Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mummy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow...

Here's Olivia on the bridge crossing Regent's Canal, on the way to the zoo - we had to take Grandma Lucy up to St Pancras Station to go back home, and it was a very nice day, very mild, so we decided to head up to the zoo, which is quite close to St Pancras. Olivia had been before on a school trip, but none of the rest of us had been. London Zoo used to have a reputation for being one of those dismal Victorian Zoos (which it probably was, to be fair) but they've obviously put a lot of work into making it a nicer place, and I enjoyed the visit. We didn't manage to see all the animals, even, so we may well go back, perhaps when Grandma Kathy is here in February. Apparently, if you save your tickets, you can get re-admission for half-price within the next 12 months, and as it's not cheap, I think that might be well worth doing.
They had a number of seasonal activities on, as well, including having a photo taken with a reindeer (which we didn't do, though I did take a photo of the reindeer - Alex kept telling me that the reindeer wasn't supposed to be here, it was supposed to be at the North Pole) and making Christmas crackers for the squirrel monkeys (which we did do - with nuts and seeds inside) - then you can watch as they give them to the squirrel monkeys, who of course fight over them and tear them apart - worked very well, I thought. Alex wouldn't do the activitiy, just wanted to hold onto my legs, but the girls enjoyed it. At Easter next year, they are opening a new gorilla area, and reopening the small mammal house, which should be fun. Perhaps my friend Barbara, who is into gorillas in a big way, will come visit and take a trip to the Zoo...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tis the season to... bake!

Well, here's a sample plate of this year's Christmas baking. Sarah and I (and the other two kids, off an on, but mostly off) baked up a storm yesterday and ended up with all these: Butterscotch shortbread (the shapes), Butterhorn cookies ( the crescent shaped ones - a family tradition & my dad's favourite, not that he gets them very often any more), Candy Cane cookies (which are a bit of a fiddle, but look so pretty with the others), fudge meltaways and no-bake peanut butter squares (neither of which is cooked, and both of which are easy and done in trays), coconut meringues (a change from all the heavy chocolate stuff) and orange cranberry bread. We like a variety, but to keep up all from gaining even more weight than normal during the holidays (or rather, to keep ME from that weight gain, Geoff being one of those annoying people who never seems to put on weight regardless of what he eats) I make up plates of goodies for a number of my friends & neighbours, to share the wealth. We also send a few to school for the teachers. Then we can have great variety without huge numbers of goodies. My friend Lorayne was delighted when I showed up on her doorstep this morning - she said "Oh lovely, I was hoping you'd been baking this weekend." And she promptly hid the plate from her kids. A girl after my own heart!

Monday, December 11, 2006

December strikes again

You'd think I've been round long enough to know how much December just eats up your time, but somehow I always manage to forget... And isn't it funny how I can be so busy and yet still never think of anything to blog about! This week is the week of Christmas plays - this year, I am only going to one, as Sarah is singing in a Carol Concert - or rather, she isn't singing in it, as it's on the same evening as her Brownie Christmas outing, at Build-a-Bear Workshop in Wimbledon, which she's been dying to go to for ages. But Alex and Olivia are in the same play, which is nice, and Geoff and I are seeing it on Thursday - Alex is a shepherd, Olivia is a reindeer (the Boss reindeer - no typecasting there!). Will let you know how it goes and if she remembers all her lines.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Alex dances to X-factor

OK, so I'm trying out this whole You Tube thing - we'll see if it works...

This is Alex dancing around to someone on the X-factor singing. He's got his own unique way of dancing!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hey, hey, the gang's all here..

well, except for Hannah S, that is. But these are the fearsome foursome - all of Olivia's little clique of friends, many of whom live in our road - Nina lives near us, but not in the road - Hannah, the remaining member of the group, lives in the opposite direction from school, so doesn't get to hang out quite as much. Left to right, they are Nina, Olivia, Eliza and Gabriella. Trust me when I say, none are as angelic as they may look in the photo!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy birthday dear me

Well, another year older and strangely enough I feel exactly the same. :) No suprise there - it's not quite like when you are a child and so excited over turning whatever the next number is (for Sarah, the next one is 10 - not til the autumn, but still, the idea of double digits is exciting for her - and scary for the parents - where did THAT time go?)

Had a nice quiet birthday, as Sarah was away for the weekend at Brownie camp - this meant that we didn't have all the usual bickering all weekend long. It didn't start until the car trip home from Brownie camp... (I let her take the old camera with her and she had fun taking lots of silly pictures with her friends - here she is with two other Brownies, not sure who.)
Anyway, opened my presents when we got back from collecting Sarah, and I got some very nice things - a nice pair of "earwigs" as Olivia put it (luckily, they were really earrings, not insects), a couple of CDs, a magnetic pincushion and a kit for making a Jacobean Pomegranate Wallhanging. I won't start that for a week or so, as I have some stuff to finish up, but I'm looking forward to it - it's different from what I usually do, but I do adore the fabric.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blog lag

Keep thinking I should write something, but I'm not inspired - and none of the kids have been doing anything particularly cute lately, so I don't really have amusing anecdotes to share... But I thought I should at least make a note that we are here, and more or less back to normal (or what passes for normal around here) after our trip-- it seems months ago in many ways. Sarah's away at Brownie Pack Holiday this weekend, so it's fairly quiet around the house, although Alex is whingeing for England, which is fairly boring. Hopefully it's a short-lived phase.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"It's nice to see you back"

- this was what Alex said to Daddy when we arrived back home. Never mind the fact that it's not very accurate - it's pretty cute when you're 3 (or 3 1/2 as we are constantly reminded).

Anyway, we are back safe, with no breakages and nothing lost in transit except possibly Sarah's book, which we can't find anywhere. We are pretty sure she had it in the airport, and I know I checked the seat pockets, so we're thinking maybe it got left in the airport. One kid's paperback - no big deal! As Sarah said, at least it's not a jacket (Geoff left his on the plane on the way over).

Getting back into the swing of things, a little slowly, but getting there nonetheless. It's nice to be back - I think three weeks is about the right length of time to be gone - any longer and you really start to get fidgety for home - or at least, I do.

A note on the website: I have re-uploaded my site (good thing I keep a local copy, as lycos seems to have just deleted it entirely) - the only thing is that I can't get the index page to upload called index.html, so I have just renamed it - the site can now be found at

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The joys of website maintenance

For some reason, Lycos seems to be playing silly buggers with my website, giving an "unauthorised" message when anyone (including me) tries to see it. Of course, there's very little technical support, as they are a free service, and being at my mom's house, it's a little harder to sort things out - no FTP, for instance and the Web FTP at Lycos isn't working at the moment. Presumably the stuff is still there, just not accessible, though I do have a copy on my desktop at home anyway. I guess it's time to finally move it somewhere else, which I've been thinking about doing for ages anyway. But it's still annoying... It also means some of the photos on my blog template show as broken, as they are located on lycos.

a bit later: had a browse through Lycos's help forum, and this seems to be a wide-spread problem with all accounts starting with T, U, V, X, Y and Z (but not "W" - wonder why not?). We're "t" (TheNorths) so I guess all I can do is wait until it's been sorted out. Which is not so good for my impatient self!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Far more treats than tricks...

Well, the kids have now experienced full-on American Hallowe'en... And it was really fun, actually. It's much bigger than I remember from when I was a kid, although this may be partly just that this neighbourhood is particularly good for it. Also, it was really warm yesterday - got up to 23 or 24 yesterday during the day, so that the evening, while not particularly warm, was fine for sitting outside with a jacket. (more Halloween photos here)

This neighbourhood is really good for Halloween - lots of houses with kids and lots of people sit out either on their own or with friends or their neighbours. Lots of decorations, and a number of very nice hand-carved jack-o-lanterns. My mother's neighbour, Patty, carves really spectacular ones. But there were also a number which had obviously been carved by or with children, which is always fun.

A few houses had gone all out and set up scenes - one with a spooky campsite with dry ice and a severed head in a tent with a guy who jumped out at you with a chainsaw; one with cobwebs over the whole yard and a skeleton coming out of the ground and one which had lots of gravestones, and a flying bat (this one spooked Alex out a bit, but that was at the end of the evening, and he was really tired).

The kids got absolutely masses of "candy" [Alex was very cute - he learned all about Halloween in about 1 day and could tell you just what happens: "You dress up in a Hayoween cosyume and go to eddybody's house and say trick or treat." "And then what happens?" "Then, they gives you CANDY!!" - this from a child who hadn't heard the word candy a month ago (we say sweets or chocolate).] which I guess will have to be packed in the suitcase to go home as there's no way they will get through it all before we leave, even if I let them eat more than I really want them to.

We carved our own pumpkins on Monday morning; we didn't want to do it too early as the weather was due to be very nice, so we didn't want to risk them going bad too quickly. It was actually fairly hot in the sunshine when we were working on them. Sarah did hers entirely by herself, and Olivia did hers mostly alone, with only a little guidance with drawing the features. Grandma Kathy carved most of Alex's and all of her own and I tried my hand at an artisan pumpkin (above) for the first time - I'm pleased with the effort, I have to say, and I may well try it again next year.

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous - Sarah and Grandma went out yesterday afternoon after we went up to the local elementary school to watch the Halloween parade to take photos of the autumn foliage. This tree is a photo taken by Sarah - and there are more here. It's really lovely, and very warm.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Swarm of kiddies

Spent yesterday afternoon at my friend Debbie's house; the kids, especially Alex, had a blast. Debbie and Kurt have two little boys - Zach, who is nearly 3 and Leo, who is 8 months and quite possibly the cutest baby I have ever seen. Except my own, of course! And we were joined by her brother and sister-in-law, Josh and Kristin, both of whom I know a bit as they both went to the same university I went to and I was close friends at uni with Kristin's older brother Eric... Anyway, they have Ian, who will be five in January, and Riley (a girl) who is 18 months old. So with my kids, that's 5 under-fives and the two older girls (Sarah keeps complaining that none of my friends have kids her age - like I can do anything about that!). Anyway, the girls were a little bored at times, although Kurt, bless him, played Scrabble with them for a while, but Alex was in heaven, as Debbie has even more trains than we do...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day trippers

Drove down to Hampton, Virginia yesterday (3.5 to 4 hour drive) to visit my Andy (my former step-dad) and Robert (step-brother) and his wife Susan and daughter Brenda, who is just a few months younger than Alex. It was a lovely drive, through a lot of rural southern Maryland and Virgina (we went the scenic way, not down I-95, which is mostly trucks) and we had a good time with the guys down there. I hadn't met Susan or Brenda before, and hadn't seen Robert in years - the girls loved him of course and he's a big kid at heart and happy to play games with them and chase them around... and I enjoyed getting to know Susan a bit and meeting Brenda and seeing their house and where they live and so on. They live really close to the water, which is nice in principle, but unfortunately it was a little too close earlier this year when their house flooded - once again, I am glad to live somewhere where natural disasters are few and far between. Anyway, a lovely time was had by all, and next time we visit (which could be ages, of course) we will try to schedule a longer trip to the area, which has lots to do. (More photos here)

We were lucky to have Robert on vacation for a few days, and therefore able to spend time with us, although the down side of that is that he's in the navy, and the leave was essential demob leave, as Monday he is leaving to report to a new command - 6 or 8 weeks training in Texas before returning to Iraq for another tour of duty - this time on land rather than on a ship, which of course none of us are thrilled about. I think he said it was 450 days - so we'll be thinking about that whole situation a lot. I don't think I'd have the fortitude to be a military wife, personally, but we all do what we have to, and Susan is lucky to have her parents and Andy both very nearby. OK, it's not the same thing, but I'm sure it helps a bit.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy birthday to Olivia...

So, today is Olivia's birthday and what she wants to do is go ice-skating, so we are off ice-skating later. Right now, we are hanging out waiting for Uncle Steve to leave to go to the airport - he's been here for about a week. Which is part of the reason I haven't blogged much - not just Uncle Steve being here, but Grandpa Karl and Grandma Nancy, too. So we've been busy! On Friday we went up to Baltimore to a place called Port Discovery, which is a fun kids place, kind of combination adventure playground and museum - it has a three-story climbing thingy in the middle, and the fact that Daddy and Uncle Steve were both here meant that I actually didn't have to climb around in it.

Saturday was a lovely day, so we just packed a small picnic and went to one of the large playgrounds in Columbia, Centennial Park, and the kids spent an hour or two climbing around the playground stuff, before we went over to Columbia Mall to ride on the restored Carousel and have the grandparents buy presents. (photos from those events here) Sarah decided she'd rather go back to the house with Daddy and Uncle Steve, who was planning to make a lasagne for dinner. She adores her uncle and he's been very good at putting up with them, I have to say. Even if he does tend to make them hyper - I guess that's uncles for you, though! Geoff was due to fly home later that night, so after dinner, Karl and Nancy left to go back to their hotel (they were due to leave early in the morning anyway) and the kids and I took Daddy to the airport. They don't really miss him too much when he goes, because there is so much exciting stuff still to do after he leaves - including Halloween this year, of course.

On Sunday, we met up with my friend Kristen and her mom, sister & niece, Kestrel - Kes is four and a half - at a Fall Festival at Homeland Gardens (a large garden centre). Lots of little rides and things. It was really sweet, actually, and again the weather was fabulous, so the kids had a great time. Then we went out to dinner together - a lovely day. Yesterday we kind of took it easy, just ran some errands, including me getting my drivers' license renewed, and some shopping my mom needed to do. I love being here and visiting, but there are so many things to do and people to see that in some ways, when we get back we need a holiday to recover from our holiday! (Tried to upload a pic from the Fall Festival here, but Blogger wasn't cooperating. Or it might be my mom's connection, which is slow. Anyway, lots of photos here...)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In and around the harbour...

Spent a nice day yesterday in Baltimore - Andy came up from Virginia for the day and we went up, had lunch at Phillips and then went to the Aquarium. Tiring, but fun. Here we all are (except me of course) at lunch - Andy being silly as usual. The kids adore Uncle Steve, so they had a brilliant time, and he's very good with them, probably because he hasn't really grown up that much himself! More photos here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we're going to the moon...

Poor Alex was a little disappointed to discover that we weren't actually going to go in a rocket ship to the moon, but he was happy to see rockets and planes and to be able to walk through one (Skylab) at the Air and Space Museum. He really enjoyed it, and particularly liked the section about planets - he seems to have an obsession about Mars at the moment - I'm wondering if maybe he's seen a cartoon about someone going to Mars or something. The girls enjoyed it as well - I think Olivia read nearly every sign in the section about early flight and the Wright Brothers. It's a good museum, and of course different from anything in London.

We also ducked briefly into the East Wing of the National Gallery and looked at modern art (Picasso, Matisse, a few others) and into the Natural History Museum to have a quick look at dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond. We may go back there another day, as the kids (and Geoff) were really enjoying that, but we did have to leave to take the Metro back to meet Grandma at a set time. And Alex had reached the bursting into tears for no reason stage, too, which is always a sign that it's time to go. A few more photos here from yesterday's outings, and Sunday, which we spent locally and with my friend Kiki and her little boy Kenny, who is nearly 2.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A trip to the pumpkin patch

Another gorgeous day here, and we took advantage of it by going down to a little local festival - Riverfest - in Laurel. This was a nice small affair, a little like a county fair, only tiny - local vendors and businesses took booths along the riverside path in old Laurel. A few things for kids, like a hayride and a puppet show - and facepainting, of course.

We went home for lunch and a little rest, and in the afternoon, Geoff and I took the kids to Clark's Elioak Farm, which is a little petting farm, with various other attractions. It was crowded, in a good way, as it was a lovely afternoon, and the kids had fun looking at the various fairytale related sculptures and petting the goats. Very low-key, unlike so many American attractions, which all seem to feel compelled to be Bigger and Better.

Pictures from both of these places, as well as more pictures from Patuxent Wildlife Refuge (where we went yesterday) are here. Oh and in the way of kids everywhere, Olivia was just fine this morning and totally back to normal today.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Autumnal Walk

Local time: 7.15am. Yesterday, after meeting up with some friends of Mom's for lunch, we decided to head out to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. We were originally intending to take their little tram tour around the area, but found they weren't running on weekdays after school started, so we ended up doing a nice walk around the lake - much prettier than the tram ride would have been anyway. We saw a large variety of birds, most unidentifiable, except for the heron, and a chipmunk and the coup de grace of wildlife - a black snake. Poor snake, Mom stepped on him. Geoff was disappointed not to see him, as he's never seen a snake in the wild (England not being big on snakes). It was a lovely day until the end, when Olivia got sick - I think this is the bug that Alex had last week and Sarah had Wednesday on the plane - Olivia always gets these things worse than the other kids. She's fine now, though she spent a long time yesterday evening throwin up, poor thing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A long (but nice) day

After the early start, we decided to do some grocery and other errand shopping (first time in ages I've been shopping by 7am, but we were all up, so why not) - Alex fell asleep on the way home in the car. I let him sleep for an hour, but around 12.30 had to wake him up to eat, and so we could go do something else, otherwise his schedule would be really off. Forgot to take my camera, of course, but we ended up at Brookside Gardens/Wheaton Regional Park. They have a nice selection of playground equipment in addition to the garden stuff - the narrow guage railway and carousel weren't in operation today (to Alex's disappointment) but as the playground is pretty good, there weren't too many tears. Apparently they are going to have a ghost train ride/scary carousel in operation from tonight, so they were getting ready. It's a little far away and probably a little scary for my little ones, so I think we'll skip that, but we'll no doubt do something else Halloween related. There are a lot of Halloween related things here, more than I remember from when I lived here - I think the holiday is bigger than it used to be. The kids are looking forward to it, that's for certain.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Local time: 4.30am. Yes, the joys of kids and jetlag. Although Alex stayed up to 7.30pm last night local time, he was still awake early this morning, so here I am, awake, too. Luckily, I had gone to bed at 9.30pm, so I won't be quite so sleep deprived as I might otherwise be. 5.30 would have been better, but you do what you have to. But we are here safely, with not too much trouble - Alex threw up all over me on the plane, but that was the worst of it. Luckily the plane was a new one and had individual screens in the seat backs and entertainment on demand which is the best for kids - kept the girls happy for most of the flight with very little adult input. The only other thing is that Geoff somehow managed to leave his jacket somewhere - we think on the plane. "Why didn't you check to make sure I had it" he says, like I wasn't already trying to keep track of nearly everything else we brought! Anyway, nothing too serious, and we shall just add a jacket to the list of clothes we were going to buy for him in the US. Hopefully tomorrow the sleep patterns will be a bit more normal...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A less drastic solution, possibly...

So today I was in the kitchen rinsing out some dyed stuff in the sink when Olivia comes in, streaming tears. "What's the matter?" I finally, finally get her to speak, and she says "look what happened to my fringe (bangs)". I look, and notice it's a bit shorter than it was, and not quite so even. She has two friends over, so I immediately suspect hairdressing games, even though we've made it quite clear that there is to be NO haircutting. Anyway, I finally get out of her that it was she herself who cut the fringe, not Nina or Gabriella, which is good in a way, but bad in another way. "Why did you cut your fringe, darling, you know you're not supposed to use scissors on your hair..." "Because it was all sticky, Mummy, from the Golden Syrup" (they'd been eating waffles earlier). I literally had to stop and take a deep breath. "Olivia," I said, "Don't you think it would have been a little simpler just to wash it a bit?". Luckily, after being trimmed up by Mummy a bit, it looks ok, just a little shorter than normal. At least it was her OWN hair.

Monday, October 02, 2006

World of Adventures

Well, we went ahead and went to Chessington WoA on Saturday, despite dubious forecasts, and it was a good thing we did as the weather was ok on Saturday (one heavyish shower, while we were inside having lunch anyway, and a few sprinkles, lots of sun) and absolutely foul on Sunday (thunder & lightning, hail, bucketing rain, you name it). The girls - my two and Thalia, Sarah's best friend, had a blast and frankly, I had fun, too. It's been years since I was on a roller coaster that could actually be called such, and I find that I still enjoy them. And I still can't handle those rides that spin you around (I didn't even try - I feel sick just looking at them, frankly), but I was never very good at them, even as a kid - even little merry-go-rounds in the playground made me feel ill (they still do). Anyway, it was a good day, though very tiring, and I'm already getting "can we go to Chessington next year" (maybe). Here's the girls at the bottom of one of those water rides (the third time - they went 4 times in a row as there was almost no queue at all - I only went twice myself...)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Surviving the life...

Well, birthday tea over and done with, and house in one piece, more or less. They are all pretty good kids, but when you get that many of them in the room at once, they do get a little hyper. And it's not like in school, where they expect to have to be calm, so you don't feel like you can just make them sit still the whole time (more's the pity). But I think Sarah had fun and the rest seemed to as well, so that's ok. Looks like we might have to postpone the Chessington trip until next weekend, though, as the weather looks like it's going to be foul.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Glorious weekend

We had some friends around this weekend - Geoff's colleague Heather, who works in the Boston office and his colleague Florian, who works in London. Also, Florian's girlfriend Alice, who I hope had a lovely time despite being somewhat overwhelmed by my kids and us all talking quickly in English (she's German and speaks good English, but it's one thing to talk one-on-one and quite another to keep up with a rapid, far-ranging conversation involving lots of obscure American and English cultural references - Heather and I had a conversation about Jon Hughes films in conjunction with proms, for instance...)

Anyway, the day was glorious, so after lunch and before dessert we decided to go for a walk over the park and past the school to the new development called the Hamptons - they had what appeared to be from a distance a rather good playground, so we thought we'd check it out. Poor Florian ended up carrying one or the other of the girls most of the way - here he is, carrying Sarah - photo taken by Olivia, believe it or not.

And here are the other two kiddies - Olivia posing in her usual manner, after having scraped her knee rather badly (I'll spare Heather the embarrassment of blogging to the world that it was all her fault due to an abortive attempt at swinging Olivia like an aeroplane) - silly Mummy was out without her bag, but the resourceful Alice had a pocket full of plasters in her bag, so all was well in the end. And Alex playing Mr Cool leaning up against the wall outside the school - very sweet! Thanks to Florian for the photos - for once I didn't have my camera with me...

Let the birthday season begin...

Tomorrow kicks of the birthay season in the North household (except for Alex who is in February by his lonesome, we are all within about 7 weeks of one another) - Sarah will be nine. Yes, nine. Hard to believe, I know. Where did those years go? Not much special planned for tomorrow, as it's a school day and Brownies night, but Thursday she's having a bunch of friends over after school for pizza and a movie and on the weekend, I'm taking her and Thalia and Olivia to Chessington World of Adventures for a treat. Hopefully the weather will be as good as it was last weekend...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Look out, Adam Ant...

This is what happens when one of his sisters leaves makeup lying around. Personally, I think it's kind of cute, though I appreciate it won't appeal to everyone. If he's still doing it when he's 10, I may feel differently...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I a schoolboy now

Well, Alex's first week of nursery is gone and he had a fabulous time - really settled in well. He's thrilled to be in big school, and loves doing all the stuff they do in nursery. He's a bit tired some evenings, but that's only to be expected. Once the newness and excitement wears off a little, he'll be less shattered at the end. And of course, there's the added excitement of having extra children in the house in the afternoon 3 days a week - with Gabriella and Katarina, the two little girls I am childminding after school (and before). He loves playing with Katarina, who is only a year and a bit older than he is, and of course Olivia adores having Gabriella here - she's one of her best friends anyway. Now that we're into the routine of it, it's going well - I won't pretend there isn't a little chaos involved, but it's organised chaos, so it suits me fine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Official First Day of School...

The girls started on Wednesday last week, but we decided to wait until today, Alex's first day of nursery, to take the official first day photo - aren't they cute? And isn't it amazing how close Olivia is to Sarah in height? Alex had a lovely day - settled right in and was very happy. One of the other little boys was a bit clingy and kept saying "I want my mummy" - Alex turned to me (he was playing at the playdough table - surprise, surprise, he went straight for it) and said "I don't want you, Mummy." "OK," I said, "Shall I go?". "OK," he paused and then said "But I WILL want you when you come back." Sounds like a good compromise to me...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em...

And today, I'm referring to computers, not husbands. Opened the main email this morning (Outlook Express) to find that everything, including thousands of old, saved messages, that had been in my inbox and the subfolders thereof, had mysteriously vanished. After some exploration and frustration, we eventually decided that what had happened was that the compacted backup files had corrupted, which could happen either if the computer crashed while Express was compacting (maybe) or if the compaction process was cancelled partway through (more likely, we think, although we did have a crash yesterday, but the email was still there afterwards, we are pretty sure). Not to name any names or anything, but some of us are more patient than others of us, so...

Luckily, I managed to find all the old compacted backup files and download a piece of freeware that extracts the messages from them, back into email format. The downside is that you don't seem to be able to then move the messages en-masse back to your email, but only one message at a time - fine if you have 20, not so good if there are years' worth. But at least I know where the stuff is and can get at it, to dig out the stuff I need (photos from friends, usernames and account numbers for online businesses, and so on). I did need to clear out old folders anyway, but this is sort of an extreme way to go about it!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Back to (what passes for) normal

Well, that's the end of the first (half) week of school - they started back on Wednesday, and have had a nice three days, complete with lovely sunny weather. Sarah adores her new teacher (which is great, although I think Sarah probably has a pre-disposition to like teachers anyway) and Olivia seems happy - she knew her new teacher fairly well before, so I don't suppose she feels that "new". I haven't done a "first day of school" photo because Alex doesn't start until Tuesday, so I'll do the three of them together then.

He's excited about "big school" - we went today to an open day in the nursery, and he painted, rode bikes and played with some plastic fish in a water table - so he'll be well in his element!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Windmills in my mind

We went up to Wimbledon Common again today, this time specificially to go to the Windmill Museum, which is only open on weekends. We've never been before, and it's one of those things I always mean to do and never quite get around to. We wanted a small outing with Grandma Lucy today, so this was just right.

Very interesting place, actually, with lots of working models of different kinds of windmills - Alex in particular enjoyed pushing the buttons to make the sails go round on the models. I learned that the earliest recorded windmills in history are from Persia, of all places - 400 or more years before European ones were recorded - very interesting.

Anyway, Sarah got a paper model of the windmill to build, so when we got home, I helped her with that - I think it came out well, and the sails do move, although they aren't that smooth. The entire top assembly of the mill moves around the vertical axis, as well, so you can turn the windmill to catch the wind. You can see for yourself how it compares to the original!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Champion tree...

which is apparently what they call any tree which is the largest recorded specimen of its species. Not sure precisely what species this is - some type of pine - but as you can see from Sarah beside it, it's big.

This was from our visit to Wisley (RHS Gardens) yesterday. They still have a lot of stuff in bloom, despite it being end of summer (my garden always looks a bit done by now). We took Grandma Lucy to see the gardens & ended up doing quite a lot of walking, including seeing part of the garden I'd not been into before (the Pinetum and National Collection of Heathers). More photos in my yahoo album (a few of the kids, but mostly, just flowers).

Bankrupting the tooth fairy

This seems to be the goal of the household this week - poor Olivia has lost two in two days. The first one, which came out last night, was very loose and had got to the hanging-by-a-thread state. Today's tooth, which was a bit loose, but probably had 3-4 weeks left in it, came out a bit early, aided by Sarah's foot. You will understand that of course they had been told dozens of times to "stop romping before someone gets hurt". I suppose if something like that has to happen, it's just as well it was a tooth that was loose in the first place, but still... I rather think the tooth fairy will bring a little extra for this one, more than the standard 50p.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The system works!

Earlier today, Alex comes in from outside while I'm at the sink washing up and says to me "I going by myself".
"On the naughty step."
"Oh, have you done something naughty?"
"I pull the leaves offa flowers."
"You're right, that was naughty. OK, off you go." And darned if he didn't. I went over a few minutes later to accept his apology and hug. Bless him - what a sweetie. Of course, not pulling the leaves off in the first place would be even nicer, but not nearly so cute.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm probably a bit mad...

Probably?? I hear you all say in chorus... I say this because I've started another blog - like I can even keep up with this one! The thing is, sometimes I'm not inspired to blog here, because my life's not all that interesting and I try not to bore my readers to tears... The new blog is a quilting blog, so it's entirely related to what I did on any given day in terms of quilting (or sewing or dyeing, fabric painting or I suppose cross-stitch or any other related craft thingy) so it has no obligation to be interesting to anyone but other sad quilters who like to see what their fellow addicts are doing. I thought about just adding all that stuff to my normal blog, but it didn't seem right. You are all of course welcome to read my new quilting blog, but please don't feel obliged - that's why I've separated them!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tennis, anyone?

A very long time ago, Geoff used to play tennis on these courts with his friend Stewart. Like 20 years ago. Over time, they fell into disrepair, until they were virtually unplayable on (ok, questionable grammar, I know). Recently, the park has resurfaced and painted and put new fences up and now they are really nice courts - they do charge a nominal charge to use them, but frankly, it's worth it. We've taken the kids a few times, but today (which was a lot rainier than in this photo, which was taken yesterday - Geoff knocking the ball around with Sarah, who is getting better) Geoff and I decided to have a game ourselves. We haven't played in about 10 years - since before Sarah was born. Geoff pointed out that we weren't that much worse than we'd been then - unfortunately, that's mainly due to the fact that we were fairly bad then... Both of us ache now, though - all those muscles we don't normally really use. For him, it's his back. For me, it's my right shoulder and arm. My back seems ok - that's probably the yoga... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Positively 3 1/2

This morning while I am fixing toast, a little but quite strident voice comes from the living room "I wanna drink of milk". "Ok," I reply, and reach into the cupboard to get a Tweenies cup. "NO! says the voice, followed by the stomping of small feet, "I gonna get the cup out myself, I gonna get it - I gonna." "OK," I reply, and hand the Tweenies cup to him, "put this one back and get the one you want." I get the milk out of the fridge and wait for Mr. Boy to choose his own cup. Sounds of Tweenies cup being put back. Sounds of Mr. Boy moving the cups around to decide which one he will deign to use. "THIS one," he says, handing me, you've guessed it, the Tweenies cup. WhatEVer, as the girls would say...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lessons for the house-husband

1. When you put new, fresh bread in the bread bin, the old stale or moldy bread at the bottom doesn't take itself out of the bread bin and throw itself away because it's embarrassed to be there next to the new fresh bread.

2. The whole "putting things to go upstairs on the edge of the steps" thing only works if you then actually CARRY the things upstairs next time you go. Otherwise, the things that were waiting to go upstairs Wednesday evening when your wife left to go away for 4 days will actually still be sitting on the edge of the steps on Sunday evening, when she returns.

3. There are no "putting away" faeries. And children, when given the choice, will 99 times out of 100 choose not to put their own stuff away - go figure.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kid free zone...

Or at least, free of my own children... I'm off later this afternoon to Birmingham to attend the Festival of Quilts (big UK quilt show) as a vendor - working on the Nolting Longarm booth with Lana. Coming home Sunday evening, probably. That's about 4 days without my kids. At the moment, I consider this to be a very good thing - I'm on the verge of setting up a UN style exclusion zone between my girls with threats of economic retribution if either fires sallies into said zone... If I thought it would actually work it would be done in a second - problem is, just like in the real world, these things tend to need heavy reinforcements to have any effect.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Home again home again, jiggedy jig

Had a nice trip up to see Grandma Lucy last week - not entirely relaxing, because it's always hard having kids away from home in a house that's not completely geared towards kids, but they were very good and they do love visiting Grandma. Luckily, the weather was very nice so we were able to go out and do lots of stuff. On the way up, we went the slow route, past Oxford up to Coventry. We stopped at the Oxfordshire museum in Woodstock - a small, local museum with a nice sculpture garden, where we ate our picnic. Then we stopped again at the Rollright Stones, which the kids really enjoyed. I like Stonehenge, don't get me wrong, but I think I prefer some of the smaller stone circles, which are dotted all over - there's a really nice feel to them, plonked in the middle of a field, just kind of there. And of course, hardly any tourists, unlike Stonehenge, which gets a bit insane sometimes.

Thursday we mainly stayed at Grandma's, but Friday, she treated us to a local amusement park, Twinlakes Park, which was exactly right for the kids - for older kids, there wouldn't be as much of interest, but it was great this year, and will probably suit them well for two more years before Sarah starts getting bored. I'm sure we'll visit again next year - either Easter or summer.

Saturday we took Grandma and Auntie Mary (Geoff's Aunt - his dad's brother's widow) to lunch, and Sunday we headed back home, again by the meandering route, this time via Wellplace Zoo, where we had our picnic - we had a lovely run down some of the kinds of country roads you only get in England - really great and SO much better than the wretched M1... But it's nice to be home - and much easier on the kids as they have all their stuff to get into and amuse themselves with - and easier on me, as I don't have to keep an eye on them all the time...

One advantage (?) of being at Grandma Lucy's house is there is no internet access, so in the evenings once the kids go to bed, I mainly just read. (Helped by the fact that there is never anything on telly in the summer). We were there for 4 nights; I read three books - ok, none of the was A Suitable Boy (though one was by the same author), but neither were they picture books - I was glad I thought to take 3!

Oh, and of course there are lots of photos in our yahoo album.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

2 down, 42 to go...

Well, we have just successfully completed day 2 of the summer holidays without any child killing any other child (or any parent doing so). The girls' task for this summer is to try not to argue with each other for no reason all day long - so far, I've only had to remind them of this about 10 times. Someone should remind me again why I thought it would be nice to have kids close in age... Oh well, it's not quite as bad as a friend of mine who has twin girls a bit younger than Olivia. I can't quite imagine two Olivias in my life.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Vital questions number 12 & 35

Today's vital question: "So Mum, if you were going to name a penguin, what would you name it?". Important enough to interrupt a conversation between mum & dad, apparently. She didn't like my answer ("Alfie"), which I admit, wasn't all that inspired.

Paradox of Sleep

So why is that when you quit watching television in order to go to bed because your eyes are shutting every few minutes, that you then lie in bed awake for an hour?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A trip to the beach

Had a semi-spontaneous trip to the beach yesterday (decided on Friday evening to go) - West Wittering is a beach a friend of mine told me about, totally sandy (unlike many of the beaches on the south coast), just south of Chichester. So we decided to go down for the day - the kids had a blast. It's one of those really shallow beaches, which is great when you have little kids - you can wade for a long way before the water gets up to even your knees. Even if you are only 3. It was a lovely day, though of course the entire house and car seem to be covered in sand now...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Truth stranger than fiction...

So the other night I had some friends around to sort out the school fun day (sports day) and we were sitting at the dining room table with the French doors open when there was a loud thud. "Neighbour's cat," I explained. "It's called Dave." My friend Karin says "We used to have a cat called Dave". "This one's a girl, though," I said. "Oh," says Karin, "so was ours."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

World Cup Semi Final: Nits 1, Sarah 0

Among my least favourite aspects of parenting (right up there with diarrhea in a toddler and vomit, which probably will always be number one) is dealing with nits (head lice). They aren't really as icky in terms of absolute values of ick (although don't ever look at one under a microscope when your child has a microscope obsession - that's pretty ick) but they are just so incredibly tedious to get out. And despite the fine teeth of a nit comb, you still can't get all the eggs. So I ended up watching the football (uninspiring) because I had to do something while dealing with Sarah's hair. Luckily, Olivia seems to have escaped this time around.

OF course, while I was doing this, Alex decided to wee in the bed (he was asleep - don't get me wrong, he's not THAT naughty). Not something he does very often, but he's got a bit of a cold and probably isn't quite himself. Not a big deal, except that Geoff had let him fall asleep in OUR bed. Let's just say, he won't do that again in a hurry. At least it wasn't 3 am. He says "now all we need is for Olivia to throw up in the middle of the night" - as I said, whatever the opposite of "from your lips to God's ear" is; that's my response to that"...

Just like Washington DC Weather Blues

One of the things I was glad to leave behind when I moved away from DC was the weeks on end of weather and humidity both in the 90s. It's been over 30 here for nearly a week, which in a country of very limited a/c is pretty dire. Yeah, I'm sure it's worse in India and China and lots of Africa, so I shouldn't complain, but you'll notice I don't choose to live in those places - coincidence? I think not.

Luckily, today seems to be delivering the promised thunderstorms (though a brief one before I got up this morning did absolutely nothing except wet the pavement) so hopefully things will cool down a bit. The worst part is night, of course. It's been so hot, I've been letting the kids sleep on the sofa bed downstairs (the girls' room is in the loft and very very hot) which is fine, but means I can't spend nearly as much time on the computer as they have to be REALLY asleep before I can type without waking them. Shame really because that room is nice and cool at night with the back doors open (hence the kids sleeping there).

Oh well, there's the English for you - if it wasn't hot and sunny we'd be complaining about that instead.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Husbands, bless 'em

So Geoff says to me he's been eating the ice cream in the freezer, which seems ok, despite being "way past its sell-by date". Which was strange, I thought, as I only bought it a few weeks ago and ice cream surely lasts for ages and ages. Whatever, I thought, and didn't bother to follow it up. Today, while getting tube shaped ice out for the girls' water bottles, I moved the ice cream and noticed the sell-by date on the top - June 07. I hardly have the heart to tell him that means June 2007, not the 7th of June. (But I'm heartless enough to blog it to the whole world, of course!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

(Insert clever Dylan reference here)

You'd think that, with the millionty-seven songs Bob Dylan has written, I'd be able to think of a song lyric to make a good title for this blog entry, but...

Spent this past weekend in Ireland visiting Cathi and going to see Dylan at the Source Festival in Kilkenny. I worked out that I haven't seen Dylan play in 15 years and he'd been around forever even then - that's one way to make a person feel old. :)

It was a good show, though - not great, but good and he did some songs I really like, including Highway 61 and All Along the Watchtower. He played Absolutely Sweet Marie, which was slightly surprising, but nice and Ballad of a Thin Man, which of course I love. And some other stuff. (OK, I admit it, I did write them all down as he played them, but I'm trying to seem nonchalant rather than obsessive - those of you who have known me for a long time probably see right through that anyway)

In addition to the show, got to visit with Cathi - oh, and did I mention, no kids came with me? 48+ hours with no kids - or at least, without the ones that I have to deal with when they get stroppy! When I got home late Sunday night, there was a "Welcome Home Mum" sign hanging in the hallway - isn't that sweet?

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Boy Named Sue... A Cat Named Dave...

So our new neighbours have a cat. You can probably guess its name. It's a nice cat, very friendly, the kids are very excited. The cat was over in our garden this afternoon, down on the lawn. Alex says "I love that cat". He takes a few steps towards the cat. The cat takes a few steps towards him. He runs back to me, screaming. I say "I thought you said you loved that cat, honey." He says, "I love that cat down there." There's three year olds for you.

Oh, and did I mention, the cat is a girl? We probably don't any of us want to know that story...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Veggies coming out of our ears...

The pick-your-own fruit and veg season is now in full swing, and I'm trying to take advantage of it while it last - love the taste of fresh picked stuff even mor than normal veg. Problem is, I don't really have a big enough freezer to store much. So we're eating a lot of veggie-centric meals (which is fine). Had fresh broad beans for lunch, warm, with some olive oil and really nice feta cheese - gorgeous. Had freshly picked carrots & swiss chard for dinner with some Jersey Royals and a bit of gammon steak. Tomorrow we're having a Chinese stir-fry dish, with sugar-snap peas I picked myself. What a life! :)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Seaside visit (not quite)

Olivia has a seaside project for school - as she's in Year 1, which is all 5 & 6 year olds, it's not necessarily a sophisticated project, but she wanted to build a model of the seaside, so that's what we've been doing to - with waves, rocks (& rockpools), dunes, real sand, and so on. We may still add a few more fish, and some stones, but I think it's looking really nice. It's not due until the 10th of July, so we have so time to think what else we might do.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How to keep your viewing audience...

Just watched the season finale to ER (we are probably a week or two behind the US) - I knew something big was going to have to happen, even in addition to the death last week, because things were way too smooth and easy in everyone's lives lately, but it exceeded my expectations - truly astonishing how a show can keep going for so long and still be so gripping - it's the constant character turnover that does it, of course - and good writing, but the fact that it has such a strong ensemble cast and almost always has (a few seasons in the middle were a bit dodgy - anyone remember that whole Mare Winningham Psycho Doctor bit? Gimme a break) is what makes the show. Wish I didn't have to wait until next year to find out what happens...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Garden in early June

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Because frankly, it's the closest we're going to get to a summer's day for a while... Tried to update the blog last night after a lovely, sunny, warm (even "hot") day, and a great barbecue, but of course as luck will have it, the one time I feel inspired to blog, I couldn't get blogger to work properly. My luck.

Still, after weeks of dire weather, we have finally got some warmth and sunshine, so we spent yesterday doing some gardening tasks and lazing in the sunshine. Alex went to a birthday party in the afternoon, the girls went to the park with Grandma and then we topped it all off with a barbecue - sausages, a bit of steak, some prawns and of course, vegetable kebabs. The only thing missing was the Pimms, but you can't have everything...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The usual blog inertia

I have to admire these people who manage to blog daily or near daily - don't know quite how they keep the momentum up as I always seem to run out of things to say, or at least, not be able to think of anything at the points I actually have time to type... But I'm playing catch up tonight. With my mother visiting at the moment, there's been slightly less time for computer stuff than normal (which isn't a problem, just a fact) and with half term holidays coming up (last week in May) I'm sure I won't have a lot of time then, either. Of course, if the weather stays this rainy we won't be able to spend much time outside, so that will help me keep in touch!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

For all in tents...

Ta da! We managed to get it up with very little problem (other than the fact that our garden isn't really quite big enough for it). It took over an hour, but that was the first time, and doing it with no instructions, so I don't think that was too bad. Next time it will go much faster because I will know which poles go where, having done it before.

The bit to the left is a "kitchen extension" - it zips onto the main tent, so you put the main tent up first, and then add that bit, if you like. Inside, there is a separate sleeping area, which is self-contained and then the main tent area. I think when we go camping, we will probably put the kitchen extension up even if we aren't going to cook in it, because it makes the inside of the tent really roomy. More photos are in my yahoo album.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A multiwash day

I'm sure there is something inherently sad about measuring how nice a day it is by how many loads of wash you can hang outside to dry, but after so many "don't even think about it" days, it's nice to have one that's only limited by the length of the clothesline or the amount of dirty washing in the house (not usually something one is short of, as once the clothes are done, there's always towels, sheets, duvet covers, and then sofa covers, etc). I did three today - two clothes and one sheets, etc with some fabric thrown in - I don't mind using the dryer in the winter or the rainy part of spring, but once the good weather is actually here (which it seems it may finally be) it seems wasteful not to take advantage of it.

My friend Mandy and I were talking about hanging out washing earlier (her comment being that her sister told her she was "such a housewife" when she responded to "isn't it a nice day" with a comment about how much washing she could hang out - but we all do it!) - that was what made me think about measuring good weather in terms of washing. And then I thought I should blog that. And then I thought, it's just as sad to plan to blog about washing as it is to measure the weather in washing in the first place. Possibly sadder. But there you go - there's the excitement otherwise known as my life...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A-camping we shall go...

So, we seem to have acquired a tent. This has come about because some friends of ours are planning to (eventually) move from a rather large house in the country with lots of storage space to a not so large flat in Belgravia with rather less storage space, and so are clearing out their stuff, of which after many years and four grown up kids, they have rather a lot, and redistribute it among said children and anyone else who will take it. Geoff made the mistake of mentioning that we were thinking about trying out camping as a family activity, and hey presto - tent. If there's good weather this weekend, we shall try putting it up in the garden and see how it goes. Photos (if successful) to follow.

Friday, May 05, 2006

And now for some real news...

In as much as anything I blog can be called real news... I think if there is actually a God up there watching, he wasn't paying much attention yesterday, as although the kids had the day off school (polling) and Geoff had arranged to take the day off, it was absolutely amazingly gorgeous - mid 20's and sunny all day. We went to Bekonscot Model Village in the morning (I had tickets won from the Christmas Fair) and in the afternoon, after a brief encounter with some ugly traffic (remind me never to listen to Geoff when he and I differ about which road route to take - he is, poor thing, invariably wrong), we hung out in Richmond Park, mostly in the Isabella Plantation, which, being full of azaleas, was pretty nice at the moment. The kids spent an hour or two playing the water with other half-dressed children - kids do love that sort of thing, and it was so nice out, we growups were content to just sit and soak up the sun and keep half an eye on the littles to make sure they weren't going all Lord of the Flies on us. Usually when there's a day off school it pours rain, so we were all well pleased.

And to top that off, it was lovely today, as well - a little cooler, but still gorgeous, and after school, the kids all went off to play together in the front gardens and on the pavements. I went out around quarter to six to have a quick word with a couple of neighbouring mums - Lorayne and Karen - to thank them for keeping an eye on my girls, and found three of them out front drinking wine and chatting. Well, I couldn't let that pass my by, so went back and got MY wine glass (already full, of course!). Lana & Rod peeked out a bit later and suddenly appeared with two glasses and another bottle, and gradually, impromptu street party, with most of 5 couples (the men kept disappearing and re-appearing) and Sophie, who isn't a couple... And a couple dozen kids - well, between us we have 14, plus there were at least 2 or 3 others, whose parents weren't out... It's one of the reasons I love this street - so many places, you barely know your neighbours, let alone, want to socialise with them. When most of us dispersed around quarter to eight (it was getting kind of cold, plus all us grownups were starving!) the kids all complained we "never let them play outside and always made them go to bed early".

If I wanted to sound like an old fart, this is the point where I'd say "Honestly, kids these days..."

Because men are basically sad gits...

Here is a photo of our friend Alex. Because most of you won't know him and won't care, I won't even bother to suggest a caption competition for this photo, it's just here to sooth his poor little ego - he's concerned I haven't mentioned him much in my blog. [Obviously, the poor soul hasn't really worked out why it's called "Kate's Blog" and not "Kate's Blog all about Alex Gann"]

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Not that I do a thorough spring cleaning each year or anything, but today is one of those days where I just need to get stuff sorted out - miscellaneous drawers, the top of Alex's cupboard, stuff like that. It's always nice when you get that stuff done... And of course, there's the general hoovering. I'm trying to get the kids involved in doing some of the cleaning, but there's a limit to what they can really help with and what just gets annoying. As you can see, I'm procrastinating going back to it...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Easter in Barrow

Along the canal in Barrow over Easter - one of the nice things about Barrow is walking along the canal. Here we are perched on and around one of the lock gate handles (or whatever they are called) - we had just watched and helped someone go through the lock. Barrow is on the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Branch) and has a nice deep lock and a canal basin. The canal side of Barrow is rather pretty, actually...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's fun, Mummy, but is it really art?

It's a good question, isn't it - and one which I didn't really answer, just something neutral along the lines of there are a lot of different kinds of art, which are interesting or important for different reasons...

Yesterday I took the girls to the Tate Modern, which is in the most fabulous building, an old power station. The bulding itself is worth a visit. In the main hall, which used to be the turbine hall, they have an installation piece, which changes periodically. At the moment, it's an installation by Rachel Whiteread, which is just the kind of thing that kids like. I know they'll remember it for a long time...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

To sleep or not to sleep

The irony of course is that the past three days or so, I've had to drag Alex out of bed to get ready for nursery or the school run. Today, Saturday, he bounces out promptly before 7.30 - how does he know to do that? He's only 3, he's got no concept of days of the week... At least with the other two (and Geoff) still asleep I can have some quiet time on the computer. Tomorrow, though, I'm kicking Geoff out of bed and making him come downstairs while Allie watches telly. (You can't leave him completely unmonitored anymore - he gets into stuff too much).

However, the day looks to be a nice one shaping up - no rain predicted, so we're going to finish sorting out the garden for spring (and the shed) and I've promised Alex to take him out to buy some new sand for the sandpit if we get it all cleared up. He's excited about that, that's for sure. Sand is one of his favourite media.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Issues with time...

Yesterday morning, Olivia got herself out of bed, got her uniform on straight away and was downstairs watching telly before I got up. I hardly had the heart to remind her it was Saturday, poor thing. She doesn't quite have the whole week sorted out yet - and as they went on their school trip on Friday, I think that confused her a bit as to what day it was. She ought to know that any day I don't have to drag her out of bed when the alarm goes off, isn't a school day...

I'm not that much better myself - despite reminding myself all week that the clocks go forward this morning, I managed to forget to turn forward last night, and indeed, didn't think about it this morning until a friend arrived to take the girls to a birthday party at quarter past what I was thinking was 10, but what was really 11! At least they were more or less ready. Glad I wasn't the one doing the driving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New glasses

And here she is...So far, so good - she's managed not to lose or break them yet. And yes, I do think she looks like me in this photo. (Indeed, all the time.) Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 13, 2006

Christmas in March...

One of the strange things about watching American television series in the UK is that they often don't run at the time of year they would have run in the US. This is not a problem for shows like Lost, where seasonality is irrelevant, but for stuff like ER, which tries to more or less keep to the seasons of the real world, you end up watching the Christmas show in March. In a way, this is a good thing, because sometimes there's way too much Christmas at Christmas time, but it's also kind of surreal. Of course, it's cold enough here to be Christmas - in fact, to be Christmas in Chicago, so it doesn't feel nearly as odd as it might do in March in London...

Saturday, March 11, 2006


This was entirely Olivia's idea - she's been talking about it for a few weeks, so we decided to go out today to have it done.

She has another big change coming up as well - her eyes have been bothering her a little (she complains about them being "smudgy" quite often), so we took her to have her eyes checked, and in a week or so, she'll be getting her first pair of glasses.

Apparently, she is just slightly long-sighted in her right eye, which means her left is trying to do all the work. Children's eyes are still quite "plastic" until about age 7, so the eye doctor said that even when it's only a mild prescription, they do prescribe to very young children, as there's a good chance the eyes may fix themselves, or at least, not get any worse.

She'll have to wear them at school and when reading or watching telly at home, but not when just playing, etc. Luckily, she is happy about this - maybe partly because they are Barbie brand glasses and have pink metal frames... Luckily for her parents, the NHS covers eye tests and glasses prescriptions for children under 16, so her basic glasses & lenses are free - although I did pay a little extra to have them coated with that extra tough coating - I'm sure they'll get some wear and tear! I'll upload another picture when she gets them - she was very disappointed she didn't get to take them home today...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Two out of three tigers...

Actually, the third one wanted to be Scooby Doo, but I didn't get a picture of that. I did them at home on Monday, and then went and did all the Rainbows in Olivia's group. [Not all tigers - I did one dalmation, a punk rocker, a floral garland, a black cat (which looked really good - must remember that one), a princess, and several hand decorations of various types. Oh and a butterfly, of course - always!]

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nobody here but all us chicken carcases...

So I was reading this thing in a magazine with tips for home cooks from well known chefs - most of them fairly sensible, but one of them was not to buy chicken parts, but to buy a whole chicken, as it's better value and you can make stock from the carcase. While in principle I approve of stock-making and certainly do so when I have roast chicken, etc, this little tip got me wondering what planet this chef lives on - must be Planet Much Larger Freezer Than Most People Have. I mean, let's say you are a family of 5 (ok, one of mine doesn't eat much yet, but hey, just for the sake of argument) and you're making tandoori chicken, which you don't want to do with the breast, as it will dry out. So you need at least 3 chicken legs (or 6-7 thighs, even less practical!) - I make that at least 2 whole chickens. And what if you don't have time to make the stock right away? Not only do you have to dismember the bird (which one can learn to do, readily enough, I suppose) but then you have to store the parts you don't need, make stock from the carcase(s) and then store that. What if you want to cook up a mess of chicken wings? Wonder how many chickens I can fit in my freezer...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

...the size of golfballs...

I appreciate it's usually hailstones which are described as being "the size of golfballs" (golfballs being one of the standard units of size, along with a clenched fist and Wales, for geography (as in "flooded an area the size of Wales")) but in tonight's instance, it's lumps on the back of a child's head...

Poor Allie - various romping resulted, as one always fears it will, in one child crashing into another and sending him flying into the corner of the wall - flat wall is not so bad somehow, but the corners - ouch. Poor thing was complaining his head hurt - well, not suprising, as there was a lump the size of (you guessed it) a rather oblong golfball on the back of his head - luckily the skin wasn't broken, but it was a near thing, really. However it seems to have gone down in swelling a bit now and hopefully will have settled down even more by the morning.

I wish I thought this would actually teach any of them the lesson I am always trying to instill - that too much rough-housing will result in injury. I have very little hope it will, though.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Nothing particular to say

But I feel obliged in that blogging kind of way to post something every once in a while whether or not I have anything to share. So today's gem of excitement is that things are normal here, with no one ill (which is good) and lots of stuff to do (including writing a newsletter for school about waterproof, fleece-lined jackets - a prospect so exciting that I have resorted to writing in my blog when I have nothing to say!).

Did some tie-dyeing with Alex's nursery on
Thursday last week - here's a sample - this was a shibori piece, tied around a piece of PVC pipe. This one almost didn't make it back to nursery, as it came out really really well :) Must try that technique again - I've done it in the past with mixed results, but this one really worked, so there's hope yet. They had lots of fun and were really well behaved - it wasn't at all messy, which I thought it might be, but I guess they are so little that they are better at sitting still and not touching things when told not to, than, say, 8 year olds.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I will survive

Actually, the half term holiday hasn't been too bad - only a few fights and spats. This has been accomplished by a combination of keeping them quite busy and major incentivisation and threats - Sarah had a friend over last night for a sleepover (as always, the wisdom of using the term "sleep" is debatable) so that was a big incentive to behave well early in the week.

Tuesday we went to the Tropical Forest at Syon Park (used to be called Aquatic Experience), which has animals - mostly reptiles, amphibians & fish but also birds and some mammals in tanks and display cages - that part is interesting, but not terribly exciting, but they do a really good encounter session which lasts about an hour and you get to see lots of different animals - the kids really enjoyed that. There are some photos from that in my album. We had won a free family ticket to that attraction at the school fair and we took a picnic, so it was a nice day out for very little money, which is always the problem with the February half term - it's usually too cold to do much outside, which means it can get really expensive to go places.

Wednesday Alex went to Carousel (his nursery) all day and I took the girls up to the museums (Natural History Museum this time). We skipped the dinosaurs, since Dinosaur Boy wasn't with us and looked at the mammals (including the blue whale model, which was suitably impressive, even for my easily bored 8-year old) and the creepy crawlies. We then had some lunch (they have a picnic area in the basement - more museums should do this) and looked at the earth galleries, including the one with all the cystals and gemstones in it, which they loved, and the room that simulates an earthquake. We then caught a bus to Oxford Street, visited the Food Hall in Selfridges and got some deli stuff for dinner, caught another bus to Daddy's office (their favourite part, I think) and all came home together - a good, but tiring, day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Murphy's Law of Sleeping In

Annoying, but not surprisingly, the toddler who has to be dragged out of bed on the last morning of school before the half term holiday is the same one bouncing in to one's room at just past 7am on the first day of the holidays - so much for sleeping in! He was so tired last night, I'm surprised he was up quite so early - yesterday he not only had an hour in the swimming ("fimming") pool in the morning, but then he went to a party in the late afternoon and spent an hour running all about an adventure playground place called "Merlin's Magic Castle" - I thought he'd be out until at least 8 (which for me, is sleeping in!)

Today, later, we are off to spend some pocket money and get haircuts, no doubt with a stop for lunch in their favourite place (the "M" word) - not my favourite of course, but we only get there a handful of times a year, so I guess it's not really that bad.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Now we are three

Happy birthday, birthday boy!

The cat is actually not a birthday present, but he's very fond of it - it moves and makes noises, but luckily, the novelty of that wore off after a day or two and he only presses the button once in a while.

Had a nice little party today with about 8 friends (and some siblings), played some games, ate some snacks, got all the toys in the entire house out - the usual. He's been looking forward to his presents ("peasants") for a couple of days now, so he was delighted to have people keep showing up at the door with gifts.

Hard to believe he's 3 - seems like yesterday - but there it is, I must be getting old...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Houston, we have sausages...

Geoff got a sausage making kit for Christmas, after hankering after home-made sausages like his mate David always brags about having... Anyway, we finally put it to good use last weekend, trying out some Toulouse type sausages (no filler in them - all meat & spices) which came out very well. Not only do they look like "real" sausages, but they tasted nice, too. Next time, we will try something like a more traditional English sausage with some rusk in, maybe some herbs - they will have a different kind of texture, but hopefully still be as yummy, in their own way.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The terrible threes

Never mind what they all say about 2 year olds, they are actually quite lovely. It's 3 year olds that are the real pain - that's when they get all willful and horrid. Witness my son's new favourite expression - "no way". Obviously, he gets this from his elder sisters, but still - to hear your lovely cuddly toddler start shouting "no way, Mummy, no way" at you whenever you suggest something ("Time to tidy up and go to playgroup") is ever so slightly disheartening. And I know he's not quite three yet - what can I say, he's precocious...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"I not very well"

Poor sausage, he isn't. He has had quite a high temperature, especially at night, for several days, and has been sleeping lots and not eating much. Thought he was much better this morning until he decided to throw up on my bed. Luckily, it was on top of the top quilt, so I could just take that off and wash it. And doubly lucky, he hadn't eaten anything since lunch yesterday, so it was just juice. He's off on the sofa now, watching Thomas (the Tank Engine). But he keeps telling us "I not very well. I need medicine." Bless.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A well narrated life

Anyone who has or has ever had a toddler will appreciate this quote from a friend's Christmas letter - "[he] is a very active toddler with quite a vocabulary. We now lead a very well narrated life, as [he] comments on all of the things he sees and does and wants to do...." I've told my friend I am going to adopt the phrase "well-narrated life" because I think it's perfect to describe toddlers. It's great to watch them become more and more interested in the world around them, and being toddlers, they of course have to tell you all about it.

"We're going upstairs now, Mummy. I'm going first, and then you. We're not downstairs anymore, Mummy. The telly is downstairs, but my bed is upstairs. My dinosaurs are in my bed. One is green, one is yellow. I like dinosaurs. They aren't downstairs. I'm going to sit in my chair. I'm going to get a dinosaur. Mummy are you going downstairs? I'm going dowstairs, me first, me first."

And you have to respond in some fashion or all you get is the same sentence over and over again at increasing volumes until you do...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

one of those waste-of-time days

You know the type of day I mean.

You see a nice skirt at Asda (supermarket), so grab your size off the rack. Don't bother to try it on because you haven't time, too lazy, and usually their size 12 fits anyway, etc and when you get home & try it on it's way too tight. Luckily, this is because it's the wrong damn size (tag doesn't match hanger - when will we ever learn!), rather than because you gained tons of weight over Christmas, but it does mean that the next day, you have to go back and exchange it. Except of course there aren't any in your size.

So then you go to Woolworths to exchange the pyjamas you bought earlier in the week for your daughter - you were debating between two similar styles (both with Scooby Doo on them) and picked one, only to find that when you went to have them rung up, they were half the marked price. So you run back quickly to get the other style as well - might as well at that price, as she needs several pairs. Of course, when you get home you find that you have two identical pairs of pyjamas, hence the need to exchange. When you go to make the exchange, of course you find that only the one style is on half price sale - the other is the regular price.

After hitting the second half of your son's playgroup (having missed the first half due to errands) you spend the afternoon at home waiting for the engineer to come and do the annual service on your boiler (afternoon = 12 to 6, hence the need to do errands before playgroup rather than after). When at 6.15 he still hasn't showed, you ring British Gas to find that although they called you to set up a service appointment, they have somehow neglected to actually BOOK the appointment, which explains why no one showed up.

At least I had time to do some laundry and assemble the new sofa bed. But honestly, some days...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Invasion of the computer snatchers...

Sarah's been dying for Sims (the computer game) since she played it at a friends' house (it's probably a little hard for her, but that's not going to stop her) - she finally bought one out of her pocket money today - and I think I may never get near the computer again. (Or at least, what happened tonight, which is that I had to insist she stop, by means of evil threats & then we had tears & tantrums - will happen a lot.) I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon, so it won't be quite so hard to get my computer back. It does look like an addictive game. Of course, tonight one of her Sims set his kitchen on fire, so perhaps they will all die off soon anyway...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Think you've got clutter?

Here's something to make anyone who sometimes feels overwhelmed by their stuff, a bit better:

Sad, of course, but at least most of us can take comfort from the fact that our houses are surely much less cluttered!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sofabed 1, Mattress 0

We braved the mighty Ikea today (including Geoff, surprise surprise) - such expedition brought on by Geoff deciding, after he spilled his drink all over the bed this morning, that we were about due for a new mattress anyway (we'd been waiting until all kiddies were potty trained just in case we ended up with one in bed with us for the night...), so I suggested we hit Ikea (we have an Ikea bed). Geoff tried to suggest we simply buy the same mattress we did last time, but that being around 8 years ago, they've all changed, so I thought we ought to go lay down on them. Plus, we wanted to look at sofabeds, too - one holiday with an airbed on the floor for a week is enough (though the girls, who were the ones sleeping on it, enjoyed it, admittedly).

As it happened, all of the possible mattresses (i.e. sprung ones) were out of stock, and won't' be back in for a week or more, so I'll have to go back to Ikea after all. But at least I'll know what I want. We did, however, buy a sofabed - nothing exciting, but it will be welcome, not just for the bed aspect, but we've been wanting to get rid of our orange sofa anyway - it has a slightly wonky leg and a stain on one arm (just a dark spot caused by Alex opening my Christmas bath oil and spilling it on the sofa) so really, it's time for it to go.

It actually wasn't too bad (Ikea) despite being a Sunday and the weather being absolutely foul, though by the time we left, around 2pm, there was a queue about 30 cars long waiting to get into the car park, so it clearly pays to go early. Going back will be fine, because I'll do it in the week and it will be virtually empty. For Ikea.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

peace at last

Well, the girls are back to school today, finally - towards the end of a break, they always start picking on one another (not that they don't do that normally, but it's worse) and Grandma Lucy went home as well - so once Alex and I got back from the supermarket, it was really quiet, and peaceful. I do enjoy having a full house over the holidays, but I am equally glad for things to return to normal...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The lion, the witch and the Christian metaphor

Saw the Narnia film the other day with the girls - I thought it was very good and the girls loved it. Sometimes critics get really stuck up their own backsides, don't they - the Christian metaphor is there, but I doubt most kids would pick up on unless it was pointed out or their dad was Ned Flanders. Kind of like reading the books... Anyway, great effects, good acting (always something to be wary of with most of the main characters as kids) and just very entertaining. Recommended.