Fish
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.

The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.

Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.

Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.

It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).

We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!

Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.

Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.

It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.

Further photos beneath the cut.
+++ )
20170722_184533
The bloke’s parents with their heart-shaped homemade cake. The chalkboard next to them colourfully reads: “Welcome to Lodge 106. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! Have an excellent holiday. 😊”

A couple of weekends ago, we went to a Center Parcs with the bloke’s family to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Each family stayed in separate lodges, and we joined together for lunches, activities, tea and evening meals.

Going to a big resort-type thing in a forest in the school holidays seems to be a rite of passage for English children. Everyone else in the family (actually being English) had this innate understanding of how things were going to work and what was going to happen. I, on the other hand, was completely in the dark. I didn’t know that the “swimming pool” was going to be a massive indoor waterslide park with separate areas for children of all ages, for instance. Or that bringing our bicycles was not just so we could get some exercise, but so we could pop out to the shop for some milk for five minutes rather than have to walk for half an hour. The place was gigantic and – it being the start of the summer holidays – completely full.

The wildlife, being accustomed to the presence of humans, was very nearly tame. If you left the sliding door to the patio open, the ducks would waddle confidently inside in search of whatever food you had foolishly left out. The squirrels would take nuts from your hands. The muntjac deer would walk up to the patio door and stare in, and not run away until the toddler came outside and tried to pet it.

We had a truly typical British summer holiday experience in that it rained nearly the entire time, so we spent a good amount of time in the water park. Humuhumu was, at first, slightly afraid of the water slides. Subsequent to our first trip to the water park, we bought her some goggles and that flipped the switch. We couldn’t get her off the water slides after that. She went round them so many times that when we went to the changing room to get back into our clothes, she could barely stand, she was so exhausted. I only got the chance to try the water slides once for about ten minutes (during which Keiki apparently screamed for me the entire time), so I went for the biggest one (twice): the Cyclone, which you went down on a rubber raft in a group. I got to go with my niece and her mum, aka the bloke’s sister. I shrieked like a banshee the whole way down. It was fantastic.

Despite the filthy weather, we managed to sneak in some outdoor activities. We played boules. We climbed around the adventure playgrounds. I took Keiki to the pond, where the nearly tame baby moorhens nibbled at his wellies, to his boundless delight. We also found a peacock, with whom Keiki had a half-hour conversation. I turned my back on him briefly and when I looked at him, he had moved close enough to the peacock to stroke its tail feathers. The peacock held itself very still, almost as if it didn’t want to frighten him, when really it should have been the other way round.

The wedding anniversary celebration came off very well indeed. There was a huge, heart-shaped and delicious sponge cake, baked by the bloke’s sister, and a “cheese cake”, which was a mountain of stacked cheeses. The bottom layer, an enormous squishy brie, had to be served separately because it would have collapsed under the weight of the wheel of harder cheese above it. This was not a problem because we devoured it over the course of two days. Most importantly, the bloke’s parents had a wonderful time being surrounded by, but not in the pockets of, their children and grandchildren.

Further photos below the cut, including a series titled “Keiki Points at Things”.

+++ )

In case you’re wondering why there aren’t so many photos of Humuhumu, this is because (1) she wanted to go to the water park pretty much every waking moment, (2) you couldn’t take photos in the water park and (3) Keiki did not want to go to the water park more than once a day, so someone had to stay with him.
nanila: (me: walk softly and carry big stick)
( Jun. 13th, 2017 02:01 pm)
I had wanted to post this yesterday, as it was the 50th anniversary, but ran out of time. So, a day late, but no less important: Here is my very personal celebration of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down on 12 June 1967, that legalised interracial marriage in the USA.

Without it, my parents might have been jailed or permanently separated. Without it, I might not exist. I am grateful that what was just and correct prevailed in the face of popular opinion.

SCAN0174
[Image of my dad, baby!me and my mom, with one of my aunties in the pool at a Honolulu hotel. Photo taken by my maternal grandfather.]

+1 )
Since I’d best get these posted before next weekend happens, have a selection of photos from the bank holiday weekend.

Photo
This prequel is from work in London on the Friday before the weekend. Everyone’s favourite selfie-loving tattooed physicist ([twitter.com profile] mggttaylor) came to lunch with the Rosetta team. We talked comets and outreach and heavy metal. Beer may or may not have been consumed.

Then I went back to Worcestershire and the weekend proper began.

Avoncroft )

At home )

Pub )
Here is Keiki with our first radish harvest from our garden:
IMG_ndairl
He ate all of his. Humuhumu found them too peppery.

Here are Keiki and Humuhumu eating ice creams. Humuhumu is dressed as a pirate princess (outfit concept all hers). Keiki is dressed in one of the two shirts that don't cause him to start screaming as soon as you put it on him, holey black trousers and a single croc.
IMG_ji34i1

And here is Telstar defeating a stick whilst lounging in the porch of the tent in our garden.
20170507_105420
Our day of brilliant weather in Vienna happened on the Tuesday, which was nice as it was the one day that the bloke had off from the conference. We took advantage of it to go on a boat ride down the Danube. Granny, Humuhumu and I had done this together a couple of years before, but the others had never been before. Keiki loved it. He sat upright and alert on my lap for two straight hours, watching and commenting on everything and occasionally bursting into song.

Most of these photos were either taken by the bloke or Humuhumu.

[I had meant to add more commentary but this entry has been sitting half-finished in my documents for weeks so I figured it was best to just post it before it got any more out of date.]

IMG_0543
[Me smiling at the camera, with Keiki on my lap, riding at the front of the boat down the Danube. Photo taken by the bloke.]

+11 )

On disembarking from the boat, we discovered that one of the city’s fountains had been turned on in honour of the nice weather.

IMG_0638
[Humuhumu in her green Kenyan dress, shrieking as she runs through the fountain.]

+2 )
[continued from here: DW/LJ] After a rather bleary start to the morning, the adults having stayed up a little too late companionably drinking wine together in front of the fire, the out-laws returned from their room over the road at the Shoulder of Mutton to pick up Nephew, who had slept over very nicely with Humuhumu. Sufficient coffee was poured into the grown-ups to get them motivated to drive to Richmond to see the castle. (North Yorkshire is not the place to be if you have an aversion to ruined castles.)

IMG_9269
Walking down the very steep hills of Richmond. I had Keiki on my shoulders and he was crowing delightedly over his excellent vantage point.

+16 )

We strolled back down into town after a trip to the gift shop. (Nephew: Knight outfit. Humuhumu: large purple feather quill pen. Keiki: Squishy purple dragon, which he now sleeps with.) We were all a bit peckish but the out-laws needed to head back to Leeds, so a quick stop at a Greggs for some pastries and a sit-down in the middle of the town square by the clock sufficed to revive everyone for the drive home.

As mentioned previously, I had carried Keiki around on my shoulders as much as possible all morning. It was the first time I’d tried it. The bloke talked me into it since I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to carry him in my arms. It worked a treat and I was able to do it much more easily. After lunch, though, I definitely needed a lie-down. Fortunately, so did everyone else, and we cuddled up together for a luxurious two-hour nap.
Since this was our fifth stay in a Landmark Trust property for the bloke’s birthday, I think I feel safe in calling it a tradition.

On Friday last, we gingerly loaded up our newly repaired car and crossed everything in the hopes that it would make it through the 200-odd mile drive from our house to North Yorkshire to stay in The Old Grammar School.

Kirby Hill is a beautiful grey old stone village, set around a green. The Old Grammar School [TOGS] was such from its establishment in 1556 to its closure in 1957. An average of 30 local boys aged 10 to 18 were taught there, though many departed aged 14 to go to work. The ground floor schoolroom was converted into the village hall, while the first and second floors were converted into the flat that one can now book through the Landmark Trust [LT] for holidays. LT properties are carefully furnished and kitted out with libraries that are specific to the property and to the history of the place. For instance, I read Goodbye, Mr Chips, which is a heartwarming fictional biography of a schoolmaster, while we were in TOGS. LT properties also deliberately don’t provide televisions or WiFi. In fact, my phone signal was so bad that I couldn’t even get the 3G to work.

We arrive late in the afternoon and were pleased to find that the previous occupants had left us sufficient firewood for that evening.

IMG_8787
Our first thought on entry was “tea”. Thoughtfully, the housekeeper had left a complete tea service ready for us and a small jug of milk in the fridge.

IMG_8805
The bloke pouring some milk for Keiki, who’s standing on a dining chair. The window seat, which features in subsequent photos, is to their right.

+12 )

Up next: visiting the Kirby Hill church (St Peter and St Felix).

Quick note about the photos: I have come to rely on Aviary in Flickr to do colour correction on my photos. It’s quick and convenient and its algorithm seems to be pretty good. Except at the moment, it’s not working. To those who care about white balance, my apologies.
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Feb. 15th, 2017 05:19 pm)
Today is Very Important Day. Today is Bloke's Birthday. And hence, there has been BAKING. Behold!

Star cookies (from the dough reserved at the weekend)
IMG_8757

That most American of treats, pecan pie (with toasted almonds, because I didn't have enough pecans, ho hum)
Pies, we made PIES!

And choccy biccies. Huzzah!
Choccy biccies
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Jan. 26th, 2017 08:51 pm)
Dad & Mom at Waimea Canyon, Kauai
This is a scanned photo of my mom and dad with their arms around one another at Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawai'i. I love this photo partly because they both look happy, and partly because this is how they always appear in my mind. I know they have white hair and stooped shoulders now, but my brain fails to see that unless they're right in front of me, which doesn't happen very often since they live so far away.
.