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.

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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.

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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.
[continued from here: DW/LJ] Since the church was about a thirty second walk away from The Old Grammar School, we stopped by on Saturday morning before heading out and were pleased to find it unlocked.

My perusal of the visitor’s books (which stretched back to 1975, the lengthiest set of log books I’d encountered on our LT holidays) on the previous evening had told us that there were more Thompson mice to be found in the church. We went on a mouse hunt, but could only locate six of the eight that were allegedly hiding there.

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Humuhumu found the first mouse near the altar.

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And the second, behind the pews.

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Bonus photo: Our local, the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, was just over the road from the church. You know that feeling you get when you walk into a pub that’s been done up just a bit too much? Where you want to shout, like Bernard Black, “Why does everything have to be fancy? I just want sausage, mash and a bit of cake, not twigs fried in honey or a donkey in a coffin!”

This place was exactly the opposite of that. We stopped in on our first evening and every night subsequently. Worried about whether or not they took cards, we scraped together £7.40 in cash.

“That might not get us a round,” he said.
“This is Yorkshire,” I replied. “If they try to charge us a tenner for two pints of booze and two halves of lemonade, I’m leaving, because we’re clearly in the wrong place.”

As it happened, £6.40 got us a pint of very lively cider (crisp, citrusy, refreshing), a pint of tasty ale, the aforementioned lemonades and a packet of peanuts. And lo, we were grateful not to be in London.

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Humuhumu and Keiki enjoy lemonade, while the bloke & I enjoy our pints of ale & cider respectively.

Up next: Egglestone Abbey.
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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 24th, 2017 09:55 am)
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The exceptionally splendiferous [personal profile] thirdbird sent Humuhumu and me some "kitty hats", as Humuhumu is calling them. She was so proud of hers she wore it to nursery today. Thank you!
The weekend started off well, with skipping Parkrun because everyone wanted a lie-in followed by preparation for Humuhumu's first ever sleepover. Her friend Dimples* and brother Dribbly* came for an afternoon playdate, followed by pizza for dinner and strawberry jelly for pudding. Dribbly went home with their parents. Humuhumu and Dimples watched Frozen together whilst dressed as Rapunzel and Elsa respectively. I was astonished to discover that Humuhumu, who watched with an almost ferocious concentration and entirely ignored Dimples' running commentary, has almost the whole film memorised. Not just the songs but the dialogue as well. The viewing was followed by a colouring session in the Elsa colouring book. Humuhumu strenuously objected to my idea that we should disassemble the colouring book so they could work simultaneously and instead they patiently took turns for half an hour until we declared it to be bedtime and they curled up together in the spare room bed.

I read a number of stories, but Dimples was way too excited for sleep. She routinely stays awake longer than Humuhumu, who is firmly attached to an 11-hour snooze every night. We heard quiet talking and sneaking into Humuhumu's room to fetch cuddly toys. After putting my foot down for the last time at 9:30 PM, I waited in our bedroom until the whispering died off. They were sound asleep within ten minutes.

Both girls were up by 7:15 the next morning. Dimples was a font of chat as she ate her crumpet with Nutella, whilst Humuhumu looked pale and distant, though happy. Dimples' mum came to pick her up with many thanks, and then we got ready for gymnastics.

It was badge week at gymnastics and Humuhumu earned her first Fundamental Movements badge. We put the certificate on the wall next to the bed, and she's currently deciding where she'd like to sew on the badge. We don't have a special gym bag for her yet, but it would seem wise to acquire one at this juncture.

Gymnastics ends in the middle of lunchtime, so I put the children in the car with their snacks to tide them over until we got home. About a mile and a half down the road, I suddenly felt something go wrong with the car. It felt like I'd abruptly shifted from fourth into neutral, though of course I had done no such thing. There was, unusually, a car behind me, so I put on my hazards, downshifted to second (not that it made any difference) and coasted into a layby next to a gate featuring a large hand-painted "BULL IN FIELD" sign, where the car promptly died. And wouldn't restart.

Did I mention it was snowing? And distinctly below freezing outside?

I took deep breaths. I rang the bloke, because I couldn't find my RAC (roadside assistance) membership card. The bloke texted me the necessary information. Some people on horseback went by and kindly told me the name of the lane we were in, as even though I drive the route every other week, I didn't know that particular one as it has no sign. I rang the RAC and ascertained that it was going to take at least two hours for them to get to us.

I took some more deep breaths and rang the bloke again. We agreed that him getting in a taxi to swap places with us was a good idea, as Humuhumu was very upset about the broken car and being hungry and cold. (Keiki went to sleep, being blissfully untroubled by any emotional attachment to the car.)

Our knight in shining silver Peugeot turned up with his woolly jumper, book, and crisps. We gratefully clambered into the functioning car and went home, where we all had hot chocolate with marshmallows in. And a good thing too, because it took the RAC nearly three hours to get to the bloke.

The RAC mechanic diagnosed the car as terminal. Our usual garage seems more hopeful. Fingers crossed we don't have to say goodbye to Sophie (our much-loved Citroën) just yet.

* Names have been changed.

On a more soothing note, here are two photos.

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Keiki and Humuhumu wrapped up in a fuzzy grey blanket, pretending to sleep on the kitchen floor.

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Longcat Telstar is astonished at his own length.
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I asked Humuhumu to keep herself and Keiki amused with the laundry basket whilst I put away some freshly tumble-dried clothes.

As I was finishing up ten minutes later, she sang out to me, "Mummy, come and look what I made!"

And so I was greeted on the stairs by a daughter in her black heart hoodie, rainbow raindrop leggings, watermelon socks...and a skirt constructed from clothes pegs.
I did a lot more baking than I'd intended this weekend. Saturday morning we did Parkrun, then came home and made pancakes & French toast for brunch for some friends. In the afternoon, the pre-schooler and I set to work making cupcakes. I have this delightful cupcake recipe book, Lily Vanilli: A Zombie Ate My Cupcake, which was given to me a few Christmases ago by sister-out-law. We've only once made one of the recipes in full - the meringue ghost cupcakes for Humuhumu's birthday, and that's when we learnt that the base recipes for the cupcakes and the icing are really good just on their own. The fancy ghoulish decorations are fun, but unnecessary.

We decided to make the pecan, cinnamon & nutmeg cupcakes and the vanilla icing. Humuhumu helped with the measuring and the pouring but lost interest while they baked in the oven. When we finally got to the icing stage, I didn't bother calling her back and started doing the icing and the sprinkles. My parents rang after I'd completed decorating three of the 18 cupcakes and I stepped away from the kitchen to take their call. I walked back in to find Humuhumu expertly applying both icing and sprinkles to the remaining cupcakes.

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[Photo: Humuhumu puts sprinkles on a freshly iced cupcake. There is cauliflower cheese baking in the oven behind her.]

I should note that today there are eight cupcakes left so I'm not expecting them to last more than 72 hours.

One thing I knew about Lily Vanilli's recipes but had somehow managed to forget was that her icing recipes make about double the amount of icing one can reasonably put on a single batch of her cupcakes. Either I should have halved the recipe or made 36 cupcakes. There was a lot of extra icing, which I was determined not to waste.

On Sunday morning, the bloke took the children to gymnastics and I scanned through my Nigella Christmas cookbook for a cake recipe. I settled on the sticky gingerbread, which is fancier than the ginger cake I normally make though still pretty easy, and is listed as "icing optional". The recipe is vague on length of time required in the oven - 45 to 60 minutes seems a rather wide temperature range. I took a punt on it and left it in for 52 minutes at 150 degrees C (fan on) and that turned out perfectly. After it cooled, I poured the remaining vanilla icing over it and we had slices of it at tea time. It was hoovered up by everyone and we have agreed that it is one we will definitely make again.
I only had a chance to try one new recipe from Nadiya’s Kitchen this weekend, and it was the one for “Ovaltine Bedtime Biccies”, which Humuhumu and Keiki helped with. I’m not a huge fan of Ovaltine so I substituted my favourite hot chocolate (Twinings Swiss Chocolate Drink) instead. I have no regrets. They have a smooth texture, are not excessively sweet and are terribly morish.

Humuhumu and Keiki were varying degrees of helpful. She’s very good at cracking eggs, and pretty good at measuring out ingredients and stirring. Keiki is very good at tasting things to make sure that they’re okay. After each addition, he says, “More taste…?” They are both good at flouring work surfaces (and themselves), and of course the greatest pleasure is rolling out and cutting up the dough with the cookie cutters. Keiki particularly likes the part where bits of dough cling to the cutters and have to be removed. Half of those go back into the dough for re-rolling and the other half go into Keiki.
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