A Weekend in Indonesia

Has it ever been busy around here lately! One brother decided to come surprise the other brother, so we had some fun times with brothers (still trying to convince them to write a blog post). Then once all the company left, we took a trip to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, and as soon as we got back from that I started a training for 1v4 online classes that had a ridiculous amount of homework. So I’ve only been trying to write this post for about a month and a half. So on top of things over here!

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For spring break, we decided to go to Batam, a small island in Indonesia that’s about an hour ferry ride away from Singapore. Apparently Singaporeans like to visit Batam for seafood, shopping, and a special kind of cake called Kueh Lapis that’s a lot cheaper in Batam. DSC_0442.jpg

However, we are not Singaporean, so we didn’t eat any seafood and we didn’t do any shopping, although we did go to a giant shopping mall because Jared and Abel wanted to see a movie (Q is pretty averse to being quiet and still so he went to the kid’s playplace instead).  We DID try the special cake and it was actually quite good. Abel thought it was almost one of the best things he’d eaten in Singapore, the best, of course, being a chocolate peanut butter sandwich (for some reason fish balls just didn’t do it for him).

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Outside the shopping mall

Our apartment building, which was close to the middle of the city but also kind of in the middle of nowhere and next to a slum, had a great view from the top–at least from the one window we could see out of.

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I think it was part of a development that ran out of money: big fancy buildings that were now weatherstained and nearly empty except for a few token businesses, and, as I mentioned, sitting right next to a large slum. Call me a privileged American, but it was kind of shocking to see an actual slum and realise that yes, people do live in buildings made out of rusty corrugated iron and leave trash sitting around everywhere (trash not depicted as I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the entire slum).

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And that slum was sitting right next to buildings that looked like this:

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They’re a little waterstained and what not, but still. Only a few stores inhabited them, one of which was this cute coffee shop (I think it was owned by the same people who owned our hotel). It was stuffed with all kinds of toys and memorabilia and JQ took great delight in attempting to play with everything.

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The highlight of the trip, by far, was the day we hired a car (and a driver) and traveled over the whole chain of islands around Batam.

We saw some more slums,

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little shops by the roadside selling fruit or snacks and drinks,

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more sad-looking dwellings,

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some abandoned houses that a reservoir had been built over (we surmised)

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and the bridge that all the tourist websites said was a must-see: Barelang Bridge.

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We stopped here and stretched our legs and drank some coconut juice, which JQ “very liked.”

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Then we admired the bridge some more

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and Abel tried to learn some Indonesian from our driver, whose English was pretty poor.

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Then we kept driving on to Vietnam village, an old refugee camp for those displaced by the Vietnam war (empty now). We all agreed that if we were refugees a camp in the middle of the jungle would not be the nicest place to be (can you say mosquitoes!).

The main attraction of the camp now seems to be the monkeys.

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So many monkeys, and they looked like they were used to handouts.

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Also, Abel endured his five minutes of fame for being one of the only white people around when he sped ahead of Jared and me on one of the walking trails and a nun and her friends pressed him into taking a picture with them. Jared and I laid low and took pictures from a distance while sniggering silently.

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Of course, on the very next bend of the trail (which, by the way, was full of scenes from the crucifixion–so this was taken in front of the empty tomb), we were all accosted by an even larger group of people–I assume they were Indonesian–and pressed into taking a picture with them.

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Much picture-taking and rearrangement of people ensued: they practically wanted a picture of everyone individually!

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Once all our celebrity photos were taken (and now we have about a million photos of us on some random strangers’ phones!), we headed back to the car before I could get eaten alive by the mosquitoes.

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Then we headed back home. It gets tiring to get your picture taken all day! I’m sure these deer had the same feeling.

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Before we left Indonesia, we had to try some of the food (even though it’s really pretty similar to Singaporean food). I don’t remember what this was called, but it was some kind of curry and was actually much more delicious than it looks.

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And we came back to Singapore feeling grateful not to live in Indonesia!

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A Quick Trip to Malaysia

A couple weekends ago we took a day off to visit Malaysia. It would have been a quick trip, but it felt like most of our time getting there and back was spent in passport control since we had a baby and couldn’t go through the automated lines. Thankfully, after spending about half an hour in one line that moved maybe two feet, an officer took pity on us (and our screaming baby who definitely feels he has better things to do in life than stand in queue for hours at passport control leaving Singapore) and shunted us through a more quickly moving line. Oddly enough, for being so much more developed than its neighboring countries, Singapore has the slowest moving immigration lines ever. Malaysia got us through much more quickly.

Once we finally got through immigration and got on the bus again and got off the bus in the city, we got some sketchy Malaysian food that surprisingly didn’t make us sick but was extremely spicy, and then got a taxi to go to a palace that had been turned into a museum. Jared had checked it all out beforehand, and on the internet it said that it had been closed for renovation in 2013 but was open to the public in 2016. Well, as soon as we got there we saw a giant sign in front: “Close to Public.”  Apparently, Malaysians are quite bad at updating their websites, as the guard told us it wouldn’t be open until late 2017.

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That plan put on hold, our taxi driver suggested another museum that he knew of. So off we toddled, and found that this one was actually open.

Their main activity was playing some traditional Malaysian game whereby you move marbles around a tray. Whoever still has marbles left at the end wins–although they didn’t mention that fact until Jared had moved all his marbles into the main area.  JQ didn’t care about winning–but he loved moving all the marbles around.

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They also had a really cool skylight shaped like the Malaysian flag.

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The rest of the museum was full of random trinkets and posters about the sultans of Johor Bahru back when it was its own Sultanate. Fascinating stuff if you happen to be a student of Malaysian history and speak the Malay language. Unfortunately, neither of those is on my CV.

JQ, of course, had his fair share of admirers among the guards at the museum. He wasn’t quite sure what to think, though.

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So after that, we took some pictures outside the museum.

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And some more pictures.
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And Abel goofed around a little.

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And looked handsome.

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Then we walked to the bus station and marveled at the lack of sidewalks and the masses of unfinished buildings, stood in line for another two hours at immigration, and made it home happy to be living in a city with sidewalks and crosswalks and all the other amenities of civilization.

Seven Quick Takes

  1. We finally got wifi this month, after a month of frustrating bureaucracy, and it’s been really nice to feel somewhat connected again and be able to work. I’ve got to admit it’s also nice to be able to watch a movie without finding it in advance and downloading it too (I know, spoiled millennial here!). Netflix here has most cartoons dubbed in Chinese too so occasionally we let JQ watch one for 5-10 minutes in the hopes that he’ll pick up on some Chinese. Easy bilingualism, right? wouldn’t necessarily learn Chinese in five minutes three times a week, but kids’ brains are supposed to be porous so I’m sure he’ll get it in no time.

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    He thinks so too, and is wearing Chinese
  2. Of course, it should help that JQ has started getting babysat for three hours a day, five days a week, while I teach. We’ve asked his babysitter to speak Chinese around him so he’ll pick up on it–but it’s still a little early to tell whether it’s working yet as his go-to word is still “Maamaa” in various forms. He seems to be enjoying it (as in, not screaming the entire time), though he has been a little more clingy when he’s at home. Hopefully it won’t take him too long to adjust.
  3. It’s been interesting living in a basically bilingual country. Kids on the playground switch between English and Chinese without thinking; they study both in school and probably hear both at home. It does lead to some rather thick accents (it’s really hard to figure out what people are saying!), and their English is definitely colored by Chinese-isms (like using “lah” at the end of every sentence). It also makes for some humorous moments, like when the Singaporean man at Bible study gravely started explaining the spirit of peas (he meant peace) and how it could only be explained by the love of the cross.
  4. I haven’t taken any pictures recently because we haven’t really gone anywhere in the last few weeks, but I still have some neat pictures of downtown Singapore that I haven’t shared here.
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    This is the piano that Lang Lang played on….maybe on a visit to Singapore? I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but it got its own exhibit. Shiny, huh?
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  5. I’m finally figuring out grocery shopping/cooking here and remembering how to cook without an oven. We got spoiled by having an oven in England! Now it’s back to stovetop and toaster oven cooking, although the previous residents of our flat left us their rice cooker, so I’ve been experimenting with one-pot meals to the tune of–chopping up ginger, garlic, and yellow ginger (turmeric), throwing in rice cooker with rice and water and any other vegetables I feel like, putting a fish on top, and cooking away. Jared loves it and it’s awfully easy, though rather uninspired. It also stains my fingers and cutting board a bright yellow so I look somewhat jaundiced on my left hand.
  6. We got our boxes yesterday! So nice to unpack all the things we packed up in England–just like sending a present to ourselves to open in six months. Untitled Now we have a couple pictures to put on our walls and more stuff to clutter up the house with, like books..and…well…more books. UntitledAnd we still have most of our books packed in boxes in the U.S. When we finally move back, I’m not sure I’ll even know how to deal with multiple (as in, ten or so) shelves full of books any more–I’m already envying my future self.
  7. Around where we live, there’s very few white people, so JQ’s hair and skin draw lots of looks and admiring comments. They’ve also prompted several old men to start conversations: “Where you from? You American?”

“Yes, we’re American,” I reply.

“What you think ’bout Trump?  How could so many Americans vote for him?”

“Well, it was a hard election,” I say, evading the question. “Neither candidate was exactly great.”

“Well, I think Bill Clinton’s wife should have won. She’s much more experienced!”

And delivering this zinger, he walked away. Many Singaporeans feel compelled to state their opinions on American politics, and they all think I should have something to do with changing them. Sorry, but democracy doesn’t actually work that way.

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Winter in Oregon

This is winter in Oregon.

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Far-off hills wrestling with fog

As the sun says goodbye.
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This is winter in Oregon.

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Tall grasses bend with the weight of the wet

Red-bellied roundness beside them.

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Crystal-fire, of raindrops on rosehips

Clear water comes dripping to earth.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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Tall bearded trees reach into the water

Holding the sunlight prisoner.
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Colors are dying and growing old,

Fading in the wetlands.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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This message was brought to you by a few moments of silence from this cute little face. I’m sure you’re all thankful.
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Fall in Colorado

It’s fall, and it’s gorgeous. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous Colorado falls could be, and I’m definitely enjoying it while I can, because who knows how long it will be until I get to see a proper fall again!

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I may be biased, but I think Colorado scenery is some of the prettiest for fall. Blue mountains, blue sky, and blue lakes contrast so nicely with the yellows and reds of fall.

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So even though I’ve traveled all over recently (it feels like it, at least!), it’s been so nice to come home.

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Sadly, the leaves left quickly when a giant windstorm came up and blew them all away. But we sure enjoyed them while they lasted!

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There’s just something about the mountains that is so beautiful against the sky.

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I hope you’re enjoying fall wherever you’re at, though I’m guessing it’s not as gorgeous as this!  Now if I can just pack in a little snow before I move to the tropics!

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The Life of a Tramp, part 2: Cumbrae Island

Of all the places we visited, Cumbrae Island was definitely one of our favorites. We stayed at an adorable little village in Scotland called West Kilbride, and our hostess recommended we see Cumbrae island.

So we headed off early in the morning on the ferry and hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly since I’d gotten rid of all my jackets. That’s what happens when you put all your stuff in one carry-on sized suitcase.

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But even though it started off cold and gray, it became beautifully sunny when we got there. And I have a ton of pictures to prove it.

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When we got there, we thought about being cheapskates and just walking all the way around the island (about 10 miles), but decided to take a bus into the town of Millport and rent bicycles.

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It was an adorable little town (and super cheap housing prices!) and we were almost convinced to buy a beach house there for summer vacations.

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It was so much fun to cycle around the island on the most beautiful day ever and feel the fresh air and see the gorgeous scenery. I might have enjoyed it a little.

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We stopped and ate lunch overlooking this view.

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Then it was off for more cycling and enjoying the view.

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What can I say, except that it was gorgeous and you should go there if you ever get the chance?

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The Life of a Tramp, Part 1: Edinburgh

We’re now officially homeless. Hooray?

Ten months ago, we came to this empty flat with nothing but our hopes and dreams, four large suitcases, and an even larger belly (yes, with a baby in it). We left a week ago with one very wiggly 9-month-old, three small bags, a backpack, and lots of good memories and friendships made. It was a good ten months, London–we’re sad to go!  DSC_0800     All moved out and nowhere to sit.

So now we’re living it up and traveling around. First stop? Edinburgh. We loved this city: so much Old World charm, and in such a gorgeous location. We stayed at a charming AirBnB not far from the city center, and had so much fun walking around and seeing the sights.

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First, we went to the beach. JQ instantly decided the water was much too cold (we dipped his big toe in) and the sand was his jam. He even ate a couple handfuls, to which Jared said: “I feel like a real father now, watching my baby eat dirt!”

What can I say? We have low standards.

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Note to self: make sure the baby has been thoroughly washed after any encounter with sand, especially before going to bed. Otherwise you will be fighting sand for days.

The next day, (which was sunny and warmer, of course), we walked around Edinburgh and saw the castle and some of the other sights. And took about a million pictures, so excuse me while I dump them on you.

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I loved all the buildings–they’re nearly all made out of the same kind of stone, which looks so grand and imposing. There weren’t any skyscrapers either, and no post-industrial blight. You know the sort–dying factories, ancient chimneys, rotting warehouses that should have been torn down decades ago.
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Of course there was the usual assortment of fish-and-chip shops, off-licences, and betting houses. It wouldn’t be Britain without them!

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Once in the castle, we enjoyed some fabulous views looking over the Firth of Forth and the city.

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The castle itself was pretty picturesque too!

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I was very glad I wasn’t one of the brave band of Scots who scaled the rock cliff to attack the castle and retake it from the English. Cliffs are not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

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JQ agrees.

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Speaking of cliffs, the next day we climbed up Arthur’s Seat, which is a huge hill (or collection of hills? I couldn’t quite figure out which). Besides nearly making me have a heart attack it was so high and steep, it was beautiful.

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I had never really thought of Scotland as being volcanic before, but seeing these massive hills of volcanic rock really emphasized it!

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I also decided I was not cut out to be a Highlander. Running around on steep hills all day gets tiring pretty quickly. Although I’ve got to say it’s much easier to walk up (or down) hills like that without shoes!

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Anyways, ya’ll have probably had about enough of seeing craggy cliff faces and hearing me blither about Edinburgh. If you get a chance to visit, though, you definitely should!

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So long for now!

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Let It Go

One week from today, we leave.

This small flat where we eagerly expected the birth of our first child, the place he came home to from the hospital. Family and friends have visited. Life has happened. We’ve filled it with memories in less than a year.

But now our flat is looking bare and new again, minus all the stuff that’s sitting around everywhere. Let’s say it looks as bare and new as a place that looks like a tornado recently went through it can look.

We’ve started getting rid of everything, moving on, letting go. Those tiny baby clothes we brought expectantly, our furniture, the evidence that we were here.

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I don’t want to move on. I want to freeze this moment in time: this still-small baby (who is sometimes a bear), this messy apartment, these sunsets over the river. I want to hold them in the palm of my hand and never let go.

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I don’t want to surrender a known present to an unknown future. If it were up to me,  I’d give up unknown joys and sorrows in exchange for these familiar ones. I’d freeze time, holding onto to what I know.

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But it’s not up to me. I don’t have a choice. Life must be lived even if it’s uncertain, even if it means giving up the familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown. Unknown goods are no less good because they are unknown. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyways.

Otherwise, I’d be like my still-learning baby: endlessly grasping for something I cannot reach but not wise enough to give up and move forward to the things within my grasp.

So on we go–it’s time for the next adventure!

Updates and Anniversaries

I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.

  1. The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.

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Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”

2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
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It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.

4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!

5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).

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We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.

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We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!

6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!

7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!

Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?

For more, head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Yorkshire

You guys. Yorkshire is amazing. And I have a few hundred pictures to show for it.DSC_0448

Maybe it helped that we went in spring, so everything could be green and blooming.

 

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But still–the combination of green hills, stone fences, and picturesque cottages made for some great pictures and good memories.

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The clouds cooperated and did their bit for the making of good pictures too.

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I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing the countryside till I left London for a couple days.  It was so nice to get a break from traffic and houses and people and be able to look further than a couple hundred feet in any direction.

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In other news, my adorable sweet immobile baby has suddenly turned into an attack monster. Everything–from doorstops to computer cords–is fair game, and will get grabbed and put into a slimy little mouth.

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In fact, he’s gotten so adept at crawling his way into everything that we’ve decided he gets a verb of his own: monstering.

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“If you’re going to monster,” we’ll say, “you can start in this corner so it’s harder for you to ruin another computer cord.”

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Thankfully, his monstering skills hadn’t quite developed on this trip to Yorkshire, so he was happy to (mostly) stay put in his carrier.

 

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But now he’s grumping at me (yes, that is also a verb here, in case you were wondering) and saying it’s his bedtime.

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He would be attacking my computer, but that’s not very conducive to any actual blogging, so he’s climbing me instead and pulling my hair.

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Unfortunately, I still have quite a few more pictures to show you. It’s kind of a trial of judgment, because I want to include them all. But looking at a million pictures of other people’s travels is kind of boring after the tenth picture or so, so I cut a few out.

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In spite of the terrible problem of having too many pictures, our main regret was not having the time to see more. One day felt kind of short!

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And I’ve run out of things to blither on about, so before your start monstering, now that you know such a thing is possible, I will let you look through the last five hundred pictures on your own.
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And you can envy my self-timer skills on my camera.

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And the sunshine on the river.

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And the stone bridges 

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And peaceful cows.

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And…ok, I’ll stop for good now. Maybe I’ll come back and write another post soon. And maybe I will just decide that I like sleeping better. Who knows?

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DSC_0649Bonus points if you can name the poem this made me think of!