Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kids Say the Darndest Things - Part II


slow potion” = “slow motion”

bone narrow” = “bone marrow”

spike hawks” = combination of “spiked hair” and “mohawk”

How do you know if the eggs are like this [hard boiled] or if they have the honey inside?”


"boxes under your eyes" = "bags under your eyes"


"yesternight" = "yesterday evening"


"Lots of people like to do bubble gum here."  - Big Boy said this as we walked around the streets of Glasgow and he saw all of the bits of gum sticking to the street.  The funny part was how he said it - he could have been referring to drugs, his voice was full of such disdain, like he was saying "Lots of people do heroin here."


"We'll see how I get on." - I asked him if he wanted to colour something else.  He said "We'll see how I get on."


"Hanker" = "Anchor"



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beautiful Day

The weather was lovely here in Aberdeen today.  It was +16 degrees Celsius.  I walked to school in both the morning and afternoon in a short-sleeve t-shirt with no sweater or jacket.

Playdate

Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon at a friend’s house.  Our children played together and we had my favorite food – soup! – for lunch.  After lunch we went for a walk through the forest.  Here are some pictures:





During our drive we saw snowdrops next to the road.  Here are some pictures:




Another gorgeous corner of Scotland.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Strange Sign

This weekend my husband and Big Boy went to basketball practice and I hung out at the beach with Little Boy.  It was a gorgeous day - blue clear sky and warm enough to wear a t-shirt without a coat.  the beach was picture-perfect.  Little Boy was teething and sick, so he was fussy and wanted constant motion.  The easiest way to achieve this was to plunk him in the stroller and push him around.  We walked by the beach for a while and then headed inland.   When we walked past a field we saw this curious sign:





The field indeed appeared to be boggy and muddy.  I have enough personal insight to know that I would never follow the instructions on the sign - even thinking about mud squishing into my socks makes my skin crawl.  Ewwwww.

I wonder who put the sign up?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Singing Kettle - Fancy Dress Party

Yesterday I took Big Boy to his first real concert.  It was also my first “children’s” concert as an adult.  We saw the Singing Kettle performing at the Music Hall in Aberdeen.  For the uninitiated, the Singing Kettle is a singing group that performs musical theatre shows for children with a focus on traditional Scottish music.  The group was formed in the 70’s and I think quite a few of the audience members were 30-somethings bringing their kids but also enjoying the show for nostalgic reasons. 


Concert tickets were £12 each, and after all of the fees, etc., 2 tickets came to about £28.  I thought the price was very good.

Today’s show was called the “Fancy Dress Party” and the audience was encouraged to wear fancy dress (in Scotland “fancy dress” seems to mean a costume…. definitely not the same meaning as in Canada).    Most of the children and many of the adults wore costumes.  There were cute pirates and princesses everywhere!  I was not planning to dress Big Boy in a costume, but I shoved his train engineer costume into my purse (this costume was a gift from a dear friend and has saved my bacon on a number of occasions).  When all of the other kids were dressed up I looked like a brilliant mummy having thought of the costume ahead of time. 

Before the show started, the staff threw giant balls into the crowd and the kids pushed them up to float through the air with their hands.  The balls were kind of like beach balls, but much bigger.  This was a huge hit.

The stage decoration consisted of a giant box (big enough to hold a person) surrounded by cut out backdrops of giant articles of clothing including bow ties, a cowboy hat and a fez.  There was a clown face with a light-up nose and two gloved (think Mickey Mouse) hands that could swish back and forth on mechanical arms.  When the show started, the singers taught the audience a party song with actions that repeated throughout the show.  During this song the stage fact lit up and the mechanical arms swished.  My son loved it!

The premise of the show was that the Singing Kettle group and audience were having a fancy dress party and hoped that the Mad Hatter would attend.  Throughout the show different guest characters would poke up out of the giant box in the middle of the stage and some would leave behind coloured kettles.  When a kettle appeared, this rhyme was chanted: “Spout, handle, lid of metal, what’s inside the singing kettle?” and the kettle would open to reveal a clue about what song to sing next.  I won’t tell you if the Mad Hatter did appear (no spoilers here) but I will say that the audience was not disappointed.

What distinguishes the Singing Kettle from other children’s performers is their cheek.  The songs are sometimes politically incorrect and there are moments of very childish physical comedy in the stage show.  The show is for children, so this makes sense.  To me, they are easiest to compare to a sillier than usual combination of the Wiggles, Raffi and Fred Penner.  The themes of their songs are sometimes naughty, for example the song with these lyrics:

“O ye cannae shove your Granny aff a bus
O ye cannae shove yer Granny
'Cos she's yer Mammy's Mammy
O ye can shove yer ither Granny aff a bus
Ye can shove yer ither Granny
'Cos she's yer Daddy's Mammy

But it’s all in good fun.

During the show there was an hilarious rendition of “Drunken Sailor” where they showed the sailor’s hair belly (a costume) and his anchor-tattooed nether regions (also costume!).  I’m not sure other children’s performers would be so daring…perhaps they would not even sing about how to sober up seamen.  I think this is the best part about the Singing Kettle – the silly fun that is not tempered by pointless positive messages.  That being said, there was a long skit about a gassy goose that I thought was only moderately funny and far too long.

Bonzo the Dog made an appearance.  I have to say that I am not a fan of Bonzo, but I was in the definite minority.  Bonzo sang the male part in a spirited duet version of “Oh Soldier Won’t You Marry Me” where he dressed up in all of the clothing mentioned, including ladies knickers!  Jock and Jeremy, the two chefs also made an appearance.

Overall I really enjoyed the performance and Big Boy (who is nearly 5) thought it was amazing.  I think that many of the children in the audience were not old enough for a show that was 2 hours in length (including the intermission).  Quite a few people in the seats around us left at the intermission because their kids where whiny, crying or sleeping, just from sheer exhaustion.  The pre-show excitement high seemed to catch up with some of the younger kids about 45 minutes into the show.

Big Boy had a couple of slight problems understanding the accent and dialect of the performers.  Specifically, one song repeated “Party, Party, Party” and he thought they were saying “Potty, Potty, Potty.”  He is surrounded by many accents at school and it is not generally a problem, but I think that when a voice is distorted through a microphone it can be more difficult to understand a foreign accent.

On the topic of microphones, I was pleasantly surprised by the talent and musicianship of the performers.  In the middle of the show, part of the sound system stopped working - effecting at least one microphone and some of the background music. The performers did not miss a beat – and Big Boy did not even notice. 

The concert was and extra special experience because it was in the Music Hall in Aberdeen.  This is a beautiful old concert hall and it was a pleasure to see the inside.  The outside has distinguished granite columns (because in Aberdeen, what isn’t granite?), and the concert space has a beautifully painted ceiling and massive chandeliers.  The theater has a balcony with a patterned iron rail surrounding it.  We did not sit on the balcony, so I don’t know how the view is, but is was probably great – it is a small theatre and the balcony is not particularly high up.

The Music Hall was built in 1822 and was designed by architect Archibald Simpson, an important Aberdeen architect.  The Music Hall was originally built as a series of assembly rooms – a space for the upper class people of both genders to gather.  In 1859 the Music Hall was opened as a concert hall.  Despite the grandeur of the building, the seating consisted of metal folding chairs lined up on floor markers.  I found this interesting, but the chairs were comfortable so it was not an issue.

If you are interested in checking out the Singing Kettle, I have included their website - they have some cute song videos - my favourite is "Swallowed by a Snake."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Long Week and Quick Review Link

We've had a long week.  Little Boy has been sick all week, and I have wiped his nose many, many times.

Yes, that is a slimy upper lip and chin!


We had a little accident while baking:


For those of you who like to keep score - 16 eggs broke out of a 30 egg pack.
None of them were salvageable.
It took about 10 minutes to clean up.
Percy from a Thomas the Tank Engine lego set is lying in bits amongst the eggs.  
Lego should not be washed in the dishwasher.


But after the clean-up we got on with it and made some lovely dinner buns:


I made 2 of them with delicious black olives - both for me!


Here is a link to some Quick Reviews I wrote on the Camel's Hump site: http://camelshump.co.uk/2012/02/24/quick-reviews-real-life-alive/

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crocuses!

A few crocuses have spontaneously popped up in our back garden.  I thought I would share some pictures.








Thursday, February 23, 2012

Great Customer Service


This week I had 2 great (and related) customer service experiences and I wanted to tell you about them.

In October, I bought a Cath Kidston wallet at John Lewis (a department store) in Edinburgh.  Last week I noticed that the stitching was pulling out of the folding part of the wallet, so I emailed Cath Kidston to see if they would assist me with a repair or exchange.

A lovely service representative from Cath Kidston promptly responded to my email, but after a brief email “conversation,” I learned that I needed to discuss the issue with John Lewis, as that is where I purchased the wallet.  The representative from Cath Kidston was polite and helpful.  Even though she could not help, she was a pleasure to deal with.

I next emailed John Lewis I emailed both the Edinburgh store where I bought the wallet and the Aberdeen store close to where I live.  Both stores replied within a day to instruct me to bring the wallet in and have a service representative look at it with a view to a possible exchange.

I took the wallet in earlier this week.  The customer service representative was also lovely.  She looked at the stitching, immediately declared it to be a manufacturing defect.  She did not blame the damage on me or complain that I had bought it months ago.

The John Lewis representative confirmed that I could not exchange for an identical wallet because they no longer are available, but she pulled similar ones and helped me pick a new one.  Then she checked all of the similar wallets for the defect that mine had.  Some of them (including my new wallet) had better stitching, and some had the same as my old wallet.  She pulled out the wallets with the inferior stitching to send back to the manufacturer so that no one else buys them.

That’s good service, in my opinion!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Premier Inn Glasgow (George Street)


While we were in Glasgow, we stayed at the Premier Inn on George Street, near Queen’s Street Station.  Premier Inn is a chain hotel and this was our first time staying at any Premier Inn.

When we arrived at the hotel and checked in, I was pleasantly surprised.  We were in a family room (room 200) and it was large and well laid out.  The room had a double (or maybe a queen, it was hard to say) and 2 twin beds.  We had a cot for the baby and there was plenty of room to spare.  One disappointment was that there was no fridge.

The hotel was an easy walk from Queen's Street Station and there were plenty of dining choices nearby at all price points.

The hotel was on a noisy street – all night there seemed to be revelers outside talking, singing, and yelling noisily.  I assume there was a pub nearby.  I’m not sure if weeknight noise would have been as bad – we only stayed for Friday and Saturday night.

The room was good value for what we paid and we will definitely stay in Premier Inn brand hotels in the future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, I'm another year older.  I plan to relax and spend time with the kids today.  Unfortunately Little Boy is sick, but, that's how it goes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Touring Glasgow


We arrived at Glasgow Queen’s Street Train Station at about noon on Friday.  Our hotel was very close to the station, so we went there and stored our bags before we went out to explore.  The first thing we noticed while walking around Glasgow was all of the dog mess on the streets – clean up after your dogs, Glaswegians!  It is disgusting to walk and push a buggy through dog mess!

We walked over to the east side of the city centre to see the Glasgow Cathedral.  The Cathedral was majestic against a cloudy sky, or at least half of it was – the other half was covered in scaffolding for a restoration project.  It seems like at least one major tourist sight is always covered in scaffolding in every city we tour...



We walked around to the back of the Glasgow Cathedral and over the bridge to the necropolis (no, I did not spell that wrong) and saw the many monuments with various statues.  We walked to the top of the hill for dramatic views of Glasgow.  On the way back down, we noticed a freshly dug grave next to an older-looking monument.

Then we walked into the Merchant Quarter for dinner and some shopping, and then it was time to turn in at the hotel.

On Saturday we woke up and walked over to the Garnethill area, where we ate breakfast and walked to the Tenement House.  This is a well-preserved example of the local lifestyle at the turn of the (last) century, but it was closed for the season (we knew this before walking over, but we wanted to see the outside).  During our walk we saw some examples of unique Glaswegian stained glass.  We walked over to Cowcaddens and caught the metro to Hillhead Station in the West End, near the University of Glasgow. 

Little Boy hated the metro ride.  He cried loudly both ways, and we are not sure why.  The metro was very old, very small, very loud, and very dirty.  It rocked and shook through the tunnels and entering the stations felt like stepping backward in time, to a period where train stations were small, dark and claustrophobic.  There is absolutely no accommodation for wheelchairs or buggies, so we had to fold up our buggy and carry it around.  Little Boy also needed to be carried for safety reasons.  The platform was narrow and dangerous with no guardrails or other safety mechanisms.  It was awkward for us to travel on the metro, but the journey was short and it took us to where we wanted to go.

We walked around the gorgeous old campus.  On campus, the snowdrops and crocuses were in bloom.




Next we made our way over to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  This museum was a wonderful surprise.  We went in to look at the exhibits of work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Boys (celebrated Glaswegian artists and designers) and after these exhibits we saw natural history, history, and science exhibits as well.  Big Boy is currently learning about bones in school and was delighted to see a real giraffe leg bone.  I thought the skeleton of the extinct Irish Deer was really cool.  

By far the most striking exhibit was the handing heads, a bunch of heads with different expressions hanging from the ceiling in a piece by Sophy Cave.  It’s hard to picture, so here is a link to a photo:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KelvingroveHangingHeads.jpg



The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a great place to take kids, both of our kids (at age 1 and almost 5) were interested and entertained.

After the museum we had lunch and then took the train back to the city centre and had a nap at our hotel.  We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city centre starting at George Square, taking in the dramatic architecture and the contrasting modern shops and restaurants.  We loved the light standards, here are some examples:

Near the Glasgow Cathedral


George Square

Look carefully and you can see a peacock on the building and nifty light standards.

I liked the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).  Here is a picture of the statue out front of GoMA….cheeky!


  
After supper on Saturday night we returned to GoMA to walk under the lights that blanket the street and create a “ceiling effect.”



On Sunday morning we had breakfast (Big Boy ate a full English without the black pudding all by himself!) and then headed over to The Barras, an historic street market that is named for the wheelbarrows that goods were once sold from.  It seemed like a farmer’s market crossed with a flea market crossed with a garage sale.  We looked around for a while and then left.  Once again, the streets were very dirty with dog mess….ewwwwww. 

We wandered around the city centre before we checked out of our hotel and caught the train back to Aberdeen…and snow! 


You don't need an arts degree to interpret this one...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ScotRail Journey from Aberdeen to Glasgow


This weekend we journeyed from Aberdeen to Glasgow on ScotRail.  ScotRail operates a web of rail lines all over Scotland, and we chose to travel on the train because we had a voucher (of course!).  The voucher allowed us to purchase 2 adult return tickets to anywhere in Scotland for £19 each, and each adult ticket allowed us to get a free child’s ticket, with reserved seat.  This was an amazing deal, for £38 we bought tickets to Glasgow that would ordinarily have cost more than £290.  My friend pointed out that we spent money in Glasgow that we may not have otherwise spent (hotel, dining out, etc.), but, we would have gone to Glasgow eventually.

Anyways, I will do a few posts about our trip, but I thought I’d first post about the train ride itself.  The train journey takes 2.5 hours, and to travel the same distance by car would take a bit over 3 hours.   It is an incredibly scenic route – it starts out following the coast of the North Sea through a number of small towns and then the hills are visible as you cross to the west into Glasgow.  The train makes a lot of stops (Stonehaven, Montrose, Arbroath, Carnoustie, Monifieth, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Perth, Gleneagles and Stirling) before arriving Glasgow Queen Street, but the stops are quite short and not really a bother, except for some seating issues – discussed below.

The trains we rode in both directions were older, but fairly clean.  We had reserved seating in a 4-some of 2 seats on either side of a table, which was a good set-up for a family.  There was space for our luggage and our large stroller, and we sat comfortably – or we would have, if Little Boy had been a bit more co-operative about sitting in his seat.

On the way to Glasgow, a refreshment cart came through our car, but we did not make any purchases, I had brought a lunch from home and we were not hungry. On the way back, the refreshment cart did not come around – it’s a good thing we were not relying on it for lunch. 

On the way to Glasgow, our seats were double reserved, meaning, we had reserved them and so had someone else.  We boarded the station before the other people, so we got to keep the seats.  After a lot of complaining and many discussions with ScotRail staff, the passengers who had been double-booked into our seats were moved to first class.  I’m glad it ended well, but everyone could have done without the aggravation.

The train journey was pleasant enough, with lovely scenery, but on the way home I had bad motion sickness.  Little Boy was overtired and would not nap, so we became grouchy travellers.  Big Boy loves trains, but I think that he got a bit bored just sitting at the table.  The train was quite full so we could not really walk around.

Our ScotRail vouchers were from Sainsbury’s and I will keep my eyes open for the next promotion.  We will definitely travel by train again!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Night Night

My husband is an expert at putting people to sleep...well, our children at least. He gets them to sleep in strange beds at hotels with very little bother. What a skill!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Package Delivery - Part II


Last week, I took two packages to the post office to send away.  One package was heading to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and one to New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.  For each package I selected the “airmail” option, which is supposed to take approximately 6 days.  Ground mail has an estimated delivery period of 30 days.

The cost to deliver the packages was fairly low, about £4 for both, or about $6 Canadian.  If I had selected ground mail, I would not have saved much – the cost would have been around £3.

Yesterday, 7 days after sending the packages, they both arrived.  I contrast this with the service we experienced when our Christmas parcels were being delivered, which was very disappointing – you can read about it here:  http://janiceljlj.blogspot.com/2012/01/package-delivery.html

Maybe I should give a “thumbs up” to Royal Mail and a “thumbs down” to Canada Post?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

MyFarm, My Month in Review


I have just finished my one-month membership with MyFarm, and it is time to reflect on the month.  You will recall that I was provided a free one-month membership for review purposes.  


Here is a link to my first post about MyFarm: 


http://janiceljlj.blogspot.com/2012/01/myfarm-initial-review.html


During this month I participated in one vote (called “MooWho”) where the farmers voted for which cattle herd the farm should purchase a bull.  After reading the materials and considering the viewpoints available on the MyFarm page, I voted for Irish Moiled.

During the month I accessed the MyFarm page a few times to brows the discussions and read up on the latest issues.  I am interested in these issues and I am interested in farming and food production questions.  I did find the web-only relationship with the farm a bit shallow.  I think the experience would have been richer had I visited the farm (I did not due to the distance from my home).  I also have to say that the discussion boards were not too busy during this month, but I did participate in a few discussions, one of which was cute – naming the new lambs.

I tried to get my son involved in being a virtual farmer.  He is almost 5 years old.  He found the pictures interesting and had some understanding of the issues. Once again, I think going to the farm would have helped immensely; the pictures and videos did not really translate for him.  I did see some educational materials on the site that looked interesting, but I think he is not quite old enough to understand.

Over all, I enjoyed my time as a farmer.  I think this is a quality project from the National Trust and there is a lot that a regular (non-farmer) person can learn by participating.  Happy Farming!


I am a member of the Mumsnet Blogging Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retail full editorial integrity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day everyone!  I will be celebrating with Little Boy, who has just learned how to kiss. He is a kissing machine, he kisses everything - books, people, furniture - you name it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Balmedie Beach Park


This weekend we went on a family outing to Balmedie Beach Park.  This beach park is, not surprisingly, located within the town of Balmedie, which is just north of Aberdeen.  The drive from our house (which is just south of Aberdeen), took about 25 minutes, with light weekend traffic.

Balmedie is one of the most beautiful beaches in Aberdeen.  It has lovely big bluffs with tufts of grass and there are sweeping views into Aberdeen and further north.  The North Sea is perpetually doted with huge tanker boats.  The beach is wide and is made of hard sand that is great for walking on.

The park itself is well maintained and consists of a system of pathways to the beach, one of which is wheelchair accessible.  There is also a very new playground, a shelter, picnic tables and a toilet area.  The carpark is a pay and display, but you only need to pay in certain summer months.  On a weekend morning the park is busy, but it is still fairly easy to get parking.

We had a wonderful time - the weather was perfect and the children behaved.  We got lots of fresh air!

Here are some pictures from our beach walk:

This is a looking away from the beach.  The path is through the top of the bluffs and you can see the surrounding farmland.  Gorgeous country!



We are putting our wellie boots to the test!

This is the view south down the beach toward Aberdeen.  Note the boats.

This is the view north up the beach.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Patching Trousers


 At home in Canada, I have a sewing machine.  It is in storage because of power conversion issues.  I miss having a sewing machine, but this week I had to attempt a project by hand because it was a necessity.  You see, Big Boy is rough on his pants (although here in Scotland they are called “trousers” because “pants” refers to underwear!).  He is constantly tearing the knees and I finally had to start patching them.

I looked on line and found fairly repetitive instructions (i.e. lots of different websites had basically the same instructions) for patching trouser knees and I took a stab at it.  I had to cut up an old shirt, but I think the result is pretty nifty.  I have added some pictures so you can see for yourself.  I know the blanket stitching is a bit sloppy; maybe next time I will have better control!





Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rodeo


Today we attended a rodeo at Big Boy’s school.  Not a real rodeo, but a fund raiser and fair.

We had a great time.  Big Boy played midway style games and watched a bronco.  There was line dancing, a chili cook-off and a silent auction.  We volunteered at a booth for ½ hour to support my son’s class.

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Backpack


I took my sons downtown this week to buy Big Boy a proper grown-up backpack that he can use for kindergarten next year.  Big Boy currently has/had a toddler backpack that has been claimed by Little Boy, and he needs a bigger one for school right now.  I was very aware of the requirement that the backpack fit A4 papers.

I did a bunch of research online because I wanted to make sure that I got a good price and that the backpack was not too small or too big.  I don’t want him bogged down by an adult pack.  I found a couple of stores in downtown Aberdeen that sell appropriately sized packs and I knew the prices and what I wanted.  I scoped them out and then went back with the kids so that Big Boy could “pick” his own pack (with my bossy guidance).

When we went downtown I had a couple of other errands in Bon Accord Centre and we had to walk right past the Disney Store.  I decided to let the kids walk through – they were being good and they never ask for anything at the store. 

Right at the front of the store was a display of discounted backpacks with “Cars II” pictures on them.  These packs were the exact size I was looking for and they were waterproof, something that none of the other packs I had scoped out were.  The Disney packs were ½ the price of the other packs.  So, I caved and Big Boy is now the owner of a perfectly sized Cars II backpack.