crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Huge News!

Riccardo and I are expecting a baby!!

Wow! It's been a secret for about three months, so we're both really excited to tell people. Of course we're even more excited about the pregnancy itself!

For the first three months my days alternated between feeling super nauseous (though I felt sick pretty much all the time, I was lucky enough not to actually BE sick) and feeling oddly fine. I kept thinking the doctor was tricking me, that I wasn't really preggers.
Anyway, we have been following the baby's progress in my 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' book and Riccardo's crazy Iphone App. The first time we checked things out, the baby was described as being the size of a grape. We thought that was cute, and since it's suitably non-gendered, we've taken to calling the baby 'Grape' as a nickname. Yes, we are aware this no longer suits it's current size!

Last week, though, I had my first ultra sound scan. How cool was that?! The baby was awake, so I got to see the little lemon-sized tyke kicking around. Strange, since I probably won't be able to feel the little nipper for another 2 months! Of course it's too early to tell the sex, but Riccardo and I have decided that at the next scan (21 weeks; mid-August), if they can tell the sex, we'd like to know in advance. Neither of us are superstitious, nor ones for surprises.

Originally my GP told us the baby would be due 29th December. But at the first scan, which they call the 'dating' scan, they take measurements of the baby's length and head circumpherence and decide a more exact estimate delivery date based on that. To my surprise, the new EDD is 18th December! I guess my GP accidentally went a week too late with his estimation - I did think it was rather late at the time, based on my own calculations, but doctor's know best, you know. So here we are, 14 weeks pregnant yesterday!

What are our plans? Well, nothing immediately. We're still considering selling up for a larger house, though my searches within more desireable neighbourhoods are leading me to believe this would be a worthless endeavour with our current budget. Plus, we're hoping Riki can move up within his career within the next year or so, so if that means a raise or a relocation, well, we'd be silly to move BEFORE the fact.

As for maternity leave, my school has been really supportive so far. When my due date was late Decemeber, I was thinking of going off work in late November, but now that it's moved forward, it might be easier all around for me to go off right after half-term break in late October. It will be 6-7 weeks early, but I do want my full 9-months' paid maternity leave. If I do return to work, part-time (which to my surprise was offered to me without hesitation - I thought I'd have to beg for the priviledge!), I've been advised to get full pay through the summer holidays 2011, and to come back at the very end of next year, late July... which means going off a few weeks earlier than planned in October won't hurt.

Plus, the in-laws have gratiously offered to come over in October and help us design and decorate our nursery. So it'd be nice to have some time with them. I'm thinking of a lady bug theme for the little room - what do you think?

We've been offered a free crib from Riccardo's boss, so we'll see what kind of shape that's in and go from there.
Which reminds me: I'm not going to be that snobby everything new, everything designer mother. Do you have any baby stuff you want to get rid of? Can you reasonably get it to me here in Brum? Gimme a call! Oh, and if you do want to get little 'Grape' a baby-warming gift (though please do not feel obligated), I think I'll set up a wishlist to avoid getting loads of repeat stuff. Keep an eye on the blog for details to come.

How happy am I!!


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Riccardo's 32nd Birthday Trip: Edinburgh

2010 has been all about birthday city tours. As you may recall, for my 30th in January, Riccardo and his family spoiled me with a 5-day trip to Rome. In turn, and with a slightly more reasonable budget, I gave Riki a 2-day Edinburgh trip for his 32nd over the past weekend!

We ended up getting a free night's accommodation, though I can't say I fully recommend the Holiday Inn Express, Picardy Place, and the train tickets were very reasonably priced, so why not, right? We arrived in Edinburgh late Thursday night and began our tour Friday morning (Riccardo's special day!) with a short bus tour and a jaunt around Edinburgh Castle, cliffside over the city.

Edinburgh Castle was pretty cool. We saw real armed guards, a super-old chapel (not sure how old though!), and amazing views of the city. There were even a few caverns where you could view the medieval castle remains. One of the best exhibits was the POW one, where you could visit the cells in which prisoners of war were once kept - not all that long ago, actually.

After the castle, we walked a ways down the famous Royal Mile (awesome!) to catch our bus out to the harbour. Next stop: The Royal Britannia - the Queen's 400ft yacht retired only in 1996 (?). The yacht was really cool, though dated; it seems that not a lot of renovations had been undertaken since it was built back in the '50's - no wonder it was permanently docked! Anyway, it was interesting to see how the royalty lived while travelling around the globe (an average of once per year!), including seeing SINGLE beds in the Queen's and her husband's SEPARATE rooms, and the only double bed on the ship, in the 'honeymoon suite', where Diana and Charles stayed on their honeymoon, among others. ;)

After freshening up at the hotel, I took Riccardo to a lovely seafood restaurant for his birthday dinner. Creeners, in Hunter Square, came to us through a recommendation from our friend and Riccardo's colleague, John. It was perfect: quiet and delicious. We especially loved Riccardo's starter: fresh grilled langostines. Yummy! We intended to do a Ghost Tour of Edinburgh after dinner, but were both too bushed, so headed back for a good night's sleep instead.

Saturday morning we bee-lined it straight for Edinburgh Holyrood Palace - a working palace for the British royalty when they stay in Scotland. So 'working' in fact, it had been closed the day before because Prince Charles had decided to visit! Anyway, the palace was very cool, with rooms restored to their original state, such as those used by Mary Queen of Scots back in the day. Unforunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, nor were we allowed to visit the upper floors, which house today's Royal Apartments. The gardens were massive and totally awe-inspiring! Apparently old Lizzy hosts a garden party for 8000 guests there every July! I also really loved the ruins of the Holyrood Cathedral, and thought it would have made the perfect setting for an outdoor, royal Gothic wedding! I guess Fergie doesn't have the same tastes as me!

We found a really good deal when we first arrived in Edinburgh: the Royal Edinburgh Tour, which included admissions to all the aforementioned cites, as well as free access to all four double-decker tour bus companies. So we hopped-on and hopped-off the tour bus for the rest of the afternoon, including a stop at the Edinburgh Dungeon, same company as the queue-around-the-block London Dungeon, but not nearly as manic! Though at times giggle-worthy and at times spine-chilling, it was a good couple of hours.

Finally, a quick stop for a bite, and we headed back to Waverley Station for our 5+ hour train journey back to Birmingham. I think I'm ready to stay home for a while!


In Bruges

On our way to the in-laws in Germany last week, we stopped overnight in Bruges, Belgium. This small historic city is nothing like the way it's portrayed in the Colin Farrell film, In Bruges. At least not on the sunny morning we were there.

The whole old city is encircled by a man-made moat, with small tower gatehouses at intervals over top. The streets within are all narrow cobbled wonders, and the buildings quaint, well-kept structures.

Though we were only there long enough for about an hours' wander, we managed to see much of this World Heritage Site, and would definitely consider returning.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The What Now

Just a few free minutes.

Yes, I arrived safely from Canada, just two weeks late due to the volcanic eruption. Since then I've been battling pretty consistently with our travel insurance company to get compensation - minimal as it is. For the two week delay, we're expecting about 400 quid, total. Nice. I still don't quite understand how KLM can avoid paying any compensation whatsoever. According to EU travel law, they HAVE to, but you know what it's like with big companies. Anyway, I can conclusively say that I will pay extra to fly with any other airline from now on, since KLM's customer service during and after the disaster has been appauling. It's too bad though, because their actual flights are generally comfortable. What's more, I'm also currently battling my lovely employers who don't want to pay me for the time I missed, despite having incurred no additional expenses themselves and the fact that I'm in a salaried position! Buggers.

So with all that, plus a 530 pound annual water bill, 260 pounds for Riccardo's visa medical check, 300 pounds for the completion of our bathroom, 450 pounds for Riccardo's car insurance renewal, a trip to Germany and a trip to Scotland - it's been an expensive month!

Whinging aside, things are back in gear. Actually, out of gear again, since I'm on my last half-term break. Spoiled, I know. The past 4 weeks of work were manic with catching up from my absense, sending off exam entries, running last-minute revision classes for exams, tutoring 2 pupils outside school time for extra cash, etc. Now though, all my year 11s have finished, and my year 12s have about 6 weeks of study leave, so I'm down to roughly half a timetable. Phew!

As I write our carpeter/handy-man is out back putting the finishing touches on our downstairs loo. Of course, Riccardo and I will still have some DIY work to complete before it's totally done, but it's really coming together. Same with our garden! Most of the flowers I planted are taking root, our rose bush is growing like crazy, and I'm super proud of the clematis I pruned back to a twig this spring - it's grown huge and healthy!

Riccardo and I just returned from a whirlwind visit to Germany and the in-laws. It was excellent timing, as my sister-in-law and her BF were also there from Italy. As usual, I was spoiled bloody rotten; loved every minute of it. I think it took us the 2.5 years since our last roadtrip to Germany, however, to forget how crap the drive is. We'll have to remember to fly from now on. On the plus side, we stopped over in Bruges, Belgium on the way there - what a fantastic city! I so recommend a visit if you're ever passing through! I can also recommend a great hotel there.

AND tomorrow, Riccardo and I are back on the road (well, the track really, since we're taking the train) to Edinburgh. It was my birthday present to him, which he will celebrate on Friday. We're both really excited - all the more so since we got one night accommodation FREE through Riccardo's Holiday Inn points card. Woo-woo!

After we return from Scotland, it's back to the grind... for 7 weeks at least. One more half term before summer. Plans for summer are still tentative. I'm still trying to get back to Canada for a couple big events, but that is dependent on our claims being settled with our travel insurance, because otherwise I can't afford it. Even if it comes together, I will be travelling on my own. Riccardo and I are thinking of a short trip to Granada in Spain though, so we can have some summer together.

In other news, it seems my parents are wrapping up Phase 1 of the renovations on their new Savona place. I can't wait to see the finished result. As far as I know, they are also planning an extended holiday, to the Mayan Riviera next winter. So jealous!

My niece, Kyra, has started walking. She's going to be trouble on legs before long! Awesome!

Kelsey has officially joined the working world. She's finished her year-long practicum, gained full time, permanent employment at Vancouver General Hospital and settled in to an apartment with a new roommate. We're all very proud of the young working woman!

That's all folks! xx


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