Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back in the Scrappin' Groove

I've been having some problems with Blogger lately, wouldn't let me comment and this is the first time the site has let me in since the last post went up.  Vicki says Blogger is picking on me 'cause she's not having any trouble.  Well, I'm in here now so I thought I'd post...although I'm still having some issues with the new format thing, my pictures are all out of order.  At least I tricked Blogger into getting all of these the right orientation, ha!

This month I've started working on an album of photos from when my parents visited us in Okinawa back in 2008, so that's what all these pages are from and why the title font is the same on all of them.  I figured using just the one alphabet (an old Sizzix one from before they came out with the Big Shot stuff) would help the album feel more cohesive.  Plus it means I don't have to think up different title treatments for every layout.

I did this one yesterday, the first time in a long time I've started a layout, finished it, *and* uploaded it to my Splitcoast gallery all on the same day.  I found this sketch in my binder from a long time ago so I thought I'd give it a shot...this is probably my favorite of the pages I'm sharing today.  I'm glad I've got a whole 'nother pack of that Razzleberry Lemonade patterned paper to play with (or hoard, if we're honest).  I was going to use some polka-dotted Melon Mambo ribbon for the strip going across the middle, but that was just one pattern too many so I did plain cardstock strips instead.  This one came together pretty quickly for me (I'm a very slow scrapper, so getting a layout done in a single day is a little unusual).  I miss Crushed Curry, wish SU would bring that color back.  Who am I kidding, I think they should never retire colors, they should just keep adding a half-dozen every year!

This layout, in contrast, fought with me the whole time I was working on it. I got the color blocks done and the photos on the left side stuck down and then it sat for weeks before I finished it.  Still don't like it particularly well, but not every page can be your favorite and it's done now so that's something.  Not sure I like the punched flower accents, but I stamped out two or three different sets of flowers and none of them was working so I went with the punches just to get it done.  Harumph.  The vertical photo on the left is Dad and Lee at the top of a very tall, steep hill that Dad had to mow when they lived in that house 30 years ago.  The pics on the right are both of Mom and me...she was like 6 months pregnant in the photo on the left and in the one on the right it's as if I sprang forth fully grown, Athena-style.

For some reason no one has commented on this one in my gallery, I don't know why 'cause I like it.  I think this is now the fourth time I've used this sketch, might as well just use it once in every single album I do, right?  This time it's Lee's fault; I showed him a couple of different ideas and he picked this sketch.  Not exactly sure why this is my favorite sketch, although I've liked every layout I've done with it...maybe I'm just drawn to the borders on the sides, I seem to like doing borders.

See, there's another border of patterned paper, although this one takes up half the pages so does that mean it's still a border?  I've been having fun with lots of bright, summery colors in this book...the stamp set and patterned paper on this one were from Stampin' Up!'s summer mini catalog from last year.  When I was in the States, I got a couple of sets of Nestabilities, and the circle ones have been fantabulous for scrapbooking.  I need to get a bunch more of those, I love most of the label shapes they have.

And here is the picture that didn't want to load right...Blogger kept rotating it to the right to make it vertical, so I rotated the original 90 degrees to the left so when I uploaded it and Blogger flipped it, it ended up in the right orientation.  Patting myself on the back for thinking of that one ; )  I cut all the photos on the right page into squares so I could fit more of them on here; the squares are all adhered a little bit crooked so I didn't give myself heartburn trying to make them all exactly straight and even (it looks more artfully crooked IRL).  I kind of hate to cut up my pictures now but I managed to do it for this layout.  The only one of the cropped photos that still kind of bothers me is the one on the bottom row in the center; I couldn't fit in the flower and its long, long stamen so the end is cut off a bit.  While I cut off quite a bit of the other photos I don't think that the results look bad at all.

I still have about 20 pages to do to complete this album, but I think I've got a good start on it...and I've got a fat pile of other photos to work with too, not to mention the 800+ that are in my shopping cart at Winkflash.  That includes some England pictures, some Japan pics from last year, and a whole boatload of China stuff...yup, I won't catch up on scrapping any time soon!

So that's what I've been up to this week. The house is in dire need of a good vacuuming (or Hoovering, as they say here) but Sadie and I mortally wounded the vacuum cleaner over the weekend so that will have to wait until we get a new one.  We may be knee-deep in dog hair when that happens, I swan that Sadie is shedding twice as fast here as she did in Okinawa, which is weird because it's still cool enough that I'm wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a sweater when I take Sadie and Vader out for walks.  I should probably go ahead and do now so I have the rest of the day to scrap uninterrupted ; )  Oh, okay, I'll do dishes too.

Sadie can tell time.  I told her when I got on the computer that I'd take her out for a walk at ten o'clock, and she just informed me that I'm more than five minutes late now.  Why'd we have to get a smart dog?  Smart alec, anyway!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Game is Afoot

As promised, pictures from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which is naturally located at 221b Baker Street in London.

When the original stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Baker Street's numbers didn't go up to the 200s so the address was fictional.  The street did, however, have a number of boarding houses like the one described in the story as Holmes and Watson's abode, and the current museum is in one of those.  It's quite narrow, squished in between other businesses and I don't know WHY I didn't get Lee to stop in the Beatles store just down the row; I forgot about it before we left for the Tube station.  But I digress.

Since the inside is pretty small, we had to wait a few minutes before we could go in (they only let a certain number of people in at a time).  The man minding the door was dressed up as a Victorian era inspector, and you could get your picture taken with him while wearing a deerstalker cap and holding a pipe...we saw several people put the pipe in their mouths and that was enough to convince us we didn't need to go near it ;)  Anyway, we went inside and up a narrow staircase to where the study and Holmes' bedroom are located.

Here is the table in the study, featuring a bowler hat, magnifying glass, and of course Holmes' pipe.  That kind of pipe was not mentioned in the stories; it came to be associated with Sherlock Holmes due to a stage actor who used that kind of pipe when playing Sherlock Holmes so that his face wouldn't be obstructed by it.  Likewise, the deerstalker is also not in the stories as Holmes' signature headgear; he wore a variety of hats.

Here's Lee in ol' Sherlock's bedroom.  One thing that struck me about this house is how incredibly squeaky the floors were--absolutely no way you could sneak up on anyone in there!

Brass bust of Sherlock Holmes...don't know why we didn't have someone take our picture with it, but there you go.  The museum is decorated with "mementos" from Holmes' cases, plus a few mannequins acting out scenes from the stories (you'll see those in a minute).  But the funniest thing was the letters to Holmes on display.  I particularly liked this one (click on the photo to enlarge it so you can read it):

There was another letter from an American boy saying that if Holmes ever had a case that took him to America, please call on him, particularly if the case involved fish or dinosaurs since those were the boy's specialties.  The book of letters was on a table underneath this:

The Hound of the Baskervilles.  He was pretty humongous.  One of the signs on the wall mentioned that in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, dogs are rarely mentioned in a positive light and are more often attacking someone or something of that nature, so they speculate that ACD wasn't a dog fan.  So maybe I wouldn't have liked him if I'd met him in real life; I don't trust people that don't like dogs, heh.

A couple of the mannequins on display up on the third floor, where Watson and Mrs. Hudson would have had their respective rooms.  Unfortunately I haven't read the original stories in a long time so I can't tell you which one this pair is from.

This one, however, I can identify--Holmes' archnemesis, Professor Moriarty.  The mannequins were kind of silly but they did have creeptastically real-looking eyes.

And that was the museum.  Not a lot to it, although Lee was a little surprised that a fictional character even has his own museum until I pointed out that Harry Potter has his own theme park.  Anyway, the Sherlock Holmes museum was kind of silly on the whole, but hey, now I can say I've been there.

And here's Ree in the Baker Street Tube station while we wait for our train :)

On our way to Trafalgar Square, we came across the Texas Embassy, so had to take a picture.  It's a steakhouse...hey, when Missy and Bennet come out here maybe we can try it :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flowers, Squirrels & More Statues

Amber said to try writing before posting pictures, and whaddya know, it works. I was in the habit of putting up all the pictures and then typing around them.  Anyway, back to Kensington Gardens; we did eventually find some flowers to photograph.

And a fearless squirrelly denizen of the gardens.  There are signs everywhere telling you not to feed the squirrels and pigeons, but people do anyway judging by how fearless the squirrels are, you could tell they were angling for a handout.

Lee took this most excellent picture.  I'm impressed, and maybe slightly jealous of his skillz.

We saw a big monument at the edge of the garden, so we went to go check it out, and it is Queen Victoria's monument to her husband, Prince Albert.

There are statues on the four corners of the monument, each for a different continent; this is Africa.

Here's Asia...I kinda debated putting this up here since she's a bit deshabillee and this is a G-rated blog, but the statue is out there for everyone to see....

There's the center of the monument.  Prince Albert looked so wide from the back that at first we wondered if he was Buddha.

This is the Europe statue, and all the people have crowns.  I want a crown.

And here's the America statue, with the buffalo of course (my high school mascot).  I kind of wonder how accurate the clothing is for each of the statues though; somehow I don't think that Native Americans wore Grecian-style flowing dresses.

Back in the garden, this was a rather odd-looking flower; it was kind of fluffy looking.

Doesn't he look like he's going to launch himself at us unless we give him food?  We moved on before we could become the subject of the next news expose, When Squirrels Attack.

These poppies were actually more orange IRL, but they turned out redder in the photo.  Anyway, after we walked allllll over Kensington Gardens, we got lunch at Bella Italia and both had truly redolent garlic breath for the rest of the day, it was awesome.  Then we went to the Sherlock Holmes museum but those pictures will have to wait for next time; I took them on the little camera and all of these are on the big one.  So anyway, we finished up the day by heading to the National Gallery which is located in Trafalgar Square.

You can't really tell from this picture, but this ship in a bottle is truly massive--I'd say at least six or eight feet long.

Lee insisted on setting the timer on the camera to take our photo, so we're the dark almost-silhouettes with the fountain bursting out of our heads.  Hmph.

Dude, they've got naked statues all over this city!

One of the lions...people were climbing all over them; I saw someone sitting on a lion's back for a picture.  I'd like to go back to Trafalgar Square when we've got more time to spend there taking pictures; we wanted to get into the gallery before it closed.  This is another totally FREE museum in London (awesome) but it's all paintings.  No photos inside, so you'll have to take my word for it.  It's truly amazing to look at these paintings, some of which were done 400 to 500 years ago, and they're still so brilliant and beautiful and some of them are HUGE.  Like, 12 feet tall huge.  We only had maybe 45 minutes in the museum so we'll have to go back again, and I'll take notes on which paintings I like particularly so I can share a bit more (I'm sure I can find the images online somewhere).

So next time, Sherlock Holmes Museum.  For now, I'm off to go walk two annoying little dogs (love you guys!) and run some errands.  TTFN!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Duck Duck Swan and the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up

I just switched to the new editor thingie on Blogger and I haven't quite figured out how it all works yet, so I'm slightly annoyed.  I like to write some before the first picture in a post generally, setting up where we were and what we were doing, but like I said, I haven't figured this one out yet and I can't get it to let me type ABOVE the first picture.  Grrrrr.  What is nice is that I can upload more than five pictures at a time, and I do tend to upload a lot of pictures.  But anyway, let's start over.

On Saturday, Lee and I had been invited to be part of a group going to the horse races in Newmarket, and while that *totally* sounds like me since I was always a horse-crazy chick, I didn't feel like getting dressed up and going out with a crowd.  So instead Lee and I went to London and our first stop was Kensington Gardens, and the first thing we found there was the Round Pond (seriously, they couldn't come up with a more poetic name than that?)


Lee took all these pictures of the birds in the pond.  If you've never seen one in person before, swans aren't exactly tiny, but luckily these ones seemed much less interested in attacking us or going all crazy ballerina than they were in begging for bits of bread that a group of people were tossing in the pond (obviously, they aren't on a ballerina's no-carb diet).

They really didn't seem at all timid or anything though; we got pretty close to several of the birds and they didn't even bat a proverbial eyelash (since I'm not sure swans have eyelashes).

Lee also took this duck picture, great colors huh?  Most of the birds were in the water, but there were several up on the shore either sleeping or preening, and they're so used to people they wouldn't even move out of the way if you walked towards them, so we walked around.

There's a view through Kensington Gardens towards...a building, I don't know what it was :)  Kensington Gardens is pretty massive; the main boulevard through the center is where people can rent bikes and there are lots of others out walking their dogs (many of them not on leashes), going for a jog or just enjoying the great outdoors in the middle of Europe's largest city.  We talked about how fun it would be to take Bee and Vee out here, but Sadie would get so excited that she'd try to go in every direction at once and would probably explode, black hair everywhere.

And here I am adding a caption because I hate this new editor thing.  This is a statue we saw in the park.   

We walked all over the park looking for the Peter Pan statue before we figured out that our trusty London guidebook has a map which has the statue marked.  Heh.  But we got there in the end.  And I'm enough of a Harry Potter nut that the first thing I thought of when I saw "OM" was "Order of Merlin", not...whatever it stands for.  Order of Merit, says Wikipedia.

There's Peter Pan, playing the pipe to an audience of fairies and woodland creatures (sorry, ran out of P's before the end of the sentence).

I took close-up shots of all the characters on the statue, starting of course with Peter...although this may be the one Lee took ;)

The rabbits remind me of Sleeping Beauty and her coterie of woodland creature friends.

These three ladies are on the front of the statue and I just thought this picture came out pretty neat.

Peeking around the side of the statue.

And last but not least, two fairies having a conversation with a squirrel.  Squirrels are great conversationalists.  Lee and I had a discussion about whether or not this is the same statue as is in the movie Hook, but we don't think so.  We said we were going to watch that when we got home but we haven't done it yet.  Last night, however, I did watch the live-action Peter Pan movie with Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter's Lucius Malfoy) as Captain Hook/Mr. Darling; it was pretty cute although I think the girl who played Wendy had book-Hermione's teeth.

Anyway, I've got more photos from our trip to London but they shall have to wait for another post.  I think 15 photos in one post is plenty, don't you?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dolomite Mountain Hike

**mumbles** Darn ladies conspiring against me...

Ok, so I'm a man of my word and I'm back again to post the second set of pictures from Italy. Christy is having a field day pointing out that there were 15 posts without her actually commenting. Bahh!

The entire little town/village of Aviano, Italy sits in grandeur of the Dolomite Mountains, very picturesque. There was a small, but brave, group (+me) that decided to go hiking up in the mountains to see a crater lake. Much to our chagrin though the weather decided to not cooperate with us and it rained most of the day. However, I said we were brave, not smart, so we went hiking anyways ;-P...take that mother nature! In some cases though, I'm glad the weather was like it was since we didn't really get hot and the clouds sitting on the mountains made for some really nice scenery.

Here's a picture that was taken on the way to the mountains. You can see the clouds literally rolling off the mountain side. Yes...I said side. What you see is only about half of the mountain height and this is the smallest one, there is one right behind this one that is easily up in the 6-8K' range...since it still had snow on it. I was driving a stick shift mini-van up the, I didn't take the pictures while driving...yes, hijinks still ensued...yes, the van ended up getting scratched (only a little though).

Here's the crater lake (or so I'm told) that's about half way up the mountain. It doesn't look like a crater formed lake to me, but hey, why should I argue with a local I can barely understand. Anyways, not sure if you can tell but the water is teal, like someone dumped paint into it teal, and not to shabby on the clearness either. I think the next picture shows the color off better. You can see a part of the larger mountains in the background still covered by clouds. The picture is dark because we are literally in the clouds ourselves...and getting soaked anytime we get out of the van...what a wonderful time we had. There's also a little snack shack off to the left of the picture that you can't see. There were a bunch of locals there laughing their butts off at our expense since we were in a mini-van and we were standing in the rain to get this picture.

Here's a good picture of what the water color was. I think it's this color because of the minerals in the water, maybe copper or something. Either way, it sure was beautiful. Now you may notice that this picture is significantly brighter than the last and that it was taken well above the water level as well. I'll explain that in a bit, but for now I'll explain what happened between the last picture and this one since I didn't really take too many pics between then (rain and all).

So after that first picture we decided to jump back in the van and keep going up the mountain to look for a good hiking spot. After about 1 hr of driving we were well into the clouds, it was pouring rain and the road slope was getting to be pretty steep, not to mention that the "road" was right on the edge of the mountain. We FINALLY spotted this really cool looking suspension bridge across a gorge and river plus some hiking trails so we found a "parking spot". Let me define parking reads her own blog and she'll get mad, lets just say that I don't think anyone else was going to drive down that "road" and if they went past our van, well, they would have learned the exhilarating feeling of flying that I experience weekly. Bottom line is that we end up hiking through some mountain areas while getting poured on. We did find something interesting and I'll tell you about that later. When we got bored we decided to head back down the mountain to the lake again and just meander around it. By the time we got back the sky was starting to clear out and we were able to find a nice hiking trail near a dam...thus began another adventure.

Here's a picture of the original lake, you can easily see the teal in the picture. See the little house on the right of the dam? That's where we parked. The hiking trail took us to this little outcropping where you could see all the way across the lake to the small town on the other side. We kept saying, eh, we came this far, might as well go a little farther. Not too long after that (cough...4 hrs) we somehow manage to find our way off the mountain...on the other side of the the little town you see in the picture. Needless to say, we had quite the hike and a long walk back to the van. Looking on the bright side one died...that's good right?

After that we pretty much went back into Aviano to get cleaned up and head out to dinner.

...You are probably wondering about that other little adventure I talked about earlier right? Well sit back, grab your cocoa, and get ready for "Story Time with Uncle Lee"...old joke from Okinawa with Holie...Christy will get it.

So there we were...on a grass cut path winding its way back into thick forest, on top of some random mountains in the middle of nowhere with not a soul around but our small group. It was raining hard, our cell phones weren't getting reception and GPS was out of the question. We are all playing follow the leader along this winding path when our leader abruptly stops and says "What the H*##" is that? Now, that's not uncommon, but what he found was. There was a lone rope hanging in the middle of a small clearing with a wooden rod through it, it almost looked like it was floating in the air...creeped out yet? As we approached it, you could start to make out a thin line running from the rope off into the forest and up the mountain side, curious. Once standing next to it, it was apparent that it was some sort of zip line that led off to who knows where. So we did the only logical thing there was to do...we grabbed the rope and started hauling it up the mountain side so we could ride down it, duh. BTW, the only girl with us thought this was a bad idea since, and I quote, "zip lines can go pretty fast and there's no straps to hold you, so if you fall off you are pretty much screwed". We all looked at each other and you could feel the unsaid, agreed upon thought...'what kind of logic is that? We obviously won't know if it's safe until we try it' and 'where the hell is your sense of adventure?'. I digress, long story short, we rode the zip line to amazing success...and HUGE amounts of fun. I won't name names to protect the innocent in the picture...LOL...I took my camera with me on my ride! BTW...this is at the very bottom where it leveled out.

We took another path out where we found a house that had a sign on it reading "private property, no trespassing" and the yard was littered with arrows (like the bow and arrow type). That made us slightly nervous, so we walked a little faster until we got back to the van.
Story End.

There you have second post and probably my last. Thanks for reading my rants and always remember that the 10% rule is always in effect.