Sunday, October 31, 2010

Houston, We Have Lift Off...

Okay so apart from familiy visits, what made October such a busy month this year? Well I did get to spend a week in Houston, Texas, home of Long Horn cattle, Stetsons, and an event which the company I work for organises every two years called Stainless Steel World. Come on, tell me that name doesn't make you want to grab your passport and jump on the next plane??!
I won't go into details of the event here save to say it was a lot of fun. I didn't really get to see much of Texas; in fact I didn't even see Houston at all as we were located in a brand-spanking new town which seems to have risen up out of the hot-baked earth like a shiny new button, Woodlands. It's kind of a purpose-built community with artfully placed canals, swathes of evergreen trees able to withstand the hot humid summers and the freezing cold winter, and an absolutely HUGE shopping mall. So guess where I was headed when I got a couple of hours free?
The only thing I was really keen on getting was a little something for the kids. I travel for work fairly infrequently and this is the longest I've been away, so I figured I'd have some making up to do when I got home. And boy, did I more than fulfill anyone's expectations!
Have I ever mentioned how much the kids (and, ahem their mother) love Star Wars? Well if you've ever been to our house you would know. Also if you've ever read this or this . Suffice to say we are all huge fans and when hubby's at sea we often save impromptu Star Wars Quiz Sessions during dinner to test each other's general knowledge, and they are closely-fought competitions indeed. Back to Houston; one fo the first shops I came across was Build-A-Bear, an old favourite from Singapore. The kids each have a toy from there - a bear for Niels called 'Beary' and a monkey who is officially called Triceratops Transformer but is now known as "Monkey" for Carl. Let's face it, in the originality stakes their name choices do let them down a bit. The coolest part about Build-A-Bear is that you get to dress your furry friends in some of the cool outifts they sell there, and they've just released a range of....Star Wars outfits! Above is Carl proudly showing off Monkey dressed as Captain Rex (from the Clone Wars series for those not in the know out there).
In the top picture he's also sporting a particularly cool set of Buzz Lightyear pyjamas, from the Toy Story 3 merchandise which is swamping Disney stores in the US at the moment. "To infinity and beyond...!" For Niels I found some very cool Phineas & Ferb sweatshirts AND the soundtrack on C.D., which is doubly-cool!
And finally, who could visit America in October and fail to notice the Halloween accessories? Here you see the boys drinking I.V. bags of blood (strawberry flavoured!) which I picked up to go with the collection of Frankenstein brains, Zombie body parts, and eyeballs from a local store.
In all a very successful shopping trip, which was topped off by a set of Star Wars cookie cutters and even a hand bag!! (SSShhhhhhhhhhhhhh!). But those aren't nearly as interesting as Zombie eyeballs.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Starry, Starry Night...

Good God where does the time go? If I don't get my act together the month's going to end and my blog will be empty! It's been a hellishly busy month, with lots of fun things thrown in the mix to dilute the serious stuff. Top moment: my sister + hubby Anthony and daughter Tazmin arrived from New Zealand (via England, France and Belgium) to stay for a week. It's always great to have famiy visit and because her visit coincided with my kids having Autumn break, they were able to all hang out together and do cool stuff.
Niels went to heaven (a.k.a. Waterloo) and back; for months he has been crossing off the days until he finally travelled with his Dad to the great battlefield to meet up with his Uncle Anthony there. Anthony is also a history buff so the two of them were wildly enthusiastic about seeing the battlefield, and a great time was had by all.

Meanwhile Karen and her daugher Tazmin made their way up to Holland in their little rental car, where I finally met up with them in the forest near the Kroller Muller museum, of all places. What a surreal feeling; the last time we saw each other was when I waved goodbye at Tauranga airport; then there we were in the middle of a Dutch forest! Bizarre but great fun.
By the way this is my absolute favourite museum in Holland: if you're visiting the country you simply must go there for the wonderful collection of 19th and 20th centry art. The van Gogh collection alone is breath taking - the painting above, which hangs in the collection, was the inspiration for the song 'Vincent' (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean. Outside is huge sculture garden with an amazing collection of permanent works, including several you can climb on.
If you're visiting in good weather the best way to visit the museum is to park your car at the entrace gate and grab one of the free white bicycles to cycle around this massive - flat - park. You simply leave your bike in one of the stands scattered throughout the park then pick up another one when you're ready to move on. There are several more fantastic places to visit in the park that Karen, Tazmin and I didn't have time to see, including the Museonder (Museum under the ground) which is all about nature in the region, and the former residence of the owners, Jachthuis Sint Hubertus.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Heading Off To The Pub

Well, not quite, but sometimes I wonder if it's possible for kids of 6 and 9 years old to hit puberty. They have such big mouths! And think they know everything. Niels, being the oldest, is more of a challenge at the moment, but Carl will no doubt catch up. Last week he lost one of his top teeth, an event which seemed to play out in slow motion. Every day he's say "Mum, it's really loose, can't you just yank it out??" Whereupon I'd grab a tissue and try to pull said tooth out of his head. Repeatedly. Seriously, having boys means you get over your squeamishness real quick. That damned thing was so loose you could almost spin it 360 degrees but would it pop out? Would it hell.
His motivation was simple: money. Having announced at the beginning of the year that it was "impossible" that the tooth fairy existed, therefore obviously I was leaving the money in place of his tooth, every loose tooth has become a tool for negotiation. Exactly how much could he expect? Tonight he was having a 'shave' before hitting the bath and I couldn't resist getting a quick pic of him. 6, going on 26....

Saturday, October 02, 2010

What's That??

So I was sitting at the table having lunch with the kids a couple of days ago, when a flash of movement caught my eye. What was that? There was something strange...on the table outside....

At first when I stealthily approached, the foreign being darted down onto the bench and cunningly froze beneath the arm rest, doing a perfect impression of a piece of wood...

Punky Muffin! Once she realised she'd been busted she hopped back up onto the table and continued to eat the flowers there. This is her trade mark "yeah, whatEVER" look:
You might think the logical thing to do would be to move the bench so that she can't jump up on the table any more. Only thing is, it's much more fun watching her eat the flowers than it is looking at the flowers. So, go for it Punky!