Friday, December 31, 2010

Here's to 2011!

We've been so fortunate over the past twelve months - we've had lots of good travel, great accomplishments, happy days. Here's hoping that the next twelve months bring all of you peace, joy and good memories!

Copenhagen from the Round Tower, 29th December 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Some intial thoughts on December

Thought #1: It's kind of nice living someplace where it actually snows. My previous post highlighted the first of several snowy days, and it snowed again yesterday briefly and overnight/this morning quite a bit - to the tune of about 3 fluffy inches. Two foxes were running through the garden this morning, and we've had a badger come to visit in the last couple of weeks.

Late night visitor
Night shot with no flash = fuzzy badger

A friend recommended peeing around the massive hole said badger has dug under our fence from the neighboring garden - they can be quite destructive, particularly to lawns, and since they're a protected species we can't very well take active measures to get rid of it. Himself took one for the team and duely watered the appropriate area and we haven't seen it since. The foxes, however, have found the same access point very useful. Aaaahhh, English wildlife!

It's all very lovely, particularly since I'm holed up inside and the rest of the family is out playing in the snow. Which brings me to thought #2: I seem to be on track to taking a run at last year's stellar record of two bouts of disease within 10 days over the Christmas holiday. This year's plague is better then last year's in that it's not the flu and I don't have six extra people in the house, but it's still not very fun - I am blogging from the comfort of my bed. Hooray for wireless!

Thought #3: the first few days of the girls' holiday have been nice. We've decorated Christmas trees in situ,


and at home.


We've gone to the dinosaur museum and made mini-mince pies.


And I've discovered that they are big fans of Cheap Trick. Particularly this song.


I'm not sure why D has her tongue out in ever shot - maybe she's chaneling Mr. Jordan? It was some pretty strenuous dancing...

Time for me to finish up and crawl under the covers for a nap. Here's hoping everyones' gifts are purchased/made/otherwise obtained, that the snow is falling softly and the Christmas tunes are on. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The last day of November

It was a good walk to school with Uncle N, and it is still coming down outside. Not enough to stick to the pavement, but enough that driving is a bad idea, and walking is a bit tricky. Boo's two comments were "I love snow! Can we go skiing?" and "Does this mean Father Christmas is coming tomorrow?" I'll enjoy this winter weather enthusiasm while it lasts.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kleptos in training

This story is a prime example of the fact that, although my children look like little clones, they are so different in personality as to defy description.

On Sunday, Himself and the two girls went to the local Home Depot equivalent to pick up a few items. When they arrived home, it was discovered that the girls had come away with a pile of white rocks that they'd picked up on their way through the store. Somehow, someone (Boo) had decided that Daddy wouldn't notice if they took the rocks, and it wouldn't matter anyway. And Devil went along with it, more or less happily.

Well, they were rapidly and emphatically disabused of that notion once we noticed their loot. And the three of them spent the next hour going back to the store, returning the rocks (they were part of a fireplace display) and finding someone so that the girls could apologize for having stolen the rocks.

Here's where the differences come out. Boo, who I suspect was the ultimate instigator in the whole affair, was completely nonchalant about the whole thing. She put the rocks back, happily apologized and moved on with her day. Not a big deal. Part of me is a bit concerned about her complete lack of concern with the whole thing, but it may not be a bad thing.

Devil, however, was completely unhinged. She lost it at home when we were explaining that yes, taking things that are just lying around is still stealing, and continued in (more or less) hysterics throughout their time in the store. She was so upset she couldn't apologize, or even form coherent sentences. So they came home, and once Dev calmed down we, at the risk of setting her off once again, said that she still had to go back and apologize, but that she could choose when to do it. But until she'd made things right, she was going to lose some privileges (i.e. the daily 30 min of boob tube time).

Last night, I mentioned to her that we were going to go back to the store today, and this afternoon, with only a few obvious jitters, she went in, stood calmly while I explained the whole fiasco to the very understanding and cooperative till attendant, and apologized.

I'm proud of both of them for different reasons. I'm proud of Boo for being able to go back and do what needed to be done without a huge fuss. And I'm proud of Devil for being able to move past being so overwhelmingly embarassed that she'd done something wrong to apologize. And I hope that 1) they'll think twice next time before grabbing the next shiny something that catches their eye, and 2) that Devil will start to speak up for herself a bit more - just because o-so-confident Little Sister says something is ok doesn't mean that she's right. And that it's ok to go against what other people want - it won't make you a bad person, and in this scenario, it makes you 100% right.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What a month it's been

I knew I hadn't posted in quite a while, but I had no idea exactly how long it had been until just now. This is the problem with having a) lots of visitors and b) the girls off from school for a week and a half for the half-term holiday.

Over the course of October, we were visited by a friend from Houston (for the weekend), Mermaid and Koala (two weeks covering the school holiday), my cousin who lives in New York (five days), and IM's cousin who lives in Tokyo (for dinner). It's been a bit nutty, to say the least.

More recently, we've had the stellar week-long chaos that is Halloween/Guy Fawkes Day. Halloween weekend started with a trip to get some pumpkins,


and ended with Ariel and Snow White heading off into the surprisingly warm evening to collect glucose products from the surrounding, unsuspecting neighbors. Halloween hasn't been such a big holiday in the UK, but it seems to be growing, with more and more trick or treating going on. I stayed home with my gimpy ankle and handed out sugar to children, two of whom distinguished themselves by seranading me with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, ending with the line "now give us some candy."

Trick or treating

Jack O Lanterns

The rest of the week has been spent in trying to limit abuse of my children's Islets of Langerhans and keep them in bed when the fireworks were going off after bedtime. In addition to Guy Fawkes Day on Friday, Diwali was this week, so it seems like there have been random firecrackers/fireworks going off every single night.

We headed to Battersea Park for the council fireworks last night. As last year, they were brilliant. And we made it home 1.5 hrs later with two sacked out children and several compressed vertebrae. Today is sunny and cold, and the leaves have covered the back garden. It's stew weather, wool sweater weather, pumpkin muffin weather, oh-my-gosh-its-getting-dark-early weather. Winter is coming.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Last Saturday, I broke myself. In a serious way. A couple of good friends and I decided it would be "fun" to do a little urban adventure race called The Rat Race. The idea being to run around the City of London doing bizarre things and earning points. One of them had done it last year and had a great time, so this year she two more of us along with her. Over the course of 3 hours we danced the Macarena in Soho, did karaoke in a bowling alley, climbed on the massive phallic symbols cannons in front of the Imperial War Museum, and ended up running almost 14 miles.

The last time I ran that far was when I was training for my first and only marathon. Which was in 2003. To say that I was a) tired or am still b) sore would be an understatement of the highest order. I did nothing for the two days following, and just went for my first run this morning. As long as I was shuffling along, it was ok (if excruciatingly slow and tired). However, any requests to speed up or go up hills resulted in my hamstrings telling me in no uncertain terms to fuck off. thinks it might take a while to get them back with the program.

If that little jaunt around the city weren't enough to piss my body off, last night was my first experience with Swim for Tri. This is a swim training program for triathletes (which I think means they mostly ask you to swim freestyle with a bit of backstroke and breaststroke thrown in occasionally, but absolutely no butterfly. Win!) that Himself has been doing since early this year. He's been going to the Sunday sessions at the local Leisure Centre, which meant that I had to choose another location. Then next closest one is in Kensington. No problem, I thought, I can get there on the tube. Sadly, the closest Tube station is a 10+ minute walk and at least one train change away. There and back last night took me an hour each way. Which is nice in the sense that I have some down time, but is not exactly efficient. And it means I'm walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood at ten o'clock at night, which is less then ideal. My other transportation options are riding (ugh - in the winter?) and driving. Will try the car option next week and see if it's more then 20 minutes faster then the Tube. It could be exponentially more irritating however...

Anyway, I swam 3500+ meters, which is my longest swim since Fall 2008. Longest by a long shot - my second longest in the last two years was 2000 meters. Which was last week (I thought it would be a good idea to go a bit longer then my typically 1500 in preparation for this course). Impressive yardage (meterage?), but the longest individual swim in that 3500+ meters was a 200, which I can do in my sleep more or less (my typical warm up when I'm swimming on my own is 400-500 m nonstop). I was in a lane with a couple of other gentleman, one another newbie, and I'm afraid in my super-excited, Hooray-I'm-swimming-for-reals-again! enthusiastic state, I may have beaten them up a little bit. I was like a puppy with a new toy - again! again! again! 15 seconds rest? You got it Coach! I must have been incredibly irritating.

I'm sure my enthusiasm will wane a bit as it goes along, but it was great fun. I felt really good afterwards until I sat on the train for 20 minutes. When I got up to get off at my stop, I moved like I'd been beaten with a baseball bat. Poor Porpoise is not in very good shape, nor is she very young anymore - I've been trying to ignore the fact that I don't bounce back from these athletic endeavors as easily as I used to, but the writing is on the wall. In big flashing neon green letters. And they read "You need to stretch more Dumbass. And maybe get yourself some yoga classes while you're at it. Enjoy your (upcoming) forties!" Sheeit...

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Our next door neighbors have a massive apple tree in their yard which, strangely enough, has grown/been pruned so that the majority of the apples fall into our yard. We've picked what we can reach, and last weekend we gathered up a bunch of the dropped apples to make into applesauce.

Last year I got an apple peeler/corer combo to deal with the plethora of apples. Devil, in particular, is quite taken with it, and we managed to peel about 30 apples inside of half an hour.

I did try to get Boo in on the peeling action, but she was more interested in the cut lemons on the counter.

What kind of odd child likes to suck on lemons? Bizarre...anyway, a pile of peeled/sliced apples, some lemon juice, a stick of cinnamon and about an hour over low heat on the stove made for some lovely applesauce. Most of which got stuck in the freezer, but some was devoured immediately. Hooray for fall.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The rest of the summer

Autumn is hard upon us, with cool mornings and conkers littering the sidewalks. And I haven't finished posting about the summer, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to be coherent and witty about it. Instead, you'll just have to be satisfied with pictures.

It was a good summer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Training plan

Now that RAB is a mere nine months away, and the kids have gone back to school, it's time to actually start doing some training. Thankfully, I have a live-in coach, who has given me some ideas about what I need to be doing.

The plan for the fall is to simply get into a routine. My "training" over the last, oh let's say 5.5 years has been a bit erratic. To say the least! So the goal for September-December is as follows: ride three times a week (two of those will be commuting to/from work), run four times a week, swim twice and get in some lifting around the edges. Thankfully, I get to work at least half an hour before anyone else, whether I ride or take the train, so I get a chance to stretch and shower before I have to share space with other people.

The running (in theory) will happen in the afternoons when Devil has after-school activities (three days a week) and on the weekends. I can also run to work one day. I can swim once at the pool at work, and I've signed up for a triathlon swim coaching program starting at the end of the month.

But the big thing will be riding. Lots and lots of riding. I think I've figured out a route that will get me 20 miles on the days I ride to work. There's a big push by the Mayor of London to promote bicycle commuting, and they've recently opened a cycling superhighway that runs through Clapham. I've figured out a relatively low traffic way to get over to it, and it goes more or less right up to my office. I've done it twice now, and the second run was much more successful then this first, since I managed to avoid getting a flat tire and getting to the school extremely late for Boo's pickup.

So we'll see how this goes. I'm excited to have a plan, even in vague form - it makes it so much easier for me to have a general outline of what training I need to do every week - and I'm looking forward to it, it some bizarre sicko way. And posting about it makes me a bit more accountable, if only to myself (you wrote it down and put it out in public - you have to do it now!).

I also got roped into this lovely event in a couple of weeks, with two friends. We've decided that a good way to prepare for it is an 8k run in the mud this Saturday. And reading back over this entry, I think I must be totally insane. But it's going to be fun, right?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer Holidays redux

Now that the girls are back in school, I finally have a few minutes to sit down and hear myself think. And I guess that means that I should wade through the backlog of blog posts floating around inside my brain. Unfortunately they are somewhat fragmented (to say the least) and quite incoherent. Let's see if I can sort out something intelligible out of the madness.

One obvious event is our trip to Germany and Austria. Ironman has spent the last ten months training for IM #3, Ironman Regensburg, which occurred on 1 August. We left for Germany at 6:15 am the Thursday before the race.

Just an aside: if you ever want to experience trans-Atlantic jet leg on a budget, I highly recommend the early morning Easy Jet flights to the Continent. Getting up at 3:00 am after going to bed at 11:00 and spending the next six hours in various modes of transportation did a fantastic job of beating the crap out of the two of us. The girls were less traumatized by the whole event, but us parents are united in our cries of Never Again!

After landing in Munich, we picked up a car and headed north. A short time later, we were in our hotel and Himself had picked up his race stuff. Regensburg is a gorgeous city, full of cobblestone streets and old buildings.

Waiting for Daddy to get all his race stuff...

It turned out that another SW-London competitor (who was known to Himself before we got there) was staying at our hotel. He and IM left at sparrow's fart on Sunday morning to get to the swim start, while the girls and I slept in and then braved the road closures to get out to the bike course. And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited some more - finally the fast people came by.

And eventually we saw Daddy. He was smiling and looking pretty good at that stage (halfway through the second of two laps on the bike course). Then we headed in to town, braved the parking (!) and trooped out to the run course. Thankfully it wound through the town, taking in lots of sights.

Go Daddy!

And it passed a playground. So the girls and I walked out along the course, cheering for the runners, until we reached said playground.

The girls did a stellar job of being entertained for hours on end at this place. Which was needed, because we spent quite a while waiting for Himself to appear again. And again. And again. Four 10K loops must be excruciatingly mind numbing to run. But he persevered - the final result was not what he was hoping for, but come on...140.6 miles under your own power? An amazing accomplishment no matter how long it takes. Even if things did get a wee bit nutty in the late hours of the evening...

After Regensburg, we spent a couple of days waiting for Daddy's synapses to start firing efficiently again. And then it was off to Austria. We hit Salzburg first, and had an amazing time eating everything in sight (justified or not), playing at the Magic Flute Playground, climbing up to the fort overlooking the town, and generally playing tourist.

Massive slide with Devil for scale

We spent the better part of three days in and around Salzburg, and it was absolutely wonderful. Even if they are a bit het up about this guy...

Then we headed off to Innsbruck which, tragically, was socked in with clouds the entire time we were there. It didn't deter the experts in European Playground Inspection, but we didn't get to see the mountains in all there glory. But there was more swinging and sliding and general mayhem, including an event that had the parents in the group almost wetting themselves with laughter. We'd gone to the playground near our hotel one morning to get out some extra energy. Sadly, it was a grey and drizzly day, so we put on the girls' waterproof pants and off we went. The slides were metal, and I almost ruptured something when Boo slid down the smaller slide, and ended up going so fast that she shot off the end of the slide and landed a couple of feet away, leaving a lovely skid mark in the mud. She left tracks. Unfortunately, we weren't on the spot with the cameras, so we had to settle for a video reconstruction which was, to be fair, also pretty funny.

A couple days in Innsbruck and it was time to head back to Munich to catch the plane. Our plan was to drive back via The Disney Castle, but for whatever reason, the traffic going through the mountains was unbelievable. So we had to bail on that and head back to catch our plane. The flight home was much less jarring then the trip over, and we came back to run 42 loads of laundry in the four days before we had to pack up again and head west for the real jet lag. An upcoming post...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ummmm, yeah...about that blogging thing

Boy is there a lot to catch up on. And I'm sad to say it's not going to happen in this post. But here's a few highlights:

Girls and I have had a great summer holiday so far - we've been to castles, palaces, strawberry picking and swimming.

Ironman successfully completed his third Ironman in Regensburg, Germany, and I successfully managed to spectate with two kids. We had a lovely vacation afterwards that included ice cream, amazing Austrian hazelnut and chocolate pastries, the Zauberflotekinderspielplatz (Magic Flute Playground), and waaaaaay too much salami to be good for anyone.

We had (yet again) an epic transatlantic trip that involved hanging out in Heathrow's Terminal 3 for eleven hours. Eleven. Hours. Thankfully, it was much less stressful then our previous travel odyssey, given that we were only going back for holiday, and our luggage wasn't lost.

We're now enjoying some quality family time with the first set of grandparents in VT, and will shortly be heading to the other set for a good visit. There's lamb on the grill, and fresh New England corn on the stove. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What a difference ten months make

To wit, the first day of school in September:

The second-to-last day of School in July:

Tomorrow is the last day of school, and even that ends at noon. The pre-Prep kids (Devil's year and the two above her) are performing a play tomorrow night at the local theater, so they're practicing for the Nursery kids tomorrow. After that it's all vacation, all the time.

Or at least until September.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Farmers Market

This morning the girls and I ventured out at the crack of 11:00 am to battle the Wimbledon crowds on the tube and go to the Wimbledon Farmers Market. This is the first time I've made it to a farmers market since I was in graduate school, and it was lovely. We came home with:

Oakhill lettuce
cherry tomatoes
fresh bread
fresh made sausages
apple-strawberry juice

All for about £17. Not too bad, all in all, and the girls had a lovely time on the playground while I shopped. I think we'll be heading back again, although hopefully on a less crowded train next week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cornwall, RAB and The Apple in the Garden


Last Friday I picked the girls up from school at lunchtime and we headed out onto the road. We drove, and drove, and drove some more. We sat in traffic for an hour in Bristol. And then we drove some more. Down the M4, the M5 and the A30, all the way to Penzance, home of the pirates. We finally washed up on the shores of Boswarthen Farm and plunked our selves down for a few days of camping out (of sorts) and hanging about waiting for Himself to arrive at Lands End.

Cornwall is absolutely gorgeous - hilly open country, sheer rocky cliffs down to beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise blue water shading to navy away from shore. The weather was beyond perfect. On Saturday we headed east to Glendurgan Gardens and spent a lovely afternoon walking through the grounds, working our way through the maze and climbing on the rocks on the beach.

Back at our camp, the girls happily tended to some chickens and we had sausages and fresh scrambled eggs for dinner. At 9:30 pm. Because cooking over a poorly designed wood stove burning sumac is not a fast process. The next day we hit Trengwainton Gardens, Sennen Cove for some more beachy times, and went off to Lands End to meet Daddy at the end of his ride.

Himself arrived in Lands End at about 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, after nine days and 1008 miles of riding, including 15 vertical miles of climbing. He had an absolute blast, but was so completely done in that he was pretty much useless for a good 36 hours post-finish. We hung out at Lands End having a few beers with his riding buddies for a couple of hours, and then headed back to the farm. Our plans for coming back to London on Monday got waylaid in the sunshine of Monday morning, so we hung out at yet another spectacular beach - Kynance Cove - splashing in the extremely cold water and eating Cornish ice cream.

We finally headed home yesterday, breaking the 6 hour long journey into more manageable bits with a stop at Castle Drogo in Devon and tea in Somerset with some friends.

And last night I may have done something very, very silly...

Uh oh, what have I done now?

I entered next year's Ride Across Britain. Uh oh!

The Apple in the Garden

Our visit to Trengwainton was enhanced by the sudden removal of one of Devil's wobbly front teeth while she was eating an apple. We were sitting on a bench having a snack, when I suddenly realized she was looking at her hand and saying "What's this?"

Lo and behold, there was a very small tooth lying in her palm, a bloody spot on her apple and a lovely line of bloody drool trailing down her chin. It was all very exciting. Nana's beautiful Tooth Fairy pillow was put to work that night, and the lucky thing ended up with some butterfly hair clips and a two pound coin for giving up her first tooth! She has been informed, however, that the Tooth Fairy was being extra generous because it was the first tooth she'd lost. Such riches will not be quite so forthcoming in the future!

We arrived back in London at 9:30 last night, exhausted, salty, sunburned and sporting some poison ivy (lucky me!). The girls went back to school this morning a bit worn out, and I suspect our evening holds both much wailing and drama, and very early bedtimes. But it was an absolutely fantastic trip. I hope the rest of the family is looking forward to going back next year as much as I am!