Summer in the States

summer ice cream

When I shared our big news last week, I mentioned that we’re trying to spend as much time as possible visiting family and friends this summer. We started with our wonderful trip to Harris at the end of June, and I said at the time it was one of the best weeks DorkySon had ever had. That remains true, but after the fortnight that we’ve just spent in the States I think we’ve got another holiday to add to the list of favourites. Continue reading

DorkyDad does the ‘Gator in Galway

DorkyDad and I are just back from a wonderful weekend in Galway, celebrating the wedding of two very good friends. DorkyGranny was kind enough to babysit, so it was just the two of us (and 100 other guests, obviously!). Other than the wedding itself, which I don’t think I can write about yet without being too gushy, here are a few of the noteworthy moments.

No DorkySon!

Packing to go away without DorkySon was stranger and more stressful than I expected it to be. “Oh my gosh, I’ve no room for nappies. Oh no wait, I don’t need nappies. And I probably don’t need all those Organix oat bars either. Hmmm, I wonder what make-up I’ll wear at the wedding. Ach, I’ve loads of space, I’ll just take it all. And what jewellery am I going to wear? Ach, I’ve still got loads of space, I’ll take all my jewellery with me too. Where’s that Peppa Pig magazine? Oh, I don’t need that, do I? So I can take a book! And my camera! And my iPad! And all my bras! No, I probably don’t need all my bras, I’m only there for three days…. three days, hmm. I wonder if we can cram everything in or if we’ll have to narrow it down. Can we have Guinness and oysters for lunch AND a traditional pub meal in the evening, or can we only choose one? I wonder if we have to book ahead. Or maybe just wait and see how DorkySon’s feeling. Oh no, wait, he won’t be there. I might get a massage! What should I wear in bed? I wonder if they’ll have shampoo or if I should take some miniatures. Oh gosh, the last time I used those miniatures was in hospital after having DorkySon… When I’d forgotten the nappies. Must remember nappies this time… Oh no, wait…” And on it went. I guess I’m normally so busy remembering everything I need for DorkySon that I just throw a few things into a bag for myself without thinking about it. I hadn’t realised how much easier that is! I also hadn’t realised that even without DorkySon there, we would continue to point out tractors and diggers to each other, which is a little worrying…

Irish Cabbies!

Irish taxi drivers are the best. Truly. Our first one – Patrick – picked us up at the airport and headed off in the direction of our hotel, only to stop at a petrol station 200 yards down the road so he could buy a bag of sweets to share around the car. He then spent ten minutes talking about his biggest claim to fame, which is that his uncle appeared in some of the crowd scenes in The Quiet Man. Our second cabbie – Sean – spent the whole journey shaking his head and wondering what the world has come to. Apparently his son is at university in the UK and one of the lecturers there is a cross-dresser. Nothing wrong with that, he was at pains to add, but having seen the man he just wishes that his mini skirts were a couple of inches longer. Our third cabbie – Joe – has 21 grandchildren, and can remember every one of their birthdays, although it almost bankrupts him to do so. Bless you, Irish cab drivers, for the most entertaining car journeys I’ve had in a long time.

Food and Drink!

So what do you know, Guinness really does taste better when you drink it in Ireland. And much like we Brits enjoy talking about the weather, the Irish like to speculate often, and at length, about just why that is. Unfortunately, DorkyDad and I did not find a definitive answer, but we did enjoy testing the stuff in several bars and pubs, just to be sure that standards weren’t slipping… We also enjoyed  amazing falafel from the Gourmet Offensive stall at Galway Market (I know, I know, not exactly traditional Irish fare, but awesome nonetheless), and the best seafood chowder ever at O’Grady’s on the Pier, which we slurped while sitting in a window seat, looking out over Galway Bay. Add to that an amazing four course wedding meal, and potato cakes with black pudding for breakfast three mornings on the trot, and I’ve discovered than it’s not just in the States I have to watch my waistline…

Dancing!

So you know at the end of the night at a Scottish wedding, the band or DJ plays something like Auld Lang Syne or Loch Lomond so that everyone can join hands for a big old lovely sing-a-long? In Ireland, the last song of the night appears to be the theme from Riverdance; so all the drunks can get up on stage and indulge in some tippity-tappity-foot-stomping shenanigans. It’s a beautiful sight. On the subject of dancing, this may be one to add to the ‘Things They Didn’t Tell Me About Parenting’ list – or indeed, perhaps just one that I should keep to myself – but it seems that my post-birth pelvic floor is no longer up to the task of letting me pogo along to the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles. Two years after DorkySon was born, I suddenly realise why I should have spent more time doing kegels. My shame at being unable to relive the songs of my student days without needing a change of knickers was made even worse by DorkyDad’s impressive dancefloor exploits. He surprised us all with his energetic gator dance. He got a shout out and a round of applause from the lead singer in the band. And his new favourite expression is ‘cutting some shapes’. I am praying that there is no photographic evidence of my experience, but extensive evidence of his. ..

And a few random, unrelated discoveries: If you want to buy a Maori style hand-carved bone necklace, you don’t need to go as far as New Zealand. If you want to go to Galway and dine on the Orient Express, you can do so. And when the religious traditions in your country don’t allow for condom machines in your public toilets, the slightly bemusing alternative appears to be vending machines that dispense Toffee Poppets. Cead Mile Failte indeed.

Live In The Now: July

Okay, I promise this will be my last holiday-related post. After this I’ll get my head together and start focusing on life in not-so-sunny Scotland again. But our ten days away were too full of good moments not to share at least some of them. This also serves as my ‘Live In the Now‘ post for July, because it captures so many details that I don’t want to forget.

The Travel!

Well, the travel itself wasn’t exactly awesome. In fact, I dedicated an entire post to how much I dislike flying. But what I loved was discovering what an amazingly good traveller DorkySon is; five planes, three taxis, three buses, two cars, one train… and not a single toddler meltdown. I would love to say that it was our thorough preparation that led to the smooth journey, but in fact we’re just incredibly lucky to have a mellow two year old, who barely seemed to notice the delays and queues. He slept on almost every aeroplane, attacked the inflight meals with gusto, and beamed at the cabin crew every time they passed our seat. He was thrilled by the taxi rides, excited by the bus journeys between terminals, and is still talking about his ‘special seat’ in the hire car. Whereas DorkyDad and I usually ended up crumpled, tired and crabby, DorkySon emerged from every journey with a smile on his face and ready for the next adventure. I don’t know how he did it, but he’s a champ.

The Food!

Oh my, the food. Every time I’ve been to North America I’ve come back at least half a stone heavier, and this time was no exception. We set the tone when we had Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast at Heathrow. Then every morning at Uncle P’s we had pancakes and bacon with maple syrup, and either chocolate milk or freshly brewed coffee. We had honey glazed chicken wings at Cuda’s, steak tacos ever at Chorizo, and enchiladas at Taco Bell. Aunt A – for whom I have a whole new level of love and respect after seeing her in the kitchen– made mac and cheese, sweet potato fries, and amazing key lime pie. All that and we hadn’t even made it to New England yet! Ahh, New England, land of lobster rolls, curried mussels, steamed oysters, and our friend Meegan’s beautiful shrimp and lemon pasta. We ate our last lunch at Pocos; sitting in the sun, listening to the sea, accompanied by a Margarita. It was awesome… but my thighs are very grateful that we only go once a year.

The Friends!

DorkyDad and I are fairly antisocial types by nature, but this break reminded us how important it is to spend time with good friends; how your soul can be warmed and your heart filled back up after ten minutes in the right company. Over and above our own fun times – sitting on a sunny deck in the evening, sipping wine, chatting and laughing – we got so much pleasure from seeing DorkySon meet our friends for the first time, and feel at ease with them even more quickly than we had hoped. He almost had too much fun; laying on the floor listening as Sal, his Godfather, played the piano; sticking his head around the kitchen door to play giggly games of peek-a-boo with Meegan; and lapping up the attention of Sal and Meegan’s two sons, who were keen to share their trucks, show off their favourite playgrounds, and teach him how to catch crabs off the dock. DorkySon blew countless kisses at our dear, sweet friend Nels, before stealing most of the bacon from his plate at breakfast. He had to be dragged away from the earthy delights at Amy and Andrew’s farm, but our family photo album is much improved by the new pictures of him sitting on a tractor, saying hey to the horses and goats, and eating strawberries that he’d picked himself.

The Family!

My poor Canadian family. Most of them had only met me once before, and I think had formed a vision of me as a quiet and fairly shy person. After our third night in Toronto, when I drank all their wine and ranted about politics for a couple of hours before crying at the injustice of the world and stumbling into bed, I think they may have had to adjust their thinking slightly. But thank goodness for DorkySon – his sunny presence makes it easier for everyone to overlook my mistakes. How happy he was to sit with his cousins; reading books, building towers and lining up cars.  How thrilled he was with the green dump truck that Aunt D and Uncle P brought for him, and how proud he was to make everyone laugh with his early morning renditions of Old MacDonald.  How brave he was, creeping up to the glass door and blowing kisses at the family pets Gennie and Bella; two Swiss Mountain Dogs that towered over him by several feet. His way of letting people know that they had passed the DorkySon test – that he was entirely comfortable in their company – was to give them one of his stickers. He would sidle up to me, and whisper in my ear “Want to give Cousin J a cat sticker” or “Want to give Uncle P a truck sticker”. He would peel a sticker carefully off the sheet, and go running up to his chosen relative with it held out on the end of his grubby wee finger. They became highly coveted items in the Dorky household… but by the end of the holiday everyone had got one. The connection was complete. Now, more than ever, we understand how important it is for DorkySon to know his North American family as well as his Scottish one, and we hope to be back soon.

Painting the Town

I’d only been to Portsmouth, NH, once before this holiday. So I wasn’t sure if the amazing artwork painted on building around the town was a permanent feature or a special exhibition. A quick Google search on my return revealed that they were part of the Street a.k.a. Museum exhibit, curated by the Portsmouth Museum of Art.

I’ve had a wee look at this map which gives the locations of all the artworks, and although I didn’t manage to spot them all in the couple of days we were there, here are the ones I did find:

fly

caravan

Portsmouth

conversation

black cat

chomp

And my favourite…

boom

The featured artists are bumblebee, herakut, Shark Toof, Alexandros Vasmoulakis, and Andreas von Chrzanowski.

A Portsmouth local has blogged here, posing the question of whether this kind of painting is art or crime. Thankfully they came firmly down on the side that says ‘art’. But as the sole comment on this Seacoast Online article shows, not everyone thinks that outdoor art is such a good thing. There is a great review of the exhibition here, and on the Museum’s own blog is a post detailing how one of the exhibits has already ‘evolved’ during its time in Portsmouth.

As a visitor to the town, I thought the exhibition was fantastic. It made a lovely, lively wee place even more interesting than it already was, and demonstrated in a very public way that Portsmouth is a town with a thriving art scene. The exhibition runs until the end of September, and unfortunately I won’t make it back to track down the paintings that I missed… but I hope it’s a format that the Museum of Art feels able to repeat again in future.

DorkySon’s ‘Too Big’ Adventure

We’re just back from a fantastic holiday to North America, where we saw a lot of friends and family, enjoyed some great weather, and ate far, far too much. There were many highlights, which I hope to have time to write about over the next week or so, but I thought I’d start by sharing DorkySon’s perspective on things.

On our first full day in Canada, Uncle P offered to take us to see Niagara Falls. DorkyDad had been before, but neither DorkySon nor I had, and I was looking forward to it. I wasn’t disappointed. How beautiful is this?

Unfortunately, DorkySon wasn’t as impressed. Check out his expression in this shot.

That’s pretty much how he looked the entire time we were there. We assumed the heat was bothering him, or the crowds of people, many of whom were dressed in large blue waterproof jackets in preparation for their boat trip to the bottom of the Falls.

So, we only took a few photos before deciding to move on. DorkyDad spotted an ice cream stand, and a tub of chocolate ice cream improved DorkySon’s mood drastically. By the time we’d got back to the car park and discovered a convention of old Chevys (DorkySon’s favourite car), he was back to his usual happy self.

So when we were back in the car, heading home, finally away from all the crowds, I turned to DorkySon. “What do you think of Niagara Falls, buddy?”

“Don’t like it,” he said. “It’s too big.”