondue that came with bread pieces. For 3 people: a hot stone to cook chicken, beef, veal, peppers and mushrooms which also came with salad, fries, and potatoes. And a few girls got dessert. The girls were all pleasantly satisfied after the meal! We were full though and couldn't even eat it all.
Now. For the boys. Completely different story. They each started with a large beer and then ordered two carafes of wine. They shared escargot as a starter. Four guys shared food that was for six people. For 2 people: Raclette (a cheese block that gets warmed and melted under a heating device that had to be plugged at the table... using an extension cord... that ran across the floor of the restaurant... seriously... totally safe) which came with cured meats. For 2 people: fondue that came with bread pieces. For 2 people: a hot stone to cook chicken, beef, veal (which they didn't know was veal, but still ate it), peppers and mushrooms which also came with salad, fries, and potatoes. They each had a whisky drink for dessert, and then topped everything off with a shot of some random liquor that a man was bringing around the table. They had a great serving line going between the four of them, though - they were each in charge of something in their meal whether it was cooking the meal, scraping the raclette (with a paint scraper... seriously), stirring the fondue, or ordering more drinks. They made a great team! These boys were in pain! But they kept eating and eating and eating. They finished off the girls fondue which was probably half of the bowl. We had to tell the server to take the food away from them. She laughed as she took it all away.
All of us were way too full to go anywhere but back to the chalet to put back on our PJs. Our decency could only last a few hours! We were so thankful to have the Chalet Angels come back to us on Thursday morning. Although, at the end of our trip, when all said our favorite part of the week, we asked the Chalet Angels and they said "Wednesday." Hold up. You mean that wasn't the worst part of your week???!! They were kidding, of course... I think.

Other posts on skiing in Portes du Soleil: Post 1, Post 3

Google translate says 'raclette' means 'squeegee' but it actually comes from the French word 'racler' which means 'to scrape'. Makes sense, right?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Skiing in Portes du Soleil, France

Actual date of this event: 3-10 March

A group of 13 of us decided months and months ago to go on a group ski trip. Falene was the angel who organized the whole trip and found us a terrific catered Chalet in the town of Morzine, France (more on the Chalet in another blog). If staying in Morzine, there is the option to start from the base of the Pleney lift or the base of the Super Morzine lift. You can also take the town bus to another base, but that is more difficult and takes more time.

We had all types of levels in our group which was a terrific, but at the same time not terrific. During the day, we pretty much stayed in two groups the whole week. Half of us were a little more comfortable with steeper slopes and had the desire to ski for 5-6 hours a day and were always on the first shuttle to the base... let's call this the BlueRed group. The other half were not as comfortable with steep slopes... lets call this the GreenBlue group. We also had two folks who had never skied before the trip so lessons were arranged, and then one person who used to ski competitively so he went off-piste (off-trail) quite often.

Monday, March 4th: It was our first day on the slopes. The BlueRed group set off to Pleney at 9:00 am and did a few greens, mostly blues and few reds (explanation of the colors later). The slopes seemed a bit icy, and we really weren't a fan of the snow. I had ordered longer skis than I had ever used and did not like the length (I exchanged them for shorter ones that evening). One of the members of the group lost their lift pass in Les Gets, so she had to talk her way onto lifts for the rest of the day (luckily, she was able to get another one at no charge the next day). It was REALLY HOT that day to the point where I could have skied without my jacket. The GreenBlue group also started at Pleney because they had afternoon lessons arranged to help them feel more confident on a new mountain. Unfortunately, we had a major accident.
Let's add this up... Remember, I was a math teacher, so let's do some math folks...
ski boot too tight to the ski
ski stuck in a patch of ice
ski didn't pop off
twisted leg
broken knee bone
For realz. Poor Ryan hadn't even been on the mountain for 15 minutes and he broke his leg. Poor thing had to sit in the snow for 45 minutes before ski patrol reached him to take him to the base hospital. Ryan had never skied before and Jill was looking forward to her husband learning to ski and enjoying it so they could have years and years of enjoying the activity together. That is all thrown out the window, now. We all felt and still feel so terrible for them. (Now that we are back in the UK with national health care, the situation has not gotten any better.) There is still so much more to this story, so please pray for them that things will get better for Ryan.

After the accident, the GreenBlue group had their lesson which they all thoroughly enjoyed as much as possible without thinking about the accident. The two groups met up around 3, and I took off back to the Chalet with the GreenBlue group since I was not enjoying my long skis. The rest of the BlueRed group did a few more runs before going home.
The rest of the week isn't as exciting... or depressing, I should say....
Tuesday, March 5th: The BlueRed group set off to the Super Morzine side at 9:15 am. We did quite a few runs for the day and ended up in Switzerland (Les Crosets) for a short period of time. We can now check off that we skied in the French Alps AND the Swiss Alps! It was cooler in this area of the mountain than Monday's area, but still warmer than we would like. The group enjoyed this side of the mountain so much more than the Pleney side. The GreenBlue group enjoyed their day on the Pleney side.
Wednesday, March 6th: The BlueRed group headed back to Super Morzine at 9:15 am and tried out a few new runs. Portes du Soleil is huge... there are so many different bases that we had access to and so many different lifts that could take us over one mountain and down the next. The GreenBlue group eventually made their way to Super Morzine as well. We tried to catch up with them, but since the map is so confusing it didn't end up happening. At the end of the day, the BlueRed group clocked at least 30 miles in 5 hours.

Thursday, March 7th: The BlueRed group convinced the GreenBlue group to meet up with them in an area that was fun for all - the area we attempted on Wednesday. There is a jump park in Avoriaz that was fun, but also an area that was doable for those still uncomfortable with the steep slopes. We all got to eat lunch together and the sun came out for a bit, so it became really warm.  It was a fairly easy day for the BlueRed group, but not so much for the GreenBlue group. We clocked 15 miles for the day. I am glad that we all got to ski together!

James putting on WAY TOO MUCH sunscreen
Friday, March 8th: MOST. MISERABLE. DAY. EVER! It was raining from the beginning of the day. The BlueRed group set off to Super Morzine at 9:15 am. On the way up, the rain turned to freezing rain which soaked us especially since the lift stopped a few times. Ski clothes are SUPPOSED to be waterproof, but I think the tags mean to say snowproof. When rain is drenching you, nothing can stop it from getting in. The visibility was terrible so it was difficult to see. The weather went back and forth between snow and ice. The GreenBlue group also went to Super Morzine to enjoy their time in the Avoriaz area, but that turned into a not-so-enjoyable time. Everyone except Luke, Jonathan and me made their way off the mountain. The three of us tried to wait it out, but we ended up in misery. Our hands were soaked so it was painful to put our gloves back on. Our legs were wet, rain was seeping through my jacket somehow, our goggles were cold, my beanie was soaked. The worst part about it was that because of where we were, we still had at least hour before we could get back to the chalet. Luke was able to walk back because he had on his comfy snowboarder boots, but Jonathan and I had to wait 30 minutes for the town bus to take us back. The two of us just kept talking about the sauna and the hot tub and hot tea and warm blankets. We finally reached our destination. We survived. And then we felt horrible for feeling like we were in such pain because Ryan was released from the hospital and greeted us at the Chalet with a broken leg. We still clocked 17 miles somehow.
I swear there are mountains behind all that white.  

Saturday, March 9th: Our last day was a GREAT DAY! After such a bad ski day the day before, we were so thankful to have a great day. The BlueRed group set off to Super Morzine at 9:30 am to try out some areas that we had not yet been. We really enjoyed the Chatel area. It was pretty far away from where we started, but it had some great runs. Temps were perfect for skiing. It was cold and my face was frozen a a few times, but that is how skiing is supposed to be! The GreenBlue group went to Pleney for the day. Opposite from what you'd think given that it was a Saturday, the mountain was not very packed. Ski schools do not operate on Saturdays, so there were no lines of little kids which made it so much easier to navigate your way down the mountain. At the end of the day, the BlueRed group clocked 37 miles in 6 hours. Success!!
Close to the same two picture as Friday's two pictures. Major difference!

 Lunch time! The chairs kept randomly sinking like 8 inches into the snow. Sooo funny!

Our route for Saturday... You can see we were right on the border of Switzerland. Tuesday, we went to Les Crosets.
What an exhausting week! It was super fun and such a great experience for most of us. Now... back to my loads and loads of laundry which includes washing things separately due to different types of material. Hopefully, I will be done with my laundry by Friday.
1 load washing
1 load drying
2 loads waiting in this picture
1 load waiting in another room
1 giant pile of "needs special treatment"

Other posts on skiing in Portes du Soleil: Post 2, Post 3

If returning to Morzine by Super Morzine, you must take the Super Morzine bubble lift (a closed in gondola) back down to the base because there are no ski slopes to the base.

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