Category Archives: UK

The Horniman Museum

Standard

I’ve been in the UK for over 10 years now, always living in the southeastern area of London and, although I always knew about the Horniman Museum, in Forest Hill, and been once for a Christmas Carol several years ago, I have never paid a proper visit to it.

Until now. We went last weekend. Twice. I’m sure we will go back again.  The girls loved it. It has a nice big garden, with a Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, from 9am to 1.30pm, a food garden (herbs, veggies and fruits planted), a medicinal garden, musical instruments and a little pets section.

The museum per se is not that big, which is great to go around with children (they are not very patience, are they?). Having said that, it is big enough for several days of slow exploration. We went both Saturday and Sunday and haven’t seen it all. We loved the National History section and was a great opportunity to show and teach the kids about animals in general – and weirdly, about death. Another great thing about this museum is the opportunity that kids have to actually touch objects; it makes such a huge difference in how they appreciate a museum and learn about the past. I am a very sensorial person; I can understand facts better if I can see, touch, feel something, so I supposed it was great for me as well. 🙂

We ran out of time to visit the dinosaurs exhibition and the aquarium is closed until the 16th March. So I suppose we will have to go back there soon.

The Horniman Museum, part of the façade.

The “giant” walrus in the National History area. I suppose it is the normal size of a walrus, but seems giant to me.

I’m very jealous of this conservatory. I want one at home (it’s probably bigger than our house). There were some tables inside, for people to eat, but also lots of space for kids to run and shout.

 

Beatrice testing her music skills

The music section in the garden; great fun for kids and adults.

 

The museum also offers family activities on weekends. We went to three of them. The first one was the Hands on, where we all learned about and tried costumes from different countries and cultures. It was free and tickets are collected 30 minutes before each session.

Laura wearing a costume from China. One of the many that they presented.

Laura wearing a Greek costume and Beatrice wearing a Chinese dress.

 

Beatrice wearing a… construction helmet.

 

Mr. C wearing an Emperor costume. I can’t remember which country this is from. China?

We also went to an arts and crafts event, where the girls created their own Crazy Carnival Masks. It costs £3 per child.

Laura showing off her creation.

 

Beatrice with her mask.

 

We also went to a story telling session on Sunday, but I didn’t take any photos. Laura loved the two stories and left a really nice message in their guest book. Beatrice got a bit bored during bits and I had to keep encouraging her to do the actions and explaining parts, etc. The recommended age is 5+, so I guess she was too young for it. The storyteller was great, though, she didn’t mind at all the babies and noisy children in the room. This one was also free.

If you want to visit:

The Horniman Museum, website here.
100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ (
Closest train station: Forest Hill, national rail and London overground. Parking can be a bit of a pain.
Opens daily from 10.30am – 5.30pm, except 24, 25, 26 December. Gardens open from 7.15am Mon-Sat / 8am Sundays – until Sunset. Both museum and garden are free, except special exhibitions and activities.
There is a cafe inside with hot meals and snacks (at a decent price), but you can also take your own food and have a picnic there

Best Mother’s Day present

Standard

This year I got two non-convencional gifts for Mother’s day. Neither were given with Mother’s Day in mind, but worked pretty well to me.

The first one came in February, half term week to be precise. Hubby took the girls to Romania and I got to spend a whole-full-entire (yes, redundancy) week all by myself! It was a first, people, and it was brilliant!

Here is the part I say: don’t get me wrong, I love my girls more than anything. Most of the times, it’s me not wanting them to be apart, but knowing that they are safe and around with their father made me feel ok with the whole idea.

I had four days off at work as well, so morning, afternoon and evening all by myself. I was so desperately needing some time on my own that I couldn’t get myself out of the house. My time was all spent watching TV (I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and caught up with new Criminal Minds), which I never do, listening to music I like and sorting out bits and bobs around the house. I even got the hallway/landing area painted, after several months just planning.

 

The wall that needed painting

The wall that needed painting (back in June 2015)

 

Now looking shiny and new. (the whole wall, landing area and hallway were painted)

 

The second gift was actually a Christmas present, that was only good to use in March. The date was an “accident”, as Mr. C doesn’t have a clue when Mother’s Day is; it just happened to be the very last presentation of Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna (Ama Luna?). He got us amazing seats, very close to the stage, and it was an adult-only event for us. I’m a big fan since I first saw them (on TV) and since I moved to the UK, we used to go every year. Until Laura was born that is. It was an amazing day for both of us, we had lunch at a Japanese restaurant in South Kensington, no rush, no stress, no trying to keep the kids quiet at their seats. We went to the V&A (my first time there, not sure why I haven’t been before). We had an interrupted conversation for hours!

The V&A – a lovely museum

 

The Royal Albert Hall is one of my favourite venues in London. Just being there makes me happy. RAH + Cirque du Soleil = dream! We were five rows from the stage, so close that the actors were a meter from us when performing near the audience. Luckily we were in the middle of the row, as they tend to pick people on the borders (I must admit that I would have loved if they got my phone to take some selfies).

Where is Wally? I mean, Mr. C… This is the lateral view of the stage, with our seats just in front of it.

 

One of the performers interacting with the audience. No zoom in this photo.

 

At the very end… I missed these performers “flying” over heads.

Although it was a great day and evening without kids, we also said how much Laura would have enjoyed the presentation. Beatrice is too young for it and would probably be scared or bored (there was a boy screaming in the middle of the show, roughly Bea’s age). Most of the artists were women, including the whole band (the director as well). We wanted Laura to see it and see how women can play any instrument and type of music, if they want to, and maybe get inspired. Laura always mentions “this is for boys”, “this is for girls” and we try to show her that there is no such thing.

I got all excited to go again next year; I don’t even care if it is a Christmas-Mother’s Day all in one celebration again.

The season to be jolly

Standard

We didn’t have a white Christmas this year – it has been quite mild, really, with temperatures above 10C – but ice rinks across the country take care of bringing a bit of the magic of Christmas (if you are used to it in the North Hemisphere) to us all. 

We have never been to Winter Wonderland, in central London, and we never took the girls to one of the many ice rinks across London. The trip and the crowds just don’t attract me. So it was great to find a place not too far from us, with an outdoor, but covered, ice rink. It is in Ruxley Manor Garden Centre, in Sidcup, Kent. The garden centre was a nice discovery; it’s not only a for all things for the garden but it also has a nice food market with some yummy looking fruits and veggies and other food. There are two restaurants, shops, etc. Durimg school holidays, there are activities for kids (a Circus during February half term). 

Not something for tourists though.

   
   

Holidays mode on

Standard

Last post was April, one month before Laura’s birthday and two before mine. We celebrated the girls’ birthday on a sunny Saturday of May, with lots of kids and adults, and as usual I was too busy making sure the food was out and warm and everyone was ok to enjoy the party myself. Elsa (from Frozen) came over, everyone had an amazing time, and this is what matters.

*****

My mum has been around since early May, helping out with the house and other stuff. I’m not sure how the garden will survive when she lives, how the clothes will be as clean as they are (she is better than Vanish), how the house will keep itself tidy during the week, and how the dinner will get made. Four months of help and comfort life, one can easily get used to it.

*****

Work… never mind work. I’m working and I’m grateful for it. No plans to move on just yet. Lots going on, the usual frustrations, the usual great things too. Unlike the previous job, I’m in this one for four year and it feels like 14. It just means that there are changes on a monthly basis, which is both exciting and unsettling.

*****

Holidays… now we are talking. Counting down for our two weeks in Italy, one of my favourite places in the world. I.cannot.wait. Is it too bad that all I can think of is pizza, spaghetti and ice cream? Well, this is a lie. I am actually looking forward to see the girls reaction to this trip. All Laura can talk about is… America. She wants to go to the US to… buy toys. We are trying to keep her excited about Italy with the prospect of eating ice cream every day. And going to the pool and beach too, but she is not so excited about these two. I am also hoping that we will be able to go on a gondola in Venice. We didn’t go the first time, but it’s one of those things that I really need to tick off the list.

*****

School holidays are flying. Another three weeks and it’s back to school. I dread it more than Laura.

*****

Both Laura and Beatrice are doing really well. I can’t believe they are 5 years (and 2 months) and 2 years (and 3 months) old already. This year is flying, and although I don’t want them to grow up too quickly (neither I want to get old), I just want this year to end. Such a weird one.

Christmas came and has gone in pictures

Standard

It was warm
The views are always stunning
I had a week off work; more work then usual at home
We went to the dentist
We went to Romania
It was warm
But then it got cold
Not enough to build up snow
But enough to ice skate. Twice
Frozen is still a home favourite. Let it go!
Santa showed up in Romania
We ate like pigs and brought lots of food in the luggage
Santa stopped at home too, but mummy forgot to take pictures
Santa stopped at mummy’s work and decided that mummy is not overweight enough and can have lots of chocolate

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2376.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2377.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2417.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2418.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2429.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2447.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2471.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2477.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/fef/28470977/files/2014/12/img_2482.jpg

Training to be happy

Standard

Last month I went on a three day “master class” called Hyper Island. According to their website, it is an intensive learning experience that will challenge our way of thinking and perception on the influence and possibilities within digital media.

I’m very lucky that the company I work for invests in this type of training to their staff and I’m even luckier that I’ve been in the company long enough to have attended two Hyper Island master courses.

It is a very inspirational course and it does challenge our way of thinking, but most of all, it challenges our way of being. It encourages the “student” to want to change things – not only within work environment but also in their personal lives. It’s stating the obvious but big changes start from within.

I don’t remember this happening the first time around but I left the course a bit introspective and thinking what the hell I am doing with my life and where the hell I’m going with it.

Part of the “problem” was sorted by discovering that I am Vitamin D deficient (haha) but I am still digesting all the info and working on a “plan of action”. And by plan of action I mean trying to understand where I am and where I want to be.

The beat thing about this course, though, was to meet other members of our marketing team. I new we were a huge team but didn’t realise that we were 150 people! And such a bunch of great, funny, inspiring people.

Part of the course was to carry on a 21 day challenge, based on a Ted talk by Shawn Achor (search Shawn Achor “The happy secret to better work” if you want to know what I’m talking about). Every day, for 21 days, my little group of five has to send 3 things we are grateful for on that day + one random act of kindness. It’s been 15 days and most of us has been following the challenge. The idea is to help train our brain to be positive and be happy, which, in theory, will make us work better and be more productive.

Another exercise is journaling about a positive thing that happen on the day, which I might try here once the challenge is over. I must say that in the beginning I was struggling big time to fond positive things on my day, because I tend to think big and I was hoping to be able to share “I won the lottery today”, “my daughter got a medal at school”, “it’s 30C in Autumn now in the UK and I’m sunburned”. But the exercise made me see that these things are rare and I should look for the tiny beautiful positive things of my day, like my Beatrice, very poorly, still finding the energy to laugh, to sing and to tell stories. Feeling miserable, yet happy just to be around us and have fun with her family.

Six more days looking for grateful moments on my day. Bring them on.

Don’t let the sun go down on me

Standard

If I’m not a big fan of the cold and these darker days that we are going through, I have now an additional reason to dislike it.

It’s been a while since I’ve noticed that I had bad mood swings, was always tired, in pain, etc. I used to blame pregnancy, then hormones post-pregnancy, then going back to work and having bad nights of sleep, then I just blamed life – it was hard and just not worth it. So I went to the doctors as I thought it could be the post-natal depression again.

The doc looked at me and said: “hmmmmmmmmm, maybe. Not impossible. But your daughter is 18 months, so it’s not like it’s post-natal anymore”. She didn’t say that but this is what was implied.

Thankfully she is not the type of GP that will say “here, have a Paracetamol, send your kids to the grandparents, your husband to a business trip to Antarctica and go to
sleep”. It’s a good plan, don’t get me wrong, but hard to implement. Instead, the plan was: have a blood test, call the health visitor to get help with the girls’ sleep and then go back there to see whether there was a need to go back to medication, counselling, trip to Antarctica or Paracetamol.

Blood test done. Health visitor unreachable. GP appointment due. Blood test results: I’m vitamin D deficient. Not insufficient. Deficient. All the I had for the first 8 months of the year apparently wasn’t enough. All
the milk and cheese and occasional tuna and salmon are not enough.

GP (and leaflet) informed me that vitamin D deficiency can cause tiredness, muscle and bone pain and these combined can cause trouble with sleep and mood swings. She gave me the example of her own sun, who was feeling miserable and thinking that life was a struggle. Lots of vitamin D pills later, he is back to his normal self.

The best solution to this problem is to move to a sunny country. All year round. The easiest solution is to take 5 x 800IU of vitamin D for 10 weeks, check my blood again hoping to go to normal doses of Vitamin D (which apparently is 600IU – I’m having 4000IU) for the rest of my life, or until I retire in a nice sunny country.

Apparently NHS only started offering Vitamin D tests widely 5 years ago. So it was a new thing when I was first diagnosed with depression, which made me wonder if there wasn’t a problem with my Vitamin D levels back then. Back 9 years ago when I moved in to this country and felt miserable since.

Anyway, no point in wondering… no point in even blaming lack on vitamin D for all my problems. The purpose of the post is to start a campaign: let’s move to Australia, husband! I get they overdose on vitamin D there. haha

No, seriously, this post is for you, dear person who reads this blog, friend or anonymous, and feels miserable for no reason and have no clue where to start. Talk to the GP, ask for a blood test, especially if you live in countries where there’s little day light in autumn/winter. Apparently just 15 min (more if you have dark skin) of sun without sun lotion, three times a week, is enough. I thought I had enough but, hey, I was so very wrong.

Note to self: plan holidays one a month to very sunny places. Apparently is good for your health.