Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Saturday in Pictures

I really should either start using a real camera or get a better smart phone, because the quality of my photographs is atrocious. But if the objective of the blog is for you to see what I'm up to and how Elizabeth is doing, then I guess blurred pictures are the most accurate, since she hardly ever stands still anyway.

So. Last Saturday we had a great family day. We started out slowly, and had some family reading time with our coffees/milk. Matthew: Vanity Fair. Me: Game of Thrones (I think it's book 5, maybe 6?). Elizabeth: Where Is Baby's Mommy?
Next, we headed into town to get me wellies for the Paul Simon concert. I think it's safe to say I found the most garish and hilarious pair of rubber boots available. Thank you Primark!!

Then we went into a great bookshop, Heffer's, for their storytime. They have local authors in on the weekends for readings. This was Matthew's first time at a storytime thing - the library ones are during working hours - so he enjoyed it almost as much as Elizabeth. He also introduced her to Tintin cartoons, and she is hooked. I think she loves having tons of tiny pictures on the same page instead of one big picture. It's like a million stories on one page!!! Gasp.

Storytime can make you hungry: cookie break.
(Yes, that poster behind Elizabeth is for Macbeth, and the actress is holding a baby-doll upside down by the leg. Duh.)
We then headed to the Sedgwick Museum. It was pretty grey outside, so we were keen for an inside-activity that was (a) free, (2) fun, and (d) would last as long/as short as we needed until Elizabeth got hungry for lunch. Free museums are perfect, because you have zero guilt leaving after 25 minutes. FYI, 25 minutes is a realllllllly long time to do any activity with any people under the age of about 5. Or 30.

The museum is named for Adam Sedgwick:
It totally looks like he's holding a gun in his right hand, but I think it's probably just a tiny little shovel-y thing. Bo-ring!!
 I would tell you more about him, but I didn't read at all about him while we visited the museum. We were too busy running after Elizabeth who was running around among the dinosaur, moose & hippo skeletons. There are a ton of display cases full of different fossils & whatnot from around England,but if you ask Elizabeth, they are all snails. Every single one of them. We heard a lot of, "Oooh, a snail! Don't get me!! Don't get me!!" In my opinion, any museum that has dinosaurs is pretty kid-friendly, so we didn't have to worry about the volume of her excited yells.
So much running.

There are lots of interactive things at this museum, including a couple of wooden puzzles. Note Elizabeth & Matthew have the same concentration face, and the same "Check Out What I Did On My Own" face.

Elizabeth's favourite part and my favourite part were the same, but for different reasons. My book club once read this novel Remarkable Creatures about a woman in Lyme Regis, England, named Mary Anning, who finds a fossil of an ichthyosaurus. Anyways, turns out, good old Adam Sedgwick got her collection of bones from her, and it's on display at the museum. I feel kinda proud of Mary for making some money off hers - Thomas Hawkins coulda made fifty quid! Donation-Schmomation.

Apparently, scientists in the 19th century thought these creatures were cannibals, because they found lots of ichthyosaurus skeletons with complete ichthyosaurus skeletons inside them. Yeah, turns out those dudes were wrong, they were just pregnant ichthyosauruses. Come on, scientists!! Think with your heads!! When one animal eats another, it doesn't stay whole inside their stomachs! And those bad boy ichthyosauruses had huge teeth - meant for biting and tearing and chewing!  Doi-oi-oi!! (Matthew did point out that they thought they were reptiles, and laid eggs, but come on.) You can see that I gave this a fair bit of thought; that's because the display was on a raised area, so you could walk the perimeter of it and see various examples of the fossils. It also had a staircase on two sides of the display. Basically, Elizabeth ran laps of this display for roughly 25 minutes. And that's what you get when you give a 2 year old a cookie as a snack.
 And this photo was taken about 35 seconds after she slipped on one of the stairs and had immediate staticus meltdownicus.
A 15 minute tantrum is also what you get when you give a 2 year old a cookie for a snack. But bizarrely luckily for us, after we wrestled her into her rain coat and onto the bicycle, all she wanted was her blankie and her bed. So we went home, and she threw down a 2 and a half hour nap! Boom!

After she woke up, we gave her dinner at 4 pm, since she didn't have lunch, and went to the playground. And then Matthew reminded me why I married him: He pointed out that if we were just going to hang out at the playground for awhile, we might as well go to the local pub that has a playpark and have a pint while we do it!! I'm serious you guys, the local pub has an outdoor climbing frame with a slide, and a bridge, and a climbing-wall-with-a-rope-thing. It's like the playparks at McDonald's, but you can have a beer. No brainer. We went there for an hour, and it was like we were in a movie, because the sun came out for the first time that day. While M played with Eliz, I had a chance to catch up with my brother online, which was great. It was like he was there with us, having a beer in the sun. Except not really the same at all.
To top off this fantastic day, we spent the evening at our Chilean friends' house - Javiera & Nico got back from Chile a couple months ago, and we are so glad to hang out together again. This shot is of the children & Dads watching the original Transformer movie after dinner. It is really hard to say who is enjoying it more...
This was a very long post to say: This weekend made me feel really lucky to be in Cambridge. We only have 21 weekends left in the UK - that sounds like a lot, but really, weeks are flying by like minutes over here. I can't believe we're in the home stretch. Good thing we are making the most out of it over here while we can!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Bit of a Gush, Really.

I love Paul Simon. I think his music is beautifully written, the lyrics are poetry, and the harmonies sublime. I love him. Elizabeth's due date was April 15, and he and Art Garfunkel were touring through Edmonton on May 7 and I bought tickets with full intentions of going - unfortunately, they cancelled their tour, and so I had to wait two years, but I finally saw him perform!!

And I still totally love him.

He was one of the headliners of the Hard Rock Calling music festival in Hyde Park, London - along with Bruce Springsteen on Saturday night and Soundgarden on Friday night. Matthew saw an ad for the show back in May (I think?) and we bought tickets immediately. My friend Helen agreed to babysit and  sleep over, which meant we didn't have to worry about getting back to Cambreej in a rush. That turned out to be a semi-moot point, since our good friends Alex & Nikki went as well, and gave us a lift home afterwards. All of these things boil down to a few solid facts:
(1) Elizabeth got to play with some of her favourite people, so I didn't have to worry about her all day & night
(2) Our great friends were driving us home, which meant I didn't have to worry about catching the last train out of London
(3) I got to spend a whole day  with just Matthew
(4) We got to see Paul Simon perform!!!

It was one of the best days ever.

We started by not going into the concert grounds immediately - I was so excited I was literally bouncing around (anyone surprised?) so Matthew took me to a pub in the area and we sat down for a pint and a bit of a relax. Well, the guy next to us started chatting to us, and next thing you know, he's buying us a drink, so then we have to buy him a drink, and before we knew it, it was time to get to the show. Back to bouncing around with excitement!

Here I am, even before the concert started - poor Matthew.

And here is Matthew - he looked like this the whole day/evening:
Unless he was playing his washboard (abs), in which case, he looked like this:

And here's what Paul Simon looked like!!!

Matthew had asked me what songs I wanted him to play, and among this obvious choices (Boy In the Bubble, Call Me Al, Graceland, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, etc etc etc), I said, "Hearts & Bones, but I don't think he'll play it." It's kind of a b-side song, about his relationship with Carrie Fisher, but I totally love the lyrics, and it's a beautiful song. And he totally played it. And I was the only person in our little area that knew the song, and yes, everyone, I do think he played it just for me.

Here's what he looked like while he played one of my favourite songs, just for me:
 Here is his whole set list, and each song has a link to the song - some of them have links to concert-goers' video of him on Sunday night.And, if you can handle it, here is my shaky Blackberry video of his final encore, Sound of Silence:
video

It was such a fantastic day. I enjoyed every single minute. I love days like that.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wah, wah, wah, Edmontonians.

It feels like everyone I know who lives in Edmonton is upset about having an actual summer. May I present to you a true English summer day:

Yesterday, July 11, at 10:58, the sky was a bit cloudy, but there were still small sections of blue poking out from behind the clouds. We were at our playgroup, anxiously waiting for 11:00, since that's when our group gets to move from the inside play area to the outside play area. Then this happened, at exactly 11:02.

Elizabeth, being two, insisted on going out, and since I know that water isn't going to break her or melt her, I didn't really mind. Being the drop-out Girl Guide that I am, I was only 50% prepared, so she went and played in a rain coat and sandals. I was so surprised that (a) I was the only Mum who had brought a raincoat for her child, and (b)she was the only toddler insisting on going out to play!!

And she had the time of her life!! She was soaked to the thighs, and her hair was wet (she pretend-showered under a drain spout), and she was delighted! The venue is shared among multiple nursery group & playgroups, so we had to go back inside at 11:30, and guess what happened at 11:27?
It's like the rain shower never happened! England weather is so weird.

Elizabeth spent the rest of the playgroup in her diaper & shirt, and didn't mind one bit.

And luckily, my friend Zuliana had a spare pair of trousers for Elizabeth to wear home - they were size 6-12 months, but they were dry. Thank goodness for that, because her jeans were so wet that I could wring water out of them. :)
So next time you find yourselves saying it's too hot in July, just think of us, in 12-18° and rain, and just go eat some ice cream and popsicles, okay? :)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Surprise!!

When you look at this photo, what do you see?
No, really, look again:

Could it be? Is it a billion, slimy, slow moving, coming-out-to-play-after-the-rain snails?

Yes!! And they were everywhere!!

At some point during our investigation of the snails, Matthew convinced Elizabeth that the snails were going to attack her, which means that now everytime we pass that corner, she spider-monkey-climbs up my legs, and says, "Don't get me, Mummy, don't get me!" This leads to me not-looking where I'm going, which then leads to this:
So I guess now there's a billion-minus-one, slimy, slow moving, coming-out-to-play-after-the-rain snails. . . oopsies.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Being in Canada: A Pictorial

We went to Canada in June. Here's what we did.

Spent time with Elizabeth's cousins, Eeffie, Emiwy and Betta:

Spent times with Grandparents, Great-Aunts & Uncles, and Great-Grandparents:

Ate a lot of treats, ice cream and candy:

Spent time with friends:

Spent time with friends in various states of undress:

Elizabeth remained super beautiful and cute, despite a 7 hour time change:

Spent a total of 4 hours in cars to and from the airports, 4 hours total in Heathrow & Edmonton International airports, and 17 1/2 hours in flight:

Can you say, "whirlwind trip"? Elizabeth is a pro-traveller.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A Weekend For Science

England has been totally English since we came back from Canada: grey and cloudy and rainy. Matthew took advantage of this on Friday evening when there were intermittent rain showers. I mean rain showers; the kind where you are soaked through after about 30 seconds. He & Elizabeth did science experiments.
First, when the rain began, they put out all of Elizabeth's bowls - he had intended for only one, but then when forced to choose which colour, she said, "Puh-pull. No, owange. No, geen. No, alla dem!!" so all of the bowls went outside to catch the rain.

Then, after the shower was over, we went out to see how much water had collected.

She was stunned. Sorry for the horrendous photo quality...

Science. Is. Amazing.

Today we went to the Big Weekend event in Parker's Piece. It's this big festival, with stalls, and a market, and various stages with bands. In fact, all of these things were there (according to the website):
•    Main stage live music & dance entertainment
•    Young People’s Performers Tent
•    Big Dance Marquee
•    Sports Zone
•    The Big Screen Cinema
•    Pop-up Art Gallery
•    The Village Green environmental area
•    Community market & stalls
•    Bar & refreshments
•    Plus between 8pm - 10pm a Major Spectacular Community Showcase Performance

But what were Elizabeth & her best friend Cal keen on? The University of Cambridge Science Tent, of course. We made fossils:
If you squint, it kind of looks like the dinosaur is standing next to the Eiffel Tower.
We did an experiment where they jumped on a trampoline for 30 seconds, and then had their heart rate measured - Elizabeth went up to 175!! Atta girl!

Then there was a balance-thing, where you are supposed to wibble and wobble around to get the ball to go through the maze and into the centre. Cal was braver than Elizabeth and let his Mum help him do it, and then Dr. Faff had a shot at it too.
Then the kids showed him how to get the ball to the centre the fastest - they are so much smarter than us.

After all that learning and science-ing, we did some great fair-stuff, like decorate balloons to look like fish, run around, and eat ice cream. Cal also had to take off his sweater - all morning it was stuffy and hot, but he kept it on, and then the moment it started to get windy & rainy, he wanted to take it off. Did I mention he turned 2 last month?


And this is my face when I realized that the soft-serve ice cream they use for a '99' cone (aka soft serve with a mini Cadbury Flake bar - mmmm) tastes exactly like Cool Whip. And then I had a moment of sadness that England does not sell the tastiest petroleum-based dessert topping. Seriously. How am I supposed to make any desserts??

True quote: "Matthew!! This tastes exactly like Cool Whip!!!! It is amazing!!"


Friday, 6 July 2012

Oh my God, Madrid.

I was about to post about our recent trip to Canada when I realized I haven't even talked about going to Madrid with Penny last month! Whoopsies!!

We had originally planned to go here:
San Sebastien. It is on the north-eastern coast of Spain, and is supposed to be gorgeous. Sandy beaches, hot sun, great food - every single person I told that we were going there said, "you will love it." Except that the weather forecast for the region was grey, rain, grey, rain, and then some more grey and rain. Sad faces were us. So rather than hang out in our crappy hotel room - I'd deliberately booked a crappy hotel room since we weren't planning on spending any time there - we booked a new trip to Madrid, where the forecast was 28-34°C. Hello, heaven. Madrid is inland, and a city-city... lots of things to see, and places to visit... but we had planned on a beach holiday... so we booked a nice hotel with a rooftop pool! Voila! If you can't get the sun at the beach, you bring the beach feeling to the sun.

It was a great trip. We started at the butt crack of dawn - when I had a major panic that my suitcase would be too big for carry-on, and the cheap airlines are sticklers for it. I ended up just putting my stuff into Matthew's backpack, and good thing I did, because I saw a girl paying 50£ because her suitcase was a centimeter too tall. I am not joking here, people, these budget airlines are strict. So it was a good thing I chose to worry about that at 4 am, and woke Matthew up about it, right? Right.

The sun shone, the food was delicious, the sangria was refreshing. We lazed by the pool, I had 4 naps in 2 and a half days, I read a book and a half, and Penny read about 14 trashy mags. I felt super out of touch because I didn't know who any of the 'celebrities' were - seriously, supermarket mags can get a whole new roster of peeps in 2 years. Here are some of the highlights:
Enjoying the rooftop pool - and view - to the fullest
Faux-sightseeing - really we just saw random stuff when we were on our way to or from a restaurant...

Normally when I go on holidays with Matthew, he gets a guide book and reads it on the plane, and then when we arrive, he has pretty much memorized the whole thing. This makes sightseeing very easy, because you'll run into any random statue, and he'll say, "Oh that's Sir So-and-So, and he saved this city from the Emperor of Blah-Land, and all the people worshiped him for restoring the country to awesomeness" or whatever. So on this trip: I did it all by myself. Which is how I knew that the statue of the bear eating the fruit of the tree was the symbol of Madrid because the Church owns the land but the people own whatever grows on the land, making the Church the tree and the Madrilenos the Bear. Ha! Penny was so impressed with me. It felt good, friends, it felt good.
After the dismal weather in England for April & May, I did a lot of sun-worshipping in Spain. An awful lot.

We had to have evening naps because Madrilenos don't eat dinner until after 10 pm. So one night we were on our way to some restaurant, and BAM, we walk right into the middle of a huge gathering of people in the middle of this one piazza. (I was going to look up which one, but let's get serious: I had no idea where I was the whole weekend, so it would be totally lying to tell you which square we were in.) And there was a Catholic priest speaking, and microphones, and a lot of rosaries and praying happening - oh, and a lot of cops too, for crowd control maybe? I asked them (in my horrid Spanish) what was happening, and they told us it was Corpus Christi . It would have helped if I had asked, "and what is Corpus Christi?" because wouldn't you know it, we walked down the exact street of the huge procession of believers who were walking towards the priest, chanting and singing the whole way. It was huge. Thousands of people walking down this little street, following about 300 or so priests and other dudes in Church gear. Obviously, the place we were heading to was against the tide, so we had to just stand there on the side of the street - unfortunately beside a dude begging for money - and try not to stare at all the people walking and singing and believing. It isn't hard to wait respectfully, but seriously there were thousands of people. And the square was full before they arrived., so I don't know where they all squished into. Finally, the last folks walked past us and we felt it was appropriate to carry on. Oh, and we also saw a bunch of little girls who might have had their First Communion or something - you know, when they are all so beautiful in their white dresses and everything? I didn't read any of the Religion section of the guidebook, I guess.

That night we finally found the place for dinner, and then had a hi-larious evening - made possible by this elderly gentleman in a beret:
Sorry for the crummy photo, but I had to do a covert shot of him - imagine a Spanish Junior Soprano wearing a striped t-shirt and a burgundy beret, and that was the dude. He must have known the owners of the cafe, because while we were happily eating our patatas bravas and our tortilla espanola, he arrived and stood at attention, saluting, while they played the Spanish anthem on their stereo. The whole song. What's the protocol here? Are you supposed to stop eating? Stop drinking? Watch him, or deliberately not watch him? We probably just kept giggling and drinking... After the anthem finished, he sort of just... hung around the restaurant for a while. Then he started talking to the people eating, and so we half-talked to him, and half-tried not to talk to him.

A bit of a side-bar here: You know those guys at the bar who start selling those crappy roses towards the end of the night? And all the drunk dudes buy them for the drunk ladies? Well, one of those dudes was coming along, and Grandpa Crazy bought one from him, and gave it to me!!! hahahahahah!!! We were laughing and laughing, and then Penny did the "what am I? Chopped Liver?" arms and face, and he bought her one too!! It was a classic, hysterical situation.
We took a lot of drunky photos of each other that night, and I particularly like the one of myself on the top-right.


The ultimate highlight of the trip though, was the first evening we were there and went out for dinner. We were at a sidewalk cafe, eating our grilled vegetables and chorizo and deliciousness, when a stagette party walked past. Not just any stagette party - one where the bride was wearing a veil, was clearly drunk, and was handcuffed to a midget in a clown costume. I wish I was making this up. We were this odd combination of (a) shocked that there was a midget in a clown costume, (2) amazed that this man was doing this for a living, and (d) kind of saddened that this girl's friends thought that humiliating a little person was an appropriate way to celebrate her upcoming wedding. We chose not to covertly photograph that guy, and I don't think I'll get any appropriate photos if I google: "Spanish stagette Midget Clown Costume"...

All in all: go to Madrid!! Get a tan!! Fill up on Vitamin D and friendship!!