Monday, 26 September 2011

Weird Kind Of Twilight Zone Thing

We went to my Nanny's 81st birthday party on Sunday (as well as Ross's 25th birthday party - must be kinda crappy to have the same birthday as your grandmother, and then have all the family together to not celebrate only you...) in London. It takes us 4 hours each way on the trains to have a 3 hour lunch with everyone. And it is totally worth it. Elizabeth has a fantastic time playing with her aunts & uncles & cousins, and Matthew & I have enough people around to entertain her so we can actually enjoy our meals!

I had brought more than enough toys for Eliz to play with on the trains - evidenced by the fact that we actually read  the free newspaper that came with the bottle of water we bought at Cambridge station! Miracle! I don't think that has ever happened before! And let me tell you, the world is kind of falling apart, guys. The weather is screwed up, the financial scene is pretty frightening over here in Europe, and no one seems to be happy with the decisions of any other country. But I digress: toys. Elizabeth was pretty much surrounded by good, small, quiet toys, but of course, wanted to play with the hair elastic I had around my wrist. No worries, I gave it to her, and earned another 10 minutes of quiet reading time.


Then on the train to Abbey Wood, Matthew was feeding her cheerios out of a tupperware, and all of a sudden her leg just kicked right up into his arm, and splash! Cheerios all over our little berth. Great. I picked up most of them - just not the ones directly under my seat because I was wearing a dress (with my Tammy Taylors, no less!) and didn't want to flash the whole carriage. And also because there was a bunch of garbage underneath the seat and I didn't want to get gross, dirty, train garbage on my hands.

So we had a great lunch, a good laugh with the family, and then headed home. As we were walking back to Abbey Wood station, I realized Eliz had left my hair elastic on the first train from Cambs. Then we started talking about how weird it would be to get on the train to Cambs, and be on the same train as the one we came in on, and the same carriage and the same berth, to find my elastic. We laughed it off - there are a billion trains, that is never going to happen!

And we were right: that didn't happen. But this did:


ZOMG!!!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Coulda Been Famous...

When we first arrived in Cambreej, I started going to all kinds of playgroups. This city is ah-may-zing for children's programs. And most of them are free. In a 15 minute-walking radius of my house, there are three different community centres, and all of them provide various free children's activities for under-5s. Some are run by government programs and others by grants and donations. So Eliz and I started going to one on Tuesdays, called Little Music Makers. Elizabeth loves it. There's singing, dancing, instruments, kids, a teacher who knows her name, a regular appearance of a stuffed dog named Jack. . . it's pretty much heaven for her. I found out after about 7 months of free attendance, that this group was put on by a group of parents, who applied for grants to keep running the program with free attendance.

Well, then I started to feel guilty. I mean, I've been going for SEVEN months, surely I should volunteer some of my time to "pay" for this group, right?

So I went to one meeting. All of a sudden, I find out the previous grant is going to run out, and thanks to the recession, there are fewer grants available and more people in need. And even more all-of-a-suddener, I find myself fully involved in this group - figuring out a payment system for the attendees of the class, suggesting different avenues for funding, starting a blog for all of us to post on... How did this happen??!!

One of the women signed us up for a charity contest with a bank, NatWest - it's a social media-based, 'vote-for-us' kind of thing. All of us were thinking of how to get our names & faces out there for more public votes. Somehow, I guess someone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone, and the Mayor and his wife (aka the Mayoress) came to our next meeting, along with a photographer from Cambridge News.

Here is the picture they could have chosen for the newspaper:

Here is the picture I think they should have printed in the paper:


But here is the picture they actually printed in the paper:


I admit: a Mayor holding a smiling baby is a pretty good shot, but come on, I wore a dress and did my hair!!!

The bad news is, the Mayor didn't just sit down & cut us a cheque for our program (I think 50% of us thought he might just do that). But he did sit down and listen to our meeting, and his wife told us how she felt so isolated as a new Mum when they first moved to Cambridge, 'oh so many years ago', and how she was so proud to see a group of Mums doing what they could to support their community. Well, that was nice to hear, I must admit. 

So now we are planning this 'campaign' for votes. I know it sounds super cheesey, but I really think the future of a community depends on the children's programs available today. And the more that parents are involved in their community, the more their children will want to be involved when they are adults. I just know I'm going to be on a bunch of Parents committees and participate in Community League activities when we are back in Edmo... hello, family dance, anyone?? :) 

On a totally hysterical note: check out the other news in the same paper as us! Stephen Hawking!

Hello Smartest Man Alive, can you please read the article on page 10 and cut us a cheque? Maybe one of our kids will want to be a physicist too? Mmmkaythanksbye.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Faff & Jam

So now that you're all caught up with Elizabeth, here are some recent photos of us (!) because, believe it or not, we do exist separately from our child. Whaaaat?? I know. It's true.

The Tami Taylors
For those of you who have never seen Friday Night Lights, stop whatever you're doing, and get your hands on an episode. It is a show about all kinds of things I kind of don't really get: high school football, the religious Right, Texas... but I totally, totally love it. I am a Matt Seracen girl through and through. But mostly, I am in girl-love with Tami Taylor. She's got a 16 year old daughter, but she rocks the short skirt & cowboy boot look like mad, and has super hot hair too. I want to be her when I grow up. Believe it or not, I could only find ONE photo on the interweb of TT in her boots!! They have got to get some better photos on there!!
 
And here's what she really looks like, just so you understand why my hair is getting longer & I might start curling it everyday...


So here is the Jam version of Tami Taylors
I love my new boots, and definitely feel more Tami Taylor-esque everytime I wear them. I want to start saying, "I appreciate that, ya'll."

Chariots of Fire
Matthew & I participated in the Chariots of Fire relay race today. It's a 6-person relay of a 1.7 mile (2.7 km) run each around the colleges of Cambridge. There were 2 teams from his lab - and being the dynamic, creative physicists that they are, the team names were Nanophotonics I and Nanophotonics II. Ooooh, fancy pantsy. We were supposed to be in Nano II (aka non-competitive) but then a guy didn't show up for Nano I, so Dr Faff did 2 legs of the run! What a guy. I just have to tell you that Hawkeye's times were 10:30, and then 12:00 for his second, and mine was 13 minutes. I know it's not going to win any medals or anything, but we were totally stoked on our athletic ability given absolutely no training or effort! Ha!

Here is Hawkeye's first run:

And here he is on his second run:
Isn't he great??!!

There were all kinds of prizes for this run, including one "People's Choice", so there were teams dressed up as burglars (think Hamburglar!), teams dressed up as Braveheart, and my favourite, the fancy-dressed:
 
By the time it was my turn to run, the crowds of runners had thinned out, so I was the only one leaving the gate at that moment. What can I say, everyone loves a good cartwheel!

We had a really great morning! Here we are after all the races were over: Nanophotonics I and II with our number 1 fan.
And yes, the theme song of the film was played. . . a few times. Let's just say an awful lot of slow-motion running was done on the side lines...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Elizablog: A Pictorial (mostly)

Okay, so I know I talk alot about Elizabeth & our adventures, but I need to just post some photos now. I have roughly 187 billion photos of her, and seeing as the majority of the readers of this blog are related to her, I feel compelled to share them. They are all taken on my blackberry, thus are fuzzy and extremely pixelated, but you can get the gist. The gist is, of course, that she is hysterical, beautiful, and growing up so fast!
 Oh, little Bucket Head. She love-love-loves to put this Canada bucket on for a hat - for really long periods of time. The latest game has been to run away from me after she's been in the tub, and put her hat on, so she's a little Rudy Nudy Bucket Head. I tried to get a photo of that, but she's so fast that they were all blurry. We'll try to get one for her wedding slideshow.
 Elizabeth has recently started copy-catting us when we laugh. I think it's hysterical, and then I laugh more, and then she fake-laughs more, and so on, and so on. I have so many photos of her with that open-mouth laugh going on. I love it. The swings are right by our house, and I love that photo for two reasons: (1) she got into her swing, and then pointed to the other swing and said, "Mummy. Mummy. Mummy." until I got on and swung (swinged?) with her, and (2) she is wearing the craziest outfit ever. Floral pants, purple shoes, green & white polkadot jacket, and a strawberry wool hat. Only toddlers can get away with that fashion. And the running photo is pretty much the scene 24-7 over here - there's no walking anymore, there is running. I wish I knew how to shorten youtube videos, but instead I will just link to the whole scene from Forrest Gump, but the part I love (and that is applicable to this comment) is 1:26-1:32. The whole video is only 2:34 minutes though, so you might just want to watch the whole thing and be inspired. :) I still totally have a crush on Tom Hanks. He just seems so nice.

So Elizabeth is 17 months old now, and we have been in England for 8 months - she has spent almost half her life here. Isn't that wild? I never thought of it that way until now... but don't worry, all you Canadians out there, we are raising her to be pretty much Canadian. She will always say "sidewalk" instead of "pavement" and "bike" instead of "cycle". She might say, "back garden" and "roundabout", but I am already teaching her to say "sorry" so she will still fit right in when we get back to Canada!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

On The Road Again: 143 miles, 4 and a half hours.

I feel like everytime I go and see one of my grandmothers without Matthew, the travel is atrocious. When he is with Elizabeth & I, it's all smooth sailing and easy-peasy. I wonder if it is actually harder, or if I'm just wimpy on my own? Well, anyways, Elizabeth & I went down to Bognor Regis for a night this week. Matthew is getting some stuff done at work, and benefited from a couple long days at the lab.

First Leg: 59 George Nuttall Close to Cambridge Railway Station 
(2.8 miles = 1 hour)

As per usual, the hardest part of the journey was the bus from our house to the station. I have figured out that it's faster if I get on a different bus from a stop a little bit further away from our house.  And wouldn't you know it: as I rounded the corner towards the stop, the bus was in sight! I started to run to catch it, and grossly misjudged the distance to the stop - I thought it was one block, but nope, it was three. But I made it to the stop before he left, and then the driver tried to tell me there was no more room for pushchairs - ha! Says him! Little does he know, I can fold up my new stroller in no time! So I got everything out of the tiny basket, grabbed Eliz around her middle, and got us and our little stroller on - just in time for the lady with the double Phil & Ted's stroller that's taking up all the room to tell me that she's getting off at the next stop. Are you kidding me? You couldn't have said that 45 seconds ago? But whatever, it was the first step of a long journey, no worries, I was calm and cool. Except that I was sweaty and hot.

Second Leg: Cambridge Rail to London Kings Cross 
(58 miles = 1 hour, 10 min)

This was when I thought I had really lucked out. We got to the station at 10:00, got our tickets, planning for a train at 10:15. But the 0950 was late to leave, so we jumped on that train! Awesome! And we got two seats, even awesomer! AND there was a dog on the train, and he was right beside us! Awesomest!!

You'd think catching an earlier train would mean getting to the destination station sooner, right? Think again! Since this train was arriving at an odd time, there wasn't a platform available for us to park in - or whatever the train word is for 'park'. So we were stuck just outside of Kings Cross for about 15 minutes - just long enough for the 10:15 train from Cambridge to sail right past us and into their pre-destined parking spot. How typical is that?

Third Leg: Kings Cross to Victoria
(4.6 miles = 15 minutes on the tube + 30 min delay before next train)

The underground was straightforward and uninteresting. I am finally able to go down an escalator with a stroller and without  heart palpitations. I used to have anxiety about somehow losing my grip on the stroller and Elizabeth tumbling down, down, down those huge metal stairs. I have now perfected the death grip, complete with white knuckles.
This is my ode to my new favourite blog because the internet had no good pics of bad parenting.
The funny part at Victoria station was when I cleverly went to my platform - number 18 - before using the toilet - which was obviously at platform 1. Oh, no, waitasec, the actually funny  part was when they announced that my direct train to Bognor Regis was cancelled. For reals. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Fourth Leg: Victoria to Bognor
(70 miles = 1 hour, 45 minutes)

So I had a two minute hate,  regrouped, checked the website, and found out there are trains to the Bog from Gatwick. So I get on the next train to Gatwick, along with all the other passengers who had figured it out at the exact same time as me. . . so the train was p-a-c-k-e-d. We managed to squeeze in, into the little doorway part before you turn into the actual carriage - along with about 8 other people and all their luggage. By this time it was after 12, and Eliz couldn't decide if she was Captain McStarveyPants or Little Miss Getting Tired. So I kneeled in front of her stroller, and started feeding her. Obviously, she doesn't want any of the food I've brought with us, so I'm getting each little tub out and offering her any or all of it. Just then, the driver makes an announcement over the scratchy PA: "All passengers destined for Bognor Regis and Portsmouth should alight at-" cue Elizabeth crying, just loud enough for none of us in our little cubicle to hear the announcement. I took a poll - it was 50-50 in our area about whether he said East Croydon or Gatwick. Then one lady said, in an authoritative Old British Lady tone, "I'm fairly certain he said East Croydon." (Can't you just see her? Closed eyes and everything.) I put all my eggs in her basket, and then realized East Croydon was the next stop, and I was still surrounded by all the tupperwares of Eliz's food. I quickly put them back in their bag to hang on the stroller handle, and obviously the bag breaks. Luckily, these two Korean girls had a plastic bag that they were using for their garbage, so they gave me that. Yay? Anyways, we got off at East Croydon, and didn't even forget/drop anything on the way off the train! Success!

Luckily, Old Authoritative British Lady was right. We only had a few minutes at East Croydon until our next train departed, and had to bust it down the stairs (with the stroller) to the subway between platforms and back up again on our new one. But we made it - and on to our final train. It was about 1 pm by now, and Eliz had pecked at a few things to eat, but nothing substantial, and she hadn't napped yet. She was sooooo tired, but was fighting sleep like a . . . like an Ultimate Sleep Fighting Champion.
She is practically lying down on the table, but would NOT close her eyes.
 I totally do not understand why kids do this. I love sleep. She finally let go - at Pulborough, about 1:30. Just in time for us to pull into Bognor at 1:45 pm. Awesome.

 The journey was totally worth it though, because Elizabeth & I had such a great time with Grandma. We fed ducks, we fed squirrels, we went to the seaside. . . we "did" Bognor.


 Elizabeth loves her Great Grandma - and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. When Eliz figured out how to open Grandma's drawer full of rolls of ribbons . . . Clever Great Grandma turned a piece of ribbon into a leash for the pussy cat. Well, that was hours of fun right there.



 The Journey Home
(143 miles, 4 hours 30 minutes)
The way home was uneventful. I decided to change at a smaller station (Three Bridges) halfway between Bognor Regis and Victoria, and come into London to St Pancras. St Pancras is across the street from Kings Cross, so I bypassed the tube entirely. This step decreased our total journey time by approximately 10 minutes. Woot? We were on the trains at rush hour, which probably makes other passengers nuts, but makes my journey easier because Elizabeth just sits and talks to everyone in our berth. She's a good traveler, for sure.
Eliz doing some colouring on the train ride home. Did anyone else notice that headline? Whaaaaaaat???



Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Pressure of Dinners: Part II

Our neighbours are Peter and Aiko. He is from Sussex, she is from Japan. They have two boys, Hugh (about 4 years old) and Louis (about the same age as Elizabeth). Peter is a stay-at-home Dad, and Aiko is a visiting scholar.  I see Peter out in the courtyard often, chasing his boys around and stopping them from jumping off high walls, or doing 'jumps' on their tricycles, etc etc.

So anyways. Last week, Peter told me they had friends visiting from Japan for the weekend. These friends were a pair of doctors who have 2 kids the same age as hi, and they were on their way to a conference in Bordeaux, and in Peter's words, "They say they're going for the conference, but I think he is really there for the wines." Apparently, they've both taken this wine-tasting-sorta-sommelier-type course. Peter tells me they're having a barbeque on Saturday, and would we like to come? Of course! Yay! BBQ! At someone else's house! With other kids! The same ages! Easy-peasy! And the best part: they are right next door so afterwards there will be no drunk-biking home!

I ask what we can bring, and Peter does the usual British response, "Oh, you know, a bottle of something would be great." So I think that is that.

Well.

Matthew gets home, and says, "Well, they're Japanese. We should probably buy a gift. And wrap it. You know, it's their culture to bring a gift if you're going into someone's home."

Cue instant panic by Georgina. "What do you mean, a gift? Like for Aiko and Peter, or for the boys? How much are you supposed to spend? Is it rude to bring something to eat or drink? Oh my God, I don't even want to go anymore."

Matthew made me look it up, and yes, Wikipedia agrees:
It is considered impolite to go to someone's house without a gift. In Japanese this is called tebura (手ぢら?) (empty-handed). A gift is usually brought in a paper bag (preferably a bag from the shop where you bought the gift).

Well, then I was all stressed out. I spent the next two days thinking of an appropriate gift for a Saturday barbeque. Maybe bubbles for their boys? No, they can be messy inside. Maybe a new ball? No, they might not want a new soccer ball, since all their boys do is kick theirs over the fence into our yard. Maybe a book? Is that rude to buy an English book for a half-Japanese family? Maybe something for their house? Well, they probably don't want anything for their house, since they're renting like us and moving in January... Waitasec, they're only half-Japanese, maybe this gift giving thing was going too far to the Japanese side??? Why am I freaking out about this??? It was just supposed to be a barbeque!

In the end, Matthew helped me do some deep breathing, and we decided, yes, a bottle of wine would suffice. So we went to a proper wine shop, not just the local grocery store where we normally go. And then, freak out part II started, when I remembered the visiting Japanese family are practically Sommeliers, and would have a discerning palate. After about 18 minutes of picking up random bottles of wine with funny labels, we asked the wine shop dude. He recommended a wine (I forget what it was now) and said it was the wine he'd served at his wedding in June. Well, if that isn't a great recommendation, I don't know what is. So we bought it. And also a decorative wine-bottle bag (paper, of course), from the shop we bought it in.  Phew. I was finally relaxed for the barbeque.

When we got there, I thrust the bag into Aiko's hands, and felt immediate relief. We then proceeded to eat, drink and have a great time. Until about 2 hours into the barbeque, and I started thinking about what to cook for them when we have them over to our place.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Comedy Gold

Okay, so Dr Faff and I are actually fourteen years old. We still think poop is funny, and fart jokes are funny, and there is nothing funnier than fake puking. I wish it were different, but since we are who we are, we celebrate our sense of humour. I hope the following videos make you all kind of pee your pants you're laughing so hard. And for those 'mature' grown-ups who are watching and don't think these are funny, to you I say, "How are we still friends?".

It all started when we were bathing Eliz, and Matthew realized that the foamy soap with the ducky dispenser kind of looks like the duck is puking out the soap. Hilarity ensued.
video

Then Matthew took it one step further.
video

Then I was making banana bread with black bananas from the freezer ... I simply could not resist.
video

I'm pretty sure most of you are still proud to know me, right?

Plan: Fail.

Hawkeye has a pretty sweet gig here in Cambreej - his lab has no set start-time, or set lunch-time, or set home-time. And there's no one checking his hours, making sure he gets 8 hours of actual work done per day. Except for him. Matthew has an incredible sense of duty and a strong work ethic. What a guy.

So it follows that if he gets into work early, he can leave early. This is really important to Matthew, because the good part of Elizabeth's day is over by about 6:45pm. After that, she starts winding down and her mood can be unpredictable, especially now that she's trying to drop a nap, but isn't quite ready for only one nap per day. So Hawkeye likes to leave work at about 5, so he gets at least a happy hour with Eliz in the evenings.

Usually, we get up when Elizabeth wakes up - and she is usually a little alarm clock, and wakes up between 7 and 7:30 every morning. So normally we get up, go downstairs for breakfast together, and then Matthew showers and gets ready to leave. But that meant he was leaving at 8:30, so not getting to work til 9. And apparently, other science dudes arrive at 9, but when 5 o'clock rolls around, those dudes are still working. And Hawkeye feels guilty about leaving before all the other little scientists. But who wants to get home right at their baby's witching hour? No one. So he hatched this great "plan" to get up and shower and be ready to go before Eliz wakes up, so he could get to work early, and leave early with no attached guilt. It sounds crazy, I know.

So this morning, the alarm goes off at 6:30 am. Snoozed once. Then Hawkeye rolls out of bed, grabs his clothes and gets in the shower. Goes downstairs. Makes coffee and his breakfast. Jammy gets out of bed, kinda grumpy at being awake early. Goes downstairs. Drinks coffee. Hawkeye & Jammy have a little quiet time on the couch, drinking coffee and internetting. Then Hawkeye makes his lunch. Then packs his bag. Then unpacks his computer, and sits down on the couch and starts working. It is currently 8:25am, and Elizabeth is still snoring away up there. And Mummy and Daddy are both awake, and have been (unnecessarily?) for almost 2 hours. Plan: Fail.


Friday, 2 September 2011

Budablog

Okay, so we were in Budapest for 5 days. Here is what Budapest looks like:


It's a very pretty city, full of great architecture, and the beautiful Danube sweeping through the city, dividing Buda & Pest. There are, of course, lots of bridges (including one called Elizabeth Bridge), and they have a really amazing Parliament building.

Budapest is famous for its gorgeous coffeehouses (complete with delicious pastries - Hawkeye was in heaven):


Can you believe that's a coffee shop? It's in a bookstore - compare THAT to your average Chapters + Starbucks!!
There are oldie churches and monuments to St Stephen (who accepted Christianity for Budapest) but we took photos of us reading "The Paperbag Princess" and one of a woman stuck in 1986 photographing her family in front of the statue. Check out those Mom Jeans!! And she had that awesome sweep-up bangs look going on. Added bonus: fanny pack. WOW.

Budapest is also home of one of the most amazing & complete zoos I've ever been to. In the same zoo, they have: giraffes, zebras, lions, leopards, rhinoceroses (!!! I had never seen one before!!!), peacocks & birdy birds, gorillas, those giant tortoises, seals, dolphins, brown bears, POLAR bears, lemurs, monkeys, orangutangs, a full aquarium, degus, a tapir, hyenas, marmosets, you stinking NAME it, it's at the Budapest zoo.




Dr Faff is looking for the Polar Bear while Eliz was watching the seals swimming.
The last things Budapest is known for is meat-based meals. Elizabeth is truly her Daddy's daughter, and was happy with this diet. I prefer the liquid diet of beer. So much more refreshing, no?
lunch on the go.



And finally, here is one of my favourite picture of Elizabeth & Matthew:

Oh, and PS, I realize that some of these photos are kind of blurry-ish. I'm not positive, but I think this might have something to do with it: