19 May 2012

Trains & The British Museum. . .

Today, we went to The British Museum in London.  (I'm thinking it might be difficult for me to write about something from today. . I am used to posting about something 4 months after it happens! :)

We headed down to London by train (20 min to station/50 minutes on the train), and since the weather decided to be somewhat pleasant, we were able to walk to the Museum.  On the way, we cut through Tavistock Square--a little park in the middle of a block. . .the girls played a game about sharks getting them and then gave up on that to chase the pigeons.

On to the museum. . .and I don't know if you are getting Maggie's pleasant and excited mood from this picture, but she couldn't contain her positive attitude! HA!

Here's the lobby:

 This is Amenhotep III. . .from about 1400 BC.

And this is the Rosetta Stone. . .196 BC--tool used to decipher/translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.  I kept laughing at myself because the only thing I could think of was the language programs.

The Ancient Egypt collection was pretty good. . .I think the kids' enjoyed this section of the museum the most!

 Once again, the multi-media tours were a big hit with Hannah & Maggie--these were especially cool because they had a touch-screen with a stylus!  Here they are checking out the mummies.
Surprisingly, the girls weren't creeped out by this next one!  I thought there was something really compelling about it.  

 Shawl made of gold. . . so comfortable.
 The only picture I got of Charlotte at the museum; she wasn't feeling very good and slept most all the afternoon.

We went back out of the museum to eat lunch. . .ate at El Mexicana--the food was good (burrito, tacos, nachos, and. . .potato wedges), but Keith and I wondered if that was proper Spanish grammar. . shouldn't it be La Mexicana? 

On the way back, I saw this. . .the Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  Ironically in honor of this Englishman!

A few more Ancient Egyptians. .

On to the Romans and a statue of Venus. . .Hannah got a little giggly about the Roman statues. . fortunately, most of them had lost their. . .well, appendages, so we didn't have to have too long of a conversation about them!  :)

 This is the Nereid Monument, found in Turkey.

 The 2012 London Olympic & ParaOlympic gold medals!

 This one would have been a sweet sister picture if I had: A-caught them straight on and not pretty much cut Hannah out of it. . .and B-if they weren't pushing and fussing at each other while Maggie was holding part of a tool from 3500 BC!  Needless to say, the lady running the exhibit was slightly freaked out!  But, the Brummel girls recovered nicely and got to hold this 5500 year old relic.  Amazing!

 Keith might look like he is "appreciating" the art, but he is really just giving me a look for giggling with the older two about the "tooshie"!

 Michelangelo's The Epifania cartoon 1550-5.  This was in the gallery outside the Picasso exhibit--couldn't take pictures of Picasso's sketches.

My little "dum-dums" (Night at the Museum)
 Hannah & Maggie thought this little guy looked like Steve, the monkey, from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. . I can see it!

 I admit that I made them pose like this. . but it pretty much summed up how they were feeling. . it had been a full day of museum and they were ready to hit the gift shop and head out!

Caught the train back home and stopped at Subway for dinner, where my little Charlotte got sick all over the floor of the bathroom. . .so it was a really great family day out. . just not a very happy ending to the day.  We are a little worried that she is getting more and more sensitive to motion-sickness.  This is the second time that a journey (first time was the car in Wales--this time the train/car) has ended in her getting sick.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it was just a coincidence!!

17 May 2012

Teaching old dogs new tricks. . .

I am happy to report that after almost 20 years of driving--and a full year of those driving in the UK--Keith and I are both newly licensed drivers!!  We were allowed to drive on international licenses for one year, and that year was up in April.  So, it was back to the beginning for us both--the written and the practical driving tests.

We started by calling for driving lessons because Keith heard from numerous people at CAT that the UK test examiners could be very particular.  Lessons ended up being a good idea (even though Keith was annoyed by them) because we had some bad habits of many years to undo. . .like driving with one hand, letting the wheel spin on turns, not checking mirrors in a (obnoxiously) thorough manner, etc.  There were also some new things to get used to:  even with my automatic, I am supposed to apply the hand-brake at any extended stop (like a stop-light,etc).  That one was tough to remember!

Studying for the written test--or the computer--generated multiple choice test--was interesting.  Besides the obvious driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road things,  most of the rules of the road are pretty similar to the ones in the States.  However, it was the terminology that would throw us.  Here are a few examples:
  • "dazzle"--having your lights on when it isn't necessary or keeping your foot on the brakes instead of using the hand-brake at stop lights.
  • "driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs". . .honestly, I love the word "whilst"
  • "lay-by"--strips of roadside parking or rest areas for drivers
  • "zebra/pelican/puffin/toucan"--these are the four different types of pedestrian crossings
  • "dipped headlights"--normal headlights
  • "main beams"--bright headlights
  • "rumble strips"--speed bumps
  • "level crossing"--railroad crossing
  • "single and dual carriageway"--two-lane and four-(or more) lanes
  • "junctions"--intersections
We took our written tests on computers at a facility in Coventry--about 10 miles from here.  It shames me ;) to report that just like a teenager, I second-guessed myself on a couple of questions and got them wrong--consequently, Keith beat me on that test!  After passing that test, we were then able to book our practical test at a facility here in Hinckley just around the corner from our house.

Keith's test was a couple of weeks before mine.  He went, he drove, he conquered--I was actually a little worried that he might get himself in trouble for not doing some of the little things.  But he passed with only 6 minor faults--mostly because he didn't check his blind spot before pulling out from the side of the road. 

I was really glad to have the extra two weeks of practice.  It was the maneuvers that had me worried. . .or one of them in particular.  You are asked to do one of three things: parallel park (wasn't a real problem except for being on the wrong side of the car), three-point turnaround in the street without touching the curb (again not a real problem except that I don't driving a short little smart car!), or reverse (left) around a corner.  It's this last one that had me fretting. . .it's not a move I do often--if ever. . .I'm on the "wrong" side of the car. . .and I basically psyched myself out worrying about it!  But I had it nailed in the end!

My testing day came around, and it was pouring.  Thought there was a nice symmetry to that since there was an ice storm on my 16th birthday when I took my first driving test!!  I ended up getting the same examiner that Keith had, and everything went really well.  My red L decal flew off in the middle of the lesson (she told me to just leave it and not bother picking it up), but that was really the only rough spot.  We were chatting away the whole time about America, about kids, about holidays, etc. . .in fact, I am ecstatic that I only ended up with two faults for not signaling a turn soon enough, because I got them from being distracted by the conversation!!  And with only two minor faults--I BEAT KEITH!!  :)

So now we have our pink license cards--and they are valid for something like 30 years!  With a year of driving on the small, winding UK roads and parking in some interestingly awkward car parks, we have decided I am a competent enough British driver to go back to a Chrysler mini-van (Grand Voyager).  It's just like what we drove in the States (Town & Country), and I missed her so!  I was worried about driving a bigger car like that here, but I am managing so far and it's so nice to have all the space for all of the girls and all of our junk!  Currently, we call her "The Boat". . .

Driving licenses are ticked off our UK to-do list!  What a relief!  Thank you to Adrian of Adrian's Driving School for all of your help!!

07 May 2012

German Christmas Market. . .

In November, on Keith's birthday, we went to the German Christmas Market in Birmingham. We weren't able to get a trip planned to Germany for 2011, so this was the next best thing. We did make the mistake of not only going on opening weekend, but we also went on Family Day. . .it was beyond busy!  But we still managed to enjoy!

This first picture is not mine. . but I thought it was a good one to include:

Didn't take long for my Hannah to give in to the food!
Maggie was all for the Berliners!

Hot chocolates, German beer, and mulled wine--the mulled wine is tradition, but I was not big fan. . .I was jealous of Keith and his beer!!

The Market was run by people from Frankfurt, so the stalls etc looked great!  I can't wait to experience a market that is actually in Germany!!

Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. . .didn't try it, must have snapped the picture for some reason I don't remember.
Mmmmmm. . . beer!!

Some of the yummies we brought home:
pretzel sandwich

This is probably one of our most favorite things we have ever bought. . .a German Christmas pyramid.  There were many different styles to choose from. . some smaller, some larger. . .some electric (which won't help us when we move back to the States). . .some painted, some not.  This was the one that we settled on--we like it so much that we are keeping it out year round.

Apparently these are "kerzen" fur our "pyramiden" !!

 The levels of the pyramid depict the story of Jesus' birth. . .shepherds and sheep, wise men and camels, heralding angels and of course Joseph, Mary, and the Blessed Infant.

This picture might not do it justice, but it is really cool all lit up!  However, when I look at it, I can't help thinking about Clark and Eddie (in his dicky) drinking egg nog in the Griswold living room!!  :)