July 19, 2014

Cornish Coast

Nick had to do some work in Cornwall during the latter part of the week, so his gaggle of girls decided to troupe to the Cornish coast for a mini getaway.

The beaches of Bude are glorious.
Especially when it's 85 degrees and sunny!

When I say this was a "getaway," I hope you don't picture relaxation and cocktails.  Nick was working at work, and I was working on the beach.  Bude is a magnet for surfers due to its big beaches and strong waves, so I was more than a little nervous that I'd lose a child in the undertow.  (Our idyllic beach days in Croatia did not prepare these kids for actual surf!)  Fortunately for me, Ella and Kate were on their best behavior.  Turns out my greatest difficulty was keeping Anne from eating every grain of sand on the entire beach.

Sweet beachy Bitzy!

Proof positive that Kate CAN have fun on a sandy beach!
If she has beach shoes. And a bucket. And a shovel.
She's nothing if not low maintenance.

We had been at Crooklets Beach for all of 5 minutes and Teense had a mouth full of sand.

Cuties playing in the tide pools. 

This is about as close to a synchronized jump photo as we get.
(Good try, Kate-mo, but you really need to work on that right leg.)

Soooooooo close!

After about two hours of nonstop brushing, I was tired of waging war against Annie and the sand.
I put her in the Ergo and made my life much easier.
About an hour later I realized that I looked exactly like Indiana Jones.

Taking three kids to the beach isn't exactly a getaway, but it sure was fun.  We enjoyed the sand and sun and surf to the max!

The next day was overcast, so we decided to enjoy the ocean breeze and play on the dunes overlooking Summerleaze Beach.

Enjoying the dunes.

Such a cool place for a playground!

Enjoying the slide.

As a matter of fact I DID slide down the pole with a baby strapped on my back!

Panorama overlooking Summerleaze Beach.

As a general rule, I hate snails.
But I loved these little guys!

We loved the white tiger (aka Snowy) in our gorgeous room at the Hebasca Hotel.
One photo before we said goodbye to Bude!

It was such a fun unexpected summer trip!  So glad the girls were out of school so we could take advantage of the opportunity to tag along with our main man Nicholas.

July 15, 2014

EAP — Nine Months

Annie girl reached the nine month mark in Croatia, which means that we didn't even register that she was nine months old until after we got home.  Oops!

After a newsworthy eight month update (crawling, pulling up, cruising, two teeth, etc), the milestones reached this month are a bit more subtle.  But celebrating Teensers's accomplishments — no matter how small — is serious business around here.  Ella and Kate notice everything now that they are home for the summer, and they are so pleased whenever Anne does something new.  Listed below (in no particular order) are nine things we're celebrating as Annie hits the nine month mark.

1) Annie has figured out how to manipulate all the parts of her activity table.  This means that ye olde froggy banjo and "onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteeeeeen" plays in the background pretty much constantly.  Her other favorite upstairs activity is her beauty station.  This girl loves to sit in front of my mirror with my make-up containers and brushes.  She makes a bee line for this part of my bedroom the minute we put her down on the floor.  She's all girl, this one.

2) Teensa suddenly became very serious about music.  She pulls up and dances while waving her right arm in the air.  Clearly she got her dance moves from me.  (This is worrying.  I am beyond awkward on the dance floor.)

3) Annie has added a few real words to her vocabulary.  Previously she used mama and dada and occasionally lala (for Ella or Kate), and now she says hi, bye-bye, eye, and thhhhh (for teeth).  If you ask her to perform, she completely refuses.  I cannot tell you how many times we've wrapped up Skype and FaceTime calls with repeated requests to "tell Nana bye-bye."  Girlfriend stares at the screen stony-faced until the call actually ends and then she lights up, waves, and coos, "Bye-byyyye!!"  The little stinker only uses words when she feels like it.  She makes it very clear that she was not put on earth to perform on demand.  This girl knows her own mind and prefers spontaneous attention.

4) Littlest baby the Teense is her own biggest fan.  At least 73 times a day she plops down on her bum and claps for herself while crowing "yaaaaay!"  Naturally we all drop whatever we're doing, focus on Annie, and clap and say "yaaaaay" right along with her.  Who is performing for whom, right?!  She knows what she's doing, ya'll.

5) Anne is in a bit of a mama phase and is happiest when she is in my arms.  That's fine by me.  I know how fleeting this stage is.  Being in mama's arms soothes all ills for now, and I'm going to cherish every moment.

6) It looks like Anne is beginning to transition to one nap a day.  To be honest, it's a little hard to tell because we've been on holiday or in summer pool/activity mode for the last two weeks.  Her morning nap is definitely shorter, which means that her afternoon naps is earlier (but not necessarily longer at this point).  Part of me hopes that we'll get into a new schedule soon, but part of me wants to just keep her flexible so the bigs and I can make the most of the summer.  

7) Annie loves food.  She kicks her legs with excitement as soon as we put her in the high chair.  She eats homemade puree for breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with portions of whatever we're eating.  I even managed to get her to enjoy avocado (score!) by mixing it with mashed banana.  She nurses first thing in the morning and before each sleep (morning nap, afternoon nap, and bed time).  Even though the girl can tuck away massive amounts of food, she weighs 16 lbs 3 oz at 9 months of age.  That's around the 10th percentile and completely consistent with her growth pattern (and her sisters' growth patterns) thus far.  Teensers is a very suitable nickname for our teensy little lady.

8) While we were on holiday in Croatia (country #7 for Miss Annie), she was unbelievably flexible.  She napped whenever she felt tired and was happy even when we stayed out until 10pm (or, on one occasion, 10:30pm).  We've never had a baby who was so completely go-with-the-flow.  Then again, Nick and I have never been so willing to push a baby to her limits.  No matter what the reason, it is so refreshing!  Anne loved the beach, took the sun in stride, and even got the teensiest bit of tan on her arms and legs.

9) Teensa is sensitive.  She does not like it when  anyone in her family speaks harshly.  Fortunately, we're a pretty chilled out group.  We don't raise our voices often, but when they do her little face crumples and it breaks our hearts.  Nothing puts the rest of us in a conciliatory mood quite like Annie's disappointed sad face.  :)

Sweet smiles at nine months old.

Love this happy little lady!

Serious face right after waking from a nap.
I love how much her expression varies.
That giant smile completely changes how she looks!

3x3 Annie.
How I love this little lady!

July 12, 2014

Croatian Vacation: Dubrovnik

We spent our last full day in Croatia exploring Dubrovnik.  If you've been to Croatia, odds are you've been to Dubrovnik.  It is one of the best-preserved medieval walled cities in the world, and it's the most frequently visited city in Croatia.  While we wanted to see as much of the country as possible, we knew that Dubrovnik would be an excellent way to end our visit.

Dubrovnik didn't disappoint.  It was impressive.  The views from the walls were amazing.  Wowsa.  No matter which direction we looked, the scenery was crazy awesome.  

Inside the walls, the streets of medieval Dubrovnik were crowded with cruise ship passengers, but the throngs of people somehow did not detract from the overall charm.  I shopped for souvenirs (an oil painting, an olive wood bread bowl, and some Croatian citrus treats) while Nick and the girls roamed the streets.  Then we capped off our day with dinner (cevapi, of course) in an amazing Bosnian restaurant.

The walled city of Dubrovnik.
Nick and his ladies prepare to cross the bridge and enter Dubrovnik's Old City.
Visitors to Dubrovnik used to wash themselves in this fountain before entering the city.
Modern visitors to Dubrovnik fill up their water bottles in this very same fountain.
Overlooking the Stradun, Dubrovnik's main thoroughfare.
Family photo up on the walls.
Panoramic view.
Ella and Kate watched this guy paint for a solid 10 minutes.
So I pretty much had to buy one of his oil paintings.  :)
On the seaward wall.  Absolutely gorgeous.
On the left, the city.
On the right, the sea.
Barring the walkway.
This place is incredible!
My girls man the watchtower.
Shopping on the Stradun.
My loves in front of the Rector's Palace and Dubrovnik Cathedral.

After a very busy day walking around in the heat, we were very happy that our apartment was just a few minutes outside the Old City.  

(FYI, when I say "heat," I mean it was 81°F.  We were sweating like pigs and all our water bottles had been sucked dry when I had an epiphany: We are, for all intents and purposes, entirely English.  The transformation is complete.)

With this epiphany, our Croatian Vacation came to an end.  My favorite part of the trip was our four days based in Split, but I'm so very glad we said hello to Zagreb and Dubrovnik too.  

Planning this trip was much more difficult than I anticipated.  The tourism industry still has a lot of room for improvement, mainly in terms of lodgings.  As a family of five, we want to rent an apartment or a house, but those are in short supply.  All-inclusive hedonistic resorts abound (especially on the islands) and rustic one-step-above-camping rooms are a dime a dozen, but there isn't much middle ground.  We feel like we lucked out in Zagreb and Split, but our apartment in Dubrovnik was not up to snuff.  We did the best we could do with the information at hand (thank you, Airbnb and HouseTrip!), but it's obvious that tourism to Croatia is still in its infancy.

If we were true Europeans (not just wimps who can no longer stand temperatures above 75°F), we would return to Croatia at every opportunity and base ourselves on one of the islands (probably Brac) in order to maximize our time in that still, crystal-clear water.  If we could find a decent house or apartment, that is.  :)

July 11, 2014

Croatian Vacation: Split and Brela

We spent four glorious days based in Split.  The weather was amazing, the water was crystal clear, the food was to die for, and our apartment was absolutely incredible.

I'm not one to rave about lodgings.  In general, we try to spend as little time in our hotel or flat as possible.  But Apartman Tonka Riva is worth raving about.  It's bright and modern with an extremely well-stocked kitchen and television with English channels.  The beds are comfortable, the air conditioning is super cold, the windows are soundproof, the view of the harbor is stupendous.  It is a 2 minute walk to the green market, 3 minutes to amazing gelato, and 5 minutes to a supermarket and the best restaurants in the city.  But the best part of all is that this sleek, modern, comfortable apartment is nestled into the 1700 year old walls of Diocletian's Palace.  Every morning we would walk out of our apartment straight into this scene.

Naturally Diocletian's Palace has Roman soldiers.
Naturally Annie charmed a soldier in no time flat.

This is where Diocletian made his guests wait to gain admittance to his reception rooms.

Ella, Nick, and Anne await an audience with the Emperor.

Gorgeous Roman arches and the bell tower that dates from the 12th century.

The Riva in Split.
Our apartment's windows are on the left, third from the top.

At Bacvice Beach in Split.

Annie's first dip in the Adriatic!

Walking home from the beach.

Out for dinner at Uje.

Nick "The Gentleman" Petty

After dinner on the Riva.


Annie gets in on the fedora action.

We loved being based in Split.  The shopping was fab, the restaurants were incredible, and the atmosphere of the city was amazing.  We kept our kids out until 10 every evening, and it was totally cool.  This part of our trip felt like a vacation!

While Bacvice Beach was extremely entertaining, the best beaches of Croatia are not located in the city.  So we bought all the fixings for a picnic lunch (fresh cheese; Croatian prosciutto; and succulent nectarines, cherries, and apricots) at the green market in Split, then we drove 45 minutes along the Croatian coastline to Brela.

We stopped in Punta Rata and had the most enjoyable beach day ever.  I lost count of how many times I looked around me and laughed out loud.  I seriously could not get over the natural beauty on all sides.  From the crystal-clear water to the sand-free beach to the shady cyprus groves where we set up camp just a few yards from the edge of the water  Punta Rata is a little slice of heaven on earth.

My girls put on their beach shoes (necessary on those rocks!) and goggles (necessary with the super salty water!) and dove right in.  They surfaced almost immediately exclaiming loudly that a) there were fish EVERYWHERE and b) there was a tinkling sound sort of like SPARKLES underwater.  

Indeed, there were fish everywhere.  And if we stood really still they would nibble our legs and toes. 

The tinkling sound was a bit more puzzling.  I wanted to hear it too, so I dove underwater to get the bottom of it.  Once again, they were right.  And it did sound a bit like a sparkles (if one can entertain the synesthetic idea of the visual stimulus evoking an aural sensation).  The tinkly, sparkly noise was the sound of millions of stones on the beach being crunched by feet and gentle waves.  It was incredibly gentle and surprisingly soothing!

Family photo on Punta Rata.

Teense loves the water.

Ella loves the rocky shoreline.

I have never seen Kate so happy at a beach!

Kate jumps off  the awesome rocks.

Ella jumps into the deep water.

This was our view of Ella the entire time we were at the beach.
The child was under water more than she was above water.

Kate taught herself how to float on her back.
Between the shallow water and the salty water, the floating conditions were perfect.

Here they are in action.

I will leave you with my favorite photo from our trip.  

I love this pic.  This is what we look like before every perfectly posed family photo.  

Normally all that one sees is the end result, but this is how we inevitably look before every family snapshot.  Here we are corralling (and/or physically restraining) our kids while bribing them to look at the camera and smile.  

Keeping it real in Croatia!  Corralling our children, jumping off giant rocks into crystal-clear water, listening to the music of stones tinkling underwater, watching Kate learn how to float on her back, seeing the top of Ella's head while she hung out underwater, witnessing the joy on Anne's face while she splashed in the sea and tasted her salty fingers . . . these are the times I want to remember for years and year to come!