Thursday, May 31, 2012

McDonalds Dinner...Without Ketchup (or "Catsup")


On Tuesday night I was alone with the kids, feeling lazy and I found that we had nothing in the house for dinner.  I decided to deal with this state of affairs by taking the kids to the grocery store and bribing them with the possibility of going out for dinner if they were well behaved.

The kids were good at the store and so I let them pick where to go for dinner.  Guess what they picked?  McDonalds….of course.  We don’t go to McDonalds very often (the last time was for Big Boy’s birthday in Budapest) so they are very excited to eat fast food.

We went to the McDonalds at our local ASDA (Bridge of Dee in Aberdeen) because it is the closest McDonalds that I know of to our home.  I got the kids set up at a table with a highchair and I cleaned the tray.  Then I went to order our meals.  The food came out quickly and the clerk actually brought our food to the table.

Unfortunately, it was only at that point that they informed us that they were out of ketchup.  I could not believe it!  Ketchup is one of the courses that Big Boy names when he tells me what he wants to eat (for example - if I ask Big Boy what he wants for dinner, he says “fish fingers, ketchup, peas, carrots, hummus and rice”) and it is essential for his enjoyment of food at McDonalds.  I was surprised that they did not let us know of the shortage before we ordered…they could have even had a sign up in the front of the tills warning customers.

Funny thing, this is the same McDonalds that did not have coffee and tea for weeks late last year….http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/mcdonalds-and-kids.html

Now, you might be thinking "she was at ASDA, why didn't she just buy a bottle of ketchup if it was that important, it is, after all, a grocery store..."  The thought did cross my mind, but I could not think of a way to do it without leaving the kids entirely out of my sight and unsupervised for quite a few minutes.  I never leave my kids alone so this was out of the question.  The real questions is why did McDonalds not buy some big squeezy ketchup bottles for their customers?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waldorf Playgroup Toy


Little Boy has been attending a playgroup at the Waldorf School for a few months.  The Waldorf School is a very different environment than what Little Boy is used to and it seems to have a very positive effect on him.  He plays imaginatively with the toys in a focused manner and he is less rambunctious than he is in other circumstances.  The Waldorf toys really seem to encourage creative play.

Once the kids are settled in with their chosen toys, the parents (moms and dads) generally make crafts – usually small felt toys.  I got swept up in a spring theme and started a daffodil dolly toy a couple of months ago.  I missed a bunch of playgroup sessions after I started the project but I finally finished it.

My stitching is not perfect and I had to change the pattern a bit to hide some flaws, but I think the end result is pretty cute.  The toy consists of a daffodil that holds a dolly.  Here are some photos:

The completed toy.

The two separate pieces.





Tuesday, May 29, 2012

School Sports Day - Olympic-Themed!


I have to admit that I’m becoming exhausted from all of the “school is nearly over” activities.  Yesterday we had such a busy day.

I took the boys out for breakfast (a large hot breakfast at Sainsbury’s café, a real deal for kids at £2!).  After breakfast we went shopping for some essentials for the kids – t-shirts for Little Boy who is currently wearing Big Boy’s stained and awful t-shirts (3 for £7 at Sainsbury's) and some sunglasses for Little Boy as well.  He scored!

We rushed home and Big Boy changed into his football kit and we went to football class.  After football, the kids ate sandwiches in the car while we drove home.  Little Boy went down for a ½ hour nap and then I had to wake him to go out.  Big Boy had to do another change of clothes.

We rushed to the school for sports day.  It was really well done!  The events were Olympic themed with really well-done “London” styled decorations.  Here are some photos:






The kids had a lot of fun and, of course, everyone won a medal.

One of the Olympic-themed games at sports day.
After sports day we drove out to see our friends in the country and had a long playdate.  Then we rushed home for a quick dinner….how exhausting!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Duthie Park Outing


Yesterday we went to Duthie Park for a family fun day.  It was a fun day out and the weather was perfect.


The park is still undergoing construction but that did not get in the way of the celebration.  There were booths with carnival games and a roving bagpipe band.  


We watched a sports event for a while that was a bit odd - it involved teams carrying buckets of water that had many holes through an obstacle course to fill a large barrel.  While the sports event was interesting to watch, the pause between races was really long and we ended up moving on.

We took the kids over to the upper playground in the park.  I’m not a big fan of this playground because it is old and I think it is not up to modern safety standards.  The highlight of the playground is an old tractor converted into a climber for the kids.


After the upper playground we popped into the Winter Garden where the kids wanted to see the desert area.  We wandered in the Garden for a while and then headed back out to the sunshine.  We walked back through the fair area and down to the lower playground.

While I’m not a big fan of the upper playground at Duthie Park, I think the lower playground is really cool.  It has slides built into a big hill and Big Boy ran up and slid down as many times as he could.


I hope this sunshine lasts!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunny Weekend


We are having a lovely weekend!  We kicked off the weekend at a picnic at school.  The school provided ice cream on a stick and the mums brought blankets.  The kids ran around in the sunshine and had a great time. 

I did have one complaint about the picnic.  Although the school organized the picnic and invited us all to come, they did not provide any activities for the kids.  I brought a ball for Little Boy that was soon swept into a football game among big kids – the only game or activity at the picnic.

On Saturday morning we had a big breakfast with the kids and then headed out to a birthday party.  The party was in a back yard and it was amazing!  There was a cotton candy machine, a bouncy castle with a slide and a magic show.  The kids had a blast.  Unfortunately we had to leave early (after about 3.5 hours) because Big Boy was booked in for a horseback-riding lesson.

Big Boy’s lesson went really well.  It was his first 1-hour lesson.  He got to trot and canter, a big step up from simply walking.

And the weekend is only half over…

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ghetto Postman

We have a few different mail carriers that deliver to our house.  Most of them are your standard, well dress mail carriers with a clean truck - but one carrier stands out.  We call him "Ghetto Postman" because he is a bit unkempt and his truck is messy.  Ghetto Postman even drives a sun-faded mail truck, while all of the other carriers have fresh, bright red trucks.  He has a long, scraggly pony-tail and his shirt is tucked in à la Wayne Grtezky.

Last week I was amused to see that Ghetto Postman did not even have his faded mail truck.  For some reason he was driving a rental vehicle that was white (!) instead of "Royal Mail" red and it had a big advertisement for the rental company on the side.

This week, Ghetto Postman (who is very friendly and promt with the mail) rang my doorbell.  I expected to be asked to sign for a package, but instaed he asked for the mail that he had just delivered to my house back!  It turns out that he delivered the wrong letters to our address!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back to Normal

Over the weekend our guests went back home and now our household is back to normal - or as normal as it can be during the school wrap-up season.  Big Boy is currently in a "Kindergarten Transition Week" at school and he is learning all about the differences between pre-school and kindergarten.  He could not be more excited!


On Tuesday Big Boy went for lunch in the cafeteria where the "big kids" eat and he proudly scarfed a plate of lasagna.  I'm not sure if he will eat at the cafeteria often next year, but now he knows how to load the tray and select his food.  Today he will have a computer lab orientation.


Yesterday and today have been gorgeous days with temperatures into the 20s here in Aberdeen.  On Tuesday, I skipped playgroup with Little Boy so that he could spend the time outside.  I calculated it and Little Boy spent about 4.5 hours outdoors on Tuesday!  Bog Boy was probably outdoors more because they have outdoor play at school.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What a Gorgeous Day!

The sun is shining and it is currently +17 Celsius at 10:45 in the morning!  The birds are singing....this is one of our nicest days yet - I was actually too hot this morning!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review - Tidlo First Bike (in Red) from John Crane


About a week and a half ago, we had a wonderful surprise delivery.  We received a First Bike in red from John Crane, Tidlo Brand to review.  Here is a link to the website for John Crane:  http://www.john-crane.co.uk/tidlo-first-bike-red/

What a sunny day to try out the bike!
The kids were excited (and, I admit, so was I).  A couple years back we took a road trip through Germany and France and we noticed a lot of the children were riding wooden coaster bikes.  Big Boy already had a tricycle at the time, so we did not buy him one (also they were quite expensive), but I always thought they were really neat.  

When he saw the bike, Little Boy immediately pronounced the bike his "ride" and said "mine" every time he saw it.  (Little Boy does not distinguish between nouns and verbs at this point - so "ride" is used in many ways - it is a name for his tricycle and the First Bike but also is a request for a ride in the car).  Once Little Boy examined the bike more closely, he noticed the bell - and he was enthralled.  He spent a lot of time ringing the bell.  Like music to my ears.


We tried to hide the bike from Big Boy because it arrived on the same day as our guests and we did not want to take the excitement away from their arrival.  Unfortunately, Little Boy saw us hiding the bike and brought Big Boy to cupboard door and pointed at the closed door yelling "ride, ride."  Eventually Big Boy figured out that there must be something interesting in the cupboard.  Big Boy was really excited about the bike and he loved the red colour.

The bike is meant for children 3 and up, but given Little Boy's size we thought he could have a go on it as well as Big Boy.  Little Boy could sit on it, but his tip-toes barely graze the ground so it is difficult for him to get going.  I suspect that in about 2 months he will be able to coast properly, but for now we put his helmet on and help him by holding onto the back seat.  He constantly asks for "ride."  Big Boy had a great time coasting around on the bike.  He is used to pedalling a conventional bike so it took him a few minutes to get used to the lack of pedals, but he really liked it.  The First Bike is adjustable so it also fits Big Boy.

I think the concept of this bike is brilliant.  When we taught Big Boy how to ride a bike, we first had him on a tricycle.  He eventually learned to pedal the trike, but he did not have to balance.  Then we moved him up to a 2-wheel bike with training wheels (stabilizers) and he once again could pedal but not balance.  We left the most difficult part of bike riding for last - he learned to balance the bike only after he had learned to steer and pedal.  The transition was difficult and my dad put in a lot of hours with him to get him riding confidently.  With the Tidlo First Bike, Little Boy will have the opposite experience.  He will learn to balance and steer and then, when he has outgrown the frame, we will move on to add pedalling.  I think this is a much more intelligent approach.

My husband is a bike guy and he likes a specific part of the design of this bike, the design of the pneumatic tyres.  As you can see in the photo below, there is a space cut into the wheel for the valve to stick out.  The valve is actually curved out, which my husband tells me is much better than the design of Big Boy's pedal bike because you can easily attach the pump and you don't have to fish around for the valve.


I think the seating area of the First Bike is really well designed.  It is a padded seat that is not too wide.  I have found that a few "ride on" toys have a seat that is far too wide for a toddler and the toddler ends up sitting on the wrong area of the toy, which in the case of this bike, would be the cross bar.  This is not an issue with the First Bike - the seat is long so the child can move back as they grow and it is narrow enough to be comfortable for Little Boy without being so narrow that it is uncomfortable.


The bike also has a well-positioned handle carved into the sturdy frame for the parent to lift or carry the bike for the child.


Overall we love this bike and look forward to using it as the weather clears up here in Aberdeen.  A big thank you to the folks at John Crane for choosing us to test the Tidlo First Bike.  Gramps, our Tidlo Grandparent from John Crane, even took a ride!

Gramps is still young at heart!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Little Boy is Growing Up


Little Boy has been developing at an alarming pace over the past few weeks.  It always seems that they develop so quickly in short bursts of time.  Here are some of the things he has been up to:

  • He is growing and gaining weight (he’s about 25 ½ pounds).
  • His hair is thickening and getting a bit shaggy.
  • He has started to repeat (parrot-style) lots of words and he is trying to form his thoughts verbally.
  • He is trying to put on his own clothes.
  • He understands the concept of a time-out.
  • He is holding a pen correctly (never a pencil or crayon, he detests those!).
  • He is eating with a fork.
  • He is drinking from a variety of different cups.
  • He is running faster and climbing higher and with more precision.
  • He has started to “make strange” and he is really attached to me and his dad.
  • He blows kisses and says bye-bye at appropriate times.
  • He has a bit more patience with books.
  • He has been eating a varied diet and is eating more types of protein.
  • He is developing a basic mastery of stairs.
  • He is starting to pedal his tricycle.
  • He can handle most playgroud equipment.
  • He has developed a taste for Chopin!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EcoEgg Review Update

This post is further to my previous post regarding the EcoEgg, found here: http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/ecoegg-review.html

I have now been using the EcoEgg for a while, and I have had to purchase both a spray-on stain remover and also regular laundry detergent to help out from time to time.   There are 2 main areas that are problematic.

1.  Old dried blood.  OK, so this sounds a bit macabre, but I could not wash out old dried blood without using a spray-on stain remover.  Big Boy has frequent nosebleeds and we try to catch any blood stains immediately - when we do they wash out well.  But if they are left for a while to set in, we have a problem that requires stain remover.

2.  Grease.  I have been unable to get bad grease stains (car and bike grease) out of clothes using just the EcoEgg alone.  These stains seem to require a soak, spray-on stain remover and regular laundry detergent to get them out.

Other than these 2 areas of issue, I still love the EcoEgg and use it for all of my wash.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Great Grocery Store Service

Everyone in our household has been sick over the last couple of weeks.   We seem to all take turns, and it is a really awful illness that seems to be a mix of a cold and the flu.

When I was at Sainsbury's (the grocery store) during my turn at the illness, I must have looked terrible.  I felt OK, but I ran into a friend who immediately asked if I was unwell and if I needed help with the kids.  I had Little Boy with me riding in the buggy and he was being very good.  I needed a lot of groceries so it took me a while to navigate the store.

Once I was finished, I walked to the tills and joined the queue.  The line was not bad, there were 2 other customers in front of me.  I was really surprised when a Sainsbury's employee walked up to me and said "Here, let me help you."  She proceeded to take my cart to an unopened till and unload it, while another employee opened the till and checked me through and bagged my purchases.  I was surprised to see that they closed the till right after I was finished.

When I inquired as to why, she simply said "Dear, you looked as though you needed it."

How bad did I look?????

And...how great is that service?

Visitors and Bad Weather!

We have out-of-town visitors right now and we have visited some of our usual haunts over the weekend.  On Saturday it was sunny and we drove out to Dunnotar Castle and then had lunch in Stonehaven at an entirely forgettable cafe looking out onto the beach.  On Sunday, the miserable weather had us make more cautious plans.  We drove out to Drum Castle and walked around the grounds, then headed into Banchory for a snack and a wander at the Raemoir Garden centre.  I had a lovely bowl of veggie broth soup - well done Raemoir Cafe!

While at the garden centre, the lovely soup almost inspired me to purchase a soup cook book.  There was a lovely one at eye-level on display called "The Soup Bible."  I picked it up and leafed through it and then I noticed 4 other soup books.  By the time I had looked at all of them, I was overwhelmed by choice and I bought none....maybe another day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ergo Baby vs. Deuter Kid Comfort III

When Big Boy was born, we used a gift card to purchase the Deuter Kid Comfort III.  Here is a link to a picture of the Kid Comfort III: http://www.deutergb.co.uk/products/all/family/all_family/deuter_kid_comfort_iii/363/

We used the Deuter on many vacations with Big Boy, but we found that we did not use it very much around home.  When we moved to Scotland, I started to use the Deuter every day for Little Boy when we walked Big Boy to and from school.  I really love this pack because it distributes the weight of the child onto my hips and it is very comfortable on my back and shoulders.  It also has spacious pockets and drink holders which are great for holding Little Boy's milk bottle.

Unfortunately, the Deuter is very large and it is cumbersome on an airplane.  It is very tall and long, but it does fit into the trunk of my Mini.

Recently my friend gave me her unneeded Ergo Baby and I have been trying it out on our commute to school.  Here is a picture of the Ergo Baby:  http://www.naturalnursery.co.uk/ergo-baby-carriers/ergo-baby-carrier-baby-backpack.html

I want to use the Ergo Baby for travelling because it is smaller (it will fit into my diaper bag) and lighter.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Ergo.  It is comfortable and Little Boy seems happy to ride in it.  

There are some differences that we have to get used to:

  • Little Boy keeps peering around my shoulders in the Ergo because he is used to seeing over my head in the Deuter.
  • There is no water bottle pocket in the Ergo and only a small carrier pouch.
  • It feels a bit unwieldy to load Little Boy into the Ergo.  The Deuter does not get loaded onto my back until Little Boy is fully secured, but with the Ergo, I have to put Little Boy into a partial "piggy back" and then slide him in.  I don't love this aspect and it does feel a bit unsafe.  I would definitely not be comfortable doing this with a smaller child.
Overall I am happy with the Ergo and I hope to transition into using this carrier as my main carrier.


Despite the above, I prefer the Baby Bjorn as a carrier for small babies.  I used the Baby Bjorn almost exclusively for the first 8 months of life of both of my boys and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marmalade Hotel, Portree, Skye

During our visit to Skye, we stayed at the Marmalade Hotel in Portree.  Here is an Internet  link: http://marmaladehotels.com/

The town of Portree was a wonderful location for our stay.  It is the capital of the island and it is definitely the largest settlement on the island, but please remember, it is all relative - it is still a very small town.  Marmalade Hotel was a short walk from the town square and we had easy access to the town's numerous restaurants and interesting shops.  I would recommend staying in Portree because of the broader selection of dining choices.  We also bought groceries at the Co-operative, which was located right in the middle of town with all of the restaurants and shops.

Just down from the town square is a lovely harbour, which is surrounded by restaurants and shops.  Here is a picture of the harbour in the evening.  




We really enjoyed our stay at the Marmalade Hotel.  I had initially booked a double room for our family because a triple was not available at the time of booking, but one became available and we were upgraded with no extra charge.  The room was spacious and clean.  The bathroom can only be described as huge.

I was pleased to see that the hotel provided an adequate number of towels for our party (as my regular readers will know, a disparity of towels is an ongoing disappointment for me with hotels).

The windows in our room were dormer windows that were quite high up, so we did not really have a view.  The hotel itself had an incredible view looking over the Portree harbour, here is a picture from the hotel lawn.


As you can see from the photo, the lawn was set up with picnic tables.  There was also a bouncy castle on the hotel lawn that my kids were thrilled with!  (Although we all learned a valuable lesson about kids jumping in a bouncy castle after eating a huge meal.)

Our room booking included a hot breakfast.  In the breakfast room there was a buffet of cold items - juice, cereal, muesli bars, etc. and the staff took our order for a hot breakfast.  On our first morning I ordered the poached eggs with kippers.  It was delicious, but the portion was too big, so on the second morning I ordered only eggs and on the third morning, I stuck with toast.  My husband tried the smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and Big Boy had scrambled eggs and also porridge with cinnamon sugar.  Over all the breakfast was tasty and there was enough variety to satisfy all of us.  None of us had enough of an appetite for a full breakfast.

We also ate in the hotel restaurant for one supper and it was very good.  My husband had the haggis stuffed chicken breast, I had salmon and asparagus and Big Boy had a kids pizza.  The price was fair and the food was delicious.

I would definitely reccommend both this hotel and the restaruant.  It was an appropriate accomodation for children and the hotel staff was friendly and helpful.  A highchair was provided in the restaurant and a camp bed in the room.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Armadale Castle


On Sunday we drove south to Armadale Castle, the Clan Donald property.  We had a wonderful time visiting the castle ruins and exploring the garden.  The weather was sunny and cool, it was a lovely day.  Here are some photos:

The view through the Armadale Castle ruins.

The gardens were in full bloom.

The boys really loved the ponds - I was worried Little Boy would find a way to fall in!

There was a brand-new playground.

A view of the front facade of the Armadale Castle ruin.

The view of the bay from the castle.


An interesting tree in the castle garden.

Art?  In the castle garden.