Thursday, 25 August 2011

Trip to the Zoo

Yesterday was a trip to the Belfast Zoo. It was nice to plan a day out with the whole family before all the mother and toddler groups start and while the weather is still okay.

The zoo is on the outskirts of Belfast city, up on the hill. I haven't been to a Zoo since my 8th grade class trip to New York City. I think I was the most excited out of everyone. However I would like to point out that I'm not a fan of the thought of the zoos, but I have to say they did a very good job with the enclosures. They also didn't have too many large animals except for some elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, bears, (oh my!) chimps and apes. The zoo had a lot of small monkeys and birds. The one thing I didn't realize about the zoo was that it is all on a hill and to see all the animals you have to hike a far bit and it's very steep.

The weather was great and it wasn't too crowded. The only complaint I have about the zoo was the fact that there was trash everywhere. Not only was there trash on the walkways, but also there was trash in the animal enclosures. What would compel someone to throw their crisp bag into the tiger pit is beyond me.

O had a great time. We did arrive during nap time so we had some fussy bits, but overall it was a great day.  After the zoo we stopped at a Pizza Hut on the way home to have lunch. That made me a little bit home sick.

Here are some pictures from the day.  We didn't take too many of the animals since a lot of them were taking their afternoon nap in the sun.

The entrance to the zoo

I love this!

The giraffes with the zebras in the background

The elephant enclosure. I have to say they were the saddest to see. But O's face is the best. It's like , "OMG! This is so awesome!"

The meerkats and there was a porcupine on the other side. People were all excited about the porcupine and all I could think was, "yup, run over a few of those in my lifetime."

This was a type of monkey, but I don't remember what type.

The underwater viewing area for the penquins. We waited a little bit and they finally came over. 

The humans, a cute breed as well. They were in the ape house helping raise money  for their apes. 

One of the apes. It was nap time so they were all sleepy.
oíche mhaith

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hunting For My Birthday Present

As many of you know for my 30th birthday present my husband sent me on a treasure hunt. It started with a birthday card and an article he had "found" in the local newspaper. In this article it said Dr. Ferguson had found an ancient stone tablet which she believed to be in a Masonic Cipher.

This is the Masonic Cipher or also called Pigpen cipher.

Once I decoded the message it said, "Only the enlightened find the rings up high." This puzzle took me about 40 minutes to figure out. At first I thought it was in the roof space, but was told I was off the trail. Finally it dawned on me that the ring fort by Granny's house was up high, so that had to be it. Plus if you take the first letter of each word, excluding the word "up", you make an anagram spelling THE FORT.
I headed straight up to the fort after dinner and found my first piece of the puzzle. It was a large round piece of wood split into 4 sections. Each section had a riddle that led you to the back of the circle where there were 4 ciphers to decode. I won't go into too much detail as I imagine many of you aren't into ciphers and codes as much as we are, but lets just say it was mentally taxing and very hard. He didn't give me any hints.

This is me with the first piece of the puzzle trying to decode the ciphers and the riddles
The four ciphers were a Ceasar cipher shift seven, a book cipher, a date cipher and a Durer's magic square cipher (this one was even harder since it started out in Masonic and than once I did that I had to figure out how to do the Durer's cipher.)  If you want to know more about any of these ciphers you can go to wikipedia or type them on Google and you'll find pages for them. Once I figured out the 4 ciphers, they were again riddles that I had to solve to get my next piece of the puzzle. One was "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, SPLASH." This led me to a piece in our fish pond and no I didn't have to go into the water, but it was at the edge. Another was, "IMINYOURATIC". Yes there is only one T, but to make it fit into the magic square he had to spell it wrong. That one was easy enough. Another was, "Sleeping Like A Bat" with GPS coordinates to a tree in middle of the field. The last one was hinting to the bell by the ring fort.

After I had all four pieces along with the circle I could find the treasure. Now to add, each piece that attached to the circle had different symbols on them. One was distance, another was degrees (N,W,S,E) another was length (ft, mm, cm, etc.) and the last one was all these weird symbols with a sun and on the back it said "Don't be blinded by the light". This is the part that is the hardest to explain, but I had to align the lines on the front of my circle puzzle piece to what I thought would lead me to my treasure. Behind the original piece R had drawn a ring on the tree that was the same as on the front of my circle. I aligned it the first time to the sun and it lead me to 50 cm North of the tree. Well I was wrong, so I had to go back to the circle and the key. Now the key said "Don't be blinded by the light" hinting to a song that my husband knows drives me crazy.  But when I looked up the song on the internet and found the chords, they matched one of the symbols on my pieces. I aligned my circle to it and it pointed to 20 ft West of the ring. And guess what, I found it, buried in a rabbit hole.  The pictures will show the rest of the story. To give you a clue as to how hard these puzzles were, I started this hunt on Sunday afternoon and didn't find my treasure until Wednesday afternoon.

This is me climbing a tree and a fence to get to my clue that is "sleeping like a bat."

The puzzle piece

This is the whole puzzle put together. As you can see there are marks in the circle that can align  to the different  markings on the side. 

O helping me dig my treasure. I didn't really need the shovel, but it looked good in the pictures. I had thought that it was buried much deeper than it was. The only bad part about where he hid it was there were still rabbits around so the plastic bag had a funny smell.

This is what I found under the plastic bag.

The treasure chest. It looks much bigger than it is in person. I would say it's as big as my hand. It was all hand-made by the husband.

This is what it looked like when I opened it. There were two lockets and about  £30  of shiny coins.

The lockets. He says they're antique!

It was the best birthday present a nerdy girl could have, but to be completely honest I don't know if I could do it again. My husband definitely couldn't do it again since it had taken him weeks to get all the codes and the riddles put together. As well as building the box.  I hope you all enjoyed my adventure and if you want to try some of the ciphers let me know and I'll send you the puzzles.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

oíche mhaith

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

My Thirtieth Birthday!!

If the finale to your 30th is a treasure hunt what more could you ask for. The whole weekend was perfect.

It started Friday with a drive into Belfast and checking into the Hilton on the Waterfront (thank you Daddy). The room was on the top floor over looking City Centre. After check-in we took a walk around town and did some window shopping. R and I had forgotten what it was like to have lunch and walk around without a baby. O was at home with the grandparents and I think she thought she was on holiday. We got to enjoy drinks in the lounge and continued on at a friend's house.. Domino's Pizza was involved.

Saturday morning was a lovely breakfast and a lazy day at the hairdressers. I was book at C's cousin D's hair salon to get my hair done as a birthday present from my brother-in-law. D was only the second person to touch my hair in 15 years. (I've had the same hair dresser since I was 14 and I miss her horribly, but couldn't afford to fly her over). D was great and did an amazing job. I spent most of the day there since she was running late. I did get to watch her do 3 people's hair for a wedding and what she can do is amazing! I would love to have my hair done by her all the time. Anyway, after that it was back to the hotel to get ready for the party.

We had dinner at Zen, a Japanese restaurant. It was great to have some sushi since R and I were so used to either getting sushi from Hannaford or heading to one of five sushi places in Portland.  We had 12 friends, it was perfect. I want to thank all of you for coming. The menu was as traditional as we were used to, since I was told many people over here wouldn't be as adventurous. The host was wonderful and made me a lovely sake cocktail. Dinner was good and after everyone had ordered desserts they piped in the birthday song and the whole restaurant sang happy birthday to me. I have to admit it was very embarrassing, but at the same time made me feel very special. The only I would say against the food was it was a little pricey for what you got. I hadn't known the prices until a few days before we went. I will have to find a cheaper place to get good sushi.

After dinner we walked over to Cafe Vaudeville. The place is a gorgeous space. It was originally a bank and then transformed into a restaurant/club. I'd been told it was a great place for dancing and hanging out. It was a good place for hanging out since they had plenty of seats, but they didn't really have a dance floor as big as I thought. We had a few more friends meet us at the club along with my brother-in-law and his friends. Saturday was technically his birthday so we all celebrated. I probably won't go there again since it felt like it was just pretty people standing around drinking, but it was a great time. R and I walked back to the hotel and enjoyed just hanging out the two of us.

In the morning it was another lovely breakfast and then back to Tobermore and the baby. We had our normal Sunday dinner and my father-in-law got me a cake. During our dinner the ice-maker was on the fritz and I was able to fix it. It was nice to do save the fridge from the bin. Sunday was a perfect end to a perfect weekend. Thank you all for the birthday wishes and presents, it means a lot to me, especially in transitional period for our family.

As many of you know from facebook, R gave me a treasure hunt for my birthday. In my next blog I'll tell you all about it and give you some cool facts about ciphers.

oíche mhaith

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Back to Blogging

It's been a while since I've shared what's been going on here in Northern Ireland. The reason for the absence was the lack of the computer and also the lack of activity in my social calender. But these last few weeks have been busy. The hardest part right now would be to figure out where to start. Hubby finally got my computer to work again and upgraded the software.

The last thing that I told everyone was just how the weather was awful. Well that hasn't changed at all, it's been cool and rainy. We've had one or two days really nice since, but I would say it's not really summer weather at all. We have made friends with some of the neighbors which has been great for O.  The house closest to us has 3 boys, ages 4, 6, and 8. They adore her as much as she worships them. It's been good for her to have someone to play with beside Mommy and  Daddy. I also love to hang out with their mom so it's been a benefit to both O and I.

Everyone here is also getting ready for one of my husband's cousins wedding. We all got our invitations and are getting outfits. R and I are having to work out who's going to babysit, because their are no children invited to this wedding and all our babysitters are off to the wedding. It will be nice to go to a wedding and not have to chase O around, but socialize like a normal adult.  I also went to a hen party last weekend and that was great fun, more about that in another blog.

The big thing I'm waiting for is my birthday weekend! Hubby and I are checking into a hotel in Belfast (thanks Daddy) tomorrow and then it's dinner and dancing Saturday. The only shame is that there is so much going on Saturday that not as many people could come. I'm trying not to have a "it's my party I can cry if I want to" moment, but I only get one day a year when it's all about me and I'm turning 30 so I thought that was a pretty big birthday. Am I just selfish or would any of you feel that way? I guess it's times like these that it really hits home just how much I miss my friends in Maine.

Anyways, no more pity party business. Yesterday we went into Belfast to see one of R's old school friends M and his wife E with their two daughters M & M. He's been in the service for the past 10 years at least. They've now setting in England and came over to visit his mother in Belfast. It was a great day. We went to Indiana Land which is like a very very big McDonald's play place. O had a great time with the girls and we got to catch up after not seeing each other in at least 5 year or more. There was also bowling at this location, so we tried a round. It was a little too much for O, but M's girls had a good time until their bellies took over and they needed food. It was off to the little chip shop there as well. Overall it was an excellent day.

 I wish I could describe better, but it's early in the morning and very tired. We've been dealing with a sore bum and teeth at night with O so the nights have been very short.

I hope you all have been well. Haven't talked to many of you in a few months. I promise my future blogs will be not as random and full of pictures.  Have a good rest of the week.

oíche mhaith