Posted by: OffToExplore | May 9, 2012

And We’re Off

As our days are literally numbered here in England, I have decided to move on to a new blog. Come visit me at!


Posted by: OffToExplore | February 27, 2012

When in Rome

I am writing this as the rest of my family sleeps in a hotel in Rome. The walls, carpet, and all horizontal surfaces are covered in red and gold tapestry, the lines and swirls all running together.

Yesterday we wandered the forum and strolled along the colosseum, just taking in all the history, while B yelled, “Too the ruins! Andiamo! (Let’s go!)” As we clambered around the ruins of the forum, definitely not stroller friendly for those who are curious, the sounds of a brass band wafted over us. We all burst out laughing as they began to play “My Way,” “New York, New York,” and other such Italian standards. Of course, B didn’t get the joke, but she did love the music.

In another bolt of the surreal, B made a new friend — Ryan’s 2nd cousin Bridget, who just happens to be visiting Rome this week as well! We had a great time catching up with her, as we hadn’t seen her in years!

Posted by: OffToExplore | December 28, 2011

Christmas Spirit

I’ve heard lots of horror stories from parents. Kids who get caught up in a present frenzy, who just demand more and more gifts, who hate a present and are not at all shy about saying so, etc. So we were prepared for a bit of drama on Christmas morning. Having just done the birthday a few weeks ago, I knew to expect slooow progress. My only goal was to try to finish all unwrapping in time to get B settled for a nap.


What I didn’t expect was a child who was so excited about the first gift (two baby elephants for the Sylvanian Families dollhouse) that she ran upstairs to play with them and that was more or less it. She didn’t want to come back down, didn’t want to open any more gifts, was just over it.

We coaxed her back down with junk food (hey, it was Christmas) and got some more presents opened, but 3 days later, we have given up and put the rest of the presents away for a future time. Hope she’s more excited for Valentine’s Day!

Our lesson: There’s no need to go overboard with gifts for a very small person, even if they are just so cute you can’t pass them up. Or at least, try to spread the gifts out. Too many is just overwhelming, and a happy Christmas can be had with just a few special gifts.

Posted by: OffToExplore | August 9, 2011

A chill in the air

It may sound a bit ridiculous to my US-based friends, but there’s a chill in the air that’s reminding me that my favorite seasons are about to start. We may have weeks before the leaves start to change into their vibrant fall hues, but it’s coming, I can tell. I put on socks today for the first time in ages, and I got out the extra blanket. This is pure bliss for me — I love the cozy, spicy, warmness of fall.

Yesterday we celebrated 20 months of living with Miss B. And of course, to honor that special occasion I had to bake a cake. What could be better in my current autumnal mood than a spiced apple bundt cake? Nothing. Well, nothing but one with fresh apples from a new season of crops. The apples currently available have been valiantly holding on since October or November, but you can tell that they don’t have much life in them anymore. A few new apples have started falling from our apple tree, and while they aren’t really ripe yet, I’m biding my time.

Posted by: OffToExplore | July 27, 2011

Village Wanderings

I just got back from a lovely morning that is just so typical of small town British life. B and I went on a shopping spree, running a bunch of small errands in town. First, we wandered through the market getting an idea of what was available. We were on the hunt for eggs, shallots, and peanut butter. Our market, now in its 701st year, has many produce stalls, all with delicious-looking offerings. Unfortunately, none of these had shallots, so we popped into our local greengrocer to get those. We had better luck at the egg stall (6 large eggs for £1.10), and we could have had quail or duck eggs if that’s what we’d been after. We’ve tried the duck eggs before, and I find them too fishy tasting.
For peanut butter, we have to go to our local Tesco, where I can get fairly cheap peanut butter with no weird additives and no sugar. B and her daddy love this stuff, and we go through quite a bit. This week, we’re also cooking with the peanut butter, since I’m making an “African chicken stew” for dinner.
After Tesco, we wandered into our fabulous local bakery to pick up a few treats for the walk home. Though the staff there aren’t particularly friendly, the sweets more than make up for it.
Finally, we popped into the local knitting shop to hang out with the owner for a few minutes and show off the lace project I’m working on. After perusing some patterns and making a few future plans for projects, it was nap time, so we headed home for rest and cuddles.
And that, my friends, is a perfect tiny town morning. Many short stops, all within about an hour, with friendly faces at most locations. I will miss this place when we leave.

Posted by: OffToExplore | May 31, 2011

End of an Era

Today I said goodbye to a dear friend. A friend that has been a consistent weekly presence in my life for the last year and a half. From when we met in the hospital, Sarah has been a big part of my life. And her lovely daughter has been an equally important part of Miss B’s life. The two are only a few days apart in age, and it has been a joy to watch them both grow up together.

Tomorrow Sarah and her family leave for what feels like the opposite side of the world, though it’s only 8 time zones away (close enough). This is the nature of my life here, all is transient. We get to know and love each other for as long as we have, and life is full of bittersweet partings.

Posted by: OffToExplore | May 21, 2011


I don’t really know how it happened, but I have a picky eater for a daughter. We started out so well — her first food was apple sauce, second Palak Paneer, and she loved both. But somehow over the last year, the list of B-approved foods has gotten smaller and smaller.

Berries? Yes, as well as most other fruit. Yogurt? Yes, please, for every meal if allowed. Peanut butter and toast? Of course. Cereal? Only grown-up cereal, please. Preferably off a grown-up’s spoon while they are consuming it themselves. Hummous? Like manna from heaven, apparently. We can work with all of this.

But veggies? Not a chance. Not a one. Not even the not-really-veggies veggies, like potatoes. She’s not interested. Meat? You’ve got to be kidding. She’ll gleefully point it out on her plate, then hand it back to us.

So imagine my surprise this morning. R had cooked himself some of the dread black pudding for breakfast. I was keeping my distance. He offers some to B, and she initially gets a bit excited, since all the pudding she’s ever had was sweet. Once she sees what’s really on offer, circles of black meat-like stuff, she’s a bit more cautious. She walks away to the toy bin, but amazingly, she’s back within a minute to look more carefully at the “pudding.” And when he offers again, she says yes! Then proceeds to eat enough of it that he was still hungry when all the pudding was gone. Amazing.

What is black pudding, you may ask (if you’re not from around here, that is)? Well, it’s, um, blood. Cooked with oatmeal, onions, and other bits of meat and formed into a sausage-like thing. My kid, who turns her nose up at plain chicken, just dived into something made of congealed blood. I am amazed.

(And on a random editorial side note, I just checked and the past tense of dive can be either dived or dove, with dove somewhat more prevalent in the UK. But since that can also be misread as a small white animal to be released at pretentious weddings, I’m gonna stick with the dived.)

Posted by: OffToExplore | May 12, 2011

Mother’s Day and beyond

Sorry for the silence — I’ve been playing with my new Mother’s Day presents and not blogging. R did a great job in selecting exactly what I wanted from my detailed wishlist, and he bought me a ball winder and a swift!

For the non-knitting readers, a swift is a large, umbrella-like thing you hang yarn on. Most fancier yarn comes not in balls but in hanks, which are giant, loosely tied loops. You can’t knit from these unless you have a lot of patience and, more importantly, no animals or children who might get tangled up.  Hence the swift, which holds the yarn tight. Even more fun, though less impressive looking, is the ball winder, which lets you quickly wind the yarn into a pretty looking cake with a flat bottom so it won’t roll around.

We had a great time practicing with these on Mother’s Day. B loved watching the swift spin round and round as the yarn was wound off. Perhaps she’s a future knitter — she certainly knows all about yarn, needles, and knitting. She can even spot knitted garments in books and magazines!

And of course, having wound up a fun new ball, I had to immediately cast on for a new and incredibly time consuming project — a pair of socks with a beautiful, detailed pattern. More on them soon, I hope!

Posted by: OffToExplore | May 4, 2011

Watching the Planes Roll In

As you exit the motorway at Manchester Airport, you might just see a small yellow sign. It says Airplane Viewing Area or something like that. Follow the sign. Follow the sign for many minutes. When you get to the point where you are sure you must have missed it, keep going a little farther. Trust me, it’s farther than you think. Take a sharp left, then a sharp right next to a tiny pub and a random field, and suddenly you’re there.

Where’s there, exactly? A hidden gem for plane spotters, kids who like planes, and families looking for a laid back way to spend an afternoon. The Airplane Viewing Area, or whatever it’s called, is a huge area right on one of the main runways. You’re right in line for take-offs and landings, and close enough to hear the whine of the engines as they kick into high gear. With a large, fenced-in area to run around in, many kids would be in heaven with just this.

But wait, there’s more! You can also board several aircrafts that are on display. Most are free, like a generic liner, a small test plane, and the Nimrod. There’s a Concorde kept in a special hanger; /that/ you have to pay to tour. We didn’t.

There’s a surprisingly nice playground, as well as some not particularly impressive food. Probably best to bring your own picnic, but treats like ice cream can be found along with the sad-looking sandwiches.

Best of all, it’s free, except for the Concorde. Second best of all, there’s a coffee bar as well, in case some members of your group are cold or just not that into the planes.

Parking is £3 an hour, which is steep but reasonable for a free museum. (D.C.’s Udvar-Hazy center, impossible to get to without a car but featuring a $12 parking fee, I’m looking at you…)

Posted by: OffToExplore | May 1, 2011

Green Day

No, not the band. Rather, a day 2 weeks ago.

Firstly, I apologize for the delay in posting. I was waiting until  I could upload these pictures, but I had lost the cord that connects the camera to the computer. Bad blogger, I know.

The last two weeks have been term break here in England. Which means that all normal activities are canceled, and all special activities are crowded. So without my usual stable of things to do, we got a bit creative. With some suggestions from Grandma, we decided to do “Color Week.” Or, I suppose, this being England, “Colour Week.”

Each day we dressed in a specific color, played with toys of that color, etc. If possible, we ate food in the day’s color. We drew or painted in that color. And every day, we went for a long walk pointing out things that were the chosen color. We took lovely pictures of the local greenery.

Green plants

And most importantly, of course, the green ice cream.

Green ice cream cone

Despite the somewhat serious face, she LOVED this mint chocolate chip ice cream from Brymor. This was her first ever ice cream on a cone all of her own, and it was a big hit. So much so that it was impossible to pry the cone away, even after she had eaten it down to the base of the cone and made a big gooey mess. I finally wrestled it away as we got to the front door and quickly sucked out the remaining melted ice cream. She walked around with that empty cone for at least an hour.

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