Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Few More Projects

I recently finished a few more projects for people I know who had babies recently. They may or may not be reading this, and one of them should be pretty obvious to the person it's for, but it doesn't really need to be a surprise. The first is this embroidered onesie:

Sorry for how blurry the second pic is. Anyway, I made this with the embroidery transfer method I have discussed previously. Any imperfections are due to the fact that the transfer kind of faded so I had to freehand a bunch of it.

I also knit this sweater for a different baby:

The pattern is Anya's Cardigan, from a baby knitting book I got for Christmas last year. And of course, I can't leave you without some action shots of Sadie modelling the sweater.

I had so much fun making these. I know a few more incoming babies, so look for those gifts in future posts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

London Trip, Part Three: London Actual

We ate breakfast in Cambridge before getting on a train back to London. The innkeeper gave us a four-person table, so we'd have more room with Sadie, and I allowed her to sit on the chair next to me, with one hand on her, so I could eat a little easier. They were so impressed with how well she sat on the chair herself and how she wasn't even scared! Sometimes, I wish she were a little bit more scared of falling off of things.

Anyway, we got to London and checked in to our hotel. Hunter felt like it was either trying to be nice, or used to be nice. My first thought was the former, but on further reflection, I think probably both. Anyway, it had AIR CONDITIONING! And London was HOT while we were there. Like, in the tubes there would be warnings saying to bring water, get off if you feel sick, etc. Now, hot for London is like, low to mid 80s, but still. That A/C felt pretty nice when we got back to our room.

The first thing we I wanted to do was go to Kensington Palace. My not-so-secret, Mrs. Bennett-esque desire was that someone would see Sadie and be like, "That is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen! We must arrange a playdate for young Prince George at once!" And then Sadie would grow up and be a princess. I've looked into it and I'm pretty sure that would be possible. The royals can marry whomever they like, as long as the queen approves and the person isn't Roman Catholic (and you thought Alabama had some weird old laws). Edward abdicated but it wasn't because he married an American, it was because she was divorced and there were like, religious complications, so Wikipedia and The Kings' Speech tell me. So anyway DON'T KILL MY DREAM. Obviously she was caught on tape like pretty much constantly so someone may see her and be like, "Track down that baby!"

The exhibits in Kensington Palace were really cool. They had a special one with dresses of QEII's, Princess Margaret's and Princess Diana's, as well as things about King George N (it was about several of them) and of course Queen Victoria.

Anyway, here we are in front of Sadie's future home:

She's like, I know I belong here!

Ok so later that day, I really wanted to see St. Paul's Cathedral, mainly because I had recently read a book that took place there during the Blitz (Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, highly recommend). It costs 16.50 to get in. That's in pounds, so like, 33 bucks. Per person. Yeah, I think there should be a Hofstadter's Law for this: London is more expensive than you think, even when you take into account how expensive London is.  But I was like, well I really want to see it, and we're here now. Since we were there near closing, the guy sold us the year pass--we weren't able to see the whole thing that day, and there's a pretty good chance we'll be back in London within the year. We hiked up to the second-highest level, and yes, I was carrying Sadie the whole time! I wanted to go to the top, but there was a bit of a line so we moved on. Honestly, it was expensive but it was also expansive. It seemed like the biggest church I had ever been in and it was just really beautiful. All of London is kind of like that. Just, massive, and monumental.

After that, we decided since it was kind of past closing time for actually like, going into things, we would just walk around a bit and see some things from the outside. First on the list: Big Ben.

Yep, that is a pretty big Ben.

After that, we hit Trafalgar Square, but none of my phone pics came out super well. It was also just really, really crowded. We sat down for a bit and then went to look at Buckingham Palace. We didn't see the changing of the guard--that only happens at 11am and I'm told it's quite a clustercuss--but simply took a look.

That night, I got a pleasant surprise. It turned out an old friend of mine was in London! Actually, London is one of the first places we ever hung out, about 15 years ago. Our families were on the same tour of Europe and we've managed to keep in touch over the years, even before Facebook! We made plans to eat lunch together the next day.

Monday night, we had an early night, mainly because of Sadie. We noticed that British Netflix had all of Season 5 of The League, which we hadn't seen yet, so over the next 2 nights we powered through that :)

Anyway, Tuesday the first thing we visited was Westminster Abbey. It was also quite grand and has a lot of interesting history, obviously. One thing that Hunter commented on was that yes, it's a church, but there are also just a lot of statues of random British heroes, further cementing our opinion of London as saying basically "yeah we were the biggest empire in the world, the sun still doesn't set on us, bitches, and we're gonna remind you every chance we get." 

We had lunch with my friend and then went to get some tasty gelato. Our next stop was the British museum, and we got a few pics in front of it:

The family

Sadie and I with Lisa

The British Museum has a ton of cool stuff, and I wish we could have spent even more time there. I think we need to start putting museums at the beginning of the day, just so we don't get too fatigued and have to power through them. Plus, it's free! Definitely the best value in London.

That night, we really wanted to get Ethiopian food to keep up our tradition of eating it in major cities across the globe. But we knew we couldn't go to a restaurant unless Sadie got a nap before. We headed back to the hotel and tried to get her to go to sleep, but she just wouldn't. So Hunter went and picked up some Persian food and we had that and watched more Netflix.

So anyway, that's our trip to England. We probably won't do another trip until October or so, for both financial and day-off reasons, but I have a few more things scheduled for the blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

London Trip, Part Two:Cambridge

So I really should have called this series "England Trip," because we spent as much time in Cambridge as we did in London, and it's really the reason we went to England in the first place. My friend Britton from Alabama was doing some summer study there, so we went to see her.

We got up and got to the train station early--didn't want to make the same mistake we had made with the flight! I got a few pics of Sadie playing with one of those... things that I only see at doctors' offices.

We got on the train and I slept the whole two hours. In London, we went to King's Cross Station, where I caught a glimpse of Platform 9 3/4, but there was a big crowd around it so a close up look/pic will have to wait for a subsequent trip. The train to Cambridge was pretty quick; we got there and headed to check in to our lodgings. We were staying in a Bed and Breakfast, which in England is a more budget-friendly option than I think it is in the US. Hunter was a little wary about it--he thought it would be all group activities and teddy bears with missing eyes. I think this is where he got that idea:

Most of that first day was spent just walking around, seein' what we could see. We had a couple beers and walked around some of the colleges. I learned that in England, you can ask for tap water and they give you a big glass of it. It may even have ice! We saw some gardens, and thought about going into the King's College Chapel, but it's a bit expensive. I mean, basically everything in England is expensive, plus Germany is really cheap, so it was a bit of a shock. We had some fish and chips at the Eagle, where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of the double helix. After that, Sadie needed to take a nap, so we went back and noticed I was a little sunburnt. I definitely didn't expect that to happen in England, but the weather was very "nice" while we were there, if you like that sort of thing.

We planned to get some tapas for dinner since lunch had been a bit heavy. The first place we went into wouldn't let me go in with Sadie, but we found another place that did. I am so used to bringing Sadie everywhere with me in Germany, but one lady at a pub said it was like a safety issue, they wouldn't allow kids in there after 10pm. I guess there is a stereotypical image of English pubs being rowdy which may be somewhat true.

As Hunter and I walked back to the inn, we saw a LOT of drunk people. Cambridge is definitely a college town, and people there seem to party pretty hard. Even I was like, yeah, maybe Sadie shouldn't be out in this.

The next morning we got to have the traditional English breakfast. Honestly, I don't get the thing about English food being bad. Everything I had was DELICIOUS.  I would seriously eat it every day. Then I would gain 50 lbs and die... but seriously, it's good. Hunter got sick of it after like a day, but I don't think that would happen for me.

So, Sunday we went punting. It's where you go in a boat and someone pushes it with like a stick that they push against the bottom of the river (I think?). We brought some drinks and it was pretty fun. I didn't take any pictures, because I was afraid Sadie would try to grab my phone and it would end up in the river. Sorry.

I did, however, get a picture of this pretty amazing afternoon tea we had:

I love how she's licking her lips

You can't actually see all of it in the picture, there was also raspberry jam and clotted cream. I could seriously eat that every day.

Here's a picture of just something kinda weird:

So, it may not be completely obvious, but that portrait is made of jelly bellies.

The rest of that afternoon was pretty relaxed. We saw the college where my friend was staying, and sat down on the grass a bit.

We also went to the free Fitzwilliam Museum, which had some pretty cool stuff. We were there pretty close to closing, so we didn't see everything, but for a free museum I thought it was nice. Outside, I got a picture of Britton holding Sadie:

We had a few more beers, but then figured Sadie needed to get to bed, so we went back to the inn and got some take-away curry, which was quite tasty.

Next stop, London!

Friday, August 1, 2014

London Trip, Part One: The Big Mistake

Alright, I'm splitting this post into several parts because it would be kinda long to both read and write if I just did one big long thing. Which is convenience for me as much as it is for the reader--Sadie makes it hard for me to do too much stuff independently but right now she is munching on some cheese, so here we go.

This is actually going to start before we even left for London, because a few things that day conspired against us (my stupidity being at the forefront), so while I could just say, "we missed our flight" and leave it at that, I'm assuming you kinda want to know whose arm was bruised.

Ok, so we got a thing in the mail saying I had to go to the customs office to pick up a package. Not all packages I get from America go to the customs office. If it's a gift, you don't have to pay anything on it (I think?) but really they aren't super consistent about which ones they make me pay on, and I have had to make the trek over there to get packages that were gifts and I didn't have to pay. I had no idea what I was going to pick up. I didn't think I had ordered anything recently, so I kind of assumed it was another care package from family that just for some reason was routed through there.

The customs office is in a really inconvenient location. There is only one bus that goes there, and it is way out. I got on the bus, just listenin' to my audiobook--the ride isn't that unpleasant, really--and then we stopped about two stops from where I needed to be and just... sat there. For like, ten minutes. I wasn't sure what was going on, and while I can generally communicate in German enough to get by, I just didn't trust myself to ask the driver what was happening and/or understand his response. Eventually the bus got going and then... turned back the way we had come. I hopped off--I guess this route has a couple of ways it can go at the end, but I didn't realize one of them ended so soon. So, I walked the rest of the way to the office to get my package.

It turned out I *had* ordered something from America a while back--it was this t-shirt, a fundraiser for some friends of ours who are adopting. The shirts are pretty cool so check out the link if you want to help a family bring home their child! Anyway, when they give you the package, you have to open it in front of them so they can see what it is, and show them the invoice. No problem, I thought, obviously there will be an invoice inside. I literally have never ordered anything that didn't contain an invoice. My paper recycling is full of papers that I discard immediately after opening the box. Of course, this didn't have an invoice with it. So I couldn't take the package. I did have an email receipt, but they have a sign up saying it has to be printed out, it can't be on a laptop or smartphone or whatever, and also you can't use their printer. Oh, well, headed back home.*

The other thing we needed to get done was to pick up Sadie's playpen from the post office. This was annoying because it was supposed to get here the day before. In fact, I had sat at home, didn't go grocery shopping or anything because I wanted to be there to pick it up. When Hunter got home, there was a note in the mailbox saying they tried to deliver it at 11am, which, I call shenanigans on that. I think the guy just knew he'd have to carry it halfway up the stairs and saved himself some time. So anyway, Hunter had to go get this like, 25 lb(?) box and carry it back.

Ok so we are ready to go. Our flight is at 6:30; we were scheduled to get to the airport between 5:30 and 5:45. Cutting it close, I know, but the Cologne airport is pretty small and we never had too much trouble with security. So we get there aaaaand..... the flight is really at 6:00. I had kept picturing 6:30 because that was the time we were supposed to get IN to London.

If you've missed a flight in America before, or maybe just on a nicer airline, you probably had the same thought I had: Ok, we'll just get on a later flight. Well, first of all, the duties of the people at the counters seems to be extremely compartmentalized. The person at the check-in counter couldn't do anything for us; we had to go to the ticketing counter. That person was like, ok, yeah, there's another flight into London, that'll be 633 Euros. EUROS. That's almost $1000. We were like, kay, no, not doing that. I mean, you'd have to buy a completely new ticket! So anyway, we started researching other options.

Whatever we ended up doing, it looked like we'd probably need to get to Brussels, so we headed there by train. I used Hotel Tonight to find a reasonably priced room, which was probably the best part of this whole debacle. The hotel had some sort of "studio rooms" in a building across the street which looked kinda sketchy from the outside but was actually really nice on the inside. The most exciting feature of the room was what I called the "princess bed." It was a raised bed, with actual portable stairs to get up to it, enclosed by windows on three sides. It had a nice firm mattress, so I originally planned on sleeping there with Sadie. But, we wanted to have the windows open and even though I generally hold Sadie all night, I was just a little bit paranoid about her being so close to the window. We did take some pictures on the bed, though! Oh yeah, it had curtains you could shut on it.

These will be the only pictures taken with a real camera because I forgot to charge the batteries #responsible

So, at this point, we had to figure out how to get to London the next day. Basically, our choices were:
1. Try to find another flight. We actually did find some pretty cheap flights, but I think they would charge Sadie as a whole person and um, no.
2. Rent a car. We might actually have done this, at least to Calais, except the Internet site kept saying the rental place wasn't open on Saturday which isn't true.
3. Train. The fast EuroStar is kinda expensive if you don't book ahead of time, but we felt this was the best option. It would get us there pretty quickly, without the hassle of flying.

So, that's the story of how I almost messed up our vacation. Next time I'll tell you about stuff we actually did in Cambridge!

*I actually emailed the company to suggest that they include invoices because of what happened to me, and they kinda didn't care and were like, you have the email.