Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Dreaded Lurgy....

I have gone very quiet on the blog lately. There are a variety of factors playing into that bit but it mainly stems from having a very active toddler (a full-fledged two year old!), a spouse who seems to spend most of his time on airplanes these days, no family support here, my desire to attempt to continue a career outside the house which requires a terrible commute, and general life obligations and house upkeep that seem to keep me busier than I could have ever imagined right now. 

Most days I feel flat out by the time I put Crosby to bed so unfortunately the blog (among quite a few other things) have fallen out of daily or weekly activities for the moment. I hope this lapse in posting, just like my toddler's constant need of "mummy, mommy, mama, mommy," and her ever-so-repeated-and-demanding-but-others-tell-me-is-endearing-whining is short lived and will some day be a forgotten lapse because in the grand scheme of life it is a rather small time frame. One can hope. 

Today, however, I received an email from a work acquaintance that made me chuckle at life abroad here that I just had to pull myself together tonight to post the happening! 

Last week, I thought I might die. Not literally, but I got sick and I can't remember being that poorly in a long time. I got very sick very quickly and it seemed to come out of nowhere. My parents were due to arrive for a long weekend visit so timing could not have been worse. Two days prior to their arrival, I woke up and showered for work and couldn't make it past my bedroom door, I felt so miserable. A sudden raging fever hit me along with a chesty cough and aches and pains I can't remember even during childbirth. I crawled back into bed and attempted to phone in for a conference call meeting because I couldn't fathom the idea of driving to work, let alone sitting in a meeting room with others. And then that night the sickness seemed to get worse, with my fever reaching 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) and the other symptoms multiplying. I was miserable. 

Thankfully Scott was in town and he tended to Crosby, proving to be Super Dad, getting her dressed and taking her to nursery or getting things ready for the nanny to arrive at the house, along with re-routing my parents on their flight when they missed their connection and driving to the airport to collect them. He even managed to take some direction from me to bake a batch of bar cookies for my parents' visit. It was all a bit of a blur but two days into the illness I managed my way to the GP (doctor's office) and she said I had a chest and respiratory infection so she put me on a course of antibiotics to try to knock it out of my system. 

So, my parents were here and I was feeling miserable, not even wanting to surf the web or stare at the TV, just wanted to rest in the hope of feeling better. Consequently, I have fallen behind at work. An email of some immediate attention came through to me today and when I responded I began by apologizing that I had not been in touch earlier and explained that I had been unwell.

The response was the part that really made me chuckle. Frankly at first I thought it was a joke.
The email began with: "Cassie, Thanks for the note, sorry to hear about the lurgy."


I thought that was a joke of a term that I sometimes heard Scott say but I have yet to hear it by anyone here. So, when Scott came home from work tonight I asked him if he really knew of the term or if he just used it as a joke. His response was that it was an actual term and he hears people use it here, and in fact since he has caught part of my dreaded cough, he said he has been telling people to stay out of his office because he has the dreaded lurgy. 

This lead me to the world wide web for research on the term. Guess this is a British term and it is an amusing one to me! When I hear this word, it makes me think of an illness when you have a lot of phlegm, which is strange, but it's just what comes to mind, but apparently it is more general than that. According to Urban Dictionary
Lurgy125 up48 down
Approximate British equivalent of the American playground term cooties, meaning a fictitious, yet highly infectious disease. Unlike cooties, now used by adults to refer to an general undefined infectious malady.

Normally used in the form "the dreaded lurgy".

The term originates from an episode of the 1950s radio comedy "The Goon Show" in which an epidemic of "The Dreaded Lurgi" was said to be about to sweep across Britain. It turned out that the lurgi was in fact a ficitious disease created by brass instrument makers who had claimed that no brass band player had ever died of the lurgi (thereby increasing sales hugely).

"The Goon Show" was an anarchic and surreal radio comedy series that starred Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. It was written by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes.
I think I've got the dreaded lurgy.

He's not coming into work today, apparently he's coming down with a lurgy.

I'm not quite sure what's wrong. Just some form of lurgy.

Urgh. You've got the LURGY!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The benefits of a traveling spouse

Frankly having a spouse does not come with a lot of benefits for me when I am the one at home who is always trying to manage the child, the house and my work on my own. However Scott was in Paris the other week (I know sob it's a tough life for him), and so he was nice enough to stop by my favorite food shop there to bring me some treats straight from the source! The only thing better would have been being able to go with him in person....

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Torch

The Olympics are about to start here in the UK. Technically they are "in London," but actually there are a few events spaced throughout the country. Some events are happening fairly close to where we live but they are not sports of great interest to us so we did not go out of our way to obtain tickets. 

However, one of the really cool parts leading up to the Olympics here has been the torch relay that has been taking place throughout the UK. The torch was lit in Greece and then made its way to this island and has traveled to over 1,000 towns throughout the UK and has been carried by nearly 8,000 torch bearers. It has been on tour for the past 70 days. It has traveled within 10 miles of everyone in this country which is pretty remarkable. 

A few weeks ago the torch was coming straight through our little town - and not only through our town, but it was being carried down the street at the end of our block! It was a very neat afternoon and much to our surprise, it seemed the entire surrounding area descending upon our town to see the torch in person just as we did too. 
We did not expect the masses of crowds for the route through our town so by the time we made it to the end of our block, we unfortunately did not have great views because of the crowd. 

Crosby got a lift from Daddy and she had the best view out of the three of us....if only she were as interested in watching the torch relay as we were! 
There was a large procession that came before the torch bearer, starting with the police squad. 
Then there was a torch parade with fancy buses, music, dancers, and lots of Olympic paraphernalia. 
Major Olympic sponsors such as Coco-Cola took part in the torch parade. It was quite festive and lively as these big floats went past the crowds. 
Crosby's attention span was of course that of a toddlers - very short. She seemed more interested in walking around and looking at the crowd of people rather than the parade for the torch. 
Now can you see the flame? Look carefully - it's near the left side of this photo near the Union Jack flag. It was a brief moment and it was difficult to capture on camera due to the crowd, but it was cool to see it whiz by us in person....and now tonight we will watch the opening ceremonies (from the comfort of our living room via TV) with the rest of the world where the flame will arrive and light the start of the games. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

American jackpot!

I went to our local ASDA the other last night (the Walmart of England, literally owned by Walmart) and as I was sauntering through the aisles (because I was by myself after dinner, and didn't have a screaming child in a shopping trolley!), I came across this new display at the store. I stopped in my tracks. All of these American goodies in one spot, in England, in a local grocery store, and not cost prohibitive!!!
Hershey's Chocolate items - bars, kisses, cookies and cream bars, Reese's Peanut butter cups and more, Tootsie Rolls and real American Marshmallows! I do wonder how the store has chosen these specific candies and products to sell. 
I only wish they were selling real graham crackers, I would have stocked up so we could be enjoying s'mores this weekend....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Traveling with an up-and-coming toddler

To say traveling with a small child is challenging could be an understatement. I can see why once babies start moving around (i.e. crawling quickly, walking, etc.) parents stay close to home. 

I think we are in the midst of the really difficult travel stage right now. I thought it was challenging before to fly with Crosby over her first year, but actually it seems fairly easy in hindsight. (always the way right??). For goodness sake, Crosby took 20 flights in her first year of life! Although by no means were we pros at traveling with an infant, but it was manageable.

We decided to travel to Barcelona at the beginning of May over the first Bank Holiday weekend for a short break. Barcelona been on our "list" of places we have wanted to see within Europe and so we decided we would go this year. My sister Carrie came over from the US for a visit to see us in early May so we decided it would be fun for all of us to go together to Barcelona for a long weekend. Perhaps after Carrie's time with us in Barcelona she is rethinking ever vacationing with us again for now though! 

The pros to the travel for this trip were: The flight was fairly short and it was direct. Plus we flew out of our local airport (20 minutes away) rather than having to drive to London first. The con of flying now is that Crosby has no desire to stay still or seated for that matter. She was 14 1/2 months old for this trip. She wanted to see everyone and everything that was going on. And she has a short attention span like most up-and-coming toddlers, so watching a DVD or ipad was not of much interest for more than about 5 minutes at a time. Additionally, she does not nap well outside of her crib so there was no nap on this travel day. This combination of such toddler-isms created one very crabby and slightly unhappy travel companion for our flight! I have known it is difficult to entertain a small child as I am with her every day, but this flight brought new challenges in hopes of occupying her. 
Standing on Dad's lap was fun for a while, but we were trying to be mindful of those passengers seated in front of us, so we didn't let Crosby stay there very long. 
Once up in the air, I pulled out the ipad and we tried to take self portraits with silly faces. As you can see, Crosby did not find this very amusing....
We tried x-ray vision photos for something different.
And the halo effect which didn't seem to phase her.
Double time! Two Moms and Crosby in a strange form too.
Meanwhile across the aisle, Aunt Carrie caught up on some zz's since Crosby wouldn't stay on her lap for very long. 
On the flight home, more self portraits, this time Crosby playing peek-a-boo with my iphone cover. Anything to keep her occupied....because of course the myriad of toys I had stuffed in my carry on bag were of no interest to her...

So, once we survived the flight and arrived in Barcelona we were looking forward to exploring the city. We made some changes on this trip from how we had been traveling pre-child. First, we rented an apartment. Finding multi-bedroom hotel rooms or suites with separate sleeping areas is really quite costly and since hotel rooms within Europe tend to be small to begin with, an apartment is a nice option. My only [small] complaint about an apartment or flat is that they tend to be self-catering and I end up having to fix breakfast. When on vacation, I do enjoy a break from cooking for everyone but at this point, having space to relax after Crosby goes to sleep or when she takes a nap is more important, especially for short breaks. We ended up renting a fantastic apartment in a very nice area of Barcelona so that worked out quite well. We all had space to spread out and most importantly Crosby had her space to sleep so the three of us didn't have to tip-toe around her crib for the evening after she went to bed. 

The other change we made was we rather quickly abandoned public transport to and from the airport. Although we may have initially tried to take public transport, hauling our suitcases, a stroller, a tired child, and three adults did not gel with the train as the best way of transport. So, we opted for a taxi and after a bit of traffic, the nice driver dropped us right around the corner from our apartment. 

Having not taken a holiday with Crosby since our trip back to the US at Christmas time, we have not traveled with her since she has been onto full solid meals three times a day. There are pros and cons to both sides of the milk only vs. food spectrum when traveling with a child but it is nice to be able to just hand her an apple slice or a cracker instead of having to stop and feed her along the way as we did before when she was not eating solid foods. 
Interestingly enough, we would always ask the restaurant if it were ok to bring a child in with us and they always happily welcomed Crosby into the restaurant but only a few restaurants actually had high chairs available! 
Luckily we packed our small collapsible high chair to bring along with us on this trip and we used it at almost every restaurant along the trip. Another item I had packed and gladly used along the way was a stash of Ella's Kitchen vegetable packets. Since we were unsure about how many vegetables and fruits we might be able to find at every meal, I packed a supply of the packets for Crosby to eat daily and they were perfect. 

Another note about traveling with a small child in Spain. Timing was an issue. Many restaurants do not open until 8 or 9 pm for dinner and that is well past Crosby's bed time, let alone her dinner time! We could not wait that long each evening to feed her. So we went the tapas route most nights. We went to a tapas bar, had lots of small plates and then later on in the evening we had snacks if were still hungry, that we had purchased from the local grocery store and kept in our kitchen at the apartment. This type of dining was a noticeable change in how we used to do our vacations but it worked alright for this trip. 

And then there was the element of sightseeing within the city. First, getting around the city was a bit of a challenge. We had a small child in a stroller and Barcelona, although modern in some ways, is old. Europe is old for that matter. Public transport is not stroller friendly. Therefore, we climbed a lot of stairs where one adult would hold the baby, and the other adult would carry the stroller. Our arms were tired after doing this multiple times each day up and down stairwells. 
Scott was able to manage sometimes on his own...
 And then sometimes Aunt Carrie was there to help too...and I carried extra bags. 
 But then as any time wore on, Crosby would wiggle her way out of her stroller straps, basically proclaiming she no longer wanted to sit in the stroller. Scott would carry her around the streets of Barcelona over his shoulder! 
We wanted Crosby to stay in her stroller as we walked into the main area of Parc Guell and she wanted none of it! Actually, this type of outburst happened quite a few times over the weekend....she would start to get very upset and then in true tantrum style, would yank her hair bow out of her hair and throw it out of the pram. 
I would notice about 5 minutes too late that her hair bow was gone. Luckily while at Parc Guell I retraced my steps and found the bow along the dirt path! It felt like I was doing a lot of back tracking to ensure we had everything with us at all times.

So, the moral of this trip was quickly realized....city breaks with an up-and-coming toddler are not going to be our cup of tea for the moment. It's a tough lesson learned since Scott & I have enjoyed a LOT of traveling since moving abroad. We suspect a pool/beach/more relaxed type holiday will be our speed for a bit. The next trip on our books will be a week in France doing just as described - a week by the pool relaxing and perhaps some very small and quick market trips in nearby towns.  We want to be able to still take advantage of having Europe on our doorstep but we know our days of exploring as we used to are gone for the moment. Perhaps when Crosby is a bit older such city breaks will be more enjoyable for all involved, but for right now they are not fun for her and consequently they are not enjoyable for us either! Travel in general just seems tough with a young one at this age so we are hopeful that with a different speed of a holiday we will still be able to get away to someplace new, relax and enjoy time together as a family. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where the lamb goes....

Crosby goes too....

Crosby received her beloved stuffed lamb when she was born from her grandparents in the US. In fact she received quite a few stuffed plush toys from America from various friends and family members when she was brand new, but for whatever reason the little white stuffed lamb became her security toy. She sleeps with it, she snuggles with it, she nuzzles it when she is upset, and generally it goes everywhere she goes because she feels safe with it.

Crosby & her lamb on a walk into town.
Crosby snuggling the lamb at Waitrose grocery store. 
Crosby and the lamb at afternoon tea.
Swinging at the park with the lamb in hand...
Even running around the yard with the lamb right next to her face! 

We had a small parenting failure (or miscommunication) last year when Crosby and I were traveling back to the US and the other parent (who shall remain unnamed....) did not realise the lamb was meant to go with us to the airport when he put Crosby and her belongings in the car. Regardless, the situation was able to be remedied because the lamb was born and sold in the US, so dear Gram was able to go buy another lamb before Crosby & I landed in the US and Crosby never knew the difference.

After that trip when we returned to the UK, we then had two lambs and we thought Crosby might be bothered by having two of her favourite lambs instead of just the one prized security toy, but she actually has loved having two. They have little rattles inside if them so she will sit and bang them both together to make noise, or she will carry them around - one in each hand- with great joy.

Ever since acquiring the second lamb, we have been careful to travel with both in case one gets lost (keeping one with us in a carry-on bag and one in Crosby's hands) but recently we have noticed, we have been both lambs out on errands more regularly because Crosby is asserting her very strong will and opinion about always having both in hand - and this situation is on I considered to be a small battle not worth fighting, so I have gone along with it.
Crosby looking upset because she thought Mom & Dad were leaving her at the house (but really we were just loading the car so we could all go run errands). Crosby had her two lambs in hand ready to go out on errands with us.

Well unfortunately now we are paying the price of having a favorite US-born security toy because somehow on the day when the photo above was taken, we lost a lamb along the way when running errands (at Sainsbury's grocery store I suspect). We left the house with two and somehow only had one by the evening when we had returned. Despite multiple phone calls to the store, no one has turned in Crosby's favorite little lamb. So, we are now watching her one prized lamb with all of our eyes to ensure we keep track of it before our next trip back to the US where we will purchasing another lamb from the store there! Perhaps we might even acquire a third lamb and keep one of them hidden for future good measure. It is really special that Crosby loves this little lamb so much but the trials of having a transatlantic security toy that cannot be purchased on this island where we reside makes us quite nervous at times, most especially when we have long stretches of travel ahead of us with her!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The great British Celebration

In honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration and also the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London, British pride and Union Jack paraphernalia has been at an all time high throughout towns, decorating the high streets, and in stores everywhere. In the US, I would say that American pride with stars and stripes is always very pronounced from a merchandising angle around the 4th of July, however we have not seen such an explosion of British pride since we have arrived here in the UK. It has been so festive and fun to see right now!
At our local Sainsbury's grocery store, a union jack outdoor display with Pimm's as the featured product - such a great British summer drink! 
The toilet paper rolls have even gone festive....
Union Jack Wellies!
Instead of a Kit-Kat, you can now buy a Brit-Kat here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jubilee street party

Our street hosted a traditional British street party this past Sunday in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration. Although it was SO soggy and VERY cold, it was really great fun to experience a local tradition for such a joyous country-wide celebratory occasion. We felt like one of the locals this weekend since we were able to participate in all of the festivities, although every time we met a new neighbor the first comments made was always something along the lines of "Well you're not from around here....." Yes, the accent is a dead giveaway!

It was nice to meet more of our neighbors because even after living in our current house for over 3 years, we have not met many of our neighbors on that side of our house. 
The road was closed for our street party.
All of the men on the street went early in the day to set up the tents for the food and dining areas since the rain was really terrible that morning. Even with the overhead cover, we still were soaked from the sideways rain!
There were two food tents - one for savory side dishes and one for "puddings" (desserts). All of the attendees were asked to bring their own meats (most everyone brought British sausages) to grill, and then each family brought one savory side dish and one sweet dessert. 
For our contribution to the dessert table, I made two desserts. One was a large cookie cake with buttercream frosting. I decorated the "cake" with a crown to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 60 year reign. I found a photo online and just tried to replicate it with the icing. It was fun to make and was a sure highlight to the dessert table! (Plus the Brits seem to go nuts over cookie cakes whenever I make them for events - they are not very common here). I also made brownie with homemade strawberry ice cream and hot fudge sauce cupcakes. Scott found me a fancy disposable union jack cake stand in anticipation of the party.  
Crosby & Mom with the cookie cake and fancy Diamond jubilee sunglasses pre-street party.
Crosby & Dad slightly soggy but enjoying lunch at the street party. 
One neighbor made jacket potatoes for everyone at the party. Such a fitting British side dish - and it was quite warming for the cold windy day outside.
Crosby, aka bubble baby, trying to stay warm and dry under her rain cover for the stroller. I had to turn the heat on inside our house when we got home from the party. So much for the weather being nice for summer but it's a true British Summer now! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

London calling

While Carrie was here visiting, we took advantage of some sister time and spent a full day in London. It was all-too-short but really nice to get into the city for a bit of time. I have not spent any amount of time in London since Crosby has been arrived and I miss going into the city to shop and sight see. Scott was traveling again for work so Crosby had a day at home with our nanny and Carrie & I took to London. Although it was rainy (a constant theme here this April and spring), we had a great day eating and shopping.
On the train into the city....sisters not to be missed in bright orange!
At the train Marylebone train station there was a movie being filmed. There was a sign posted that anyone walking around the area could be in the future movie. I am still unsure what movie it was but I will keep my eyes peeled for our big screen debut.

For lunch, we headed to the Notting Hill neighborhood to a pizza place called Otto. Since Carrie is celiac, she had read in advance that Otto has a gluten free cornmeal crust pizza. Celiac or gluten consuming, this restaurant is not to be missed! We had a bbq pulled pork pizza with cheese, coleslaw and onions - a bit different but it was utterly delicious and tasty. 
It even felt like we were close to home with the beverage selection available from Goose Island Brewery in Chicago!
After lunch we wandered around Portobello Road in Notting Hill and made a stop at the Hummingbird Bakery. They even had a gluten free cupcake selection which was great.

London was decked out for the Jubilee and the Olympics. Oxford Street was flying the Union Jack all over - and the taxis were festive too.
To continue on the theme of eating, after a bit of shopping around the city, we headed for a full proper afternoon tea at Claridge's Hotel. When we arrived there was a crowd of papparazzi and also a crowd of teenage chidren standing out front. While we did not spot any celeberties, I think my online research was correct to hint that Johnie Depp was staying there that day.
The hotel offered a full afternoon tea for celiacs too so it was perfect so we could both enjoy nearly the same things. 

Tea sandwiches, scones, desserts and of course lots of tea! 
It was definitely one of the best splurges for a wonderful day out for these sisters who don't get together as often as we would like!