27 September 2009

Size Matters

WARNING: Blokes stop reading NOW. For girls only!

I always knew that being in the UK would present a body-image challenge to me. Every time I have come here I have always ended up feeling big and frumpy.

Even when I was dead skinny (just after I got married) I still felt large when shopping here. Maybe because I'm automatically a size larger in England. Maybe because I am self-conscious meeting all Mr G's friends and family and being under the microscope.

Yes, I have my insecurities about the way I look. But somehow at home in my comfort zone surrounded by my lovely friends and familiar places I feel OK about myself - on the curvy side of average. I haven't felt any great urgency to rush out and diet or exercise madly. My lazy ways have seemed perfectly fine until now.

Confession Time: (now, really blokes, if you didn't heed my warning to stop reading before, you'd better do it now!!)

... I hate underwire bras so I have still been wearing... my maternity bras *gasp*
... AND Mr G finally spoke up and complained about my unsexy old undies.

He said, Babe I love you, but really you need to go and buy some new undies. These are just sad.

I am simply too fond of comfort. My old stretchy undies and maternity bras are comfy. But it's time to move on *sniff*

Mr G enlisted the help of my lovely pal Maya when we were staying with her. She took me bra and undie shopping at a fancy bra-fitting shop called Bravissimo. It was a bit traumatic but I survived. Eek. Would you believe I am Size 34 Double G???

{YES I am talking about Bras and undies. Uncle Allan you only have yourself to blame!}

I nearly fell off my chair. So now I have some new bras which make my clothes look way better on and are much sexier (the underwires are taking a bit to get used to but Maya made me promise to persevere... and I am). We got some silky little undies to match (which are sexy and comfy, so there you go.)

But after spending a day clothes and shoe-shopping for Mr G (a.k.a Mr Imelda Markos) I was feeling a bit left out. Kind, supportive Mr G said, Why don't we come back tomorrow and go clothes shopping for you?

So the next day we returned to town, armed with our credit cards. Mr G said his aunties had given him some advice on where to take me. We walked past Primark, Next and M&S. We entered a shop called Evans.

Hmmm, seems to be a few older women in here... I was looking for jeans, and headed for the nearest rack... which on closer inspection seemed to start at Size 18.

I felt a prickle of horror go up my neck. Surely not?? My husband has taken me clothes shopping in... A Big Girls Shop???

The skinny 20-something salesgirl smiled condescendingly at me (middle-aged Big Girl that I am). Did I need any assistance??

No! I wanted to get out of here!

Mr G didn't understand my distress, and insisted I try on the size 18 jeans. Of course they swam on me.

Get me out of here!!! I demanded through clenched teeth.

Out on the pavement I ranted through my tears: How could you do that to me?? Am I that big that I need a Plus-size shop?? Is that what the aunties think?? Did they tell you where to find clothes big enough to stretch over your wife's jumbo backside?? I was mortified, horrified.

Mr G explained the misunderstanding. He'd innocently asked advice on some good shops to take me. He mentioned my paranoia about the clothing size difference here. They suggested Next and M&S... but if all else fails Evans has a wide range of sizes (apparently from size 14UK, but I never saw any smaller sizes).

OK. I felt a little better. I forgive you Mr G. So they don't all think I'm a blimp??

(Well, I have had three big babies; I really was huge with Scrag and he's left me with a bit of a jelly belly, so you can understand my paranoia?)

We headed to Next and the first pair of jeans I tried on fitted like a glove and looked great (UK size 16 = NZ size14).

I also got a way-cool jacket and a gorgeous M&S dress. I left satisfied. I've worn the jeans and jacket every day since - dead comfy. But I think I've had my fill of clothes shopping now. Way too traumatic.

Maybe just some new shoes...?? I don't have any issues about my feet, after all.

Click for the Next installment in our UK Journey: Escape (where I wear my new dress)
26 September 2009

Dash Does London

When Dash was in Year One, his class learnt about England. Dash felt particularly proud because his dad is English, so he was from there... He learnt about Landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the Welsh Guards. A trip to England would not be complete without a chance to see these legends in the flesh. A trip to London was a must. What a buzz to be able to show him that the places he learns about in school are real. What a privilege to open up the world to him in this way.

On our return from Cornwall we spent three nights with my dear friend (and bridesmaid) Maya and her family. They graciously offered to escort us into London and show us the sights. Maya's hubby Andy got out the A-Z and the Tube map and plotted us a route. We purchased an all-day rail pass and set off - lugging 5 kids, two prams and a picnic.

First stop was "BuckleyNam Palace" (as Dash calls it). Here's Dash and Princess with new best friend Elisa.

Here we are - the whole clan - plus Elisa. We managed to spot some Welsh Guards marching. Dash would have happily stood and watched them for half an hour, but we had to move on if we were going to cover everything in one afternoon.
There were crowds of tourists (like us) lined up poking their noses through the Queen's Front Gate. Poor Lizzie. She mustn't ever get a minute's peace.

Here's me with the kids in front of the statue of Queen Victoria.

We walked through St James Park and did a bit of Squirrel Spotting - darned fast little things! So hard to photograph. Dash wouldn't let me quit chasing them until I had a good close up (this was the best I could do). The kids continued chasing squirrels while we had a coffee from a conveniently located street vendor, and then munched down our Ham Sammies...

... and then bumped into these fellows. Pelicans. How unusual!

Here's me and Maya (another self-portrait - I love that angle - No double chins!). Don't you love it when you have a friendship that time and distance don't seem to diminish? It's been over 10 years since we lived in the same country. Nearly 3 years since we've seen each other. Yet we just click back in as if we've never been apart. Friends like that are priceless. Maya reminded me that I had only given her 2 months notice for our wedding - yet she came from the other side of the world... What a girl!

At long last we spot Big Ben. Dash is suitably impressed.

In front of Horseguards Museum are some actual Horseguards. We wonder whether they are disappointed that all their highly specialised training has resulted in them standing stock still while being photographed by hundreds of tourists each day? We find an overpriced souvenir stand; Dash buys a Welsh Guard Teddy.

London still has the classic red public telephone boxes. I remember these from when I was a kid - 20c and you could ring anyone anywhere in NZ and talk as long as you like. Ahhhh, how times have changed. Needless to say Dash got no reply when he tried to dial our number - he didn't realise it cost £££!

We took a water taxi down the Thames; a great way to save our tired feet and see some more sights.

Here's Tower Bridge. I was imagining the gory sight of William Wallace's head on a pike, and giving myself a little chill, but then Andy told me that it was London Bridge they used to put the heads on, and that it was sold to the Americans some time ago! Never mind.

At this point we realised we had missed our stop and ended up in the business sector. A happy mistake, because it meant we had gotten to sail right under the bridge.

Dash and Princess were involved in a bit of a friendship triangle with Elisa. Princess got put out because Elisa had taken quite a shine to Dash, who can be very charming. There was a bit of sulking and a few tears on Princess's part, when Elisa seemed to prefer playing with Dash. However, when you're aged three, boys are great when it comes to running and chasing, but they are not very interested in dressing up as fairies or putting on tea parties. So in the end peace was restored, and Princess got her friend back.

After a long tiring day we were glad of London's great Tube system. Poor Scrag finally fell asleep with the rocking motion and stayed comatose even when we transferred trains in great noisy stations.
Our London Day Trip was a bit of a mammoth undertaking, but thanks to our great route-planner Andy, there were no double-ups or bits missed out, and we made it back with nobody left behind or lost, and a bunch of souvenirs to show for it.
The only "sight" we missed seeing was Stonehenge. But as I explained to Dash, it was just a teensy bit too far away... So we'll leave seeing that one for another day, another visit. I'm sure we'll be back.

Click for the next part of our Journey: Escape
OR if you dare Read my Personal Post: Size Matters


My grandfather was born in Redruth, Cornwall. When I told my mum that we were going to holiday there, she was envious as it's a place she's always longed to visit... to see the birthplace of her father. Of course she insisted that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and see/photograph/stand in the place where Grandad came from.

His parents (my great-grandparents) emigrated to New Zealand when Grandad was just two years old.

Now, I am not really a family-tree/historical research kind of gal. I find it interesting but not hugely so. I know mum was a little disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm, but I promised we would try to find the house: A large historical home called Pednandrea, near a landmark mining chimney.

I imagined a smallish village with a couple of streets. I'd seen pictures of the house so didn't bother to check out the documents, maps and photos mum offered to give me. It's gotta be easy to find, right??

Well... on the day we headed to Lands End we went via Redruth. Imagine my shock when it turned out to be quite a large industrial town. How on earth was I meant to find grandad's house in this place??

Winnie (ma-in-law) suggested the library, and we were on our way there when I spied in the distance: the Mining Chimney! I knew I'd seen it all my life in photos and that the house couldn't be far. It gave me a queer shiver and I found myself getting quite excited. After all, the fact that Grandad was from here, meant that I am part Cornish! And it's such a lovely place, surely I would be pretty cold to not feel some pride in my heritage?

The librarian confirmed the name of the mining chimney was the Pednandrea Stack, and gave us directions to the house - we were just around the corner!

There was a sign on the gate, we drove in and found... a strange house. Not the one I remembered from the photos. It had been recently turned into 4 flats, painted, and sold. We queried a workman, was this the only Pednandrea House??

Yes, he said, the old Mine Chief lived here. Was that them? I drew a blank - I can't remember what my great-grandad did for a living (I should have paid more attention to my mum!)

Well, said Winnie, this has got to be it, Pet. There's only one Pednandrea House. It's probably just changed over the years. Probably painted a different colour. That's why you don't recognise it.

So we took some photos, I posed by the sign and we left. I felt strangely empty. Was that it???

A week later when I had access to the internet again, I decided to do some checking. Why did my Grandad's parents emigrate to NZ (a raw pioneering outpost back in the early 20th century) when they must have been very well off if they were living in such a house? And when Cornwall was such a lovely spot? I think I'll have to do some more digging, learn a bit more about my great-grandparents who emigrated. I think there's a mystery there.

I googled Pednandrea House... and stumbled upon a real estate listing...
...for the house in my mum's family photos. The map put it right around the corner from the one we had visited. Apparently it's called Pednandrea Count House. I have photos of the wrong blinkin house! Arrrggghhh!! So near and yet so far.

Bummer. I am so gutted.

(Lesson: Next time, listen to my mum)
Click for the next part of our Journey: Dash Does London
25 September 2009

Of Beaches, Cider and Cream Teas

Cornwall. The Kingdom of Kernow. The South West of England - home to Lands End, Clotted Cream Teas and Cyder - surely the most picturesque spot in Great Britain. And we happened to land, quite by accident, in the prettiest spot in Cornwall - the Roseland Peninsular, by the pretty fishing village of Portscatho.

The roads are single laned, bordered with tall hedgerows - as my blog friend Trees said to me, "On those Cornish roads, you never know what you might meet coming around a bend..."
People drive carefully (usually), slowly (sometimes) and cautiously around corners (OK, so not us...) We had to slam on brakes a few times and had a few near misses. But we got the hang of it.
Around every corner is another quaint stone-walled village, another thatch-roofed pub offering Cider and fish'n'chips, another breathtaking view of the sea.
We took some lovely walks (minus the camera, sadly, so no pictorial evidence) and learnt to watch out for stinging nettles (Dash came a cropper a few times, but Dock Leaves conveniently grow right alongside the ouchy nettles).
The weather was warm and balmy. So much to see, so much to do. Initially we tried to do touristy things, see sights, visit landmarks, go for meals. Not a great idea with three kids in tow.
(I love this picture I snapped of Princess one evening on our deck, don't you?)

Grandma joined us for the holiday, and we took turns going out at night, with Mr G. My favourite night we headed to the fishing village of St Mawes. We turned a corner as the sun was setting and the village was laid out below us, festoon lights strung along the harbour giving the whole vista a storybook magic. We found a quiet balcony in a pub, sipped cider and had a good laugh. Fab.

We learnt to take it easy, pace ourselves and enjoy the simpler things in life - soccer and tennis on the beach, jumping over waves, looking for crabs and shrimps in rock pools...

It surprised me to find New Zealand native plants growing along the Cornish coast in quite a few spots: toitoi and cabbage trees! Apparently Falmouth was the second largest port in Britain for a while and many expeditions were launched from there. Sailors must have brought back a few souvenirs from little ole NZ which seem to have taken root here very well.

I love this pic I snapped of my boys. Aren't they great pals?? Dash is just so patient with his little brother - very heart warming to see.

The kids have been amazing travellers. We have covered so much of the country - over 1500miles so far!

We made it to Lands End, the southernmost tip of England - and were surpised to find a Theme Park sprung up there! We just wanted a photo of the signpost. It was really really windy so we snapped a few pics, to prove we've been there and headed back home. I hate it when places get so over-touristy that they lose their raw natural edge, don't you?

On our last day we headed to Falmouth on the ferry from St Mawes. The others had enjoyed quite a few Cornish Cream Teas - with clotted cream (very sticky and thick), usually while I was reading while the Scrag had his nap, and they were out exploring.
Me, I seemed to always turn up at places with signs that read "Cream Teas served from 3pm"... so I was happy when finally on our last day in Cornwall I finally managed to get my first (and last) clotted cream tea. Scones with homemade jame, clotted cream and a pot of English Tea. MMMmmm... well worth the wait.

Apparently Devonshire cream teas put the cream first and then the jam. I prefer it the Cornish way - my Cornish roots are showing (more on that later).

In Falmouth we passed a kids hairdresser where the chairs were mini-cars and they have DVD players for kids to watch while they get their hair cut. We couldn't resist, as Scrag was looking very, well, scraggy and so my baby got his first little boy haircut. Oh he looks so gorgeous... but so grown up! No longer a baby *sniff*

So, overall, I would rate our Cornish holiday as a 5/5
Weather =fab
If you ever visit the UK, go there, you'll love it.
Click for the next part of our Journey: Roots (my search for my Grandad's birthplace in Cornwall)
OR skip on to Dash Does London
24 September 2009

Good Friends, Good Food, Great Time!

On our way down south to Cornwall we stopped off in the Midlands to spend a night with our long-lost friends AJ & Vic and their two little blondies. AJ and Vic live in a "small but beautifully formed" ancient cottage in a picturesque village, where everybody knows everybody, and the milk still gets delivered in glass bottles. It's easy to see why they have not returned to NZ when they are living here in this storybook place.

AJ negotiated with my friend and bridesmaid Maya to get a night with us on the way down south (we are very popular, yes in hot demand, us!)

Maya warned me what to expect. Complete gorgeousness, exceptional hospitality, and homebaked everything. We were not disappointed!

Owing to the fact that Scrag had woken up at 3am (long story) and then raised the rest of the house from slumber with his loud singing, we decided, what the heck, lets just pack up and leave for AJ & Vic's house at 6am. Which meant we arrived at their place at about 9.30am - slightly early! Hence we got to relax and hang out with them in their stunning English cottage garden, and enjoyed a leisurely feast for lunch in the sunshine.

I am talking freshly roasted chicken, jacket potatoes and sliced ham, homebaked bread just out of the oven, a more-ish salad with roasted capsicum and heavenly home-made dressing... topped of with a home-made apple and blackberry pie to die for. I am talking handmade pie-crust, homegrown apples picked off their tree, hand-picked blackberries. And this was just lunch!! Heavenly.
After lunch had settled we all went for a walk to pick up Mini AJ from school. There we spotted a real live Lollipop Lady. And I was amazed to discover that 3pm school pick-ups are the same the world over. It was a strange feeling, being an outside observer. Watching mums standing around chatting with other mummies as their kids ran around. Apart from the funny way of talking and the brick buildings everywhere, I could have been in Auckland.

Dash immediately made himself at home by kicking his football around, which drew an instant crowd of 6-year-old boys. I am constantly amazed at how quickly and beautifully kids make friends. No need to stand on ceremony, don't wait to be invited. Just bowl on up and start playing.

So of course the daddies joined in. No need for fancy expensive gadgets. All you need is a round ball.

Watching AJ race around (competing hard-out with the kiddies) brought back flashes of some long-forgotten memories of this good pal, back in his Auckland days. AJ is a hard case, and a legend in some parts for his crazy adventurous nature. If they ever make it back to live in NZ we hope they will choose Auckland as their place of residence! You can never have too many people like AJ & Vic around. People who are funny, relaxed, good company and just all-round great people.

Here's Princess with Mini-AJ and Mini-Vic. Two gorgeous lovely little kiddies that our lot took to very well indeed. Mini-AJ seemed to like me a lot :) - he came back for three big hugs when we were leaving. Seemed to think we were his cousins because we are from NZ like his Daddy. Bless!

The one night we spent at their place felt like a full weekend (We wished it could have been longer). It was a lovely start to the holiday... and if they're ever back to show their kids NZ, we have promised them a place to stay.
Can't promise homemade bread and pie crusts though; that's a bit beyond my skills!
Click for the next part of our Journey: Of Beaches, Cider and Cream Teas (Cornwall)