Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Even the Kitchen Sink

Madeline is really into having "picnics". These are very elaborate set-ups, in which she'll spend a half hour getting everything ready, and then five minutes actually having the picnic. As you can see, she spreads out her picnic blanket, then brings in everything she needs. And she has very interesting ideas about what one needs at a picnic. Obviously there's the usual plates and cups and food (divided into regular food and treats). She sets a spot for herself, and one for each of her friends--today it was kitty and blanky and me. But did you know that you have to have a kleenex at a picnic? She asks for one every time she does this. And toys, so you can play after you eat. And a pile of books. And the phone. And don't forget the kitchen sink. After all, you might need some water. That's what she told me when I asked about it. Silly me!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

First Day of "School"

That's my little girl, all ready for her first day of "school"!

Preschool here starts as early as 2 1/2, and is funded by the government after they turn 3. Since Madeline's almost 3, we decided to go ahead and start her one term early. It's easier to get the days and times you want when they start in September, apparently. She stays from 9:00 to 12:30, and has lunch there (hence the lunch bag). She'll be going twice a week; on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thursday the 3rd was the big day. She had a blast--I could barely get a good-bye kiss from her, as she was too anxious to go start painting. All evidence when I picked her up was that she'd done quite a bit of painting that morning, as she had paint from head to toes and everywhere in between!! They had warned us not to send them in "nice" clothes, as they do play messy. According to Madeline, she also spent some time on the trampoline, and made lots of new friends, although her social skills are such that she didn't bother learning their names. All things in time, right?

Hopefully she will continue to like it as much as she did her first day.

The Peak District

So last weekend was a "Bank Holiday" weekend. For those of you who aren't British, Bank Holidays are random Mondays throughout the year that everyone gets off work (except mothers, but we won't get into that...). As far as I'm aware, there is no particular significance to the days they've made Bank Holidays-not like Labor Day or Memorial Day in the US.
Anyway, we decided to take advantage of this Bank Holiday weekend by getting out to see a bit more of England. Bill wanted to go down to Cornwall, but we decided that was way too long of a drive when we only had three days. Since the Peak District is only two hours away and we'd heard good things about it from some other Americans, we decided to give it a go.

On Saturday morning we packed up and hit the road. We drove up to the Heights of Abraham, which is in Matlock Bath. Matlock looked like a really cute town in and of itself, but we didn't stop to check it out. At the Heights of Abraham you get to take a cable car ride to the top of a big cliff, where there are lots of things to do--tour a cave left over from lead mining, see how lead miners lived, climb a tower for an even better view, hike around, check out fossils, and Madeline's favorite: play. They had a couple of different playgrounds, and we went to them all! There was even free face painting that day. Of course her favorite part was the gigantic slide. She went down it again and again and again, so Mom and Dad got their exercise for the day (and then some) helping her get up the huge stairs to the top time after time.

Sunday we went up to Chatsworth House. This is a huge stately house owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Which really didn't make sense to me, because we were in Derbyshire. Can anyone explain that to me? Anyway, for those film buffs out there, it's where they filmed "The Duchess" (it was also where the real Duchess had lived) and it was Darcy's home for the recent version of "Pride and Prejudice". It was amazing. Our tickets encompassed three separate areas: the home itself, the "farmyard and adventure playground", and the extensive gardens. The home, as you can see from the pictures, was extremely impressive. We didn't do much in the farmyard, as the petting zoo animals were "having a rest" (?!), but the playground was great--our little daredevil particularly liked the zipline. We did spend quite awhile wandering around the gardens, but it was pretty drizzly and a bit on the cold side, so we didn't enjoy them as much as I think we would have otherwise.

Monday we went to the Crich Tramway Village. It's basically a "village" they've built up around a tramline and old trams they've saved and refurbished. This weekend was also supposed to be a "Transport Extravaganza" with lots of old cars and motorcycles and things. The advertising for the place (and hence our expectation) was a bit, ah, exaggerated. The ride on the tram was fun, though not all that long. There wasn't all that much in the "village" that we were interested in--the best bit was the organ grinder--we stopped and listened to him several times. There were a few neat vehicles for the "Extravaganza", but nowhere near as many as we'd been led to believe. By far the best one (to us) was the toy-sized one with a teddy bear in it that the guy had a remote control for--he could make the teddy look at the kids and wave to them--it was really clever!! But Madeline's favorite part of the day was the indoor soft play area. We actually spent quite a bit of time in it, since there wasn't a ton else to do and we weren't in any hurry...

Those last two pictures are for my Dad: an idea for the next phase of your own trains, Dad--apparently the guy had soldered each individual light on by hand one at a time. That ought to keep you busy for awhile!

The only thing I don't have any pictures of from the weekend, unfortunately, was our hotel. The best part of the hotel was the really nice, really warm swimming pool that we spent our evenings in. Our little fish had fun showing her Daddy what a good swimmer she is--especially how she swims underwater! He was suitably impressed.

Just so you know...

I'm not even going to TRY to catch up with all the stuff I should have blogged about in the past five months. Suffice it to say we had a big trip to the Netherlands and Belgium with my parents in April that was absolutely wonderful. If you want to see pictures, go to my husband's Facebook page. We also did a day trip to London one Saturday. And my sister Karen came for a quick visit as part of her whirlwhind Europe tour. Other than that, general "life" stuff has filled our days. Sorry to those of you who haven't completely given up on me, but you're just going to have to live with not knowing what transpired for five months of my life. I'm sure you'll survive.