Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mmmmm... Cake

So, here's the before and after views of the cake - Sarah did most of the baking herself, with a little supervision, though I ended up doing the filling and the icing, because she had to leave to go to another party before it was cool enough to ice. Alex helped me decorate it (we used the "throw all the bits of stuff we have in the cupboard at it and it will look pretty" theory of decoration - I think it worked well, personally).

And here's the birthday girl blowing out the candles:

And now, time for me to go upstairs and begin the process of removing four extra 9 & 10 year old girls who've had nowhere near enough sleep from my house...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Birthday girl

Getting ready to upwrap the pressies. 10 years - where did that go?

Celebration of Life

My stepmother has planned a "Celebration of Life" in honour of my father, down at the clubhouse where they spend time with their friends in the ex-pat community in Ensenada - the actual service is looking likely to be in November, but this Celebration is this coming weekend. As I could obviously only attend one of these events, I will unfortunately miss the Celebration, but Nancy offered to have someone read something from me, if there was anything I wanted to say. Today, I finally got around to writing something, so I thought I'd share it here for those who are interested....

Ever since Nancy started planning this Celebration of Life I have been wondering what I wanted to say, trying to think of how to begin and how to make sure that what I wrote was brilliant, moving, witty and so on. I've been putting off making a start because it was hard to see where I was going to go.

Then today for lunch while opening a tin of sardines, I realised what I wanted to say – not to tell you about a military career, or stamp collecting, or a Mexican retirement, or about the women in his life - but to talk about the little things – some of them, at least - which together make up my father for me.

Baseball, of course, always reminds me of my dad – living here in a country with no baseball I am reminded of him less this way than I used to be, but I have very vivid memories of going to Orioles games (at the old Memorial Stadium – none of this Camden Yards nonsense) with him and my brother – even before my parents divorced, baseball was the province of my father and I do think he enjoyed the outings, despite protestations about how much two small children could eat, and how frequently they needed the toilet.

A few songs will always remind me of my father – my favourite song memory is being in his house in Blue Sea Lane, where he lived between his two marriages – listening to Simon & Garfunkel and turning The Boxer up so loudly that the glass in the windows shook.

There are also food related memories – yes, his favourite Christmas cookies, which I still make every year, partly for the memories – it wouldn't seem like Christmas without them - and partly because I like them too. And yes, the few German things my mother used to cook – schnitzel and spatzel. But also, Brussels sprouts will always remind me of Dad because that was the one vegetable the rest of us, Mom included, were allowed not to eat, when she fixed it for him. I actually like sprouts now, but they still remind me of my dad's "smelly vegetable" and how he was forever trying to get the rest of us to have "just one taste" - convinced that if we just kept trying, eventually we'd like them. And of course, the sardines – my father was the primary consumer of sardines in our house (though I'm fairly sure I also liked them, even as a child). The unique sardine tin is a bit of a wonder to a child anyway, so perhaps that's why my memory of him opening it with the little key is
so vivid.

Or there was a recent conversation about buffets which sparked my memory of the Sunday brunch buffet at the Officer's Club at Andrews Air Force Base. I don't suppose it was anything particularly spectacular as these things go, but to a child, a buffet is something splendid and wonderful – picking your own food, and going back for the things you like best, as many times as you like, and my brother and I both adored it.

There are of course many, many more memories of my father – not all of them positive – there's certainly
at least one argument that will stay in my memory forever – but it's all these small things – these instances in my daily life where I find my father a part of it after all – which are the special ones to me.

Ever since Dad died, many people have asked me how I am coping, and my usual reply has been that it's
not so bad on a daily basis, because living so far away from one another, we didn't see each other regularly, and neither of us was perhaps as good a correspondent as we could have been – had we met up weekly or called each other often, his absence would be more striking – in essence, my father hasn't been part of my daily life for many years, or at any rate, that's what I've been saying.

But in the last few weeks, I've noticed increasing numbers of times where I find myself thinking of my father – and I don't just mean when people ask about him or me, but for instance with the sardines, or when a letter arrives with an interesting stamp on it (I had a round one from New Zealand recently – how cool is that?) or even when I was in Woolworth's and saw that they'd released CHiPs on DVD (we used to watch this as a family sometimes, while eating dinner).

And here's what I think – that I haven't simply started thinking of him more since he died, but that I am more aware of each time something in my life sparks a memory or echoes back from my childhood, because now I know that those are the sum total of the memories I will have – no new ones will be created. And of course that's sad, and I'm sorry for it, but this heightened awareness of my father's place in my life is also a good thing, as it reminds me of all the special things that make up my memory of him; it reminds me to enjoy them, savour them, pass them along to my own children. And it shows me that, distant or not, gone or not – he was, and remains, still very much a part of me and my life.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Recent Family Photo

My stepmom request a recent family photo to include in the flyer she is putting together for the Celebration of Life for my dad - we of course didn't have such a creature, as one of us is always taking the photos, so we asked our neighbour to take a few quick shots in the garden, and here it is - Alex looks slightly worried but he doesn't photograph well - always looks self-conscious - not at all like Olivia at his age...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We be wireless...

Well, the North household has at last sort of caught up with technology - we now have wireless internet - and it didn't cause me any stress at all, as my friend Lana's lovely husband, who knows technology fairly well and has just finished doing an MBA and is therefore currently not employed came over and did it for us. Hoorah! Now Geoff can bring his laptop from work home and access his VPN, and we can buy a laptop for a second computer this autumn sometime. It even works up in the girls' bedroom; we tested with Rod's laptop. I am a happy bunny. Oh, and did I mention, I didn't have to do anything except make a couple cups of tea and finish my sewing?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another new haircut...

This time, mine. I decided to share a picture (which doesn't show the colour that well - I have highlights and lowlights in blonde and brown) as it will never look like this again, as I never blow dry it, and don't even own a circular brush. But it should look nice straight, too. She's put lots of layers in, which makes it kind of funky and light. Anyway - once your kiddies get into school you can do things like spend 3 hours in the hairdressers - ah, the life of luxury.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hever Castle, Kent

I wasn't sure what photo to put on the blog from today, as we spent the day at Hever Castle in Kent - there's a quilt show this weekend, so we always go check it out and have a good time in the grounds of the castle, which has a good playground, a hedge maze, a water maze, a big lake and various pretty gardens, lots of topiary and so on (the house is cool too - it's the childhood home of Anne Boleyn - but with the kids, we don't go inside, although I have seen the inside myself - next year we mig, though, as the kids have expressed an interest). Anyway, I decided on this photo for my friend Michael, who is always somewhat envious when we visit castles - Mike - you and Chrissy save your pennies and come for a visit and I promise I will take you to at least 3 castles (including this one) - more if you aren't tired of them by then!
Anyway, that's what we did - hung out at Hever - more photos of the day and of the quilt show are here, on flickr.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The moon is made of cheese shops

So this morning, when Alex came in to our bedroom to have a cuddle and tell stories and sing songs (he frequently provides us with this joyous entertainment on the weekend - luckily today it was nearly 8am) the theme was rockets, space travel and so on. At one point, Alex tells me we are all on the moon, and then he says "and now I got some cheese". Sleepily, I say "is the moon made of cheese, then?". "No," he says, "there's a cheese shop". So there you have it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

End of Week 1

Not much to report here at the end of Alex's first week (and everyone else's second) - he loves it and has fun, but he is a very tired little bunny at the end of the day. I'm sure that will change, of course - I sure hope so - I don't know how many evenings of crying at every little thing I can cope with!

Edited to say, apparently blogspot has psychically intuited that I am (half) German - it just asked me "blog anzeigen (in einem neuen fenster)". Everything else was in English, though (guess that's appropriate, as I am only half German!) Apparently "blog" auf Deutch is still "blog" :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

First day of school for Alex

He insisted I take a photo of him by himself, so I did. Glad I did, as I could not get the three of them to look nice long enough for a decent photo of all three (though I have one which isn't great) - they kept arguing over who would stand where, of all things. Kids! Anyway, here he is, and isn't he sweet?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Alex and Nancy have a trip to the farm

Today was Alex's last day before the start of school - half day tomorrow, full day from Thursday - so I took him, along with my friend Lorayne, and her daughter Nancy, who is also starting tomorrow - to Horton Park Children's Farm. Here they are filling the sand thingy up with sand. And more photos of them larking about here, on flickr. It was a lovely day - great weather, a beautiful day to be out and about, and a nice end to an era...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sad news

I had a call from my brother early this morning to say that my dad had collapsed suddenly yesterday and died. A bit of a shock, although he has not been in the best of health for some time (he had diabetes among other things). They think it was perhaps a stroke, but aren't certain yet. I spoke to my stepmom after I talked to my brother (she hadn't been able to get through to me directly - they live in Mexico, and perhaps the phone lines between here and there aren't always talking properly) and she will be arranging all the details - as he was in the military reserve for many years after leaving active duty, he wanted to have a military funeral, and I think that's an excellent choice for him. She will be taking care of all the arrangements, which makes sense, though of course it's hard on her (though perhaps it helps to have things to do), but when dates and venues are decided, I'll fly over to the US for the funeral, etc.

Will keep you posted as I learn more.

Friday, September 07, 2007

...takes the biscuit...

is what English people say, where Americans would say "takes the cake" - of course, the kind of biscuit pictured above (American Baking Powder Biscuits) is not what they mean - they mean cookie. Two countries divided by a common language indeed.

Anyway, Alex and I made some bisscuits to take to a friend's house for lunch - American biscuits are one of my favourite quick bakes, as they take about 10 minutes to mix & cut (or 20 if you have a 4 year old helping) and 10-12 minutes to cook. Hey Presto.

(American) Biscuits
2 cups plain flour (aprox 300g)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter/marg/shortening (approx 125g)
2/3c milk or soya milk (80ml)

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add fat in small pieces, cut in until mixture resembles large crumbs. Add milk and stir until just moistened. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 10 times until dough comes together (do not overknead or the biscuits will be tough). Pat or roll dough out to 2-3cm thickness; cut into circles (or other shapes as desired). Bake for 10-12 minutes in a very hot oven - 450F, 220C, 200C fan.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day of school for most

Not for Alex, yet, so they didn't want him in the photo... This is Sarah, Thalia, Olivia (back) and Katarina, Gabriella and Keir. Years 5, 6, 3, 1, 3, 2 respectively. And yes, Thalia is just stuck with being shorter than my girls. But her mum is petite, so there's no surprise there. A good day was had by all, I do believe.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Last day of freedom...for some

Well, it's the official last day of the summer holidays today - tomorrow is back to school for all the big kids. Alex won't go back until next week, but the girls are back tomorrow. We spent today hanging out, running errands, going to the park, visiting with friends and making hats. As one does. The hats are fun and easy - more about them on my quilting blog, if you are interested - I foresee hat and scarf related gifts this year...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good hair day

Olivia sporting her trendy new layered cut with side parting and funky fringe (which will get funkier as it gets longer). I think it looks great. Luckily, so does she.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Alex and the Waves

Here's Alex frolicking (sort of) on the beach yesterday.

I have some more videos of various things holiday related, over on you tube - including kite flying at the beach, the kids on the trampoline and other exciting things. Check it out here.

An Daingean

A long day's journey today - we drove out to the Dingle Peninsula, which has some amazing scenery (never as impressive in a photo as in reality, of course). We had a picnic on a rather windy beach, in the dunes. The beach was fabulous, although we had a minor issue with Dave managing to get his car stuck in the sand (luckily, a nice man with a tow rope and a 4x4 just happened along and managed to sort it all out). It was very windy, and not very warm, but a beautiful beach nonetheless and the kids (and Geoff) had a fabulous time and probably would have stayed all day.

After the beach, we went along the Peninsula looking at scenery, going through the Conor Pass (tiny mountain road, not wide enough to pass in many places, winding everywhere, but drop dead gorgeous views). Eventually, we made our way back to Tralee where we got dinner, before heading home...

Lots of pics of beaches and mountains can be seen in the usual place.

This will be our last touristy day here - tomorrow, Cathi and I are have a little shopping morning (including quilt and yarn shops, yippee, and some charity shops) while the guys take the kiddies to the pool. Olivia has the option of coming with us if she likes, we aren't sure yet whether she will come along or be unable to resist the pull of the swimming pool (which has a huge water slide) but otherwise, we are kid-free. Cool. And then, in the afternoon, I will pack (wow, thrills) in preparation for leaving early Sunday morning to catch the ferry back home.

The kids are back to school on Wednesday, so we'll have a few days downtime before getting back into the swing of things (Alex is actually not back until the following week). Still doesn't feel like summer can be nearly over, but I think that's mainly the weather, which has been consistently un-summery.