Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Gone Travelling

This blog has been paused for 6 months while we travel. You can read our travel blog instead by clicking here.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Happy Birthday Dan!

The old man is now even older! 36 to be exact. Ok, well not exactly, his birthday isn't until Thursday, but since the kids are going to my Mums for 2 days while we pack, and then we will be on a long flight and arriving in Florida on his birthday, we decided to celebrate it a few days early. So, for the purposes of convenience, Dan's birthday was today.

And after 14 years I finally got the whole present buying thing right, and bought him things he actually wanted! Ok, I'm a bit of a slow learner, but I get there in the end. And he still has the other half of his life to look forward to all the nice presents I can get him in future.
So what did we do? Well, Dan sneaked out of bed before me and took Annabelle to the local high school open day to look round. LOL. But when they got home Barney and I sang happy birthday and called Dan upstairs to the bedroom where an array of presents awaited him.

As is custom in our house, present opening always happens on our big King Size bed, as a family. (I wonder when the kids will grow out of that). This year we gave Dan stuff for the trip, including new clothes, a new windproof coat, an MP3 player, a portable hard drive, a torch, and chocolate. Oh how exciting. LOL.

After all that excitement we took a trip to PC world in Lisburn where Dan didn't actually buy anything in the end, and I went to Argos and bought some holdalls for our trip (and a camera for Jimmie, and a new MP3 player for Annabelle - yes, you'd think I was made of money. Sadly, I'm not). Then we took Dan to McDonald's (or did he take us? Yes, I think he did).

This evening once the kids were in bed we got a DVD from the video shop (something with Jodie Foster in it, the name has gone from my spongey brain) and watched it together in the living room, all cuddled up under a duvet. It was an odd kind of birthday really as we are so crazy organizing this trip. But I think he had a good day in the end.

Here are some photos from the day....
Pic 1) Barney wrapped up one of his colouring books for his Daddys birthday present, bless. 2) Daddy opening his presents with the kids (and sporting his new headphones & mic set!) 3) Dan looking mighty handsome in the new clothes I bought him 4) Annabelle and Jimmie in McDonalds 5) Barney & Dan in McDonalds, 6) Me, being my usually silly self (in public, as always)

Oh by the way, our mate Neil really wants to be mentioned in todays blog post. He has kind of a dull life and nothing much to look forward to so this will make his day. LOL. So hello Neil! (He's single by the way girls, and quite a catch in my opinion - if you like gingers, lol) My blog is turning into a lonely hearts ad site. LOL, "36 YO Male, Birmingham, SGSBM (sexy ginger slightly balding man), Athletic, likes walks in the rain and quiet nights in front of the fire, GSOH, own house and car, fully toilet trained...."

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Banbridge Leader Article, Tues 22nd January 2008

Click on the photo to see it in full size and read the article about our wee shop closing.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Fun n Frolicks

Our good friends Heather & Davy invited us to dinner on Friday evening. As is usual at their place, our kids all dressed in drag and put on a show. (I think they get it from their mother personally). Heather cooked us all a gorgeous meal and made sure we all went home stuffed to the gills. After tea we watched the kids delightful pop routine, and then they all went off to play grown up games, while the adults played virtual sports games on the playstation/tv thingy (I've no idea what it was). Basically, you held a control in your hand and played games of bowling, baseball, tennis or boxing. I was fab at the boxing and totally thrashed my opponent! I wasn't so hot at the tennis. Steve really put his heart and soul into the baseball, only to later discover that the controller worked without throwing ones entire body around the room. Anyway, here are some pics....

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

New Travel Blog

We have decided to dedicate a new blog to our 6 month trip across America. You can read it and add it to your favourites, by clicking here.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Vital CD Shop in Banbridge closes down

Our last day as owners of the coolest shop in Northern Ireland. Its been hard work. Its been fun. We have grown quite attached to this place and will miss it. But look forward to new adventures.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The terrific buisness of planning a 6 month trip in just 3 weeks

Well, since deciding finally to take this trip across America life has suddenly hurtled into fast motion. In all honesty, I thought life could be no busier than it already was. How wrong I was!

Half way through packing our lifes contents into boxes to go into storage, Dan decides that we should not worry about packing the home up. We should leave it on the market and if it sells we will worry about getting a company to pack it all up, but if it doesn't, we have a home to come back to. I already have about 40 boxes and bin bags of items to sell - things we don't want or need any more. But it looks like I dont need to pack up the entire house, for the mean time.

This afternoon the big kids are taking boxes into their bedrooms in order to clear out anything they can sell. Once Dan's shop is closed he is going to use the premises for a week or so, to sell all our unwanted posessions. I have lurred the kids with the promise of the funds paying for a little trip to Disneyland in Florida, and all of a sudden they have whole bedrooms full of things they dont want any more!

On the 15th January we have appointments to get American travel visas. Because we are travelling for more than 90 days we each need a special visa. We have to proove that we intend to return home after 6 months. In order to do this I need letters from the kids schools saying that their places are being kept for them, travel insurance to cover a 6 month period (I sorted this out this morning), proof that we own a home here, and bank statements proving that we have enough money to cover our trip, plus proof that we have hired an RV for the intened amount of time, and that we have tickets to come home again. The tickets home is a bit tough as I dont intend to purchase any tickets until we have the visas.

I am desperately trying to organise a visit to my death row penpal in Georgia whilst we are there, but really dont have a clue whether we will be able to organise this in time. I kind lady who lives nearby has offered to help me organise this. Apparently the prisons offer special extended weekend visits for people who have travelled overseas. I know that E will be gutted if we are in his state and dont manage a visit. We both know it will be the only chance we ever have to meet, and since we have been writing once a week for over 2 years now, it would be such a shame.

Well, I really dont have the time to sit here blogging. Lol. As much as I'd like to. I am thinking of starting a travel blog dedicated just to the trip rather than filling our family blog up with it. I'm not sure yet though.

Let me leave you with a few photos of some of the truly amazing places we intend to visit....

Thursday, 3 January 2008


The trip is ON

Well, almost, almost definitely on. Will be on by lunch time, all being good.

Dan is on the phone right now to the bank to ask them to freeze our mortgage while we are away. If that goes well we shall phone the American Consulate in Belfast to arrange Visas. That takes 12 days. So anytime within the next 4 weeks we hope to be off on our trip across America!

I'm just a little bit over excited about this, as you can imagine. Right now, I'm stuck in limbo. Our whole house will need packing up and putting into storage as we are leaving it on the market in the hopes that it will sell while we are gone. So theres a lot of work to be done there. But until the bank give us a yes or no, I can't do a thing.

... ... ... ... ...

Ok, so Dan just got back to me there. He spoke to the bank and it takes 7 days to get a definite answer, but he had to answer a lot of questions which were all basically about debt and bankrupcy etc. Since he answered positively to each question the lady at the bank seemed sure that there is no reason why our application would be refused. So thats good news.

Now I need to get a ton of information together for Dan to phone the consulate to arrange our visa appointments. Since we will be travelling for more than 90 days we need special visas. It takes 12 days from start to finish for the whole visa application thing.

It's gonna be a busy few weeks!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Reflections over 2007

I've spent a few days thinking about 2007, and pondering over 2008. 2007 was possibly the busiest most manic year of my life so far. In many ways it has been very fulfilling, and in other ways sad and disappointing. But mostly, its been busy. 2008 will be a very different year for our family. Our business is closing, we have no plans for future income, we are hoping to sell our house and go travelling within the next 12 weeks. So 2008 offers many possibilities, but what I would like more than anything from it, is to bond closer with my gorgeous family. To spend more time with them, and to experience many adventures together. I also hope for a peaceful year, and to make some new special friends.

So while I've been pondering over all of this, I got to thinking about 2007. I started writing a list of things that I remember from the year, and now I realise why I feel so utterly shattered, and as if I have just reached the end of a year long marathon! Here are some of the memories I hold from 2007....

The highlight of my entire year was no doubt, the Apoclayptica concert. This evening was far more than entertainment. It blew my mind. But I wont harp on about it as I already devoted a post to that (which, may I add, was featured on an Apocalyptica website!)

At the start of the year we were still home educating Annabelle.

We introduced the idea of The Red Plate which has worked well for us all year and is still in regular use.

I attended my first Tinnitus appointment in an attempt to work out what was wrong with me.

We left the fellowship which I'd been attending since the age of 4 ad were criticised by Dan's family and shunned by our friends.

I started sprouting, milling, making my own bread and researching raw food lifestyles.

We took day trips to W5, Castle Espie, Gosford Forest Park, the Aquarium, Newcastle, and Hillsborough Lake, and the World of Owls in Ransdalstown (amoungst many others I'm sure)

I started my 2nd term of bellydancing and took on an extra course.

I was emailed on two ocassions and asked to go on Wife Swap!! (and refused both times!)

I had an MRI scan of my brain which turned out to be the most horrifying ordeal of my life so far! Realised how badly claustrophobic I am and spent the rest of the year finding more and more situations unbearable (such as sitting in window seats on buses or planes).

I bought a new dehydrator and began making my own cereals, crakers and dried raw foods.

Went to see the Belfast Giants Ice Hockey match.

Went to see the Russian Circus at the Waterfront Hall.
Raised money to feed Tinkhani in Zambia (thanks to readers of my blog.)
I started working 2 - 3 days a week in Dans shop.
Annabelle started full time school again.
We started our 2nd year of vegetable gardening.
Dan bought me a beautiful new engagement ring and re-proposed to me.
We took a family weekend break in Derry and had the best family weekend ever.
I went to Dubai on my own for a week (and what a week it was!)

I had a carotid dopler scan on my neck which revealed the reason for my pulsatile tinnitus.
I started using a white noise hearing aid.
I performed in my first belly dance (the fan dance at the Hafla in the Radison Hotel)
We started planning for our 2008 trip.
I danced at the Belfast Dance In The Park show.
I fell down the stairs, broke my toes and spent 12 weeks on crutches.

Jimmie turned 12 years old and got his first girlfriend.
I danced in 3 dances at the Golden Camels Awards and learnt how to dance and play the sagats.
Dan and I attended the Burlesque Night in Belfast.
Barney developed an obsession for Hama Beading and cost me a fortune in beads.
Barney turned 4.
Annabelle turned 11.
I took a trip to England to see old friends and meet Tabi's twin girls.
Dan took a trip to Latvia and had the time of his life.
Hannah's Hen Party.
Hannah & David got married and we were all bridesmaids, flower girls, page boys or groomsmen.

I performed my first (gothic) solo belly dance at the Blood & Glitter show in Laverys.
I took a trip to England to see HIM in concert.
I went to London and met my friend Neil.
I got my tongue pierced.
Dan and I took a weekend in Dublin to see Apocalyptica.

We celebrated another Christmas.
I turned 31.

Here is my favourite photos from this year...

Another year older...

As always, at the end of every year, I get another year older. This year I turned 31. Of course, I'm totally in denial about how old I am. But hey, what can you do about it? You can't fight it.

My family were totally lovely to me all day. I think it was possibly the nicest birthday so far. This year Dan made an extra effort to buy me presents that I'd actually like (rather than shower gels and things that I could buy in Tesco myself any day of the week). I knew my presents were going to be good, as Dan and the kids kept telling me. However, Dan had paid for me to go to England to see HIM in concert (for my birthday) so it really should have been a quiet day.

On Saturday morning I was awoken in bed by an extremely excited Barney. Of course he helped me open everything, and got more pleasure out of it than you could think possible.

Dan had really made an effort to buy fabulous gifts, and I was totally delighted. Amoungst other things I was given:

This book about HIM (Ville Valo) with hundreds of sexy photos of the man himself (a bit of bedtime reading! hehe).

An encyclopeadia of Heavy Metal Music (this is a dream gift for me - I know others may not appreciate it).

An MP3 player, new perfume, the new biography about Anthony Keidis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers entitled Scar Tissue ( I can't wait to get stuck into this), a book called 'What is Goth?' which is truly hilarious and informative (my new goth name is Marquesa Demona Enchantress of the Innocents & Dans is Master Vlad Defiler of the Virgins!!!!) a new handbag sized good camera, Nigella Lawsons cookbook for good quality fast family food, and lots lots more. My Mum gave me a beautiful red dress too. After a serious amount of present opening Dan and the kids took me to the new Ed's Diner thats opened up nearby and we stuffed ourselves silly.

Since it wasn't possible to fit 31 candles into a cake, I was presented by Annabelle with towering inferno of flames on a cheese cake. (see top photo) How novel!

My Mum kindly agreed to take the kids overnight on Saturday night so we were able to go into Belfast and meet up with some friends. My sister Maddi & her partner Tom came too, as well as some of the lovely belly dancing girls I've made friends with recently. It's so hard to get people at this time of year as everyone is so busy, so we decided to go out rather than have a party or anything.

First pic is of me all dressed up and ready to go out. Second pic is me wearing the cool hat and gloves that Maddi bought me!

Two of my lovely belly dancing friends with me, Jools on the left, and Aleksandra on the right.

This is me on the left and my sister Maddi on the right. She fell in love with the hat and gloves she gave me and I rather thought I wasn't going to get them back!

Tom and Dan, two of the luckiest men in the world, in my opinion!

So, all in all I had a fabulous day. We had a great laugh in Laverys with friends, and a bit of a boogie too. Dan and I went back to Jools house for a kebab, which I horsed down as if I'd not eaten in a month!

Thanks to Dan for making it such a nice day, and to everyone for the lovely presents, and for the people who came out with me and made it such a nice night.