Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog


Today is my family’s big Thanksgiving dinner, and only the second one I’ve ever missed. I sent my mom some photos to take along, and I’ve also written a letter to my family. Here is a copy of the letter, which is basically a run-down of 2010:

Dear Family,

I hope you all can forgive me for not being there for Thanksgiving, but with Mom’s visit to me in December, I felt it was silly to visit so close to her visit. I’m planning on visiting sometime in 2011 and if Tim can get time off from work, he’ll come with me.

I’m not sure where to start or what all to tell you but I will say that this past year has been amazing. I really love living in the UK and I have made some fantastic friends, as well as re-connected with a friend from high school who now lives here!

Before I arrived, Tim was talking with his Aunt Wendy about me wanting to get involved in the community. Wendy asked what my hobbies were, and Tim told her about singing. Wendy had a friend who was part of a chorus and I was invited to attend a rehearsal. I loved it, so I joined! The group is called Lincoln Sounds, and is a female barbershop chorus and part of Sweet Adeline’s International. This past May, we won the bronze medal at our regional convention!

I also found a volunteer opportunity one day while walking around in town. I now work once a week at the Cancer Research UK shop. It’s a short shift, but it gets me out of the house, meeting people, and more used to using British money. I tend to make people laugh when I use American words like “pants” or “suspenders” – in the UK, if you mention “pants”, you are referring to what in the US is called underwear. “Suspenders” in the UK are what in the US are called garters! Whoops! Fortunately, most people recognize my accent and laugh.

We’re slowly working on getting the house redecorated and organized, but we can see the final vision in our heads, so hopefully in 2011 we will be able to do everything. We are planning on installing double glazing on our windows to help with keeping heat in in the winter, and looking into central heating. Our house is a farm house from the 1800s (the oldest house in the village), and the previous owner never had central heating installed and Tim didn’t have it done because he was hardly home. Now that I’m here all day and we’re thinking about starting a family, we need central heating! I also plan on learning how to cook on our Esse stove. We have a solid fuel stove that will require smokeless coal and I will have to keep it topped up daily. The fortunate thing is that the Esse (similar to an Aga Rayburn) will also help to heat the water in the house. We’ve got a long way to go before I can use it, and a few weeks back a bird flew down the chimney and was stuck in it! Fortunately, Tim rescued it.

Of course, you’ll know about Mom’s visit in April. She got stuck here due to the volcanic ash, but it wasn’t a bad thing! She came over so she could attend the wedding reception we held for Tim’s family. We had a great time, and I got to wear my dress again! 🙂

I’ve gone on a few trips this year – one with Tim, and 2 without. In August, I went with my friend Helen and her son, Mark, to Wales for a week. We stayed near the coast and spent the week going to railways (Helen and Mark have a garden railway like us) and castles. We had a lot of fun, but I missed Tim. In October, I went down to Southampton to visit a friend I knew in high school and college. She also married a Brit and lives down there, so it was nice to catch up with an old friend, and made me feel comfortable. I missed having friends around who I’ve known for years and who I could just talk to about anything. I’m planning on going back down to see her in January.

Our big trip this year was our Honeymoon Part 2. This was the original Honeymoon plan before Tim’s days off got restricted last November and we wound up going to Florida instead. Tim wanted to take me to Germany and Austria, so we headed off in September with the car loaded down with camping gear. Our first stop was Neuschwanstein Castle, which most of you know is one of my favourite castles. We then drove down into Austria and set up camp at two different sites and visited railways, castles, and historic towns. Since we were camping, we also got to experience life in Austria and buying groceries! My German came in handy, but if someone heard Tim and I talking to each other in English, they would switch into a combination of German and English that we could understand. We really enjoyed camping as well. We have a large tent that has 2 bedrooms and a large middle section as well as a camping stove and of course, lots of flashlights (called torches here!). Just about the only thing we didn’t like was that once it started to get dark, it was hard to read or do anything else other than go to bed. We also didn’t like the cold, but we were camping in the Alps, so what did we expect? We plan on going camping again this coming Summer – spending a week in Scotland with Tim’s brother, Ben, and then a week down in Wales with Helen & Mark. I do apologize for postcards not making it back to the US. I’m not sure what happened, but it appears as though every single postcard we sent to the US has been misplaced by either Austrian Post or the USPS. After asking 5 people if they got their cards, we’re writing them off. Maybe someday they will show up! I sent Mom some pictures though, so they should be somewhere with this letter.

We had two big garden projects this year. The first one was trying our hand at growing our own vegetables. We dug a small plot and planted some potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. The carrots and parsnips are just now finally getting large enough to use, and I harvested over 300 potatoes in August! We also tried growing cucumbers and tomatoes, but the weather here isn’t suited for them and we will need to build a greenhouse if we want to really grow them. Fruit-wise, we have our large apple tree, which I managed to get nearly 14KG (so that’s about 30lbs) of apples off of, not counting the apples friends would pick when they visited. We gave some away, I made some apple butter, and the rest are in the freezer for the Winter. We also have 2 wild blackberry bushes (called brambles) and I harvested about a gallon-sized ziplock bag from it. Those too, went into the freezer. Our raspberry canes did not do well at all. We might try again next year. We also planted three blueberry bushes. Two of the bushes died but came back to life after some serious pruning mid-summer, and the other bush just grew lots of leaves. I read that it can take 3 years for blueberry bushes to grow, so hopefully we will one day have blueberries! We also planted 3 strawberry plants and managed enough strawberries for snacking. I’ll probably plant more next year. My herb garden suddenly took off in September after hardly having anything. I have Mint talking over along with Parsley. Oregano, Marjoram, and Basil were harder to coax, but I wound up with enough to use. I also have a Thyme bush that doesn’t seem to quit! Unfortunately, I can’t move the plants inside for the winter, as my kitchen hardly gets any light, but I’ll plant herbs again in the Spring! (BTW, here they pronounce the h in herbs, Basil is pronounced “Baa-zil”, and Oregano is “Ore-gahn-no”.)

Our second project was Tim’s railway. He had wanted to build the upper circuit by his 40th birthday, which was in August, so he had a lot of work to do! Tim, his brother Ben, Ben’s friend, and Mark (Helen’s son) spent many days outside digging, laying bricks, and concreting. But we did it! Tim pinned in the last bit of track about 45 minutes before people arrived, though we had had the full circuit complete for several weeks before then. Tim even built two “level crossings” across our front walkway where the railway crosses it. We had steam-ups once a month over the Spring and Summer where friends would bring their trains over to have a go, and it was fun seeing their reaction to the progress. Tim even managed to build a snowplow in January, and so we’re hoping for enough snow to get it out this year!

Tim’s cat, Prudence, is starting to finally get used to me. I miss Will, though. Plans are to move him over eventually, but who knew it was so expensive to move a pet overseas? In the meantime, he keeps Mom company. Prudence recently stopped liking us, though. I noticed she was acting funny and we took her to the vet. Not once, not twice, but three times. Poor thing had to have 4 teeth removed and then we had to feed her antibiotics for a week. I am not very popular right now, but she is starting to go to Tim again.

I am settling into life as a British-American housewife. Learning how to cook with Metric has been interesting, and there was one mishap at the beginning where I shrank our clothing by forgetting the temperature gauge on the washer was in Celsius! I think since January, I’ve only made a few mistakes and we only had to go for takeaway (carry-out) a handful of times because dinner wasn’t edible. Ask Mom to tell you about my red velvet cake that turned black (it wasn’t burned!). If you have internet access and read my blog, I occasionally post recipes. I’m learning how to make a lot of traditional British dishes alongside my American cooking, so we have a nice mixture of meals. Betty Crocker is still my go-to book for recipes, but I also really like Jamie Oliver’s books.

I haven’ t sorted out driving here, yet. Mostly because of the expense of it and because I have no experience driving a manual car. Tim’s car is manual, and that seems to be the trend here. I also have to send off my passport to get my permit (called a provisional license here), and I haven’t been willing to part with it yet! I’ve been relying on public transportation to get me into town. While Lincoln isn’t a big city like London, it’s a decent size and we have 3 busses an hour that run from our village into town.

My health needs are taken care of by the NHS. It’s really nice to just call and have an appointment and not have to worry about paying for it. All prescriptions are £7.20, regardless of what you need, but if you have a chronic condition, you can receive prescriptions for free. My infected armpit issue has FINALLY cleared up! It had been bothering me for nearly a year, but it’s finally been cleared up and I am infection free. I’ve been to an after hours doctor twice for it, and even saw a dermatologist, all without any additional fees. I am definitely in favour of Universal Healthcare!

In December 2011, we will have to apply for my permanent residency. It’s going to be expensive (about £1000!), but it’s the next step we have to take. I have to pass a “Life in the UK” test before I can get my residency, so I’ll be studying for that in January! There also is an English requirement, but since the US speaks English, that test is waived.

I think that’s about it! I sent Mom some photos to share, and she has printed out a few of my blog entries for anyone who wants to read them. If you have internet access, you can read my blog at I try to update it as much as possible. I’m also on facebook – for those of you who don’t have me added. You also can email me – [removed for privacy]. You can IM, video call, or call me on Skype. My account there can be found under [removed for privacy]. For those of you who don’t have internet access, our address is:

[removed for privacy]

I still have my US-based phone number, too. If you want to call me, you can call [removed for privacy]. The number is based in Michigan, so all you pay is long distance to Michigan, instead of the UK. Alternately, you can call my google voice number to leave me a message at [removed for privacy]. This is a Lancaster number, but it only goes to a voicemail account and I would have to call you back (which I can do through Skype for free). My UK number is [removed for privacy]. You would drop off the initial 0 when dialling from the US.

I look forward to hearing from you! Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year

With Love,

Rebecca & Tim

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