Wednesday, 31 August 2011


We went to Budapest for 5 days last week. It was glorious. The best part was five whole days with Matthew and Elizabeth, and no work! And no one else - no friends, no family, just us 3, with no plans and no obligations. Can you say heaven?!

It was unseasonably hot while we were there - upwards of 30°C everyday - and our wee babe gets pretty red-cheeked and sticky-hot pretty quickly.
This was Elizabeth about 20 minutes after we arrived at our hotel. I took her hair out, and she ran around in just her bottoms, eating cheerios and looking totally crazy. I love this crazy photo of her. She looks like she's saying, "Whaddya thinking, bringing me here?? It's so hot!!"
 You know that feeling when you are cooking a turkey, and you open the oven door to check how it's going, and the heat hits you in the face? It was that kind of hot. One day was 38°, so we spent quite a lot of time in water - fountains, pools, bath tubs, you name it. 

We saw this lovey-dovey couple at this fountain, and he took her picture sitting like this, all 'pretty girly' like. So as soon as they left, I told Matthew he should want to take my photo like that.
Elizabeth loved the thermal baths. Calling them thermal baths makes it sound like they were hot springs. Not so much. They were more like "outdoor swimming pools surrounded by cool architecture" and were incredibly refreshing and delightful.
I look at this photo, and can practically hear her singing to herself, "doo dee dooo dah dee daaah!".
Right now, I am kicking myself for not taking any sneaky shots of the many, many wrinkly old people in their bikinis and speedos. Budapest = banana-hammock heaven.

We stayed at this beautiful apartment hotel, called Mamaison Residence Izabella, we averaged about 4 cool baths/showers per day. Elizabeth was in heaven.
For those of you with kids, self-catering apartments are totally the way to go when on holiday, because:
          (a) when your child wakes up, completely hypoglycemic and crazy, you can have your breakfast right away.  They also come with coffee makers, so when your child wakes up, completely hypoglycemic and crazy, you can have your morning coffee right away.
          (b) when your baby needs to go to sleep at 7:30pm every night, you can put her in her little bed in the bedroom, and then have a living room to hang out in. This totally beats being held hostage in your tiny B&B room with only just enough space for a bed and a playpen. As an additional bonus, when it's still stinking hot at 10 pm, and you don't want to wake your child by having yet another cool shower, you can stick your head in the sink to cool down.

Monday, 22 August 2011

What does £36.21 look like?

It looks like this:
Or maybe this:
 Or even this:
Because when you want this stroller:
 Mothercare will charge you £35, but the canopy and essential rain cover are an additional £20. So you check the British equivalent of kijiji to find if cheaper. And you do - someone is selling it for only £15!! Only they live in a neighbourhood called Cherry Hinton, which is either an hour & a quarter on a bus, or 35 minutes on a bike. So, you get on your bike with an empty backpack, get your cones over to Cherry Hinton, and strap that bad boy of a stroller in the bag and on your back. Oh, and on the way home you get a little bit lost, and start thinking, "I'm sure I didn't go past an uncontrolled railway intersection..." or "Hmmm, I would probably remember passing an airport, wouldn't I?". Luckily, you have your map, and as you're quickly checking where you are at the next crossing, you realize you're really quite far away from where you should be. In fact, you've ridden around half the perimeter of Cambridge airport.

While you're looking at the map, realizing that the streetlights are all coming on, and starting to feel a little bit bashful, a helpful driver stops and asks you through the window if you're alright. You respond that you're fine, and just taking a different route home (i.e. you lie). He looks at you and says, "You have a pushchair. On your back." and you respond, "Yes. I know." and he drives on. You do a u-turn and get on the right road this time.

And that's when you decide: it's time for beer. Alas, you know there's none at your house. So you stop at the store by your house, and as you're locking your bike up (which is a real challenge with 2 feet of stroller behind your head), you overhear two teenagers who are looking for a bootleg talking about you, saying, "Nah, she's got a pushchair in a backpack. She's not a good choice." Ha! So you get your beers, and get yourself home, the whole while congratulating yourself on (a) getting the stroller at least halfway in the backpack, (b) not falling off or getting hit by a car, and (c) sacrificing £3.79 of the "saved money" for two celebratory Budvar beers.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Little More British Everyday

Sometimes you just get busy livin' and forget that you're livin' in another country. I "talk" with all my Canadian friends via Blackberry Messenger, Skype, Facebook, email. The family sees Elizabeth a reasonable amount via Skype. Sometimes I kind of forget that we are in England, and that we're far away. And then, I notice something and think, "Yep, we live in England now." For example:
Our house keys look like they could open a Treasure Chest.
I own a rain cover for the stroller, and it actually gets used. PS this photo was taken in the middle of summer. Another example of the fact that we live in England.
And then there is the kitchen. Here are a few things that remind me at least 3 times a day that we live in the UK:

We have the big box of tea bags, and Matthew actually drinks it on a regular basis - usually after riding his bike home in the rain.

Since we don't have a dishwasher, it feels like there are always dishes to do - and lately I've been getting chapped hands, like they talk about in dishwashing detergent commercials. Truth: I never believed those commercials before now, and now I wish I used Palmolive.

Our fridge isn't big enough for a 2L bottle of pop (which means that a large proportion of the country's fridges aren't big enough, because we have an average fridge) so you have to have ice all the time because no one wants to drink warm "Lemonade" (which is really "Sprite").
We now buy Branston pickle - only for Matthew. He likes Cheese & Pickle sandwiches now. I think he is more British than I am, and I'm the one with the UK passport!!
 And then there are things that I think are just dumb - like windows with no screens:
which don't seem like a really bad thing until you look in your kitchen sink and see this:

Gross, gross, gross. England doesn't have flying bugs like mosquitos, but they have the sickest and biggest and grossest creepy crawlers ever. I find them everywhere, and it freaks me right out. Gross. I am an expert spider killer, which is probably why it rains so much (isn't there some Old Wives Tale about killing spiders leading to rain??). I don't care about that though, because I have my trusty rain cover, and Eliz doesn't mind being in her little tent:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Breakfast Reading

Elizabeth gets bored really, really quickly. Especially when doing things that have to be done - like having her hair brushed, getting dressed, or eating. Especially eating. My sister suggested she have a couple toys or books at the table to keep her distracted from eating happy. It really works! She has designated books to read at the table, because now that she is feeding herself, everything gets pretty gross and caked up with banana and cereal, and she sometimes does finger painting with drops of milk. It's pretty gross, actually. Her eating-books have to get washed after every meal, just like her dishes. As a result, some of her favourites are all scratched up and the colour is fading from frequent wipings, and we've had to tape up the bindings on a couple. So chavvy!!

Lately, Elizabeth has been like a sponge for new words and new signs, so she can actually tell us what book she wants. She does the sign for book, and then signs & says "fissssssssssshhhhhh" for the dolphin book. And she says "puuhhhhpppppppyyyyy" for the dog book, and if she says "baybay" it is either 'Me Hungry!' or 'Tickle, Tickle'. If she puts her hand on her head, she means 'The Paper Bag Princess', because they all wear hats (crowns).

'Tickle, Tickle' was a free book from the Cambridge Public Library when Elizabeth got her library card. Eliz's favourite page is obviously:
because then she 'gently, gently' brushes her own hair, and gets peanut butter and jam in her hair. Nice.

My favourite is 'Me Hungry!' because  Eliz can actually read most of it on her own. It was a gift from Auntie Ali, and is the story of Edwin the caveboy, who wants a snack, but the Daddy and Mummy Cavepeople are too busy, so Edwin goes hunting on his own. Elizabeth does the signs for rabbit, and says 'rawr' for the tiger, and does the sound of an elephant when he runs into one. She also mimics the little boy's expressions on each page.

Matthew's favourite book is 'The Paper Bag Princess' for a couple of obvious reasons: (1) The Princess' name is Elizabeth (!) and (2) the other main character is a dragon, and when Matthew reads it out loud, the dragon sounds like Jabba the Hut.
Just imagine Dr Faff saying, "Go away! I will eat you tomorrow!" à la Jabba

Happy Eating Baby!!

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Most Ineffectual Reprimand Ever

Elizabeth & I were cycling home from the grocery store the other day, and were behind this group of boys - probably aged 8-11-ish. We went over the Cam, and halfway across the bridge, one of the boys threw some garbage into the waters. We eventually caught up to them, and I cleverly said to this kid, "Hey, can you not litter? I saw you throw that garbage into the river." End.

This kid just looked at me and said, "yeah, sorry", and then I biked home.

Seriously Jammy?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

All About Suzie

 When my siblings came to visit me, back in May, Suzie stayed in England for 2 weeks longer than Chris & Kathryn. It was really nice to spend time with just Soosie (aka Ma'am Suzanne Claire Cheeseman, aka Bluesie, aka Boozie, aka Boozehound). Since coming to Cambreej, I am feeling more like Suzie than ever. I feel relaxed, and un-hurried, and very live-and-let-live-ish. I think it is a good change in me, and I hope Suzie doesn't take offense to this.

The best parts of the Just Suzie visit were when we just hung out and did nothing. It was wonderful. The week my sibs were here was a bit whirlwindy and a little emotionally draining, and so the day that Chris & Kathryn left, Suzie and I stayed in, played with Elizabeth, and watched about 4 episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Then we went to the grocery store, and got totally soaked when the heavens opened up unexpectedly. I'm not sure if she believed me that this had never happened to me before. I swear, we've been here 8 months and I think it's rained like that . . . 5 times? Don't believe everything you read about British weather!

We went to visit our cousin Emma (of Lapwing Drive fame), and had a great time. Emma's house is a haven of calm for me - the James family has a million toys, Elizabeth l-o-v-e-s Henry & Millie, Emma's kids, and best of all, Emma is never stressed about a tidy house. Her house is always clean, but the kids are allowed to really play and have fun. Elizabeth loves it there.

So here are my fave photos of the Just Suzie visit. Ever the conversationalist, Suzie refused to miss out on the chatting when she needed 'fresh air' and made us laugh by popping her little head into windows so she could contribute to the conversation. And then we went to the Cambridge Beer Festival. Eliz was a hit - she went to all the little groups of drinkers and 'cheers'-ed them with her little sippy cup of lager water.

 On the weekend, we went to Camden market for some serious shopping. Check out our sweet haul! I got this cool dress-over-a-dress number that I love, and this scarf (as a twofer deal), and Suzie got all kinds of clothes and bling. Including, I hope you realize, a real imitation sapphire ring that is pretty much exactly the one that Princess Diana had, which makes it also exactly the one the Duchess of Cambridge has. Boo yah.
This is Suzie's best new outfit: new-to-her black leather jacket, cute balloon-dress with jeweled neckline, with skinny jeans and heels. Hello gorgeous.   

All of Suzie's new clothes make her a Fsashionista.
Hawkeye's big find? A keychain with a mini map of the London Underground. He knows what he likes.
Suzie's parting gift to Cambreej was a new tambourine and drum for Elizabeth. Auntie Suzie is good at finding toys that are noisy, and these ones that don't have a battery you can take out or an on/off switch are grrrrrreat! Even at 7 am! Honest! And for some reason (is beer a reason?) Suzie decided to play the tambourine as we cycled home from the pub.
Sometimes, when you're so Cambreej, you just have to let it out.
In conclusion: Soosie is an excellent house guest, and we had a great, great time with her.

PS I love using 'In conclusion'. Love, love, love it.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

"I have a day off."

When you're a stay at home Mum and you do a babysitting swap during the day with a friend, you usually end up with time off on a weekday afternoon. And most times, you do something glorious and selfish, like read a book with no interruptions or drink a hot cup of coffee. But definitely something away from your child. And most often, alone. But when you are a working parent, and you have days off (ie Saturdays and Sundays) you spend all your time with your kids. So you never really get time on your own. And I bet that if you choose to spend time alone, there is at least an initial sense of guilt, like you should always want to be with your kids when you can. Which means that the vast majority of parents feel a little bit bad for having a good time on their own.

This whole concept is kind of blowing my mind right now.

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Fascinating Time

Since Kate Middleton arrived on the scene, fascinators are where it's at. According to Wikipedia (aka a credible and reliable source), "a fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery. The word originally referred to a fine, lacy head covering akin to a shawl and made from wool or lace." Wikipedia then uses this photograph of four women all wearing the same fascinator, and all looking equally bad:

Wikipedia should have used this photograph, because it paints fascinators in a much better light:

Basically, they're a headband with a bunch of feathery frou-frou on it, and they are really fun to wear. But even more fun to try on!! My favourite department store, John Lewis, has a millinery department, and when Matthew's mum Susan was here, we did a little bit of fascinating dress-up while Eliz slept.

It's a good thing I never tried out for Canada's (or Britain's, for that matter) Next Top Model, because seriously? Tyra Banks would not have been able to give me any tips. Clearly, I was made to be photographed - so natural in front of a lens!! :)
Even Matthew got in on the fun. I'm sure he loved it. L-O-V-E-D it. Right babe?

Hawkeye wears the fascinators with such flair.

Then we checked out the shoes on sale, and I am still kicking myself for not buying these bad boys when I had the chance. I wonder why they were on sale??? Surely someone should have grabbed them up by now?
"Hello, England's Best Dressed List? I'm calling to nominate myself."
With these shoes on, I was tall enough to kiss Matthew without lifting my chin - and he is 11 inches taller than me!!! Yowza.