23 November 2008

the lakes

I've got half an hour til Baby 3 wakes, so I'm feeling totally high on life and ready to post some photos from the Lake District...And before you start expecting mountain vistas and reflective bodies of water, let me clarify: when on the road, you can really only see...trees. Lots and lots of trees. I'm sure on the other side of said trees were panoramas to make the heart flutter, but--like oh so many trips to Yosemite when your glimpses of the majesty are sentenced to the gap in forest where they create turnouts for your car and wooden signs announcing your location, where tourists congregate en masse with cameras, guaranteeing that every photo from Yosemite is of the same mountain range/glacier/meadow-and-lake--well...it was like that. Beautiful, stately, pristine, and mostly out of sight.
And so the photos below are of the tiny views, the everyday sights. The Family McQuade had allotted a handful of cabins in a park that was designed around Activities for the Whole Family, and the entertainment (from pottery painting to rock climbing to bowling) never ceased...it was nature the way it was meant to be done.

Apparently you can paddle boat around the lake...however, given that I couldn't feel my nose, hands, or feet, I was not about to pedal around in a wet, plastic seat to see if I could find more trees to look at.

The handsomest devil around: Patriarch McQuade, and the man whose 80th birthday was the cause of the weekend festivities.

You might think, 'Wouldn't this be a nice path to bicycle down?' But you'd be wrong. And that's all I'm going to say on the subject.

Nature at its finest...this glowing beacon of the night contained a heated indoor water park (imagine huge slides and fake palm trees), a bowling alley, a half dozen restaurants, and shops shops shops. Why hike outdoors when you've got miles to see in here?

You will be happy to note that bowling is consistent no matter what country you are in...you will still get stylish shoes to sport over psychedelic carpet and balls that glow in the dark. So if you're ever abroad and feeling homesick, just head for the nearest bowling alley...you won't even know you've left Kentucky.

Even the waterfalls were multi-hued...this, THIS is the land of the free and home of the brave.

And a photo of the renowned trees.

21 November 2008


It's been a week since I've posted, for a number of reasons...the first delay due to a long weekend spent in the Lake District (photos of...trees...to come--try to get excited), and the rest is due to...well...apathy. But today, Something Big Happened and it is DEFINITELY news-worthy.

I met my new best friend.

Oh, yes. It has finally happened.

I was shopping at Habitat when I saw her. Our eyes met. She smiled. I played cool, because that's how I roll, but then when she was fully past, I slowly rotated and began to follow her. I watched her shop from behind a decorative tree full of ornaments for sale...I saw her touch a tapestry, then when she moved on, I casually strolled past it and took a good look--just to get a feel for her taste. After all, I'll be buying her Christmas and birthday presents soon.

A moment later she was gone...like so many mists on the surface of haunted lakes, I felt lost and scared without her. I resumed my shopping, still high from our contact, but disappointed at a lost opportunity to tackle her, force her into a photo with me, and then have her sign everything on my person with the sharpie I always carry in my purse.

Until half an hour later, in the midst of perusing the shop next door. I was buying Christmas decorations. Loads and loads of Christmas decorations. I didn't mean to. I'm really not the Holiday Decorations type (mostly due to apathy, not any sort of principle on the thing). But this Christmas is different...I'm going to be in London, away from friends and family. And as a result, I find myself seeking creature comforts this season--I'm eating food from my grandmother's church cookbook, I'm wearing fuzzy socks, and I'm decorating for Christmas like it's the last one I'm going to spend on this earth.

So there I am at Heal's, arms laden with wreaths, ornaments, dragging a plastic tree half my size. I look like Christmas just threw up all over me. Glitter is all over my hands and face, my hair has been caught in the pine bristles, and I've got some sort of silver sparkley thing that looks like a disco ball dangling from my arm.

And there she is. In front of me in line. She looked at me, then laughed lightly: 'Getting ready for Christmas?' That's when I knew: this was her way of asking me to be Best Friend's Forever. 'YES!' I replied, 'A THOUSAND TIMES YES!' I cleverly regaled her with stories of my holiday season abroad (hoping for an invitation to her country estate) and discussed the merits of waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to put up Christmas decorations. She nodded understandingly: 'I've always wanted to do an American Thanksgiving!' I could tell she wanted an invitation to my party, but REALLY, Emma. I only have food for four. The wreath around my neck chose that minute to strangle me, at which point she began to back politely away: 'Right, right, well, nice plastic reindeer! Must be on my way...!'

We didn't trade names, of course, as we both understood that I already knew hers, and mine wasn't relevant. I like to think that when she goes home tonight, she's going to be thinking of me...maybe with a pet nickname, like 'Christmas Girl.' Something like that, something we can laugh at together in years to come.

Oh, yes. Emma Watson, I look forward to the start of a beautiful friendship...

14 November 2008

The Ultimate Lullaby Playlist

Mommy 4 recently shared with me a lullaby playlist she created for her little one. And it was so fantastic I nabbed a copy for myself...this is the rare sort of music selection that is great for young and old alike and has the gift of instantaneous transfer to the happy place. If you can say 'yes' to any of the below, you definitely need it:

a. It takes you two hours to fall asleep, and that's WITH the medication.
b. You get agitated at work and need a way to unwind that doesn't involve a flask or the torture of small animals.
c. You have a small person in your household, one that needs to go unconscious on occasion so that you can pull out the flask and small animals.
d. You've completely exhausted every one of your itunes playlists and want to music-eff one more.

If any of these described you, then you need 'The Rockin' Lullabies of Baby Four':

1. I Bid You Goodnight (Aaron Neville)
2. Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby (Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, & Gillian Welch)
3. Baby Mine (Bette Midler)
4. Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Billy Joel)
5. Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra (That's an Irish Lullaby) (Bing Crosby)
6. Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) (Dixie Chicks)
7. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb)
8. Russian Lullaby (1958) (Ella Fitzgerald)
9. Golden Slumbers (George Benson)
10. Slumber My Darling (Gilbert Kalish & Jan De Gaetani/Paul Dunkel/Donald Anderson)
11. Lullaby (Jack Johnson & Matt Costa)
12. You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor)
13. When You Wish Upon a Star (Johnny Mathis)
14. Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland)
15. Brahms' Lullaby (Linda Ronstadt)
16. What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
17. All the Pretty Little Horses (Mary Stahl)
18. Daddy's Little Girl (The Mills Brothers)
19. Hush-a-Bye (Peter, Paul, and Mary)
20. All Through the Night (Peter, Paul, and Mary)
21. Rockabye Baby (Vocal Version) (Sherry Goffin Kondor)
22. Lazyhead and Sleepybones (They Might Be Giants)
23. Hush Little Baby (The Weavers)
Bonus Track from Rona: Lullaby (Pedro the Lion)

If any of you would like a personalized Rona-copy of this mix (all copyrights above board, of course), complete with decorated covers, please let me know. I may get it to you sometime next year, along with your Elephant Art. The price of each album will be determined by whichever Trader Joe's good I'm craving at the moment, at which point we will execute an international swap. All proceeds will be split with Mommy 4 for her creative genius.*

*That is, if she reads my blog and catches me pimping her work.

12 November 2008

Scotland: the Place

So I was sitting here, staring at my screen looking at the below photos and thinking, 'So...what?' I didn't have a word of description in mind. The pictures are of...Scotland. Specifically, Edinburgh and the village of Peebles and Loch Lomond. But my mind...a complete blank.

It's mid-afternoon here, a time of day better thought of as Sharona's mental naptime. If I'm not physically unconscious, I am remarkably mentally comatose. This is not a time where surges of free-flowing prose occur. No, those only come in early morning or early evening after a single (not a double--that just gets messy) glass of wine. They do not ever, under any circumstances, come at the time of day that I can fall asleep on the toilet. Alas, here I am.

And so I put on some Rodrigo y Gabriela and brew a cup of coffee. As the first fast-paced guitar notes race through the room, I sip and look at the photos again. And while I may not have any witty captions with which to entertain, I feel okay. And maybe that's all it takes to blog post some days: just a little okay-ness.

Introducing...Scotland: the Place.

Edinburgh. There are apparently all sorts of famous statues and whatnot around here.

I remember once a girlfriend telling me I should look into travel writing, and while I nodded and pretended to agree, all I could think was, 'She has obviously never actually READ my blog.' I could see my travel book now: 'So then when you get to this corner, you'll see a really cool building. I don't the name of it, or the history behind it, but it's REALLY photogenic. I want to say the structure is gothic in design, but it could be victorian or edwardian or georgian or something.'

Above and below: Loch Lomond at sunset.

The above photo was taken on the bus on the way from the village of West Linton to the village of Peebles. I think these are either the pets of the driver or the pets of the three passengers that take this line. There's pretty much one bus that does this route, and it only runs about four times a day. And apparently to catch it, you just stick out your hand wherever you are. Country lane, village main street, doesn't matter. Per the bus driver: 'The only formal stops are in town. Out here, I just stop if I see somebody flagging me down. If I'm in a good mood, that is.' He then chuckled heartily and blew past a little old lady.

This is Peebles. I love Peebles. I mean, yes, I recognize that it is only about four blocks long, and it's lined with gift shops and tea shops and pubs, but dangit, that's pretty much all I need for a good time...so I decided to skip Edinburgh and spend my day here, instead. I got a charming tea towel and a miniature wok with a cat painted on the side (yes, that is the sort of treasure you can get in Peebles) and a blue knit cap. I'm lucky my bus-dictated window of time was only four hours long, as I could have inflicted twice as much shopping damage. I didn't even make it as far the bookstore specializing in Scottish literature or one of the half dozen bakeries or delicatessens. Yes, this is what Peebles is known for: 'At least six hours of entertainment.'

I ended my afternoon by taking tea at a charming little tea shop in a courtyard accessible by a tiny covered passage between shops. I ordered a tea cake, which as far as I can tell is made by generously buttering a hamburger bun, throwing in a handful of raisins and a smattering of cinnamon, and then sticking the entire thing in a panini press. And it was de-LISH-ous.

09 November 2008

Oh, heavens. I forgot to finish 'Brighton Does.'

Story of my life...I began the next adventure before closing the old! I am here to finish up the Brighton Does series...here is the last set of photos I would like to call...um...Brighton Does?

08 November 2008

This is seriously so cute I just puked in my mouth. Stick it out to the end.

06 November 2008

Scotland: the Cast of Characters

Last weekend's visit to Scotland was an action-packed adventure: we hit a Halloween party, went guising (that is what the Scottish call trick-or-treating), visited Edinburgh, went hiking at Loch Lomond, dined with the Grandparents McQuade in Glasgow, and spent a day touring the shops of Peebles...but before I post all the photos, I want you to meet my weekend's generous hosts:
Introducing...the Family McQuade-Ferrier! In no particular order...

First we have Aiden...he is 5, makes armies out of marbles (each troop is color-coded, and they fight a giant), and sets up chess boards per the below, although you get the idea it changes every time:

Please note: the rules are also made up as you go, and you will find that he is nearly impossible to beat.

This is Daddy 'Robert' Ferrier. He made wonderful curry on Saturday night, and with notable flair.

Robert and Aiden skipping stones in Loch* Lomond. Marie gave Robert a handful of flat stones to pass to Aiden, but they never made it that far.

This is Jude...8 years old, he is the best violinist-video-gamer-reader-alarm-clock I have ever met. He is a natural in front of the camera and no doubt has a career of modeling ahead of him when he's not exploring the principles of quantum physics.

Robert again, this time modeling outdoorswear rather than aprons. Yes, a true renaissance man.

This is Marie: chef, writer, and the most efficient mother in all the land. Also, if my one weekend was any indication, the hub of the village social life...she knows EVERYbody, and gets a new party invitation every time you blink an eye.

Robert and Marie watching Aiden...he is up a tree (see below), conducting the fall colors. That, and knocking down leaves with a stick. A few moments after this, he falls from the tree, shooting in a perfect vertical between branches before catching himself with his arms, at which point Robert reached him and lifted him down. The fall (and catch) looked like something out of a cartoon. It was very exciting for all involved. You also get the sense that Aiden is utterly indestructible, as this was merely one of a half dozen near-misses that afternoon. He also tripped and banged his chin on the one post on the entire trail and later fell in the loch up to his waist. It's really a miracle we survived the day with this whirlwind of adventure:

And last but not least...we have Grampa McQuade. Jude and Aiden couldn't get enough of him...and really: would you be able to?
*'Loch' means 'lake.' But don't call the lochs lakes unless you're looking for kicks and just like to hear the wonderful Scottish accent saying 'loch' over and over again as they are forced correct you. Which I do.

01 November 2008

The perfect wake-up

Last night Jude (8) and I, after discovering our bedrooms shared a wall, struck a deal: when he woke (rather, an hour after he woke, given his 6:30 a.m. self-propelled launch in the world), he would knock on my wall three times. Then he would pause. Then knock three times again. And so on and so forth until he heard a corresponding three knocks back, indicating a wake-up has occurred.

And so this morning it came: * tap tap tap * * tap tap tap * * long pause * * tap tap tap * I roused, disoriented, wondering whether or not they had construction going on or whether or not there was a bird having a heydey at my window until I remembered. Rolling over, I * tap tap tap'd* back. Silence. A moment later the door peeks open: "Are you awake?"

It was perfect. I'm now going to see if I can convince him to play his violin to wake me tomorrow morning...and then I'm going to steal him forever.