Wednesday, August 6, 2014

London, Cambridge and Bruges… Oh My!

I am still sloooowwwwllllyyyyy catching up here.  This post brings us up to March when my sister-in-law, niece-in-law (is that a word?) and great niece-in-law came to visit.  Aside from spending a few days in London, we took them on a day trip to Bruges and went punting in Cambridge.

The Bruges trip was fun but exhausting.  We left early in the morning- like around 5 am- and drove down to Dover for our Chunnel crossing to France and then headed to Bruges.  We arrived in Bruges around 11 and stayed until around 6 before heading back toward France, crossing the Channel again and then driving the three hours back home.  We arrived home around midnight.  It was a long day, but filled with beautiful scenery, unseasonably warm weather for March and chocolate… sweet lord… the Belgian chocolate.

When we emerged from the tube station near the hotel in London to meet our family that had just flown in earlier, this is what we were greeted with:

On the London Eye heading up:

On the London Eye:

View from the London Eye:

My selfie on the London Eye:

The official photo: 

I was really annoyed with this one because while we were waiting in line to go on the Eye, they ushered us in front of a green screen to take this picture.  We bought it and they stamped a logo over DJ's face!

The water gate (Traitor's Gate) entrance to the Tower of London

Bruges city centre:

 Zoe found a car her size in Bruges:


Oh the chocolate!!

 The chocolate we brought home:


Boat RIDE!!


 We discovered on the boat tour that Michelangelo's Madonna and Child is located in the Church of our Lady in Bruges.  I had no idea!  So, of course, we had to venture that way to go see it!

Inside the Church of Our Lady:

Inside the Church of Our Lady:

Punting in Cambridge!

The Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge:

King's College- Cambridge:

Bridge of Sighs (St. John's College) - Cambridge:

My next post should cover our Spring Break trip to Scotland.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Christmas Day

On Christmas morning, we decided to head to Sandringham- the Queen's winter residence.  It is only about a 35-40 minute drive from our house, so we knew we had to check this off our bucket list.  Every Christmas morning, they open the gates and allow the public on to the grounds of Sandringham to stand outside the church where the royal family goes for Christmas service.  You can line the path from the house to the church and the family (all except for the Queen) walks to church and tells everyone "Happy Christmas" and "hello" while walking down the path.  The Queen takes a car.  They go in to church, have service and then emerge and chat with the public.  The Queen stands at the corner of the church and the children are allowed to present her with flowers.  

This year, however, there were more people than usual- presumably because everyone turned out hoping to get a glimpse of Prince George.  Because of the number of people, they split the line of children in two and only half got to see the Queen.  My kids were in the other line and initially I was bummed about that, but the way it worked out, I got better pictures of them, and they got to give flowers to Kate!

Here is Zoe, in her Queen-meeting outfit:

With her flowers to present to the Queen:

Noah and Zoe in line- after the line was split.  The line next to the fence got to meet the Queen.

The Queen (in the orange coat) emerging from the church

The kids in line waiting while the royal family comes out of the church up on the hill 

We were delighted to discover that some of the other royals- while normally going down the path back to the house which is in an entirely different direction- decided to walk down the line of children that weren't meeting the Queen.  Here is Prince William right in front of Noah and Zoe!  He walked down the line and asked if any of the kids wanted to give their flowers to him… and none did- they wanted to give them to Kate.  He laughed and one little girl gave him her flowers. 

It's Kate (Duchess Catherine)- right in front of my kids!

She's smiling at Noah!  He said she told then "Happy Christmas".

Noah giving his flowers to her: 

Now, I was trying to get a picture of the Queen (in the orange coat and black hat) but this shoulder kept getting in the way of my lens and I was annoyed until I discovered whose shoulder it was!

It's Prince Harry!!  Look- he's looking at me!!

Seriously- look how close he is!!

 And then he walked right in front of me!

It was really very cold that morning and there was quite a bit of waiting around before we were able to see the family.  Zoe had a meltdown at one point and DJ had to take her to sit in the car- she was just too cold!  But, thankfully, they got back in time for her to present her flowers!  I am hoping she doesn't remember that misery this coming Christmas and I can talk her into going back so she can meet the Queen this time!


My Christmas post wouldn't be a proper post without our family photos.  We decided- because we are, well.. US- that if we were taking a family photo, it was going to represent our family.  So- I went shopping and got the most spectacularly tacky Christmas jumpers and accessories I could find. And we suited up for photos with my camera on a timer.  I gotta say… I LOVE them!!

A proper family Christmas photo!

I mean, if you know us personally, this is totally normal!

More family photo awesomeness!  We titled this one: "We just found out we were on Santa's 'naughty list' !"

We can be somewhat normal at times:

I was just so sad that I found this little gem AFTER family pictures!  Oh well, there is always next Christmas…. 

And finally, I had to include these two photos of myself and the two kids on their last day of school before Christmas break in our Christmas jumpers.  The one of Noah and I cracks me up because I handed Zoe my phone and asked her to take a picture of us in our Christmas jumpers.  Well… she got the jumpers in the photo… I guess my face is unimportant! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

December 2013

December is filled with VERY short days in England.  The kids walk to the bus stop with the street lights still on at 7:30 and walk home from the bus stop with street lights on at 3:30.  Peppermint, our Elf on the Shelf, always visits for the month and we find other various activities to participate in around England.

Admittedly, I jumped right in the middle of The Elf on the Shelf bandwagon.  Zoe was two and really giving me a hard time behavior-wise, so I thought he would be a perfect solution.  A new twist on the "Santa Claus is watching you" used by my parents.  The elf did not intimidate Zoe in any way, shape or form, but- at the time- Noah was still young enough to believe and he got caught up in it and I couldn't take it away without ruining the fun for him.  Now Zoe is old enough (and much better behaved) to believe in him, so I have to keep him going.  I do regret this a bit as I have run out of places to put him and mischief for him to get into.  I am not the dedicated person you see on the internet that sets up elaborate scenes, messes or games. Frankly, I don't want to have to clean that crap up.  Thankfully, two years in, we moved- opening up a whole new house and places for the elf to hide.  But after our second Christmas here, I am already running out of ideas.  And I am so over it, that I forgot to move the elf a few times.  I came up with some lame excuse like, "Well maybe you were misbehaving and he saw it, so he didn't move."  Way to guilt my kid. Go me.  Finally, I have that part down- when Elf season starts, I set a standing alarm for 9pm every night on my phone to ring and remind me to MOVE THE STUPID ELF.

Walking home with the kids at 3:30pm with the streetlights on

 Waiting for the bus in the morning around 7:40 with the street lights on

Walking to the bus stop one morning and the moon is still high in the sky

Peppermint sitting in the light in the front hallway

Peppermint getting a piggy-back ride on the nutcracker

Peppermint found the peppermint!

I think Santa lets Peppermint watch too much tv- he is obviously being influenced by Miley

We found him one morning upstairs in the vase of flowers

Caught partying with the saxophone-playing reindeer

He has a drinking problem- and we have a syrup shortage!

In Noah's piano bag

Hanging out in Zoe's closet:

He was obviously caught off guard this morning in Zoe's dollhouse.  She was pretty angry!

 When she got home from school, he had moved, but forgot to flush! Zoe was really angry! Noah- the ten-year-old that he is- saw it, laughed and picked it up and ate it.  Zoe was first horrified and then when she found out it was a Hershey's kiss, she was mad she didn't get one too!

I guess he decided to take Barbie out for a ride in the Barbie Beetle

On this morning, Zoe was the maddest I think I have seen her in awhile.  She awakened to find Peppermint on the tree along with his practical joke- her underwear all over the tree! 
She was NOT happy!

 A six-year-old's princess panties all over the tree!

He was caught reading Noah's Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in the reading nook one morning

And sliding down the banister another

Hanging out in the wreath is fairly innocent

Reminding us that Christmas is near

Now he ticked ME off.. he was in my peppermint bark!

He even showed up briefly in the kids' school cafeteria on the day that parents come have lunch with their children!  He truly is EVERYWHERE!

One morning, he was swinging from a toilet roll in the upstairs hallway!

Another morning, he was just in the stairwell window, watching.

Waiting for a cup of tea

I can only guess he was trying to get in the sweets we worked so hard to bake, but was unable to get through the saran wrap! 

He is a curious fellow and appears to be obsessed with the cuckoo clock

On Christmas Eve, we also attended a Christingle service at the village church.  It is a fun little tradition for children in England.  They assemble a "Christingle" which consists of an orange, toothpicks, candies and sweets, a red ribbon and a candle.  The vicar tells the story of Christmas and explains that the orange represents the world, the toothpicks represent the four seasons and the candies placed on the toothpicks- the fruit of the earth.  The red ribbons represents the blood of Jesus and the candle is Jesus- the light of the world.  It is a beautiful little service and in the end, the children line the aisle of the church and sing Sileng Night with their lit Christingles.

The vicar

The children with their Christingles lining the center aisle of the church

My kids with their Christingles

On Christmas day, we took the kids to the Queen's winter residence at Sandringham and they got to MEET Prince William, Prince Harry and Duchess Catherine!  I will post about that along with pictures next!  

Thank you for being patient with me- and the fact I am posting CHRISTMAS BLOGS in July!