Monday, February 28, 2011

Half term is OVER!

Last week was half term - and what a week it was. Started out promising with playdates, crafts, outings galore. Cate was beside herself with excitement over all the fun things we were doing: the Heath, playdates with her friends, crafts, new sticker books, new movies for Cate and Mommy movie night, fun cooking projects, and a few outings to museums and playspaces.

It lasted until Wednesday when X decided to have pink eye (conjunctivitis). Then is was a matter of rescheduling the double playdates and having someone watch X so Cate could still have fun.But as luck would have it Thursday Cate had a huge asthma attack on our way home from too much fun in the Heath. She started coughing uncontrollably so I broke out the inhaler with the cone and gave it to her right on Haverstock Hill! She was fine for about two minutes and then she started to vomit, the poor thing.

I cancelled the rest of her week and decided to take it easy. We did a lot of baking and did visit a few friends for quiet playtimes but Cate was still under the weather so we took it easy.

Her last day of freedom was today so we had big plans to go to a farm seeing how X was over his troubles and daddy had the day off. Alas, it was not to be. Cate was up from 11:30 until 3:30 this morning with a burning fever and vomiting. I "slept" with her on our sofa bed just to make sure she was okay. She spent the entire day sleeping and sipping drinks.

It was all so disappointing - all of our playdates, all of our plans dashed due to illnesses. I don't know what the problem is but it seems that someone in this house is sick at all times. this upcoming move can't come soon enough as I'm starting to blame the building!

I'm happy to report that both Cate and X are in the pink tonight - both tucked into their own beds (although Cate did say at bedtime, "I have a great idea - how 'bout I sleep in your bed tonight?!" Ermmm...NO).

Easter break is coming and we're plotting a trip - still haven't decided where but I think we need it. I'm pushing for somewhere warm, sunny and beachy. Maybe we should all just move back home to the Bahamas and be done with it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nuby Review and Giveaway

The winers are: Mummy 24 and SFancy

X is finally completely weaned off bottles - as much as it pains me to say it! He's fifteen months old and I finally stopped giving him a bottle before bed. I should have stopped three months ago (according to everyone!) but I just couldn't bring myself to stop. I know I'm not having any more children so I guess I'm hanging onto my baby. Not fair to him so when Nuby contacted me to do a review and giveaway, I pored over the drinking cups to find something X would like instead of a bottle. And I found it! The Sport Sipper.
I love these! X grabbed ahold of it and it was bliss. He's a madman, likes to throw his drinks all over and this can take it. It doesn't spill, it's heavy duty plastic so it can take a beating and it's got the perfect grip for X's little mitts. He loves it, I love it, and best of all it's not a bottle so I have officially weaned my boy! You'll notice that it's good for drinking, and chewing!

They also sent over the gorgeous and wonderful Super Sipper Flip It. Which my 3 1/2 year old daughter loves. It also doesn't spill and when she's not drinking from the straw, she can flip it shut so it travels well. With all the walking around the Heath and Hampstead, having non-spilling drinks for Cate is crucial to my sanity. Again, she loves them, I love them - it's all good.

We used to buy Nuby products in the US which is why I jumped at the chance to review a few products here. I loved the pacifiers (dummies) so they sent over two Cherry Soothers - what I really love about these is the design - they are translucent so you can see X's sweet little lips in an O shape when he has them in his mouth. It is honestly the sweetest thing to see him with one of these. Of course he refuses to let me take a photo of him with one in his mouth so you'll have to take my word on it. I have actually received comments from people while we're out wondering where I got the dummies - they are just that cute!

So I am delighted to be able to share the love. I have two sets of two Nuby sippy cups (or beakers) to giveaway to two lucky winners. Here are the cups.

As you can see you can Flip It and it won't spill. And one of them is insulated! Fabulous stuff!

All you have to do to enter:

MANDATORY: Follow me (if you aren't already), then go to the Nuby website and leave a comment here letting me know what products from Nuby  you'd like to have if you could have any of them.

For bonus entries:

  1. Tell me how long Nuby has been established in the UK!
  2. Tweet about this giveaway and let me know: @xcrossthepond
  3. Click Here  and Like NUBY UK on Face book, be sure to tell them I, Erin at 'Cross the Pond. sent you.   (let me know!)
  4. Follow  @nubyuk on Twitter and be sure to tell them I, Erin @xcrossthepond sent you.(let me know!)
Good luck!! The competition ends at midday Friday, March 4th and I will announce the winner that afternoon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy One Year Anniversary to Us

Are we British yet? I'm fairly certain those are photos of Cate and X on Her Majesty's desk. It's been over a year since we moved here. February 13th was the official day we landed in England as residents. It's been an interesting year to say the least.

Last year at this time I was deathly ill for the first time, working on my first laptop (I'm on my third) after the PC blow out debacle and just starting our flat hunt (which we all know how it turned out). Funny how a year can make a huge would think. I'm currently talking to estate agents preparing for yet another move (our fourth in 15 months). But this is the one that is going to stick (touch wood!).

Last year I had no idea what I was doing, really. Wasn't sure of neighborhoods, schools, or how to go about doing anything the British way. That's all changed - due to the many friends I've made the past year. I cast a wide net and caught a few really fascinating, interesting, funny and great people - which makes all the difference!

My favourite things about England thus far:

  • My friends (of course)
  • Hampstead and all the surrounding areas - it's beautiful and we made the right decision to move here, even if it's ridiculously expensive 
  • London - come on - it's London!
  • The English countryside - because we had an infant when we moved here and had all the financial issues (being robbed, moving twice, etc.) we stayed local and it was fantastic. England is a wonderland with a castle on every corner. Can't beat that
  • The food - stop laughing. I've become quite creative with my cooking since I can't get a lot of my regular American ingredients. I make a mean Sunday roast complete with Yorkshire Puddings and my sausage rolls are divine.
  • My women's club - best decision I made since we moved here.
  • This blog - keeps me sane and grounded. 
So a big thanks to all who read my ramblings. Your comments have made me happy and at times were the best advice and comfort a gal could  hope for!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Walk Through Hampstead

On Saturday night I joined my women's group for a historic pub walk...this was not a pub crawl, although we did stop at two pubs for a pint (kinda have to in England).  Fen couldn't join me as he had to work so we decided to do the walk today in the gorgeous sunshine. I doubt I'm as good as Jan, our guide from London Walks,  but I think I did a fair job.

We started out at the Hampstead Tube station and headed over to Church Row. Below is a photo in 1906 and then a one taken last summer.

What I love about it is how cute and quaint it looks. But I had no idea how unchanged it has been over the centuries. Hampstead  prides itself on being a unique and charming Georgian village. Even with the High Street big name stores and contemporary adornments creeping in it still retains is quaint village feel. This road, Church Row is definitely a perfect example as it still has the original posts for the old oil lanterns that used to hang on the gates. It also has the original gas lamps which have been refitted for electricity but still retain a timeless feel.

Another thing I love about this street are the doors - well, the window panes above the front doors. Way back when houses were not numbered so the panes of glass above the front doors had to be different. The residents of each house had calling cards with the design of the glass on them so when callers came they could identify the house. Very cool. Here's one of my favourite doors:
We moved up the street to the huge, ancient church St. John's of Hampstead and it's graveyard where many famous folks are buried including artist John Constable and John Harrison of Longitude fame, many of the Du Maurier family and Jane Austen's aunt. Next we walked along the graveyard toward St. Mary's Catholic Church. The walk up is dark and kinda spooky. I was lagging at the back (shocking I know) with my buddy Liz. I said to her as we made our way up the hill, 'You know if this was a horror movie we'd be picked off right about now.' She agreed. Here's a shot I found online of the street at night.
On the corner is the first police station - the watch house that was established in 1830. This is where the night watchmen would leave to patrol the streets at night. A few steps further is St. Mary's Catholic church which is tiny - but for a reason. When it was built in 1816 - the parish was founded in 1796 - but at this time Catholics were still not allowed to practise their faith so the church looked like another house on the row. It wasn't until 1826 the sanction was lifted. The bell tower and the statue of Mary were added later. It's a lovely church:
Next we walked by Robert Louis Stevenson's house. Which I loved because he moved Samoa and is buried there. That's were my father in law is from. Here is his house:
On many of the houses are insurance badges like this one:
Homeowners bought insurance from different companies who insured against fire. If you home caught on fire the insurance men were called - if you had the right insurance they put out the fire. If you didn't, you got to watch your house burn! Rather rotten if you ask me, thank heavens that's not the case anymore. But that doesn't stop me from making contributions to our firehouse near our cottage in Pennsylvania every year!

From there we walked over to one of the favourite watering holes in London: the Holly Bush. It was built in 1644 and converted from teh stables and outbluiding of Romney's house (which is behind it). Many famous folks have hoisted a pint or two in this fanastic old pub - it's absolutely quaint with it's bare oak floors, plaster walls and roaring fire. When our group of about 40 descended upon it it filled up fast - it's rather large and it was already full but we all managed to have our pint!
Across the street is Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef's old home. He used to eat here a lot and apparently hung out in front of his house to sign autographs from time to time. He and his crew moved a little while ago.

Speaking of famous people A LOT of famous people have lived or do live in Hampstead including: Dickens, Keats, Hogarth, Dick Turpin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Poppins (well, his creator), Boy George, Peter Cook, H.G.Wells, Daphne Du Maurier, George Michael, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, George Orwell, Sigmund Freud and a host others. Hampstead has long been known as a residence of the intelligentsia, including writers, composers, ballerinas and intellectuals, actors, artists and architects — many of whom created a bohemian community in the late 19th century. After 1917, and again in the 1930s, it became base to a community of avant garde artists and writers and was host to a number of émigrés and exiles from the Russian Revolution and Nazi Europe. Interesting.

Many came up to the hills of Hampstead - which is this highest point in London to escape the disease infested streets of central London. It was considered a spa town with its clean water and fresh breezes. I find this ironic as I've had more colds, flus and oh, asthma since I moved here!

From here we went by Burgh House, Ridley Scott's house, and turned a corner to Admiral's House. This was the inspiration for Mary Poppins and the author, P.L. Travers used it as the inspiration for the book.John and Winifred Constable moved to Admiral's House in 1916 after living at 15, Brompton Square for the two years following their marriage. John had been advised by his doctor to find a house with a garden so that when his eyes prevented him from writing he would be able to work outside and not wander around busy London streets. The house had been re-named Grove House during their time but was still known to them and other local residents as Admiral's House. It was built during the reign of George III and occupied by eccentric former naval officer called  Fountain North. He constructed two decks on the roof, a main deck and a quarter deck, and mounted cannons all round them from which he fired salutes on the King's birthday and to celebrate Naval victories (sound familiar?). His cabin, built like the stern of a ship, still existed, high up in the air. There was an acre of garden, since built upon. Through the garden ran a tunnel which was said to communicate with the Heath, and was alleged the escape-way of Dick Turpin.
Next we wound our way over the old jail house - and to Judge's Walk where prisoners would be taken from jail to the courthouse to learn their fate. It was spooky at night but beautiful by day:
Next on our walk was the Hampstead Observatory - which I particularly liked. It's run by the Hampstead Scientific Society. Our guide went in and asked if we could take a peek. They said yes and we all walked up the steps and waited our turn to go inside the tiny round building with a domed room and take a look through the telescope at Orion's belt. I asked if the roof still rotated and the man in charge pulled on some ropes to show us how the roof still moved around, 'Good ole' Victorian engineering,' he cheerfully announced.

The next point was the highest point in London -  Whitestone Pond. There is an original marker which shows that it's exactly 4 miles from center London (Charring Cross I think). The pond was original ramped so weary horses could trot right in for a drink, and the dirty wheels of the carriages could have a quick wash before heading into town - presentation was everything! Here is an old postcard of that:
We finished up with a walk by the old lock up on Cannon Lane. This is where they held prisoners  from 1730-1830 - in the one room lock up before the Watch House opened up.
Next up was Richard Burton and Elizabeth's love nest during the filming of Cleopatra:
Then we looped down through the beautiful streets to Flask Walk and the Flask pub where we had a nightcap.  It has two sides - even today: one side is the working man's side which is cheaper - even though it's still served from the same bar - and the salon side which is plush and larger. Half went to the cheap side and half to the salon. I went salon because that's I how roll! It was a great night. I'm going to put it on my walking tour for guests should we ever have one again! I suggest you take a the Hampstead tour with London Walks Tours, who were our guides,  if you have the time and are in London - it was fantastic!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fish pedicures - no thanks!

At the O2 Centre right now they have a fish pedicure station set up - it gives me the heebie-jeebies. I've walked by the tanks many times and there are always people with their feet in the tanks - loads of them.

I thought maybe I was just having an attack of OCD in the fact that there is no way I would put my feet in the tank for several reasons: people take off their socks and shoes after walking around and stink them in the tank - yuck! The fish live in the tank where they eat dead skin and then urinate and defecate all day and night - double yuck! And some of the folks' feet I've seen dangling in the water as these poor little fish suck off their dead skin scare me worse than any John Carpenter/Wes Craven film could ever - a trifecta yuck!

Then I read this Times article. I'm not crazy - it's kinda gross! It's been banned in 14 states in the US and is starting to raise health  issues here in the UK. 

I just came back from the O2 Centre (buying supplies for Valentine Day cupcakes with Cate) and saw two little girls about 9 or 10 with their feet in the tanks. Lawdy! I could barely look.

Now I know that having it done in a mall kiosk is not the same as having one at a fancy-schmansy salon but either way, I just don't want fish eating me: not sharks, piranhas or even miniature Turkish carp ( Gara Rufa).  

Is it just me? Or does this skeeve you out too?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My wild, fascinating, glamorous life

It seems every plan I make these days gets canceled for one reason or another. Which isn't much fun for me. But I am feeling heaps better and despite a disappointing visit to the NHS, which was completely useless, I think I have my asthma under control. I'm not about to try running a 10K anytime soon but at least I can get through the day without collapsing in fits of uncontrollable coughing. I am spending a great deal of time walking through the heath with friends. Progress....

However, because of this I've had to relax, stay home and not do too much. I've read six books in a week, dozens of manuscripts and have watched more kid television than I care to admit (is it wrong to walk around the house singing the Hot Dog Song from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and like it? It is a catchy little tune!) But I've really enjoyed just taking it easy and hanging with my two favourite kids.

X and I have been doing a lot of learning games in the mornings before nap time and Cate and I have been having a blast doing her homework and practicing her phonics. It's amazing to watch them learn. She can spell her first and last name. She's 3 1/2. She's pointing out words on signs and sounding out letters. The other day she sounded out cat and looked at me very seriously saying, 'I'm reading.' She is!! It's astonishing how fast she picks things up. I have to say it's just the most wonderful thing to me - watching my kids learn. I love it.

So while I've been losing out with friends and my social life, I'm having some of the best times of my life right here with my children. On Saturday night, Cate and I had a hot date: The Princess and the Frog with popcorn and juice (mommy's juice was 12.5% alcohol but nevermind). We snuggled on the sofa, turned out most of the lights, wrapped up in a blanket and giggled through the movie. X was fast asleep, Fen was at work and we had a girls night. This Friday we're watching Beauty and the Beast and painting our nails. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Too much time on my hands

I was banished to our flat for the weekend to rest up and relax so my ribs will heel. My idea of relaxing: sorting the tupperware (how is it that at least three lids don't fit and I end up throwing things away yet it happens again each time?). I also dusted everything from head to toe - a big spring-like cleaning, I also went through the kids drawers and took out all the clothes that don't fit in preparation for the nearly new sale coming in up in May. Then I planned out our meals for the next two weeks, ordered food online, cleaned out the fridge and did crafts with the kids. Our masterpieces are on display in our lounge if you'd like to have a gander.

I also decided it was high time I give the lovely full size sample of Hands First Power Scrub hand wash that was given to me by PeriProducts. I've  had a devil of a time lately with dry hands. As any new parent, or parent of young children know - you wash your hands a lot. This has been wreaking havoc on my hands. So when this sample came in the mail I gave it a go. Now, this is not a paid endorsement, but please bear with me as I go on about how much I love it. At first I thought it was just handsoap but it contains natural pumice and conditioners. So it cleans and exfoliates and then moisturizes. I am seriously in love with this product. My  hands aren't  as chapped and dry as they were. You can read more about it here. And it's not expensive - around £7.99 in pharmacies. Check it out.

I also did sit and watch a movie or two. And I managed to read. I did very little work work, which was nice. And my ribs are feeling heaps better. I guess relaxing does agree with me!