Sunday, January 31, 2010

Uffington Castle and White Horse

On Saturday we visited the Uffington Castle and the White Horse which are about a 15 minute drive from our house, on a hillside in Oxfordshire. It was cold and windy but at least the sun was shining! We had to walk across a field filled with sheep to get to the hillside - Emmy was in heaven. She loves sheep and she got pretty close to them - I think they are used to people walking through their field.
This is a picture that I stole off of the internet - couldn't get up into the air! It'll give you a better understanding of what the White Horse is than my pictures from the ground! It is the oldest chalk figure in England - dates back at least 3,000 years to the Bronze Age. It has been continually kept up by the locals and now is maintained by the government. It is 374 feet long and is made from the chalk that is exposed when the topsoil is removed. The hillside that it is on was sculpted by a glacier and is really incredible! No one is sure why the horse was created or if it is even a horse! Mysterious - but very cool and visible for miles!

The signpost at the beginning of the hike:
Halfway there - you can see the White Horse all the way to the left of the picture just where the top of the hill meets the sky:
The view from the top - our neighborhood is all the red houses in front of the windmills and Brendan's school is the long white building on the left:
Glacial carvings called the Giants' Stair - leads down to the flat bottom portion called the manger - where the horse grazes at night!
The Uffington Castle - at the top of the hill above the horse - it's a very large ring of earth that is the remains of a Bronze Age/Iron Age hill fort.
Aidan and Emmy on a GPS marker at the top of the hill:
Looking down at the head of the White Horse:
The eye of the horse:It was really fun to finally get there - it was really cold but would be a really nice place for a picnic when it gets warm!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Aoife and Emmy

Aoife has really started to become her own little person these days. She smiles and laughs at just about anything that Aidan and Emmy do. She loves playing with anything that makes noise and/or lights up because she has just realized that she is the one making the toy do it. This toy looks like a giant cat toy and is one of her favorites - it's easy to hold and makes a wonderful rattling sound!
Emmy has started to care about what she wears and how her hair is done. I thought we'd have at least another 5 years! She picked these hair elastics out at the grocery store yesterday and has worn them ever since. She even sat very still in my lap for a good 5 minutes while I struggled to get her very fine hair into the bows. She adores the pigtails and shows them to everyone she sees.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Australia Day

On Saturday we went to an Australia Day celebration here at the college. There are at least 10 Australian families here and they got together with their Embassy and put on a fantastic party! There was a face painter and Aidan chose to get his face painted like a skull - I guess he's not a little boy anymore. :( We were headed to a birthday party right after and I didn't think the mom of the birthday girl would appreciate Aidan showing up looking like this. We had to wash off the facepaint and Aidan agreed to it as long as I took his picture - with the boomerang that he painted.

Burns Night #2

On Friday night we attended another Burns Night celebration that was slightly less formal. Our neighbors hosted everyone on our street. We had so much fun and have decided that we will bring the tradition of Burns Night back to the US and host it for our future units. It's too much fun not to do every year!!

These pictures are, as they say, rubbish - but it'll give you an idea!
The table - it ran the entire length of the house - front window to back sliding door!
Our host, Pete - toasting the lassies:
Our hostess, Gill - giving the reply to the toast:
Toby cutting into the haggis - this is usually done with a sword although I believe he used some crazy hunting knife:
Plates full of haggis, mashed potatoes "tatties" and mashed turnips "neeps":

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Burns Night #1

Thursday night Brendan and I went to the college's Burns night celebration. (Click here for a wikipedia explanation of the event.) It's a Scottish tradition and it celebrates the life and works of the poet Robert Burns. It was a very formal event - kilts or dinner jackets for the men and gowns for the women. We listened to poetry, ate haggis - which is delicious, by the way - and had a great time. It was very nice to get out and do something adult for a change! Our neighbors were very kind to come over and sit in our living room while the kids slept. They thought our American snacks were just great!
Here's Brendan with Nassar and Paul - despite Nassar's outfit, he is NOT Scottish :)
Our table:
The dining room:
just to prove that I am still alive:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dress Ups

Emmy's new favorite activity is dressing up. This has been fueled by the enormous number of dress up outfits and accessories that she got for Christmas. Restraint is not her thing and she likes to pile on every piece of jewelry that she can. She is adorable - tripping around the house in high heels, covered in plastic gems and feathers!
The full effect:
Aidan couldn't let the camera pass without posing - just once:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another snow day...

We had another snow day yesterday due to another 3 or 4 inches of snow that fell overnight. The roads are even worse than they were before!! It is supposed to rain tomorrow and Saturday and then hopefully all of the snow will melt. I have loved having it around to look at but without the ability to clear the roads it has been a nightmare trying to get anything done!
Here we are hanging out on the couch - Aoife was wondering why the camera was beeping!
Better picture of the kids with someone behind the camera!
While the girls were napping, Aidan and I went outside to build a snowman and go sledding in our yard.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The snow that brought Watchfield to a halt.

The snow started as heavy flurries on Tuesday afternoon and continued through the night and all through Wednesday. We only ended up with about 4 or 5 inches but everything here has ground to a halt! There are no plows and all the funding for sanding the roads was cut so....that leaves us with very snowy and slippery roads. It hasn't been above freezing since then so the snow is still around and there is more forecasted for the weekend. I'm happy - we have plenty of food in the house and the kids are loving going out and playing in it! Aidan and Emmy had snow days on Wednesday and Thursday and late starts today. It's also impossible to push a stroller or ride a bike through snow covered streets so we all walked to Emmy's school, dropped her off and Aidan, Aoife and I continued on to Aidan's school. Aidan's school also had early pick up - 2 instead of 3 - but I'm not sure why the snow would have affected how long they could stay at school!! Poor Brendan was the only one who had to go to school all week and since he couldn't drive or ride his bike, he had to slog through the wind and snow for the 20 minute walk - yuck!

The view from the front door during the storm - it was too windy to go out and take pictures!
Trees outside our house after the snow:
Aidan's snow angel:
The day after the storm - still no school due to hazardous road conditions:
Walking to school this morning:


The sledding hill is right behind our house - about 20 yards - so we have the luxury of being able to go in and out very easily! On Wednesday, during snow day #2, one of my friends had her son's birthday party at the sledding hill. It was so much fun! We brought out our fire pit and enjoyed the sun and the snow while the kids sledded and we all munched on sausages and cake. Just the perfect afternoon - and all the better since I expected to be stuck in the house all day again!!
Aidan's in the back:
Taking a knee to enjoy some hot chocolate:

Aoife is 8 months!

Aoife was 8 months old just after Christmas but time seems to have gotten away from me! She is doing great! She's sitting well and just starting to try to lean forward to get things. She's not crawling yet but I think it will be soon - Aidan and Emmy's world is about to change!! She's eating lots and lots - as you can see from the pictures. She's yet to meet a food she dislikes and starts bouncing up and down when she's going into her high chair. She eats three meals a day with us at the table and seems to love being a part of the action! She's still sleeping well at night and taking two good naps during the day. Her newest love is this fairy house that Emmy got for Christmas - although she doesn't get to play with it too much if Emmy's around since Emmy objects to the fairies being chewed on!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Scotland for New Years

We spent four days over New Years up in Scotland just outside a town named Crieff which is about an hour North of Edinburgh. We stayed in a renovated Mill - 10 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms - it was huge. We went with 3 other families so there were a total of 8 adults and 13 kids. It was so much fun!
We left our house on the 29th of December and drove about 5 hours up to Carlisle which is about an hour south of the Scottish border. We stayed there overnight and were planning to drive to Edinburgh and then on to the Mill. We ended up getting a good amount of snow while we were driving on the morning of the 30th so we decided to skip Edinburgh and drive strait to the Mill. We arrived around lunch time, explored the house, ate some lunch and Emmy and Aoife had naps while Aidan played in the game room. The other families arrived just before dinner time and the chaos began! The kids played really well together and everyone was exhausted when bedtime came!!

View of the kitchen/dining room:All the kids (minus the babies) eating dinner:
We had intended to go out to sightsee on the 31st but we ended up staying at the Mill all day because the kids were still pretty tired. We had a great time though - sledded and played outside in the snow and enjoyed the beautiful huge house. On New Years Eve we cooked dinner for the kids around 5:30 and we had lots and lots of appetizers. The idea was to have our dinner after the kids went to bed but we ate so much that we weren't that hungry for the beautiful steaks that Joe and Dyann had bought for everyone!

pictures of Emmy and Aoife from our stay at home day:
On New Years Day we went to Stirling Castle which was only about 30 minutes away. It was beautiful and just the way I imagined castles to be. It is built on top of a huge outcropping of volcanic rock and towers over the entire region. It was pretty empty since it was a holiday and we really lucked out with the weather too - clear and above freezing!!
Stirling Castle from the road into town:
A palm tree?? Who would have thought?
The Inner Close of Stirling Castle:
Aidan at the Gate:
The next day we went to Edinburgh Castle which was a little bit farther away. The weather was beautiful when we got there but as I was waiting in line for tickets a storm blew in and it snowed and was really cold and windy for most of the time we were there. Despite being really cold it was actually pretty neat being up there in blizzard conditions - I don't think the kids were too thrilled with it!! There were plenty of buildings to go in and get out of the snow so we had a really good time despite the weather!!
The blizzard!!
We left Scotland on Sunday - the 3rd - around 9:30 in the morning. It was COLD - about 15 degrees for several hours until we got back into England. I realized how lucky we were to have the temperatures be in the 30's while we were there. It would have been a much different trip if it had been in the teens!! The trip should have taken about 7 hours to get home but ended up being about 9 with traffic and road construction. The kids were great in the car - it's a lot better now that we have a DVD player that we use for long trips!! I wish we could have spent more time there - it was so beautiful and the snow and the landscapes were gorgeous. It reminded me of Colorado with the snow and the mountains. I hope that we will get to go back some day - with so many other places to see I don't know if it will be on this trip but maybe when the kids are older. We'll see!