Monday, February 28, 2011

a walk in a park

 Gorse in bloom at London Wetlands Centre.

These old trees, now with bare branches, have such fascinating shapes.  I wanted this photo to prove that we do get blue skies and sunshine here in England.  Have to admit that by the time we ate lunch, it was cloudy and rather chilly.  It rained just a sprinkle or two later in the afternoon, but we were already home by then.
 There were ducks of various kinds and geese, mostly Canada enjoying a swim and eating whatever scraps from lunches that were thrown their way. 
 Daffodils in bloom - all over the park.  Spring comes very early to southern England.

 Olivia and Sarah contemplating the water.   
                                                                                                                                                                           Alex feeding ducks and pretending to fall into the lake, just to worry his father.
Camellias were also in bloom.  Very lovely.  Seemed to have white and red blooms on the same tree, but perhaps two trees were growing together.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

update on quilt

Kate and I have decided that I will do the quilting on my quilt - when I get home.  She was going to quilt it for me and she did a bit of free-motion quilting on it today, but had great difficulty because of the polyester batting that I am using.  She tells me that I should have bought cotton! Too late now. It is too thick and Kate couldn't easily move the quilt around, also the thread kept breaking.  So, it will be up to me.  I will either do a simple wavy line up and down the quilt and possibly across as well, using the sewing machine or I will hand quilt it, using something to tie it (perhaps embroidery floss).  I'm going to practice a bit before I decide on machine or hand quilting.  Since I tend to put off sewing, it may be a long while before it is done.  In a way, I'm glad I will be doing it myself.  It won't look as nice as if Kate did it, but I can say it's my work, almost completely.  I have to admit that she helped me in a few places.

Today started out sunny and lovely, so we went to a park and wandered around, then ate a picnic lunch.  I took some photos, but haven't got them uploaded yet.  The clouds rolled in after lunch and we were glad to be on our way home.  It was actually starting to rain, so our timing was impeccable.  We're all tired, but glad we got out for a bit of exercise.  The daffodils were in full bloom in the park - lovely!

Last night we celebrated Kate and Geoff's 18th wedding anniversary (and my birthday which is next Friday) by eating in a very nice Chinese Restaurant in Wimbledon Park.  Very upscale place - great service.  They put the napkins in your lap and kept refilling the water glasses.  The food wa delicious and we all splurged on desserts.  Actually, Geoff didn't order one, but he got a bite of everyone else's.

Tomorrow Kate and the kids are back at school, so I'm on my own all day.  I plan to go into London and visit Covent Gardens, if the weather is reasonable.  I love the markets there - and on Mondays they have mostly antiques.  I have made a list of places I want to visit in London, but doubt if I'll do them all before it's time to head home.

Kate and Geoff got a new car yesterday.  It's a VW Sharan - a mini-van.  It's a very nice car and they love it.  Seats 7 people!  Seems very comfortable.  Automatic transmission, which Geoff has never driven.  He'll have to get used to not having a clutch.  The car is much wider and longer than their previous cars, but Kate has driven my van, so she had no trouble adjusting to that.  After a month without a car, they are really happy to have one again, even though they had to spend all day at one of those huge used car places in order to get it.  I'd love to have one like it, but my next car will be a smaller car of some sort.  I really don't need one the size I have now.  Hardly ever buying anything big and bulky and almost never have it full of people.  Anyway, I hope to keep my current Mazda MPV going for a couple more years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

visit to Kate in England

I arrived in England Wednesday AM.  The trip over wasn't bad, except for the woman sitting near me who had a 6 week old baby and a 2 year old!  The baby cried much of the time and when he was quiet, the other child was talking loudly.  Those of us sitting near them got very little sleep, but then I hardly ever sleep on planes anyway.  The flight was half empty, so we had plenty of space to spread out.  I should have just moved to another seat, but it seemed like too much trouble.  I was able to use the Underground (subway) to get from the airport to Wimbledon, where a friend of Kate's met me.  I was lucky to encounter an English gentleman who carried my heavy bag up the escalator and then up the stairs when I had to change lines.  There was supposed to be a lift (elevator), but I never found it.  I did find the one at Wimbledon, but then I have used it before.

Wednesday, I pretty much relaxed around the house, but Thursday I walked Kate and 2 kids over to the primary school, where Kate works.  I then went on to Worcester Park and spent the morning in the many charity shops (thrift stores) on the main street.  I had a very successful shopping expedition, finding two pullover sweaters (known here as jumpers), a nice glass fish, a silly bird, and a little watering can to add to my collection that go on the trellis outside in the summer. The sweaters will be particularly useful here as I brought very little in the way of clothes this visit.  My suitcase was filled with the quilt I'm making (with Kate's help) and all the American snack food requested by Kate and kids.

My granddaughters are getting so grown-up!  Sarah is taller than I now (of course I have shrunk a couple of inches in height from what I once was) and Olivia isn't far behind.  Olivia is going to be taller than Sarah, we're sure.  Sarah is very busy with the new friends she has made in secondary school and seldom comes home after school.  Her best friend lives just down the street, so at least we know where she is.  Olivia has her own busy social life as well.  The girls seem to be getting along better now that they spend less time together.  Alex still talks non-stop and very loudly.  He gets the volume from his father, who also has a loud voice.  Very often there are at least 3 people talking at once in this household.  I can't follow the conversations at all when that happens and am tempted to take my hearing aids OUT to decrease the noise!

Next week is the school holiday and we will be going shopping for Christmas presents with money from Grandpa Andy and me.  That will be fun, although Olivia is very particular about what she buys.  She knows exactly what she likes and will keep on looking until she finds it. It can make for a very long day of shopping.  Sarah and Alex seem to make decisions faster or maybe they are just not as particular.

  We will also be meeting some of Kate's friends and their children at the London Wetlands Centre.  I haven't seem these gals in almost a year, so it will be nice to get a chance to chat with them and see how much their kids have grown.  The Wetlands Centre is a good place to look at water birds, as you might expect.  The kids prefer the electronic games found in the pavilion, but we'll drag them around on the trails and into some of the viewing huts as well.  Hopefully, we will get a decent day (i.e. no rain) for that expedition.

This wooden dish was decoupaged for me by Olivia.  This view shows the inside.  The bottom of the dish is done in black and white.  Olivia is very artistic and loves doing crafty things.  She's careful and precise and creates very interesting things.  It will be interesting to see where her talents take her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

new creations

I have a few new ceramic pieces that I haven't shown yet.  I try to remember to take photos when I bring the pieces home, but often I forget.  Anyway, here are 3 masks made recently.  I don't much like the blond guy.  Faces that look somewhat realistic and pleasant don't really interest me.  I think he's rather blah. 

The green insect I like a lot.  It was inspired by watching another ceramicist who was putting very realistic insects on the side of her vases.  She was actually copying them from a guide to insects book.  I  used her insects as inspiration, but didn't create an actual insect.  Mine is part preying mantis and part imagination. 

The cat mask is a not quite successful attempt to do a cat face.  I haven't yet been satisfied with any animal faces, but I'll keep trying.  Imaginary faces - human, animal, insect or alien - are much easier for me than real ones.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

fun on a Saturday afternoon

  Yesterday AM, the floor guys came and fixed the ripples in my vinyl flooring.  After I put back all the stuff I have removed from the hutch (so that they could move it), I needed to get out of the house.  The glue they used to hold the flooring was unpleasantly smelly.  So, I called my friend Patty and suggested we go out and visit some antique stores.  We hadn't gone antiquing together in ages.  She was delighted to go, so off we went to Ellicott City, just a few miles up the road.  We started at the bottom of the hill (the shopping district is on a fairly steep hill) in an antique store that was new to me.  I found the red bowl shown below in that store.   All the stores in Ellicott City are in very old buildings and as a result have many levels, some just a few steps up or down from the adjacent level.  Believe me, we got lots of exercise going up and down those stairs, as well as walking up and down the hill!  Of course, we found some treasures.  We nearly always do.  I walked into one store and spotted the orange and gold bowl first thing.  Had to have it!  We shopped in three antique stores in Ellicott City and then headed over to Gambrills to one of our favorite stores.  It's a small store, but always has beautiful displays.  By that time I was pretty much "antiqued out" and only found one small glass cruet, clear glass with a green handle.  As you can see, all I bought was glassware.  The orange/gold piece is a real find - I have nothing else like it.  The small red glass bowl isn't as unusual, but is very lovely.  The little pitchers are just interesting additions to my collection of small glass things.

After nearly 3 hours, we left antique stores behind, and drove to a nearby shopping center to visit a 'bird' store where we bought some seed for our birds.  (With all the snow, the birds are eating a lot of food and so are the squirrels!) Then we walked down the street to Applebee's for dinner.  Luckily we got there early.  We were seated at once, but the place was filling up and it was only about 5:30.  By the time we left, there were no empty tables.  It's a popular place, especially on Saturdays.  We indulged and each ordered one of their small desserts, called shooters.  They come in a juice glass size and are just the right amount of sweet something to have after a full dinner.  A lovely way to end the day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

another not so exciting week

I really can't think of anything to blog about.  The snow is melting, but not yet all gone.  Don't think we are due for more in the next few days.  Thank goodness! Enough is enough!  I'm back into my usual routine of classes and volunteer activities.  Tomorrow AM, the guys are coming to 'iron out' the other two wrinkles in my flooring.  This will involve moving the hutch, the dining room table and a baker's rack with plants on it.  So I will be busy early clearing out the hutch, moving plants and suchlike.  I don't know where they can put the hutch and the table, but I suppose they will fit them into the living room somehow.  I'm just glad I don't have to move the pieces!

Yesterday, I did some baking.  I was responsible for bringing snacks to choir this month.  We celebrate birthdays at the beginning of each month and have a little part after rehearsal.  I baked brownies and miniature cinnamon muffins.  Everyone said they were good, but unfortunately, there were quite a few left over.  I will give the muffins to a friend, as I should not eat them.  (Cinnamon gives me heartburn.)  I shouldn't eat the brownies either, but there were only 4 left over, and if I eat only one at lunch each day, I should get away with them.  (Chocolate is also on the 'no-no' list, but I can have it in small quantities).  The only problem is that it's really hard to eat just one brownie!

I've been doing some 'retail therapy' this past week. Bought some clothes on clearance sale - 75 % off!  I do love sales!  And got in some exercise at the same time, as I walked all over Columbia Mall several times (2 different trips).  They open the mall early for walkers, but I haven't tried that yet.  I'm a bit worried about being there that early, before the stores open.  I wonder if walkers have problems with being robbed.  I don't want to leave my purse in the car (no trunk in my van), but don't want to wear it either.  I'll have to give this more thought.  But at least, I did get some exercise this week.  I can feel it in my legs too! 

I'm going to stop now and go to the car wash.  Salt from the roads is now on my car and needs to be power-washed off!  I never used to bother, but my mechanic tells me that the salt corrodes my brake drums (or whatever they are) and that I need to get it off.  Gotta keep this car in running order for a few more years!