nanila: nellie kim is awesome (purple nellie)
( May. 25th, 2017 06:21 pm)
Back story: The garden behind our house is a very peculiar shape. It is quite wide at the back of the house for about 10 metres, then narrows abruptly to a very skinny path alongside the canal towpath hedge. It goes along like this for about 5 metres and then ends in a round, fenced-in patch about 4 metres in diameter. The round patch has a concrete pavement in a pretty circular pattern.

We’ve been trying to work out what to do with this odd space since we moved in. It’s a fair way from the house and not visible from the back door. Jacuzzi? Too much maintenance, plus it’s too far to trek on a horrible winter night. Bike shed? Functional but boring, and also bike sheds are ugly. This is a pretty space, ringed by climbing roses and vines.

A few weeks ago we went to the garden centre and found a display of cute playhouses with trimmed roofs and windows, and an interior upper floor reached by a child-sized ladder. The 6’x6’ models were on sale. As we had to carry the children away from them, literally, we thought, perhaps this is the optimal use for that round patch.

Thus far, we have been proved entirely correct, and the expense has been justified. Since it’s been installed, both children come home from nursery, dash through the house and out the back door into the playhouse to draw, play on the tablet or just run up and down the steps and in and out the doors. (There’s an adorable toddler-sized door out the side in addition to the larger front door.) The only things that brings them back to the house in 15-20 minutes are the requests for drinks and fruity snacks, which are then carried back up to the playhouse.

tl;dr version We got the kids a playhouse for the garden. Photos below!

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[Keiki on a wooden chair outside the playhouse. “Oi* shut da door on moi sister!”]

+3 )

* The Black Country is strong with this one.
** There is a whole separate post brewing about how I simply do not understand Danger Mouse.
...so here, have a photo from yesterday evening instead of hearing me moan about that.

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[Humuhumu and Keiki in their swimming costume & swim nappy respectively, eating ice creams in the paddling pool.]
Here is Keiki with our first radish harvest from our garden:
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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.
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And here is Telstar defeating a stick whilst lounging in the porch of the tent in our garden.
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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.]

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[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.

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

+2 )
Humuhumu went to a birthday party this weekend. The lad who invited her had invited no other girls his age.

Two enormous bouncy castles were involved, as were a number of balls. I showed Humuhumu how to dribble and how to shoot at the hoops, and whilst we were practising, a bunch of the boys joined us. She could throw the ball higher than all apart from one boy who appeared to be about six years old (the rest were between four and five).

Then we invented a game with one of the softer balls. I stood on the outside of the bouncy castle, Humuhumu on the inside, and we threw the ball back and forth to one another over the wall. Very soon, three or four boys wanted to join in, and it all got a bit rough. Humuhumu was upset at being bowled over, so we stopped.

"That boy pushed me over when I was trying to get the ball," she wailed.
"The boys are all over-excited," I replied, cuddling her. "Don't wait for them to apologise; they won't think of it. Ignore them and focus on yourself, and grab the ball whenever you can. Okay?"

She nodded, sniffed, and got back into the bouncy castle. She took my advice completely to heart and had a grand time.

Later, we were all sat at a table after lunch. It was time for cake and the birthday boy was recovering from his third or fourth meltdown. Humuhumu lounged on my lap, placidly consuming her cake, whilst all around us the screaming rose up in waves. Other parents tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that my daughter was the most chilled-out child in the world.

"Yes," I replied, trying not to sound too smug and probably failing, "I know."

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[No Limits: Humuhumu jumping off a bridge over the canal onto the towpath.]
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( May. 1st, 2017 08:27 pm)
Happy May Day
[Humuhumu wearing jeans, t-shirt, pink fluffy dress, feather wings, new blue crocs, a tiara and a wand, jumping for joy in our garden.]

Hello, hello neglected journal; I send my apologies. We returned on Saturday from a fantastic (and also sleep-deprived, for Keiki and me) week in Vienna and plunged straight into bank holiday weekend activities. I have been keeping up with curating photos but not with arranging them into journal entries. I'm hoping to catch up with that this week.

I hope all is well with you all. The photo above neatly encapsulates Humuhumu's feelings on the subject of the recent week and a half with her parents, I believe. <3
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Apr. 13th, 2017 11:49 am)
All photos taken with my phone - we brought no luggage apart from our rucksacks & I didn't have space for the dSLR. Quality is variable, especially since Aviary on Flickr is still not working so everything is SOOC.

Last weekend, Humuhumu and I had our first mini-break together.

I picked her up from nursery slightly earlier than usual and we took the train to Birmingham International. We had our tea in the airport. The server behind the counter took a shine to her since she asked ask so politely for her hot chocolate, and presented her with an absolute mountain of whipped cream. Apart from that, her dinner consisted of an apple, carrot juice and an oatmeal bar.

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[Humuhumu eating her dinner]

Slightly unbelievably, we ran into some cousins who live in Cheltenham and were flying to Mallorca for their Easter holidays. Humuhumu was growing tired – it was nearly 8 PM – so spent a lot of the conversation cuddled up in my lap with her blankie.

We boarded the plane. Humuhumu’s disappointment at the lack of films on the plane (it’s a 45 minute flight) was mitigated by being given free reign over the tablet.

Once we’d landed in Dublin, it took about 30 minutes to get through a second immigration check. While we waited in the queue, we were treated to a rant on the subject of unhelpful security measures by the elderly Irish gentleman in front of us, who was fervently pro-freedom-of-movement. It was rather lovely.

We skipped through the airport and into a taxi. The taxi driver was listening to a programme called “Leap of Faith”, to which Humuhumu promptly fell asleep. I listened quietly as they discussed the results of a survey on the church-going practices of Dublin-dwellers. I giggled when they thanked the 2,130 respondents who said they belonged to the Church of the Jedi Knights. The taxi driver said, “Oh, you were listening, were you?” in some surprise. “This isn’t the same country I grew up in, I tell ye.”
“And is that a good thing?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said. “It is. The way it used to be, with the church…” he shook his head. “Too many young lives ruined.”
He got a disproportionately large tip.

[personal profile] emelbe met us in the lobby. We headed promptly up to our room, as Humuhumu was blearily trying to process 10 PM. While she snuggled down into her bed, [personal profile] emelbe and I exchanged gifts.
“I brought you tea and whisky,” she said.
“I brought you tea and whisky,” I said.
We celebrated with wine.

The next day dawned bright, sunny and warm. We went down to the hotel buffet and discovered they had a magical pancake-making machine. Pancakes with Nutella and maple syrup were duly consumed.

We headed outside with the Leprechaun / folklore Museum in mind as our destination, via parks and playgrounds. It took us over an hour to reach the Museum, where we were told (and good on them for it, too) that it was not suitable for children under seven. Having failed at culture, we opted for shopping at the Penney’s mothership, where we discovered sproingy hair bobbles and Finding Dory colouring sets.

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[Humuhumu in the hand of the giant at the Giant’s Playground.]

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[Humuhumu clambers over the dog-insect-thing]

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[Humuhumu inspects the flower beds in a park.]

We walked back over the river Liffey and into Temple Bar so we could go to Gallagher’s Boxty House for lunch. Humuhumu had the “child-sized” portion of fish and chips. It was enormous. I had the stew and [personal profile] emelbe had the boxty.

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[Humuhumu colours in Dory before our lunch arrives.]

We waddled outside an hour later stuffed to the gills and headed through the Saturday 3 PM crowds (who were 9 PM levels of drunk already) to find our route blocked by a large protest about water tariffs. Detouring around it, we arrived at our destination: the Natural History Museum, aka the display of truly alarming taxidermy. Humuhumu: “It looks like the scary lady’s room in Paddington!” (Scary Lady == Nicole Kidman’s character, who wants to stuff Paddington.) We investigated the displays for about 45 minutes whilst [personal profile] emelbe went to buy whiskey and to the Archaeology Museum to get postcards.

Displays of taxidermy varying from innocuous to MY EYES MY BEAUTIFUL EYES )

We returned to the Giant’s Playground. Thorough sun-baked and tuckered out, we meandered back to the hotel, where we flopped out until dinnertime, which ended up being smoothies at the hotel bar because we were still full from lunch.

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[Inexplicable corporate art is also for playing on, yes yes?]

Humuhumu went fairly easily to sleep in my arms, as did I. I managed to rouse myself briefly to taste the bourbon [personal profile] emelbe had brought for me to sample, but bedtime was still pretty early.

The next morning was significantly cooler and cloudier, conforming more to expectations of Dublin in April. We took our time in rising and going to breakfast, checking out at the last possible moment. Even with that we were still too early to check into the canal barge where [personal profile] emelbe was to spend the rest of her holiday. We strolled up the quayside and stopped off for a pastry and tea at Il Valentino before going to the docks.

As soon as we met the barge owner, I knew I'd made a tactical error in going to the hotel. I had been afraid to stay on the water because Humuhumu can't swim. It turned out that the barge was both firmly affixed to the docks and could be locked securely. Also, there was space for Humuhumu to play, and games and toys for children. Lesson learned.

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[Panoramic view from the back of the barge.]

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[Humuhumu pointing out the seagulls.]

We spent the afternoon playing and talking. [livejournal.com profile] omniana, whom I haven't seen in 8 years, came by. We drank tea, ate apples and caught up on one another's lives while Humuhumu and I coloured in Finding Dory pictures.

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[Lounging on the barge.]

Hours flew by and then it was time to get back in the taxi to the airport. After the short journey back to Brum, we were met by our sunburnt boys at the airport. Joyful reunification was swiftly followed by sleeping in the car.

Verdict: Daughter is A+++ traveling companion, would mini-break with again.
I've had a heck of a week. Keiki was off nursery Tuesday and Wednesday. I looked after him on Tuesday. I flew from Birmingham to Noordwijk on Wednesday and the bloke looked after Keiki. I was at an all-day meeting on Thursday at ESTEC (ESA centre in the Netherlands). I flew to London on Thursday night. This morning (Friday) I went to a four-hour meeting (at which I gave a presentation) and then ran over to another building to give an outreach talk to a large group of teenage girls about what it's like to be a spacecraft engineer.

At least I did it all whilst looking rivet af.

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[Me in my Noordwijk hotel room, wearing Docs, purple tights, my black wool coat with the fluffy collar and my engineer dress from Svaha.]

My week in photos )
[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.)

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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.
[continued from here: DW/LJ] Once we were done perusing the church, we hopped into the car for a short drive to Barnard Castle, which is not just a castle but also the name of the town. On the way in, we glimpsed an amazing stone ruin perched on a hillside so we stopped to have a look.

It turned out to be Egglestone Abbey, founded in the 1190s.

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This is the bit we could see from the road to Barnard Castle. From the floor plan on the sign, I believe it’s the church. Those windows must have been spectacular with the late morning light streaming through them, given that they are even in ruin.

+12 )

Having worked up an appetite with all that jumping, we resumed our journey into Barnard Castle for a quick lunch. The caf we chose was off the main high street. I picked it when we were searching for a parking spot. It had a hand-drawn sign advertising hot chocolate out the front. Also, a full English with double servings of everything for £5. What’s not to like?

It wasn’t a large place, but it fell completely silent when we walked in and the occupants subjected us to a long hard stare that let us know you are not from round these parts; what are you doing off the high street, interlopers? The server, clearly anxious to compensate for the stony greeting of the other patrons, bustled around us smiling, and brought Humuhumu a hot chocolate with a pile of whipped cream on top that doubled the height of the mug. Breakfast was good too.

The children and I went back to the car and caught some Gen 2 Pokémon whilst the bloke ran in to Morrisons to pick up supplies. We returned to The Old Grammar School to meet with the out-laws. We strolled around the church again and had quick drive out to Ravensworth Castle, a lovely ruin which we discovered was inaccessible due to being firmly surrounded by barbed wire. Eventually we twigged that the automatic gunfire we were hearing was not from the start of the zombie apocalypse, but from the MoD firing range on the other side of the valley. Deciding not to argue with the logic of preventing inattentive ramblers from wandering into live fire, we retreated back to Kirby Hill and went down the pub.

Up next: Richmond Castle.
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