Whitby

I’m writing this from my phone with a sleeping baby in my lap, as Oliver has been fighting a nap all day and I don’t want to risk putting him down. But he’s slept through the night for the past two nights so I can’t complain too much!

Perfect beach weather, as long as you don’t want to swim.


We had absolutely stunning weather this weekend so we decided to take a trip somewhere new. Instead of going north like we usually do, we headed south into North Yorkshire to the seaside town of Whitby. Whitby is famous for being the home of Captain Cook and its nearly 1000-year-old Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s also a massively popular tourist destination, as evidenced by the wall-to-wall crowds out enjoying the gorgeous sunshine. 

Eliot got a bit travel sick on the windy road through the North Yorkshire Moors, so we took him to the beach to cheer him up. Despite the sun, it was still too cold to get in the water (it’s always too cold for me, even in August, let’s be honest) but Eliot had a blast digging holes in the sand with Brian. The tide comes in quick on the Yorkshire coast, and the beach backs up to some cliffs, so we had to beat a hasty – and damp – retreat to avoid getting stranded! 

After that we mostly walked around enjoying the sun and sight seeing. We didn’t even make it to the Abbey ruins, I’m sad to say, but they closed early given it’s still the off-season. At lunch I had a traditional Yorkshire fishcake, which is flaked fish mixed with mashed potatoes and herbs and then deep fried. It was as delicious as it sounds!

Before we called it a day, we took a quick boat ride around the harbor, which Eliot loved. (Though when we asked him later, he said his favorite part of the day was having a lollipop.) The sunset over the moors on the drive home was stunning, and peaceful as both boys fell asleep. 

The next day was Mother’s Day and I got a lovely lie-in followed by breakfast and mimosas and relaxing in the garden, so it was a pretty great weekend overall!

 

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signs of spring

oliver-grinningI know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’ve got a very good reason. This guy has been taking up a lot of my time.
Along with his brother, of course. It’s been exhausting but Oliver is a really chill baby for the most part so I think I’ve been handling it pretty well. Of course, next week is half-term so Eliot’s not in school… I might be singing a different tune after a full week of both kids, especially since Oliver seems to have decided that napping is lame.

We’re just plugging away here, making it through the winter. Christmas was quiet, but we spent a lot of time with our friends Mike and Sally which was really nice. Newcastle does a big New Year’s Eve parade and fireworks so we headed down there. It was pretty fantastic, tons of amazing floats – a lot of animals so it felt almost pagan. It seems like ages ago now!

Despite the fact that it’s only February, things are starting to bloom here. Snowdrops and crocuses are popping up all over, and the azaleas (I think they’re azaleas anyway) are blooming in our back garden. Today was almost balmy, so we took a walk down to the neighborhood food market with Eliot on his balance bike. I had to keep reminding myself that we’re still in the depths of winter here!

Waiting…

No sign of baby yet…. As glad as I am that this one is full term, the uncertainty of the waiting game is getting to me. Luckily I’ve got lots of help, since both my parents and Brian’s are here now. I get to spend a lot of time resting. Eliot has decided that I am like 6th on his list of people he likes which is good timing. I’m trying not to take it personally. 

sort-of single life

Brian and Eliot left for the States today; Brian’s in a wedding and we figured both that Eliot could use some time with his extended family since we don’t know when we’ll be back in the States again, and I could use some rest before the baby’s born. Which is true, because I feel suuuuuuper pregnant these days. This kid feels huge, I feel huge, I’m drinking Gaviscon like water and pee about 450 times a day, but I’m still hoping that this one stays put longer than his brother did.

When we first made the decision to send Eliot back with Brian I was really worried that Eliot wouldn’t handle being away from me for that long. But I’m pretty sure now it’s the other way around – it hasn’t even been 12 hours and I’ve already been going through baby pictures. It was a very strange afternoon, I got back from the airport and just sort of stared into space. I have a long list of things I need and want to do but I just couldn’t decide on any of them. So instead I just baked cookies and watched TV. It’s really just the lack of structure that’s sort of blowing my mind; for over two years my life has been a fairly controlled routine revolving around meals, naptimes, playtimes, bedtimes. Without that, I’m just feeling a little unmoored. I imagine I’ll feel better tomorrow morning when I can lay in bed as long as I want.

Climbing trees in Jesmond Dene. 

We had a late burst of summer last week, with some of the hottest temperatures of the summer (mid-70s, scorching!) but now autumn is here. Which is actually really nice, we had a spectacular weekend which we spent outside. On Saturday we went down to Jesmond Dene and ran into our good friends Becca and David, whose daughter Claudia is one of Eliot’s best friends. I love serendipitous things like that, it makes Newcastle feel like home. We’d already had plans to meet Becca and David at Gibside that evening for playground time and pizza, so Eliot got to spend lots of time with Claudia before leaving, and Brian and I got to hang out with our friends like grown-up people.

 

British grocery shopping

Now that we have a car, we can do proper grocery shops instead of daily trips to Waitrose, which is awesome. I mean, I love Waitrose, but being able to fill a shopping trolley instead of cram things underneath the pram is so much easier. Not to mention cheaper, since Waitrose isn’t exactly known for being cheap. Anyway, while I’m enjoying this new development, it has brought into clearer focus some British idiosyncrasies.

Number one, for the most part you cannot buy giant bags of chips, you have to buy a big bag of individual packs. Setting aside the excess packaging waste, it makes it really hard to binge on snacks which is super annoying when you are pregnant. If I want to eat an entire bag of cheese puffs in one sitting THAT IS MY GOD-GIVEN RIGHT AS AN AMERICAN, OKAY?

Two, British food manufacturers seem not to have discovered the magic of resealable packaging. In what world would someone need to cook FORTY-TWO FROZEN CHICKEN NUGGETS at one time? Or an entire bag of frozen corn? Or an entire block of cheese?! Ziploc seals: FIGURE IT OUT ALREADY.

Three, ice cream. Given that it’s “summer,” I’ve been wanting ice cream a lot more. Unfortunately, the ice cream available at British supermarkets is pretty uninteresting. Vanilla, chocolate, pralines and cream… that’s about it. You can get some Ben & Jerry’s but it’s crazy expensive. I miss my freezers full of Dutch chocolate almond, cookies and cream, cherry cordial, rocky road, peanut butter cup…. In fact, I met another American woman at Sainsbury’s the other day because we were both looking forlornly at the ice cream selection. However, I’ve been told that the best place to find interesting ice cream is at… the theater. Eating ice cream at the movies, and at intermission during live theater, is a thing here. Which explains why Brian and I saw lines of grown-ups buying ice cream when we were at the Theatre Royale seeing Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” last week.

baked beans

This is about 1/3 the selection you’d find at Sainsbury’s.

What the British lack in ice cream variety they more than make up for in their baked bean selection. I was looking for black beans the other day and, as one might imagine, looked in the Beans aisle. Where I found no less than three full shelves of baked beans. These aren’t the kind of beans Americans are used to, cooked in pork fat and sweetened with molasses and brown sugar. They’re pretty straightforward, in a kind of ketchupy sauce, and they’re eaten on toast for breakfast, or in little individual pots as a snack, or pretty much whenever. When I say I’ve never had beans on toast, I get a look like you might give if someone says they’ve never had a PB&J. Incidentally, I found the black beans in the Mexican food section, but also would have found them stocked with the “pulses.”

After all this, I was pleased to go with my friend Sally to Costco, where I was able to relax among American-sized portions and samples of baby carrots in ranch dressing (neither of which are common here). And where I purchased three and a half pounds of Reese’s cup miniatures, as is my god-given right as an American.

Lindisfarne

20160806_120435.jpgBrian’s brother Justin came to visit us recently, and while much of his visit was spent with Brian off exploring Scotland and its whiskey, we did get up to the Northumberland coast. Now you may recall that typically, our experience with Northumberland is one of rain, no matter what the forecast says. But this time we had absolutely perfect weather. I daresay it was actually hot! We went up to Lindisfarne again, because Brian hadn’t gotten to do it 20160806_115853.jpgproperly before, and also because it’s really flippin’ cool. We did the castle this time, which was a bit of a disappointment – it might be a 16th-century castle but it was bought in the early 1900s and turned into a holiday home for some rich guy and his family. So less on the anti-Viking fortifications and more on the gramophones (or “grandma-phone,” as Eliot thinks it’s called).

Anyway, Eliot wanted to go down to the sea, and as I was feeling too pregnant to navigate the rock-pools, I rested while Justin and Brian took him down to throw rocks in the water. I was perched on a log, watching people enjoying the coast, feeling the sea breeze and the sun, with a gorgeous castle and priory ruins behind me, and felt very, very lucky to be living in England.

better late than never, right?

Yes, I’m still around! It’s just that things have been very busy around here lately. One, I got pregnant. Two, we moved. Three, we got a car. And you know how it is, you wait too long to post and then you start to wonder how you’ll ever catch up. But hopefully I’ll do a better job of keeping updated this time. Though why I chose to start at the beginning of Eliot’s school holidays (yes, he started preschool) instead of the beginning I do not know.

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Eliot on his first day, back in March. That smile did not last.

Funny thing about preschool: I had imagined that once he was settled, I’d have all this free time (six hours a week!) to get so much done. I was going to start writing again! And baking! Of course, I also imagined he’d waltz through the door on his first day and never spare me a second glance, so that shows you how delusional I was on the subject. By the time he finally settled enough that I could leave him behind (which took SO LONG and involved SO MANY TEARS, most of them Eliot’s), I was so busy with moving that it ate up all those magical hours. And then I guess I forgot about how tiring it is to grow another human being inside you. But today is his second-to-last day of school (which he now loves) and I actually baked a coffee cake and hung some pictures and did some laundry. And technically I’m writing right now. Again, better late than never.

Summer has FINALLY arrived here and it’s GLORIOUS. It’s 81 degrees and people are melting. All our windows are open and I have been barefoot in the garden. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms, which are pretty rare (and usually pretty puny) over here. Tomorrow it’s supposed to cool back down to normal (around 70 degrees).

corbridge-bridge-671717771

Corbridge. This bridge was built in the 1600s. (I left my phone in the car so I had to find a picture online.) There were some very assertive ducks under this bridge that Eliot loved feeding.

Now that we have a car we can fully enjoy the weather. Who knows how long it will last? On Sunday we went to this sweet little town called Corbridge, and last weekend we headed up to an old estate called Wallington. I’ve also made some very exciting trips to a full-scale grocery store, where I can buy more than just what will fit under the pram! I will try to better document our outings now that I’m attempting to blog again!  Well, maybe not the ones to the grocery.