31 May 2011

spring birthday no. 2

It was my second spring birthday yesterday. My first was when I lived in the USA in 2007. Normally, being from Australia, my birthday is in Autumn. The family I work for here were very kind letting me 'lie in' though I was awake early and took the opportunity to read a few birthday greetings online. In the morning I took care of the twins while the parents and toddler went out. It was a busy morning but the boys were very cute too. I cooked myself some nachos for lunch which I ate outside in the on-again, off-again sunshine (but warm all day). The others stayed out for lunch. By 2pm I was done with work--another kindness from the family for my birthday. Ordinarily Monday's are my long days of all day work with a night shift attending the twins.

I had one present to unwrap--and thankfully I saved that from when it arrived a week before hand as it makes me happier if I can unwrap something ON my birthday. I knew what it was and even had seen a pic of it because it's what I suggested my sister could knit for me. Ooo they are sooo nice. Lovely and soft and interesting. I didn't really need to wear them yesterday but I did anyway.

In my afternoon off I went for a stroll to find a cafe but darn the Bank Holiday, most places were closed. I was surprised that cafe's would be mostly closed with people off wandering about. I ended up going to the pub overlooking the sea and had myself a delicious southern comfort and cola while I worked on one of my knitting projects. I finished off the leaf pattern of my pixie beanie. ^^ Now I'm just onto the decreasing.

When I got home again I went and hung out in the backyard with the fam and the friends they had over. Then we had dessert and they brought out the cake I had bought and sung me Happy Birthday. It was a yummy lemon drizzle cake. Just a little one I found for less than £2. Later I checked online and replied to more birthday wishes before being picked up for Forge.

Forge is a craft group I've been going to organised by a local church where people come along and do all sorts of things. Whatever project they're working on. Last night I took along on of the wedding projects I'm working on for the upcoming wedding I'm attending in Germany. I also took along fudge to share since it was my birthday. It was enjoyed by all even though it was a bit of a flop--literally. I think the cooking chocolate here is softer than ours back home so will have to add more chocolate next time. I'd also mentioned to someone earlier that it was my birthday that day so I got a little carrot cake there and the song again.

Back home before I gave the boys their dream feed, I replied to the birthday wishes I had received. My birthday was nothing grand (the grand part was my weekend in Ireland--see previous posts) but it was pleasant with pockets of mini treats.

26 May 2011

weekend-end in ireland

After I got back to Dublin from my day tour (See previous post) I spent a few hours in Penney's--a cheap superstore of clothes and more. A good chunk of that time was spent waiting in line to use the change rooms. I ended up spending about €30 on tracksuit pants, shoes, scarf and pearl bracelets which are perfect for transforming into the necklace I've been looking for for the upcoming wedding I'm a part of. I happily took my things back to my room while I planned my next move. I think a leprachaun must have got in there while I was out as I was distracted at length by craziness whilst I had my camera in hand.

Finally I moved on and out into the street where it was again spitting. Perhaps a little more. I hurried to the Savoy pac-a-macless. As I was purchasing my ticket it began pouring outside. Good timing. I took my ticket and went straight in to spend some time with Jack. It was either that or Water For Elephants which I've heard is good but was a little different than what I originally thought it was about. I opted for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - On Stranger Tides in 3D as I was sure Cap'n Jack Sparrow would give me a laugh. I was pleasantly entertained. ^^ The post box I saw on the way back to my room was amusingly irish but also note the sky. There's still daylight in that sky and it was 10:30pm! I was quite amazed at how late it stayed light. Guess that's due to the degrees north. It also meant I stayed up late coz it didn't feel like the day had wrapped up by 10pm.

Sunday morning I went down for an irish breakfast but later decided I should have gone out. For the price I paid I thought it was a poor effort. Tasty enough still. I headed out shortly after to take a walk around Dublin. I just went wherever I desired and ended up at the place below. It was museum of sorts (attached to a church by a bridge) following the history of Dublin's beginnings. After a bit of humming and ahhing I decided to pay the price and squish what I could into the hour and a half I had left before I needed to be taking my packed bags to the bus stop. It would have been nice to take a little longer but oh well. I spent most of my time on the Viking floor as I was most interested in that. I don't know a lot about them and it was fascinating reading some of the information on them. The boats and why they built them the way they did for example. There was also a spot you could dress like a Viking. Hence the photo of me in a Viking helmet.

I dashed through the medieval floor and zoomed through the archiology floor. With a whirl around the gift shop I climbed up the tower for a brief view of the city. Then dashed back through--getting one of the staff to take a photo of me with the Viking by the entrance--and then on through the on and off showers toward my waiting bags. I went over the River Liffey on the Ha'penny Bridge (that is, Half penny in irish slang) and took a photo of O'Connell Bridge. This bridge is said to be unique in Europe as the only traffic bridge as wide as it is long.

Once I got back and checked out I trapsed to the bus stop where I got a ride directly to the airport. While waiting for my flight I had the most delicious bagel for lunch. I then made the long journey home. Long on the England side with a train to the city and a train--interrupted by line works meaning a bus ride for me--and back to the train home. I really enjoyed the weekend and very glad I took the opportunity to go. It still boggles me that I can actually go to another country for such a weekend here.

25 May 2011

weekend-beginning in ireland

So I went to Ireland for the weekend. Europe is great for being able to pop over to another country for a short stint. I had the Friday off so I decided to go away and spent most of my free time getting organised at short notice. I think the weekend was quite successful though as I had a great time. I landed in Dublin just before lunch and made my way to the city centre where I had accomodation booked. Turned out to be a poky little room. Nothing fantastic but sufficient and clean and it was available and not more than €100. It was bit tricky to find the place coz it took me quite a while to find the street signs. Mostly up on a building but not on every street corner. It did fascinate me that there was Irish (or Gaelic as those outside of Ireland know it as) on all the signs yet apparently only a small part speak it as their first language and even then they know English as well. It's even mandatory to study it all your school years there. I suppose it's nice to maintain that part of their heritage though.

Friday afternoon I went wondering and did a little tourist shopping as I made my way toward Trinity College where I met an online knitter friend. I had a good knitty, irish evening with her and her friends--including a half pint of Guinness--which you can read in more detail here. Saturday is the day of this post.

On Saturday I went on a day tour to see some of Ireland's countryside. Not nearly enough of course so I may have to try and get back some day. Still, for a weekend trip I think I did ok. We travelled on a comfy tour bus to Wicklow mountains. Our guide told us that the irish tend to exaggerate as he explained that none of the hills are really tall enough to be called a mountain. We had a photo stop at Loch Tay which apparently the locals call Guinness Lake (Can you guess why? See 1st pic.) We also had the briefest stop for the three of us who got off to take a photo of this bridge. It's the one they filmed at in P.S. I Love You where Holly and Gerry meet. Much prettier in the movie. Unfortunately the heather that covers Sally's Gap doesn't flower til August. We also stopped at Glenmacnass Falls which wasn't gushing and we were at a bad angle to actually view it. However the valley it ran into was pretty.

My favourite place on the tour was our 2 hour stop at Glendalough (based on the Irish for Glen of two lakes). I opted, with a few others, to go with the guide through the ruins of the 6th century monastic settlement. It also has a 10th century round tower which I think is the fourth tallest in Europe or something. There's not many left. The door, for security reasons apparently, is quite a way off the ground and they would climb to it by ladder then pull the ladder up. Then they could climb up the wooden platforms inside the same way. Our guide wasn't so sure it was a good safe house. He thought it could easily become a chimney. There were lots of celtic crosses around too and it was just amazing that these stones had been put together sooo long ago.

Once we'd finished that little tour I wandered off down the track toward the two lakes. At the fork I decided to take the boardwalk which was a little further but I like them and I was sure glad I went that way. I really enjoyed the scenery. I passed by the Lower Lake and then entered an area that was really packed with skinny trees.

It was spitting a bit too but I didn't mind at all. Glad I took my 'pac-a-mac' (ie. raincoat). It just made my irish experience more authentic. I was thrilled with the green. I love foliage and I love green so this walk was just splendid. The grass was very green, the trees were green, even the rocks were green. I made myself slow down to make sure I took it all in as much as I could because I know how quickly it just becomes a memory. I didn't want this to be one of those experiences where I regretted taking so many pictures I forgot to simply be there and take it in. Then I got the Upper Lake and had a little look around and a few photos before I needed to head back along the quicker path to the tour bus. I actually enjoyed the walk along the paths more than seeing the lakes.

Back on the bus our next stop was Avoca. We stopped here for lunch. I had a Beef and Guinness stew which was really yummy and a pint of Irish Cider. While the drink was quite nice I won't bother ordering a pint again. I honestly don't know how people can drink that much. It took me ages to finish. We went up the road a bit to the handweavers. Disappointingly I thought it would be interesting. Avoca is also the place they filmed the TV series Ballykissangel. Might have to find it and watch it.

From there we bused straight back to Dublin and I snoozed along the way. I felt like I hadn't seen much but there's not really a lot of Ireland viewing you can fit in just one day. So really the day trip was pretty good. I'm definitely glad I went and didn't only hang out in Dublin.

20 May 2011

working days

Never have I had a job that keeps me working 40hrs a week. It sounds like a lot but honestly, it doesn't feel like a lot. I get every weekend off plus three days a week I get 5hrs off in the middle of the day and one day I get about 8hrs off in the middle of the day. Does it even sound like I work?? Yes I do. I mix vegetable concoctions, sit in the sunshine chatting kiddy talk, take a walk along the beach front with the fam to the tea gardens to meet another family for a cuppa while the kids play, read books, run around on the green grass, make crazy sounds and silly faces for a laugh, receive sleepy baby snuggles and sloppy kisses and a whole lot more. :P

My weekly pay also includes keeping grumpy babies happy, attending the twins through the night two nights a week, dealing with a whole lot of 'why's and 'what's (and often being asked again two seconds later coz she didn't listen), messy meals, cleaning lots of bottles, helping do loads and loads of washing (dishwasher and clothes) every day, and of course changing pooey nappies and sometimes clothes as in the case of this morning's atomic bomb of explosions.

Unbeknownst to us, T sat happily in the walker, kicking about and chirping away. Only when I decide to move him over to the table while we have breakfast do I spot the aftermath. His efforts had squished the poo out the side of his nappy and being in his legless pjs, onto the floor where he probably had a fascinating textural experience squelching it around the wooden floor. (Thank goodness it wasn't carpet!) He did manage to get the walker he sat in, the beanbag beside him and in my moving him he got the fluffy white rug. I took the culprit and left the mum with the scene. Needless to say our breakfast was interrupted for a good while. What a clean up job! For compensation the kids did give me a lovely afternoon while I had all three to myself as I adjusted a rope swing so that S could reach it and use it by herself. It was gorgeous sunny weather and S was thrilled with this new set up and played for ages like a monkey in the treetops while her brothers were thoroughly entertained just watching.

So after all this working I'm getting up before the sun tomorrow to fly to Ireland for a little weekend holiday. :)

15 May 2011

showering with shaun

I passed this walking through Tesco (a supermarket plus more store). How could I resist Shaun??

07 May 2011

let's meet in london

I was so excited that some friends of mine who were travelling around the world would be in England a few weeks after I moved here. By the time we got around to finalising a time to catch up that worked for them and their holidaying and me and my new job, it turned out to be the weekend of the royal wedding of Will and Kate. Madness! So my day started off with work. My bosses were hosting a royal wedding party for a few friends. So I helped out with the twins and watched the ceremony and listened to the banter of those who have lived here much longer than I and enjoyed some typical British food. I finished at 1pm, grabbed my things and headed for the train station. I arrived at 3pm, managed to eventually find my friends in the still fairly crowded streets and then we walked over to Buckingham Palace to take a look...from a distance. Still lots of people about and roads still blocked off. That night we met some friends of my friends and went out for dinner and chatted late.

I stayed the night where my friends were crashing and then on Saturday we went to town! He he. We went on the Hop-on, Hop-off Big Bus Tour. Yes, a double decker red bus with no top. Fun. We rode for almost the whole tour (about 2hrs) and then basically went back to the things we wanted to see up close.

Our first stop was Westminster Abbey and I had to get a photo at the exit the newly weds came out of. Then we walked past Big Ben and the Parliment House. I think they look really interesting. Highly detailed gothic style architecture. We squished through a Tesco Express to get some lunch and sat by the Thames to eat it. Then we took a free cruise down the river to Tower Bridge.

After a wonder around the bridge while eating icecream and seeing The Tower of London from the outside, we caught the Big Bus around to St Paul's Cathedral. It's monsterous. It's quite phenomenal that it survived the world wars too with just some scars. Inside the detail is amazing. I wish I could have had a better look at the ceilings and decorated walls up the front but there happened to be a service on when we got there. That was wierd. I can't imagine being a part of a congregation that at services you have tourists wandering around the building. Unfortunately the tour times were past but we could see the whispering circle Simone told me about when we looked way up into the dome. At this point I think we decided to head to the end of the tour. We passed lots of Monopoly places which gave me a buzz. Including Trafalgar Square and Oxford St and more.

I also recognised the bridge that snaps in one of the Harry Potter movies. At the end of the tour we were at Victoria Station where we farewelled each other and they set off to prepare for the next country they were visiting and I trained home again. It was great to see London and some of its iconic places. Even better with friends I love already. I had a fabulous weekend. My favourite icons were Big Ben and Tower Bridge. I hope to return in the summer when they do tours in Buckingham Palace and also go do a tour at the Tower of London. It's amazing to think how old these places are. So much history. Makes me realise that Australia, as a civilization, really is quite young.

If anyone else wants to meet in London, I'm willing to make the train trip. ;)

03 May 2011

blenheim palace

On the way home from the Cotswolds we stopped by Blenheim Palace for a look. We started up stairs but S got scared of the lifesize, computer-automated puppets. So they left me to view it by myself. It was about the stories of the people who built it and lived there.

After I found them in the cafe and ate some lunch I took what time I had and almost ran around the bottom floor. Sadly I think the bottom floor was more interesting but I didn't have time to take a good look at all the grandure and the room that Winston Churchill was born in.

It was interesting but they don't let people take photos inside. Pfft. Was a bit annoyed with that. I bought a postcard of one of the interior rooms so you can see. It was all so large and lavish. I was quite impressed with some of the paintings and how some of them filled the whole huge wall.

After my quick run around I darted back through the gift shop and jogged most of the way across the grass to the car. Then we returned the rest of the way home.

A monument in the park looking from the courtyard entrance of the palace. Can't remember what it's there for.

02 May 2011

time for some change

I bought a new purse while on holidays. I saw this style on a small coin purse back in my English hometown and loved it but the size was impractical. In Broadway I found more sizes and this one is just perfect and so I had to buy it. So it was bye bye to my worn but faithful starry purse I bought in the USA and hello to cheerful little birds and flowers. I planned before I left Australia to buy a new purse here. A practical keepsake of my UK adventure. Along with others I'm bound to collect.

01 May 2011

the cotswolds family holiday

Early Easter Sunday morning we packed into the car and headed off for the Cotswolds. Now what I can gather from the vague descriptions my bosses gave me (they weren't sure either), the Cotwolds is an area north-east of London that is famous for its yellow cotswold stone buildings. It's quite a relaxed and pretty place scattered with picturesque villages. We stayed in Broadway in a modern lined antique house.

The top end of the high street in Broadway

Our holiday house

Standing flatfooted and the lovely kitchen with the low ceiling

The house was definitely old style with its low ceilings (I could stand on my toes and push my head on the ceiling in places and had to duck some doorways and ceiling beams), wonky floors and mazelike routes through the house with stairs all over the place. For me this was a working holiday. Mostly I worked afternoons and evenings. I either went wandering in my time off or joined in what the family was doing that day.

One day we went to Bourton-on-the-Water (the water being a shallow creek that runs through town...pfft) and we had tea and scones with jam and cream for the mum's birthday and then went to the model village of that village.

The giant S wandering through town

Another day we went to the Cotwold Wildlife Park which was quite impressive. Apart from feeling tired and it being windily cold, it was a very nice day out. I always enjoy going to zoo-like places and seeing the animals. I got to see some wolves and chameleons which I don't think I've ever seen live before. The wolves were even entertaining.

Me and the fam heading toward the restaurant

The wolves wandered and howled for us ^^

S and the mum looking at flamingoes and a chameleon.

I also got some knitting done. Quite a bit. Picked up my Pixie Beanie again so it's not far off finishing now. It was a nice little holiday. Tiring as I didn't get to sleep enough but I'm happy with how pleasant this family is to be around.