Sunday, August 29, 2010

We landed...

... and it has been chaotic and hectic. Killed another computer  - a houseguest at our house plugged his iphone into my computer and it overloaded and died. I was devastated. So I'm on limited internet time until I return to the UK. I have loads of stories to share - coming soon! 

Being back in the US has been wonderful but it's very apparent that we don't live here anymore and it's really hard and sad for me. But we're having fun and the kids are loving it. So it's all good.

More soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And We're Off!

Ciao, baby! We're off to New York. I'm exciting and a tad nervous. I haven't been outside of New York City for more than three weeks in 19 years until we moved here. It's been six months and I'm so looking forward to being there.

I can't wait to see my friends and family, my old 'hood, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, etc. I can't wait to go shopping in my favorite places and the outlets, sitting on our dock at the lake and just relaxing (as much as a mom of two little ones can), bbqing with friends and just having a nice, comfortable 'I'm in my element' time. I'm most excited to see if Cate will remember our family and friends and the neighborhood. She's really happy these days - still a little too aggressive with other kids - but she's getting there.

It's going to be interesting. I'll keep you posted! Let's hope our take off is smoother than THIS.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Notting Hill Carnival

I've been looking forward to the Notting Hill Carnival for a while now. I just realized I won't be here for it and I'm SO disappointed. I went to it several years ago while visiting London and had a great time - like being in Rio for Carnival! The food is great, the music is right up my alley - Calypso, Soca, samba, steel drums - the stuff that gets in the blood and MAKES you dance. Love it!

They have a parade that rivals that of any parade I've been to. That includes Carnival, Mardi Gras and my home country's Junkanoo. (Click on Junakoo for a video!) They have beautiful and even outrageous costumes and parade through Notting Hill. They work months on the design and building of the costumes and it shows - they are spectacular! On Sunday it's the Children's Parade, which I had hoped to take Cate and X to - but will have to wait - but, please, dress up the kids in costumes and GO if you can. It's loads of fun.

Finally, the food - it's all the fare I grew up on: peas and rice, jerk chicken, fried plantains, etc. etc. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

If you do go but have to travel I found this website that is offering discounts of £15 off flexible rate room bookings at Travelodge. It's worth looking into.

The carnival is this coming Sunday and Monday - August 29th and 30th. Go and let me know how it much fun you had. Wish I was going too.... (I am not affiliated with the Carnival - I just really like it!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Time to pack!

We are heading back to the US next week and I'm already eyeing the suitcases and dusting off the carry-ons. Packing for two small children is truly a job for a professional. I am no professional but I'm a fairly good amateur.

The trick is to get the carry-on done first and then the suitcases. I pack everything about two days before we leave and then the night before I take half of the stuff out. I found a great site for packing a carry-on suitcase here.

Here's another for traveling internationally with a baby.

So here's what we HAVE to pack:

  1. One toddler car seat
  2. One stroller
  3. The baby's Sit 'n Stroll - a fabulous carseat and pram in one. Check it out here.
  4. The portable high chair
  5. Toddler inflatable Peppa Pig Bed - love this. See it here.
  6. Sheets for baby bed (don't have to bring the Pack and Play as we have one there)
  7. Toys, crayons, crafts, etc. for the plane ride
  8. Toys, crafts, etc. for while we're there
  9. Diapers for the flight and a few to tie us over until we buy some there
  10. Baby food for the flight and for two days once we get there
  11. Snacks for the toddler
  12. Formula for the entire trip (God forbid he decides he does not like US formula)
  13. Bottles and sippy cups as well as plates, bowls, forks and spoons for little ones
  14. Clothes for two children for a two week stay
  15. Two changes of clothes for each child for the flight (just in case)
  16. Diapers, toiletries, medication, diaper cream, lotions, potions, etc.
  17. Portable DVD, DVDs, the Archos with Sesame Street and Peppa Pig, I pod, Laptop and all extensions, batteries and chargers as well as the adaptors.
  18. Favourite doll, blankies and teething toy for the flight
  19. Cate's water wings, the life vests for X as well as the flight safety harness for X
  20. Keys to the house in the US
  21. Large bottle of panadol for Mommy with several mini vodkas

Ack! I know I'm forgetting something. And that's just for the kids! All I really need is a pair of flip flops a change of clothes and a book. A damn good book. Any suggestions?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh right....we're in love

Last night Fen came home after midnight holding a bouquet of sunflowers. He just smiled and handed them to me. I was completely surprised and delighted but confused.

"What are they for?"

"No reason. Just because I love you."

My Fen is not the romantic type but he can pull one out of a hat every now and then. I was so pleased. This year has been particularly hard on us - he forgot Valentines, didn't do anything for our anniversary or Mother's Day (even forgot my birthday but don't tell him I told you). We were really busy and he was under a lot of stress so I forgave him. So the fact that he just felt like getting me flowers is a big deal and I was thrilled.

Funny how such a small gesture means more than diamonds, rubies and pearls. He loves me! How nice. We've been together almost nine years, married for 7 1/2 but we've still got 'it'! And I love him too. I do little things for him like pack a lunch or dinner for him every day. And I sneak little surprises in so he has a little something sweet to snack on.

With the kids and the move we don't really have much time to focus on 'us'. So it's nice to know that 'we' are just fine and still mad for each other.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hampstead


I found the most wonderful website that is all about the history of Hampstead - the roads, buildings, pubs, etc. I spent over an hour poring over it and loving every minute. Both photos here are of the High Street circa 1902.

It's filled with photos old and new. Very interesting stuff, makes me love living here even more.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gone running...

funny animated gif

This morning I caught a glimpse of my profile in the mirror and was not happy about it. I haven't lost the baby weight and decided I need to do something about it soon. I thought about how much I used to run and how great it would be if I could start getting back out there. As my mind wandered I was signing up for 5k's and effortlessly dashing through the hills of Hampstead like Wonder Woman.

I came out and said to Fen, 'I want to start running again' to which he replied, 'That's great! I'll watch the kids - go have fun.'

Eh? I was only thinking I needed to get going - wasn't really planning on starting this morning. But, hey, no time like the present so I laced up the trainers and was out the door.

Only one word can describe my attempt at 'running' - tragic. Wonder Woman could run circles around me and tie me up with her golden lasso of truth - no problem. Granted I haven't run in almost two years (had to stop November 2008 to have my appendix out and then was inconveniently pregnant a week after I got the okay to exercise again). Muscles I forgot I had strained to get me up the first hill.

I huffed and puffed but I ran. And I'm going to try again tomorrow - or whenever my legs stop aching so much. However, the big news is: I'm running again. Hooray. If you see an out of shape woman struggling up a hill in Hampstead - that's me! Please stop and give me a lift.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blow Your Own Blog Horn

Spread the word about your blog. Mummy's Little Monkey has a fabulous new promotion called Blow Your Own Blog Horn. I love her blog regardless but this I had to share. Here is the gist - completely pilfered from the lovely Jacqui:


For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept yet - simply write your regular post, or flag up an old favourite, then enter your URL details with Mr Linky below, and he'll do the rest of the work.

Then share the love by visiting some of the other entries on the list, including Mummy's Little Monkey, of course! If you like what you see, follow them, or pop them in your reader. If you comment on anyone's blog, remember to let them know who you are, and how you found them.

You don't even have to be a Mummy Blogger - or a Blogger at all - to join in the fun. Anyone can check in each week to find some funny, fascinating, and insightful new blogs to follow.

The list starts fresh every week, and you are welcome, strongly encouraged even, to regularly relist your details. There are no limits to the number of times you can 'Blow Your Own Blog-Horn'.
In fact come  back every single week - we're always pleased to see you! You don't need to leave a comment each time (unless you'd like to, of course).

So head on over to Mummy's Little Monkey and add your name to the list: HERE

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Archie Comics

This morning the NY Times ran a piece on the revamping of Archie Comics (read  it here).  He's going global and not just with comics but with clothing,  film and more. He's hot again. Last year he got married - twice (in two different futuristic scenarios) and parodied both Jersey Shore and Twilight in it's pages which won it a lot of press.

As a kid I devoured Archie Comics - a Betty and Veronica double digest was a huge treat when mom or dad brought one home. I read them over my Frosted Flakes in the morning and loved all of it.Was seriously rooting for Betty to win Archie's heart (although I always thought Reggie was better looking).

I understand that brands have to change with the times but I'm disappointed that the relative sweetness and innocence of the Archie characters is going to change. He's going to be more of a playa - no more love triangle with just Betty and Veronica - he's expanding into Josie and the Pussycats and beyond. Heavy sigh.

I just hope he doesn't start talking gangsta and dressing like a street kid. Archie isn't the last bastion to clean-cut wholesomeness but it's the last one from my childhood. I'll be sorry to see him and the gang change.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

I'm not sure if it's ironic or coincidental that the six month mark of our arrival in the UK is today: Friday, the 13th. Seems appropriate, however. Personally, thirteen has been a lucky number for me and appears in my life seamlessly: 13 days between meeting my husband and our first date, 13 tables at my wedding, etc. I think 13 has received a bad rap.

Fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia, frigga, meaning "Friday" and triskaidekaphobia, or paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Friday) and dekatreís (13), attached to phobía (fear). The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a reference text in 1953.

However, there is no written evidence for a "Friday the 13th" superstition before the 19th century. The earliest documented reference occurs in an 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who ironically (coincidentally?) died on November, Friday the 13th that year.
  
But there are many different theories on the topic. One states that that it is a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions: that thirteen is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day.

In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve hours of the clock, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, twelve gods of Olympus, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.

Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century's The Canterbury Tales, and many other professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.It has also been suggested that Friday has been considered an unlucky day because, according to Christian scripture and tradition, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.


But, even with all that hanging over me - I'm hoping to have a banner day. And I hope you do too!

(This information was gathered from several sources including Wikipedia, online articles and google).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neighbours

As most of you know we moved into a new building and I've been very happy with it - even though it's really too small for us. I've met almost everyone in the building and they are all terrific - never saw Frenchie again - not sure if he still lives here. But it's been wonderful - very reminiscent of living in a dorm - people always around - back garden is a hang out - kids everywhere. Very friendly and fun.

One of the neighbors - a really sweet woman with two children aged 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 - and I have become somewhat chummy. We've had a few play dates in the building but don't venture outside - not even to the back yard. She's worried the kids will run in opposite directions and she won't be able to keep an eye on them. I've offered to keep an eye on her kids with her, and I've invited her to hang with a few other mommies so we can all watch the kids in a controlled, fenced environment but she is too wary of it. I respect her decision and we've settled into just visiting each other at our respective flats. That's fine with me.

However, I've noticed lately that she is very afraid of just about everything. She told me that there is a shelter for violent sex offenders down the road. So I looked into it - and there isn't one. Then she told me the Tavistock Centre - which is way down the road - helps rehabilitate the criminally insane - yet I haven't discovered that division of the centre just yet.

Today she called me while I was out at a playground and scared me half to death. She said there was a strange man lurking about the building peering in my windows and trying to get in the front door. When she asked him what he was doing he moved away so she could get in the door and then a few minutes later there was a knock on her door (she's on the second floor - third floor to any Americans reading). She called our management company who told her to call the police but she didn't.

I came barrelling home as fast as I could - pushing my giant double stroller with both kids half bouncing out of their seats. When I pulled up out front, worried we'd been broken into and my engagement ring was pinched as well as all our electronics including this computer (my THIRD since we moved here) there was nothing - none of the windows were touched, no one was around, the windows weren't tampered with, no visible fingerprints anywhere.

I had frantically called Fen to tell him someone was trying to break in and he was very nonchalant about it so I hung up on him in my rush to do what - I have no idea. If someone was in the flat I would have run in the other direction and called the police. I'm no karate expert and there's no way I'm putting my kids in harms way for any reason.

When I called my neighbor she was upstairs, calm, and said she didn't call the police because she could have been mistaken.

What?

I was so annoyed that I came rushing home worried that we were being broken into and the building was under siege! Maybe I made too much of it. But I spoke with Fen and we think that she is making me a bit of a nervous nelly myself!

Is it me or is my lovely neighbor too much of an alarmist? Honestly, she has me locking windows and peering out the window before I leave 'just in case.' Am I paranoid?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Entertaining the troops

All summer long I've been searching for things to do with my little ones. X, the baby, is easy. He's happy to go anywhere as long as I'm with him (or Fen). Cate, on the other hand, is at that curious stage where entertainment is key. Entertainment for her meaning - how much she can run, explore, be with other kids and be happy; and entertainment for me meaning - wear her out so she goes to bed on time without fuss.

So we've had loads of playdates, swims at the splash pool, under 5 clubs, art, soft play, parks, etc. The summer has been a great time to explore the Heath and the neighborhood. But now many kids are off to nursery school in the fall and I'm looking for more things to entertain Cate.

We have her signed up for ballet and gymnastics but I'm looking into expanding her horizons a little. Since we're in Europe for a few years there's nothing like starting her early on something. I'm thinking a language or maybe ski lessons. I found this great place that has an INDOOR ski school that's even open in the summer - just outside of London! That's crazy! I love it. I've seen indoor skiing on television but now we have the chance to experience it first hand. I think Cate will LOVE it.

I was big into snowboarding back in my hey-day (or is it salad years) but haven't shredded lettuce since I got pregnant with Cate four years ago. Maybe it's time the whole family to bundle up and head off to the slopes (X will have to wait for a year or two).

We want our kids to have every advantage of living in Europe at a young age which includes skiing and foreign languages. We have to start somewhere so why not start with fun?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Inspiration is back!


I'm making a peach pie this afternoon.

About an hour after I posted my blah post I turned on the TV to keep me company as I did a little housework. Lo - I found Ina Garten - the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. And Rachael Ray! I was so excited. I have missed watching both of them. I love Paula Deen too but I can't find her yet.


It may seem like a small thing to most of you but I absolutely love to cook (good thing Fen loves to eat). I haven't been really inspired to get back into experimental cooking of late - I've just been making the same old stuff: lasagna, steaks, chicken in a various forms, etc. Nothing fancy.

Just half an hour of Ina and I was pulling out the cookbooks with wide eyes, eager to create something more difficult than a basic stuffed chicken. We're having folks over for dinner tonight and I'm going to cook up a little something exciting. I'll let you know how it goes down. I love Ina's tomato tarts. I used to make them all the time but haven't in ages and ages. Maybe I'll make them as an appetizer. Hmmmmm... so much to consider.

As I said yesterday, I'm starting to feel at home more - the inspiration is coming. Thank God, again!!!

Back to baking my peach pie....,

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Uninspired and a little home sick

I've been so busy lately I've been completely uninspired to write my blog. There are a lot of things coming up - our trip to NY and our cottage in PA, which I'm really excited about but I'm also a tad worried.

I haven't been outside of New York City for more than 3 1/2 weeks in over 19 years but I've been gone for six months. It's going to be very odd to go back again. I'm worried it's going to upset me a great deal. Although things are going well in London now, I still find myself pining for my old life in NY.

The thing about New York that I always loved is that you are always aware of the fact that you're in New York City. On a daily basis I'd see the landmarks that make the city so famous - my office was a stone's throw from the Empire State Building, Times Square and Madison Square Garden. I saw them all often. I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and waved at the Statue of Liberty and gazed at the city skyline. I loved it. I really did. But, to be fair, after nearly 19 years, I was ready for a change.

I came to London eager to start anew and create a new life here for a few years. Everyone warned me how hard it was going to be and it has been. Granted I've had a few rough patches with being sick so many times, having an infant, and let's not forget the dreaded eviction. But it's getting better.

Last night, for the very first time, I forgot where I was and just felt at home. After four apartments in one year (our Brooklyn apt, the corporate housing, flat 1 and now flat 2), I finally feel like we're settling in and getting comfortable. Thank God.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bath, Wilton House, Wales

This is Wilton House - the home of the 18th Earl of Pembroke. It's been in his family for over 500 years. It's breathtakingly beautiful, meticulously maintained and absolutely awe-inspiring. It wasn't on our original list of houses to see but I stumbled upon it while shuffling through our Wilshire guide. It was just outside of Salisbury - just a few miles outside of town. SO worth the trip. We took a tour of the house and strolled through the gardens. Cate had a great time at the adventure playground too. It was a wonderful few hours.  They filmed parts of Sense and Sensiblity, Young Victoria, Mrs. Brown, Pride and Prejudice (it was Pemberly in the Keira Knightly film) and in a bunch of other things. I highly recommend it!
 Here's Cate strolling through the gardens at the entrance. Shortly after this photo was taken the Earl himself drove out of the private section and left the house. He's very handsome, young and recently married - sorry ladies!

It took less than an hour to get to  Bath - I was surprised by the colour of the buildings - almost all of Bath is a beige, limestone rock - the buildings, not the city. Miles and miles of buildings with this Bath rock (as I was told it's called there). We strolled all over the city. Took in the Abbey which was, once again, magnificent.

We had dinner at the Pump House which I have always wanted to do. I've seen it in so many movies and televisions shows as well as having read about it in so many books - it was a must do. It was fun - not quite the glamour of the old days, but there was a brilliant pianist playing and the fountain with hot spring water was open - serving people glasses full of it. I had to have one. Funnily enough - it tasted like hot water! Who'd thunk it?

The next day we toured the Roman Baths - here's Fen and X:
It was really fascinating going through it. There were a few excellent exhibits explaining how the baths were found, built and then utilized. I have to say it was one of the more interesting exhibits I've seen in a long time.

We then took off for Wales. Our first stop was Castle Coch - it's was UNREAL - like a fairy castle hidden in the hills.
 It's history is very interesting - it was actually a ruin that was bought again in the Victorian era and rebuilt into this fairy like castle. It's beautifully decorated but we didnt' take any interior photos (not allowed). You can see/read more about it here.

We did a quick tour of Cardiff and Newport before settling in for the evening. The next day we drove to Uffington in England - the Cotswolds in search of the largest White Horse. We found it but I have to say - we couldn't make out a horse from the limestone chalk! Still, it was pretty impressive. Here it is:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stonehenge, Sarum and Salisbury

There they are! My two kiddies and the mystical rocks of Stonehenge. This was the first stop in our Wilthshire/Wales tour of the British countryside. I have to say that there is a castle or pub on every corner in this land. I find that too fabulous for words as it's two of my favorite things on earth: history and hooch.

It was less than two hours from London to Stonehenge and the drive is nice and easy once you're out of London. Following our maps with me barking directions while Fen sped his way through the country roads - we drove up a hill and there it was - Stonehenge. I was surprised how close to the road it was - just about 50 feet - it was all fenced off and you cannot just wander over to it but it's right there for the world to see. I don't know what I was expecting - I always assumed it was  in the middle of nowhere and we'd have to walk a distance to see it from a crest of a hill, swirled in a mist with celtic music mysteriously tinkling o'er the land -  or something (I have romantic notions about all things historical).

We parked and went in and I was immediately awestruck at how truly huge and amazing it is. It's hard to get lost in your thoughts and try to imagine how they were built and the history and people it has seen when you have two small children. But I did manage to admire it and attempted to imagine it 2000+ years ago for about five minutes. Because as we wandered, we decided to pose for photos (see above) but Cate decided to make a break for it; she ducked under the rope and sprinted across the grass heading straight for the great stones! Fen was right behind her, but she is one slippery little girl - there is a ditch on the far end and she was already at the top of the other side when Fen finally caught her. The crowd was really amused - I was horrified. She was completely unfazed by her law-breaking. We left shortly after.

We drove down to Salisbury which is a very, very charming town. We drove past Old Sarum, which was the original Salisbury - they built Salisbury when the walls of Sarum proved too small to accomodate the growing population. The cathedral is magnificent. We wandered through it for a long time reading tombstones and absorbing the history. So many of the women buried there were very young and I'm guessing that a lot of them died during childbirth. Makes me wonder if I would have survived having Cate 100 years ago.
Wandering through the town, which is on the River Avon, was like a walk through time. We stayed at a small hotel and had breakfast at the Kings Head Inn which is this gorgeous pub right on the river. I thought it was very charming. The river, however, is very small at this point. We did cross it at several points where it was a larger river, but here it's rather shallow and not very wide but quiet lovely, flanked with weeping willows and swans. And it's the river Avon that inspired Shakespeare!


That morning we went to Old Sarum - the ancient ruins of the first settlement in that area. It's very impressive. I cannot imagine how they built these magnificent castles. Here is X - the King of Old Sarum and Cate who took up croquet on the courtyard lawn!
If you're a history buff - click on the links in this post - they are all really interesting and full of photos. (this is not a paid endorsement - I just love history and want to share)

More soon.