Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fotografias de Espana

Okay, so I used to just put single photos up on my blog, like this:
because I couldn't figure out how to format them. Then Matthew taught me how to use PowerPoint to make the photos into a grid, remember? Well, last night, he totally revolutionized my blog by showing me the amazingness of Picasa. Seriously, I formatted all of these Barcelona photos in under 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES!! That used to take me so long in PowerPoint - so embarrassing, so true.

Okay, so the highlights of Barcelona, hence these photos, were the Segrada Familia, Parc Guell, and the Barcelona Cathedral. Elizabeth loved to run around the vast space of the Segrada Familia, and figured out on her own that there were turtles supporting the massive columns outside. She danced to the music of buskers in Parc Guell - there is this covered area that has amazing acoustics, so a bass and piano sounded unbelievably rich and full. The park is full of cobbled staircases and funky architecture by Antoni Gaudi - also the designer of Segrada Familia - also the origin of the adjective 'gawdy'. Everything is a little bit over the top.

Elizabeth slept when we were at the Barcelona Cathedral, so she missed out on one of my favourite parts of the trip:
Seriously? Old people dancing in a circle to music played by a brass band in front of a really old church? I love it!!! The ladies all had special shoes too - look closely, they're all bright white lace-ups. And the weird thing was that it was only for this one song - maybe it was an anthem or something? Anyways, they were just regular old people, touristing it up, and then this song came on, and they put their shopping bags down on the ground, changed their shoes, and BOOM, you got a dance floor started. I was totally mesmerized. And then as soon as the song ended, they just changed their shoes and went on their merry way... ??? Anyone know what this was all about? I'm taking an evening Spanish class - but I have not learned how to ask, "What is this odd custom of dancing to a specific song in front of this church? Is this the Spanish equivalent of a flashmob?"

In order to fulfill our motto of "Keep Elizabeth Happy", we stopped at a lot of playgrounds and parks throughout the weekend. Barcelona has a ton of little neighbourhood parks, full of super cute little Spanish kids, yelling, "Mama! Mira, Mama!! Mira, mira Mama!!!" Translation: "Mommy! Look at me Mommy! Look Mom, look at me!" It's so encouraging to know that 'conversation' happens all over the world.

Language barriers don't exist when you're under 5, and so not only did Eliz make friends with these 3 boys, the littlest one shared his potato chips with her. It was her first holiday fling. 

No holiday to the sea is complete without at least a little bit of wading. The water was freezing, so swimming was completely out of the question - even though I optimistically packed bathing suits for us. Elizabeth was more than content to run up to the wave and then run away screaming. I love the shot of Stu and Matthew both backing away at the same time to save their shoes. They must be good friends - they even run away in sync. 

So I guess if you ever have the chance to pop over to Barcelona for the weekend to meet up with your friends from Canada who live in Kuala Lumpur, you should probably just do it. You won't regret it.

Friday, 25 November 2011

FC Barcelona's #1 Fan

We were in Barcelona last weekend. Just for the weekend. You know, no big deal. Seriously? How many times in my life am I going to be able to say that??

So anyways, we were in Barcelona last weekend.

And we met up with Matthew's good friend Stuart and his wife Ika. They live in Kuala Lumpur now, and were vacationing in Spain, so we thought we'd just pop over. (Again: when am I ever going to have another chance to say that?) We left on the Friday afternoon and came home Sunday night and had a fantastically wonderful & totally enjoyable weekend. Everything just worked out, and everyone (read: Elizabeth) stayed happy for the whole trip. Amazing!

Stu and Ika bought tickets ages ago for the FC Barcelona game that was on the Saturday night. Matthew hemmed and hawed as he always does, and eventually did what I always knew he would: agreed with me that we should get some tickets too. So off we went to Camp Nou, on Saturday night, for an 8 pm game. The trains were packed with football fans. And somehow, Spaniards make the big football scarves look fashionable -you know the ones, always with the crest on the ends, and the tassles, and the big team-colour stripes. It's truly a feat, because they are not really very fashionable at all...

We truly worried about taking the stroller. We found a few websites for American arenas that said you weren't allowed to take a stroller into the stands, and would have to check it - how annoying would that be? And we knew that we'd have to fold it up and carry it and Eliz up the stairs to our seats. In the end we brought it, because we thought that if Eliz fell asleep during the game, we could just put her in the stroller in the aisle closest to us. Or at least she'd have a chance to fall asleep on the way home...

But secretly, I brought it for transportation assistance. Guilty confession: sometimes it helps to have the stroller on the trains during rush hour because (a) people make space for babies faster than for adults, and (b) if they don't move, you can use it as a battering ram and "accidentally" smash into them. This is the one and only advantage to having a stroller in a busy train. Every other aspect of strollering-in-traffic is challenging and exhausting. But if you want to get on the first train that comes, it's worth it. There were so many people on the train, that after we got off and up to street level, Matthew looked at me and said, 'Maybe we shouldn't go... there are so many people...', to which I replied, 'Babe, that was the hardest part! The rest will be easy!!' Honestly, has he never traveled with a baby before? Transportation is always the hardest part!

So we got to the stadium, and it was incredible. Matthew was so excited I thought he might explode. This place seats 120,000 people - kind of hard to imagine 120,000 people in one place - until you're right in the middle of them. It was amazing - hearing everyone simultaneously yell at the ref for a bad call, or take a sharp breath when Lionel Messi takes a shot, or stand up and cheer in unison when he scores. It was such a great experience. I was so glad that Matthew got to see some of today's top footballers play. He was in heaven.

 And our little traveling girl loved it!! Elizabeth clapped and yelled, "Barca!" and she smiled and waved to all the people in our area. Granted, she had potato chips for dinner, but come on! It was a live sporting event! You can't have green vegetables at a live sporting event!!
Jammy "Crazy-Eyes" Hawkeye and her potato-chip-lovin' girl. Honestly, the name of the game when vacationing is: Keep Elizabeth Happy At Any Cost. It is so worth it to adopt this motto when on holiday with a baby.
Lionel Messi is the star of FC Barcelona, and he put on such a good show for the fans. At one point, he did something pretty fancy in front of the net and scored (you can watch the highlights reel in Spanish, if you want), and the whole stadium chanted, "Messi! Messi! Messi!" and did the 'bowing-down' thing with their arms. And Elizabeth started saying it too!! Here's a terrible video for you to enjoy!


The opposing team, Zaragoza, was not nearly as good at Barcelona, so it was a bit of a massacre. The end score was 4-0. We had already planned to leave 30 minutes into the second half, to avoid the departing train traffic, and my favourite player David Villa came on at about 27 minutes. I was sooo excited! I love him! He is truly a member of Team Pretty Footballers. And Matthew's favourite, Andres Iniesta, was also on the field. Let it be known that I have superior taste in footballers, because who scored at 29:14?? Oh, it was my guy, not his... :) When is Matthew going to learn that the super hot players are also the really great players??!! 
This is him, looking up at me in the stands. He pretty much scored just for me.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, maybe I'll just check out the cheap flights to Madrid and we can get some tickets to see Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo isn't really my type, but I think I could handle it for 90 minutes --- or 75, if we decide to beat the traffic.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

What Does the Temperature Really Mean To You?

Because to me, it doesn't really mean anything. I check the weather every day, and then, regardless of the temperature shown, I dress myself & Elizabeth in a pants, a shirt, a sweater, winter jacket, mitts, toque, and scarf. Because it is November 17, and that means it must be cold out. I am Canadian, through and through. As a result, Elizabeth & I are often nice and warm, because the average temperature here has been about 10º. But it still feels cold to me - obviously not Alberta-cold, but still cold enough to need a hat under the bike helmet...

We are going to Barcelona tomorrow, and it's supposedly 15º there. But what does that really mean? Do I pack shorts or pants? I don't know - because it's November 17, so obviously, it's winter everywhere, right??

And another thing: there's no such thing as a thermostat to heat your house here (well, at least not in our house). Everyone says, 'turn up the radiator until you're comfortable'. Hello, fiscal danger: I would be comfortable at about 26º, and that would be lotsa £££ - and Matthew would probably be okay down to about 15º, so how do we figure that out? How do you know if your house is the right temperature unless the furnace automatically comes on when the temperature drops below 21º?? :)
This picture has nothing to do with anything, but how cute is my family?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Crappy Video Quality, Cute Video Content.

Elizabeth is a music lover. She is a dancing, clapping, singing, moving machine. And she is developing tastes - she likes male voices better than female voices, she totally digs early '90s classics (see previous posts that include everyone's favourite song Sandstorm), and she is not a fan of girly singers like Joni Mitchell. Sometimes if a girly singer is on the radio - especially Adele! - she'll point at it and say, "No, Mummy. No."

Every morning when I'm doing my hair, she plays the radio on the alarm clock. At first she just liked to turn it on and off using the Sleep and Snooze buttons, and do her super quick dance moves when it was on. Now she also turns the tuning dial and the volume dial. So before going to sleep, Matthew has to check the volume so it doesn't scare the crap out of us in the morning. Here is a poor quality video of her cuteness. Enjoy.

Our other fave thing to do lately is pretend that Elizabeth is "just a baaaayyybeeeeeee" and cuddle her, and then attack her with tickles. Hilarity ensues.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dear England

Dear England,

How come you can manage to get this
in kitchens, but we are stuck with this
in bathrooms??

I know the intention is to fill up a sink, using hot & cold water from the individual taps, making a lovely warm sinkful... but when is the last time anyone filled up a sink in a public toilet? With no plug? Or time? And with a child in their arms?

Please, English plumbers, do your countrymen and women a favour. We are tired of walking out of public restrooms with either scalded or freezing hands. We want warm water out of one faucet!!! I'm prepared to picket over this - or maybe write a strongly worded letter...

With warmest regards,

Georgina Hawkeye

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Beep Beep Beep!

Elizabeth has become a bit of a car nut. And a housewares nut. We went to a playgroup at St Andrew the Great - a church who's acronym is STAG!! Love it! The playgroup is called Bounce-A-Round, and it's one of my favourites because I invariably meet someone new there (this week: a cool gal named Rose), and they give the Mums/Dads/Carers coffee or tea in a real mug. This is invaluable. Coffee tastes so much better in a real mug. Even instant coffee. That last part is a lie: instant coffee tastes terrible no matter what, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Anyways, today Eliz was all over the 'house' area - they have a little sink, and an oven and fridge, and a little 'hob' (aka stovetop or burners.  I know - hob?? What kind of a name is that??!) and Eliz and this boy named Rowan were having a serious cooking show demonstration. Then she re-discovered the drive-yourself cars.

The first (and last) time she 'drove' one of these was a long time ago, and after chewing the steering wheel, she fell right through the hole in the bottom and got stuck. I was cleverly taking this photo instead of preventing her from falling, earning me one of my many Mum Of The Year ribbons.
Look how little she was!! This was taken March 30, 2011!!! So cute!!
Since then, she's been a bit leery of the big cars. Until today!! She was all 'beep beep beep' like the big kids!! She abandoned her cooking and took to the roads!! Her favourite was definitely the sporty red convertible, but she did take the family sedan for a test drive:

Can it be? Is she a little girl now, and not a baby?? Yeah right!!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Change In Perspective Blows My Mind

Whenever people have asked me how my trip back home went, I have answered something like, "It was so great! It was wonderful to see everyone, and I had a great and mostly relaxed holiday... but Edmonton is sooooo big!! I had forgotten what a big city it is."

Seriously, every single time I got in the car to go anywhere,  all I could think was, "Has Edmonton always been this big???" It felt like I had to be driving for 15 minutes at 60 km/hr (37.5 mph for you Brit readers who can't convert km/h to mph without using google) in order to get somewhere. I mean, anywhere. The grocery store, the shopping mall, anyone's house, the pool, anywhere!! Whenever I brought this up during my visit, people would invariably respond, "Ah, yes, but you can get anywhere in the city in under half an hour." How is that true? I mean, experientially, yes, it's true, but doesn't that kind of not make sense? And yet, it's mostly true! You can invariably drive from one location in the city to any other location in under 30 minutes!!!  I feel like Jerry Seinfeld right now! This is blowing my mind!

Which brings us to this morning: the second blowing of my mind.

I met a woman who happened to come from Saskatchewan - she has lived in the UK for 18 years now, and has that half-and-half accent. You know the one. When we started chatting about Canada, it came up that we had just returned from a visit. And I, of course, brought up the size factor. And she responded, "Everytime I go to Canada, it strikes me just how small of a city Cambridge is." 

Whoa. Mind = Blown.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Crazy British Holidays

Yesterday was November 5. Yesterday I learned that  British people are a little bit crazy, and like to burn stuff.

In 1605, a dude named Guy Fawkes was involved in a plot to burn down the House of Lords. He was the dummy who volunteered to stand guard over the pile of gunpowder in the basement of Westminster, and obviously got caught. Seriously, did he pull the short straw or what? Anyways, now November 5 is celebrated with big, beautiful, public fireworks displays and a big public bonfire. And a whole lot of private, chuddy fireworks displays and kind of scary mini-bonfires in gardens.

We took Elizabeth down to Midsummer Common to watch the displays. There was also a fun-fair (aka a mini Klondike days) with some of the same style rides. You all know the one with the pictures of the wintery cavepeople and the girl in the fur bikini, where the ride spins backwards?  Yeah, they have that here too, but no fur bikini girl. I know, I was so disappointed too. But it did play the classic K-Days ride tunes - including Sandstorm and No Limit by 2 Unlimited. Yesssssssss...

Elizabeth was pretty much enraptured by the lights of the rides. Exhibit A:
Apparently, Matthew was pretty stoked on the pretty flashing lights too. No jokes, she stood there watching the "Daredevil" ride for about 10 minutes. Inexplicably, the Daredevil ride had pictures of Ben Affleck as the Daredevil, but also Morpheus, Lara Croft and Wolverine. Hmmmm....

By the time the fireworks started, Eliz was kind of losing it. I had her in the baby carrier, cuddled in, and she was reaching her cranky point. I 'Mummy-ed' up, and recited Mary Poppins for her, from the very first line until the end of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. An Old Lady (they are everywhere!!) kept looking over, and at one point said something like, "Do you really think she understands what you're saying?" to which Elizabeth made the sign for 'bird' and said, "Buuuhd!! Buuuhd!!" because I had stopped singing and it was the part where Mary Poppins sings while the bird is perched on her hand. Boo yeah, Old Lady!!! In your face!

So then the fireworks started (thank God, I am so tired of Mary Poppins), and Elizabeth was scared for the first . . . 45 seconds. After that, she was enthralled. Completely. They lasted about 20 minutes, and afterwards, she looked at us and just said, "More! More! More!" Cutie pie!

I had to keep saying, "ooooh" and "aaaaahhhhh" - I'm sure the combination of that and the whole of Mary Poppins made our neighbours in the crowd suuuuper stoked that they chose to stand beside us. 

So after the fireworks, they lit a huge bonfire. I mean, huge. When you faced it, you could feel the heat coming off it, and we were at least a few hundred feet away. (Confession: I asked Matthew to guess the distance and he said ' Ooooh, a few hundred yards or so', to which I replied, 'No one knows how far that is. How many feet? A couple hundred?'. He just shook his head and said, 'Well, then say at least a few hundred feet.' Sometimes it must be hard for him to deal with me.) British people are so funny - they cheered and cheered when the bonfire was lit. Yay for fire!!!

After we got home, I was chatting with my brother Chris, and he suddenly said he felt like a curry. So Matthew instantly felt like a curry. And the best wife in the world got on her bike to go buy him a curry. Bonfire night and a curry? We are so British now.

Friday, 4 November 2011

It's Just Like Riding A Bicycle

We have been in Canada for 3 weeks, and now I feel like I haven't written any blogs in so long that (a) no one checks the site anymore, (2) I have too many stories and therefore all imminent blog posts will be annoyingly long, and (d) I'm not funny anymore. (Yes, I am aware that I've done the (a), (2), (d) joke before - evidence of (d)). (Am I supposed to do a double bracket there??? Does anyone know the rule on that??) And so, no, blogging is not just like riding a bicycle, it's more like trying to look cool after falling off your bicycle.

So instead of writing a ton of details about our trip, I'll just say this: The things we really liked about home, we still really like about home. The things we really didn't like about home, we still really don't like about home. And the things we really love about home are never going to change. And that is the best thing to remember when the sky is grey and heavy in Cambridge, and you are desperate for big blue, open Alberta sky.