Friday, 28 June 2013

Just a normal camp week

I know I only blogged a few days ago, but given we are going away soon, and I am not sure I will be inclined to blog while away.  If I do, it will be from my pad, so probably no photos, though they will come at a later date.

This week, Oliver has had basketball camp at his school.  He started off monday morning (and most of the previous weekend) with "I don't want to go to camp".  We all walked him in on Monday morning, were greeted by the admissions officer at school, and off he went.  Needless to say, he has loved it.  Playing lots of different games, and skills associated with basketball.  I think it has done him the world of good to be with kids his age, and away from his brother (and the Xbox) for a little while.

Loving the water, yes Seb has his head in the water
Meanwhile, Isaac, Sebastian and myself have been enjoying some time together.  Monday, we headed into Greenville to meet up with the International moms group, and although there was only 3 of us, we had a blast.  We walked from Falls Park, down the Reedy River to Linky Stone Park.  This is a small, sensual garden, with lots of things to entice the senses.  Well it was, when it was first created a few years ago.  Unfortunately time and vandals have had a play, and I don't think it is quite what it once was.  The idea is fab, lots of smell, touch and sight stimulus, the kids can even touch all the plants, there is no area out of bounds. The kids were able to enjoy the plants.  There is a musical bit , but most of the things to strike the 'instruments' were missing, or were missing themselves.  We did however see a tortoise on the path. That made the kids day.  From there we travelled back up the Reedy River towards Falls Park again.  We stopped at the splash area, near The Lazy Goat.  It has a waterfall, and water fountains coming out of the ground for kids to play in on hot days. My boys LOVED this.  I did not bring their swim gear, just a change of clothes.  I know what to do next time...  We were there for about 45 minutes, while the boys soaked themselves, and had a thoroughly great time.  We stopped for coffee on the way out, before heading to get Oliver.

Tuesday morning was mundane, food shopping.  But I did manage to find the time to take Isaac and Sen to the pool before we got Oliver.  In the afternoon we had some friends round, which was nice for the boys to play, then headed to the pool, again, with Paul when he got home from work.

Isaac with his cupcake
Wednesday after dropping Oliver, we headed to the zoo.  We had not been for a while.  It was nice to go, especially early in the morning.  Many people do not know that the zoo opens at 9 during the summer months.  It is nice to go when the day is cooler, and it is less crowded.  The only downside being that not all the animals are awake yet.  There was no lemurs, giraffes or lions out when we arrived. This could also be down to the Zoo camp that they run over the summer.  After the zoo, we were going to head to Greenville to Marble Slab to get some ice cream, but it doesn't open till 11.30!!!  We ended up in Chocolate Mousse instead, for possibly the most expensive cupcakes ever, but man they were good.  I had a red velvet, the boys had a chocolate one each.  Note to self:  next time just purchase them the icing, as this is all they eat (I did not know you could do this till another customer came in and did it for her child).  We will definitely be back here, but possibly just me with a friend, and no kids....

Today we have not done much.  We met up with my friend at the park this afternoon, her children had miraculously multiplied in to 4 (she had her friends kids too), luckily enough they all go to Isaac's school, so there was good common ground.  But it was too hot.  We met at 3, and it was too hot.  I don't foresee us going to many more parks in the afternoon until at least late August.  Its funny, in England you spend all winter indoors as it is too cold.  Here you spend the winter outside, and the Summer inside as it is too hot.  Don't get me wrong, I am loving the heat.  I don't think the boys have worn trousers since April.  Pretty much the same for me. 

Only 2 more sleeps till we head off on the epic drive.  Nearly 500 miles from here to Orlando.  Luckily the boys are used to being in the car for long journeys, all our trips to France have trained them well.  This is a wee bit further, but seeing as they are already discussing which films they are going to watch on the way down, I think they will be fine.  They are really excited, as am I.  Been along time since I did Florida, 15 years in fact.  I am looking forward to seeing it from a child's perspective, I think the boys are going to love it, and I can't wait.

Now I am off to make some goody bags for the trip!


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Monday, 24 June 2013

Keeping chimps entertained


As the title suggests, I have been keeping chimps entertained this week.  It has not been easy, and at sometimes it has not been fun either.  

We met Liene at the library on Monday.  The event we had planned to go to was already at full capacity, so we were unable to hear the concert.  We kicked around in the library for a bit then they came back here.  Unfortunately the weather was not good enough for the pool.  In fact it was not good enough until wednesday! 

This gave me an opportunity to cut Seb's hair on tuesday.  I think it looks ok, for a mummy haircut....  Wednesday morning we headed to the pool.  The boys really enjoyed this.  Had a quick lunch, got Seb down for a sleep, they played computers, I did uni work (not fun).  We had some friends round on Wednesday and thursday afternoon.  It is so nice to have people over.  The kids always  seem to play so well, and I love a good natter.  our biggest problem is that no one wants to go home!
Friday I met up with some Simpsonville mummies.  There was about 10 of us, plus kids, so a very good gathering.  Almost took me back to my Netmums days.  I miss you guys xxxx

We came home, and it was time to get to work.  The boys made themselves pizza for lunch.  They had great fun doing this, even if only Oliver ate the end product.  I can safely say, having eaten Isaacs, that they were yummy.  

Seb went for a sleep, so me and the big two made some bracelets from pipe cleaners and beads, then took the sidewalk chalk out to the drive, did some drawing and played hopscotch.  It was hot though, so that did not last too long.

It had been suggested by a couple of people to go up to Greenville on Friday evening for Main Street Friday.  This is where they shut off the top of Main Street.  They set up inflatables for the kids, and a stage is set up near one of the hotels for live music.  We headed in early for some dinner, then off up the street.  We purchased some wrist bands for Paul and I, to enable us to drink alcohol.  And some tokens to buy the alcohol.  Next stop, beer truck.  I was able to get a Hoeegarden, yummy, have not had one of those for a while.  We headed up, past the stage area.  There were people with their camping chairs everywhere.  Once we got nearer the inflatable, it got less busy.  We purchased some wrist bands for the  older boys, to give them unlimited goes on the inflatable.  They certainly got their moneys worth.  We met up with our friends for a bit, which was nice.  They then disappeared of to get some food, so we hung around near the inflatables waiting for another friend.  They showed up, so we headed back down the street to get more beer.  The biggest issue of the night was the distance between the beer wagon and the kids area, but I think that is probably intentional.  We had a really good giggle with our friends, it was the first time the husbands had met, that can always be a worrying time, but they seemed to get on just fine.  The kids also get on well, and towards the end of the night were sitting on the kerbside watching videos on my phone. 

This weekend has been spent chilling.  After the pool being closed since thursday, we were very glad to get in it yesterday afternoon, and again this morning.  Sunday morning seems to be a good time to go.  It is nice and quiet, and no one has set up camp for the day yet.  It was the Le Mans 24 hour race yesterday, so Paul spent most of the day (and night) watching that.  As did Oliver.  We had a barbecue yesterday, which was yummy, and today I have cooked a lovely roast beef, of which there are loads of left overs.

This week is not too busy.  Oliver has basketball camp every morning.  It will be nice for him (and the rest of us) to spent some time with kids his age, and it will be nice to have just Isaac and Seb again.  I think we are off to Greenville tomorrow morning and seeing friends wednesday afternoon.  I want to try and take Isaac and Seb to the zoo one morning, and maybe the children's museum again.  I know he really wants to.  

The other thing I need to do is pack for holiday!  We are off to Florida soon.  The house keys are here, the Disney tickets are booked, just got to wait till payday to book the Seaworld and Legoland tickets.  I am sooooooooo excited.  I hve picked up so many hints and tips like this, and this and this.  I went to all the Dollar stores this week, and Walmart last weekend, and have managed to get all of this lot for the boys 'goodie bags', which they will be decorating one day this week.  Don't think I spent over $50, so heres hoping they don't ask for too many souvenirs.

Goodie bag contents

Look what we were watching today.  Finally managed to get cricket in America

Shame they lost
Will try and post again on thursday before the magic begins

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My garden

I want to take a bit of time to talk about my garden.  Those who know me well, will know I love to grow stuff.  I am not particularly green fingered, so I don't tend to grow things to look pretty.  I grow vegetables, fruits and the occasional flower.

Back in the UK, I would grow tomatoes, peppers, chilies and strawberries.  One year I grew enough tomatoes to make sauce for chili, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne etc.  It lasted for 3 months.  I have also been known to grow mangoes and avocado from stones in fruit I have bought in the supermarket.  These went quite well, and I had to give them to family and friends when I left.  I would love to know how they are getting on.  I never had an area laid out for a veggie patch, I just used the flower beds.

When we moved here, I loved the fact the house has a vegetable patch.  The owners had some success growing things, but the previous tenants did not.  As we moved in in October, I have had plenty of time to plan what I wanted to do.  Pinterest has been very helpful in this.  I got inspiration and tips here, here, here and here.   If you want to check out my gardening board on Pinterest it can be found here

So I started in february.  Isaac and I took a trip to Big Lots, just to be nosy, and see what they had.  We came away with strawberry seeds, chili pepper greenhouse, and some bulbs or flowers.  As time went on I purchased cucumber, mint, lavender, cat nip, rosemary, thyme, basil and sunflower seeds.  I also collected seeds from the copious amount of peppers we get through a week.  I planted the chili peppers, strawberry, tomato, cucumber and pepper seeds in containers inside at the end of february, in the hope of getting them outside at the end of April.

About a month later, I planted the rest of the seeds.  By now, my cucumbers had come up, and died.  Tomatoes did well, as did the chili.  The peppers seemed to be fairing well too.  I planted more cucumbers, some of these came up.  

I started putting things into the garden around March.  Most of the things I put in the veggie patch had some broken egg shells go in the holes before the plants did, in the hope it would help nourish them in the clay soil we have 

And the results.......

My veggie patch

About 3 of my cucumber plants survived the move to the garden, though none have done well enough to give any fruit.  I purchased some cucumber plants from Isaacs school.  These are doing well.  One has a couple of fruit on in.  

The other two appear to be ball cucumbers

This is the only mint that grew from the many seeds I planted.  I did invest in a bigger plant from a local garden centre.  I need mint for the jugs of mojito's I make 

This is my herb pot, it has basil, rosemary and thyme.  The seeds I planted did nothing, so I invested in these from the same garden centre.  Perfect herbs for cooking.

My chili plants have done very well.  I have 5 plants in the ground, 3 in a pot, and have given one away.  They are not quite ripe yet, but there are plenty of them.  I am looking forward to using these in cooking

My tomato plants have about 10 fruit on them.  Because of all the rain we have had, they have got very large.  We just need some sun now.....

Our grass is looked after by Trugreen.  There was a lot of weeds in there, so much so that the housing association sent our land lord a snotty letter basically saying we had to get the front sorted.  Funnily enough, he got the letter about 2 days after we employed Trugreen to take care of our lawn.
When Paul cut the back garden on Friday, he cut a race track into it.   The track also has a NASCAR circuit contained inside it.  

Our boys love racing cars. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

The In laws visit


Just a quick one.....

I am well and truly in the remit of school holidays now.  Isaac has been off for a week, Oliver well over 2.  Although, it doesn't feel like it quite yet, as we have had the in laws here...

Granddad and Isaac in the pool
It was nice to have Keith and Chris stay with us.  Chris was not well when she arrived, so I took them to check out the standard of American health care (like me, they are well used to how the NHS works...).  Fortunately, they were seen, given a prescription, charged under $180 (including prescription) in under an hour.  Went well.  I swapped cars with my friend (thanks Anna), so I was able to run them around, without the necessity of them hiring a car to start with.  They saw Greenville, the mall, and went to the pool quite a lot with the boys.  On Monday, they hired a car, and headed to Atlanta, to see Fleetwood Mac in concert.  I think they enjoyed it.  They then headed to some mountains above Atlanta, for a night away from lots of noise, for some rest and relaxation, before heading back here on the wednesday afternoon.  We went for a nice meal on Thursday evening, and they headed back on Friday night.  They are already being missed by the boys, and us.

The boy LOVES water
Flight simulator
While they were here, we took a trip to The Children's Museum in Greenville.  The boys loved it, and it was nice for Nanny and Granddad to be able to do something new with the boys.  We liked it too, as you can imagine my boys were completely taken with the Formula 1 bit, the supermarket and the building site area.  It was a lot of fun.  We went quite late in the day, so a lot of the areas were pretty messed up and some of the activities were not working at all.  There were also some quite rude kids, but we wont dwell on that....

Upset boys
 We were also able to experience the Farmers Market in Downtown Greenville for the first time.  What enticed us out was 'Touch a Truck' day.  It was billed as a great opportunity for kids to see large vehicles they normally see on the road, upfront, and have a play and touch them.  Great, except it was heaving.  We got there about 10am.  Walked out of the multistory into the display area, and were completely taken aback by the formality of queueing.  Every vehicle had a queue at least 10 people deep.  We don't do queues. This should not have been strange to us, coming from the kingdom of queueing, but the formality and organization these people had put upon themselves was beyond me. We walked to the other end of the display, where there was a huge fire truck with a big crane, again queues either side to have your photo on the bottom of the crane, or sit in the seat.  We turned around, and the boys were fortunate enough to be able to go in the back of the school bus.  There was then a small baby sitting with parent in fire truck next to school bus.  Baby liked the LOUD horn on the fire truck.  So we had a very upset Isaac and Sebastian.  Wasn't really worth it.....

So the holidays 'proper' begin for me tomorrow.  This week we are meeting Liene at a local library for an event involving kazoo's, lets hope Isaac does not freak at the noise.... Having some friends round on Wednesday afternoon.  Thats all so far, let hope more things appear.  I imagine we will spend a bit of the time at the pool, it is so nice to have.  I need to do a type of reward chart for Oliver and Isaac to entice them to do their school work, reading and help a bit more with the chores.  The summer time rules are working ok so far, other than the above mentioned things......

Monday, 10 June 2013

A year of blogs

I can't believe I started this blog a year ago today.  Man, a lot has happened.

Having this blog has been very good for me.  In the beginning, when no one knew about it, I was able to put down what was happening in our lives, and speculate on what was going to happen.  It enabled me to unburden myself, without jinxing our upcoming adventure.  As our plans began to evolve, and we began to make it known to people that our lives were in for a huge upheaval, it enabled those close to us to know what was going on.

Once we had done our 'look and see', we had a mad month in which we basically sold and gave away a big chunk of our possessions, said our goodbyes, to friends first, and then family.

Then it was time to begin our biggest adventure as a family to date.  The boys have both started schools, and settled in now.  They have just finished their first year here, Oliver finished 1st grade, and Isaac completed his first year in a Montessori school.  I am exceptionally grateful to Paul's company for giving our boys these opportunities, ones we would never have been able to afford in the UK. Paul has been in his new job role for 9 months, and has had plenty of opportunity to travel, the furthest being to Duluth in Minnesota, then driving back to South Carolina via Wisconsin, Illinois (stopping in Chicago), Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee then back here.  He has also spent a lot of time at Talladega Motor Speedway, and Carolina Motor Speedway.

We are exceptionally lucky to have travelled a fair bit since being here.  Obviously we have checked out places locally, but we have managed to go further afield.  We took a trip for my birthday to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.  We were lucky enough to take a trip to Tybee Island in Georgia when my mum came over at Easter.  We then headed to McClellanville with some friends at the end of last month.  Again another good trip.

This blog has been a learning experience.  It started out very basic, but I feel it is gradually coming along.  I have changed the layout a bit at times, and recently added labels.  Just before Christmas, I started using Pintrest.  Thanks to this site, my most viewed post is this!  I have recently posted my blog to a couple of expat blogs, on the recommendation of a friend who has been an expat in France.  You can find the sites I am on here  and here, but I must remember to go in and add their links to this blog..... I still have to get my head round how sharing blogs works, but I will find it out in due course me thinks.

For now I want to say thank you for reading this blog, it is a pleasure to write, albeit a little after the fact sometimes.  Often living life gets in the way of writing about life, and there is nothing I want to do about it.

Monday, 3 June 2013

End of school

So Oliver has finished school.  Over the last 2 weeks he has brought all his work home with him.  He has done a LOT
Olivers school work
I am so pleased with what he has done.  His hand writing has improved dramatically.  He flies through his homework, and enjoys doing other work books that we have bought for him.  Some of the stuff he is doing is amazing.  He was supposed to find out whose class he is in next year, but he cannot remember.  I am hoping the school will be in touch shortly to let me know.

He is off school for 10 weeks, yes 10 whole weeks.  We have things planned, the in laws are coming, he is doing basketball camp for a week, we are going to Florida, hopefully my dad is coming.  But the rest of the time I have to find things to keep him occupied and amused.

Those who know us, and know Oliver will know he loves playing the computer.  Since moving here he tends to use his computer time to play XBox, always racing games.  He has been through F1 Race Stars, Forza Motor sprot 4 and now Nascar-Inside Lane. We have had set times for about 2 years, otherwise he just wants to play all the time.  He can get quite upset over coming off the computer.  Until now, during holidays, he has generally had an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.  I want to change this as it will be too restrictive over the holidays.

I have a new system that I am going to introduce to them tomorrow.  Please see the photos below for Computer card rules, and Summer holiday rules

Wish me luck.....


I feel like I want to write a bit about the baseball season Oliver has been playing in this year.

First game
This was arranged by Simpsonville Parks and Recreation department, operating out of Heritage Park.  Heritage Park is a big, purpose built facility, on the outskirts of Simpsonville.  It has 10 baseball fields.

There were 10 teams in Oliver's grade, all named after famous baseball teams.  Oliver played for the Marlins.  His coach was Coach Kyle.  He was amazing with the boys.  He had a couple of helpers, volunteers really, dads of players on the teams.

Practice began the first week of March, and games the second week of April.  There were 2 practices a week, till games began.  Then there were 2 games a week, the coach used his wisdom and did not hold anymore practices.
Smacking it

The Marlins were pretty good.  First practice was very interesting to watch, quite cringe worthy at times.  By the time the second game came round, they were getting good, and starting to play as a team.  As it was only 1st grade, they did not keep score, and everyone was a winner.  The kids had other ideas though, and kept score at every game. I think they only lost one, maybe two games.

It was a shame Oliver had to miss the last game as we were away.  The coach had already planned a little get together for the team, and we had paid a little bit of money so the boys could have trophies.  Yesterday Oli and I headed out to the far end of Simpsonville for a pool party at the coaches house.  It was a large free standing pool in his back yard.  Only about 7 of the kids could make it, but they all seemed to have a good time.  There were hotdogs, and cream cakes.  The coach presented them with their trophies and an impromptu game of baseball was played.  This ended up being coaches against players.  Some of these kids can really smack that ball now.

Coach Kyle, Oliver and his trophy
Interesting sight at a kids baseball game
All in, Oliver has really enjoyed the season.  It has been nice to meet other people, kids and parents alike, and get to see a real American past time in all its glory.  There is a fall season that I have every intention of signing him up for.  However, as he will be grade 2, he will have to try out, they will score the games, and it will all get a bit more serious......

Catch up and Oliver is 7

Ok, so I have 2 weeks of activities to fill you all in on.  I will make it as quick as possible.....

We have mainly been catching up with our friends, and going to peoples houses.  It has been lovely.  The weather has been steadily improving, which has meant many trips to the pool.  I still have not taken the boys on my own yet, but the time is coming.....

Birthday cake
I had Isaac's school conference last week.  He is doing really well, his number skills are good, and he is starting to show real interest in writing and reading.  He can write most numbers, and a variety of letters.  He can write his name, and is starting to recognize words.

the best present ever
It was Oliver's birthday last week, I cant believe he is seven now.  Man, time flies.  He got a variety of presents.  His favorite is the Xbox game 'Nascar- Inside lane', he loves it.  The boy is obsessed by Nascar.  He chose to go out to TGI Fridays for dinner on his birthday (thanks mum), then to the pool afterwards. He also had a Spongebob cake, which I purchased from the local supermarket.  It was yummy, and so much less hassle than me making it.  Particularly as he had requested I make 21 cookies for him to take to school as a special snack.  Oliver also had a school trip on his birthday, how lucky is that.  They went to the happy cow creamery, and got to eat ice cream. At the weekend we went to Frankie's Fun Park, where him and Isaac played some miniature golf, then we had a meal at Johnny Rockets. Yummy milkshakes.

New hair
I had my haircut last week.  It was time to go short.  I just was not managing it in the heat.  I got an awesome hairdresser at a place in the mall.  She was very good.  It is now just below my ears, but I feel like I want to go a bit shorter, so will probably be back there before our next holiday.

We relaxed over Memorial day weekend. Aloft was on at Heritage Park, but we just wanted to stay home, and enjoy family time.  We did get to see some balloons in the evening, which was nice.

Oliver finished school on thursday.  He does not go back till 26th August.   Isaac finishes on friday, and goes back the first week of August.  This is when Sebastian starts.  We have been offered for him to do 3 days, rather than 2, so we are going with this.  I am so looking forward to having some me time, even if I will be spending it doing Uni work.  I am a little worried about how he will settle, but if I have done it with 2 already, the 3rd should be a doodle (I hope....)

I was able to go out with some friends in the week to Greenville.  I chose to drive everyone, which meant I could not drink, but I was ok with this.  We had a nice time, with yummy food at the Lazy Goat, then drinks at Greenville's newest rooftop bar, SIP.  Very nice, even is I was just on the diet coke.  Was late though, didn't get home till gone midnight.

black rat snake 
I took Oliver and Seb to the zoo on friday.  It was good.  Seb got to walk, which he loved.  As it was only us, and the boys keep a brisk pace round the zoo we were done in just over an hour.  We did see a black rat snake in the flamingo enclosure.  Nice to know what those things look like.  The boys even got the opportunity to play in Cleveland park after, which was good for them

My in laws arrive tomorrow.  So looking forward to seeing them, as are Paul and the boys.  It will be nice to have some company, and to help keep the kids amused. I hope they manage the traveling ok, it can be very tiring.....