Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Favorites

Plans for moving to Washington are foremost in  my mind at the moment - are we really going? when are we going? how are we going to get there? where will we live?  In the middle of all those thoughts are plans for next Christmas.  We had originally thought that since we were on the West Coast, we would start a new tradition and travel for Christmas.  Hawaii was our destination but a disappointing bed bug report at the resort where we planned to stay, coupled with the realization that our plans and the budget were nowhere near compatible, effectively nixed that whole idea.  Plan B was Christmas with my sister and her family in Oregon and I really have to say that this was probably Plan A for all of us.  Hawaii would have been nice, but when you really think about it, my family is much happier kicking back and relaxing at home or in this case, my sister's home.  Family Christmases are this week's Friday Favorite.

The last time we travelled to Oregon was for Christmas 2008, what turned out to be Dad's last Christmas.  We had a great time; we trekked into the wilderness on a Griswold Family Christmas Tree adventure, howled with laughter when the boys (then 5 and 4 years old) were messing around under the tree and pulled the whole thing over, ate out at a great pub-style place that had amazing fish and chips, shopped at the Old Mill District, did a gift-exchange Target Shopping Trip, and had a lot of family fun with movies and games.  This time, the boys will be 11 and 10; they have a great relationship with Sophia because she has spent time with them over the last three summers and I'm looking forward to seeing my sister again because we have been apart for so much of our adult lives.  I am really looking forward to being on the West Coast and hope that they will come to visit us in Washington as often as we can get to Oregon while we are there.

I took this photo in 2008 and I'm hoping to recreate it this year.  Here's hoping this year's edition is not quite as blurry!

Alex, Sophia and Marc - Christmas 2008

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Travelling on Thursday - Planning for Kettlewell

Sophia and I travelled to Scotland in May 2001 for my sister Barbara's wedding.  While we were there, Mum and Dad suggested that we all plan to spend Christmas together.  We had been thinking about this for some time and Mum and Dad had been looking for the right property.  Before Sophia and I returned to Chicago, we spent a few days with Mum and Dad in Haslingden and one of our days out was spent checking out a cottage in Kettlewell.  To make a long story short, the cottage was perfect and we had an amazing Christmas there in 2001.  Barbara and I have been planning to return there for Christmas 2016, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of our last visit.

Since I love to plan (and yes, 2016 is three whole years away!), I'm going to document my planning here so that I will have a record and you can all see (if you're still reading my blog three years from now!) if everything went according to plan.  As I said, I love to plan and this will be so much fun for me.

Since we are going all the way to England, and could most likely be coming from the West Coast, it seemed to make the most sense to plan for two weeks - one week in Kettlewell and another week somewhere else.  I am planning on a second week in the Cotswolds area so that we can make some day trips to see family and friends while we are in England and I think Barbara is planning to take her boys to London.  We'll save London for another trip.

Kettlewell is an amazing place.  Mum spent a long time looking for the perfect cottage and she had quite a long list of requirements for properties to make the shortlist.  It had to have at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it had to be located close enough to a town large enough to have a decent supermarket, it had to be within walking distance to at least one pub and one cafe/tearoom, and it had to have an open fireplace.  She hit the jackpot with the cottage in Kettlewell.  It had three bedrooms, two doubles and one triple with an ensuite, it was within driving distance of Skipton for the supermarket and little shops, it was within walking distance of three pubs, two tearooms, and a corner shop, and it had an open fireplace. 

I could go on and on about Kettlewell.  It's our dream to buy a cottage there if we ever win the lottery (of course, we'd have a better chance if we actually played the lottery!).  It's so quaint, so picturesque, and right in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with lots of hiking trails for all levels.  It really is a gem.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Kettlewell can be found here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Another Snow Day

(Top left) Tuesday at 3pm, (Bottom left) Wednesday at 8am, (Top right) 6 inches on the ruler, (Bottom right) Snow drifted on the windowsill and the view from our patio back door

It's another snow day here in southeastern Virginia.  It started snowing around 3pm yesterday and continued through the night.  There's about 6 inches on the ground this morning and that's brought our area to a standstill.  Weather like this happens so rarely that everything shuts down.  There are not enough snow plows to get rid of the stuff; what equipment they have is focused on clearing the freeways.  Consequently, all schools and colleges, most businesses, the military bases (for non-essential personnel), the bus service, and even our commissary and exchange are all closed today.  They just don't want people on the roads.

It's going to be a coffee/hot chocolate-drinking, movie-watching kind of day!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If this is Tuesday it must be England #5

I shot this photograph in Chester, England during our time there in July 2003.  The city walls of Chester form an almost complete circuit of the city and as we walked along them, I snapped this photo of the canal boats on the River Dee.  It seemed to me to be a great way to spend a holiday and as I did a little more research, I came up with these two great sites to help you plan a trip.

For the on your own, do it yourself enthusiast, there is Drifters.  I loved this question in their First Canal Holiday FAQs - "Do I Need to Know Anything about Boats?  Check out the response and all the other First Canal Holiday advice here.

And then there is the fully-serviced hotelboat holiday from Flagships Holiday Cruises.  If you don't fancy navigating the canals on your own, let someone else do the steering!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Week Ahead - January 27

Outside my window...49 right now with a high of 54 predicted for today - definitely the calm before the storm as we have more snow in the forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday.  With highs of only 24 on Tuesday and 28 on Wednesday, it's going to be COLD.  I'm thinking Wednesday may be another snow day.
I am thinking...that I'd better pick up some supplies this afternoon as my kitchen is rocking an Old Mother Hubbard look! 

I am thankful...that Vic's travel plans have changed.  He was due to come home tomorrow but with the weather forecast, who knows what havoc that will wreck on airports.  He's coming home later in the week...I think.

From the kitchen...something that catches my eye at the store this afternoon.  I've been wanting to try my hand at homemade biscotti so maybe I will if we're snowed in.  I'm also working on a special Valentine's Day dinner menu.

I am hearing...the heater, the dishwasher, MudLynn snoring.
Always one of my favorite and chips - it's been on the menu every couple of days as Sophia and I love it.

I am reading...still nothing unless you count what I surf!  I think I'll make a resolution to have a dedicated reading time each morning or afternoon; have to figure out what works best with my schedule.  You'd think I'd be reading in the evenings but we always seem to have the TV on.  Who needs cable, we are seriously addicted to Netflix.

A Few Plans for the Rest of the for Sophia today and maybe Wednesday and I'm working at the Tidewater Collection on Wednesday.  Riding on Thursday and waiting for word from Vic on his return - I hope he makes it in time for Sophia's birthday on Saturday.  She wants to go to Otani, our favorite Japanese hibachi place but if Vic's not home, we will postpone it until he returns.  I'm not so sure I can get her to postpone presents, though!

College Update...No school last week - Martin Luther King's birthday observance on Monday and a snow day on Wednesday.  Computer class was held as scheduled on Saturday.  Things seem to be going well; Sophia's determined to keep up her 4.0 GPA.  She was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the Honor Society that recognizes and encourages scholarship among two-year college students.  I was hoping that she could transfer that to a Greek affiliation in Washington but Western Washington University does not have the Greek system.  First in the 1950s and then more recently in 1982, an overwhelming number (85% in 1982) voted against having a Greek system at Western Washington.  Fraternities and sororities are limited membership organizations and that just doesn't jive with Western's equal access policy which ensures that all students are provided with equal opportunities to access all aspects of university life.

Volunteer Update...still looking for people to take over my Secretary/Volunteer Coordinator and Newsletter Editor/Webmaster positions.

Travel and Family Field Trips Update...starting to look through my England bookmarks for those specific to our plans to spend Christmas 2016 in Kettlewell.  I think I'll do a series here on the blog - a pre-travel journal per se.

Leave a comment below if you'd like to share your Week Ahead.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Favorites

The advisor to one of our spouse groups has a stunning collection of cups and saucers.  She does a lot of entertaining with teas and coffee mornings featuring prominently.  Over the years, she has amassed a lovely assortment of cups and saucers.  Anyone looking for a gift to thank her for her patronage can't go wrong with a cup and saucer.

My favorite cup and saucer is from my china pattern, Royal Albert Old Country Roses.  It is so delicate, I just love to drink tea from it.

I'd love to put together a set of cups and saucers.  I'm on the hunt for the Royal Albert Flower of the Month series.  Since they are no longer available, I'm having to scout out secondary sources and they are a bit pricey.  I guess I should start a savings jar, a place to collect all my spare change.

I'd love to be able to find the matching luncheon plates as well.

The new issue of Tea Time magazine has a lovely spread featuring Royal Doulton's Carlyle which is, unfortunately, another pattern that is no longer available.

And no collection would be complete without a piece of Royal Crown Derby Old Imari.

So, if you receive an invitation from me to tea, there will one day be quite a collection of cups and saucers on the sideboard.  Do you have a favorite cup and saucer?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

1000 Days

According to this article in today's Daily Express, the Duchess of Cambridge is celebrating 1000 Days as a Duchess.  As a die-hard fan of monarchy in all shapes and forms, she's my number two favorite member of the British Royal Family (I mean, really, no-one can top the Queen!).  An international style icon, loving wife and mother, and philanthropist, she is a thoroughly modern Royal.

She's taken the media by storm in the same way that Diana, Princess of Wales, did back in the 1980s but with a noticeable difference - she's not the shy young girl who burst on the scene, captivating millions but side-lined by the ones who should have been her strongest supporters.  The Duchess of Cambridge has the full support of her husband, the Royal Family, and the Royal Household.  Was she better-equipped to deal with them, or is it that they are better-equipped to deal with her?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Day

It's a Snow Day here in southeastern Virginia.  We only got a couple of inches but combined with freezing temperatures this morning, it's pretty much brought things to a standstill.  All the schools in the area are closed, along with delays in opening for local businesses, even the military bases.  There's been no sign of a snow plow in our area so apart from the tracks made by someone who got an early start this morning, it's like a Winter Wonderland outside.  I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, oops, sorry, wrong month!

It makes me think of our days in Chicago.  Long before we were even thinking of getting out of bed, the plows cleared the streets so we had a smooth morning commute.  Chicago has a full-fledged snow plan in place; Virginia not so much.  Not much point when you only get snow about once every two years.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

If this is Tuesday it must be England #4

January 18 was A. A. Milne's birthday (1882) and The Huffington Post ran this delightful article, 14 Heartbreakingly Adorable Quotes From Winnie-the-Pooh.  Here's an excerpt, follow the link to read all 14.

winnie the pooh  
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.

“If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever.” 

Note: I have no idea what happened with my England #3 post about the Red Lion Pub in Avebury.  I linked back to the original article but it caused part of the link to appear in odd  places on my blog so I've deleted the whole thing.  If you're interested, Google Red Lion Pub Avebury and you can read all about it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Week Ahead - January 20

Outside my window...37 right now, cool and crisp, with a high predicted of 60 degrees.  Tomorrow - snow?
I am thinking...that perhaps today will be the day to start my Blog Every Day for a Year quest. 

I am thankful...for warmth!  After freezing at the barn during two riding clinics this weekend, I am thankful for warmth in any form - car heater, house heating system, fleece pajama pants.

From the kitchen...meat loaf but substituting mozzarella for Parmesan.

I am hearing...nothing, absolutely nothing.
Always one of my favorite for Sophia's birthday - lots of goodies stashed around the house right now.  Hard to believe my baby will be 20 years old in 12 days.

I am reading...nothing although I did download a bunch of old favorites to my iPad as an early birthday present to me.

A Few Plans for the Rest of the's a holiday today (Martin Luther King's birthday) so there's nothing going on today.  TOSA Board meeting tomorrow, school for Sophia on Wednesday, riding lesson on Thursday and that's about it.  Rescheduled or opted out of a lot of things on the calendar last week so I've got some re-scheduling to do.

College Update...first week of Sophia's second semester is over.  No change in any of her classes so no more trips to the bookstore.  Math is going well, it's more of a finite math so she's coping well on her own so far, English is good, Public Speaking also.  The Saturday computer class will be held weekly - not sure how it can be described as a hybrid course other than the bulk of the work is done at home in preparation for the next class session.  Sophia is happy with all of her teachers and I think it's going to be a great semester.  On the university front, her application to Western Washington is complete, just waiting for that letter in the mail.

Volunteer Update...looking for people to take over my Secretary/Volunteer Coordinator and Newsletter Editor/Webmaster positions.

Travel and Family Field Trips Update...Vic's gone for a few weeks so we're having lots of chips and gravy and British telly nights.

She's never happier than when she is on the back of a horse...well, maybe shopping at Michael Kors comes a close second!
Very sad to hear of the death of  Roger Lloyd-Pack last week.  He's best-known for playing Trigger on "Only Fools and Horses" but he'll never be forgotten in this household as Owen in the Vicar of Dibley.

Leave a comment below if you'd like to share your Week Ahead.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Week Ahead - January 13

Outside my window...52 and fair and looks like more of the same all week.  They say we're supposed to get another one of those polar vortex days but I don't see it in our forecast.
I am thinking...that today is the first day of Sophia's last semester in Virginia. 

I am thankful...that we (my family) all have similar viewing preferences.  I love that we all enjoy Downton Abbey and other British drama and comedy shows.

From the kitchen...grilled salmon with rice, green bean casserole for Vic, Brussels sprouts for Sophia and me.

I am hearing...the washer.
Always one of my favorite things...Pumpkin Spice Creamer, even when the fall/winter season is coming to an end.  Scored two bottles on sale for 75 cents each, and then 50 cents off each with a coupon making them 25 cents a bottle.

I am reading...nothing, just can't seem to get into anything right now, definitely have too many choices.

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week...just got back from dropping Sophia at school, lab work and picking up socks for Vic, will meet Sophia after her last class to exchange yet another textbook and buy some supplies needed for her classes and that's it for today.  Doctor's appointment tomorrow, Tidewater Collection board meeting on Thursday, housing community meeting on Friday, and Bunco on Saturday.  Vic's taking off for a few weeks so it will be chips and gravy nights and lots of British TV.

College Update...first day of class today for Sophia.  Had a horrendous round of finding a class to fit a time slot last week and the associated book exchanges when one after the other ended up being cancelled.  Oceanography was cancelled to low enrollment so she enrolled in Earth Science and bought the book.  Earth Science was cancelled due to low enrollment so she was able to find another section of the same class but then couldn't find a lab so she dis-enrolled and enrolled in US History II instead.  Back to the bookstore to return the Earth Science book and buy the History book.  Went to the VA office to drop off her new schedule only to find out that US History II had low enrollment and would most likely be cancelled as well.  The Benefits Counselor suggested a computer class since everyone has to have a computer competency class and there was a hybrid section available on Saturday mornings.  You only go to class once every four weeks.  Sounded good and enrollment was sufficient to guarantee that it would take place so it was back to the bookstore to return the History book and get the computer one instead.  As if this hasn't already been a huge hassle, Sophia received an e-mail yesterday from her English instructor to say that the text being sold by the bookstore for his class is not the one he plans to use so we'll be taking that one back too!  Her final schedule is Public Speaking, Math for Liberal Arts, English Composition I and Introduction to Computer  Applications and Concepts.

Volunteer Update...getting ready to send out the February calendar and will hopefully be able to make contact with a few potential volunteers who still need to schedule training.  On the lookout for my replacement since Vic called the detailer and we are moving to Washington this summer.  Not sure if we're leaving in May or June; we will find out next month.

Travel and Family Field Trips plans this month other than Vic heading out for a few weeks.

Still haven't picked up a camera so I'm sharing this shot of Helen Mirren from from last night's Golden Globes because I think she looks stunning.  Oh, to look like this when I'm 68!

Leave a comment below if you'd like to share your Week Ahead.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Week Ahead - January 6

Outside my window...66 degrees and gloomy - hard to imagine that it is forecast to drop as low as 14 degrees by tomorrow morning.  No snow though so although we'll be bundled up, there's no need to break out the snow boots.
I am thinking...that it has never taken me this long to pack away Christmas. 

I am thankful...for slow days to work on packing away Christmas.  I'm inventorying everything in preparation for the (I hope) upcoming move as I pack it up.

From the kitchen...not sure - I was going to pick up some General Tso's Chicken at BJs on our way back from riding this afternoon but I'm not sure that there will be any riding - waiting to hear from Sophia's instructor.

I am hearing...the heater
Always one of my favorite things...Downton Abbey!  Season 4 started here last night - our Sunday nights are booked for the next few weeks.

I am reading...nothing, just can't seem to get into anything right now, maybe I have too many choices?

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week...apart from running to the Tidewater Collection on Wednesday morning to show my new volunteer the opening shift procedures and a brunch/White Elephant gift exchange event with my spouse group on Friday, the week is empty.  Let's hope it stays this way this year, calm and quiet.

College Update...all textbooks purchased or rented, $503, yikes!  Classes start January 13.

Volunteer new volunteer trained last week, still have a few people to contact.  Perhaps now that the holidays are over, they will be available for training dates.

Travel and Family Field Trips plans this month.

I haven't picked up a camera since Christmas so I'll leave you with the photo that was also the first one of 2012 - putting away the Christmas ornaments.

Leave a comment below if you'd like to share your Week Ahead.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Based on Michael Sixsmith's book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee (now retitled Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search), and starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomenia is the story of a Irish woman's search for the son she was forced to give up in Ireland fifty years before.  It is the story of the brutal life she endured in a Magdalen laundry and her heartwarming and often comic relationship with journalist Sixsmith, as he takes on her human interest story.

It's hard to really review the film without giving away too much of the story.  Let me just encourage you to see it as it really was brilliant.  Based on the true story, it will make you laugh, cry and shake your head at the injustice of what 30,000 young women endured.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Favorites

It's time to start a new feature - Friday Favorites.  Each week I'll pick a topic and I'd love to hear your favorite.  Let's start big - Favorite Country or State or Province (that should cover all the bases).

Courtesy of
I think mine is obvious if you've been reading my blog - England.  The land of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brontes, Beatrix Potter, the BBC, the Royal Family, castles and cobblestone streets, everything ancient and modern all in one place from Hadrian's Wall to the London Eye.

I love everything about England, from the hustle and bustle of the West End shows and shopping at Harrod's to rambling walks in the Yorkshire Dales.  If I lived in England, I don't think I'd ever run out of things and places to explore.  I'll be doing some virtual exploration this year on my Tuesday feature If This is Tuesday, it must be England.  I hope you'll enjoy following along with me.

Please leave a comment below so I can check out your Friday Favorites!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What I Got for Christmas 2013

I loved this post from Victoria over at Florence and Mary so here goes - my Christmas pressies from 2013.  I'll have to use stock photos for most of them as they are all put away - note to self:  take more pictures for blog next year!

Household first - After twenty years of marriage, I'm not the type of person to shriek in horror when I find a kitchen appliance under the tree.  In fact, this year I was thrilled to get exactly the appliance I had been hinting about for several months - two Crock Pot Hook Ups.

Crock Pot HOOK UP Connectable Entertaining System
This one has two 1-quart slow cookers - perfect for two dips - and the other one has one 2-quart slow cooker.  They connect to each other so you only have to use one electric outlet.  Can't wait for the next party to show them off.

Then there was some Le Creuset - mini-cocottes and a cookbook to go along with them.

Mini Cocottes in Cherry
Since we picked these up at the Le Creuset outlet in Williamsburg, I also added this book:

Perfect Pairings by Fiona Beckett, one of the UK's leading experts on food and drink matching and a wine columnist for the Guardian
Our Target shopping trip (we each make a list of things we'd like for Christmas on a trip to Target, exchange lists, and then wrap the packages and slip them under the tree - you get things you want, you just don't know which things on your list end up under the tree) - yielded yet another cookbook:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays (140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations
When they say step-by-step, they are not kidding.  The photographs are amazing!  There were also some Boots No. 7 Vanilla goodies - Boots Extracts Vanilla Body Wash and Sugar Scrub.

Sophia added two charms to my Pandora bracelet, Big Ben and a Cherry Blossom bead (to commemorate trips to Washington D.C.).

The biggest gift I received this year was an iPad Air!  Vic won an XBox One at the command Christmas party but we decided to return it as we already have a Wii.  We took a gift card in exchange until we could decide what to buy instead and he said he wanted to use it to buy me an iPad.  I debated for a week or so - I've been going back and forth between wanting an iPad or a Kindle or a Nook and not wanting any of them.  I wasn't sure I would really use one.  Well, let me tell you, it's the best gift ever and I use it every day, several times a day.  I don't know what took me so long to get one.

I hope your Christmas was merry and please share what Santa left under your tree!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Here's hoping that this is the view outside my hotel room window on New Year's Day 2015!