Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time flies and the end nears (of 2008)

It sure does, it is weeks since I last posted on here and even so I have no exciting news to report.  

I spent a week in Chicago on the way back to London earlier this month and thoroughly enjoyed myself - although would have been much more interesting to not have been working.  I was very limited in the times I could get out to explore so I didn't get far and now need to go back to complete all the things I've missed out on...

We got back to London almost 3 weeks ago and it has all been about settling the babies in and getting life calmed to a comfortable point for the family.  Since returning, I have had two days off and due another tomorrow.  Really looking forward to it!

Lucy made it back to NZ after her accident in India.  Unfortunately the whole time she was in London I was in Illinois and we only got to see each other on the eve of her flight out to NZ.  I was part of the pack horse gang that she needed in order to get all her luggage to the airport.  

Megg is now living in London too so I get to see her every now and then which is lovely. 

I am making plans to go to NZ sometime soon - although 'soon' may be 2010 at this rate!  Too much to do and too little time...

But right now, Christmas day is ending and I must make it to bed ASAP as I have babies who will require my attention in 2.5 hours.  

Good night!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A bit more detail

I hired a car the other day and accompanied by Bob (Dylan) and Melissa (Ethridge) took a drive to St Louis, Missouri. It is just across the Mississippi from Illinois.

Firstly I headed out West and then took the Illinois River Road (highway 100) south. I was stunned and pleasantly surprised at just how beautiful it was.

Countryside Illinois is all about farming and this time of the year the fields are all yellow with corn stalk after the harvest. Some of the fields were in the process of being ploughed. It's been a late harvest this year apparently due to weather conditions.

The trees have all lost their leaves, but the leaves remain on the ground so the colours are still bright and bold in places.

The river was huge - nothing like it in NZ or the UK - although the Thames comes close! I came to the conclusion that it must be a major summer holiday spot due to the number of camp grounds along the rivers edge.

After a bit on the Ilinois river I crossed through a lovely farming valley and drove along the Mississippi instead. I was most impressed to set eyes on this river. I had bought Bob's CD simply because it had a song called Mississippi. It proved to be a good thing - excellent driving music!

I didn't get into St Louis until about 6pm and all was dark. There was no sign posting giving even a vague indication of where downtown was. I had booked a hotel so needed to navigate there otherwise I could have just stopped anywhere.

I followed my nose and made it to the only street name I knew - Broadway. I then spotted exactly where I wanted to be so I was mighty impressed! My nose does not always do me justice when trying to follow it but in this case it did me well!

After something to eat, I took a walk out on the river front to the arch that is St Louis. When asking around before I left as to what I should do in St Louis, the only thing anyone could tell me was the Arch!

It was freezing!! About -7or8C. I had my down coat with light polar fleece under, gloves and scarf and I had to keep moving!

I got some photos whilst watching my back very carefully. The place was not exactly bustling with tourists (or locals) and I was very aware of being alone in the dark with my very expensive camera.

Back to the hotel and I spent $10.00 in the adjoining casino. I guess an hours entertainment for $10 is not too bad... Hmmm, not sure where my luck went - last time I went to a casino I came out with just a little more then I spent after an hour.

Then it was bed and to be rudely awakened by the phone at 1.40am(?????). I didn't bother answering - although I ought to have and mentioned my displeasure!

Another rude awakening at 9.15am, a quick shower and the 100 mile drive back via the main road.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stats

I took a 24hr break and arrived back at noon today.

While driving I saw
11 dead opossums
5 dead raccoons
5 dead small unidentified creatures
2 dead medium unidentified creatures
1 dead large bird

...and rather unpleasantly 5 very large splats of blood and fur that I take to be the remains of deer meets truck.

I did also see a few living creatures - not good statistics proportionally though.

2 deer munching in a field
1 completely bonkers red squirrel - skimming along a railing on a bridge with it's body low as possible looking somewhat like a SAS recruit.
1 hawk like bird
3 trillion small black birds swooping and darting around in an enormous 'cloud'

And I think that was it.
I saw the Illinois river - a tributary of the Mississippi and I saw the Mississippi!! I was very excited about that.

And this morning on my way back, I put petrol in the car at a the incredible rate of $1.66 a gallon!!! A definite change from the $3.40'ish that we put in the car in Florida just a few weeks ago!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lincoln in Springfield


Abraham Lincoln - standing outside the building in which he practiced law.

The house in which he lived with his wife and 4 sons

The gorgeous stove on which they cooked. This was my favourite thing in the house!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My last days off

I'm not managing to get to my blog these days and it's not for lack of time.
I am holed up in a hotel suite with a family in Springfield, Illinois. We're awaiting the babies to be well and fit enough to travel back to London.

Last weekend I took the train into Chicago and met up with Jane who flew over from NY. We had 2 nights (Jane had 3) together and stayed in a hotel quite central.

I had been told the architectural boat tour was very worthwhile and so had Jane so on the first day we dropped our bags and went off to do it. I loved it and I think jane enjoyed it, although we were both somewhat cold throughout the whole thing... I caught my first snowflake of the winter on my glove.

The boat was open on top and we sat there in the cold (temperature at freezing point...) listening to a very interesting woman disecting the city into eras, architects and styles. The cold aside, it was brilliant. Chicago's cityscape is awesome. So diverse and bold in the design.





We took a walk uptown the next day and on the way walked along the edge of Lake Michgan.





It has whet my appetite for Chicago and now think I need to spend a week or more to really explore.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Here's 2000 words.

No time to write them so here's a couple of pictures instead...


The lovely view from outside the hotel where I am staying with 2 tiny babies.

And a sunset A La Springfield Ford Car Sales Yard.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Surprised...?

I'm still a little surprised to find myself in the Mid West now after being in the South East just a few days ago.

This morning I got up early and took a train to Springfield, Illinois. Arriving here an hour later then scheduled - better late then never (although with first impression of Springfield, 'never' may well be an option I would consider!!) .

While on the train, I found myself peering with expert eyes into all the water holes we passed, expecting at any second to spot a gator. I was in Florida only 2 weeks but I certainly learned quickly how to spot the wildlife! And now I feel I still should be on the look out. Alas there are no gators this far north.

I did spot an small eagle like bird on a power pole, but was too slow with the camera.

Springfield is small and spread out - we're about 20 minutes out. It's main claim to fame is being the home of Abe Lincoln or as many younger folk might remind you, it's also the fictitious home of the Simpsons.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Racking up a few airmiles

I just arrived in Chicago after 2 painful days of exhaustion and headless chicken type behaviour.

After flying back to London on Wednesday, I had one full day and one part day to empty the suitcase of summer holiday clothes and refill it with wintry, sensible clothing.

I had a dentist appointment and a doctors appointment, a quick visit to mum, another quick visit to a client who is in London for a few weeks only and several bits of admin to catch up on.

As far as I am aware it is all done - although I doubt I have packed well.

Now to catch up on a little sleep before catching a train south early tomorrow.

News of Lucy

Lucy had a paragliding crash yesterday in India.

I'm not sure of full details except that she hit a hill and spent several hours awaiting rescue. She was taken to a local hospital and then earlier today was flown to another hospital in New Delhi.

It seems she has a broken rib and collapsed lung.

I think we should be feeling very lucky considering some of the paragliding accidents I have heard about.

Really hope you are back on your feet very soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home and chilly!

I made it home and managed to fit everything in my 2 bags. I did have to toss out most of my clothes in the meantime!

We flew last night from Miami to London and arrived in first thing this morning to a very cold frosty day. It had snowed the night before - quite substantially in some places!

A bit of a surprise when the temperature has barely dropped below 80 degrees for 2 weeks and we arrive back to about 30-32 degrees.

Brrr

Monday, October 27, 2008

The alligaor and the heron

Yesterday afternoon we went out the the edge of the Everglades and did a short walk.

First up was a great blue heron. It is a huge bird - up to 4 feet tall and 7 foot windspan. He was sat in the grass with just a bit of neck and his head showing.

A short distance further and we spotted a young gator - I'm guessing last years baby - and then some more tiny ones.
We watched for a while and then walked on a bit further.

The heron suddenly flew up and landed on the path in front of us and slowly and slyly started to stalk the baby gators. We watched as the heron got closer and closer and had his head lowered to catch his prey.

Suddenly there was a splash and a rustling of the reeds and shrubs around the waters edge. The mother gator was on her way to protect her babies!


The heron stopped dead and while still eyeing up the babies, was also fully aware of the presence of the big gator.

We were fasinated and really wanted to see the outcome - one way or the other. But a group of people walked past and the heron slowly backed away and the situation was over.

I have never been lucky enough to watch something like this and it made me feel like I was watching a nature program - without the narration.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Today I saw...

...lots of fishes swimming in the sea.

Two dolphins playing hide and seek - they hide better then they seek.

The skimmiest fish I ever saw - they skim over the water better then I could possibly skim a stone.

And the inside of 3 hotel rooms - and nearly 4 after the internet didn't work in our room.

I did NOT see...

... the American crocodile in Crocodile Lake.

An alive raccoon - road kill doesn't count.

A manatee

Or a mermaid!

Phew - and the day hasn't even finished yet! We're off to start exploring the east side of the Everglades now.

Key West with monsoon rain

I wish I had a regular internet connection and time to sit here and relate some adventures. Of course that would mean sitting at my computer instead of having adventures...

Today we left Key West - we spent 2 nights there. It rained solid in a very monsoon like manor for the best part of the 2 days. The roads were flooded and the sea was grey and angry looking.

My first (and last) impressions of Key West are not very pleasant to say the least...

But luckily the bits in the middle were fun and games. We just happened to arrive in the middle of Key West's biggest festival of the year. We could get fairly normal cost accommodation for Wednesday and Thursday but on Friday it nearly tripled and an executive decision was made to head for the north instead.

On Wednesday when we arrived we took the Conch Train - a guided tour of Key West - to get our bearings. Then went home and prepared ourselves for a night out.

First stop was Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett's restaurant - where we ate dinner and of course had a Margarita. Teresa is a Jimmy Buffett fan so this was her 'moment'. Dinner was great and the place had a really nice ambiance about it.

We then wandered along the main street (Duval St) and eventually decided on a bar called the Lazy Gecko. It was fantastic sitting there and watching people come and go.

The Fantasy Festival is an annual event where people have the perfect excuse to take off their clothes and/or walk around in weird and wonderful costumes. There is lots of body art - designs and pictures drawn directly onto naked skin.

Wednesday nights theme was 'red'. So anything red went. Red knickers or boxer shorts were the sole items being worn by some. Others went all out and wore the most incredible fancy dress outfits that were obviously a labour of love.

The most memorable of all being a group who were dressed as rednecks. The women were all pregnant with many many children - one even pushing a pram full of baby dolls. They had tattoos - one daring man had 'I love Sarah Palin' written on his shoulder - lots of teeth missing, head scarves etc etc.

One man was painted all over with red paint and wore a very tiny black thong. He hovered near my stool as I came back from the loo and I have to say I was willing him desperately not to sit on the stool as I really did not want to have to sit on either the red paint or where his bum had been.

Thursday we spent about 10hours shopping and enjoying the festivities in Duval St again. I think I managed to clear all the gators and crocs out of Key West. I'm thinking I may need to buy an extra extra suitcase now!! I'm not sure just one extra will be enough any more!

Anyway, sleep is calling. Hoping to get up early and go out on a glass bottom boat to see the reefs around here (Key Largo).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Log-o-diiles, shade-o-diles and swamp-o-diles

Everywhere we look there are 'o-diles'.

Sometimes they are the real thing and it gets REALLY exciting! Other times, we see things that are the same shape and colour and think we are looking at a gator, but when one of us gets brave enough to approach, we find it is only a log-o-dile or similar.

This morning we went driving along the Jane's Scenic Drive. It's an 11 mile unsealed track labeled as a dead end. We wondered if it was truly a dead end road or perhaps a 'never to return zone' road.

And was it scenic? Oh boy it was!!

It starts out with grassland swamps on both sides of the track and then becomes mangrove type swamps. It took us 2 hours to get about 3 miles up this road!

We stopped several times and saw a Cooter turtle, hundreds of butterflies, huge grasshoppers, heaps of birds - herons, vultures, eagles etc - and one tiny mini little pair of eyes peaking out from behind a log in a swamp!!

I didn't think it could get much more exciting, but it was all about to change...

We drove up the road a little more and ahead there was a fallen over fencepost partially blocking the road. As a joke, I said 'ooo look there's half a giant snake'. As I finished the statement, I realised it was not a fencepost at all... It was a very BIG alligator sunning himself on the road between the swamps!

We stopped the car and both assumed the position (camera's up to eye, that is) and started snapping (haha!!). We of course were desperate to get up and really inspect it. But both thought better of it.

After getting many many photos, we turned and headed back to the car - still keeping an eye on where that big fellow was of course!

We found a tiny dead snake on the road that was being escorted away by a large swarm of tiny ants. As we photographed that, the gator got up, crossed the road and slipped back into the water.

We drove on a bit further and again found another gator blocking our path, this time we stayed near the car and once we had taken another several 1000 photos, we decided to head onwards again. Unfortunately the gator had other thoughts and would not move. We managed to convince it to go a few yards then it flopped and went 'back to sleep'. We inched forward and tried again. But again it got up and lurched forward a few feet then flopped down for a rest!

It really did not want to move but we didn't want to get too close in case it had a taste for car tyres. Eventually it slid back into the water and we went on our way.

It was the best spent 2-3 hours yet.

Later we are going out on a boat to the 10 000 Islands, then tomorrow morning out again on another airboat in the mangroves.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dolphins, pelicans, Mr Racoon, the turtle and the stick insect.

Yesterday we arose very early and went off to walk in a wildlife haven in the hope of seeing some wildlife.

When we got to the gate and were waiting to be let in, Mr Racoon wandered across the roadway and climbed a tree. I was quick off the mark (for being up before sunrise that is) and out with the camera, managed to snap a tiny, underexposed little photo of him as he perched on a small and bendy branch directly above me.

We paid out $1 each and off we went. Walking along a path between 2 swamps and the first thing we saw was a wading bird eating fish. Nice, but not really what we came to see.

Then we saw a lovely ant trail with impressive signs of underground activity, still not what we REALLY wanted!

We saw a lovely red Cardinal, spiders, tiny lizards, more ants....

BUT! No alligators! In fact nothing bigger then the medium sized wading bird.

So we raced back to the car, drove to Jensens wharf and boarded our boat for a dolphin hunt.

We saw dolphins, but they were all feeding so just showing themselves briefly before diving for food. There were brown pelicans hanging out on a sandbar that we got close enough to to photograph. Osprey sitting high in trees on the islands.

I just saw the end of a spectacular manoeuvre by a King Mackerel - it leapt way out of the water and landed with a splash - possibly to be eaten by a dolphin...?

Then we saw a loggerhead sea turtle break the surface and disappear. Stunning!

Back on land and we wandered a few galleries while I bought more gator stuff.

Went down to the beach to watch the sunset - beautiful again! on the way back I spotted a stick walking across the path so stopped to investigate. A beautiful brown creature with a baby on it's back! I picked it up and photographed it. In appreciation it spat at me and after a few attempts it managed to blind one eye so after saying a naughty word in front of a small boy, I placed the wee fellow in the greenery and went on a desperate search for water to wash my eye. I can see perfectly fine this morning - phew!

Out for dinner then back to pack. Windy night so neither of us slept great, and I have yet again been eaten alive by tiny things and feel the need to scratch ankles raw.

Time to shower and pack car for today's adventure - it will include gators this time as we are heading back along Alligator Alley in the Everglades to a wildlife place.

Too many Gator-diles

Last night I had the enviable (or not) task of laying out and then packing all my new crocodylian loot.
I have been in Florida for 4 days as at last night and without a doubt need to buy another suitcase. And I am only buying small things at this stage. Scarey!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Breakfast at Sanibel

I haven't managed to get to my blog for any serious updates and getting very frustrated about it. So I am going to start from now in the hope that I can back track and fill in the last 3 days later.

We are on a lovely island called Sanibel on the west coast of Florida, very near Fort Myers Beach. Its a lot more sleepy and relaxed then Miami and for the first time in all my USA travels, I feel this is a place I could spend a lot of time and (perhaps!) never tire of the scenery, the weather, the beaches, the people etc.

Tonight we went to a restaurant/bar called The Mucky Duck and sat outside on the sand having a drink, listening to a local man sing his local ditties while the sun slowly slipped below the horizon. Too beautiful!

Earlier today we decided we wanted to eat pancakes for breakfast so off we went to the wonderfully named Island Cow having read that they do a good breakfast. Firstly, the coffee arrived ( more like a cup of acid then coffee) but no milk for Teresa. Then the orange juice and a milkshake, then the notification that breakfasts were now finished and lunch menu only as it was after 11am.

And true it was after 11am, but it certainly wasn't when we put our initial coffee order in...

We left feeling a little disgruntled and decided to head for the Lighthouse Cafe which advertises it's breakfasts as the 'best on the island'. I had eggs/seafood benedict - something I would never have thought as being a good combination, but in fact was divine! The service was fantastic and we left there feeling very happy and of course full!

Next door to the cafe was an intriguing shop full of 'things'. Jewellery, ornaments, etc. I managed to fill a very large bag with alligator paraphernalia while emptying the credit card a little.

Then off to the lighthouse to walk around the point and dip our incredibley hot toes in the sea. It was much too hot by this time and I could not wait to get into the car and get the air con going full blast!

We stopped off at the local antiques shop which turned out to be a real treasure trove of collectables - something for everyone.

And lots of somethings for the crocodile/alligator obsessives too. Another gasp from the credit card...

I've worked out that so long as I don't buy too many more crocodylians then I can probably fit it all in my suitcase if I throw out all my clothes and anything else that isn't a croc/gator related item.

I am feeling very tired and will be getting up very early to go on a gator hunt so must get off to bed.

PS - photos coming soon (I hope)

Friday, October 03, 2008

The definitive guide to castle ruins in England and Wales

Well OK, maybe not definitive, but I can tell you about the ones we saw today.

First things first though, the name of the village we stayed in last night was Weston-on-Bury. We we a bit surprised to say the least when neither of us could remember where we were.

We left after a hearty breakfast of baked beans, eggs, toast and coffee and headed into the Forest of Dean. We were very impressed to find that it was, in fact, a forest. Quite different from the balding patches of scrub and earth usually called a 'woods'. This was lush and green with narrow winding roads - just like at home!

Our first stop - via a rather round-about string of little lanes - was Goodrich. A 12th century fortified castle ruin. An absolutely stunning ruin made better by the gorgeous sunshine. We climbed the spiral stairs up to the top of one of the corner towers and the view incredible. It was extremely windy so didn't manage to stay up there long to really observe, but enjoyed it none-the-less.

Next stop was Skenfrith, and again we didn't manage a direct route. But we did get there to find it was an impressive ruin. Perhaps not quite as spectacular as Goodrich.

Just along the road a bit further was a 12th century church. It had a very unusual top - being built from wood. It was in a lovely quiet little village at the end of a road so peaceful and calm.

A 'Cope' hung under a curtain that was made in the mid 1400's. It never ceases to amaze me that something of this age can survive.

'A cope is a garment like a cape and is still worn by Bishops and senior clergy in some churches. In the medieval period it was used in processions and special occasions. A cope has a semi-circular shape with a remnant of the hood still visible in the design.' (excerpt from www.skenfrith.org)

Getting too tired now so will try to update more later... yawn...


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blenheim Palace et al

Today we went to Blenheim Palace, a place we've both been intending to see since we have been in the UK.

Upon arrival we're faced with a massive, imposing, yellow stone building with the most incredible, ornate gates.

Inside the Palace and it went down hill a bit as we were herded through a 35 minute 'production' of make believe goings ons in order to educate us of the Palace's history. Obviously set up to baby sit those without enough get-up-and-go to enjoy a wander through a building alone.

The next part was the State rooms which were also very disappointing -especially after seeing Basildon yesterday. The room in which Winston Churchill was born was very drab, the whole place was in a completely different league to the likes of Basildon. A smaller more personal property tends to feel warmer and more 'loved'. Blenheim felt like it was simply out to make money at the expense of personality.

It was a different story once out in the grounds. They were beautiful. We walked beside the lake to the 'Cascade' - a man made waterfall. I think it was made by Capability Brown - what
didn't that man do?

We walked back along the lake and saw herons flying, fishermen fishing and lots of bird life that I'm not clever enough to know.

Unfortunately we have just missed out on the colour of autumn this trip. In some spots the trees are just beginning to show a tinge of colour. Another few weeks and the area will be in full autumnal colour.

The formal gardens complete with fountain and ponds were lovely and not too many people about because of the cold winds.

We left Blenheim Palace and headed west until a sign came into view announcing an Historic Wool Church. Curious... It turns out this area (Northleach in Gloucestershire) was known for it's wool production so all very sensible. There were some very old 'brasses' of some of the locals from the 15th and 16th centuries. And a very pretty churchyard and village.

We've stopped somewhere tonight in a quaint old pub, the real issue being is we have no idea exactly where we are. We know we were on the road heading towards Chepstow...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the road again!

Mum and I decided to hire a car today and take off for a bit of a look around. We have no idea where we intend to end up except that tomorrow we will go to Blenheim Palace.

Mum is awaiting news on a job that will possibly mean she has to go to work, but if that doesn't happen we will return to London on Sunday.

Today we headed out of London about 1pm and drove to Reading where we stopped at the worlds most boring cafe for some lunch. We then did our favourite trick of taking back roads and seeing where we ended up. But we did want to go to Basildon Park on the way so after some lovely country lanes and a bit of back tracking, we made it there before closing.

It was a pretty house set in big wooded fields and a nice garden in progress in the grounds. The room stewards were all so passionate about their allocated room it became a battle of time to get around the place before it closed. A balance of listening and being interested while also trying to get out of the room before being bored to death by the details of the carpet of this particular room.

Back into the car and some more country lanes until we went over a series of bridges that took us over the Thames. The light was stunning with the sun not far off setting so we stopped and took a few photos.

Some more rural roads and we made it to Oxford where accommodation, it seemed, was at a premium. We eventually got ourselves a room and had some dinner in a local pub and are now settled in for the evening with a box of chocolates, a computer each and too many photos to sort!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pearlies


Today was the annual Pearlie King and Queen harvest parade.

Mum and I went to see what it was all about and were very pleasantly surprised by the afternoon of sunshine, dancing, humour and more 'pearls' then you could poke a stick at.

There were dozens of Pearlie Kings and Queens along with a few Princes and Princesses. One of whom was only 5 weeks old! Very cute in her pearl (in this case actually buttons) dress and hat! Another little girl was only 2 and dressed beautifully along with her mum.

Also several Mayors of various locations - London, Essex and Sussex - all in their robes and Mayoral chains. Some Morris dancers, a few marching bands (of differing levels of enthusiasm...) and some little may pole dancers who were joined at one point by the Mayors and Pearlies. A lively and amusing moment!There were donkeys with carts carrying harvest goods and big dogs towing little carts with harvest goods amongst other things - a puppy was being carried in one cart.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Obsession

I have installed page counters on 2 of my blogs - would be all three if blog.com would allow them (stinkers!).
And as a result I have become completely obessed with the statistics! I love stats and this is an absolute dream to me!! I check them as often as possible and once even remembered after closing down the computer that I didn't actually blog anything. But the stats were interesting so who cares...
It even has a geolocation option so I can see where the readers are from. UK, USA, NZ, Singapore, Canada, Lebanon (?!!) and Australia so far. Must find out why my sister in Armenia doesn't show up!

So read on and keep me happy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brunch

Yesterday was Teresa's real birthday so we went out to brunch at her usual haunt.

All was good until one of the group found a piece of plastic in her hash browns. The manager eventually arrived and with a voice of complete mistrust asked some very pointed questions about where it was found, etc. And then went on to say the chef didn't recognise it as something that would be found in the kitchen. So without actually saying it she was accusing the woman of placing it in her hashbrown...

For the sake of £7 I don't think it would be worth that much effort.

We were then thinking of having some dessert and the manager then came over again and said we had to leave as the table was booked for 15 minutes time. Unbeknownst to us they had given us a 2 hour timeslot to have brunch.

By that point I was dead keen to leave.

We found a lovely cafe that did the most incredible cakes and had coffee and cake instead. Utterly divine and no bolshy wait staff at all!!

Slightly different to the dining experience of the night before.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dinner

I went to dinner today with friends Teresa and Heather at the Ivy. It will be Teresa's birthday tomorrow so a celebration was needed.

Starting with a bottle of my favourite champers in the bar (hoping it was to everyone's taste... my taste buds were indeed impressed) and soon moved to our table for the evening.
A quick look around and there was John Cleese - my complete inability to star-spot is clearly high lighted here as I was facing him and didn't even recognise him after he was pointed out!

A short time later and Helena Bonham-Carter turned up with Tim Burton (has that man no hair brush???) and a few others to dine one table over from ours.

Charles Darwin sat in the corner eating alone... well, OK, we had no idea who he was, but he really did look like Charles Darwin and he was eating alone.

Some stringy haired lads appeared a little later... surely they must be 'someone' - why else would you let such a scruffy bunch in?

Who on earth was that at the head of the table behind us...? Very familiar face...

Rather unfortunate that on the night Lucy and I went last year, no one of any note turned up and we ate 'alone'.

The lobster was excruciatingly good again, as was the sticky toffee pudding and the wine.

The finale was offered when Teresa and Heather ordered a Baked Alaska to share and the waiteress turned up with all the ingredients and put on a seriously spectacular display of fire on a pudding.

Delicious...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Scary things eating stuff in the garden

I finished my contract yesterday so sit here today looking at my computer screen wondering what I really ought to be doing.

The fact is there a 1000 things I could be doing but instead choose to wander aimlessly around my (very small) room occassionally sitting at my computer for a game of Zuma or to play with some photos.

Earlier today I was in the garden talking to a soon-to-be dad of two when I noticed a very large spider in a very large web. Upon closer inspection, I realised there were, in fact, two very large spiders in two very large webs and one of them was eating something very big and very strange.

...just wondering how often I can use the word 'very' in one sentence...


I of course found my camera and now have 72 photos of above mentioned spiders. This is the one that was eating - but in this photo the thing being eaten is quite a bit smaller then is was when I was busy on the phone.



This one lost his web after a micro hurricane (a swift breeze in reality) wizzed through and bent a branch which caused his web's anchor to snap. The web became a little bundle of silk and Mr Spider walked up and down a thread a couple of times then gave up and went to bed.

Hmmm, a spider that thinks like me...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How safe is safe?

Last weekend I was on my way home and realised due to the Notting Hill Carnival that my usual route would not work.

I instead diverted and took the Hammersmith and City line. When I got on the train I thought there looked to be a lot of police. When I took a full 360 degree sweep of the carriage I realised there were not a lot, but a prodigious pack of police.

The ones I could see I counted... 42

Never before has the tube felt quite so safe.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Oh WOW!!

Tonight I made a mad dash straight from work to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to see the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China perform Swan Lake.

Boy am I glad I made it!

I think I just had one of the best nights entertainment I have had in as long as I can remember - but that may not mean much as my memory seems to be shot as a result of sleep deprivation...

But anyway, this was truly incredible.

I cannot hide my surprise when it comes to Swan Lake being performed by a bunch of rollerskating, juggling, trampolining, unicycling, pirouetting, flying, tightrope walking, acrobatic Chinese folk.

I could sit through it again - preferabley after a good night sleep though.

Words defy me right now...





When was the last time you saw someone standing en pointe on someone elses head? Or indeed performing a pirouette on afore mentioned head. The last time you saw four men dancing on their hands for several minutes (they can apparently do 30 minutes...!!) while dressed as frogs...? What about several men riding unicycles in time to Tchaikovsky while balancing the odd ballerina on his shoulders.

I saw it all plus more and loved every moment of it!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My birthday wish

OK so it's several weeks late, but on my birthday I wanted to go out and take photos. I arranged to meet Teresa at London Bridge and we wandered up the Southbank observing and snapping all the sights of interest.





We stopped off along the way at Giraffe to eat, then went on our merry way again.



I had a fantastic time and ought to do it more often. It surprises me how often I can go to the same places in London and still see things that I haven't seen before. Unfortunately I started working with triplets the next day so I haven't had time to look at these photos until today. Will attempt to get some more on Flickr one day soon!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Coffee and cake

It's been an incredibley tough couple of days. (More on Maternity Nurse Diary... soon...)

Today I had a chance to escape the house and get out for a walk with two of the three and as it was raining and thundering and flashing massive lightenings, I went into a cafe and ordered a coffee and small chocolate slice. Quite delicious too.

I left the cafe and bumped into Daddy with baby No3 so we walked back toward home together. He suggested a coffee so I obliged (as you do) and ordered another coffee. He then suggested I try a macaroon so I obliged again (having never tried a genuine French macaroon). I choose the chocolate one of course

An hour or so later I was feeling very light headed and couldn't stop talking. I have learned my lesson - until next time - that one very tired person mixed with 2 strong black coffees and 2 chocolate delicacies make for a very enthusiatic couple of hours.

Not feeling quite so enthusiastic now though...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Joy of Socks

I thought this ought to go on the personal blog rather then the maternity one as simply could not resist using this as a title.

This morning we bathed the boys and put them in clean outfits and these ones were ones without feet so we had to put socks on instead. Being tiny little babies with nothing more then chicken sized legs, we are having trouble keeping theirs socks on.

After their last feed I picked up one baby and his sock fell off and then another and the same thing so I picked up the sock and exclaimed 'Oh my goodness - the joy of socks!!'

Not til afer saying it did I realise just how close it sounded very close to a very famous title from the 70's...

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's my birthday...

...and to celebrate I'm about to embark on 12 weeks of looking after new triplets!

I'm sitting at home now awaiting the call - STOP - the call just came in and I'm off in an hour!

Wish me luck and don't expect me to be coherent in the next 12 weeks...

xx

Sunday, June 08, 2008

From the mouths of babes

Ages ago, I sent an email out to some telling the story of a mum,dad and little boy who got on a double decker bus and rode on the top deck near enough for me hear their conversation.

I was reminded of this the other day and though it ought to be added here...

The boy was so excited about being on the top deck and he was looking down at all the people and cars and making comments about how small everything was. He said the mummies looked like little girls and the daddies looked the same size as him.

His mother looked out the window and said she could see all the bald patches on peoples heads from up here.

The boy turned to his mother and said "where are all the boiled heads?"

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sibling rivalry and moving house

Now you'll have to write some more, Lucy...

Mum and I had given notice to move out of the hovel in Chelsea so had a limited time to search - and move. I got home from 4 months away 11 days before we had to be out so it was all hands on deck.

It still shocks me when looking for studios in London the number of places I come across that I would be too embarassed to make public. Some 'studios' are barely bigger then a single bed and also contain a 'kitchenette' and a shower and loo. And so dirty and smelly...

One place mum and I looked at several months ago is now known to us as 'the place with the dead person in the hallway'. The smell was horrific and we could barely walk in and look at the room before fleeing for fresh air. The room itself was one of the above mentioned single bed size rooms. It had a raised bed with a half height wardrobe and storage underneath. We had to single file into and out of the room as 2 people could not stand in it at the same time.

Oddly enough I went to look at another room in this street this time 'round and it turned out to be the same house but upstairs. The room was identical to the one downstairs.

The good news is that we finally found a place that suited us as much as we could expect given our limited time. The London small flat market requires swift movement - if you like a place it is vital to put a deposit on it immediatly or you miss out. So that is how it was with our new place. I went to see it on Sunday afternoon and had to talk it through with mum on the phone and make a decision as I knew this one would go before the end of the day. We went back to sign up on Tuesday and moved in on Thursday night.

The other difficulty with moving house in London is the challenge of finding an honest and efficient 'man-with-a-van'. The last couple of moves we did I had found a lovely man who worked so well I first phoned him first but he had no free time time that week. So after a search on gumtree.com, I found a man who could fit us in on Thursday night for a good price. He turned out to be brilliant as well, we couldn't have asked for better - except maybe a full size van so we could have done it in one trip... Boy, have we've hoarded some stuff since being in Chelsea - that is what happens when one spends too long in one place!!

Remind us to move sooner this time to keep the clutter down.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dinner the other night

I wanted to take mum out for dinner once I returned to celebrate her birthday - belated of course but better late then never.

So we went to the Ritz on Thursday night. I enjoyed it immensely once I relaxed a little and got used to the 72 000 staff running around doing all sorts of nothings while a few did somethings.


I had a whole Dover Sole that was truly delicious - and de-boned at my side by a lovely young waiter. Mum had the halibut with crab stuffed zucchini flower which was also delicious. We had a roast pineapple with lime and chilli ice cream that was extraordinarily divine and a chocolate thingey which surprisingly was outshadowed by the pineapple...

Since when has pineapple been better then chocolate??

YAY/BOOHOO - I'm Back in London!!

I arrived reasonably unscathed in London last Tuesday morning and went to sleep for 5 hours before meeting Teresa for a coffee and dinner in central London. It was nice to be back and felt familiar and comfortable.

Then next morning I tried to get up and failed at all attempts - not sure if there was more then one attempt, but it failed nonetheless... I did finally get up as mum phoned and we met for lunch in Notting Hill.

Home again and to bed at 5.30pm until 3.30pm the following day - 22 hours sleep??!! One would hope that I had had enough sleep by then. Mum and I went out for dinner that night - more later - and then I was awake until 3-4am... surprise surprise...

But since then I've been forcing myself to bed at a decent time and still cannot wake in the morning. I'm hoping that is all about to change as I took care of one very big issue today.

We gave notice on our hovel at the beginning of the month so have to be out of here by Saturday. So it was getting tighter and tighter in the hunt for a replacement flat. Today I found a place and put a holding payment down so we move any time this week.

I hope very much that mum likes it as much as I did. It's no bigger then we have here now, but it has a shower and a WC (!!!!!!) that will only ever know our two lovely wee bottoms!!! Oh the bliss... no more antibacterial wipes before we pee!! No more 'loo shoes' as the floor will be clean! We will definitely not be able to swing a rat, let alone a cat in the bathroom though. I'm sure it is smaller then our first studio's bathroom - and that is truly something to behold.

So maybe the lethargy will lift now, or maybe it will lift after the move...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Not long to go now

I'm on my way back to London on Monday and looking forward to it.

I love being away and visiting lots of new places but there comes a time when only the comfort of my uncomfortable bed in mum's and my tiny hovel will satisfy me.

Although we are intending moving in about a week if all goes to plan. We've given notice so it will be a flying start (haha) when I land in London as we need to find something quickly.

Toronto has put on the worst spring weather I can remember (perhaps a little selective memory going on here). It's been gray and cold - even snowing a little for me when I was up north.

This weekend we're off up to Isaac's grandad's house on a lake so here's hoping the usual long weekend weather holds off and it warms up a little.

Isaac's birthday dinner

Pam, Isaac and I just got back from a birthday dinner at the CN Tower in downtown Toronto.

Isaac was sorely disappointed to discover there were no hamburgers on the menu, but settled happily with chicken strips and chips. We, on the other hand, had a very large dinner of seafood. Pam delighted in the dozen oysters while I ransacked the lobster and crabs.

It unfortunately was not the best seafood platter I've had but nice all the same. And looked fantastic

We took a wander down to the lookout level after and Isaac stood on the glass floor with much trepidation and looked down at the streets almost .5km below us!! He had been very nervous about going up the tower in the first place and in the weeks before he had been asking many questions.

The most regular (and most amusing) question was 'how big is the restaurant?' I said 'big like a normal restaurant'. His reply was 'but it is only a skinny pole this big' holding his arms out in a round circle.

It took a lot of explaining that the restaurant was in the bulging bit at the top and only the lifts went up the skinny pole bit. He can see the tip of the tower from his bedroom and had assumed that we would need to squeeze inside that bit (which looks tiny from his bedroom).

I was pleased to find upon arrival that we had a table in a civilised spot and not squished inside the skinny bit!


Isaac took this lovely photo of the sunset on my camera. He's quite the photographer!

Flat hunting in the big city...

How depressing can it get??

Well, I just happen to have a search still going on from my last flat hunting spree (from a very long time ago) and today I got an email notification of a property in my chosen area within budget so I went to the link and discovered the flat was, in fact...

... a parking space...

Not even a private, lock up garage for goodness sake!! A parking space is all mum and I can afford in this area these days. No privacy and no doubt very cold next winter.

Oh well, back to the planning stage again. Perhaps we'll have to broaden our horizons!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The lizard man

A bit over a week ago I delivered a rental car back to it's depot and walked back home to Pam's place. I was wandering along minding my own business - actually, I was not minding my own business as I was peering into all the house and shop fronts along the way.

I was peering intently into one such shop window and spotted few glass tanks full of baby lizards. After a few minutes of trying to work out just what this very run down shop really was, I decided it must be a pet shop so I opened the door and walked in.

It wasn't a pet shop and in fact really wasn't a shop at all. It turns out it is a man's woodworking workshop and a lizard breeding operation in one. He has hundreds of lizards of various size and colour.

He breeds bearded dragons and chameleons. I was lucky enough to meet a 6 month old dragon up close and personal. She was very curious about the lime green shirt I was wearing and had to try to lick it a few times.

I asked him if I could visit again with my camera and he seemed happy with that so I returned today. He got a pot of crickets and tempted Tom the chameleon out of his cage. I could not believe the speed of his tongue - I have a photo of Tom with a very soft blur of tongue, but no sign of the cricket...

When Tom had had his fill, the last of the crickets were poured into the small tank in the window. About 8-10 tiny month old bearded dragons were in there and they all ran around catching crickets eating their heads and leaving the rest (for later?). These little ones were about 3-4 inches long and very cute.

It was a very pleasant surprise to come across such an incredibly interesting character so unexpectantly.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kristie and Cody's house

I just got sad news regarding my nephew and his mum. Their house burned down on Saturday night in Nelson NZ. They had just moved in the day before.

Blaze destroys flat on house-moving day
Nelson | Monday, 12 May 2008

COLIN SMITH/Nelson Mail

Moving house came to a disastrous end for a Stoke woman over the weekend, when a fire destroyed her new home and all the possessions she had just shifted into it.
The fire started shortly after midday on Saturday, as Kristie McDonald and her six-year-old son Cody had almost finished moving into their newly rented Nayland Rd flat, opposite Broadgreen House.

Her father, Richard Stevenson, said all his daughter's possessions were in the flat, which was gutted in the fire.
Stoke Volunteer Fire Brigade senior station officer Jason Everett said the fire communications centre received numerous calls, and when firefighters arrived, the flat was well ablaze.
Smoke alarms had gone off but no one was at home when they sounded.
Mr Everett said he suspected that the fire was started by furniture being placed too close to a log fire, which was burning at the time.
Firefighters needed breathing equipment and had to break a window in an adjoining flat to check that there was no one inside. A firewall stopped the flames spreading.


It's a very sad thing as I know their life isn't the easiest thing at the best of times and now they are starting from scratch. It's moments like this I wish I was at home (NZ) so I could be of some help to them.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Heck-a-doody-dandy!!


My favourite exclamation these days is the above mentioned heck-a-doody-dandy...

Just where it came from I do not know, but it comes out in many variations depending on the experience, mood and intensity of the moment.

Which brings me to an instance when it was used in a slightly more expressive moment. Yesterday I went a-wandering and had not long got off the bus on the return leg. I was a little distracted with the thoughts in my head - does Pam have tomatoes at home or not and should I go into the crappy little corner store that sells wilted things at inflated prices. I did go in and sure enough the wilted and pale vegetables were so uninspiring, I left without any tomatoes.

Last chance saloon presented itself across the road in the form of an even worse little crappy store with things that didn't quite rank as vegetables, but I am getting ahead of myself here.

To get to the store I had to cross a road. So I awaited the little white man (they don't have green men here and I feel it's a little racist every time I cross at the order of a little white man) and proceeded to cross when he said it was safe.

I heard a toot - a loud and aggressive honk - and looked around to see where it was coming from. I couldn't see the offender so I carried along on my merry tomatoe obsessed way.

Next thing I know a car zooms around the corner behind me so fast I nearly didn't see it - but I could feel it! I was in the process of trying to clear my head of tomatoes, and establish what just happened when I became conscious of a siren in the distance. In the meantime a woman was just stepping out from my side of the road to cross to the other side.

In a flash of enlightenment I realised that there was a car chase going on and I had just narrowly missed being run over by the followed. I also realised that the woman was about to step in front of the follower, so I yelled 'WATCH OUT!' and I guess at the same time she clicked as she took to her heels and got to the other side very quickly.

We both stood on our respective corners looking bewildered. And there I stood until I was able to mutter 'heck-a-doody-dandy' and continue on my way. Actually I said it a few moments earlier and the first word was not heck...

PS Pam already had tomatoes at home so all was well in the end.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Groundhog day in Jenn's world

It has been a long few days.

Today I back tracked a little and headed for Manitoulin Island at the north east of Lake Huron. It is the biggest fresh water island in the world.

But the real newsflash is that I saw a groundhog today!! I thought it was a porcupine until I described it to a nice man and his wife this evening. He said definitely a groundhog. So I feel very lucky... does that mean that winter is over now? So why is it so cold here then?? If I were him, I'd hibernate a bit longer.

The man told me that his wife spotted a creature the other day and called out 'there's a squirrel - heck it's really big'. She assumed that eastern squirrels were bigger then the ones they have in Vancouver. Her husband looked over and said it was a groundhog. I think it is time for her to get glasses!!

Unfortunately he ran very fast for a stubby little thing and this is the only view I got. As I headed back to the car, I noticed in my haste I had left it parked in the middle of the narrow road, on a corner, with my door open... Hmmm, I see a strategy meeting being held tonight to plan the next emergency stop that I may have to do! Luckily I was the only one on that road at that point in time - in fact possibly the only person on that road this week!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And then it went bad...

So my morning was great. I got back to the motel to have a shower and check out.

I handed over my credit card and it was declined. So it was tried again. Declined. Hmph! So I paid in cash and seethed and scorned at the bank for stopping the second card in as many days!

When I phoned the bank I discovered they had cause to stop my card as it was being used in New York yesterday while I was driving in Ontario.

I am now traveling Ontario with a few dollars in my pocket and an old credit card from NZ that I hope will not be stopped. At least tonight is paid for and I have a full tank of gas. And a nice mummy who would love to give me money (watch me as I flutter my eyelashes and look very sweet).

I saw some beautiful things I really wanted to stop and photograph but the roads are so difficult to stop on so I've missed a few interesting things. A beautiful white wooden church with a red roof and steeple reflected in a lake - on a dual carriageway that I couldn't have stopped on at all. A bird - size of large owl but maybe a hawk of some sort - on a fence post. Nice light on lakes and swamps etc.

C'est la vie, at least there will be less photos to sort when I get home.