Thursday, 31 March 2011

I'm kind of a Pioneer.

We have a really small hot water tank in our new house. It is so small that whoever gets in the shower second has to have a really quick one otherwise it runs cold. Usually this is me, and I consider it a small price to pay for sleeping in an extra 20 minutes in the morning while Matthew showers & Elizabeth plays in the bathroom. (Her new fave toys are the squeegee to 'clean' with, and the toothbrushes to chew.)

I don't know if you can tell, but she is chewing on a toothbrush in this shot. Honest.

Anyways, the other problem with small hot water tanks is that you sometimes don't have hot water for dishes - and I hate doing dishes in cool water. SICK. It just feels like you're not actually cleaning anything, and afterward you have cold hands which I also hate. So I usually have to pioneer-up, and boil water for dishes . . . in my electric kettle.


I'm practically a homesteader.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Pressure of Dinners

We are making friends here in Cambridge. It is pretty fun and (not gonna lie) a little bit like couple-dating. Two couples have invited us to their houses for dinner, and so far, everything has gone really, really well. We have left feeling great - we made new friends!! Look at us go!

I find the first half of the evenings a little bit stressful - What if they don't like me? What if I have nothing interesting to talk about? What if all I talk about is Elizabeth, and they don't like babies? What if Elizabeth is fussy all evening? What if, what if, what if...

But everything works out, and the conversation flows nicely, and I calm down. (And I've usually had a glass of wine...) And then for the second half of the evening, I start freaking out about what I can make for dinner for them when they come over. So much pressure!!


On a completely unrelated note: Elizabeth has her own baby now, and she carries it around and gives it kisses. So sweet!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Wagamama? No, Wagababy.



Matthew & I love this noodle house chain called Wagamama. (www.wagamama.com) Everyone sits at communal picnic-style tables, and the menu is your standard noodle house fare. We love it.


Lucky for us there is one in Cambridge! And doubly lucky for us: Elizabeth also loves it.
Chopsticks = not the greatest toy option, but great to chew on when your gums are sore.

Cramming noodles in her mouth.



Haha, tilty-head eater!!

"More Please!!"

They have the same kind of 'high-chair' that we have - the Phil & Ted MeToo chair. It has 2 c-clamps to attach it to any table or counter, and then your baby is at the same height as the table without the separation or footprint of a traditional high chair. Elizabeth loves to swing her legs while they dangle. Or cross her ankles - she's a lady.

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Holiday in Kent

Elizabeth & I went to visit my cousin Emma for a few days last week. Emma is married to Paul James, and they have two lovely children, Millie & Henry. I am certain they have the British-est names ever. They live in this delightful little village called Lower Halstow, in Kent. (For those of you who wonder: the travel to her place was wonderfully easy: bus to Cambridge Rail station, non-stop train to Kings Cross, cross the road to St Pancras International train station, and onto a high speed train there. It was 4 hours and fine. Elizabeth tried to crawl/walk on the train, which was kind of funny, in a baby-looks-drunk kind of way.)

When I say this village is 'delightful', I mean it - it is totally delightful. In the mornings, all the Mums walk their children to school, and wait until the bell rings, and then wave as the kids go inside - and I mean, all  the Mums. It's so nice feeling. And the nursery (aka pre-school) is just around the corner (for real, not in the British sense), and both schools are on School Lane. :) Hee hee hee, that is just too quaint. Emma says hello to every single dog-walker, and knows all their names - everyone says good morning to each other, and "how was blah-dee-blah last week?" "Oh, it was lovely! Everyone had a great time!", or "Did you manage to get your fence fixed?", or "It's going to be a beautiful day, isn't it?" It's kind of like living in a musical - so positive-feeling.

Emma lives on Lapwing Drive - hello, Harry Potter could live in this neighbourhood!!! But the best, best, best part about Lower Halstow is that Emma's neighbour has ducks that live in their front garden. No jokes. Emma says there are about 30 ducks that live in this front garden, and they lay their eggs there. Then when they hatch, the Mummy Ducks take their little Baby Ducklings on a walk to the pond nearby, and they have a little swim, and then all walk back together in a line. I am going to have to go back when the babies are born - right now they are just laying their eggs.
There is a nest of egg just by the bird feeder. One Mummy Duck never left her little nest. :)





Who doesn't want to live on Lapwing Drive???? I am officially jealous of the James family.

A Nice Day in Cambridge

 I'm a bit behind in my bloggedy blog because Matthew was away for a week, and I was (let's be honest) really not enjoying the single parenting gig. This was one of our 'best' conversations while he was gone:
Me: "I hate this. I am exhausted. No one comes home in the evening when you're gone."
Matthew: "I know, it must be so tiring."
Me: "Seriously, this is not what I signed up for. You can't go away for this long again."
Matthew: "Okay."
Me: "No, I'm being serious. And don't die. Because then you would never come home."
Matthew: "I'm not going to die."
Me: "Yeah, well just don't, because if you do, I am going to remarry right away - probably the next week. And it won't be a marriage for love, it will be a marriage for co-parenting."

That is pretty much how rational I was all week.

But one morning - was it Tuesday? Maybe Wednesday? (They all blended together in my sleep-deprived mind. Elizabeth has a gift for forgetting how to sleep through the night when her Dad is out of town.) Anyways, one morning we were on our way somewhere, and I had to stop and get off the bike to take a moment to remind myself that I live in a beautiful city, and that I have a pretty sweet life these days. Evidence:
Awesome green bike. I saw 4 green bikes that morning. Best day ever? I think so too.

The entire city is covered in daffodils. They are such a happy flower, I love them.

The river Cam. All the trees are beautiful and green. Sorry Canadians, if this is making you kind of hate me.

Elizabeth points at ducks and swans now. She points a lot when we ride along the river.

And on an unrelated note: bike theft in Cambridge is really high - something crazy like 6 out of 10 bikes get stolen. (Okay, I totally made up that statistic, but it's pretty high.) But I had to laugh out loud when I saw this when I got home:
This bike owner is taking no chances! Love it!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Sleepy Reading

Matthew is away at a work retreat this week. He left yesterday morning and isn't back until Saturday evening, and I miss him already.

This morning, I missed him a really lot, because first thing in the morning is his time with Elizabeth. He gets her at 6:45 when she wakes up, and either brings her into our bed for family cuddles (on the weekends or later-start work days) or into the bathroom and she plays while he showers. So I get an extra 15 minutes or so of snoozing. But this morning, with no Matthew around, I went and got Elizabeauty, and brought her into our bed. I just wasn't ready for the day yet. I reached for the first book of hers I could find. It was (of course) Noisy Cars. With a button that goes "beep beep beep".
Whatever, as long as I could lie down. Then she let me know she wanted me to read it to her, by doing the sign for 'more' (in this case, 'more' means 'read this to me now, Mum') and pushing the book into my face. I didn't have my glasses on, so I did some 'contextual reading' via the pictures. Here were the best parts of the book, for your enjoyment:
"This is a red car. Red cars go really fast. Nanny has a red car. She drives really fast. This is called a 'family four-door' car."
"This is a police car. They have sirens that go 'nee-naw-nee-naw'. Police officers stop bad guys from doing bad stuff. They also stop you when you are driving your car too fast. If this happens to you, be like Auntie Suzie, and lie to the police officer about how your car is making a funny sound and you just want to get home safely, and they will escort you home. Or be like Uncle Chris, and get a speeding ticket, but pay it off before Mummy & Daddy find out about it."
"These are race cars, and sometimes they're called Nascar, or maybe the race itself is called Nascar, or something. Nascar is really popular in the United States. Maybe in Canada too, but not in our house. Race cars don't honk when they pass you. In fact, I wonder if they even have horns. They do make really loud sounds when they race, and there is a race in Edmonton every year called The Indy, and it is held at the old airport downtown. I wonder if there will be a race this year because the airport was closing. I wonder if anyone in Edmonton will really care. Nobody in our house will care."
"This is a convertible car. See how the lady driver has grey hair? That is because you can only afford a convertible car when you're retired and you use up all your savings to buy it. See how there is a sailboat in the background? This must be the old lady's retirement cottage by the sea, and her husband is sailing their boat while she drives to the little town for groceries at the market. When you're rich and retired, you will only buy groceries at 'markets' not 'grocery stores', and you will have a convertible too, if you want one."

She loved it.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stair Master

Elizabeth lo-o-o-o-oves stairs. Here is evidence:
video
She's getting pretty quick at it, and has this very efficient technique of only using one knee - and she always leads with her left, so you have to start her at the very far right of the staircase otherwise she climbs into the wall on the left. (Lack of spatial awareness = totally from my side of the gene pool.) The other day I was awarded the Parent of the Year 2011 for forgetting to close the baby gate at the bottom of the staircase, and by the time I realized she was out of the room, she was half-way up the second flight of stairs... whoopsies... we don't forget to do the gates up anymore.

We took Elizabeth to this International Lunch that was held by the Newcomer's Society (aka the Old Ladies). Elizabeth's favourite part was the huge staircase in the church where the lunch was held. My favourite part was the entertainment. First, a trio of Israelis playing English flutes (aka recorders):
In true Old Lady form, after their piece, someone stood up and asked (with her eyes closed), "Can you tell us, please, who is the composer, and from what century was your piece?" (Seriously.)
Second on the program: A kind of installation art, where the artist wondered what it was like to experience visual art independently, with no impact from the other audience members. And so, she brought in this black box-type thing with a hole cut in the bottom of it, and volunteers sat in the middle of the room while the 'artists' moved this box around the volunteer, who looked at the inside of the box while listening to a recording through a headset. (I said, 'artists' because we couldn't figure out if this was intended as art, or if it was her research project for her PhD or something.)

See the square part resting on the table? That was where the hole was, and then the girl in red held one end, and her assistant held the other end and they circled the volunteer. Oh, and the whole rest of the audience had to stay quiet for them to 'truly experience' the art. It was a bit of an elaborate set up.   

Neither Matthew nor I volunteered, and so we will never truly experience art, I guess. This is what Elizabeth looked like during the entire 'entertainment' section:
And that is how I know she loved the stairs best.


A Quick Post on Potatoes

There has been a change of allegiance in our home. We once swore by the King Edward, but his throne has been usurped by the beautiful and buttery Marabel potato.
What you can't see is that the last line of the small print says: "No need to add butter or cream - just mash!"
When I did my last online shop, I actually googled a bunch of potato varieties - don't mock me - you'd do it too, out of sheer curiosity. This is what Albert Bartlett Products (a family business since 1948 and the UK's leading provider of fresh potatoes) says about them:
"It offers an exceptional, fine sweet flavour with a creamy texture so you don’t have to add butter. This makes the Marabel a key staple ingredient in any healthy diet." 
Their website is kind of awesome. It is dedicated to potatoes:  http://www.albert-bartlett.co.uk. If you have time, I really hope our bag of Marabels came from Douglas & Alexander Richardson's farm. http://www.albert-bartlett.co.uk/farmers  He's got great hair, or as my friend Morgan would say, "great flow".


Well, obviously we had to try them - how could we not? Imagine mashed potatoes without adding butter or milk or cream?? Or all 3?? As if such a thing exists!! But guess what: it totally does. We didn't add anything to our mashed potatoes, and they were so tasty - I'm just sad we didn't photograph them. If you need any more convincing, these spuds won some award:




Award winning potatoes? Need it, want it, love it.


My heart is won over by the Marabel potato. May she flourish in the fields of this great nation. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Britishisms

When we first started talking about moving here, everyone said, "Do you think Elizabeth will come home with a British accent??" Now that we've been here a short while, I think probably no - given our circle of international friends, she will probably end up with a Chilean-Cypriot-German-with-a-touch-of-Britain accent.

However, there are certain words that have already slipped into my vernacular - words that are decidedly Brit, and most un-Canadian. For example:
  • back garden vs backyard
  • cycle vs bike
  • roundabout vs traffic circle
  • car park vs parking lot
  • tissues vs kleenex
  • shops vs stores

I have avoided others though, thank goodness:
  • it's an elevator, not a lift
  • it's six-thirty, not half-six (What is that about? Half-six would be three o'clock, duh.)
  • it's still a cookie, not a biscuit
  • I will never say, "I was stood there..." - hello, you were standing there. 
  • 'up the road' - everyone says everything is 'just up the road'. Example #1: "Where is the nearest grocery store?" "Oh, in Milton - just up the road" (truth: 20 min bike ride). Example #2: "How far is the walk to the playground?" "Not far, just up the road." (truth: 20 second walk). Example #3: "It's not far, it's just up the road in London." (truth: 1 hour by train).
The best one that both Elizabeth & her parents have adopted is "Peepo!" instead of Peek-A-Boo. She loves to play:
"Where's Elizabeth???"





"PEEPO!!!"




Prettiest Baby Girl!!!

Guitar Hero

I gave Matthew a coupon-guitar for his birthday, on January 8. You know, where you basically give an I.O.U. for a gift you haven't bought yet. :) There was no point buying something just to pack it up and move it. So we went and bought a guitar yesterday - March 12. It takes me awhile, but I follow through on my coupon-gifts.

We went to a pawn shop to get it, and Matthew got all bashful about trying it out in the store. Some of you might ask, "What kind of guitar is it?" And in reponse I say, "Acoustic. Brown. Regular." The brand (do you call it a brand? a make? a style?) is Westville -and, as a non-guitar connoisseur, let me tell you, it sounds great. Maybe we will make a band and be like the Partridge family. Or the New Main Street Family singers. (Any Christopher Guest fans out there??)


video
 The best part about the guitar purchase was the ride home when Faff had to pretend to be a total badazz and bike home with a guitar on his back. I tried to get him to play in one of the parks in the town centre but he blushed and said, "Jammy, no."
Physicist by day, rock star by night.
Well, if the whole 'physics' thing doesn't work out, maybe we can just cycle around Europe busking.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Yogurt Heaven

Since coming to England, I have bought a ridiculous amount of yogurt. It's probably because I buy this:




Nutritional Value: slim to none. Taste Value: through the roof. 
And don't worry, they come in a variety of flavours, including vanilla yogurt + milk chocolate crunch biscuit things, and banana yogurt + chocolate covered flakes.

England = yogurt heaven.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lists on Elizabeth

Things I want Elizabeth to be able to do now:
  • feed herself and actually get food in her mouth
  • use words like, "Mum, I really really don't like this food, please stop shoving it in my mouth" instead of just clamping her gums together
  • find her soother all on her own when she wakes up in the night
  • know how tall she is and stop standing up underneath coffee tables and hitting her head

Things I wish Elizabeth still did:
  • sit in the same place when I left the room
  • only breastfed - it was so much easier to leave the house, no packing of food, and spoons, and bib, and cloth, and, and, and, and, and...
  • slept in our arms
  • lay down in the bath - it was super cute to see her splash with four limbs - but now she sits up and plays with toys instead of just splashing

  Things I want Elizabeth to do forever:
  • crawl/walk to the door and be super excited when Matthew comes home from work
  • babble-sing to herself
  • put her head on my shoulder when we hug
  • play dress up with the piles of laundry or the mitts & toques by the front door
  •  do "cheers" with her sippy cup (or regular cup when we get there)

Things that make me excited for Elizabeth to be a teenager one day:
  • teaching her to make us coffee in the morning, and then having it on her list of daily chores

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

One More Step Towards Britishdom: Laundry.

We don't have a washing machine - in the space where we could put a washing machine, we have a freezer instead. It was a good call - you do laundry maybe once a week, whereas you eat everyday. Plus we have a little laundromat for our complex, and since I can be home during the day, I can zip over and get ours done without waiting in line. And sometimes I can get both loads done at once, which makes me feel like I'm saving time, therefore winning at life.

We have a little drying aerial thing in our back yard, but every time I do laundry, it is grey and cold, and not ideal for drying. I tried once, and the laundry hung from about 10 am to 6 pm, and was still totally soaked. So I just use the dryers in the laundromat, which is expensive and annoying. Expensive because it is 20p for 8 minutes (about 40cents for 8 minutes), so it's 1.40£ for about an hour. Annoying because I have to keep a huge stash of 20p coins, because most loads take about an hour to dry. But yesterday, the sun was shining and lovely in the morning, so of course my first thought was, "go to the laundromat!!!". I felt super British with my towels and clothes blowing around and drying. So energy efficient am I.
But the weirdest thing is: we have missing socks since we've been here - 11 weeks, and already seven missing socks. Where do those buggers go??

Monday, 7 March 2011

Our First Cambridge Rowing Experience

On Saturday we went down to the banks of the river Cam to watch the Lent Bumps races. It was a most excellent day - we went with Javiera & her son, Manuel, and Ignacia & her husband Francisco & their 3 kids. Then some more Chilean folks joined us, and we all had a picnic outside this pub called The Plough, and watched some rowing. Even though it wasn't warm outside, everyone had a great time. We spent the whole afternoon outside on a grey, drizzly day, and it was awesome. Who doesn't love grey skies, rowing & beer?


What are the Bumps, you might ask - well, if you want an 'actual' explanation for them: http://www.firstandthird.org/tables/rowing/bumpworkings.shtml. But here is the quick & dirty version: The races happen over 5 days in March. Instead of lining up in a horizontal row, the boats from the Colleges line up vertically along the river. The goal is to actually hit the boat in front of you. If that happens, the two boats involved (Bumper and Bumpee) both pull over to the side of the river - the race is over for them. But on the next days' race, the Bumper goes ahead of the Bumpee. Sometimes boats will 'overbump' - this is a bit tricky to explain. Imagine boat #3 bumps boat #2 - they both pull over. Then imagine boat #4 rows like crazy, and catches up to boat #1 and bumps them - that is called overbumping. There is a possibility of double-over-bumping, but I guess it's pretty rare. There are 4 mens divisions and 3 womens, and a new race starts every 40 minutes. To signal 4 minutes & 1 minute to a race starting, they fire off a cannon. Seriously. I love England.
See how the Pink & White Stripeys are trying to avoid the boat coming up?
They got bumped anyways by these White Stripeys. Poor Pink & White Stripeys. I went crazy with cheering & excitement. I'm sure you can imagine.
 But the best part is that after everyone is done the race - either by going the distance or by bumping/being bumped - they have the row-of-champions and the row-of-losers. The Bumpees all row down to the end of the river, and get the polite British clap, and then the Bumpers come along. Once the Bumper boats have pulled over to the side of the river, their fans cut off leafy branches of trees, and they put them in their hair or around their necks, and the cox holds up the College's flag for their victory row. I totally wanted to put leaves in my hair - it was hard to resist.
See how the Cox has leaves in her hair? Matthew took these photos on his camera, so they're high resolution (or something) and therefore I can't enlarge them because then they go all pixel-ated. Sorry.
It's hard to tell, but a few of these girls have leaves in their hair. Honest.

Each college has specific colours,
and you'd think that by the end of the day I would have learned which colours are for which College, but no. I did, however, resist cheering for Gryffindor when Selwyn rowed past:

 
A couple of guys from Matthew's lab were rowing, so we had someone to cheer for. But let's get serious: I cheered like crazy anytime any boat got even close to bumping. We saw two bumps and on the first one I almost fell in the river while cheering. 

I have to include one last picture of The Most British Man In England. He had a tweed coat with elbow patches, a satchel, a cap, wellies, a massive hearing aid, bad teeth, and a one-legged stool thing - it had a spike on the end to drive it into the ground, and then he had a little seat. I am so sad this is the only shot we have of him:

Friday, 4 March 2011

Book Clubs, Old Ladies and Infidelity

When we first moved into our University housing, there was a brochure for the Newcomers & Visiting Scholars Society on the dining room table. They have regular 'coffee mornings' on Tuesdays, where newcomers can come and meet other newbies, as well as meet the members of the Society. It is really easy to figure out who is a newcomer and who is a member of the Society. About 80% of the newcomers are Asian, and about 95% of the members of the Society are old ladies.

These coffee mornings are funny for two reasons: (1) They serve tea, and (2)There are always presentations, and when the newcomers are trying to meet each other and have introductory conversations, the old ladies are always shushing us. I'm sure these presentations are very interesting, and would probably add to my 'Cambridge experience', but let's face it: when you have a baby who is trying to walk all the time, and if not walk, then crawl all over everything, including other kids, you just aren't paying attention to any presentations. Especially not about the history of architecture in Cambridge, or how to fold a Chinese Lantern for Chinese New Year.

But I digress: on my first week there, I signed up for a whole bunch of things, because I had no friends and no life. I signed up for the tour of some church or another, and the kids' Mardi Gras party, and the Scottish dancing night. I also signed up for the book club. I am a member of an awesome book club in Edmonton, that my sisters & I started for my Mum. Half the members are my Mum's friends, and the other half are their daughters. It is an interesting group, and we always have a really good time - even if only half of us (sometimes less) finish the book.

Now the first rule of my Edmonton Book Club is: you don't talk about Book Club. The second rule of my Edmonton Book Club is: you don't talk about Book Club.  The first rule of my Cambridge Newcomers Book Club is: You don't quote Brad Pitt movies. And none of them would have understood that joke at all.
  There were 7 women there - 5 of them were 'locals', one of them was a lovely woman from Pakistan who hadn't finished the book, and me. I was the youngest one there by about . . . 25 years. Minimum. The book we read was 'Ghostwalk' by a Cambridge author, Rebecca Stott. It is set in present day, and is about a woman researching Isaac Newton & alchemy, who dies right at the end of writing her book on it - or was she murdered by some group trying to save Newton's reputation? Good premise, right? Until all of a sudden (spoiler alert) it becomes more about animal activists, and the woman's son (aka neuroscientist who experiments on rats) being the mastermind of a double-agent-style activist group, who arranged his Mother's death. Oh, and a lot of paranormal, seance-type stuff was thrown in too. I don't recommend it.

The discussion was mainly on the book, with a very few sidebar conversations. And only a couple 'shushes' from one woman when two conversations were happening at once. I only really contributed a couple comments, and both of them were discussed at length:
(1) One of the characters has repeated affairs with the same woman, and his wife knows about them. I said that the wife was a terribly weak character, and that she should not have stayed with her husband after the first affair. One of the women actually said, "Well, Georgina, you are terribly young, and you may not realize that this happens more than you think. There are lots of reasons women stay in marriages and know full well their husbands are having an affair."  I should have responded, "I may only be 29, but I know that infidelity is not a sign of a healthy marriage, and in this day & age, there are no reasons to stay in a dysfunctional marriage. Not to mention that the character has children, and she is setting a terrible example of what marriage is." And maybe something like, "PS Just because affairs happen all the time doesn't make them okay, crazy old lady." But instead I said something like, "I still find her a weak character for not leaving him." And then for the rest of book club I thought about this lady's life, and what kind of marriage she has... awwwwwkwarrrrd.
(2) The narrator of the story said something like, "Life is disappointing, when you looked close; full of mediocrity and domesticity." So I commented that I found that sentiment rather off putting, since my life has become incredibly domestic since moving to Cambridge, and I didn't find it mediocre at all. I explained that, had we stayed in Canada, I would be getting ready to go back to work, and moving away from the stay-at-home Mum gig, whereas here in Cambridge, I have no plans to work in the foreseeable future. And one of them said, "Well, my dear, you're the wife of an Academic now!" - whatever that means? Then they started defending the Stay At Home Mums, and talking about how important it is for the future of the country, etc etc - it helps if you re-read that sentence with an old-lady-British-accent. And it was kind of like they were arguing, but they were all on the same side... And a few of them did that quintessential Old-British-Lady thing where they close their eyes while talking & making their point. (Do you know what I'm talking about??)



So next month, instead of a book, we are all to bring in a piece of poetry from our own country - I'm really stoked for five examples of British poetry - and read them aloud for the group.

Seriously??

So the question is: do I go back for more Crazy Old Ladies? And if I do, can anyone name a Canadian poet??