Monday, 29 August 2011

And finally...

So (there I go again!), this is my final blog post. I'm well and truly back now - all except for my bodyclock and goodness only knows where that is! However, I thought it might be good to do some summing up. Find a fitting conclusion to the tales of our travels and all that.

This was definitely one of the best holidays we have had as a family. The weather, company, experiences, scenery and surroundings were guessed it: awesome! We met up with some lovely people known to us already, made new friends and enjoyed the company of passing acquaintances.

I fulfilled more life-long ambitions than I ever knew I had: paddling in Plum Creek! Taking an American road trip! Smelling the sweet prairie air! Drying my laundry in the prairie breezes! (I'm easily pleased and it's the small things in life that delight me the most.) Visiting Laura's houses! Finding out that the places I've read about since childhood really are just as I imagined...but better!

Just hanging out with Dr X. Dr Norton and Blondie, cooking in their kitchen, playing in their basement, admiring Dr N's fleet of vehicles, wandering down town and sipping a soda in the coffee shop, the fun of having a tray of hotdogs clipped onto your open car window, swimming in the cool, clear waters of the lake... all this made it a holiday - or vacation - to remember.

So, 'til next time, thank you to everyone who had a hand in our travels, thank you to everyone who read the blog. I'm off now, to work on my quilt while gently sipping an ice cold root beer.

Gee, it's good to be back home again

...although it's cold, none of us can sleep and our house feels...well...tiny! I've been using the nervous energy to do some de-cluterring. I reckon I'm getting quite good at it, although if the kids don't get over their jet-lag and start sleeping soon, I can't promise they won't be added to one of the piles of stuff! (Just kidding!!!!)

So (I may be back home, but I'm still using that little Americanism), we caught the flight home OK and were pleased to be travelling on a new Boeing 777-300 - mainly because we liked the touch-screen TVs! TR slept for most of the flight. The Mouse did fairly well, although she didn't sleep for as long as TR and had to resort to some early hours in-flight CBeebies watching.

Back at Heathrow we watched the rain teeming down (welcome home!) and then joined the passport queues. Mr Ruby and the children took great delight in bidding me farewell as they headed off for the fast-track queue (they all have newer-style passports), leaving me in the 'snail's pace' line. They were less delighted when they discovered that you can only use the fast-track lane if you're 18 or over, which meant them joining another slow queue. Obviously Mr Ruby couldn't sail through the queue on his own, because he now had charge of the children. Naturally I was gracious and only sniggered a little when I went through passport control ahead of them. (Heh-heh!)

My dad met us at the airport and it was good to see him again! He drove us home, while we tried valiantly to look wide awake. What time was it again? What continent were we on?

Since being home we have tried - and thus far failed - to get back onto GMT. Still, there's always GMTea, so it's not all bad. In fact, I think I hear Mr Ruby boiling the kettle now...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chicago! Chicago!

On Saturday we all caught the train to Chicago. TR was very impressed with the double-decker trains and of course we all sat upstairs. The train was a little slower than usual as there were thunderstorms in the area, so we had to travel at 25 mph for part of the way. However, we got there OK and jumped in two cabs for American Girl Place.

TR and Mr Ruby relax on the top-deck.

The M Bunny's eighth birthday present from us was a voucher to spend on clothes and accessories for her American Girl dolls. She and I were very taken with all the little clothes and shoes and suchlike. While we immersed ourselves in the American Girl experience, TR, Mr Ruby and Dr Norton went to the Lego shop next door. Blondie and Dr X bought a new outfit for Blondie to wear on her first day in middle school. After much deliberating, Bunny chose a figure-skating outfit, complete with the cutest little pair of ice skates. Man, I want a doll to dress! (Bunny insists on picking out her own clothes these days and TR's really not interested.) She also picked out some doll-sized jeans and a notepad.

Felicity (the doll) models her new figure-skating outfit.

After our shopping experience, we caught another cab to 'The Elephant and Castle - English Pub'. I reckon they made a pretty good job of that. Bunny had fish and chips and TR chose bangers and mash - pretty good English pub fare.

We then walked to the Sears Tower. Well, OK you're supposed to call it the 'Willis Tower' now, but it seems a bit silly to rename such a significant and iconic landmark. One older lady, who approached the tower just ahead of us, summed it up thus, although I'm going to have to leave you to supply the last word for yourselves: 'Willis Tower? Willis Tower?! What a crock of....!' Dr X and I were in hysterics.

We went up to the 103rd floor (we took the elevator - not the stairs) and a good look at the view of Chicago. It was funny to look down at what appeared to be train sets and Hot Wheels cars far below us. Most impressively, we saw a flypast, as there was an air show on at Navy Pier. It was weird being taller than the jets, too!

A new addition to the tower is some retractable glass balconies. The kids were utterly fearless about these, but the grown-ups were all seen to step out rather gingerly! I tell you, it is not right to be suspended so high above the city, in little more than a glorified reptile tank!
Blondie, doing yoga, while suspended over the city.
Take a closer look - yep, all the way up there!


After defying the laws of physics, we walked back across the river to the train station and caught the express back 'home'. The thunderstorms had cleared by now, so we had a clear run back and were home in time for tea.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Guest blogger: TR

On Friday all the boys went to Dog'n'Suds to eat hotdogs and other things. If you walk, you sit at a table, but if you use the car you get to sit in it and have a tray clipped onto your window! I had a hotdog, some sprite and some chips. It was really yummy!

After Dog and Suds we came home. It was exciting because there were just boys. We played the X-Box. I played the car game and space invaders.

Mrs Ruby here. TR had a wonderful time on his 'lads night out'. The next morning, the first words he said were, *sigh* 'I wish it could be yesterday all over again.'

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Age of Enlightenment

Every year, Dr Norton, Dr X and Blondie head for Bristol (Wisconsin, not Gloucestershire) for the 'Renaissance Faire'. Since one of my favourite episodes of Big Bang Theory involves a Renaissance Faire, I thought we'd give it a go too. If you do the same, follow Raj's advice to Sheldon and pretend you are exploring a planet similar to Earth in the 1500s. It makes it all slightly less bizarre! Either that or pretend you've fallen into a Monty Python film.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of 'Ren Faires', you go to a place that's been decked out like Ye Olde Merrie Englande, dress up if you want to (Tudor garb would seem most fitting, but anything goes - I saw more than one pirate, crusade knight, fairy, and slapper of indeterminate historical era), watch jousting matches, shop for all kinds of ye olde thinges, queue for ages to use the portaloos, eat ye curly fries and drink copious amount of beer. You also see a lot of bosums, on account of all the well-laced corsets. If you're English, you get to reassure stall-holders that, yes, your accent is the real deal and, yes, every street in Britain looks just like this. I have to say, though, there were some very good fake accents going on! Better than my own, in some cases.

A man in a privy hands TR a magic stone. (Don't ask - Mr Ruby went with him and I have no idea!)

Blondie, the Mouse Bunny and TR got into the spirit of things by dressing as a dryad, princess and dragon, respectively. (Contrary to malicious suggestions currently doing the rounds on the Internet, Mr Ruby is not in fancy dress. I bought him that hat, so ner!)
TR's dragon hat: two halves of a paper plate, sewn onto a sun hat. Is there no end to my talents?

Bunny particularly loved the swing boats and trying to climb the pirate's rope ladders. TR loved watching sword fights and having a go at firing a cross-bow. We all got into the spirit of the jousting tournament! How we cheered for our brave knight! (Although I was slightly disappointed that we weren't assigned the young, blond one.)

Not the one I fancied One of the knights.
Two fairies meet.
We also got to meet some of Dr Norton and Dr X's work colleagues -  the 'Abbotteers' - and what a lovely bunch they are!
'Uncle' Harry, Brian and Tomas.

Brian, Tomas and Tracey.

Here's how I ended the day. Yes, it looks like a cucumber on a lolly stick because it is. $1.50 for a dill pickle on stick. You can't say fairer than that! I have to say, it was delicious and very refreshing.

And to think I got excited over a Spongebob popsicle!

How not to fall off a pony.

Hi Bunny here, thats the Mouse's new name.
On Friday I went horse riding with;Mrs Ruby, Dr.X & Blondie. It was so much fun!
I was led around on a little pony called Popcorn, by Blondie, whilst Mrs Ruby rode Billy, Dr X's horse, and Dr X rode the other Popcorn, Blondie's horse. I learned some balancing tricks, how to hold the reins and how to make Popcorn trot. Sort of half-way through Popcorn broke into a run because one of the barn kittens ran out in front of us. I wasn't even holding the saddle horn - I was just holding the reins! I'm just glad Blondie could stop me before I fell off. But I still kept riding!

Me and Popcorn.

Later! (As the Bratz would say.)xx

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr Ruby!

Thursday was Mr Ruby's birthday, so we celebrated in relaxed style. TR and the Mouse had been busy the day before, making him a card (the Mouse) and a jigsaw puzzle (TR). On holiday in Door County TR painted him a small ceramic fish, so all the gifts and cards were wrapped and ready for him. Of course, Mr Ruby had planned a nice lie-in but the children had other ideas and were eager to help him unwrap his gifts as soon as they awoke. Best laid plans, eh Mr Ruby? Still, I did take them down for breakfast afterwards, so he didn't have to get out of bed for a while.

Once downstairs and breakfasted, the Mouse busied herself by baking her dad a chocolate birthday cake, which she and TR later decorated with a selection of Lego minifigures, GoGos and Moshlings.

Dr Norton took the afternoon off work, so he and Mr Ruby busied themselves geting Dr Norton's motorcycle collection out of the garage. Mr Ruby, TR and I had a go at sitting in them. The Mouse was busy with her dolls.

Don't even think about it, TR.

Mr Ruby had a go too. Here is he is, observing Illinois State Law. If you ride a motorcycle here, a helmet is optional but shades are mandatory. Insane! If his mum is reading this, he didn't actually ride it and we never took off his stabilisers.

In the evening we all walked into Grayslake for a meal and some refreshing IPA at 'Emil's'. I don't know how strong that beer was, but Dr X and I had some difficulty in walking back up the hill! Blondie pretty much disowned us both. Who can blame her?