Friday, May 31, 2013

What a great place to live!

Today I was reminded that we live in a great place. I accidentally left my wallet in plain sight on the front seat of the car in a public parking lot.  And I accidentally left the window open right next to the wallet.

When I got back to the car, the wallet was there and nothing was disturbed, despite many, many people having walked through the area while my wallet was accessible.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Playgroup

Today I took Little Boy and Baby Boy to a new (to us) Mother and Tots morning.  It was lovely.  I knew a couple of people and others I had seen around our neighbourhood.  Little Boy had fun playing with some different toys and Baby Boy practiced his new rolling skills.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hammerton Store

Ever since I first visited Aberdeen (for our "look-see" visit), I have wanted to have coffee at a place called "Hammerton Store."  Hammerton Store is on Great Western Road and I drive past it constantly.  People sit outside at little tables and enjoy coffee and bakery treats.  It is a bit too far from my house to be a comfortable walk, and it looked like it would have a lot of things that Little Boy (as a rambunctious toddler) could get into.

Today, while Little Boy was at nursery, Baby Boy and I met a friend at Hammerton Store for a coffee.  The store was much like I had imagined - a general store with "nicer" groceries and organic fruit and vegetables.  They have bakery, butchery and dry goods as well as gift and household items.  It seemed that many of the items I looked at were locally made.

I had a latte and a muffin - both were tasty and I enjoyed a chat with my friend in pleasant surroundings.

I made only one small grocery purchase - some salted caramel fudge.  I tried a little bit of it when I got home and it is absolutely amazing.  It is one of the best things I have ever tasted (seriously....I mean that without hyperbole).  The brand of the fudge is "The Ochil Fudge Pantry" and it is locally made.  I have had to put it in a top cupboard so that I can save a bit for my husband to try.

Here is the website for the fudge company if you are interested:  http://www.ochilfudgepantry.co.uk/

Now that I have had their fudge, I really want to try their tablet (a sweet fudge like treat). 

Here is the website for Hammerton Store:  http://www.hammertonstore.co.uk/

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What a Busy Weekend...

....or maybe just a busy Saturday, but somehow the chaos seemed to leak over into Sunday.

On Friday night we put the kids to bed early in anticipation of our Saturday.  It's a good thing we did, because Saturday was hectic.  It was also a gorgeous, sunny, and hot day.

We had a birthday party to attend at the Foam Factory at Cordona's at the Beach.  The Foam Factory is pretty cool (if you can get past the noise level).  It is a giant play centre where the kids play with foam balls.  There are machines to shoot the balls, vacuums that suck out the balls and later spit them out elsewhere, and slides and tubs for the balls.  The kids could shoot balls across many levels (pirate ship style) or they could put the balls into machines the swirled them around and spit them out.  The best thing was that the balls did not hurt when they hit the kids so they could have safe ball fights.

After the party we rushed home for grown up lunch (the kids ate at the party) and then the whole family dropped Big Boy and I off downtown at His Majesty's Theatre.  I took Big Boy to his first opera - The Pirates of Penzance.  We caught the matinee and it was great fun.

"Hmmm"....you might ask...."is it a good idea to take a 6-year old to the opera?"  In this case, "Yes!"  Big Boy really enjoyed the show and behaved appropriately throughout.  He had some questions about the storyline and he whispered them to me so that he did not disturb the other patrons.  We sat on the balcony which was largely empty and he really enjoyed being able to see the whole stage with ease.

I think it helped that The Pirates of Penzance is an easy opera to understand.  First - it's in English!  Much easier than a language he doesn't know.  But even beyond that, he could understand the basic structure of the store and the idea of being "duty bound" (a theme of the show).  Also, he loves pirates, so it was fun for him to see the singing gang of pirates.

My favourite part of the show was the quivering policemen....it never fails to make me giggle to see them singing "Tarantara, tarantara."

The usher gave Big Boy a children's version of the program, and he had fun figuring out his "pirate name" from the chart on the back.  My pirate name was "Aye-aye Captain Swashbuckle" - very apt!

As we were leaving the opera, Big Boy asked me when he was going to have time to nap...uh oh...he was not supposed to have a nap on Saturday because our activities were so closely planned.  But we managed to take him home after the show for a quick nap before heading out to a party at Kippie Lodge, where we said "good-bye" (sort of - we will still see them again) to some friends who are moving away.  The kids had a great time at the party and even got to play outdoors.  The adults had a lovely meal.

As we arrived at home on Saturday night, Little Boy started weeping with exhaustion....and then fell into bed.  Ah, the bliss of a 2-year old sleeping in!

On Sunday we did very little.  I took the kids out to the grocery store and then we spent some time outside riding bikes.  My husband went out for a long bike ride and then we all ate lunch together before naps.  After supper we took Big Boy to get his photo taken in honour of loosing his first top tooth.  He looks so old now!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

We're Rolling!

Baby Boy has been rolling around a bit lately, often getting up on his side and sometimes rolling to his tummy.  Today, for the first time, Baby Boy is reliably rolling to his stomach to get a toy.

Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Water

I know this is obvious but sometimes I need a little reminder - drinking enough water makes me feel good. I drink lots of water because I'm currently nursing Baby Boy and also - I just like water!

When we were driving to Lewis we had a day where we drank more soda that we should have. The next day we had no soda but plenty of water. Although I didn't feel bad the first evening, on the second (water day) evening, I felt great.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Value of a Pound....Part II

This is an update on my previous post about Big Boy learning about the value of a pound (linked here:  http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-value-of-poundpart-i.html).  

After Big Boy asked about the book sale, I sent him off to school with some of his saved-up pocket money.  He chose to take £10 of his pocket money (rather a lot, I thought) to purchase the book that he wanted.  He came home with 3 books and no money left.

When I asked about what happened, he explained that he went to the sale and showed the saleslady how much money he had and she helped him by showing him that he could get 3 books for his money....pretty slick sales job....

Anyways, Big Boy feels empowered by his purchases but he was sad that some of his pocket money was gone.  He loves the books he bought and in his mind they were worth what he spent on them.  With regards to a pocket money purchase, that's about all you can ask for!

As the next stage to our "Value of a Pound" project, my husband plans to take Big Boy and show him what you can buy for £10 in terms of other toys or food for the family.  He is planning a combination of showing him in store and on line - just building it into our regular family activities.  I will keep everyone posted on how that goes.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

My First Jelly Roll (Swiss Roll Flavoured)....or Roulade if you will...

Yesterday I made my first jelly roll (called "jelly roll" and home and "roulade" here).  I used a new pan from Lakeland (the silicone roulade pan) and a recipe from their website.  I was very pleased with the results - it was delicious and it looked great.  It wasn't too difficult but there were a few parts of the process that required my full attention (difficult with the kids around).  The roll is entirely without flour.

As a part of this baking project, I also made my first "real" whipped cream.  I whipped double cream using a hand mixture and I added granulated sugar, vanilla and a bit of cream of tartare.

I will definitely make this again soon.  Here are some pictures of the results: 



Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Football Goal....Part II

A while ago I wrote about football goals that had been erected in our green space, and here is the post if you want to read it:  http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-football-goal.html

Since I wrote that post, the goals disappeared.  I noticed they were gone, but I haven't heard any "chatter" on our street about it, so when my husband asked why when he came home from his business trip I didn't know.

But I do now...in today's post I got a letter forwarded from our landlord's management company.  It seems that the company that maintains the green space sent out a demand letter requiring that the goals be removed by the owners (not us, thank goodness, as this letter was dated 5 days ago) within 48 hours or there would be various costs to either the owners of the goal or everyone who resides within our terrace (could they really do this?  unlikely...).

Anyways, the goals are gone and there are fewer children playing football out front in the evenings....I guess that will save the green space from wear and tear.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Daddy's Home!

My husband has been away for quite a while (12 days) and he came home yesterday.  The homecoming is always interesting.  After the presents are given and the treats eaten, it is always time to get back to regular life.  

The kids have to get used to 2 parents in the house and we parents have to overcome jet lag and get everyone back on a regular eating and sleeping schedule.  This always takes about a week.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Flat Stanley

Recently, Big Boy used his birthday Book Token to purchase a treasury of Flat Stanley stories (thank you, Auntie, Uncle and Cousin).  We have all been reading a bit of the book together at night before bed and I am very impressed.  The stories are easy for Big Boy and Little Boy to comprehend and Big Boy is able to read some parts by himself.  The illustratons are  pleasant and add to the story but don't prevent the children from using their imagination.

I am actually looking forward to story time again!  What a lovely change from Road Dahl.  (Sorry, but I'm not a fan.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Value of a Pound....Part I

I've been wanting to teach Big Boy about the value of money.  As in the "buying power" of money, because he does not have a clue.  Once I asked him how much he thought the groceries in my basket (milk, apples and bread) should cost and he said "I dunno, a hundred dollars?" The groceries were worth less than $5.

The perfect opportunity fell into my lap this week.  There is a travelling book fair at his school and he fancies a book.  He saw it and looked at it but doesn't know how much it costs.  I think it is probably between £2 and £4.  He asked me if I could pick him up at school one day so he could show it to me.  This is his code for "and then buy it...."

I told him that this week I probably would not be picking him up, but if he wanted, he could take some of his saved-up pocket money and buy the book.  He never spends any pocket money, so he has quite a bit saved up from birthdays, Christmas and the tooth fairy.  He was very hesitant at this suggestion so I asked him why.  He said that he did not know how much pocket money he would have left if he bought the book.  Because I don't know the price of the book I could not answer that, so I told him he could ask after the price and then decide.  He was still hesitant.  So I asked him if the issue was that he wanted me to spend my pocket money on the book so he could save his.  He said "Yes!  Exactly!  That would be good."

So I explained how he would have to decide if he valued the book enough to use his own pocket money for it.  We shall see how it turns out, he's giving it a think tonight.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Just a funny...

I was going to skip blogging today because nothing is really going on, but then this happened:

We were driving down the highway here in Aberdeen past some fields.  The road is incredibly narrow and I was driving my husband's wide truck so I was very focussed on the driving.

Big Boy was sitting in his seat looking out the side window.  He said "Wow Mom, look at all of those white people!"

I could not look at that moment so I basically ignored him.  Then he said "I seriously have never seen so many white people all in one place.  They are everywhere!"

I still couldn't look but I was getting curious.  When we passed another field and he said "Even more white people, I can't believe it!" I could finally take a look out my side window.

It was a very large cricket meet.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Football Goal

There is a large green space in front of our house.  Since we have moved in the area has been a place where the kids played in snow in the winter.  My kids occasionally played there in the summer, but it is generally empty in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago one of the residents of our street put up a football goal, a really large one, on one end of the green space.  Ever since that goal was placed the green space is full of kid every afternoon and evening.  All of the kids from our street and surrounding areas come out to our green space in the evening to play football or just run around.  

About a week after the first goal was placed someone put up a second goal at the other end of the green space, making the area even more popular.  It is refreshing to see the kids getting exercise and its great to see the older and younger kids having fun together.

I'm excited about this new community spirit.

Unfortunately, there is also a downside to the new found popularity of the green space.  There has been trash left around the green space over the last few days.  Also the city workers who came to trim the grass seemed very annoyed by the goals.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Planting Memories

A few weeks back you may recall that Big Boy and I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (here is the post if you want to read it:  http://janiceljlj.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/joseph-and-amazing-technicolour.html).  After we saw the show, someone loaned us the soundtrack.  The kids like the soundtrack so we listen to it fairly often.

After the show, Big Boy had a lot of questions about the story and the morals of the story and the costumes and the music.  Little Boy was around while I answered most of the questions and it turns out that he was paying a lot of attention.  He listened while Big Boy and I discussed the soundtrack and the costumes and what was happening visually in the show during particular parts of the soundtrack.  He paid so much attention, he is convinced that he went to the show.

Little Boy thinks that he came with us for lunch and ate sausage and mash.  He thinks that he sat with us in the balcony of His Majesty's Theatre and that he saw Joseph singing.  He can tell you which voice on the soundtrack (the Donny Osmond version) is Joseph singing.  He can tell you what the brothers did to Joseph and why it was bad.  He can tell you about how Joseph eventually forgave them but first wound them up a bit with the whole "gold cup" trick.  He can tell you how the stage looked.  He even has a favourite song on the soundtrack (the "Joseph Megamix") and he knows what Joseph's costume looks like during that song.

He honestly thinks that he went to the show with us....and he didn't.

It makes me wonder about the reliability of little kids as witnesses....and of adults who recover memories of events during childhood.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Wednesday....

I spent most of today dealing with a flat tyre on my husband's truck.  It seems to me that every time he goes away on business he has a problem with his truck....or rather I have a problem with his truck.  The tyre problem was easy enough to solve, all it took was a few phone calls and then a friend showed up with a tyre pump and fixed it temporarily so that I could get it to a tyre repair shop.  What surprises me is how these small chores can end up taking a whole day to complete....what would happen if I had to go to work?  How would I have fit in the tyre issues?

Little Boy and I spent the day together and he was quite chatty.  One cute thing he said was:

Me:  "Please clean up."

Little Boy:  "[Big Boy] is really good at cleaning up."

Me:  "Yes, don't you want to be like him."

Little Boy:  "No, I just want him to clean for me."

Hmmmm....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Camperdown Wildlife Centre (Dundee)

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in Aberdeen and, unfortunately, my husband was away on a business trip (I'm beginning to think that the company he works for is conspiring to always have trips planned for public holidays - he is always missing them, whether here, in Canada or in Dubai).  Initially I was going to have a relaxing day at home with the kids, but that seemed too easy, so I planned a trip to Camperdown Wildlife Centre.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling Big Boy about my plans in an effort to "engage" him.

This was unfortunate because I had a terrible sleep the night before the planned excursion.  Baby Boy was poorly and I ended up going to bed at about 2:00 a.m.  It was a shock when Little Boy wandered into my room at 6:00 a.m. rested and ready to start his day.  I wanted to cancel the outing but both of the bigger kids were excited to go see the animals so I decided that a day out was probably less stressful than entertaining them at home.

I made the right choice.  We packed a lunch and I loaded everyone and everything into the truck.  It took about an 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive to the Wildlife Centre in Dundee and the kids were great on the ride down.  They listened to the Singing Kettle and I enjoyed a nearly empty motorway.  Baby Boy had a nice nap.

At the Wildlife Centre the kids kept up their good behaviour.  We spent about 1 hour and 45 minutes looking at the animals.  We saw every animal at the Centre and the kids were interested and enthusiastic.  Little Boy walked the whole time and Baby Boy stayed in the stroller.  The only hiccup was our peacock encounter.  The peacocks are free range at the Centre and Little Boy came eye to eye with one.  He found it terrifying!  For the rest of our wander through the Centre I had to hold his hand if a peacock was within sight.

The animals at the Centre are not as exotic as in some zoos.  There are brown bears and many kinds of lemurs and owls.  My favourite was the wolf because of the haunted look in his eyes.  I had no doubt that he would be vicious in the wild.

We ate our picnic and went to the tea room for a warm drink before our ride home.  Our visit to the Centre had started out warm but the day cooled off quite quickly so a warm drink was in order.

The kids were still good on the ride home - Little Boy and Baby Boy slept while Big Boy and I listened to the "Joseph and the Amazing Techinicolour Dreamcoat" soundtrack.  Traffic was heavier on the way home, the motorway was full of cars pulling caravans after a weekend trip.  There were also a large number of home-made trailers moving various things - mostly furniture....they really clogged up the road with their snail-like pace.

Overall it was a great day out and I'm glad we went.  I'm sure the effort of the outing was far less than entertaining the boys at home would have been.



Monday, May 6, 2013

Update...the last couple of weeks

The last couple of weeks have been busy indeed.

We had visitors and they have now left.  Soon we will have another brief visit with some relatives....I can't wait!

Big Boy has an exhausting schedule.  He has started swimming and wall climbing in school and his activity schedule is draining to me even though I'm just watching!  He has another loose tooth - soon we will have another tooth fairy visit.

Little Boy is eating everything in sight at the moment.  He is constantly asking for a snack or wondering when the next meal time is....I'm sure he's heading into a growth spurt.  A few weeks ago we had a celebration for him as he is now potty trained.  He has been trained since late February, but I wanted to wait until we had guests so that we could have a big party.  I hung bunting and we had a cake....and gifts!

Baby Boy is starting to grasp and is in the early stages of sitting.  He can roll over when he wants but he doesn't do it very often.  

Baby Boy has been unwell.  He has seen a bunch of medical professionals and even a specialist doctor.  I have been spending enormous amounts of time trying to get him appropriate medical attention, but unfortunately the soonest we could get an appointment for him to see the doctor he needs is August (!).  I'm going to keep working on it, but he is currently miserable and I hate seeing him like this.

It is a holiday weekend but my husband is away so I am trying to be creative while entertaining my boys.  Last night we had our first ever restaurant "takeaway."  It was a mixed success.  Big Boy loved everything, while Little Boy picked one dish (fried rice) and ate only that.

A couple of other bits of news that I will be expanding on in future posts:

-  I have started making my own yogurt.  Not only am I saving loads of money, it is healthier and the kids love it.
-  I have managed to find my way around the bread machine and I am consistently making decent bread at this point.
-  I got my first ever speeding ticket.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Travelling with kids


We travel often with our 3 sons and I thought I'd share some ofour tips for making travel manageable and fun with 3 children aged 6 and under.

1.  Know your kids.

You already know your kids.  You know their personalities and their routines.  Before you travel, consider how this could effect your trip.

For example, Little Boy has a tough time waking up from his nap each afternoon. He cries to wake up and he is sleepy, weepy and grouchy for about 1/2 hour. We try to accommodate this by playing his favourite music softly and leaving him alone with his thoughts if we are driving in the truck.  If we are having naps in the hotel we allow time for plenty of cuddles after his nap.

2.  Keep your kids comfortable.

Think through what your kids are wearing and consider comfort.  Sitting for long hours in bunched trousers or on a raised seam can chafe or be uncomfortable and it can cause squirming. Sometimes I spring for more premium diapers for a car trip because I'm convinced they are a bit softer.

Temperature is also important. No one likes to be too hot or too cold. Layering is a great way to keep kids (or anyone) comfortable. Also, on a car trip consider the temperature settings in the back seat.

4.  Keep your kids healthy.

Eat well. Make sure to continue to eat fruits and vegetables on your trip, particularly if you plan to indulge in some "naughty" local foods.  I make sure that (at a minimum) when we are travelling the kids eat a fruit or vegetable snack at least twice a day. This is usually enough to keep all digestive systems functioning properly, even in the face of fish and chips suppers!

When you offer fruits and vegetables every day for snacks for your kids, you may be surprised to find that they request them and sometimes prefer them to holiday treat food.

5.  Have more than adequate supplies on hand.

On our trip to the Isle of Lewis, we were caught short by the Sunday store closures. We knew we'd find a way around it, so we were not too bothered, but being short on supplies can be a major cause of tension with parents and this filters down to the kids and causes them to act up.

6.  The exotic.

If your kids are wary of the exotic (new foods, new activities, new places, etc.) you will need to deal with it head on. We help the kids try to find the familiar in the exotic and if that fails we praise them for trying something different.

For example, when we first moved to Dubai, I could not always find foods that were the same as the ones we ate in Canada.  For some items I could find similar ones (ie. boxed breakfast cereal) and the kids were happy.  But sometimes we just had I celebrate the fact that we were eating something different and new.

7.  Have a plan.

For me this is crucial no matter who is travelling. Each day you should have some idea of what you are planning to do. Any time you spend researching your next activity during the trip is time for the kids to get restless and misbehave.  Big Boy finds it comforting to have a vague outline for the daily acivities when we head out in the morning.

8.  Have activities in mind for the journey.

Sometimes a trip involves a long time in the car.  Be prepared for this. Have activities like books on tape, car games or small toys available.  Also keep adequate water and snacks in the passenger compartment of the car so you don't have to stop if someone is hungry or thirsty

9.  Pay attention to potty patterns.

My policy is that if there is a washroom available, everyone should go. Enough said.

10.  Activities

You don't always need to do "kid" activities - like waterslides or amusement parks.  But, when you are doing activities that are not as "obvious" for kids, you will have to do a bit of work to make it fun for them.

For example, if you want to take the kids to tour a castle or manor house, you may need to talk to them about what is interesting in each room or make up a game to find something.

I'm Back

I've had a good think and a rest and I've decided that I really do enjoy writing this blog and I will keep it up.  I plan to keep a similar format - it will be diary-style and it will mainly cover everyday "mumsy" stuff as well as our travels.

I have decided that what was bothering me about blogging was the fact that it is uni-directional communication.  This is not news....as a blogger, I post something on the Internet and my friends, family and other assorted readers read what I have posted.  I rarely get any feedback or communication except for silly spam comments.  This was bothering me because we have been hearing less from family and friends lately and on a number of occasions when we do make contact the other party feels like we've kept in touch because they've been following the blog.  Obviously we don't feel in the loop at all!

Anyways...there is no solution to this problem and I recognize that the longer we are away the further we are from people's thoughts.  This is natural and part of the expat lifestyle.  I can't let it bother me and I'm not going to let it stop me from blogging, something I have grown to enjoy.

We have some big events in our house this weekend, so check back Monday for a general post on everything that we've done over the past couple of weeks.