Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hadrian's Wall

While we were in Newcastle this past weekend we visited a part of Hadrian's Wall.  Hadrian's Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is basically a defensive wall that was built across England (kind of like the Great Wall of China) by a Roman Emperor - first to keep people out and then to use as a tax barrier.  I like history (I can be a bit of a Roy Cropper) and I wanted to see part of the wall since we were so close.

We drove out to Wallsend (see how they named it?) (a suburb of Newcastle) to see the wall.  Wallsend has a trailhead for a walking path that extends the length of the wall.  It also houses a Roman artifacts collection and an archaeological site with remnants of the wall.

It was too late in the day to spend time in the museum, but we had a look around the outside.

This is the archaeological site.

The museum, complete with an observation tower to allow a view of the path of the wall.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Newcastle Upon Tyne

We went to Newcastle Upon Tyne for a family holiday this past weekend.  Newcastle is about a 5 hour drive from Aberdeen, south of Edinburugh.  It is in Northern England, in the Geordie Region.  Here is a link to the city website:  http://www.newcastlegateshead.com/

In Newcastle we stayed in a Premier Inn near the Millenium Bridge.  It was OK - just what you'd expect from Premier Inn - clean but dated and there are certainly no "extras!"

Newcastle is a pleasant city with a few tourist attractions - certainly enough to fill a day or two.  We could tell that we had left the comfort of Scotland - the accent in Newcastle is almost incomprehensible and the attitude is far less friendly than in Aberdeen.  We enjoyed walking around the historic city centre and Chinatown and we also took in 2 museums (to be discussed in later posts).  We also went to see part of Hadrian's Wall (more on that later as well).  

There was some great shopping in Newcastle, including a Marks & Spencer outlet - bonus!

We had a wonderful dinner out at Pani's - a local Italian establishment.  The food was divine, the prices were great and the children were well behaved.  We even stayed for desert - delicious profiteroles and a perfectly foamy cappuccino!

In Newcastle they seem to be mad about bridges - including the distinctive Millennium Bridge pictured below.

A portion of the Newcastle city wall.

Chinatown


Really neat light standards.



The (tasteful?) Millenium Bridge at night.
We let the kids stay up late and we walked over it in the dark.  

Newcastle - The Discovery Museum

The day we drove home from Newcastle, we spent the morning at the Discovery Museum.  This is a science and local history museum and it is an interesting place indeed.  Here is a link to it's website:  http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/discovery.html

My favourite exhibit led the observer through a history of Newcastle with interactive exhibits.  The kids loved the Science Maze where they could do science experiments and learn about all sorts of science-related things.  There is also a play area for younger kids but Little Boy was not interested.

This museum is free to visit and has lovely washrooms for childcare.

Learning about science - so fun!




Newcastle - The Hancock Museum

While we were in Newcastle over the weekend, we stopped at the Hancock Museum to escape the weather and have a look around.  We were pleasantly surprised by the collection!  The Museum is light, bright, open and airy - yet it still has plenty of interesting exhibits for the kids.  Admission is free and it is a short walk from the city centre.  Here is a web link to the Hancock's homepage:  http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/great-north-museum/visiting-us.html

My kids particularly liked the dinosaur and Hadrian's Wall collections.  I thought the mummy was neat and the animal models were really well done.  The Museum is fairly small but there is definitely enough there to keep kids amused for an hour or two.

We ate a quick lunch in their cafe - the sandwiches were reasonably priced as were the kids "box" lunches.


This realistic fellow greeted us with a twinkle in his eye...
The Museum is open and airy but still has lots of interesting exhibits.

Hands on learning.

Persnickety

Little Boy is incredibly persnickety.  He is also usually a mess (think "Pig Pen" from Peanuts).  This can create some funny situations.

The other day he was playing in his room.  His face was smeared with baked beans and yogurt (not from the same meal).  He had mud in his hair from scooter riding and toothpaste on his ear.  His clothes, as usual were a disaster.  The cuffs of his sweats were askew and his sweatshirt was smeared with unknown entities.  He had snot running from his nose to his top lip.

He called me into his room in a panic.  He had found a hair on his pillow (his) and was upset because his bed was so messy (due to the hair) he could not imagine sleeping in it later.

A few minutes later he was incredibly upset when there was no hand towel hanging in the bathroom...he had knocked it onto the floor...and he couldn't possibly use it because it had been on the floor.

What???

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Well, it worked...

You know how some restaurants, cafes and fast food chains display the number of calories in each menu item?  The other day I was having coffee with Big Boy and I fancied a piece of cake.  The little sign next to the cake said each slice contained 795 calories!  Crazy!  Needless to say, I left the cake....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deeside Railway Line

Yesterday I took the kids for a walk with their scooters on the abandoned Deeside Railway Line.  The weather was gorgeous and it was hauntingly beautiful.  I truly believe that Scotland has some of the most attractive countryside in the world!


What a cool tree!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chimney Pots

It strikes me that there is something romantic and lovely about chimney pots.  Here are a few around our little town.









I saved the best for last!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tyrebagger Forest

Yesterday a friend and I took our kids to Tyrebagger Forest.  Here is the weblink if you are interested:  http://www.forestry.gov.uk/website/wildwoods.nsf/LUWebDocsByKey/ScotlandMorayandAberdeenshireNoForestForestsofMorayandAberdeenshireTyrebagger

Tyrebagger Forest has a walk through the wood like many other forests in Aberdeenshire.  What is unique about this wood is that there are art installations throughout the wood.  During the walk you can see the art from the trail.  There are two "loop" trails through Tyrebagger Forest.  We completed the "red" trail (about 1.25 miles).  The other option is the shorter "blue" trail (about 0.5 miles).  The trail was an easy walk although muddy in spots.  I would not personally recommend trying to take a buggy on this trail - I was glad that I hadn't brought mine!

Between my friend and I we had 5 boys and the walk was a lot of "boys will be boys" fun.  The trail was extremely wet and muddy and my kids fell into mud puddles repeatedly.  They were both filthy and soaked by the time we went home.  The weather was great so no-one got cold or complained too much.

Our 1.25 mile walk took almost 2.5 hours, but that was more a factor of the age of the children on the walk than the difficulty of the walk.

We saw 4 of the art installations and they were interesting.  The kids were certainly excited to find the various sculptures and it added another element of interest to the walk.  We didn't find all of the art this time - this is good, next time we're there we have something new to look for.

Here are some photos:




Art. 



More Art.
Still more Art.
And....you guessed it....even more Art!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Professional Photographs

I love having my children photographed professionally.  Until now this meant taking them to Superstore or Walmart and going to the photo studio.  This fall I had 2 opportunities for "proper" professional photos and I am definitely excited about the results.


In late September we had family photos taken at a fundraiser at Big Boy's school.  The results were good and I ordered a bunch (at a good price with a discount for the fund raiser).  I am pleased with these photos.

In December I used a Groupon for an infant photography session for Baby Boy. I am so happy with the results.  The photographer captured the essence of Baby Boy.  Her pictures have a "je ne sais quoi" that creates life in the photos.  The best way that I can describe what is special about these photos is to say that she managed to capture the exact way that Baby Boy looks at me.  The photos are not just shots of him looking at the camera and smiling (or not as the case may be) but images of how he is.  For once I was not just trying to find a photo where the child was looking the right direction or had a clean face or a smile.  Every single photo that the photographer edited for my review was perfect in those ways.

I know this sounds a bit deep for a description of a photo, but it's the truth, there is something in his eyes that shows his life and personality in these pictures.

Of course there is a problem.  Even with the Groupon, the photos of Baby Boy were ludicrously expensive.  For the price of 4 photos of Baby Boy we got 18 photos from the family session and we could get literally hundreds at Walmart or Superstore.  But those piles of extra photos don't necessarily capture that "je ne sais quoi."  So what am I to do next time?

P.S.  I do recognize that the pricing reflects the talent and artistry of the photographers....but my frugal nature still makes it difficult to spend the money.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm a Convert - Chicken Stock

I roast about 2 chickens per week and I usually just toss out the carcasses (not into the trash but into the animal food waste compost).  This week I made stock using a crock pot method recommended by a friend.  It could not have been easier and the result was delicious rich stock.  I will make sure to always do this in the future.

Here is what I did.  After my husband was finished "cleaning up" (translation:  eating all of the bits of meat) off of the carcasses, I put them into the oven at 200 Celsius for 20 minutes.  Then I put the carcasses into the slow cooker along with: roughly chopped carrots and onions; thyme; pepper; salt; bay leaf; rosemary and water.  I left it to cook overnight on low and then in the morning I skimmed the fat after cooling the stock.

That night for supper I added a bullion for flavour and noodles.  VoilĂ !  Delicious chicken soup!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Immunizations - Round 2

Baby Boy had his second round of shots this morning.  We went bright and early and had no issues.  Little Boy was curious as ever, but it all went really well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sip and See


Today my friends hosted a Sip and See to introduce Baby Boy to the "world."  A "Sip and See" is a tea party where friends drop in and out to meet the baby.  I have not attended a Sip and See before, but I understand it is traditional in some states to have a party like this for new babies.

The party was great fun!  My friend organized some delicious goodies and tea and coffee and decorated with cute boy-baby themed items.  Friends from Aberdeen dropped in and admired Baby Boy.  Baby Boy wore a new outfit and behaved beautifully.  It is so nice to have a lovely group of friends to organize and attend a party like this.  It made me feel like we are part of a community here in Aberdeen even though we are so far from home.

Here are some photos:

My very talented gardener friend made this lovely flower arrangement with fresh garden flowers.



Another very talented friend baked these delicious snickerdoodle cupcakes and
decorated them with baby-themed sugar candies. 
  
These are the party favours.
Each guest took away a cute teapot-shaped tea infuser and a tin box of looseleaf tea.  Adorable!


This is a bouquet of flowers that I received as a gift.
Here in the UK, they really know how to package cut flowers to make them attractive! 


The man of the hour in his nifty new duds.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Singing Kettle - Fairytale Castle


Yesterday I took Big Boy and Baby Boy to see the Singing Kettle’s “Fairytale Castle” show at the Aberdeen Music Hall.  Little Boy had a very successful playdate at a friend’s house.

This was Big Boy’s second Singing Kettle show.  We had fun but the show was good but not great.  Two of the members of the Singing Kettle are retiring after this show ends (Cilla and Artie) and possibly because of this, the show was laced with great classic songs.  It also included some new songs.  Unfortunately the story that joined it all together was a bit thin.  I think they may have been better off with a “best of” show that skipped the story line.

All complaints aside, it was a wonderful show.  Cilla teared up a bit when she spoke about her retirement and we all loved the classic hits!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sophisticated Conversation

As Little Boy is gaining language skills, life is becoming more difficult for Big Boy. Here is an example:

(I'm changing the baby and the older boys are playing quietly. Suddenly a squabble breaks out.)

Big Boy: "No, don't touch, that's mine."

Little Boy continues to touch the toy.

Big Boy: "Stop it!"

Little Boy continues to touch the toy.

Big Boy swats Little Boy.

I scold Big Boy for the swat and then turn to Little Boy.

Me to Little Boy: "Why are you touching his toys? You know it makes him mad.  They're not yours."

Little Boy: "Because...he....play....with....mine...."

Hmmmm.....seems pretty fair to me.  Look out Big Boy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Return of the Snow

Little Boy calls all snow "snowman."  Even if it is falling or just on the ground.  Very cute.

We have had snow the past few nights and it is sticking around.  Some adorable red-breasted visitors made tracks through our snow yesterday.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Boy - Clinic Visit

Baby Boy is just over 11 weeks old now.  Yesterday I took him to the clinic to be weighed and he is now 14 pounds and 3 ounces, which puts him just above the 75th percentile.  He has a rash on his skin and required a prescription for ointment.

Little Boy was with me as well, and I had the midwife look at his hand.  On Tuesday Little Boy closed the closet door while his hand was resting on the hinge and pinched the side of his hand into the hinge. It has an ugly bruise and a bit of swelling but otherwise he is OK.  He cried for about 2 minutes when it happened and then settled and forgot about it.

I entered a cake contest...and I won...but I'm still not happy

Big Boy's school had a cake making contest.  When I heard about it, I immediately thought I should enter and bake a Kransekake (If you are interested here is a link to my post from when I first made a Kransekake:  http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/kransekake.html).

So I filled out the form and paid the entry fee (£10) right away.  Then the rules were published and I learned that the contest was a "no nuts" situation.  Uh oh....the Kransekake is almost entirely almonds!  It was too late to "un-enter" and I'm far to frugal to walk away from my £10, so I decided to look for something else to make.  I googled and googled and came up with nothing that I wanted to make.  Next I emailed my friends and family and my mom suggested a good old cinnamon twist.  I thought this was a great idea.

I entered the contest with my cinnamon twist.  I took extra time and care to make it tidy.  Here is a picture (sorry it's blurry, it's the best I have):


When I got to the contest there was one cake that looked spectacular.  It was the school mascot iced perfectly onto a shaped cake - just beautiful.

When I saw it I was sure of my defeat.  My loyal friend came over to tell me that it was a Nutella cake and should be disqualified (we had to include an ingredient list to be displayed with our entry).  Nutella - wait, there's nuts in that, right??  I was really annoyed because I could have made a much more dramatic cake if I could have used nuts.  This person either flaunted the rules or didn't read them - equally sinful in my books.

I had to leave the contest early and I later found out via email that I won the over all "Judge's Champion" first prize.  Woo hoo!  How exciting. 

But my excitement was tempered by the news that the Nutella or "cheater" cake won "Fan Favourite" and "Most Original."  So I'm still not happy.

Anyways, here is a picture of my lovely prize - a gold reusable parchment paper and gold napkins.  I fancied a reusable parchment so I'm really happy about the prize!