Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bum Bum Bole

Iain just loves it:

The Venue

Charles and Iain would like to introduce you to a wedding venue that's about 700 times older than Iain (give or take).

St. Nicholas church, Sandhurst, Kent, UK, dates mostly from the 14th century, with portions embarrassingly new (15th century). As you can see below, it's set apart from the village.

Here's the tower. It contains a wonderful set of bells. I know this because Miriam and Will arranged not only for someone to play the church's impressive organ but also for the bell-ringers to chime out celebration before and after the ceremony.

Here's the view from the cemetery. Buried here are many soldiers from WWI, including one young man who was a sapper and who died very early in 1918. He almost made it.

Iain and I took a bumpy little trip through the graves. I pointed out the gravestones commemorating parents, children, loving marriages and soldiers who died young. One died at Salonika, another at Ypres. Iain was interested, and suitably solemn.

Flying with Baby: Advice for Strangers

Over at Ask Moxie, they're talking about unsolicited advice from strangers. This is particularly timely since we had a little incident with that yesterday.

Here's what happened: our flight leaving Heathrow departed a little late. It was supposed to leave at 10:50 but actually took off at 11:20 or so. You may have noticed that airlines change the rules on you pretty much every flight these days. Sure enough, although he was in his carseat (strapped in) for the take-off from Dulles, the flight attendants at Heathrow insisted that he must be in my lap with a belt extender. Not in the carseat, no sir.

So I belted him in, knowing that he was tired and it was naptime and he was going to scream. And so he did. For the fifteen minutes before our departure time, for the 35 minutes that we waited on the tarmac, he screamed. I knew that as soon as I could put him in the carseat, he would go to sleep and all would be well.

I'm getting to the point, really.

While we were sitting on the tarmac, seat-belt light definitely ON, flight attendants strapped in for takeoff, the guy behind me (apparently sick of hearing Iain scream) got up and tried to take Iain from me. Let's say that again: HE REACHED DOWN AND STARTED TRYING TO PULL IAIN OUT OF MY LAP, OUT OF HIS SEATBELT, EVEN WHILE I SAID, "NO."

I tried to tell him that he had to sit down because we were supposed to take off, but he kept tugging on Iain, and Charles was practically levitating out of his seat (on the other side of the carseat) to get at this guy. Finally, the male flight attendant got up, ordered him back to his seat, and told me not to worry about it. He knew that Iain would sack out once we took off, as indeed he did.

But...dude. Can you imagine? WHAT was that guy thinking? He was young, Swiss, and seemed nice enough. He kept saying "give him to me, it'll be ok." ???

So, apropos of advice from strangers, let's combine this story with the unhelpful strangers from our flight out to London.

I think it's so nice that people will reach out to help one another. At the same time, no one who attempted to be helpful to us actually helped, and in several cases they were either unhelpful (ie, they kept waking Iain up) or freaky (see Swiss dude above).

If you read the link to Ask Moxie above, you'll see that most of the discussion is about people offering tips on dress, food, and general care. I can see how that would be annoying, but from now on I think I'll take the position that so long as the stranger isn't trying to yank your baby out of your lap, things could be a lot worse!


How delicious are these two?? Apparently, both Graham and Freddie are experimenting with walking, exploring the local park, and casting magical spells on everyone they meet. Personally, I can't get enough.

For Tony

Bob the Builder meets the Prodigy. Iain loves it.

And yes, we're awake at 3:59am because jet lag is awesome in a 14-month-old.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And Another Thing

Bart and Tony surprised Charles with a pair of birthday gifts that were as thoughtful as they were unexpected. One was this bottle of Glenlivet. It is no more.

We loved it. Thanks, boys.

Let's Start With...

Mommy and Iain at the church for Miriam and Will's do. We had to step out a bit so Iain could recover his composure. Daddy took the opportunity to shoot some pictures of us together.

Note the terrible British weather of legend. Awful stuff. Hours and hours of sunshine. I don't know how they stand it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Radio Silence

We've been in the countryside at our second wedding of the week, but unfortunately there was no internet access. The trip comes to its end tomorrow and I'll reward your patience with many lovely photos of East Sussex, adorable flower girls, and the extended Auntie M clan partying the night away.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Lots of pictures of Cambridge are coming at you in days to come. But for now, here's a little trip down the river Cam. Tony thought it might be a nice way to end our visit to the city.

Iain wasn't so sure, at first.

Mommy tried to convince him, and after dipping his fingers in the river a few times, Iain changed his mind and got on board, so to speak.

Bart found the whole enterprise rather zen. The trip took about 45 minutes, and floated us past 7 of the colleges of Cambridge University, and 9 of the beautiful bridges the University boasts.

This is our guide, Tim. He's Welsh. When Tony and Bart revealed that they live in Milton Keynes, he mocked MK a bit. Bart replied, "You're from Wales, right?" "Yeah?" "So shut up." Nice, boys. But he took it well, which I figure means either that Wales isn't that cute or that when the passengers are tipping you just laugh no matter what they say.

We had a brilliant, beautiful day for our ride. The sun shone, big fluffy clouds floated across the sky, and Tony turned his face up to soak in some rays. BTW, the other people on the boat (see the lady below?) live in San Diego. Their son is starting at USC in the fall. Small world, no?

Never let it be said that Cambridge folk have no sense of humor. Here, they throw bubbles at us from windows.

A lovely bridge across the Cam.

It was all very picturesque. And it had a lot in common with Oxford. A winding river with boats (complete with half-naked, drunken students basking in the sun), gothic architecture, Christ College and Jesus College (both names at both schools), etc. Most importantly, Cambridge has the same population of young women who ride bicycles while wearing short, floaty dresses. If you're wondering, "doesn't that make their undies visible?" the answer is YES!

It's no wonder so many tourists come for a visit.

New Teefs

We've had a string of cranky mornings this week. Today, it was a 6am wakeup followed by 45 minutes of screaming, followed by crank-itude for a couple of hours before a nap. It's tiresome, to say the least.

Since Iain hit 4 months, people have been saying (whenever he cries), "Oh, he must be teething." But he only has 5 teeth. He can't have been teething those five little teeth the whole time, right?

In this case, it seems they were right. After a week of Intense Crank-osity, Iain cut one more little tooth. It's on the top deck, on Iain's left. He now has a grand total of 6 teeth. I can hardly wait for the molars. Really.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oooh, Lovely

This is Ceri. She and her husband Rob had a hand in our delicious visit to Tony's parents last weekend. She made, for example, the pavlova I was hyperventilating over, and the lovely potato salad, and the fruity vodka punch (!) that was Ladies Only.

We saw them again tonight, coming straight back from the day's outing to Cambridge (more on that tomorrow). Ceri made another incredible meal, this time starting with baked camambert and sweet cherry tomatoes. Iain was amazingly excited by the cheese, and ate a lot of it smeared on thin slices of toasted bread.

The main course included chicken breasts stuffed with cheese and wrapped in proscuitto, roasted asparagus, boiled new potatoes, and tiny corn cobs. Simple, tasty, entirely satisfying. For dessert? Please. Homemade chocolate ice cream that felt more like mousse on the tongue, fresh raspberries and thin slices of tiramisu. We rolled out a little early so as to make it home before the dogs exploded with anxiety.

But we took away one last sweet gift. Ceri gave Iain two lovely books. Tusk Tusk by David McKee is about tolerance. Mummy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole explains where babies come from and makes fun of parents at the same time (yay! says Iain). Of course, books are Iain's favorite gift bar none, so these are delightful and so welcome.

Driving off, we ran into Aunt Sandra, who had - what else? - a little something for Iain. It was a compilation of Beatrix Potter's tales for little children. A few months ago I read the recent biography of Potter and now know about her hard work to save England's country places and farms from development and decay. Potter is a welcome addition to Iain's shelf, for sure. He clutched the book all the way home, then happily shredded the blue tissue paper in which it came.

I doubt we'll be able to drag ourselves away.

Eccles Cake

Tony's dad has excellent taste. Here he is, hoisting his grandson Freddie, a hilarious little boy who likes to be tossed bodily into the air (and who doesn't?).

Anyway, Mr. K's favorite pastry is the Eccles cake. It's a short pastry filled with "mince," or sweetened dried fruit.

I had one this morning, baked at a local shop that supports a home for disabled adults. It was crusty with demerara sugar, filled with gummy raisins, and just the right size to be decadent without being gross. Yum.

Image from wikipedia, linked above.

Iain says, "you ate what?" "I want some!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bletchley Park

As you saw in the recent Garden Update, we recently visited Bletchley Park. It's a national historic landmark, the place where the British broke German codes during World War II.

We visited the Mansion, in which there is a lovely bust of Winston Churchill and a stained-glass ceiling in one room.

In the library, cabinets hold toys from days past. Some are horrifying (a naked doll with odd red bits), but others look like fun:

This cabinet holds remnants of the Royal Family, including decorated tins:

Here I am, with Tony's brother Mick taking my picture while Aunt Sandra supervises.

The outside of the Mansion. It's a very pretty building, much more so than the rest of the grounds. They're dominated by squat dormitories, barracks-like, that housed the many offices and bedrooms of those who worked here.

And now, for something completely different. Remember that CAT toy I mentioned? Here it is, with Iain operating the controls.

Too Much Fun

Just as we did last time, we've been spending a lot of fun time with Tony's family. They're hilarious, they put out awe-inspiring quantities of yummy food, and they've won Iain's heart thoroughly.

Can you blame him for his affection? I mean, check out that fabulous fascinator.

Bart and Iain played football on a tiny little field. There are several grandchildren in Tony's family, so the house has hidden treasures. There's also a CAT crane that beeps, extends its arm to lower a hook, drives itself back and forth, and generally offers tons of boy fun.

Yesterday, Alina came down with her husband Daire. We had a mini reunion, talking about Bart's Wall Dancing, Alina's tendency to get into trouble without actually doing anything bad, my enormous mouth, and Charles's skill at gliding through all the craziness.

Here we all are, older but only a little wiser, except of course for Iain. He grows wiser by the day.

Garden Update, Dateline, England

Don't cry. Above you see the beautiful little apple tree next to the pond at Bletchley Park. We spent the morning there yesterday.

I also photographed the gorgeous white peonies in bloom at its base, but because I'd been shooting the library inside The Mansion, my camera settings were all wrong. So my pictures came out as dreary green backgrounds with bursts of pure, dazzling white and nothing else. Blech.

So trust me when I tell you that at Bletchley they had a sweet, naturalistic garden with thriving trees, shrubs and flowers all integrated in the way that only an English garden can do. It was lovely.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Iain wishes a happy Father's Day to his Daddy and to Grandad and 899. He's not having any fun in England with the ladies. None. Zero. Bupkus.

Seriously - Who Said English Food is Bad?

Gotta go, vittles to eat...

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Dessert tonight at Tony's Mum's house? Pavlova.

Trans: a crispy meringue base topped with whipped cream, then fruit (in this case English strawberries, natch).

In other words: crack. On a stick.

We're Never Leaving

Look at this pretty field. Technically, this bit is raspberry and gooseberry, but just over the road on the right is an enormous field of strawberries.

So I had to pick some, naturally. The good ones were hard to find. A family of six came strolling out of the field with at least 8 large baskets full. Awful people. They obviously stripped my berries.

Iain tried to help, but he couldn't figure out the difference between leaves and berries. Still, he enjoyed the fact that he could reach right out and examine everything.

Eventually, I found a bunch of plants The Marauders missed.

The results:

Yum! Iain's been eating strawberries like mad ever since. Me, too. And Bart.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cream Tea

We visited Wakefield Farm Shop in Potterspury, Towcester*, Northamptonshire. Feeling a bit peckish, we stopped in the Tea Shop for a cream tea. Tony considered his choice carefully:

While Iain pounded the table, which is not really the best way to get the waiter's attention.

Scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Unfortunately, I failed to interpret Tony's frantic gesturing and mouth twitches so I did not change focus and photograph the truly impressive Visible Butt Crack on the lady just outside on the porch. I think she was rolling commando, if you know what I mean.

Iain really liked his taste of scone with clotted cream. He agrees with Tony that if one had to die of clotted cream, that would be well worth it.


Observed, on the wall of a bathroom stall in the mall here in MK:
"Jesus loves you - yeah you."
"Yeah, but I only like him as a friend."

*Pronounced "toaster," in an example of what Miriam was talking about when she blogged interesting English place names.

Look at that Fat!

Wow, kids. Frowey Farmshop is amazing. We chatted, we bought bottled apple juice made from locally-grown apples (labeled by variety! I bought Cox's Pippin!), mint dressing made nearby, and (most importantly) meat. Lamb, beef, PORK, all grown from seed and butchered by Mr. Friendly Frowey himself. He even flirted gently with us.

Check out that fat:

Delicious stuff. Tony butterflied the filets, because they were so generously thick.

You can't cook without someone to supervise. It works better, too, if the Supervisor takes up 50% of the floor in the kitchen. Keeps you from doing too much walking around (bad for the meat - makes it tough)

Tony dredged the butterflied meat in breadcrumbs, fried it, then baked it in the "cooker." With boiled, buttered new potatoes and a Caesar salad, it was divine. And we have chicken, lamb and beef yet to come! If we go back, I'll get you a picture of Mr. Hottie Frowey.

Iain's enjoying himself, particularly because Bart and Tony got a lovely bag of toys for him to play with. Here, you see the Pentagon has called Dr. X to SAVE THE WORLD! But Iain's like "whatevs, dudes." He has bigger fish to fry.

Like hanging with Tony. They talk about stuff. Man stuff.

Today we'll be enjoying the lovely weather, drinking tea and planning for our weekend. Oh, and petting Mr. and Mrs. Gorgeous while they lay on the floor and stretch.