Saturday, April 30, 2011

Take the Fair Face of Woman, Part 1

So for the month of April I concentrated on cross stitching and thus I didn't finish a single scrapbook page the entire month. Here's what I was working on this month in my cross stitch project rotation:

This is another Scarlet Quince pattern of course; I actually bought this one at the same time I got the pattern for my Splendid orange crate label. I'd love to have a similar design for an apple crate label, wouldn't that be cool?

Anyway, to get back to my fairy, the name of the painting is taken from the following verse by Charles Ede:

Take the fair face of woman, and gently suspending,
With butterflies, jewels, and flowers attending,
Thus your fairy is made of most beautiful things.

Pretty, huh? Usually I'm not one much for poetry but I liked that. And here's what I've got done so far (if you click on the photo you can see it bigger):

Oh yes, I have been stitching like a madwoman this month. I did the grid for it and then managed to do 9,510 stitches, which sounds like a lot until you factor in that it's only about 7.5% of the 126,000 stitches to complete the design. I finished almost the entire first page and bits of three other pages; it went pretty fast because so much of it was just plain black without any other colors. Of course it slowed down a lot when I started working on the window to the left and the first of the butterflies on the right, but the shading already looks completely gorgeous and this will be spectacular when it's done in about a zillion years.

My fairy isn't the only lady who thinks wearing butterflies on her head is cool, though.

Yeah, I think my fairy lady does it better. Festive, though. This is Princess Beatrice, who also wore the most-mocked fascinator at yesterday's royal wedding:

Ok, first of all, it either looks like a giant bow or possibly some really weird antlers, and second, the color itself is pretty blech. At least her sister wore a pretty blue even if her fascinator is ugly too. Dad says it looks like all these women got Gibbs-slapped on the back of their heads and that's why these things are perched on the front of their noggins (if you don't watch NCIS, you have no idea what I'm talking about and you should really start watching it, great show). WHAT is the deal with those things anyway?!

I do have to say that Kate looked fantastic. One of the fashion commentators on TV here said she was disappointed that the newly-minted Duchess of Cambridge didn't go for something more daring, but it was her WEDDING, not a fashion show. I think she did exactly right, she worked with the designer to come up with a dress that fit her fashion sensibilities and she looked every inch the princess and fashion commentators are lacking in brain cells. Hmph. Kate reminds me of a girl I went to college with...anyway, I wish the newlyweds all the best.

Now I just can't wait till MY prince gets back home, been lonesome here without him!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wisty Wisty Wisteria

We now know what kind of plant it is growing on the front of our garage: wisteria!

When we first moved in, Lee pruned the trellis rather energetically, so our wisteria is pretty sparse compared to the voluminous canopies arching over the doorways of at least three houses I walk past every day with Sadie and Vader (who are currently lying under the desk and trying doggie voodoo to make me take them out for a walk RIGHT NOW).

I got a good deal on a comforter for our guest bedroom (you know, the one that doesn't have a bed in it yet) that has purple in it, so I kind of want some purple floral pictures to hang on the wall in there. Just got paint today, so sometime before Lee gets back the guest bedroom will be painted pink. Yep, it's going to be a girly guest bedroom.

These pictures just aren't really grabbing me though; maybe if we go to a garden in London on our next trip I can find some more picturesque surroundings. I just wanted Mom to be able to see the wisteria so that's why I took pics of it.

I should take pictures of some of the more luxuriant wisteria arches in the village but I don't want people to think it's odd for me to be out doing things like that. However, I did take a picture of a plant in my next door neighbor's yard...

I think it's a gigundor lilac of some type. It's also got a pervasive perfume! I also walk past a couple other plants like this one, one of which has white flowers, and they're all smelly. Not necessarily bad smelly, just strong; certainly better than the cow poo smell that's pretty common here since we're more or less surrounded by farms.

In other news, Spiderpocalypse has yet to commence; on Sunday night Sadie found a spider in the living room and played with it till it joined the choir invisible. I didn't count the legs to see if it was the one I maimed or if it was one of his friends though...and while I appreciate my fearless spider warrior Sadie doing her part to avert Spiderpocalypse, I worry about a spider biting her. I don't even know if they're poisonous--the fact that they're spiders is sufficient to warrant their destruction in my opinion.

Lee read my last blog post and he says I'm a drama queen. I'm sure I don't know why he thinks that.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More from Framlingham

I have a bunch more pictures from Framlingham to share, but first I'm going to share a story from yesterday evening. It's just me and the doggaroonies at the house right now because Lee is in Italy (*jealous*) so I've been working on uploading China photos to Winkflash so I can print them out in the near future. Last night, after a very long and grueling uploading session, I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and there was a MONSTER SPIDER ON THE FLOOR in my bathroom.

Ok, so I saw bigger spiders than this one in Okinawa, but I never saw a banana spider in my house so I think my severe case of the heeby-jeebies is justifiable. And of course there's no big brawny MAN here to take care of it, but I simply can't leave that spider in my house alive so he can crawl across my face in the middle of the night (shudder!). First I tried to throw a shoe at it, but the spider just laughed at me and moved like three steps out of the way. However, he was on the tile floor in between two bath mats, so I figured maybe I could squish him with a book, and grabbed my wonderful Great Britain guidebook (pretty compact but ridiculously heavy for its size). Took me a few minutes to screw my courage to the sticking place (ooh, a Shakespeare reference!) but finally I threw the book at the spider and then quickly stepped on top of the book to squish it good.

Then I ran back out of the bathroom and did the "OMG I am so freaked out" dance, to the consternation of my dogs. In fact, I was a little too creeped out to pick up the book and scrape the spider off it last night, so I decided to wait for daylight to do that and I went to bed. Got up this morning and with the sunlight streaming in the bathroom window, I bravely picked up the Great Britain guide book to deal with squished spider guts.

No spider guts.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCKKK!!!!! This means the killer monster spider of East Anglia ESCAPED and probably spent the night under my bathmat PLOTTING REVENGE! *hyperventilating* You know that part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry, Ron and Fang end up in Aragog's lair in the Forbidden Forest? Yeah, that's what I'm imagining. Lee better get here quick before Spiderpocalypse commences. I'm so freaked out I just tried to spell "lair" as "layer". Hmph. And my computer's Spellcheck thinks that "Spiderpocalypse" is a word but "Spellcheck" isn't.

Anyway, you probably didn't come here to read about my hysterical non-killing of the monster spider, so let's go back to the pictures from Framlingham while I try not to think about spiders.

Ok, so Lee and I climbed up to the top of the castle wall and circumnavigated it, enjoying fine views of the countryside that is probably teeming with evil spiders (after dark, at least). There are thirteen towers so apparently triskaidekaphobia wasn't so widespread in the 12th century (don't know about arachnophobia, though it's alive and well in my house today).

One of the most striking features of Framlingham Castle is the collection of Tudor chimneys adorning its towers. Only three of the chimneys was actually functional; the rest were strictly ornamental and were put in place during Tudor times as a way for the castle owners to show off their wealth and fashion sense. Each of the chimneys is a different design, but we liked the twisted chimney best. Wonder how many spiders live in it.

Here's a shot of the tree that Lee liked so much, but taken from up on the curtain wall. Orford Castle is somewhere off this direction from Framlingham, but we couldn't see it since we didn't have binoculars. Not 100% sure you could see it in any case.

The castle wall walk...originally of course there weren't any guard rails, so people strolling along the castle wall had to be careful not to fall off the wall.

This one kind of gives you a sense of how large the area encircled by the castle wall is; the only buildings still in existence inside the wall were once used as a poorhouse. In 1635, the castle was purchased by a lawyer, Sir Robert Hitcham, who specified in his will that the castle be turned into a poorhouse upon his death. Took quite a bit of legal wrangling for his wish to come to pass, but in the 1700s it did indeed become a poorhouse which was then used for more than 100 years. The inhabitants were given some basic clothing and jobs (men worked at farming and cobbled shoes in the winter; women did things like spin thread and seamstress work). Sir Hitcham had been born into a poor family and made his fortune through hard work and with the help of an education, so that's why he wanted to provide an opportunity for other poor people to make their way.

'Nother chimney.

The red building to the left in the above photo was the first poorhouse, but wasn't big enough so the longer building on the right was constructed. The red part on the left is now a private residence, how cool would it be to live inside a 12th century castle wall?

I thought this chimney pattern was kinda cool too.

Once we completed our circuit of the castle walls, we decided to walk all around the walls on the outside.

This wide flat area was once a garden; behind us is a small lake or "mere" which was used for fishing and also reflects the castle most prettily. Of course you have to be on the far side of the mere looking towards the castle to see the reflection, and we didn't know how to get out there, so I just bought a postcard with a picture of it instead.

Our attempt at a self-portrait :)

We handed the camera off to a lady who was sitting in the grass and enjoying the sunshine with her kids, so she took this picture for us. Not too shabby. A lot of times if we give our big Nikon camera to someone to take photos, they turn out blurry; this nice lady got us framed up pretty nicely even after expressing trepidation about handling our camera, and we don't look Godzilla-sized compared to the castle (see Castle Rising Castle).

Lee went up close to check out this part of the castle, which I think was used as a prison under either Bloody Mary or Elizabeth I. Mary tried to convert England back to Catholicism and so persecuted Protestants; Elizabeth switched the country right back and persecuted Catholic priests. And that's part of the reason why so many people emigrated to America where they could persecute the Native Americans.

I took a photo of the bridge here from the other side when we first arrived, I like it from this side too.

And just because I think the tree shadow looks cool!

Anyway, I wish you all a happy Easter; I'm off to get cleaned up and then I'm going over to Liz's friend Dana's house for lunch. Liz wanted to make sure I didn't have to spend Easter by myself; of course, between the dogs and the army of spiders plotting my destruction, I'm not really alone am I?

ETA: Upon further examination of the scene of last night's spider stand-off, I discovered that I severed one of the spider's legs, so now it definitely has a motive to plot revenge. I may have to find a hotel.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Queen Mary Stayed Here

Last Sunday, I made Lee pick where we went :) I know he doesn't much mind going anywhere I want to, but I don't *always* want sole responsibility for picking out enjoyable activities for us. He did a good job choosing a destination though: Framlingham Castle, a mere 12 miles from Orford. Once again, we were gifted with gorgeous weather.

I'm starting to think that the thing about England being constantly gray and drizzly and cold and ug-tastic was a myth invented by the French in an effort to draw tourists (and their money) away from England and towards France. (I do want to go to France, too.)

So, back to the castle. Orford, the first castle we visited, has lost its curtain wall over the centuries while the keep itself remains almost completely intact, but the opposite is true at Framlingham--fairly complete curtain wall and pretty much no interior buildings. The original castle wasn't typical anyway, and didn't have a central keep as such. Framlingham dates from roughly the same time period as Orford, and when you're past 800 I don't think that five or ten years makes much difference :)

Ok, so I couldn't choose which of the tree shots I liked best :) Anyway, the castle first belonged to the Bigod family, but it was forfeited to the Crown and given back on several occasions when the Bigods got too big for their britches by the estimation of the king. In fact, in 1215 Roger Bigod was one of the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta.

I had photographic honors for the most part last weekend, I particularly like this shot :)

This is Framlingham College, which can be seen from the castle walls (although this photo was taken from ground level). Anyway, by the 15th century, the castle had been confiscated more than once and ultimately passed into the hands of the Howard family. Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, was quite the ambitious little schemer and married off not one, but two of his nieces to King Henry VIII--Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, who were the two that Henry had beheaded. I feel sorry for the women married to Henry, don't you?

Anyway, after Henry's demise, Framlingham belonged briefly to Bloody Mary before she got all bloody.

Bet people were too skeered to tell Mary she had something on her nose. Anyway, I've talked before about what happened when Henry VIII's son Edward VI died and how Lady Jane Grey became the Nine Days' Queen but was deposed in favor of Mary. Mary was in residence at Framlingham when she got the news that she had been accepted as Queen of England by the Privy Council, and she rallied support from East Anglia when she marched into London. (I feel even sorrier for Jane than I do Henry's wives). After she took power, Mary gave the castle back to Thomas Howard and released him from prison. I wonder if there was any kind of weird family dynamic--after all, Howard was related to Mary's stepmother(s) and her half-sister Elizabeth. But anyway, the castle went back to the Howards and I'll tell you more about what happened to it after Tudor times in my next post.

So here's a view from inside the curtain wall; the open space is quite large and absolutely perfect for a picnic lunch, and indeed several groups were doing just that. If we'd thought of it, we could have totally brought a picnic lunch with us (and the dogs for that matter, several people had dogs with them) but instead we had Sunday roast at a local pub on the recommendation of the lady who gave us our tickets. It was totally delish.

After we looked around a bit, we went into the little shop and saw the displays depicting part of the castle's history. Here's a recreation of clothing similar to what Bloody Mary and Henry VIII used to wear:

And in contrast there's this:

This is a recreation of the clothing provided to people who lived in the castle when it was converted into a poorhouse (more on that next time).

Anyway, since I last posted, I have not made anything paper-crafty, but I have uploaded several hundred pictures to Winkflash to have printed out. However, I'm irked at the moment that I STILL haven't gotten the last set of pictures I ordered from them and which supposedly shipped out like three weeks ago. Grr. If they're not here when I check the mail tomorrow, I'm going to contact them and say "what up, yo?!" I've uploaded all the England pictures that we've taken so far (well, not ALL of them 'cause that's a lot, but the ones I like best that I want to use in my scrapbooks) and I'm slowly working my way through the China pictures from last year. I've come to the conclusion that I may have to make FOUR separate albums for my China pictures, one for each city. Which is ridiculous for a 12-day trip but I don't see myself returning to China ever, so I may as well really do up the scrapbooks nice!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Have ADHD Today

Seriously, I haven't been able to settle down and finish *anything* today...except for a load of dishes, and I don't really think that counts. I've spent a good portion of the afternoon in my craft room (which is still in need of a catchy new moniker) but don't really have anything to show for it except for one simple little card and a couple of half-finished layouts.

But let's start with what I did *last* week, shall we? I'm part of a swap group with other SU demonstrators, and so last week I made two sets of swaps. Behold the first one:

Ok, I've never really been able to work the collage thing before, but I was really pleased with how these came out. I used all five stamps in this stamp set, which will be in the upcoming mini catalog. I stole the layout from this card I did a while back:

This is one of my favorite cards ever, is it wrong to be so tickled with my own stuff? Nah, 'cause if it wasn't fun to look at the end results, why would stampers spend so much money and time on this hobby? Anyway, I made 14 of the swap cards and so I used several different patterns for the backgrounds.

I had three separate sheets of double-sided paper and so I just used whichever side happened to look more interesting on each little piece. This paper has some really big designs on one side and smaller patterns on the other side, so sometimes the big design side just didn't work when it was cut apart and sometimes it looked cool.

Next up I did something bright and floral:

I'd had this sketch printed out in my sketch binder for ages and I know it came from a blog somewhere, but I have no idea where. Anyway, I liked how these came out too but the nautical one was my favorite of the two. I also used a couple different patterns on this one:

So that was last week. All I got done today was a quick card for the Clean and Simple sketch challenge on Splitcoast:

I colored in the stamp with markers, stamped it on my cardstock, and then used markers in darker shades to add a little detailing. I like how it looks. Since this is the Clean and Simple challenge, I just left the background as plain cardstock. No bulky embellishments, so this card will be easy to mail...and it should go out in the mail later this week to a friend of mine who has been battling cancer for over a year.

So, let's move on to the ADHD part. My friend Vicki just got back from a Caribbean cruise, which made me ever-so-slightly jealous, and since I couldn't go with her I thought I'd start the scrapbook from the one Caribbean cruise I *have* been on, when Lee and I did a Disney cruise for our honeymoon. So now I have four unfinished pages. Grr.

Like my pajama pants? This layout is mostly done; everything is stuck down, I just need to add some embellishments and journaling. I've got a smorgasbord of big, bold floral stamps to use in this book, but I need an ink refill for one of my ink pads before I start stamping out some flowers for this layout. This book is going to be pretty simple in design: white background for all the layouts and a set number of colors to work with (each section will be color-coded). I'm keeping the embellishments to a minimum, pretty much nothing but the Mickey punches and the aforementioned flower stamps. So once I get that ink refill, theoretically I can blast out a bunch of pages and get this album finished. We'll see how that works in real life.

And here's the layout that is causing my ADHD today, the only thing that's done is the pictures are matted and the title has been stamped. It needs borders on the outside edges and the flower embellishments and for some reason I just can't get in the groove today. I was hoping that if I took a break to make the CAS card, that it would put me more in the mood for paper crafting, but no dice. So I'm thinking I may go stitch instead...I've made a *lot* of progress on my stitching project for the month, which is a big part of why I haven't finished a single layout for my scrapbooks. Oops. Wonder if I can churn out 10 pages to make my goal for the month...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Castle Acre Priory

Ok, I'm back with more pictures from last weekend. After we left Castle Rising, we drove maybe 20 minutes east to Castle Acre, home of another ruined castle and a ruined priory. A priory is like a monastery that isn't fully independent and "belongs" to a larger abbey or monastery--in the case of this one, the abbey at Cluny in France. But let me back up a bit and give a bit of a history lesson (feel free to skip this part if it's not your thang, but there will be a quiz later).

In 1066, William the Conqueror sailed from Normandy and conquered England. He gave quite a bit of land to William de Warenne, one of his trusted warriors, who was responsible for building Castle Acre Castle (which we skipped because in photos it looks like there's not much there at all now). Later on, the de Warenne family also started the priory because a.) they had all kinds of worldly power, so it was time to start thinking about the afterlife; and b.) William de Warenne had been much impressed with the Cluny abbey in his native France and so he founded Castle Acre Priory as an offshoot of the larger abbey. Cluny and its offshoots were pretty powerful and rich; the Castle Acre site is totally huge and must have been quite impressive back in its heyday. Construction on the priory began around 1090 so parts of this place are over nine HUNDRED years old.

Fast-forward to 1536. England's most famous king, Henry VIII, closed down hundreds of monasteries and convents in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Follow the link to the long and informative article in Wikipedia; the short version is that Henry's regime was responsible for the destruction of many religious sites across the country and in so doing made pots and pots of money. He was, at least, nice enough to provide pensions or endowments for most of the nuns and monks displaced in the Dissolution, but the program resulted in the loss of a lot of historical artifacts like the libraries of the monasteries and the ancient buildings themselves.

Castle Acre Priory was torn down in 1537, and its prior's residence was turned into a farmhouse. However, after that, the village was kind of forgotten and as a result the ruins were pretty much left alone for over 500 years, until the 20th century when they were cleaned up a bit and put under the auspices of English Heritage for people to visit. So, here's what the ruined priory looks like.

This is the west facade, which is still mostly intact; the prior's residence is to the right.

I thought it was kind of funny that there are weedy flowers growing in the stones of the ruins, sometimes pretty high up.

The site is really large and impressive, even in its ruined state. And Lee has lawn envy; the grass here looks waaayyyy better than our lawn does (in his defense, we just got our lawn mower and other yard equipment on Wednesday, so cleaning up the yard will be one of this weekend's tasks).

There's my honey!

Did I mention that we had a gorgeous day last Sunday?

West facade seen from the back...apparently I liked taking pictures of that part of the ruin because I think there's at least one more.

The complex had a large infirmary (back in the day, religious types also doubled as doctors a lot of the time...and if the patients died then they could pray for their souls) and a big, separate building for the latrines.

This was taken where the dormitory used to be, and if you look in the arch in the center of the photo you'll see the local parish church.

Here's the prior's lodging; photo taken from the opposite side of where we started out.

Lee's on the Stairway to Heaven (ok, I'm laughing anyway). This is, again, in the dormitory.

Closer up view of the prior's lodging/converted farmhouse, which is the most intact part of the ruins.

And the west facade again. I took most of the pictures at the priory so it's possible I just wanted to show off my photographic skillz ;) Honestly, I chose the priory for the day's trip because I thought we could get interesting ruin photos from what was in the English Heritage guidebook, and it was close enough to Castle Rising that we were able to easily see both in just a few hours with time to spare to hang out and chillax at the house.

Lee usually tells me to pick whatever it is we go see on the weekends...he says he doesn't much care what we do or what we go see, he's just happy to be here. He's very affable that way. I just hope I pick things that he finds interesting...I'm such a history nerd! Speaking of history nerdery, in the shop at Castle Rising Castle I saw a little poster with a rhyme on it which goes through all the kings and queens of England starting with William the Conqueror:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three.
Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two
Henry Four, Five, Six then who?
Edward Four Five, Dick the Bad
Harrys twain and Ned, the lad.
Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary, Anne o'Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria
Edward Seven, Georgie Five,
Edward, George and Liz (alive).

'Cept they left out Lady Jane, but then again she was only queen for nine days. "Dick the Bad" is Richard III, who was widely suspected to have killed the child-king Edward V to take the crown for himself. Anyway, I liked the poem but didn't buy the poster since I figured I could find the poem online...Google is a wonderful thing!