Monday, April 30, 2012

Forvie Beach and Nature Reserve Clean-up

Yesterday we went to the Forvie National Nature Reserve for a nature reserve and beach clean up.  We spent about 3 hours in the sun and wind picking up trash to beautify the beach and reserve.  Despite how it sounds, the kids had a great day and we did too.  It was exhausting but fun.

Big Boy made a contribution far beyond my expectations.  He picked up trash and put it into my bag and he was a great runner - he ran back and forth telling the organizer about bigger trash that required pick up by the truck.

After the clean up we rounded out the day with a delicious 2 hour pub lunch.  I like the ratio of work:treat!  The kids were very good at the pub, and I suspect it is because they were exhausted!

Here are some photos of Forvie:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Infrequent Posting

You may have noticed that over the past week or so my posts have become less frequent.  I blame this on the NHL Playoffs.  I have less access to the computer now, because playoff stats and scores must be checked....but I'll post more once the Stanley Cup has been won!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

There is a song stuck in my head....

and I don't like it.

By this I mean that I don't like that there is a song stuck in my head and I also don't like the song that is stuck in my head.  The song is not a particularly good song.  It's lyrics are an incredibly thinly stretched metaphor and I don't find the tune or singer to be anything particularly special (but the singer does have gorgeous hair).  I have not heard the song very many times, but still, it is lodged in my brain.

What song is it?  "Baggage Claim" by Miranda Lambert.  Here is a link if you are really interested:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


We are into our second week of rain.  Since we arrived in Aberdeen in September, this is the longest period of rain we have had, and I gather we have been lucky to have had such a mild winter.

The rain here is unrelenting, it buckets down noisily and blocks out the sun.  Every day there seems to be a dry period, but that does not last long!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saving Children's Clothes

I hate waste and I am very cheap (ahem, frugal) so I don't want to spend any more money than necessary to clothe my children.  When Big Boy was a small baby, most of his clothes ended up disgusting and soiled beyond comprehension - these clothes went straight into the garbage.  Once he was about 6 months old, I started to save all of his clothes after he grew out of them.

I saved the clothes in labelled boxes and put them into a closet in our large house in Canada.  When we decided to move to Dubai, I included these clothes in the shipment so that Little Boy could wear them when he was big enough.  Unfortunately, the moving company in Dubai unpacked all of the "too small" clothes along with all of the "current" clothes and threw out the boxes!  So I had to buy new storage bins, sort the clothes and re-label them.

Little Boy is gradually growing into Big Boy's clothes.  Little Boy is rougher on the clothes, so more of them end up in the bin, but I have been saving his old clothes as well.  

When it was decided that we would move to Scotland, our entire apartment in Dubai was packed up, including the boxed clothes.  Those clothes are now here in Scotland, occupying space in our (much smaller) closets.  Some of the clothing is not quite appropriate for Scotland, but we make do.  For example, Little Boy has a spring/fall jacket, but it is not waterproof.  He wears it anyways.

Last week I was walking through the children's clothes section in ASDA, trying to find socks for Big Boy.  They are having a sale, and I found the prices shocking.  T-shirts for Little Boy were £1, trousers and jeans were £2 and a waterproof jacket was £3.  For about £20 (around $30 Canadian), he could have a functional wardrobe.  So why did I move boxes of kids clothes half-way around the world?  And why do I insist on storing them in our valuable storage space?  Why do I waste time labelling and sorting the clothing?  And why does Little Boy have to "make do"?  And why did I not buy the waterproof jacket for £3?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dinner Party Music

In my (humble?) opinion, if you are having any kind of party, music is necessary.  Music playing in the background covers up awkward conversation lulls, some small sounds and adds an ambience to the gathering.

Sometime the type or theme of the party dictates the music – an 80’s themed house party had better be replete with classic 80’s albums.  But what about a dinner party?  At a dinner party you could justify almost any genre, artist or album.  You might want to try to impress your guests with highbrow classical and opera (oooh - please don't unless you genuinely love it).  Or you might want to appear worldly by playing a local native-language album purchased on your last foreign holiday.   Etc, etc….there are limitless options.

When we have had adult dinner parties in the past (not the sort with kids screaming around while adults try to carry on a conversation while disciplining their offspring), we have usually played an unassuming mix of our eclectic music collection.  But I have decided that next time we will pick an album and stick with it.  Which album?  “Rock Swings” by Paul Anka.  It is an album full of cheeky covers of rock songs that were popular in our youth.  It is perfect – it fits into the background, it is unassuming and not noisy, and it is slightly ironic.

Any other suggestions?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Caved!

So, I caved.  After 5 years of a “no video game” policy, I downloaded some games onto my phone for Big Boy.  How did this come about?  Last week we had our parent/teacher conference at Big Boy’s school and the teacher pointed out that he is weak on numbers 6-10 and also certain letters and phonics.  We, of course, ramped up our home efforts and started to practice the letters and numbers with him.  Unfortunately, he seems to have a fear of being wrong, so he more “asks” the answer than “states” the answer, which leads to extra help.

I had the idea that a computer game might make him more comfortable with the concept of guessing.  I was correct, when he is wrong, most of the games just encourage him to “try again” and he does not seem to worry about that.

What I was surprised about was how many junk games there are out there.  I downloaded 7 games, and only 2 were halfway decent.  One is a sophisticated flashcard game that mixes upper and lower case letters, phonics and numbers.  He seems to enjoy this game for 2-5 minutes and then want to move on.  I’m OK with the short-lived nature of the game.

The other game is more interesting and lively - it involves tracing letters, then learning their sounds and then making letters into words.  It moves along from one activity to another quite quickly and he seems to enjoy it a bit more.  This game seems to get about 15 minutes of play before he is “finished.”

So far, this experiment is working – he is learning quite quickly, and it seems like a treat for him to play.  He doesn’t seem to want to play for long, but I will limit his time to very short intervals if it ever comes up.

I don’t think I’m sold on non-educational games at this point….

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rain Update!

We have not yet had a full day of rain.  There has always been at least a little sun and time to go outdoors each afternoon.  I have my fingers crossed for the next few days!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Little Boy and his New Favourite Toy

Little Boy has a new favourite toy.  My husband bought it for him on an outing this weekend because "it was on sale and he really loved it in the shop."  He really loved it because he has played with it frequently at our friend's house.  Big Boy has of course reacted jealously over this new toy and has tried to take over and "show" Little Boy how to play with it.  Fortunately with this toy Little Boy has his own ideas, and he has been having great fun.

So, what is the toy?  Here are pictures:

The kettle plays music and reminds you to say "please."
Little Boy does a strange little dance (he looks like a mechanical bull rider) when the kettle plays a whistling song.

This is a better shot of the 3 cakes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rain, Rain Go Away!

It is raining today and the forecast shows rain for the whole week.  If that actually happens, it will be the first week of rain that we have had in Aberdeen….oh wait, yesterday was sunny, so will it actually be a week?

Anyways, this rain means business.  It is bucketing down and cold and you get soaked to the bone when you walk the 10 feet from the car to the house….miserable.  Despite all of that, I think it is still really pretty around here.

I think the Grampian Highlands are so pretty in the rain!

Our daffodils seem to enjoy the extra moisture.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Roast Chicken Dinner

Last night I made a roast chicken for supper.  I (almost exactly) followed the Jamie Oliver roast chicken recipe from his book “Jamie’s Dinners.”  The chicken was delicious and perfectly cooked.

Here is a picture of the big bird to get your mouth watering before I describe it in painful detail...

What is unique about the recipe is that before you put the chicken into the oven to roast it, you boil a lemon (and some garlic) for 12 minutes.  Then you take the lemon out of the boiling water, stab it a bunch of times and insert the super-hot lemon into the cavity of the chicken, along with the garlic and some thyme.  The lemon keeps the chicken moist and it starts the cooking process from the inside.  This helps with the even-ness of the cooking as well as the moisture of the chicken breast.

I was fortunate enough to have fresh thyme, as a friend gave me a plant and it is sitting on the balcony outside my kitchen just waiting to be used.

Half way through the hour-long cooking process you add potatoes to the pan and optionally add bacon on the chicken breast.  I added the bacon, and the bacon was delicious (obviously) but also the bacon added extra moisture and flavor to the chicken breast.

I departed from the recipe with regards to the potatoes.  The recipe suggested parboiling the potatoes in the lemon/garlic water once you are done using it for the lemon and garlic.  I did not do this; I just stuck them raw into the pan at the ½ way mark.  Why?  Because I have had little success with parboiling.  Everything I have ever parboiled turns out like mush at the end of the day.  Also, the recipe promised “crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside roasties” (remind anyone of a radio advert?  (OK, the advert is here in the UK)), and this is not how I like my roasted potatoes.  I like them crispy on the outside and firm/rubbery on the inside. 

I did, however cover the potatoes with fresh rosemary (another gift from the same friend) – and it was delicious.  As an aside, Big Boy recently did a Mother’s Day project where he had to answer a bunch of questions about me – what foods I like, etc.  For the food section, he said I like cappuccino and rosemary and pears.  I don’t particularly like pears, but everything else is bang on.

If you make chicken like this, you need to adjust your expectations regarding the skin.  It is not particularly crispy, especially beneath the bacon.  I found that for the pieces I ate (a leg and part of the breast) I just pulled the skin off – the meat was flavorful and moist without it.  Also, the lemon, garlic and thyme added more of an aroma during the roasting than they did flavor to the chicken.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Daffodil Project

I have been waiting to write this post - rather impatiently, I think.  Last September I was wandering through Lidl (yes, I am under 80 years old...unlike most of the other customers) and they had daffodil bulbs on sale.  I decided to buy a package and use them as a "project" for Big Boy.

We borrowed a garden tool from Big Boy's school and planted the bulbs in late September 2011.

The bulbs sprouted quickly and in mid December we had small green leaves shooting out.

In late February we had stems.

By the end of March, we had buds and tall stems.

We had a minor setback in early April (the snow).

But a few days later (April 10) we had blooms!

The best surprise was that some of the daffodils were not ones that we planted!  We planted the "Amaryllis" variety - the light coloured ones with yellow centres.  I am assuming that the yellow ones were from the previous owners (or possibly our packet had more than one variety).

I think the flowers are just lovely!


Friday, April 13, 2012

A Roadway Incident

I saw a really terrible incident on the road the other day.  I will describe it here.  Just in case you are weak of stomach, I will tell you right now that no physical harm comes to anyone in this story.

The other day I was driving home with the kids in the back of the car.  I was waiting to turn right (across traffic) at an intersection behind another car.  An advanced turn signal started to flash indicating that we could turn right and the other car started to drive.

I was staring into the intersection and I noticed that a family of 4 (2 adults, a baby in a pram and a boy of about 5 wearing a leash/harness) had decided to jaywalk across the road that we were about to turn onto.  I also noticed that there was no way the car in front of me would be able to see them until it was really far into the turn, possibly without time to stop.  So I (along with a number of other drivers) started honking to try to alert the driver of the jaywalkers in her path.

The little boy in the harness dropped his water bottle in the middle of the street and started turning around to get it.  He was heading right into the path of the turning car.  His mother jerked on the harness pulling him back, and the car, which was driving very slowly and cautiously managed to stop so that the family could cross without any harm.  Then the mother went back into the street and retrieved the water bottle while the car waited.

My heart was in my throat as this all unfolded and I could see visible relief on the faces of the other drivers around me.  What a close call – a good reason not to jaywalk.

What was truly sickening was what happened next.  Instead of acknowledging how irresponsible it was to cross as a family against the signal in an advanced-turn intersection, the mother of the jaywalking family started to shake her fist, and curse at the car that miraculously stopped and did not hit her family.  I was livid about her reaction. 

Happiness in a Shoe

Big Boy needed shoes and I finally took him to the Clarks store to get fitted for some comfortable, proper shoes.  The store was sold out of most of the styles that he wanted in his size, but luckily I found a pair of trainers that he adores on the clearance rack.  They were only £15 (the regular priced shoes range from about £30 to £35) and they fit him really well.  They also come with a toy in the heel.  I have taken some pictures because it is tough to explain.

The insides of the shoes pull up to reveal a compartment with the 2 toys.
I think this will be disgusting after sweaty little feet have been wearing the shoes.

Here are the 2 toys together.

Here are the 2 toys separately.
He absolutely adores the new shoes.  There is only one problem – I think they are hideous!  I wanted him to get brown leather loafers…. 

As a footnote, he has been wearing the shoes for a while now and we have decided that the toys will stay out - no more digging through sweaty insoles!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

London - Part IV - Cambridge vs. Oxford Boat Race

On our last full day in London, we were invited by a friend of my husband to visit her home and watch the Cambridge vs. Oxford rowing race on the river right near to her house.  What a treat!

We spent the morning wandering around Piccadilly Circus area, and then we took the tube to Putney Bridge.  She met us at the station and then we wandered through the park by the river until we reached Fulham Palace, where we had a look around and the kids had some fun kicking balls on the grass.

We continued to walk along the river to The River CafĂ© (of Jamie Oliver fame), where we waited at the one-mile mark to watch the boats go by.  The plan was to then walk back to the house and watch the finish on the television while eating lunch.  We saw the boats row by and started back toward the house.  On the way we passed a pub with a television and noticed that the race had been stopped due to someone swimming in the water!

So we went back out to the river but we could not get a good view of what was going on.  We later learned that the race was re-started because of a swimmer that was swimming among the oars – crazy!  The race took a turn when two of the oars collided and the head fell off an oar.

Unfortunately, it was a race fraught with disaster, but the victors, Cambridge, were very dignified and restrained about their win – they did not celebrate on camera or even act particularly victorious.

After the race we had a lovely lunch and then headed back to the hotel for one last evening together.  The next morning we went home very early!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

London - Part III - Two Fun-Filled Days

On our first full day in London, we headed toward London Bridge after breakfast.  We took the tube to the London Bridge station and once we exited the station we wandered around the Borough Market for a while.  This is a delightful mainly open-air market selling all sorts of fancy foodstuffs.  I wished it were later in the day so that we could have lunch there.

We wandered on toward London Bridge, where we looked over to the Tower Bridge.  The weather was turning ugly, so we found lunch at M & S and stopped for a break.  After we ate, we walked over the Tower Bridge and then caught the tube to Covent Garden, where my dad took Big Boy to the London Transport Museum.  The museum was a hit – they both loved it an even stayed for extra time.  While they were learning all about transportation in London, my mom and I wandered around the boutiques and open-air market in Covent Garden.

The next day was Good Friday and it was gloriously sunny.  We decided first thing that we wanted to ride the London Eye.  Unfortunately, a lot of other people decided the same thing!

After breakfast we took the tube to Westminster and went to see about tickets.  I joined an insanely long queue and then bought tickets using my phone, allowing me to duck out of at least 30-45 minutes of line waiting.  Our tickets were for about 2 hours in the future, so we did a walking tour of the Westminster Abbey/House of Parliament area. 

At the appointed time, we joined the queue for the London Eye.  This queue was also insanely long, but it did move at a fair clip.  When we got to the front of the line we had to fold up our stroller and take Little Boy out.

I was very surprised to find that when you board the London Eye, the wheel does not stop moving.  You simply have to keep up and get into the car as quickly as possible.  Once you are in the compartment, you can move about as the Eye slowly turns.

The views from the Eye were amazing, and it was also neat to look at other compartments.  Little Boy spent the entire 1/2 hour ride with his nose pressed up to the glass yelling "wa wa" at the Thames.  I'm sure everyone else in our car was impressed.

After our London Eye ride, we met up with my husband and headed over to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  At the Cathedral, we met my sister-in-law (almost a family reunion!).  After St. Paul’s we took the tube back to our hotel near Paddington and got the kids settled in for a night of babysitting.

We headed out for dinner and a show while my parents watched the children.  It was pretty successful, Big Boy got to go swimming and Little Boy’s routine was not disrupted.  We had dinner with my sister-in-law and then we went to see Jersey Boys. 

Jersey Boys is a musical that follows Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  I have heard their songs, but I knew absolutely nothing about the group before the show.  Now I feel like I know everything about the group.  It was very good…the show was long, 2 hours and 40 minutes, but there were no slow patches and no dull moments.  I was extremely impressed and I had a great time on our date night.