Sunday, 27 December 2015

Illuminati

'Tis amazing what will entertain us humans.  I was skeptical when Hannah mentioned our local park's light display, especially as it cost $30 to get in (do you know how much I could buy from thrift stores for $30?!) but thank goodness I didn't listen to my inner thrifter.  Not this time, at least.

With over one million lights - although I didn't independently verify that - throughout the winter season our local park is transformed into an electricity-guzzling wonderland, as displays in various shapes and sizes dazzle.  There are rainbows, there are birds and bees, there is a frog, there is a sea monster.  There are also hordes of people, mostly with toddlers, all walking towards us as they read the "One Way" signs properly.  In our defence, it was dark...


Envy.


The monster.


Somewhere over the etc.


Mauve.


A small percentage of the million.


Sparkly.


Anger.


Jaundice.


Oooh - sparkly!


Dark flower fairy.


Royal purple.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Festivities

We tried, once again, to explain the true meaning of Christmas to our American friends, and to be fair to the Muckers they did wear the paper hats and read out the silly jokes.  There was also competitive anthem singing before the Queen's Speech - something that is not without historical precedent - but sadly The Star Spangled Banner lasts a bit longer than God Save The Queen.  We toasted world peace and moved on.


Ah yes, the usual Christmas morning sight.


Masterchef: The Professionals.


You've no doubt heard about the unseasonable weather, but luckily Aunty Em provided Pete with protection against the tropical monsoons that have been sweeping through.


The usual suspects rounded up.


Christmas clowns.


And cuties!


"Can I bring a Nutella cheesecake?" asked Christine.  "Does the Pope celebrate Christmas?" was the reply.


The final and one of the more important traditions.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Caught like a rat in a trap

I only have myself to blame, but when I told my 9-yr-old Goddaughter I'd take her to the cinema "to watch anything you want" I expected the correct answer: "I want to see the new Star Wars film!"  Unfortunately this particular hostage to fortune was met with the request: "Can we see Alvin and the Chipmunks?"

This installment - ingeniously titled The Road Chip - is the fourth in the long-running vermin-based musical comedy series, and though I haven't seen the rest I presume the central conceit is similar.  The plot, if I can use that word, mainly involves three talking rodents being told to stay in a room by their human owner and then, through hilarious misadventure and mischievous antics, escaping and causing chucklesome mayhem, while singing, until the same thing happens again.  Yep, I think that sums it up accurately.

There were some strange diversions, including the suggestion that the man who looked after them was in fact their biological father, but not enough to actually make the film, you know, entertaining.  It didn't help that Star Wars was playing in the next-door theatre and sounds of epic battles bled through the wall whenever there was a lull in the squeaky weasely warbling.  Megan inevitably loved it and giggled throughout while I found the whole experience terrifying in a way I could not fully comprehend, but I tried to remember that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering...


Chipmunk selfie.


The good people of Maryland have fine taste!  Better than ours, anyway.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas presence

Yay - our Christmas packages from the UK have arrived!  I refer of course to Ellen and Megan, who were delivered by BA rather than USPS.  They claim that immigration at Dulles is the best they've experienced, which is surprising given that international arrivals is a brown-painted concrete basement.  It does have a Starbucks though.

Today they decided to combat jet-lag by making a first trip into DC.  The excitement of seeing the White House was slightly delayed when the excitement of seeing a Peet's Coffee overcame Ellen, but we got there in the end.  We can also put away any further Christmas presents for Pete - he hasn't been able to wipe the smile off his face since his Godsister (as she refers to herself) arrived.  His grin seems to be saying "she's taller than me, like a grown up, but doesn't seem beholden to their arcane and foolish rules..."  Hmm.


Christmas is here!


Touring the local lights.


First coffee, then the White House.


Two children, one word: trouble.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Orna-mental

It must be Christmas because that ancient custom - which can be traced all the way back to 2008 - has come around again: the Muckers' Ornament Exchange!  The Ghost of Christmas Aggressive reared its ugly head as competitors vied to steal, unwrap, and outwit each other to gain the worst/best ornaments, which this year included everything from a sparkly pink unicorn in lederhosen to a hand-made tin foil tree valued at $70,000 (the cost of the maker's Master of Arts degree).

There was also, as tradition dictates, an ugly sweater competition that got you an extra dip into the bauble pit.  I confidently broke out my fabulous beige-on-brown reindeer number that makes me look like a 1970s wife-swapper, but (un)fortunately Jeroen and Kristin arrived looking like this:


And there's no topping that.

At the end of the game The Davieses were left with the aforementioned foil tree and a...well, I'm not sure how to describe it.  A sort-of mini enclosed garden of jewels with a butterfly inside.  Christine judged us to be the biggest losers so we got the booby-prize which was an awesome Darth Vader in a Santa hat.  He had obviously felt our presents.

All in all a successful evening, and less antagonistic than that year when an Israeli-Argentinean black market broke out mid-game.  So now it's onto the next Christmas tradition: hanging the baubles on the tree when the Muckers come to visit and then hiding them away in a very deep, very dark cupboard until the festive season is over.


Hannah says: Merry Christmas!


The legendary cheese ball makes its annual festive appearance, and there was much rejoicing.


Vince adopts his evangelical preacher pose and explains the true meaning of Christmas (unwrap, acquire, plunder, accuse, etc.)


Darth Santa.


A...um...hand-made tin foil tree.



And this.


With all these baubles it was time to find a tree, and luckily our local rescue station was selling them within walking distance.  Pine needles in my house is bad enough, but in my car...


I like the minimalist look.


Then it was onto other Christmas activities!  Pete "helps" Mummy make a white Christmas cake.


Reasons to love America #746.  The nutritional information says that a serving size is 14 crisps.  Ho ho ho.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Decorating

The Davies family is seriously lacking when it comes to the neighbourhood Christmas decorations.  Leaving aside the surrounding houses pumping out their kilowatts of flashing light that can probably be seen from space, just up the road is a garden with Santa and a penguin on an inflatable desert island, Snoopy in an aeroplane (with spinning propeller), and an eight-foot fluffy teddy bear.  I don't remember which version of the nativity story they're from, but they're pretty impressive.

We decided to cut our losses, and went to find a real Christmas display at our local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Temple.  We had one of these in Oakland which did a fantastic array that included illuminated palm trees, where Tamara took me as a guest of the Mormon moms many years ago.  I can tell you - the Mormons know how to put on a good Christmas show.

Our new local temple?  Well, it somewhat lacked Oakland's pizzazz.  Sure, there were loads of lights but no palm trees and the nativity scene did not glow while playing music.  Inside the visitors' centre was more encouraging, with nativity sets from all over the world and international Christmas trees.  There were also lots of polite, smart, clean-cut young men and women all very willing to chat to us.  If I get lonely I might pop down there again.  I wonder if they serve tea and biscuits.

After that we went in search of the most important Christmas tree in the USA.  Everything around DC gets the prefix of "National" - we have the National Cathedral, the National Arboretum, the National Building, Postal, Natural History, etc. Museum, and they decided simply to call the baseball team "The Nationals" to avoid confusion - so it's no surprise that the National Christmas Tree is right outside the front of the White House.  There are also lots of mini Christmas trees, one for each of the States, and (most importantly for a toddler) a huge train track.  Miss Piggy was the big celebrity at the tree lighting this year, but although Hannah can get tickets to see the Pope we're not high enough up the social ladder to meet Piggy.

We came home and I begrudgingly wrapped some flashing fairy lights around our balcony.  They're solar powered, which doesn't impress oil baroness Hannah but, you know, keeps the bills down.  The final bit of decorating was on the gingerbread house that Pete got to make at the church Christmas party.  There was a 50% loss of icing, marshmallows and sweets on the way from Pete's fingers to the house, but that's builders for you.


Our local temple.


A little reflection.


Here's what's inside.  Nice!


Their international Christmas tree...


...with Wales near the top, of course.


Plenty of lights outside.  Do they take them down or just leave them up and unlit the rest of the year?


Dashing through the snow.  Except this is the warmest December on record, probably because of all the CO2 people are emitting by running their outdoor decorations.


On our way to the National Tree we stopped at the National Museum of American History.  They have a new section on innovation, with buttons you can press.  Here's Pete with one of the first computers his daddy ever got to play with.


I was too young for this to be one of my first bicycles.


And this is a wall-sized touch screen.  Guess how long we stayed here.


The Washington Monument was looking particularly fine that evening.


It's the National Tree!


Close up.  OK, I guess, but it could do with a few more lights.


Young Americans.


The Delaware tree had this interesting bauble on.  As the 1st State in the Union, I didn't think they liked us.


At church, and Pete is still unconvinced by the man in red (because Jesus is the reason for the season, obvs).


This is more like it!  Hannah might have eaten her fair share of construction materials too.


The finished product.  Plenty of decoration there.


Oh, and last but very much not least, here's Jack and Amanda's new baby, Oscar!  Was Hannah tempted to have another?  No, no she was not.