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Hi all!

I’ve been busy, busy today! I actually created a kit from start to finish in 1 day! It’s been ages since I’ve been able to do that. I also made a quickpage and a template, too! πŸ™‚ But most of the credit belongs to Liz. She’s such a great friend and motivator, that I really wanted to finish this and justify her enthusiasm and energy when it comes to my designs. I’m lucky she’s my friend! πŸ™‚

You can find them all HERE in my store. πŸ™‚

And, of course, I think we should have a bit of fun with this! So, let’s scrap about our little monkeys! If you have kids, rambunctious pets, a crazy uncle, a beloved stuffed animal, or a hubby who’s 31 going on 13, this is the challenge for you! All you have to do is create a page (or anything else!) about a silly monkey in your life and then post a link for me here in the comments. I’ll pick 3 winners and they’ll all receive a $10 gift certificate to my store! (You can also use my new QP! That counts, too!) πŸ˜‰ Deadline is Friday, 25 July, at midnight.

Happy scrapping! Ciao, all!

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I hate going to the doctor. I seem to be going a lot lately and it sticks. Royally. I broke down and went this morning because I felt like I was running on fumes. I was sleepy all the time and cranky and had extremely low energy. My throat is so swollen that it is unbearable to eat anything other than ice cream and popsicles. And, yes, they’re tasty, and yes, I just bought two more boxes of them, but this was getting slightly out of hand.

So, this morning I went to the doctor and guess what. Tonsillitis, folks. I have to take a total of 112 antibiotic pills. Come on! That’s crazy talk! But, yeah…apparently I have to take these suckers 4 times a day (2 pills) for TWO WEEKS. I’m not good with pills. I am extremely forgetful. And NO, that is NOT why we have 3 kiddos…. πŸ™‚

So, Colin always ends up calling me from work to ask: “Did ya take yer piiiiiiilllllssss?” in his old man voice. He thinks this is the funniest thing in the world and I think it’s his favorite hubby duty. I am going to try my hardest to remember to do this 4 times a day so that when he does call and ask: “Did ya take yer piiiiiiilllllllsssss?”, I’ll be able to shout “YES!!!!” and then I can hang up on him. πŸ™‚

So, anyway…just thought I’d update on my health status. Cuz you really wanted to know, didn’t you? πŸ™‚

Also, I’ve decided on introducing a new blog category. I consider us a pretty well-traveled family. But our brand of traveling consists of a lot of eating. We have found some amazing dishes along the way and we have also cleared the air on a lot of food “mysteries”. So, I thought it would be fun to share those experiences with you all.

This mini revelation came about over the weekend when our guest, Kerri, got excited about going to a traditional tea room here in England and she asked: “I get to have tea and crumpets?”

Not a single one of us had a clue as to what a crumpet was.

But we do now. And all shall be revealed in exciting, breathtaking, pre-Smell-O-Vision, bite-sized chunks! I can’t wait! πŸ™‚

On Saturday, we planned a pretty packed day for ourselves. We’d planned to see the Butterfly Park, the Triangular Lodge, and Boughton House, which Kerri lovingly dubbed “Fancy House”.

This was one of my favorites…I loved the black and pink.

What is that curlyQ thingy? Is that their tongue? Or a straw? Is that how they eat? My butterfly anatomy skillz are seriously lacking.

so purdy…

I stood patiently for over 5 minutes waiting for this particular butterfly to open his/her wings so I could get the whole face effect, but he/she wasn’t budging.

That is one crazy lookin’ caterpillar.

If the hibiscus doesn’t rank in the top 5 as one of the world’s most beautiful flowers, someone needs a stern talking-to.

I can’t, for the life of me, remember what this flower is called, but I definitely wanna buy some next time I see them. It’s one of my faves. It’s such a happy flower.

Silly, splashy ducks.

Leaf cutting ants doing their thang.

Giant, killer beast koi. Not really. But I prolly wouldn’t let them eat out of my hands.

I’m just sayin’…

This one was see-thru. So cool.

Hello Mr. T. You seem to have a bit of salad stuck in your chin.

That’s the pond and the rope that the ants use to walk from one side to the other. It’s pretty cool how they were cleverly isolated form the rest of the animals and how they can still do their destructive business in peace. Very clever, indeed.

After the inside of the park, we headed outside to see what else we could find. Also, it was insanely hot and humid inside and we all needed a bit of fresh air. πŸ™‚ The girlies just fell in love with Kerri and it will be a sad afternoon after school today when it sinks in that’s she’s really gone. 😦

A goat! πŸ™‚

This is the entrance to the “Adventures of Urchin the Hedgehog”, better known as “The Ultimate and Definitive Guide to the Extremely Boring Life of the Porcupine’s Ridiculously Cute Cousin.”

It all started innocently. You have to read the storyboards and then there are little displaysΒ  of Urchin and his various benign and tedious adventures.

Look here. Urchin’s talking to a mouse. Man…that’s exciting stuff.

The kids were highly entertained however.

Lara is learning all about what Urchin does and doesn’t eat.

The big kids, however, were hoping that at some point in the story, Urchin’s big brother would take him to a pub and subsequently that there would be a pub for us to enjoy. Alas….

Urchin makes a bridge from a plank….

Kids are still highly entertained.

No children were harmed in the making of this photo.

I don’t want you to think I’m a stick in the mud or anything. The hedgehog adventure was just a bit long. We weren’t expecting to walk the perimeter of a huge field. And cleverly enough, the trail ended directly opposite of the gift shop. Those sneaky little buggers….

Next stop: Triangular Lodge.

From the website:

This delightful triangular building was designed by Sir Thomas Tresham (father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters) and constructed between 1593 and 1597. It is a testament to Tresham’s Roman Catholicism: the number three, symbolising the Holy Trinity, is apparent everywhere. There are three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side. On the entrance front is the inscription ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ (‘there are three that give witness’), a Biblical quotation from St John’s Gospel referring to the Trinity. It is also a pun on Tresham’s name; his wife called him ‘Good Tres’ in her letters.

The girls were trying to be as triangular as possible.

One of the rooms on the ground floor.

One of the teeny windows.

We actually overestimated how long we’d be here. We thought it would be much bigger and much cooler, however, it is what it is. Bizarre and old. πŸ™‚ Colin had planned for us to be there for 15 minutes and I think we were there for 5. Barely. πŸ™‚

We had one more stop planned on our itinerary, Boughton House. We thought that the house was open and that the grounds would be closed according to the website. Unfortunately, we drove out there and it was all shut up. There were two entrances, the main gate and the delivery entrance (which was open). I was seriously contemplating driving up the delivery entrance and seeing if anyone said anything. Colin, being the do-gooder of the bunch, strongly discouraged me and gave me that “Don’t act like a donkey, Jan.” look and I was put in my place.

If I was in the Duke of Buccleuch’s shoes, I wouldn’t want a bunch of crazy, worn-out kids and their trespassing guardians to sneak up to my house, interrupt my tea and ask if they could have the ground tour.

However, if I was the Duke of Buccleuch, I would seriously think about clarifying my noble little website and then I would send a “Crowley Family & Guest” invitation to visit my home. I would teach them how to play Croquet and I would give them all the buttered scones they could fit into their deserving little bellies.

After Anne and Linus left us, we had about 4 days to get our house cleaned up again and prepared for our second house guest of the year. We’ve known Kerri for many years, but with our busy lives and hers, we didn’t always get to spend a lot of time with her. (And that’s not even taking into consideration the ocean.)

Now we were gearing up for 4+ days of non-stop Kerri-packed fun! I picked her up on Thursday from the airport and we headed home to pick the kiddos up from school. It was so good to see her, and of course, she looked fabulous. πŸ™‚ So, after we got the kiddos calmed down and all that jazz, we grilled burgers for dinner and then we cut some rhubarb from the garden and made a rhubarb, apple, and raspberry crumble pie. YUM. Seriously. Then we played RockBand and made complete boneheads of ourselves. πŸ™‚

On Friday we took her to Burghley House. We’d told her about the deer we got to meet the previous weekend and she was on board from the word “deer”. Plus we had a hankerin’ for some more crack fish & chips, so went to Linford’s again, as well. I can safely say that if you come to my house for a visit, I will probably take you to Burghley house and then to Linford’s. It’s becoming a little tradition around here.

And, dude…we deliver.

Our neighbor from Germany came for a visit with her son. Our kiddos were playmates for most of the time we lived in Germany and I introduced her to paper scrapbooking. Her husband can now solidly count himself among the ranks of men who have lost their wives to a cardstock textured delirium resulting in the licking of paper and hoarding of ribbons and reclaimed junk drawer goodness. πŸ™‚

I lent Anne my camera while we went to Burghley House for the ambitiously named “Jazz Fest”. When I think of a music fest (any kind), I think of lots of different performers…various styles…a good sound system…and a crowd… What I don’t imagine is 3 ancient English chaps trying desperately to squeeze a mix of jazz and Dixie Land out of their poor little lungs to a crowd no larger than 5. It was sweet having background music playing while we toured the Sculpture Garden, but it was hardly a fest. At one point I was sure that oxygen tanks were going to wheeled out by prim little nurses after one of the songs. They took many well-deserved 20 minute breaks and I was happy for them. They looked plum tuckered, folks. πŸ™‚

So, without further ado, Anne’s photos.

Burghley House

3 very excited kiddos.

So sweet!

Total goofballs!

My silly Mia. πŸ™‚

Lara anted to take a photo of Anne and Linus, so we graciously obliged. Turned out pretty darling.

Walking through the sculpture garden. No idea what’s up with Mia’s face. πŸ™‚ Lovin

Lara’s pose!

More of the sculpture garden.

A sweet one of Lara.

Love this one!

And then there were 30…

This was the coolest part of the day. The kids just LOVED this. And who can blame them?

Mia said their lips were soft like a bunny. πŸ™‚

And one last one of Mia.

We then proceeded to Market Deeping to go to Linford’s traditional fish & chip shop. It’s rated as one of the top 10 in England (#1 in East England!) and we were not disappointed. Holy beans. I’m not a big fast food fan, but I love this stuff. We had our choice of cod, haddock or plaice and I can say, without a doubt, that haddock is my favorite. Not as “fish stick-y” as the other ones.

And while Anne was here we had scones, clotted cream, and jam. Now I knew what clotted cream was. I’ve even bought it before, but I never cracked it open and ended up sending it home with a friend during his visit so he could give it to his mother. I know the English love this stuff, but I just had no idea how to eat it. Well, apparently you eat it on scones with jam on top, preferably strawberry.So we had that while anne was here and I fell in love. I don’t know how I can live without this stuff. I think I am going to have to see if I can make it myself. Who knows…it may be doable. And next time we have it, I’ll be sure to take a pic. πŸ™‚

Anne’s visit was far too short, but we managed to squeeze in some good times. πŸ™‚ Ciao, all!

Had a lovely, racing time last night.

We left for London early, after dropping off the kiddos at a friend’s for a much anticipated sleepover. Man, I love friends. πŸ™‚ We decided to see the Institute of Contemporary Art before we headed to Bentley’s Oyster Bar and finally to the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the West End to see Wicked. Talk about a jam-packed evening.

The ICA wasn’t very impressive to me. I’m sure that there are some people who would have found the artwork thrilling, but it just didn’t speak to me. There were only 3 exhibits and I just didn’t think they had much to them. I dunno….maybe I’m being too picky? However, the gift shop was really fun. (I also thought it was kind of sad that the gift shop was more entertaining than the museum…) But anyway, lots of cool stuff in the museum book shop. These all appealed to me: NO LOGO, The Shock Doctrine, and Is Britain Great? The Caravan Gallery. Of course, there were a ton of other books that I can’t remember. Lots of snarky, irreverent greeting cards and things like that. Love shops like that. πŸ™‚

After the ICA, we walked around Piccadilly Circus and checked out a bunch of shops. We found a Japanese confectionery, Kamakura Minamoto Kitchoan, and we stayed in there about 20 minutes, warming up from the rain and drooling over all the yummies. We snagged some treats with names like SUBISHIGIMATORIMAMOTOMAMA…. not really….I really can’t remember the names, but they all sound like that to me. πŸ™‚ I hope I didn’t just cuss or say something lewd in Japanese…. Anyway, we picked up some red bean paste mochi for the girls (they love them). We also got some white bean paste cakes and another one that had chestnut in it. πŸ™‚ We’re excited to try them. And an almond sponge cake, too, I think.

And they came in the yummiest little packages….and you should have seen the gift wrap. The cakes and jellies were on display like jewelry…or like a fancy truffle shop… It was heaven. πŸ™‚

After a few more shops, we headed to Bentley’s for dinner. We sat down at the bar and I noticed they had Oyster Stout on tap from an amazing pub in Dublin, The Porterhouse Brewery. That’s when I got really excited. I’m not a big stout fan…and I have no real love for Guinness, but this stuff is sooo good. It tastes SO. MUCH. BETTER. than Guinness. Ok, so we sat down down at the bar and had a pint while we waited for our table. And let me just say that this restaurant has top notch service. I was thoroughly impressed by all the people who worked there. So, a woman took us to our table and we sat down and she handed us a menu that had about 12 things on it and a wine list the size of Texas. I was a bit cornfused. I mean, the menu on the site has such an amazing array of dishes and the waitress mentioned something about the menu being limited due to the bank holiday (everything’s closed.) Anyway, I asked her if this was all we could order and it turns out there was a mix up with our reservation. Somehow we got put on the 25 pound dinner list which is just one of those special dinner offers for a reduced price. So, after we cleared it all up, we were given the real menu which was much more packed. πŸ™‚

I am a huge seafood fan. I’m not a big fan of the really stinky, slimy, rubbery kind of seafood, but the light, flaky, delicate stuff? I’m all over it. So, I got a prawn and egg salad and then I had lobster linguine for dinner. Colin, on the other hand, had the oyster selection and fish in a pot, which is a ton of different pieces, like sea bass, salmon, trout, mussels, sole, scallops, etc. in a light tomato sauce. He’d never had oysters before, so we were asking the waitress all kinds of questions about the flavor and how to eat them properly. We have no shame. At one point I think I told the waitress that Colin was an oyster “virgin”…at which point I realized I was on my third pint of stout and should probably slow down. πŸ™‚ You just can’t take me anywhere. πŸ™‚

All of the food was amazing and I can see why this placed reigns supreme as London’s finest seafood restaurant. Our show started at 7:30, and we got our check around 7:15. YIKES! So, we decided we would haul butt to Green Park station and just take one train to Victoria. The original plan was to take the Piccadilly line from Piccadilly Circus to Green Park, switch to the Victoria line and go one more stop. We simply didn’t have that much time. So, we were literally running and jay walking the 7 or 8 blocks to Green Park. Whew! Have I totally confused some of you? πŸ™‚

So, we got off at Victoria station right at 7:28 and at first we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to find the theatre. But let me just tell you that you cannot miss it. You come out from the tube station and it literally slaps you in the face.

Hello, there. πŸ™‚

So, we run in and show our tickets and we’re shown right in, but the show had already started. I was so bummed. We totally missed the first song. I guess when the ticket says the show starts at 7:30, you better have your tuckus parked in that freakin’ chair by 7:25. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show that started on time, but I guess we should be earlier next time. 1.5 hours is NOT enough time to eat dinner. πŸ™‚

So, after the first song, we were shown to our seat and we tripped and stepped on everyone in our row till we got to our seats. Man, I was so ashamed. I hate being late and we disturbed all those people. 😦

Ok, so the show? Freakin’ WICKED. It was so funny and the costumes and sets were absolutely stunning. I tried taking a picture, but it just wasn’t happening. Way too dark in there.

My favorite, by far, was Glinda. Her character was a riot. And even though I liked it, I didn’t find it all that emotionally charged. it’s funny, and fun, and a visual feast, but the story just didn’t move me like most other musicals I’ve seen. And I’m a total wuss…I’ll cry and bawl at those old long distance phone commercials and at PetsMart when they bring in the puppies for adoption…. So I would classify this musical as a “good time”, not a “drama” or ‘tear jerker”. Still. Oz-ilicious. πŸ™‚ And I got a T-shirt, so I’m good.

After the show, we headed straight for the tube and headed home. We had a 40 minute tube ride and then an hour and a half drive home after that. We got home around 1 a.m. this morning and just fell into bed. Talk about a long night!

This morning at 9, I picked up all the chubkins. We missed them sooo much. We were told by our friends that they were really good and had lots of fun and minded and played nicely…you know…all those things that parents hope to hear. πŸ™‚

So, we came home, had breakfast, and now we’re hanging out…we don’t have a lot planned today, except for resting. The kiddos were up til almost 11 last night, so they’ll head to bed early. Tomorrow, we are planning on taking Lara to Legoland in Windsor for her birthday. I really hope it’s not raining. I hate promising things to my kids and then having to scramble at the last minute when things don’t work out.

Ok, so I guess that was a pretty darn long-winded post, huh?

And I debated on sharing this or not….but I had a secret smile all night last night thinking about pickpockets. Most people have all kinds of things in their pockets…I had just one…and it was of the female persuasion…I’ll let your imagination do the rest. I just giggled on and on to myself that if I got pick pocketed, the person would probably freak out. And then I was going to look at them and say, “You enjoy that, ok? Tampax is the best brand out there.”

Anyway…just had to share that. Hopefully I haven’t scared anyone away. Happy Tuesday. πŸ™‚ Ciao

They’re my favorite. We’re big museum-goers, but it’s not always the best thing to do with 3 small kids. So, when we find living museums, we’re all over it. We love that the kids can run around and explore and touch and learn without a lot of boundaries.

The Black Country Living Museum

So, on Saturday, we had a gorgeous day and we decided to visit the Black Country, named so for all the coal, soot, and iron that covered approximately 4 counties during the Industrial Revolution. Before you enter the museum, there is a short video you can watch explaining what the Black Country really is. At first two scholars are arguing over boundaries, counties, specific industries and whatnot and then this bloke comes on and shuts them both up by saying, “Thu Black Countrrrry is wherrrre a Black Countrrrymun sez ’tis!!” Man, he was hard to understand. πŸ™‚ Then he proceeds to explain how dirty and sooty and grimy and poor these places were and how short the life expectancy was of someone who worked in the coal mines and such.

So, let’s start the tour, shall we? First, you’re taken through a short indoor exhibit. Then you get to explore outside. K, everyone tinkled? πŸ™‚ Good.

I just thought this scale was neat.

Safes, gates, and shovel molds.

Lara loved this bright, sunshiny car. πŸ™‚

Then she insisted she snap a shot of me in front of the fire engine.

K, now let’s check out the open air exhibits. I’m posting a map so you can see just how big this place really is. Also, I’ll reference the photos with their numbers from the map so you can follow our trail while we walk along. πŸ™‚

(5) On the outside, these homes were made of iron sheets. This was an attempt to introduce pre-fabricated homes into the market to try and resuscitate the iron industry. There were only 3 homes ever built like this. Turns out, iron sheets was more expensive than brick.

I love how they have the newspaper hanging up there.

just behind (7) the Rock & Fossil Shop. We stopped here for our picnic lunch that Colin always packs for us. Yum.

Me, getting a little bit closer. In the background you can see (7) Rock & Fossil Shop and (8) Newcomen Engine (the world’s first steam engine.)

I love how old and worn everything is.

This is the outhouse just next to (14) the Pitt’s cottage. The guy inside was talking to Lara about their chamber pot. He called it a “guzzunder” because it guzz under the bed. πŸ™‚ HSe got a kick out of that.

The outhouse. It’s the Pitt’s.

We didn’t find any pigs across the street from (11) the Toll House, so we improvised.

Inside (11) the toll House. Room 1.

Room 2. I love the stockings hanging there. The exhibits really were complete. You could literally walk in and start living there.

Walking towards (18) the fairground. The kids were sooo excited.

Lara and Mia about to go on Helter Skelter.

They got up to the top so fast that I didn’t realize they were coming down yet. So, I totally missed Lara’s ride. Mia came down second and she’d lost her hat during the ride and she was bawling like a loon. Then a couple of seconds later her hat came down the slide and we all started laughing at her. πŸ™‚

They had an arcade room and it was so neat to see so many old games and penny arcade machines. The glare was really bad, though, so I didn’t get good shots. 😦

A better look at the Helter Skelter.

Then Lara, Mia, and I rode on another ride together. This thing was so bumpy that I thought my teeth were going to fall out. Norah was nervous and stiff as a board the entire time. And after we got off, Mia showed me the blister she got from the ride. It was seriously that rocky.

Next up, (17) the school. Lara had a Victorian School Day at her school a few months ago, so she was well acquainted with the routine. She settled in and showed Mia how it was done.

I thought this chart was neat…seriously, how did the British do this? Their money was sooo complicated. Farthings and shillings….ack!

Noodle tried her hand with a pencil and slate.

I love how Mia is covering her “schoolwork”. LOL πŸ™‚

Lara was so sweet. And I love the soot around her eyes. She really looks like she belongs here. haahaha. Talk about an in-depth museum experience! Real soot!

The school’s cloakroom. I’d want a room like this in my dream house. sigh…. I love all the worn, painted brick.

Next up, the canal.

Taken from (49) Canalside cafe.

Lara on Browns bridge. (the top right bridge on the map)

(46) Anchor Forge

(47) Ironworks shop

A lady in costume..just outside the (34) Back to Back houses (which were the tiniest houses I have ever seen).

Main street sign for the cinema.

(36) The Limelight cinema. The brick building on the right is where everyone was sitting. The screen was about the size of an old school chalkboard and the building sat about 50 people. Colin and I waited outside while Lara and Mia watched the show.

Just outside the cinema entrance. You can see the (30) Bottle and Glass Inn which is the white building on the right.

Lara and Mia trying to master the iron hoops. They quickly abandoned the game, though, as it was rather tricky to pick up on.

I stopped in the (43) bakery and bought a couple of tarts.

Then we went next door and bought some pear drops and strawberry creams from the (42) Sweetshop.

We wanted to try (39) the chip shop (a.k.a. a chippy, a fishy, a fish & chip shop, etc.) but unfortunately it was closed. I was really ticked (so was Colin) because it smelled so good and there was simply no good reason to close it early. Look at that line out the front door! Come on!!

So we continued on down the street and checked out the shops with our tummies rumbling.

This is the General Store (21).

And the Milliner’s.

At the other end of the street facing the pub/inn.

Another shot of the general store window.

We turned the corner and headed towards (20) the Lime Kilns. According to a sign, this part of the village had been used until the 70’s I believe. After that, it had managed to get filled up entirely with sludge and slime and stagnant water. When it came time to build the museum, this was restored, drained, and opened back up the the public. Pretty cool, huh?

We headed back to the main street, still kinda ticked about the chippy, and decided we need a pint of sumpin’ sumpin’.

One shot of the Chemist’s window, though. Smelling salts…for some reason this is classic Victorian for me.

Ah, the pub. A parent’s best friend sometimes. Colin got a pint of “mild” and I got a cider. We have no idea what it was. It was probably just Strongbow and Newcastle LOL, but it hit the spot. We also munched on our tarts. The top one is a Viennese tart and the bottom one is almond. The kids had water…not ale. πŸ™‚

Me and Lara and Mia on the bridge by the (42) Sweetshop.

Actually looking over the bridge into the canal.

Lara took over the camera and snapped a shot of the tram as it went by.

She also got one of the horse. πŸ™‚

Then, while Colin and the big girls went into the mine (9), I took Noodle into the (13) Tilted Cottage. It was quaint and sweet. Then I pushed her over to the (10) Racecourse Colliery. I think this is where the engine was and where they pumped out the fumes and bad air from the mine.

Noodle, thankfully, had fallen asleep. She was getting pretty dern crazy by this time and she needed a good catnap.

So, that was about it. After the colliery, I took Noodle over to a grassy spot across the street from (7) the Rock & Fossil shop and I lied down on my jacket. When she woke up, we sat in the grass and ate an apple together. Then she rolled down the hill a bit and when Colin and the big girls came out of the mine, we went to the gift shop and picked up a magnet. Then we got in the car and headed home, thoroughly exhausted and craving fish & chips. πŸ™‚

The coolest thing about this museum is that every building, outside, and piece of machinery was brought here and reassembled. A town like this didn’t actually exist. Each one of the shops represents an entire industry just from one town. Each building was taken down, brick by brick, and lovingly rebuilt here to preserve the essence of this era. Talk about a renovation project. And I loved how packed this place was. Most of the living museums we went to in Germany were deserted and kinda neglected. This one had so much life in it. Plus, every shop was run by a person thoroughly knowledgeable about the shop, it’s origins, the person who owned it, and the industry and history of the area. If you’re ever near Birmingham, England, I highly recommend this little gem. πŸ™‚

Colin is taking a week off from work while the kids are on break from school. We’ve got a ton of stuff planned. Today we’re taking a break and we’re going to finish our spring cleaning and then tomorrow we’ve got a date planned. The kiddos are spending the night at a friend’s house and me and the hubbs are heading down to London to watch Wicked and eat at Bentley’s Oyster Bar.Β  I am sooo excited! Of course, there will be an update. πŸ™‚

Happy Sunday, all! Ciao!

For Mother’s Day, Colin chose to take us to Hampton Court Palace just outside of London. This was the home of Henry VIII and it was sooo incredible being there. Tudor England is the time in history I am most familiar with. I know more about Ancient Roman social culture, but as far as history (time lines, lineage, wars, etc.) I know more about England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. So to be in a castle in which I recognize the paintings and can actually name the people in them and their historical significance is really quite unique. In all of our traveling, the places have inspired my research. Like, we’ll visit St. Peter’s Basilica and then I’ll be inspired to read about it. Here, it was the other way around. Being in this palace was like finally getting to see what I’ve been reading about and studying for so long. It was just an amazing experience.

So, there are two parts to this castle. There is the Tudor part which is much more rustic and stripped down…large wooden beams, stuccoed walls, ornate painted wooden ceiling medallions. That sort of stuff. The castle retained its integrity for almost 200 years and very little changed. Then in the late 17th century when William III took the throne, significant changes were made but then halted due to the death of Mary II. William had made a ton of changes and the result is a part of the castle that is much more elaborate and baroque in its design.

Ok, class. πŸ™‚ Lecture’s over. Let’s begin the tour shall we?

We packed a picnic lunch (actually Colin packed it. I wasn’t to lift a finger on Sunday) and we had a lovely little lunch in front of the palace. From here you can see the Tudor facade. It’s quite different from the Baroque (I’m pretty sure it’s baroque) facade you’ll see later on. This is me and the girls just after we ate. Also, this is just after we realized Colin had forgotten to pack diapers for Noodle and he had to dash around downtown (we’re facing it) to find some. πŸ™‚ The situation was made a little more urgent as Noodle’s diaper strap had broken and she was literally hangin’ by a thread. hahahaha. Good times. πŸ™‚

This shot was Lara’s idea. She insisted on getting one in front of the golden flowers. πŸ™‚

We went all over the palace and saw the apartments of Henry VIII, William III, Queen Anne, and King George I. They were really spectacular…but my favorite part was Queen Anne’s bathroom. I know that sounds silly, but it really was neat. We couldn’t take photos inside the palace, but I’ll sneak ya this one from the guide book.

It’s not the best picture, but it shows the basics. Anyway, I just thought it was neat. Historical hygiene (or lack thereof) is one of my “mini fascinations”. I love picking up little nuggets of information about the beauty routines and medical remedies that were popular in different times throughout history. Anywho. πŸ™‚

In the kitchen, there were Beefeaters playing traditional instruments and talking about them. I didn’t have a very good view, but I still managed to snag some photos.

That’s not real meat, by the way. There were tons and tons of displays in the kitchen…sound effects as well. There was even a part where you could see a fake meat pie filling being prepared in a huge cauldron and they actually had the smell of it wafting through the air. That was really bizarre. πŸ™‚

Next stop, the kitchen shop. We are huge suckers for gift shops. We don’t necessarily buy a lot of stuff…we just love checking them out. But here, we snagged a bottle of mead, some lemon curd made from an Elizabethan recipe (for when I get this bad boy), and some bramble berry & honey jam. (We have some growing in the backyard and I’m curious as to how it tastes…I don’t know what the American equivalent is.)

The girls got some lollipops and Noodle got a peppermint stick. The coolest find was, by far, Colin’s leather & pitch tankard. Lemme go take a photo of it real quick.

Hang on…

Ok I’m back. Here it is.

Colin tried it out on Monday night and announced. “Mmmmm….pitchy.” πŸ™‚

He had a hard time deciding between this one and THIS ONE. πŸ™‚ Whew!!

Next we headed outside. Sunday was an incredibly dry day. It was scorching hot and we were on the last day of an 8 day streak with no rain. (A record for these parts? I dunno.) Anyway, we were baking alive, so Colin sat down on a bench to rest for a minute, rearrange the stroller, and re lather the kidlets in sunscreen.

I headed down to the fountain.

And then I walked around it and found a mama duck.

AWWWW!!! This makes me want to grow chickens just so I can hold baby chicks.

Then I walked back to towards the bench and I was spotted by the Noodle.

MOMMY!!!!

getting closer….

hahahha. Not really. Zoom out.

Ah, here she is…

We walked back towards the castle. See the two large pedestal lamps on the pillars? We’re on our way there to see the Privy garden. Stopped to snap a pic of the train that goes around the grounds. (complete with tour)

And here we are in the garden. This is just the left side.

Walking down the central path, looking left.

At the end of the path, we turned around and Colin snapped a pic pf me and my girlies….ahhhh. πŸ™‚

See the baroque facade?

Now, who put that in there!???!

On the right side of the garden there is a tunnel which you haven’t seen yet. We headed towards that and the girls saw a rainbow and flipped out. So we had to take a photo of it.

Back towards the tunnel.

Ahhh….doesn’t that feel nice and cool? I could have stayed in here all afternoon. That’s me at the far end…that tiny coral dot. πŸ™‚

Ok, now we’re out of the tunnel and heading towards the pillars again. See the sundial? We just finished a loop of the garden. Try to keep up with Noodle.

Stopped at the pillars and took one last shot of the garden. You can see the tunnel in the top right corner.

Here comes the (t)rain again…

hahahahaha. Sorry,. I just had to.

We then turned away from the train and continued along the side of the house. (This is the more baroque part)

Next, we headed into what they call the “Wilderness”. I had to laugh…cuz the “wilderness” was essentially a gorgeous field filled with thousands of daffodils and 4 hundred year old trees…and paths…and benches….and ice cream shops. πŸ™‚ Oh, and a cafe….and on and on. πŸ™‚

At the far end of the “wilderness” is a hedge maze which dates from the 17th century. It’s in amazing condition and we had a blast walking/running/making faces through it. The goal is to find the center and then there is a quick exit out the side.

My wonderful family who made my Mother’s Day so so special. I ❀ them!

Look! A piggy!

Ah…we finally found the center. At first Lara was leading us and every single choice she made led us to a dead end. We were really hot so after a while we told Lara to choose and then we’d head down the opposite path. Sorry, honey, but you’re no navigator. πŸ™‚

Don’t really know what this dial was for…it was all whackadoo and spinning wildly. ???

After that we walked around the gardens some more…admired the climbing roses, the allium, and the grape vines.

Outside the palace there is a phone booth. I’m sure the British are like “What is up with the phone booth fascination!?!?” But like I’ve said before, everything in England is frickin’ adorable. And red is a rockin’ color, yo. So, yeah…that’s it. It’s just plain cute.

After we walked away from the palace, Colin had the brilliant idea that we should snag some Indian take out and have a picnic in the shade. So he went to the grocery store and then found a spot across the river from where we had our first picnic and I went to an Indian joint down the street and ordered some lamb Korma, naan, and pilau rice. We ate and put our toes in the cool grass and then the kiddos walked around for a bit. By this time it was after 7 pm and we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us.

Just after we packed up the picnic, Colin surprised me with a new necklace. πŸ™‚ It was seriously a sweet day. And then Lara said. “awwww…she hugs…and then she cries….”

Needless to say, Monday morning was a really hard morning. We were all dragging ourselves out of bed. But we had an amazing time and I am so happy we got to go.

If you made it this far, congratulations! Thanks for coming along with me on all my countless little trips. I hope you enjoyed the tours! Ciao, all!

Gibraltar Point was something we thought we’d love. Going to the coast and dipping our toes in the sea… All was fine til about a half hour before we got there. The rain and the wind set in and it really made for a crummy day. It was just uncomfortable enough to make us want to leave. We did get to see the nature preserve and lots of birds and some really neat landscape. It reminded me a lot of Carmel, CA. Both places has a rugged, sorta wild look to them, not the typical beachy look.

We had even brought along a picnic lunch and were bummed that we weren’t going to be able to enjoy our tasty sandwiches on the beach. Oh well.

I tried to find the timer on my cam, but I totally forgot where it was. :)So we got two separate shots of the family.

From the shore, we walked back towards the information center.

And let’s just stop here and talk about Mia for a second. I love my daughters. I love them all very much. They just all have a different way about them. Like, take this incident for example. Noodle has fallen. Where is Mia?

Mia is looking at me.

And Lara, the ever-helpful one, is picking Noodle off the ground from her recent splat.

Now Mia is making a pig nose.

It’s contagious!!!

Ok, so we found a bench and Noodle had to try it out. This is her saying “cheese”.

Then she ran up to me and pretended like she was going to kiss me and then darted out of range.

So, we keep on walking. And lo and behold, Noodle falls again. (This happens quite frequently, ya know.) I don’t think I have ever caught a child “mid-fall” on camera before. So anyway, let’s see what happens shall we?

Oh there’s sweet little Lara being the best big sister a mommy could ask for.

Mia has not yet moved. Nor has she acknowledged the fact that the baby has fallen on her face.

Oh wait…she’s on the move…

Wait Mia…you’re walking past the accident.

Ah….she was just getting into another perspective.

Ah! Now she joins them.

Gosh, I love this photo. I just looooove it!

So, Colin and I get a little closer and we have a bit of a meeting in the path. Noodle is coming to greet me.

This is “CH”

and this is “EESE”

We went to the information center and they had a little gift shop. We bought some lemon drops and headed out behind the center to see the “river”. It was lookin’ a bit low. (Colin took these, by the way.)

We then strapped Noodle in to make our way back to the car. She hated it even with a homemade white chocolate & macadamia nut cookie. Hmph.

And that was it. That was our day at the sea. It wasn’t quite as impressive as I had hoped….I think we just need to find some better shorelines. Dover sounds nice.

Besides, Gibraltar Point is mostly a bird watching place. We were, by far, the youngest people there and we didn’t have binoculars the size of brooms, so we just didn’t fit in. Long live bird watching! Cuckoo ca choo! πŸ™‚

ahhh….Burghley House. I had been begging Colin to go here for weeks but he insisted that we wait for a beautiful day. Turns out, father knows best. πŸ˜‰

Burghley house is really close to us, so we left mid-morning and decided to have a picnic there and check out all the grounds and the castle. If this particular house looks familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in the movies. The house was used in The Da Vinci Code and also in the newest Pride & Prejudice. (It was the famous Rosings Park, home of Lady Catherine de Burgh.) They even had some costumes from the movie on display there. Lady de Burgh’s incredible purple gown was there as well as the simple brown dress that Lizzy wears to dinner at the House on her first visit there. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house (a great marketing ploy to get you to buy the guide books) but let me just tell you it’s incredible. The displays are amazing and what’s even more amazing is that the house is still occupied by the descendants of Lord Burghley. Lord Burghley, you might know, was Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand man for many years. (This is a great excuse to go watch Elizabeth again!) Anyway, the house is rich in history and I was in heaven. Let’s start the tour, shall we?

When we came onto the grounds, we parked and just beside the parking lot is an incredible meadow with the cutest mini deer. The deer in Europe seem to be a lot smaller. They were small in Germany, too. Maybe it’s because the cars are generally smaller in Europe. The deer in America must have increased in size over the centuries to keep up with our ever-growing vehicle sizes. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?

The girls thought the deer were the coolest thing ever.

See? Very snuggly.

And all that fun was just in the parking lot!

Off to the house!

Just inside the House…The door right in the middle of the photo leads into the main house.

Ok, like I said, we couldn’t take photos inside. Afterwards we stopped by the gift shop and Lara picked out this frisbee She was ecstatic about it. And it turned up in every photo of her while we were there.

This is use walking around the house, counter clockwise, to try and get to the gardens on the other side.

We’re on the west side of the house now. I’m leading us along a path towards a bridge which I am certain will take us back towards the south side of the house (on the right).

Another west view of the house.

We made it to the bridge. And guess what. No access to the south side. Sooooo….we trekked back to the house. I was profusely apologetic.

The view from the bridge.

Us, leaving the bridge.

Ok, we got back to the house and went out through the cafe and into one of the small gardens.

DUCK!!!

KOI!!!

This is the view of the garden you just saw. We are heading out the east side of the house now.

This is the path that the party walks up towards Rosings Park in the movie. It’s funny because this path actually leads to a river. πŸ™‚

In between the large shrubs, there are some really cute topiary. I love the snail.

K, so if you turn around you will see the facade from the movie. (I’m pretty sure this is it….maybe I should watch the movie again?)

Keira Knightley stood on this spot, so I insisted I have my picture taken. I wish I was Keira. πŸ™‚

K, so if you keep going towards the river, there are some pretty trees along the bank and I snapped a few photos of Colin and 2/3 of his girlies.

Norah, however, had been sleeping and woke up just in time to miss the photo and start breathing fire at us.

We then headed back to the house.

After the house, we went to the Garden of Surprises which is based on 18th century designs for a “trick garden”. There were lots of fountains and moving sculptures to look at. A mini grotto, a smooth waterfall you could walk in, and self propelled waterfalls were just a few of the neat things we got to play with. I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to get the cam wet. πŸ™‚

Afterwards, we headed back to the car. Noodles was soaked. The only dry things on her were her tights and shoes.Β  She ran away from us as we were trying to get into the car, so I ran after her. It looks like we are in a sweet meadow, but in fact, this is the parking lot. πŸ™‚

And on a side note: Who the heck designed these tights? What child clothing designer was exposed to babies with calves that short? The only way I can get those patches on Noodle’s knees is if I pull them up so high her toes curl under.

Ok, anyway. So that was Burghley House. Well, some of it, at least. I hope you enjoyed your photo tour. Ciao all!