Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Stroll Along the Thames

Finally thought I'd post the last bit of London pictures...we're planning to go back in a couple of weeks so I'll have more to show then :) Where did I leave off, anyway? Oh yes, we took the Tube over to Westminster (I still can't hardly believe that I have been on the London Underground and casually leaned up against Westminster Abbey while I consulted my London guidebook...ok, I digress) and after that, we walked across a bridge over the Thames (not sure which one, Liz has my guidebook now) so we could get a better view of the Houses of Parliament.

Proof I was there, or that we have some mad Photoshop skillz :)

Taken from the opposite side of the river. Lee and I agreed that neither of us would ever like to swim in the Thames like Sherlock Holmes did (on one of our future trips to London, we will be going to 221B Baker Street!). My guidebook had something in it about "The Great Stink" when they couldn't open up a session of Parliament one year because the river stank so bad from all the pollution. I'm happy to report that it doesn't particularly stink now, just looks kinda dirty.

I forget what the building across the street from Big Ben is; the Tube station is at the far right end of this picture. Liz has my guidebook right now or else I'd look it up to see what that building is.

Anyway, on the side of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament is a Marriott Hotel with this cool lion statue out front of it.

And a cool-looking fountain was right behind where we were standing to take our pictures.

All the lampposts in the area are done up like this, which I thought was kinda cool. And a neat picture courtesy of Lee.

And here is the London Eye, Europe's biggest Ferris wheel. Is it just me or are these pictures kind of dark? That's what I get for not taking the time to edit these before I posted.

We thought about going on it, but it seemed kind of expensive so we gave it a miss this time. Maybe if we're back in the city on a day with REALLY great weather, we'll do it and see what kinds of fabulous pictures we can take.

I talked Lee into going to see one more thing further down the river, and he kindly consented to walking probably an extra mile for me (in a literal sense). So that's the Eye from the other side, and here's what I wanted to go look at:

Well, actually, that is to one side of what I wanted to look at, which was this:

Cleopatra's Needle, a genuine honest-to-goodness Egyptian obelisk in London. It has a mate in New York's Central Park, and there's a similar one in Paris, too, and one of these days I will get to visit the other two. Anyway, I must confess that the main reason I wanted to visit this one is because it's mentioned in Rick Riordan's book The Red Pyramid :) Darn, that picture is kind of dark too. Anyway, I enjoyed The Red Pyramid, but I absolutely love and adore the Percy Jackson books and probably my favorite Riordan book is The Lost Hero. I always did like mythology, I even took Classical Myth for fun in college. But back to the photos.

Hey look, it's my honey! Patiently waiting while I took a bunch of pictures of Cleopatra's Needle and the two sphinxes next to it.

The base of this sphinx was damaged in a German air raid in 1917. Kind of sobering to see that kind of thing, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Houston, we have INTERNET!!! I would have blogged sooner, but I was waiting for our Internet to get all hooked up and working here at the house. We got a modem last week, the Internet was turned on Friday...and the modem didn't work, so they had to send us a second one, which we got yesterday. Lee set everything up while I took the kiddos for a walk, and then when I got back he gave me the Internet-enabled laptop and he took the Mac and we both surfed the 'Net for HOURS. Seriously, I took the laptop up to bed with me when Lee had to go to bed, and kept surfing until both the laptop and I turned into pumpkins at midnight because of low batteries (good thing I didn't bring the charger up with me or I might never have gone to sleep last night). And right now I'm blogging on the laptop while I upload a bunch of CDs into iTunes on the Mac, bwahahaaaa! Serious happy dancin' going on here, both because I have Internet and because of the music I'm uploading, which is a kind of a crazy mix but that's me all over.

So anyway, what did we do over the 3-day weekend with no Internet until yesterday afternoon? Well, we did some work on the house. When we moved in, the walls were festooned with a bewildering array of hooks, screws, nails, etc., some of which were in really weird places (we have no idea why there was a hook on either side of the door to the master bathroom...the only thing I can think is Christmas lights? or maybe I don't want to know...) and so we took some of them out in the entryway and living room, and then Lee patched the holes and painted over them with some paint he found in the garage that we assumed was the same color.

Heh. Aheh. Heh.

Yeah, our walls had cancer spots. Lee borrowed some paint from Liz's husband Bobby that actually was closer to the correct color, but it still didn't look right, so I suggested we paint the whole entryway and living room. And this is what it looked like before this past weekend.

It was a neutral warm ivory, which is fine, but I figured if we were going to paint anyway, we may as well pick a real COLOR. And this is the first time that Lee and I have ever painted anything in any house we've lived in since we got married.

On Saturday, we went out all over the area buying supplies to paint, and then we spent the evening taping everything off.

Lee took all the "before" pictures, so no shots of him in his matching jumpsuit, which was surprisingly comfortable once I cinched up the cuffs on the sleeves so I didn't feel like a kid playing dress-up mechanic.

So you want to know what color we chose? K, it was my idea, and I talked Lee into it because it's his favorite color. Behold!

So maybe pale blue isn't Lee's favorite *shade* of blue, but no way were we going to paint a dark color in here because it would have felt like a cave. For a while though, while the paint was drying, I was seriously worried that it was going to turn out less delicate powder blue and more Andy's bedroom from Toy Story. I was half-tempted to paint fluffy white clouds on it. But then we went to sleep on Sunday night and when we got up on Monday, it looked great. I like it better every time I look at it, even. (Yes, I realize I am totally gushing about PAINT. But I love it!)

So anyway, there's my super-cool apothecary cabinet in the entryway, and the koi picture above it is the one my mom stitched for me for my birthday a couple of years ago (I think it was for my first annual 29th birthday). Can't see the picture too well thanks to the glare but it looks great in real life. I put two pieces of Ryukyu glass on top of the cabinet, but I saw a giant cobalt blue vase at the local secondhand shop that I may go back and get...I want to put some pink and/or orange artificial flowers on top of here if I can get Mom to go shopping for me. The kokeshi doll is one that my sweet friend Amber sent me for my birthday this year :) I unpacked all my dolls today looking for one that had some orange in it to go right there, and then it turned out that my latest acquisition was exactly what I needed.

This house doesn't have a Harry Potter closet under the stairs, but it does have a ready-made Vader cave :) I knew as soon as I saw it that the dogs were going to love that little space, so we just stuck a dog bed down there as soon as we moved in. And then I had to get on hands and knees to paint it blue. We aren't sure how to remove the radiators from the walls to paint behind them, so I put a garbage bag over it and painted around it and behind it as best I could with a paintbrush. Actually doesn't look too bad.

Yesterday we had to go out to a hardware store and get masonry nails and a masonry bit for Lee's drill because, like Wolverine's exoskeleton, our walls are made out of adamantium and we broke a drill bit trying to hang pictures. We still need to do a bit of touching up behind these pictures, but it doesn't look bad with them up. Anyway, Lee and I got these watercolors on St. Maarten in the Caribbean when we went on our honeymoon Disney cruise, and the hot pink in there is why I want pink and/or orange flowers to go on the apothecary cabinet. The door on the left goes to the dining room, and the apothecary cabinet is just to the left of that, so those flowers would tie everything together over there I think.

It was hard to paint around that curtain rod by the front door, and there was quite a bit of ivory paint on it anyway proving that whoever painted in here last had even more trouble with it than we did :)

Today I unpacked my collection of Jim Shore figurines and used them to decorate a bit, what do you think?

I used several of my Jim Shore Tinker Bell figurines to decorate the shelf under the mirror, although I'm not 100% sure they'll live there forever. They look fine there for now but I reserve the right to change my mind in the future. Lee put the coat rack, shelf, and mirror back up while I was in the shower yesterday morning, and I have absolutely no idea how he hung the mirror up all by his onesies.

And here's the last picture we hung up, which is by the door to the guest room across from the master bedroom; Mom picked this up for us when she and Dad went to DisneyWorld.

So anyway, this was a pretty ambitious painting project, especially to start out with, and I think that Lee was hoping that I'd be content to leave everything else alone for a while. On the contrary, now I want to paint my craft room (purple), the guest room (pink), the dining room (green), and the living room (color to be determined when we get a new couch to replace the one molding away in our garage). Bwahahahaaaaa! I actually got a tester pot of purple paint for my craft room too, so I think I'll do that one sooner rather than later, and I think it would be a good idea to do the dining room *before* our dining room furniture gets here (whenever that will be). But I'll let him rest for a week or so before I subject him to anymore paint fumes.

Seven more CDs to upload into iTunes :) Guess the next hour or two will be spent updating my playlists on my iPod. Oh, how I missed having the Internet! Not that I need it to change playlists, but it's definitely easier to upload CDs with Internet access since iTunes will pull the information on the song titles and stuff for me. I hadn't realized how many CDs I got while I was in the States, but in my defense, I got quite a few of these at the used book store so they were cheap. And I love movie scores, but I think my next happy dance will be to the tune of the Katy Perry CD I just uploaded. Ta-ta for now, peeps!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Ben & Westminster Abbey

After we finished looking all over St. Paul's, we hopped on the Tube and headed towards Westminster. We got out of the Tube station and did a lil self-portrait with the Thames in the background:

And then we turned around and lo! Big Ben!

Lee took like 20 pictures to make sure he'd get a double-decker bus in it :)

He also took these pics, and I can't decide if I like the one above or the one below better...

We walked down the street a little towards Westminster Abbey and got this photo, I think this is the Houses of Parliament or St. Stephen's or something...I left my guidebook at home ;)

And here's the front of Westminster Abbey. It closes to tourists at 1:00 on Saturdays, so we'll have to check it out again some other time. For now though, we just walked around the outside and took a few architectural photos.

I liked this one :) (above)

Lee thought this one was cool because of the dude's chain mail. And that was pretty much all we got to see of Westminster. I do still have a few London photos left to post, but I'm stringing them out a bit, he!

Monday, February 7, 2011

St. Paul's Cathedral

On Saturday, Lee and I went to London for the first time (that whole flying into Heathrow didn't really count). We drove about an hour to get to Epping, which is where one of the Underground lines terminates, and then had about a half-hour Tube ride into London, so not terribly long to get to from our house. I keep telling Liz that the Tube is *totally* easy to figure out ;) Anyway, I asked Lee what he wanted to see first and he was no help at all, he just wanted to go to London, so I asked myself "What would Missy do?" and we picked one of the places with the most stairs (at least, the most stairs according to Misty, not to be confused with Missy who likes to make us go up and down stairs): St. Paul's Cathedral.

This place is pretty massive; this is the west side I think. I wish you could see the dome from this angle, but alas.

Hey look, proof that I was there :) That's Queen Anne on the top of the statue, who was the reigning monarch when the cathedral was finished in the early 1700s after having burned to the ground (not for the first time, I might add) in the Great Fire of 1666.

You can read a bit more about the cathedral and a silly poem about Queen Anne's statue here.

Lee took most of the pictures I'm posting today, but this one (above) is mine and it's my favorite of the statue. Every once in a while we get a picture that I just love, and this is one of them.

Here's the clock tower on the right side.

This was actually the first picture we took, on the north side of the church, but for the purposes of this blog post it made more sense to start with the picture of the entire facade of the building instead.

Anyway, after we had taken a bunch of pictures of the outside of the cathedral, we decided to fork over the 29 pounds to go tour the inside, but alas (again, alas!) we were not allowed to take pictures inside. Had we been allowed to, we could have easily spent the entire weekend inside the cathedral, photographing the mosaics, paintings, carvings, statues...everything. Trust me when I tell you it is truly magnificent. Wikipedia does have a few pictures from the inside of the cathedral if you'd like to check out their page. And now I know why Princess Diana could have such a humongous train on her wedding dress; this cathedral kind of begs for an over-the-top wedding gown (given that I was a year and a half old when Charles and Diana got married, I can't say I watched it on tv. However, I will watch when the next royal wedding happens in April.).

We explored the cathedral floor with the aid of the audio tour, and then we ate lunch in the cathedral cafe in the crypt. Wish we could have taken pictures there, too, but still forbidden. Lee was amazed at how many names he recognized on monuments and markers and graves and such in there; we saw a statue of John Donne; the Duke of Wellington's ginormous monument (a statue with him atop his horse Copenhagen) in the main cathedral, and Admiral Horatio Nelson's grave, among others. I had to search a bit before I could find Sir Christopher Wren's resting place; he was the architect who designed and built the cathedral, as well as many others in London after the Great Fire, and he lived to the ripe old age of 91.

After we ate lunch, we went back up to the main floor and then up 530 steps to see the Whispering Gallery and the Stone Gallery. The Whispering Gallery is inside the dome, and supposedly when a person whispers at one side of the dome, someone else at the opposite side can hear everything that is said. Given that I was in band for seven years, I'm not a good judge of how well it works ;) The Stone Gallery is where you go outside and you can see fantastic views of London, *and* you're allowed to take pictures from up there!

Hey look, a couple of double-decker buses! Didn't get to ride one this trip, but I'm sure we will sooner or later.

There's the Millennium Bridge that was destroyed in Deathly Hallows Part 1 (obviously it's been fixed now, heh) and if you look a bit to the left of the bridge, that white building with the thatched roof is the replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (not that he owned it, of course, but he's the one we most associate with the place now). We will definitely check that out up close and personal on a future trip to London!

A different view of the clock tower, and also one of my favorite shots of the day's pictures.

We didn't go check out what this monument is after we left the church, we just liked how all the lines around it radiate out from it like a supernova or something.

On one side of the dome, it was really ridiculously windy. You know that part in Mary Poppins where all the other nanny applicants are blown away in the wind? I thought for sure that was going to happen to us and we'd fly all over London.

And here we are! Whenever we hand over the big camera to someone the picture never comes out that great, but what can you do. Maybe next time we'll just hand over the little camera, that's easier to figure out.

I thought my dad would like to see this, considering that Walker used to be my last name ;)

And here's a picture of just a few of the stairs we had to climb down to get back to the main floor of the church (shh, I don't think we were supposed to take this one, hehe!). We were feeling a little bit jelly-legged by the time we got down, and it was definitely too warm for thermals after the climb. We went back down to the crypt and looked around there a bit more, and I got a book about the cathedral (on sale! That makes everything better) and a few postcards with pictures taken inside the cathedral since we weren't allowed to take our own (grr!). Well, if we had taken our own pictures, then we probably would have gotten our noggins stuck staring up at the mosaics on the ceiling and paintings in the dome ;)

So that was our first stop on our first trip to London. We had an absolute ball there on Saturday, and we're talking about trying to get out there at least once a month to job is to go through the London guidebook that Misty gave me for Christmas and make a list of all the stuff we want to see, and then we can kind of rank that and have an idea where to go next time we get into town. I'm thinking that other site with all the stairs: the Tower of London ;)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Miranda, Part 1

We hadn't even moved into our new house yet when I started a new big huge cross stitch project, thanks to my awesome friend Vicki :) You can see what this will look like finished if you check out Scarlet Quince, and here's what I've got done so far:

I've got 5,571 stitches done so far, which is just under 14% done. Not too bad considering I started halfway through the month and moved into a new house on top of that. Since Vicki sent me THREE awesome patterns, I'm going to work on a bunch of projects in rotation. So February's pattern will be The Quarry, which I haven't started because I haven't done the gridding yet (basting in lines every 10 stitches, which helps with counting). I'd never done it before I started Miranda, but I think it will be mega helpful on these huge projects; I just pull out the grid as I get to it. It's just *really* boring to set up in the first place! :p

Instead of stitching, I've been working on getting my craft room organized, and thinking about unmounting all of my Stampin' Up stamps. Liz is also cracking the whip on me to get me started back scrapbooking, so I need to get all my ducks in a row so I can work on some pages :)

But I do see a new SQ pattern that just boggles my mind...well, I think four huge stitching projects is plenty for now!