Wednesday, 30 May 2012

An Actual Conversation, or, How Chris Might Make Fun of Us.

Georgina: How far away is the moon?
Matthew: About 200,000 km.
G: Wow, that's really far away. Do you ever think that modern astronauts are sad that there is no publicity about space exploration anymore? I mean, since the moon landing, does anyone really know when they're up there?
M: Well, maybe. But the moon landing was really amazing, because the moon is so much further away than where they're going now. I mean, the space station is only about 200 km away.
G: Wow! Really?
M: Yeah! It took the Apollo astronauts a whole day to get to the moon. And now they're planning a manned Mars exploration, which is 50,000,000 km away, and it's going to take six months just to get there!
G: What the whaaat??
M: Yeah, six months there, a year on the planet, and then six months to get back.
G: Wow. . . I don't want Elizabeth to be one of those astronauts.
M: . . . okay. . .
G: I want her to be one of the people that sends those astronauts away. You know, the ones in the control room. Oh, but wait, that would mean she'd have to live in Florida or Houston, and I don't want that.  
M: She could live in Canada. In Ottawa, maybe? I don't know where the space program is in Canada.
G: I don't want her to live so far away from us!
M: Okay, she won't be an astronaut or a control room person.
G: Imagine if she was a writer! She could do that from anywhere. Hey, maybe she could win the Nobel Prize!
M: Imagine! (at this point we are both laughing) Our daughter could win the Nobel Prize for Literature! Everyone would know we raised a reader!
G: . . . if we ever said that after she won the Nobel Prize, my brother would immediately tell us we raised a writer, not a reader.

Just in case you were wondering, the real distances are:
     Earth to Moon:  384,403 km, bearing in mind that the moon's orbit is elliptical, so it can vary.
     Earth to Space Station: 240 miles (386 km)
     Earth to Mars: 54.6 million miles, again with an elliptical orbit so sometimes it is 401 million km away!! Imagine if your kids were that far away from you!!! Never!

Dr Faff is pretty good with remembering totally random stuff, hey? Maybe he's a wizard.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I'm Not Sure How I Feel About This.

My friends & I had a conversation the other day about housing prices - see, we do talk about more than just toddlers and babies! And in this conversation, my friend Kate said something to the effect of, "I am pretty much against the 'buying-houses-to-let' thing." (As in buying a house, getting a great mortgage rate, and then renting it for more than your mortgage prices... as in something Canadians do all the time...) When I asked why, she pointed out that there are so few 'affordable' houses in England, that these 'investors' make it harder for young couples & families to ever buy their own house, as the number of homes in their price range is so low. This leads to young couples & families renting, not having excess funds at the end of the month to put towards saving for a house-deposit, and staying in rentals forever.


I had seriously NEVER thought of that before.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Weather Forgiveness

I think it rained every single day in April this year. Not all day, but every day. (Okay, Matthew just looked it up, and it rained 24 out of 30 days in April - so sue me.) I was starting to get really bummed out about it, but then I thought about how nursery rhymes and sayings are always super old, and a lot of super old things come from England, and so I guessed "April showers bring May flowers" might be British and therefore something to hold onto.

Not so!! It rained 16 out of the first 21 days of May. Cue hysterical tears from me. But then! Gasp! The sun came out! The sky was clear and blue, and Georgina was SOOOOO HAPPY!!! Colours were brighter, the air was sweeter, food tasted better!! Life was wonderful!! I instantly forgot about the last six weeks of cloudy, grey skies!! I immediately forgave England for all her rain!

We had a glorious weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine. On Saturday we went to this playground that has a wading pool, and yes, we were one of those families with a baby in a sunhat and nothing else. (I had only brought one extra diaper, so we couldn't risk wasting it getting all full of pool water and then have a poopy diaper situation afterwards...) We invited our friends who don't have children to join us - the thing about a wading pool is that it's awesome to cool down and laze around beside one, but if you don't have kids, you run the risk of looking like a pedophile. It was a beautiful day. Then we went home and had a bbq in the evening sun. I had to move our table into the very corner of our garden, in order to be in the sun for the as long as possible.

Then on Sunday, instead of going all the way to a wading pool, we brought the wading pool to us. Namely, a couple of big tupperwares (normally our toyboxes), half-filled with water. We threw in a bunch of her plastic toys, and a couple of bowls and stacking cups, and let me tell you: Elizabeth had a blast. She kept saying, "Buzz Lightyear goes swimming!!!"

We didn't bother with a bathing suit again - but she fell in love with her sunhat, and thought it was hilarious to drop it in the water and then put a wet hat on her head. So funny! She had so much fun playing on her own, that Matthew & I were able to play a whole game of Scrabble with minimal interruptions. (Final score: G 364 to M 295, booyah!!)

Matthew & I had that conversation that I'm sure a billion other people have had, about how you have to have bad weather to appreciate the good. I totally disagree: You have to have good weather to forget that you ever had bad weather. And all it takes is one sunny day to make all the grey days totally forgiven and forgotten.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Pub Quiz: First Prize Goes To . . .

Janet Cheeseman!
I'm so proud of you, Juanita!!! One delicious British chocolate bar is winging its way to Edmonton for you - well, that's a lie, but one will be in the post eventually...

This was so much fun! There were only a couple of cheaters, but they were gracious cheaters, and in the words of one confessing cheating quizzer: "while I don't get the point for this, I get the gift of knowledge. Priceless." Another got points for honesty about cheating, because I am the Quiz Master and I can decide. And no, that honest cheater wasn't Janet.

Here are the questions and answers - I know many of you are going to read the answers and go, "ohhh, I knew that!!". But I know even more of you are going to read the answers and go, "seriously?? There are people that know that??"

1. What is the largest state in the contiguous USA (lower 48)? Texas.
2.What is the name of the mountain that Noah's ark came to rest atop? In which modern country is that mountain found? Mount Ararat, Turkey
3. An osier is which species of tree? Willow
4. What is the Statue of Justice holding in her left hand, on the top of Old Bailey in London? Scales
5. Logan Airport is in which American city? (Side note and hint: the answer is not 'Chicargo', which was what one of the opposing teams actually wrote down...) Boston
6. In which English county is the iron age hill fort called Maiden Castle, and which town does it overlook? Dorset, Dorchester
7. Cincinnati is in which state? Ohio
8. November 1st is what day according to the Catholic Church calendar? All Saints Day
9. What's Sidney Crosby's number? 87
10. Who played football/soccer for Notthingham Forest and Manchester United & then managed Sunderland? Roy Keane - and yes, Mum, people actually knew this!! Best answer: Blanko Blankerton.
11. What is the Quentin Tarantino film starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman? Pulp Fiction
12. What is the epithet applied to the city of Rome? The Eternal City
13. What's the name of the dog from Garfield? Odie - everyone got this right. hahaha!
14.What highway links Edmonton & Calgary? Are you ready for this Brits? It's called the Queen Elizabeth II highway. Mwa ha ha!!!
15. What is the common term for Tinea Pedis? Athlete's Foot
16. If you had a stamp with CCCP on it, where did it come from? USSR
17. What's the capital of Manitoba? Winnipeg
18. Who was the first Canadian Prime Minister? John A. Macdonald
19. Who started the Marathon of Hope? Terry Fox (Most hilarious answer: Barack Obama??)
20. What's my daughter's first name? Elizabeth (duh). Accepted answers: Issabet, Bth, Elizabeauty.
21. Who is this? Hint: he was a steeplejack. (As if anyone from Canada even knows what that means.)
Fred Dibnah! (Hilarious answers included Betsy Trainhumper, The Dib, "??" , and "Nope". The winner's answer - often heard at pub quizzes around the world - "Can't put a name to that face, but he seems awfully familiar.")
 22. Who is this?
Steve Irwin!! (Everyone got this too!)
23. In which grocery store would you be able to buy these:
 24. What store has this logo:
Canadian Tire (Most hilarious answer: "The Canadian Short Stop Store")
25. These lyrics are from a 1965 hit for a female US R&B group - name the group and the song:

"But is her sweet expression worth more than my love and affection" 
Diana Ross & The Supremes, "Stop In the Name Of Love

Thanks for playing everyone! This was super fun!!!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pub Quiz Part Two: Win a Chocolate Bar!

It's happened: I am in love with Pub Quizzes. Last week I went with some friends, and we came third! We were so chuffed - 'chuffed' is one of my new British words, meaning 'pretty damn pleased with myself'.

In honour of our amazing improvement from last place to third, I'm holding an international pub quiz here. I cannot wait to see who wins!!

1. You must email your answers to me by Friday,  May 25 at 1700h GMT. (That means Friday at noon for you Albertans.) Send to
2. I'm using some of the questions from the pub quiz and some from Canadian history and common knowlege. I will also put in some that I am pretty sure everyone will know, so you will all get at least some right, and won't feel dumb.
3. The person with the highest score wins. (Duh.) However, no one can get 100%. The person closest to 100% correct wins - this will decrease the internet usage for cheating purposes. If you get 100%, I will expose you to all the readers of the blog. Mwa ha ha! That means that if all of a sudden, all of the Brits know stuff about Canadian history: exposed! And if the Albertans suddenly know any historical castle forts in the UK: exposed!
4. The winner will receive one delicious chocolate bar in the post! So much fun!! Also: I know 25 questions seems like a lot, but I needed to include lots from this week's quiz because seriously: who knows this stuff??

ZOMG this is so much fun!

Okay, here are the questions. You ready?

1. What is the largest state in the contiguous USA (lower 48)?
2.What is the name of the mountain that Noah's ark came to rest atop? In which modern country is that mountain found?
3. An osier is which species of tree?
4. What is the Statue of Justice holding in her left hand, on the top of Old Bailey in London?
5. Logan Airport is in which American city? (Side note and hint: the answer is not 'Chicargo', which was what one of the opposing teams actually wrote down...)
6. In which English county is the iron age hill fort called Maiden Castle, and which town does it overlook?
7. Cincinnati is in which state?
8. November 1st is what day according to the Catholic Church calendar?
9. What's Sidney Crosby's number?
10. Who played football/soccer for Notthingham Forest and Manchester United & then managed Sunderland?
11. What is the Quentin Tarantino film starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman?
12. What is the epithet applied to the city of Rome?
13. What's the name of the dog from Garfield?
14.What highway links Edmonton & Calgary?
15. What is the common term for Tinea Pedis?
16. If you had a stamp with CCCP on it, where did it come from?
17. What's the capital of Manitoba?
18. Who was the first Canadian Prime Minister?
19. Who started the Marathon of Hope?
20. What's my daughter's first name?
21. Who is this? Hint: he was a steeplejack. (As if anyone from Canada even knows what that means.)

22. Who is this:

23. In which grocery store would you be able to buy these:

24. What store has this logo:

25. These lyrics are from a 1965 hit for a female US R&B group - name the group and the song:
"But is her sweet expression worth more than my love and affection" 

 Good Luck!!! Oooh, I'm so excited!!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

How to get Congratulated on Housekeeping: Fear of Limescale

There is no DSM-IV category for being limescale-phobic, but if there was, I'd have it. I don't even really know what it is, but I am frightened of limescale. I just looked on Wikipedia to learn about limescale, but in the 2nd paragraph it went all chemistry on me, and I lost interest.
Thus, heating water does not cause calcium carbonate to precipitate per se. However, there is an equilibrium between dissolved calcium bicarbonate and dissolved calcium carbonate:
Ca2+ + 2HCO3- Ca2+ + CO32- + CO2 + H2O
Confession: I just skimmed the first paragraph too.

And mould. I'm scared of mould too.

When we first moved into our rental and had our initial inspection, the caretaker (Len Parker, a chatty Irishman) gave me very specific instructions to buy a squeegee and make sure I "keep an eye on the limscale" in the bathroom. He then went on to talk about reducing condensation, and "always cover pots with boiling water" and "open windows to allow air flow" to prevent mould growth. But in England, they don't say it's "mould growth", they call it "Damp", like some kind of comic-book villain. Example: "you have to watch out, you might get Damp in the corners". Watch out - he's lurking behind the couch!

 The University Accommodation Service even gives you handouts on reducing condensation. This was necessary, because my education completely failed me and I had no real idea what condensation was and really, where does the water on the window come from??? It's just in the air? As IF!! Magic??

I had never heard of mould-growth on walls or window sills. Living in Alberta, aka driest place ever, it's just not an issue. Getting static-electricity shocks every time you walk on your carpet in socks? Yes. Needing to use a dryer sheet to stop your clothes static-ing together? Yes. Mould growth? No.

Basically, in my jet lagged & post-international-move state of mind, Len Parker freaked the crap out of me. Ever since, I have been totally aware of the condensation on our windows, and wipe them down right away. I also religiously clean our bathroom. On more than one occasion I have google-imaged "mould on windowsills", and "limescale bathroom" to see if I'm doing okay. Here are the freaky images you get:

Exhibit A: Mould

Exhibit B: Limescale

So when we had our inspection to renew our lease, I was a little bit worried that Len was going to come in, and suddenly see the beginnings of mould growth, or chalky limescale developing in places I didn't know to look or clean. The night before I had that feeling you get before an exam - like this inspection was going to be an examination of my ability to properly care for a home and family. Seriously, renting is stressful!!

I am so proud to tell you that not only did we pass our inspection, but Len Parker actually clapped me on the back and gave me a side hug when he saw my bathroom. He said, (say it with an Irish accent, it's so much better that way) "Georgina! It's beautiful! Well done! It looks perfect!" You know what? I felt like the Best Housekeeper Ever.

Bathroom when we moved in:

 Bathroom today:

Limescale? Pfffft. I'm not scared of you anymore. Well, maybe a little bit.

Monday, 14 May 2012

We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo, How About You, You, You

We have these new German friends, Andrea & Simon, who have two daughters, Sibylla and Alma. Sbylla is a week younger than Elizabeth, and Alma is 1 year, 11 months and 2 weeks younger than Elizabeth. I got to 'babysit' a sleeping Sibylla when they went to the hospital to deliver Alma, and I guess the Germans know how to get it done, because they went to the hospital, had a baby, and came home before Sibylla even woke up. Impressive!

Last weekend, we took the girls to Shepreth Wildlife Park for the day. We had originally thought of going to one of the National Trust sites, like Wimpole Hall which has a working farm - fun!! But there is only one bus to Wimpole Hall, and on Saturdays it leaves Cambridge at either 0810 or noon. And the last return is at 1316. Thanks for nothing, Whippet Bus Lines! Also, renting a 7 seater van for all of us would have been 356£!!! Isn't that crazy? Oh, and no National Trust sites in Cambridgeshire have any coat check type rooms to leave carseats if we decided to take a cab. Come on, England!! Help me help you!!

So instead we took the train to Shepreth and went to the zoo. It was a fabulous day! The girls were happy the whole day, the animals were fun, the parents were delighted with the easy-ness of it all. For example, the section called Bunnyworld, where the rabbits are just hopping around in the open, and then sit still so toddlers can pet them. Two happy girls petting bunnies? Are we in heaven?

There was a weird assortment of animals: Shetland ponies, a donkey, something called maras that I'd never seen before, a tiger, a puma, a long-legged South American wolf, lemurs, meerkats, otters, wallabys (wallabees?), a peacock, bunnies, and the required lake with swans, ducks etc etc.

Oh, and of course, a reptile house in 'honour' of Princess Diana. Obviously. 

So, with all these amazing animals around, and things to see, what did the girls want to do most? Run around after pigeons, perform balancing acts, tickle each other and laugh, and be completely adorable, obviously!!

Sibylla actually did show interest in the tiger & the puma ... when we were close to those exhibits, Eliz climbed on big rocks, stood on one leg and yelled "tada!". I guess a career in zoology is not in the cards. It was pretty classic that her favourites were the swans & the ducks - yeah, the two animals that abound at home in Cambridge, and we can see everyday. Tiger? Puma? Wolves? Not interested.

We cleverly orchestrated our exit & train ride to coincide with toddler naptime, allowing us about 40 minutes of grown-up time to have coffee in Parkers Piece in Cambs, making us the Smartest Parents in the World. Our walk home after naptime passed through Midsummer Common, and there was a funfair for the weekend. (For Canadians: it was like Klondike days only smaller, and without so many scary carnies and less mini-donuts.)

Sibylla was totally into it. Elizabeth, not so much. When Sibylla went on the Roller Ghoster (yep, you read that right):
 Elizabeth blew giant bubbles, sitting on the grass by herself. Cutie.

And then when Andrea convinced me to go on this spinny-whirly-faster-and-faster-and-then-go-backwards ride, Elizabeth cried and cried the whole time! Matthew kept pointing and saying, "Mummy's right there! She's okay!" and Eliz just kept bawling! Sibylla started crying too, and we thought it was only because Eliz was, but after the ride she explained to her Mum that she wanted to go on the ride too!

We've been having a lot of these kinds of days lately: the activity isn't wildly exciting, but the company and ease of it all makes for a really lovely day. The kinds of days where you come home feeling rejuvenated, not exhausted. It's been a good spring for the Hawkeyes. Roll on summertime!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Day Up London: Q & A

Now most of you will think I have made a big, fat typo with my title. Not so, friends. That is how British people refer to 'going into London for the day'. It's not "A Day Up In London" - no, you just go "up London."


We went to London on Saturday, spent the day in town, and then went for a sleepover at my Nanny's and a pub lunch the next day with some family. It was such a nice, relaxed couple of days. And now begins the Q & A, in pictorial form.

Q: What do you do when you're 'Up London' and the weather is crummy?
A:  The same thing you would do if the weather was good: run after pigeons, have a picnic in a random garden (in this case, the Embankment Gardens), and eat huge dessert-pastry things.

Q: What do you do when your toddler looks like this:
A: Isn't that obvious??

Q: What do you do when your toddler starts to look like this:
A: Isn't that obvious as well? First you do this:
and then this:
and then you look like Mum of the Year:

Q: What is the best thing on the menu at the Birchwood Pub, Abbey Wood?
A: Lamb roast, lamb roast, lamb roast. But this is the real reason we go there:

Q: What is the most compelling advertisement you saw this weekend?
A: That would have to be this:
For your information, they won the Asian Curry Award in 2011. Ahem:

Q: Okay, that is pretty compelling. Are you sure that is the best ad you saw this weekend?
A: Alright, alright, you got me. This next one made me laugh out loud - because there is such a high percentage of commuters going into Waterloo East station that are dying to share their physics expertise across the country. Matthew read the whole sign, no jokes.  One in a million folks, one in a million.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Crazy Bank Holiday

We had a crazy day on Monday. It started off like any holiday Monday should: no plan, no timeline, no 'needs-to-get-done's, no nothing. I sent a message to my friends, saying we were thinking of going to the playground in the morning, but we were thinking of getting home early enough for Elizabeth to have a good long nap - so we could have one too. In other words, a nice, relaxed, easy day.

Our day could not have been any different.

My pal Kate replied, and told us her family was going to cycle down to the Reach Fair, which is "very English". With an introduction like that, how could we not go?? Reach village is 11miles away, which sometimes sounds like, 'oh, it's only eleven miles', but at other times sounds like, 'oh my goodness, why is eleven miles so far??" and then at even other times, "Are you [expletive] kidding me? I have to cycle ELEVEN MILES to get back home???" (You can insert your own pun here, for example: "originally, it seemed within Reach." badoom-boom-pssshhhh)

Here is the map if we had gone along the roadway:
 And here is what it felt like we cycled:

I'm sure it wasn't quite so windy - but then I just showed Matthew my version of the route, and he said, "It's probably not that far off..." As well, it was one of those typically British overcast-but-not-quite-rainy mornings, which meant it could either rain in the afternoon or be a glorious, sunny and clear afternoon. We took our chances.

It all started so well! We headed north: Elizabeth on Matthew's bike, Kate and myself each on our own, and Sam had their two boys, Freddy & Cal, in their boat-bike. Elizabeth had just nodded off (note her baby doll, who is also strapped into the bike seat), and we came to a fence. With a big lock. Hmmm...

 It requires noting that there are weird old laws in England, where public footpaths can go across private lands, and landowners have to allow pedestrians to access it. (I'm paraphrasing here, but they're something like that. Anyone British want to expand on this?) But hefting a boat-bike and three children over that fence didn't seem like a great plan. After conferring with the map (and google map app), we decided to backtrack. If you refer back to the map, this is when we went back on ourselves towards Waterbeach.

And we found another fence.


But it was early in the day, and we'd only been cycling for about 45 minutes, so hey, what's one fence?? I somehow got the glorious job of photographer and child-watcher:

Hooray!! They did it!!!
We packed the kids in again, gave them some treats to keep them happy, and carried on. It was a lovely path - right along the river, and there was some kind of mini-sailboat race so it was all nicey nice.  (Matthew thinks they were Laser boats - and when I said, 'Honey, not everything is about lasers', he directed me to that page. Harrumph.) Then we got to the end of the path, where the map said we should turn right. Uh oh. What did we meet up with? Another fence - with this sign:

Hmmm... Written permission? From who? And what if we walk our bikes? Sometimes, I love England. I love England enough to ignore their signs, and cheer as my friends lift the boat bike up and over the fence. Again.

Now we were heading towards a town called Lode. The puns abounded, it was marvelous.

Everyone was still in pretty good spirits, steering away from the cow poops, and pointing out the cows and sheeps for the kids, when wouldn't you know it: another fence. Seriously???

Kate was the only one still cheery enough to cheer. Hip-hip-hooray! Also, that is a baby doll in the bottom corner, not a real baby. The real babies are here, looking thoroughly non-plussed. I imagine this was their conversation:
     Cal: What are our parents doing?
     Elizabeth: Who cares, this apple is amazing.
     Cal: No seriously, look, they're totally going to scratch up my sweet ride. 
     Eliz: Wanna have a bite?
     Freddy: Be quiet you guys, I'm trying to nap here.
We tried to let them have a little walk. Cal refused, and climbed back into his seat, and Elizabeth did the dawdliest, poky little stroll behind us. We saw a swan on a massive nest - that required a lot of shouting and pointing by Eliz. We also saw this tree, and from afar Matthew thought it was a person, waiting with a gun to shoot us. Kate thought it was a bull. Even still, we carried on.

We carried on right up to . . . you guessed it, another fence!!! By this time, photography was not encouraged, as you can imagine. Neither was a loud cheering squad. I just kept the kids quiet and out of the way. The other 3 were a well-oiled machine.

At this point, we looked back to where we had begun this 'detour' - approximately one hour before . We realized we had hefted 3 adult bicycles, 2 toddlers, 1 infant in a carseat, and one boat bike weighing around 140 lbs, all for the sake of about 100 yards. Well played, team, well played.

The amazing thing is: even though we had been through so much, we were all still in pretty good moods! I couldn't stop giggling at the situation, Matthew was just content to be in the countryside on a bike, and the Tudors seemed pretty fine as well. Miraculous!

The rest of the journey to the fair was uneventful (thank goodness) but long. We kept to the National Cycle Network roads and I've never been so glad to see concrete. Oh, but this is where it really started to rain. Elizabeth kept saying, "Mummy, whatcha doing? Oh, Mummy, it's raining! It's pouring Mummy! Mummy, whatcha doing? Oh, Mummy, it's raining!!"

We finally made it to the fair - pretty much exactly three hours after we left. Three hours! I KNOW!!!!

It was . . . a British fair. First order of business was obviously beer, followed by sausages for the kids (and adults). We watched Morris dancers (read: old dudes hopping around, not smiling, banging sticks and ringing bells - seriously), Sam won 3 coconuts at some fairground game, it rained, and Elizabeth needed alone time when we were at the beer tent. She sat on the ground about 5 feet away from us and played with her toys.

And does anyone remember our last fair experience? With Poppy the falcon who flew away? We saw the birds again!! But they fail again, because it was too rainy to let them fly. Elizabeth was still pretty stoked to see them.

We elected to go home via the most direct National Cycle Network route. It rained for about half the journey. The sun came out just as we were crossing the Cam back into our neighbourhood. Obviously.

Okay, so I really needed some kind of "in conclusion" to this post, and fate presented itself to me as we were crossing the Cam that afternoon. Because dudes, I totally saw a cow in the river. One of the cows that was on Midsummer Common got into the river, and was having a little panicky paddle trying to get out. A cow in the river?? As if!! I knew none of you would believe me, so here are a couple photos:
And then a rowing team just rowed on past the poor little cow. You will all be glad to know that the cow got out safely. What a Cambreejian end to a super British day!