Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Hogmanay!

Today is New Years Day and it marks the second anniversary (birthday?) of this blog.  I've come to enjoy communicating via this medium and I want to thank all of my readers making this a worthwhile experience for me.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2013 is a great year for all of us!

Big Boy Bed and Bottle

Yesterday we had a couple of important "firsts" in our house: Little Boy had his first night in a big boy bed; and Baby Boy had his first bottle.

It took Little Boy a few minutes to get used to the idea of the bed, but once he went to sleep, he stayed in bed the whole night.

Baby Boy wasn't thrilled to have a bottle, but he took a good feed and we will keep trying.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Natural History Museum and Travelling Home

December 27 was our last day in London and our flight was at 6:00 pm.  This gave us the morning and early afternoon to do one last fun activity.  We decided to go to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit.  This is a really popular exhibit, so we booked (free) tickets online that would allow us to see the exhibit at a specific time.

We walked to the Tube station to catch the train that would take us to the museum (only 1 stop!).  After we bought our tickets and went into the station there was a sign indicating that the line we needed was closed for the day (and the sign was not visible before we bought the tickets).  Sigh....more public transportation trouble.

We figured out that we could still get to the museum - by catching 3 trains instead of one.  We hauled the stroller in and out of the train stations and made it to the museum.  Once we got there, there was a massive queue for entrance to the museum (free) and we waited a while to get in.  Surprisingly there was no line at the dinosaur exhibit so we walked in and took the elevator up to a catwalk to join the queue to walk through the exhibit.  As with any activity involving a crowd of people, there was a lot of pushing and shoving in the line, but we made it through.

We walked through the exhibit and saw the T-rex, the biggest attraction in the collection.   While the exhibit was nice, we are spoiled in Calgary with the Tyrell Museum and it is tough to compare to that.

After the museum we went back to our hotel and headed over to the airport.  Our flight was delayed a bit but otherwise pleasant.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular

On the evening of Boxing Day, we took the kids to see Walking with Dinosaurs:  The Arena Spectacular.  Santa had brought tickets for this show and the kids were really excited.

It could have been a very bad evening, given the start, but it ended up being quite amazing.  The Tube drivers were on a Boxing Day strike so we had to figure out how we would travel from our hotel to the O2 Arena.  The Tube was out of the question, and it was way to far to walk.  A taxi would have cost a fortune and they were few and far between given the Tube strike.  So, we were stuck with the bus.  We knew that the busses would be incredibly full given the limited transport options, so we left really early (around 3:30 for a 7:00 pm show).  Normally the trip would have taken about 1 hour.

We caught the first bus without issue.  We sat on the upper floor and it was a huge mistake – the top floor made me carsick and we couldn’t see anything anyways due to the rain and foggy windows.  We were on that bus for about 40 minutes and everyone grew increasingly crabby.  I felt ill, the kids got bored and my husband hates public transport.

After the first bus we had a brief walk to catch the bus to the Arena.  Unfortunately loads of other people were waiting for the bus too and we could not get on the first few busses that went by.  Eventually we caught a bus.  We arrived at about 5:30 and we went in to find a place to eat.

We were immediately seated at a place called “Frankie and Benny's” and they took our order right away.  Unfortunately they accidentally did not actually give our order to the kitchen.  So the kids coloured and we took them to the washroom and sat and waited.  At 6:05 the waiter came over to our table to let me know that the kitchen now had our order.  So, we had waited for ½ hour while our order was not at the kitchen.  Our food should have been quick (a salad, spaghetti and a burger), so I said it was ok.

At 6:20 we still did not have our food I decided to ask the waiter for our drinks bill because we were not going to have time to eat our food if it came out after that.  The waiter apologized and agreed to bring the bill.  Of course, just then our food came out.  The waitress who brought it said “So, you don’t want this food now?”  in a rude tone.  I explained our wait and she interrupted to tell me it had nothing to do with her.  I decided that enough was enough and I told her (politely) that I could do without her attitude.  I explained that it was not our fault they forgot our order and that we were now running late.

She put the food down anyways and stomped away after telling my (with attitude) that she didn’t give me attitude (she definitely did) and then the waiter brought a bill for the drinks and told us that the food was on the house.  We ate as fast as we could, paid and then left.  Funny thing is – the food was quite good. get the picture - between the travel and the dinner the evening was off to a rough start.

After supper we went over to the arena admission area and went into the show.  We found our seats – which were amazing.  We were in the lower section of the lower bowl about 3/4 of the way up.  This was high enough that we could see the whole show and we were central so the whole stage was visible to us.  The stage was set up in a horse-shoe shape so on the sides you could only see part of the show at any given time.  I know this is confusing so I will include a picture further down.

The dinosaurs in the show were a cross between a robot and a puppet.  People (obviously very skilled dancers) performed choreographed movements.  The show followed a story narrated by a paleontologist (Huxley) and the dinosaurs interacted with each other.  The plot was clever and the soundtrack was very good.

Many of the parents in the audience (including us) were afraid that the dinosaurs would scare the children.  For the most part, there seemed to be no problems.  The dinosaurs were massive but their ferocity and might was presented tastefully with no dramatic roaring or fighting.  Near the end of the show a T-rex came out and it was scary.  There was a stream of dads heading out of the seating area with small children on their shoulders.  We were lucky, our kids did not get scared of the T-rex, in fact Little Boy wanted "more."  The T-rex scenes all had some comedic relief to lighten the atmosphere and make it a little less scary.

My favourite line from the show dialogue was when Huxley described various coloured flowers as "weapons of mass attraction."

The show was simply amazing.  The kids loved it and it was worth the travel hassles.

After the show we headed back out to the bus area.  Of course, the busses were packed so we had to wait for a few to go by before we could get on one to head home.  The bus ride was long (nearly an hour) and took us to an area about a 45-minute walk from the hotel.  Due to the issues with cabs and overflowing busses, it was obvious that we could walk back faster than any other transportation, so we did.  We arrived back at our hotel just before midnight - Big Boy was a real trooper he walked the whole way with almost no complaint.

The Tube strike turned a journey that should have taken about 2 hours round trip into a 4.5 hour nightmare....but it was worth it!

Here are some photos:

This is the outside of the O2 Arena.

The terrible, horrible T-rex.

This is a panoramic shot of the stage and arena.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Boxing Day

We woke up fairly early on Boxing Day morning and decided to head out to see what boxing day shopping is like on Oxford Street.

After breakfast we walked down to Oxford Street and it was already packed!  The street was a sea of people and there were lines to get into a lot of the stores.  Some stores had obviously hired extra security for the day.  There were a couple of stores that I would have liked to check out, but I did not want to wait in a long line outside the shop, so I gave up.  We walked through the huge crowds to the Disney Store and the kids wandered around in there while I went across to Dorothy Perkins.

Dottie P's was a relative haven of sanity on Oxford Street.  I chose a few items and went to try them on, when a clerk approached me an invited me into a "special" change room that had a round sofa that I could lay the baby on.  The room was huge and I had the space and time I needed to actually look at the items I was considering.  I picked out a few items and then made my way to the cashier.  Instead of a long line, I walked right up.

A line formed while I was paying and once it got to be 3 deep, the cashier called for assistance, because "the queue was too deep."  I liked the service and the calm in the store and I definitely bought more than I would have if I had to fight through crowds to make a purchase.

After shopping we headed back to our hotel for lunch and naps and then out for the be continued in my next post.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

After the kids had a morning swim with my husband they all took a long nap. I woke everyone up so we could change into nicer clothes for our Christmas party.

The party was in our hotel so we just had to go downstairs. We had a lovely Christmas meal, complete with roast turkey, duck confit and beef Wellington. The desserts were divine; I particularly enjoyed the chocolate lime Yule log.

Partway through the party Father Christmas visited with gifts for the children. Little Boy spent the rest of the day saying "ding ding Santa" because Santa had a bell that he was ringing. Big Boy announced loudly that he knew it was not the real Santa because he had brown skin....I was really glad none of the other dinner guests could hear him.

After the party we went back to our room with the intention of heading out for a walk. Unfortunately it was bucketing rain. We decided to stay inside and we let the kids watch a movie for a treat.

What a relaxing Christmas. Now we have to rest up for Boxing Day shopping!

Christmas Evening

When I wrote my last post, I thought we were done for the day, but we decided to go out for an evening walk on Christmas Day once the rain stopped.

We walked down to Hyde Park, and it was dark so we headed over to the Marble Arch and down Oxford Street.

While Oxford Street was mostly closed, many of the businesses in the immediate vicinity of the hotel were open. It was just like any other day on this largely Muslim community. On the way back to our hotel we stopped for an ice cream treat.

Christmas Morning Away from Home

It's nearly half past ten on Christmas morning and all of our morning festivities are finished. The older kids are swimming with my husband and I'm tidying up.

We had to decide how we wanted to handle Christmas morning this year. We have nearly no luggage space to bring back gifts so we decided to be a bit unconventional with Santa this year.

Santa brought the kids a letter describing their gift. I had also planned to pick up some small consumable treats while we were here. My idea was that I would buy stockings here and load them with treats.

Yesterday afternoon I went out shopping for stockings and treats. In the stores close to our hotel I could not find anything appropriate so I settled with Santa sacks of candy from Tesco. I had checked in M & S, Waitrose, Boots and Sainsbury's but Tesco was the only shop with appropriate goods. This was partly because stores were sold out on Christmas Eve and party because this appears to be a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood.

I did notice that Christmas Eve shoppers are a grouchy lot. The grocery shelves were picked clean and shoppers were deciding whether to "make do" with what was available. One lady was asking for potatoes and was told that all the store had left was powdered mash. A man in the Tesco was causing a disturbance and would not leave when security asked him to. I got what I needed and left the store as quickly as possible.

So this morning the kids woke up to 3 little tinsel trees with their gifts underneath. Big Boy and Little Boy got sacks of chocolate as well as Button trains. Baby Boy got shampoo and sweeties to share. Then they found a letter from Santa directing them to find tickets to a show in my suitcase. Tomorrow we will go to the show.

Big Boy understands that we will see a show tomorrow from Santa. Little Boy is far more interested in the chocolate and playing with his tree.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve in London

Today we had a busy day and it was full of walking. After breakfast at our hotel we walked to the Tube and bought day passes. Then we rode to see Big Ben.

We saw Big Ben and the London Eye and took all of the requisite pictures and then we walked over to Trafalgar Square to see the giant Christmas tree. The tree was massive and gorgeous but what was really clever was next to the tree. A statue of a horse was removed and replaced it with a Christmassy rocking horse. I've included pictures of both below.

It was a blustery day so after Trafalgar Square we rode the tube to see the Tower Bridge. We also made a stop for lunch. Then we headed back to he hotel.

My husband took Big Boy and Little Boy swimming in the hotel pool while I did some secret shopping with Baby Boy. I'll write more about this another day.

After the swim we all packed up and got back on the Tube. We rode to Piccadilly Circus and walked around there and the theatre district. We had dinner at one of the few restaurants that was both open and family friendly on Christmas Eve. Dinner was surprisingly good even though the server was surly. He obviously resented working the Christmas Eve shift.

After supper we walked back to Trafalgar Square to see the tree lit up. We could also see Big Ben.

By this point it was way past all of our bedtimes to we headed back to the hotel on the Tube (we got our money's worth out of the day passes!).

A statue similar to the one below was replaced with this festive rocking horse - Trafalgar Square.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seussical the Musical

This morning we slept in a bit and then had breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we packed our day bag and walked over to the Arts Theatre in the theatre district.

We were early for our show so we stopped at a small cafe for cake and coffee. We made our way over to the theatre a bit early hoping to take the kids to the washroom before the show started. Unfortunately it was crowded and filthy. There was nowhere to change a baby. Anyways, we figured it out and then went in to the show.

The run time of Seussical the Musical was about 1 hour and 20 minutes with no interval. The show was better than I expected (I'm not a big Dr. Seuss fan). It was a musical based on the story "Horton Hears a Who"). It was light and clever with catchy songs and fun choreography. The costumes were not literal - they were largely made up of regular clothing.

Big Boy loved the show. He sang along with some of the songs and followed the story well. Little Boy was frightened by the Cat in the Hat (the first character on stage) because of his face altering costume. He got over it and enjoyed the show but not the bits with the Cat.

After the show we walked through Leicester Square and the into the Regent street area. The crowds were thick! Regent Street was decorated with a "12 Days of Christmas" theme.

After we wandered for a while we had an Italian supper.

I have included some photos from our day in this post. Unfortunately the app I'm using does not allow me to include captions so you will be left to match the photos with the events on your own.

The theatre district.

Leicester Square

Regent Street

Saturday, December 22, 2012

London, we've arrived!

Today we travelled from Aberdeen to London for Christmas. We flew, uneventfully on Easyjet and then rode the Heathrow Express from Gatwick to Victoria Station. Then we took a cab to our hotel (using a Groupon!).

We checked into our hotel and ate a very late lunch before taking a walk to see the lights on Oxford Street and some lovely storefront windows.

It was a day of firsts for Baby Boy: first taxi ride; first time using his passport; first flight; first train ride; first hotel stay; first trip to London; and first time leaving Aberdeen. He did very well - he hardly made a peep during our travels!

I have included some pictures of the lights on Oxford Street as well as decorated store windows.

I am posting this via an app on my mobile, so please excuse any issues, aesthetic or otherwise, with this post.

A shop window at Selfridges.

Street lighting.

Another Selfridges window.

Oxford Street

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Christmas

Big Boy has been singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" ad nauseam for the last few days.  Thing is, he does not know the correct words, so he sings what he hears.  My favourite line is "and a pinecone in a pear tree."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wynford Farms Playdate

Today, I took Baby Boy and Big Boy to Wynford Farms for a playdate with some classmates of Big Boy.  As always, he had a great time playing there and worked up a sweat.  Today I was smart and I dressed him in shorts to keep him cool.

After our playdate Big Boy was really tired.  I asked Big Boy what he wanted for lunch and he picked beans on toast.  He ate 4 pieces of toast and all the beans and then had a long nap....making a nice, quiet afternoon for me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why Bother?

This is the question that I’m asking myself today.

This morning I took all 3 of my boys on a lovely outing.  I arranged to meet up with a friend of Big Boy (along with his mother and 2-year-old brother) downtown and we took the kids on a bit of an Aberdeen Christmas walkabout.

We met at Bon Accord Centre and walked over to St. Nicholas Kirk where we went to see the nativity.  The nativity is lovely, but it would be much nicer at night when it is lit up.  Then we walked over to Castlegate where we saw the Christmas tree.  We let the kids run around Castlegate for a while.

We walked over to the Aberdeen Art Gallery, where we let the kids take in some art before we had a treat at the cafĂ©.  After this we wandered back to our cars at Bon Accord and then went home.

When we got home it was nap time and after naps the kids played in the house because it was cold and stormy outside.

I thought this was a morning to be proud of.  We did some fun Christmas things, we had an educational experience, we had a lovely snack and we spent time with friends.  The other mother and I handled 5 boys (a 6 year old, a 5 year old, a couple of 2 year olds and a 1 month old) well for this outing and the kids were very well behaved, all things considered.  I thought it was an ambitious outing and it was tiring - it was a lot of work to plan and execute.

When my husband asked Big Boy what he did today at supper, he said that he saw his friend (true).  When my husband said “and…?” expecting Big Boy to describe our outing, Big Boy told him that we also played in the front room.  He apparently had no recollection of our lengthy outing….why bother….?