Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Here are a few photos from Christmas in our house - the table all set waiting for some food, Sarah and her friend Thalia being cool in matching shirts (we always have Christmas dinner together with their family - they live in the same road, and none of us tend to go away for Christmas, so it's nice to have someone to eat with - and not so much work to do - and two ovens to use!) and one of me and Geoff, which our friend Rod took - he said something really funny right before he was taking the photo, and actually got me to smile naturally, which I thought was fab - I like this photo a lot - usually there aren't very many photos of me around as I'm behind the camera!

Here are a few more photos, of the kids opening their stockings, and so forth, on flickr.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gerbils & Gingerbread

(though admittedly, not at the same time)

The gerbils seem to spend most of their time either sleeping or digging around in their cage, burying things they unburied yesterday (or vice-versa). But yesterday, they moved one of the cardboard tubes in the bottom of the gerbilarium up against the side of the tank, so you can see inside where they are all snuggled up next to each other having a snooze. This only shows two of them, but they were all three in there. Really cute.

Gingerbread house - I stuck the pieces together with melted sugar, and made the windows (also melted sugar) - it was a kit which came from Ikea. The kids decorated it. Great fun, I have to admit.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas on Oxford Street

Here's Sarah and her friend Kirsty on the top of a bus going up to Oxford Street today - and these are the decorations on the front of Marks & Spencer (Marble Arch). More photos from today are here, including lots of shots of interestingly jewelled things in the Selfridge's Christmas windows. We looked at the Harrod's windows, too, but frankly, we always prefer Selfridge's in our family - just more interesting!

Christmas Decorations

A robin made with feathers and glitter, which my mother gave me this year. And a star, made last year in nursery by Alex.

Country style heart, made by my friend Sarah in my little quilt group - the first year we were a group, we swapped ornaments, Reindeer with pompom nose made by one of the kids, but not sure which one.

Ornament I made myself last night from free fabric & instructions received in the post from my local quilt shop - the butterfly charm was my own. And a lovely ball ornament made by online pal Susan, which arrived spontaneously in the post earlier this month.

Tin hanger ornament purchased on my recent trip to San Diego, when on a tour of local quilt shops with another online pal, Lynn (who I've now had the pleasure of meeting in person). And an ornament I made for myself the year we swapped ornaments with my little quilt group - everyone got one similar to this, though some of the fabrics varied. And the dangles.

I have a LOT more decorations than this, just thought I'd pull out a few fun ones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time's a wastin'

Having just had to restore factory settings on our old computer, all the bookmarks I used to have are gone from IE - except the nice computer Tech Guy has saved them in a folder. Which is good, but it means I have to click on each one and then, if I choose, re-bookmark it. Which is actually a good way to clear some of the older ones that are gone or I don't use, out. And as a bonus, in my travels, I have come across a number of fun, amusing or just plain odd sites which you all might enjoy, so here they are (or some of them anyway, I may lose patience before I get through them all...)

and last but not least, something topical I saw today:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Annual Christmas Baking Day

Every year, we have a massive baking day, where we make lots of dishes - it's getting easier for me as the kids are getting more helpful - Sarah can actually make an entire recipe more or less on her own, perhaps with just a little supervision - even if it includes something somewhat tricky like separating eggs or making meringue. (Actually, I have grown-up friends whose baking skills are probably not that advanced...) . This means that we can actually get several things done at the same time. And with my mother here, even more help - even if it's only one of us doing the washing up all the time. Olivia and Alex also both helped, but they need more supervision, so it's a bit of a slower process.

Anyway, we made, I think, nine things, beginning before lunch with the rice krispie treats, which Alex helped me a lot with; cranberry orange bread (made by my mother); butter horn cookies (the crescent shapes), which were my dad's very favourite cookie; butterscotch shortbread, which we like not only because it's yummy, but because it cuts nicely into Christmassy shapes; lemon decorator cookies; chocolate-peanut butter no-bakes (mmm); fudge meltaways (a Christmas tradition in our house - and the one thing we often end up making a second batch of); jam thumbprint cookies; and finally, magic cookie bars (well, they weren't actually the last thing we made, but who's counting?) which I haven't made in years, but which I was reminded of on someone's blog. Now who was it - I know, it was Libby...

Maybe some recipes to follow, if I get my act together. Tell you what, I'll do the Rice Krispie Treats now - I know that one off the top of my head: Melt 4 oz butter or marge with 4 oz plain toffee, then add 4oz marshmallows. Stir in 5oz Rice Krispies (or non-branded rice crisp cereal!) . Press into pan or put in muffin cases, etc. Easy peasy.

More gerbil videos (but that's all for a while!)

The gerbils have landed...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Walking the square mile

My mother and I did another one of those London Walks today - this one was called Shakespeare and Dickens' London, but was essentially a walk around the City of London (aka the Square Mile) with lots of history, focusing a little on the two authors and their works and how they related to that part of London. It was a cold day, but actually quite sunny and pleasant for walking. Here's a photo of the Guildhall building and the arches in Smithfield Market (meat market, not open in the week, I think) - more photos are in my flickr album if you are interested. I even labelled them (minimally, but at least I did it!)

Happy Birthday OLD friend

Today is the birthday of my friend Michael (aka Mike), who I have known since 9th grade, which was, well, a long time ago. Like me, this is his last year to be able to claim a birthday with a "3" at the front - unless he lives to be 300, of course...

Happy birthday Michael!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree

Ta da. Here it is. Ornament overload, as usual. I bought some new lights this year, and they aren't very showy (not that they ever show well in photos) - I like my old ones better, but can't get any replacement bulbs for them, so had to throw them out (too many blanks). I think I might buy another string for next year, but it's too late for this year. I'm sure it will all be fine.

This year, the girls have a small tree up in their room with a lot of their own ornaments on it - which is great, as it's fun for them, but also, it helps displace some of the excess ornaments off this tree. Photo of that later, when I get around to it. Maybe tomorrow, after the fair.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Annual Round-up (aka Christmas Letter)

Seasons Greetings to all of you reading this, whether you are a regular visitor or this is your first time over at the North Family blog. As most of you will know by now, we decided this year, for a variety of reasons, not to send out our usual Christmas cards and letter - this is partly due to cost, partly due to environmental issues and partly due to the fact that the task was beginning to feel really onerous and thus taking out all the Christmassy pleasure you'd hope was associated with this kind of activity.

But of course, being me, I couldn't possibly not write a Christmas letter, so I am merely changing media and publishing it electronically. I expect it will be much easier this way as I don't have to squish it all onto one piece of paper and can link to entire albums of photographs, rather than just a few select shots. You may all come to regret this move to the virtual world!

So, here's a whirlwind tour of 2007 in the North family household, with lots of links to side-road detours, should you wish them, and of course some photos thrown in for fun.

January brought with it some excitement for the kids (and grownups too) in the form of a decent covering of snow - not a lot by the standards of those of you in the American midwest or northern Europe, or even I was used to growing up outside DC, but darn good for London, and the children had great fun with it. As, I admit, did the mummies on the way to school.

You can see more photos of the trip to school here on flickr, or a video of Alex pulling a sled here on YouTube.

We had a bit more snow in February, and of course, that brought with it Alex's birthday (4) - it seems so long ago now, as he is nearly 5 as I write this. He had a nice little party at a local recreation centre - an hour in the play room with bouncy castle and soft climbing stuff, and then time in the party room for a birthday tea and a few games. Not many photos from that as I was busy doing other stuff, but here's a video of us singing happy birthday.

In the spring, we had a lovely visit from our friends Cathi and Dave (and their girls Aine and Aisling) who live in Ireland. Bob Dylan was scheduled to give a concert in London in April and I jokingly asked Cathi if she'd like to come over to see him with me (Cathi and I have a history of going to Dylan concerts together) - she mentioned it to Dave and he suggested they all come for a long weekend. As the concert happened to be during the school Easter holidays, this was an excellent suggestion, and so - a lovely visit. The kids had a great time (though Aisling was going through a bit of a difficult phase, not being happy sleeping, etc in a strange house) and we did lots of fun stuff, including going to the zoo. Loads of photos were taken. This one shows Aine and Olivia practicing being flamingos. They're wearing the right colour for it...

A lot of other stuff happened in April, most of which I have blogged about, so if you want to know more, you can always check out the blog archive for April. (Or indeed, for any month - just use the navigation on the sidebar.)

During the May half-term holiday, we had a trip up to Grandma Lucy's house, this time without Geoff - as he was due to go off on a business trip to the US the following week, it was a bit hard to fit the trip into a time which would work for him, too. But that's ok, we had fun without him, going out to a variety of places, including Snibston Discovery Park and Cadbury World. Some photos - quite a few, actually - were taken.

Towards the middle of July, Grandma Kathy arrived for a visit, bearing all kinds of junk food type gifts for me (well, and the kids, too). Coincidentally, she has brought some with her at Christmas too (she just arrived today, as it happens) - but not nearly so much. No doubt she knows we'll be providing plenty of junk food of our for the holidays.

While she was here we went lots of places and did lots of things - like Chessington World of Adventures, Kew Gardens, Camden Market and so on. But one of the highlights of summer actually happened on the last day of school - we had torrential rain and flash flooding, which truly was astonishing. We usually all take the kids to the park on the last day of school and have a bit of an impromptu picnic/party, and we thought we'd have to change that plan, but as it happens, we all ended up in the park anyway - though no picnic. I'm sure the kids will remember this forever, as it was very unusual and quite fun. Even if you don't click on any other links in this "letter" make sure you check out these photos... Of course, it was only fun for us because we weren't in any danger of having our house flooded - others locally and in other parts of the country were not so lucky.

Once my mother went home (early August) we had a fairly quiet month, until the latter part, when we went to Ireland to visit Cathi and Dave in return - most years we only see them once, so this was a nice exception to that, with lots of visiting. This was the first time we'd visited them since they moved to their new house, which is in Ballina, Co. Tipperary (and yes, it's a long, long way). We did lots of great things, explored interesting bits of Ireland, hung out, played golf (Dave, Geoff & Sarah), stayed up late (me & Cathi) and generally had a fun time. I blogged nearly every day and took lots of photos, so for more detail, I recommend August's blog archive.

As many of you will already know, September brought some sad news to us - my father died very suddenty (though not entirely unexpectedly, as his health had been very poor of late). For various reasons, the actual funeral & interring of his ashes did not take place until November, so I did not go to the US until then, but my stepmom, Nancy, arranged a Celebration of Life in Ensenada (Mexico) where they lived, which many of their friends attended - people got up and shared memories, etc. Although I was unable to attend, I did write a piece for someone else to read aloud, which you can read here, if you like.

The service in San Diego in November was lovely, and I had a very nice trip, all things considered (I went alone) including being able to spend some quality time with my stepmom & her mom, and my brother and sister in law - as well as some briefer but still enjoyable visits with the rest of the family (that is, Nancy's family - but they have always welcomed me into their family). I also got to meet Christine (sister in law)'s mother and Steve & Christine's dogs - JR and Amber. JR is probably the most adorable dog ever and Amber is very cute but a bit of a handful - she clearly has second child syndrome - who knew it was true of dogs, too?

Anyway, on a happier note, September also saw the start of a new school year - Sarah started Year 5, which means only one more year after this one before secondary school; Olivia started Year 3, which is the first year of "Juniors" (there is a bit more independence and they don't have an afternoon play); Alex started Reception (a bit like all-day Kindergarten, for those of you unfamiliar with the UK school system). Because his birthday is before Easter, he had the option of a full day or going home at lunchtime - he was very ready for the full day and was extra keen to take his lunch with him to school like his sisters. And yes, he loves it. He really adores school, and seems to be getting on very well. In the first half term they do a lot of work on phonics, and after this past half term, they have been officially teaching reading (though he was doing a bit before) and he has taken to this like a duck to water - much better than his sisters, frankly - not that they were slow, particularly, but he's just really keen. It's fun to watch. He was so excited when he brought home his first book with words in it (I was in San Diego, actually, and he insisted on telling me on the phone).

And of course, September brought the start of the birthday season - Sarah was 10 (10!) at the end of September, and Olivia was 8 in late October. Geoff also had a birthday in October, and mine was in November - we won't mention any numbers, but both of those ended in a "9", which means next year, we are going to have a big party... And it's our 15th anniversary next year, too. Lots of big numbers.

And that pretty much catches us up to the present - obviously there are all kinds of things I haven't mentioned, but I am fairly good about keeping this blog up to date, so for news of us, the best thing is to come by once or twice a month and see how we're getting on. (And with Christmas coming up, there should be plenty of new photos this month). My mother is here for the holidays, so we'll be going out doing lots of fun things, and just after Christmas we'll be going up to see Geoff's mum as well, so we'll have news and photos to share from there...

We hope everyone reading this has a lovely holiday season and we hope to hear from you all this year - leave a comment here or send an email - or heck, even a paper card is more than welcome.

Merry Christmas to all!

Kate, Geoff, Sarah, Olivia, Alex

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mutant bread

Not much to show or say lately, except I wanted to share this mutant loaf of bread. It tastes nice (cheese and onion) but it looks a bit strange. You'd think there would be more Christmas related stuff, and no doubt there will be, but it just hasn't happened yet. Watch this space, so to speak!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gerbil Preparation

The only thing missing now is the gerbils... which are on special order from the pet shop. Should be 2-3 weeks. Needless to say, there is excitement. I think it looks pretty cosy, myself - the gerbil sleeping/hiding pod in the top level, the food dish, the running wheel for exercise, the water bottle - and downstairs, plenty of space to dig and some tunnels to hang out in. There is also a chewing/playing in cube, which must have got put in after the photos were taken. And of course, there will be some toilet roll tubes for chewing and playing with, and probably some bedding, but we'll wait until the gerbils get here for that.

And I've hung the pictures that got displaced by moving the bookcase, above the cage. Couldn't have a blank wall in my house!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Image meme fun

Here's a fun meme I found over on Jane's blog. You answer the questions, typing your response into google images, then pick an image and post it for each question - you are supposed to use an image from the first page of the results. I may cheat, we'll see...

1. How old will you be on your next birthday (if I'd done this last week, I could have done a different number!)

2. A place you'd like to visit (New Zealand, if it isn't obvious).

3. One of your favourite places to visit (Juniper Top, not Boxhill - similar, but there's a world of difference).
4. Your favourite object

5. Your favourite food
6. Your favourite animal (I don't really have a favourite, but I do like elephants - they are so interesting & I love to watch footage of them swimming!)

7. Favourite colour
8. Name of a past pet

9. Where you live (I'd like to clarify that I live neither in the playground or the pub, but if you go one way from my street (which is a cul-de-sac) you get to one, and the other way, you get to the other. Unfortunately, it's a skanky pub, so we don't go there much.

10. First grade teacher's last name (it took me AGES to remember what it was)
11. Your middle name (clue: it's not Massachusetts)

12. A bad habit of yours (no, not brightly coloured plastic trays - snacking!)
13. Your college major

14. Favourite holiday (when I lived in the US, I might have said Thanksgiving, but we don't really do much with it here...)

As usual, I'm not going to actually tag anyone, but if you want to play along, go for it!