Things not done

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We had a great trip to the US, but there were a couple of important things that we weren't able to do. I am hopeful that, at some point, we'll be able to do them but it would have been great to do them this time.

The first thing we didn't do was get down to Atlanta. Mr Duyvken's sister lives there with her family. We really wanted to spend some time with them but our trip was short and flights from Boston to Atlanta were very expensive. I know that one of the things Nicole always does with visitors is take them to The Cheesecake Factory so we made sure to do that while we were in Boston. I had started to acclimatise to the comedically over-sized drinks and meal sizes by then but I was still blown away by what constitutes a child-sized serving of pasta. Wow! The food was really nice and the waitress was suitably effusive so we had a fun night and thought of the K family down south.

The other thing that I am very disappointed we missed out on was going to Worcester to meet a friend who I have only ever known online. Michelle and I met through a parenting website when we were expecting our babies born in August 2000. That feels like an age ago and even though the board we met on has long since gone our friendship has remained. It sounds like my sister will be in Boston for a while longer than I'd thought so there should be plenty more opportunities to meet up! And, Michelle? It turns out my sister's father-in-law grew up in Worcester!
So, I'd better start saving my pennies for next time.

On good intentions going bad and finding beauty in unexpected places

Friday, January 29, 2010

J started school today and to mark the occasion C and JW and I thought we would get balloons for G and J to congratulate them on a successful return/start to school and and to celebrate them being the 'girl team' at home. We stopped at the local party shop on the way to school this afternoon and selected 2 red, one pink and one yellow balloon.
The girls were very excited about it partly because they each had their own balloon and partly because they took their role as official congratulators very seriously. Unfortunately, before we even made it to the part of the school where we meet the kids C's pink balloon burst on the grass leaving her in tears and then, shortly after giving J his yellow balloon (with lots of cuddles and greetings of "decongratulations") his balloon also burst on the grass. JW's balloon followed suit before we were back at the car and only G's balloon made it all the way home. So my little balloon experiment was not the resounding success I had hoped it would be but none of the children seem permanently scarred amd J had a wonderful day with his teacher, Mr H, and his great friend, Ben. I think he's going to have a very good year.
I can end this post with another little piece of good news - when your 3 year old fills the washing machine wth laundry powder when she is supposed to be napping and you need to vacuum the machine to get it out you then discover that the rest of the house is filled with a lovely fresh perfume every time you vacuum. Without my darling C I would never have discovered this!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

I have decided to join along with Alice, Mary, et al in taking a series of photos of the same spot throughout the year and at different times of day. I live in a temperate spot so I don't expect that there will be a dramatic variation between the photos but I am interested in joining in nonetheless.
This link will take you to Alice's post where she explains the inspiration behind the project, and this link will take you to Mary's post and her first photo.
So, that's it, the rotunda at my local park. I am hoping that those a flowering bushes in the front there, that would add a little interest at some point, don't you think?

Reading the signs

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waking up to find a sink full of glitter surely means that G and her dear friend (who also happens to be my goddaughter) had a fun sleepover.

Working on...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

...a blue and yellow 'values' quilt.
It is so nice to have the sewing machine out again!
Apologies for the awful photo, Mr Duyvken gave me a fabulous new flash for Christmas and I haven't bought batteries for it yet. G and J start back at school at the end of this week so I am saving it to help distract me when that happens. J is starting school this year and, frankly, I don't think I'm ready.

Australia Day

We're eating mangoes, enjoying the sunshine and going swimming.
Enjoy yourselves, wherever you are!

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Saturday, January 23, 2010

We had a great time at the MFA. We went to see the Egyptian exhibition and it was amazing but a school group arrived at the same time we did and then another visitor got a bit tooshy about the kids making a little noise. Well, not confrontationally tooshy, just embittered middle-aged man tooshy. He yanked irritably on his turtle neck, clutched his programme tightly, rolled his eyes and muttered 'Jesus Christ' in a stage whisper. My Duyvken, who is not the shy retiring type, suggested that he could be a little more tolerant of other visitors pointing out that everyone is welcome to visit a gallery.
I do love that man!
Anyway, we quickly shuffled the children through that part of the museum and spent the rest of the visit exploring the permanent exhibitions and then the cafeteria. The eye-roller was not seen again and we all had a great time. The kids were in heaven, picking pictures that they liked best, commenting on the sculptures and enjoying the quirky mobiles and photo galleries that are part of this wonderful space.
The older three all chose a favourite painting and we were able to find a postcard of each of their favourites at the gift shop.

G loved this painting byJohn Singer Sargent called The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882). She was very taken with the crisp white aprons, the older girls standing in the shadows and the youngest sitting with her doll on the rug. The large vase in the painting is also in the room that this painting is displayed in. The younger ones were not so impressed by this but it opened the painting up for G.
J's favourite painting was selected because of the use of his favourite colour, yellow. He is heavily committed to yellow and it is not as easy to find in a gallery as you might expect. We searched high and low, finding a lot of ochre, gold, lemon, warm wood and sunlit tones but nothing that was truly yellow until we came across this Arthur Dove painting. It's called That Red One (1944).
C's favourite painting was somewhat unexpected. Watson and the Shark was painted in 1778 by John Singleton Copley and tells the story of Brook Watson who lost his leg in a shark attack in Havana Harbour. He later served a term as Lord Mayor of London and commissioned Copley to paint this piece. The one that we saw at the MFA is a copy that Copley made for himself.
C was completely taken in by this painting - worried for the boy, pleased that the crew in the boat were there to save him, hopeful that the doctors would be able to fix his leg and in awe of the scary looking shark at the bottom of the frame. She was eye to eye with that shark (as all 3 year olds who visit must be) and I think that's what really captured her imagination. She took me back to see it a couple of times and then really wanted to show Oma as well. She was delighted to be able to bring home a postcard of it and we're going to tack it to the wall next to her bed. Sure, some girls are all about princesses... C has her own ideas about what she wants to see before she falls asleep :-)

We love you Boston

Friday, January 22, 2010

We had a great time walking around, feeling the cold cold air on our cheeks,wandering across the Common,(here's proof that we were on the Common),We visited one of Mr Duyvken's favourite woodworkers stores. The furniture was amazing and even though he just looked in briefly, this made him a very happy man! I think if was one of the highlights of the trip for him.We visited the Museum of Fine Arts (this was taken at the train station across the street).
We took pictures of pretty things that we can't easily take pictures of at home. We had a tour of Harvard with my sister who works there.My children acted like they'd never seen a horse before, if you look carefully you can see JW there in front of J. This was just before we went skating on the Frog Pond, G, J, C, Mr Duyvken and I had a ball until JW saw us and wanted to get in on the action. They didn't have any skates small enough but she was desperate to get out there!And we climbed to the top of the Prudential Tower to admire the city and the frozen Charles River.We took a trolley tour and admired things that the locals probably don't look at twice.Then my mum looked after the kids and Mr Duyvken and I wandered around Chinatown (it looked like ending up like our late night visit to McDonalds in LA) before finally finding this wonderful restaurant and having a delicious dinner together.I even had a glass of champagne, can you tell?

It's snowtime

Monday, January 18, 2010

The trip was only organised in November but ever since then the children have been chattering very excitedly about seeing snow, playing in snow, hitting uncle Tyler with snowballs, catching snowflakes on their tongues, etc, etc, etc. We were a little nervous that there might be a warm spell and they'd miss out on snow but Boston weather was very considerate. We walked out of the airport as snow was falling and the city was blanketed in white. It was cold but it was beautiful!
Within hours of landing we'd snuggled into winter gear and were at the park enjoying the snow. I love this photo of JW, you can see how delighted she is in the first photo and then how distressed she is when she realises she can't pull her feet out of the snow. Like a good mama I snapped a photo before I picked her up :-)
The way the snow sits so softly on the bare branches took my breath away. I didn't capture it well but I love it. I felt like I was in a naif painting walking through these streets.
Here they are, all ready for some winter fun! Look at how glamorous my mum and sister managed to look. They put me and my borrowed jacket and boots to shame!

They're not saying "cheese" in this picture, they're screaming "SNOWTIME!"

Farewell LA...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

...and hello Boston! -10C, falling snow and 4 very happy children.

All the details tomorrow!

Alma Mater

Friday, January 15, 2010

We're not done yet! We fit a lot into the few days we were in Los Angeles. In fact, there is a bunch of stuff I haven't told you yet, like the time Mr Duyvken drove us all over LA looking for Olivera St, finding it eventually but discovering that everything was shut for the day so then driving around looking for mexican food, constantly getting lost and finally giving up at about 10pm and taking the kids to the saddest looking McDonalds in all of creation for dinner. It wasn't a highlight! We requested a sat-nav when we booked the car hire but when we arrived to collect the car we were told that they didn't have any left. They also didn't have any detailed maps so we were mostly winging it. Luckily, it's a great city to drive around, the freeways are easy to follow and the drivers are so considerate we only had trouble a couple of times. We had a particularly memorable detour to Long Beach on the way to Disneyland thanks to a wrong turn when I was navigating. I never have been good at left and right!

On our last day in LA we bought shoes for G and J who were both wearing sneakers that were too small. They've both grown so much since winter! We noticed how much the shoe display looked like the skull display at the tar pits. In fact, I wish I'd taken a better photo of the shoes to be able to contrast them properly but I felt like a very strange tourist taking a photo inside a shoe shop so decided just to leave it at one!

We ate at the Border Grill in Santa Monica. This is my sister's favourite restaurant and after hearing so much about it there was a lot to live up to and it didn't disappoint. The food was beautiful!
We took a stroll along Rodeo Dr admiring the window displays and the Christmas decorations,

and we stopped by my old school! It's just as green as I remember it!

Los Angeles

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The delightful Jen from Knitters-Knitters has posted a fantastic photo of her and her husband at the La Brea tarpits after reading about our visit there. It's such a gorgeous photo - beautiful smiles, fantastic sun flare and knowing that the photo captures the start of a relationship that has created a loving home and 6 beautiful children adds something special for me. Jen, apart from being a wonderful knitter has excellent taste in names. One of her girls is named Agatha and my niece, Agatha, is in a lot of these photos from the trip adding another little element of coincidence.
Here are photos of a few other things we got up to in LA.
A little apres-shopping mall dancing,

A visit to Mann's Chinese Theatre,

And a walk through UCLA where my dad studied. The kids had a wonderful time running along the paths and playing in the Franklin D Murphy sculpture garden.

Dad would have loved having us all together like this, showing us all his old haunts and seeing all his grandchildren together. He died just a few days before J was born and it makes me so sad to think of how much he is missing out on. He was an amazing grandfather to G. It also makes me sad to think of how much the kids are missing out by not having him in their lives. He wasn't with us on this trip but we did get a photo of the whole family on campus so because he studied there and, indeed, spent all his working life in tertiary education, I feel that his presence and not just his absence is notable in this photo. This one is definitely being framed and hung on the wall.

Red velvet cupcakes RULE

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thanks for coming to Disneyland with me yesterday. You are wise commenters - not that there was ever any doubt about that - and pointed out correctly that it only rains in Southern California in the winter. It turns out that my mum was 100% correct it was my recall that was at fault. Sorry mum!
Today I am going to take you to the La Brea Tarpits. The George C. Page Museum was fairly new when we lived in Los Angeles in the '70s and I remember it being a scarily exciting place that had rambling room after room filled with skeletons, tar pull pools and photo displays and huge grounds including pools showing animals trapped in the tar as they would have been 25 000 years ago. The reality was significantly smaller, it is funny how memory plays these tricks on us, but I think the kids were just as impressed as I was all those years ago. They particularly loved exploring it all with Uncle Tyler who is an archeologist. On the toddler's list of cool jobs this comes in second only to the postie granting him instant rock star status with my kids!

We took a well-deserved red velvet cupcake break before we headed to the Farmers Market. Red velvet cake is amazing (you lucky Americans) and because you can't get it here I made sure to eat my fill while we were in the US. I now have an extra padded wasitline to remind me not to over-indulge next time. I guess if you average out the number of red velvet cakes over the whole year it won't look so bad. I think I'll do that, OK? The red velvet cupcakes we ate this day were from Ralphs and while the cake was amazingly light and sponge-like the icing was a little heavy. The Starbucks icing was much better but the actual cake wasn't as good, maybe one day they'll get together to produce the ultimate red velvet cake. A girl can dream!

The Farmers Market was bustling and we all ate well. I had a great time entertaining the littlies while everyone took their turns getting lunch and Grace had fun playing photographer. Don't you just love all those black and white photos on the wall? I couldn't find an info plaque about them but they seemed to be visitors to the Markets across the years.

Best trip ever

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We had such a wonderful time with my mum, my two darling sisters, my brother-in-law and the cutest neice in all of North America. I am trying to pretend that our adventure hasn't come to an end yet so I am going to relive it through the photos, want to come with me?

My mum always tells me that it never rains in Southern California in the winter. Well, my mother lied because the day we went to Disneyland it POURED. These rain slickers were $6 a pop and they were doing a roaring trade.

We didn't mind because we brought our own blue sky (umbrella)
and we were determined to have fun. We played, we laughed, we explored, we ate food out of plastic baskets (those wacky Americans) and I had one of the best days of my life.

Unfortunately, a few things were closed because of the weather (look at all those lonely tea cups)but that's just a compelling reason to go back one day, don't you think? I'm hoping for 2013.

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