Thursday, June 30, 2011

Playin' in my Craft Room

Seriously, I need a cooler name for my craft room.  I'm jealous of my mom's friend Robin, her family calls her craft room the Robin's Nest.  How come I can't have a cute name like that for mine?!  Everlasting love and eternal glory to whoever comes up with a cool name for my craft room!

So anyway, I've been playing in here for the last couple days, so I'm going to share some projects with the most recent one first.  My friend Kelly is getting married this fall and she was working on centerpiece ideas; she's got a bunch of mason jars that she's going to fill with branches and fall leaves, but she wanted a medallion kind of thing to go on the sides of the jars.  So here's what I did:

K, since I was playing around, I also did what could be a fall wedding invitation, just for funsies.  Kelly hasn't ordered her invites yet.  Anyway, the initials on the medallion are gold-embossed; I wouldn't keep the eyelets that color but I couldn't find my gold eyelets (which bugs me, 'cause I *know* I've got some of those around here somewhere!).  Kelly, this is just an idea, I could change up the colors however you like.  If you click here you can see the Stampin' Up colors I use so you could pick out what's closest to the rest of your stuff.  The eyelets would probably be too small to fit multiple strands of raffia through; I'd suggest just doing one strand and tying it in a bow between two medallions on each mason jar if that makes sense.  Or we could just say no eyelets and punch bigger holes : )

In addition to that little project, I am once more working on baby books!  I never do just one book at a time, and this time it's Tiana and Sarah who are both pregnant with kid #2.  Sarah gave me a list of requests for her book, and one thing she said was that she loved the November layout for the last book, but wanted it for September this time.  Behold:

I changed up the colors in the stamping just a tad; I thought the tree was a little too dark the first time around so I used a lighter shade of brown, and I went with a more vibrant red for some of the leaves.  Sarah said she loved the colors on the original one, so I'm lucky that I found some more of that patterned paper on SU's clearance rack 'cause I was out of it before.  But since it's my favorite pattern out of that pack, and I have hoarding tendencies, I used some different paper and colors for the other one:

I wanted to see what it would look like with this old Apple Cider paper I had a ton of : ) I used the brand-new color Island Indigo for the title on this one, I got the idea for that from the teal base on the other layout even though there's no teal in the patterned paper.  I think it works.

Last week, the day of the coffee, I ran up to the craft room and whipped out my first-ever name frames for a couple of brand-new babies.

I think they turned out pretty cute for something I rushed to get done.  Next time though I think I'd put the paper in front of the glass so the bow doesn't get smooshed.  I did the one on the right first and was able to self-correct on the second one to put the name a little higher to accommodate the bow without obscuring the letters.

K, so here's a few cards too.

I sent these out to my Stampin' Up customers earlier this week.  I think this butterfly is my new favorite stamp, and I so love the sentiment set too.

This one I did for a challenge on Splitcoast and then just never uploaded it.  I pulled out two of my older sets, it was fun to play with them again.  If you're into this kind of thing, all the details are in my Splitcoast gallery.  Well, the two layouts will be in there pretty soon, at any rate ; )

Lee got tired of waiting for me to finish this blog post so he's making dinner (I was totally going to do that, but he's hungrier than I am!)  so ta-ta for now!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grimes Graves

*grumbles* I lost count of how many tries it took me to get photos uploaded for this post.  Anyway, on this try I got 9 out of 10, which was definitely the best by far, so I'm just gonna go with it, 'cause grumbling at the computer screen isn't going to make it do right.  Why yes, I am ever so slightly technophobic.

So anyway, like two and a half weeks ago Lee and I went up to Norwich and on the way we stopped at Grimes Graves, a Neolithic flint mine that's actually not too far away from our house.

There's one small building where they have an interesting exhibit about the mines and their history, which covers several *thousand* years.  But really, the area looks pretty empty, one big uneven field with lots of sheep (Neolithic sheep!).

'Cause there's sheep everywhere in Britain.  This is where haggis comes from.  And itchy wool clothes.  But the lambs are so cute I want to take one home.

Each of those little depressions is a filled-in flint mine, which the Neolithic miners used to make things like axes.  They dug the mines over 30 feet deep using deer antlers as picks, so it's pretty amazing to think how many holes they dug, and how deep each one was, with such primitive tools.  I got a postcard at the shop that shows Grimes Graves from the air, it looks like a giant grassy Eggo waffle with sheep sprinkles.

So after we went through the little exhibit, we got to go down in a mineshaft.  And we got hard hats!

The miners would dig one main shaft down to the layer of flint that they wanted, and then would dig several galleries radiating from the main shaft.  For the first one, they had to haul all the rubble up to the top of the shaft to make space to work in, but for each subsequent one (ooh, big word), they'd put the rubble into an earlier gallery that had already been mined.  Lee was really impressed by how much work that must have been; but as I said, these people weren't spending time surfing the Internet and Googling themselves, so they had time ; )

Yeah, I know:  it's a hole.  But it's a really *old* hole!

And there's our patented self-portrait, so you can see me in my cute little hard hat.  Is it just me or do I look really surprised in this picture?

After we climbed back out of the mine and said goodbye to all the sheep (and, alas, gave back our hard hats), we continued on to Norwich and Lee bought all the pool supplies that Pablo has put to such good use.  Then we walked around the town, which is pretty sizable.

I think that's one of the churches in Norwich...well, I forget which exactly, but I liked the picture : p

We went up to the castle ('cause doesn't every town in England have a castle?  Ok, most of them) and were going to pay the admission to look around, but they told us that since it was late in the afternoon, if we waited 20 more minutes we could get in for one pound each instead of six since we'd only have like a half hour to look around.  So off we went and walked around the castle a bit, and I took this picture of the cars because the juxtaposition of ancient castle and modern automobile is amusing to me.  Then we walked back towards the mall under which we had parked, and suddenly decided we'd had enough culture for one day so we went and saw Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides instead of going back to the castle.  Hehe!  I liked it, but I think I may have liked X-Men:  First Class better, which we'd seen the night before.  And what's up with movie titles featuring colons?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Updated House Pics

Apparently Lee thought it had been too long since I last blogged, so he hijacked the blog under the pseudonym of Pablo the Pool Boy : )  I didn't even know he was doing anything till he called to me, "Hey, if I want to say 'nyeh nyeh, so there', how would I spell 'nyeh'?"  He wouldn't let me see what he was writing until he was done with his post.  And I didn't even have to coerce him or anything, he just decided to blog on his own...I think he wanted to show off the amazing pool transformation.  And he did do a great job, so kudos to him.

Anyway, I thought today I would share some pictures of how our house looks now that we've gotten all but two rooms painted (I would love to paint those last two as well, Lee doesn't want to take apart the computer desk and turn me loose in the computer room even though we already have paint for it, and up until we got all that heavy furniture I had been planning to just paint the master bedroom next time he was out of town without telling him first but now I can't move the furniture by myself).  I argued with Blogger for 20 minutes trying to get all the pictures to show in the right order and orientation but finally got it more or less how I want it.  So, we had our first guest last weekend (my dad) and here's the guest room all gussied up:

It was raining yesterday afternoon when I took the pictures, so the color doesn't look quite right, but the walls are really a delicate pink color.  We got the mattress just a couple of weeks ago, we were worried for a bit that it wouldn't get here in time for Dad's visit.  He said we picked a good comfy one.

I'm thinking I want to put a silver-framed mirror in that space above where the little desky thing is, above the flowers.  Whatcha think?

Lee and I finally got around to hanging up a bunch of pictures this weekend (ok, so really I told him where and he actually did the hard part) and this one is up in the guest room.  I got this watercolor print at a bazaar on Okinawa, thinking I might give it as a gift, but I liked it so well I kept it instead : )

And here's the furniture that we got for the master bedroom, I never posted pictures of it after we got it last month.  When we move back to the States and get reunited with our own bedroom furniture, this stuff will be guest room furniture, but for now we're using it in the master bedroom.  That's Juan the Mexican Polar Bear on the bed, he's been with me for over 15 years now.

I picked this set of furniture because I liked the octagonal handles on the dresser.

Next up is the living room:

Sadie insisted on being in the picture.  That's our accent wall, which isn't quite so fluorescent blue as it looks in the picture, although it is pretty vivid.  It really makes the fireplace stand out as a focal point in the room.  I wanted the other walls to be kind of a honey color to match the bricks, but they didn't have the shade I wanted so we ended up with ivory.  It looks okay, but wasn't exactly what I had in mind, know what I mean?  But we're not repainting it again.  We did hang up some pictures above the couch though, so excited about these:

There's a wall sconce in the middle of the wall above the couch, so I did two little collage groups, one on either side.  The England side is on the right, and the photos are the church in Lavenham, Big Ben (of course), and part of the Queen Anne statue in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Here's the Japan collage to the left, featuring the Golden Pavilion, us on top of the lighthouse at Cape Zampa, and one of the Bill Clinton shi shi dogs (this set was put up to commemorate President Clinton's trip to Okinawa for a G8 summit or something).  Can't seem to find where I might have blogged that particular shi shi dog photo before, but it is one of my absolute favorites.

This is our first purchase of English furniture...we got this whatnot at a bazaar last month (I remember that Laura Ingalls Wilder always called it a "whatnot" in the Little House on the Prairie books).  It's from the 1940s.  Isn't it *awesome*?  And doesn't it just fit in that corner like we planned it like that!  On the top shelf is one of my Japanese tea sets, my Jim Shore Maleficent (the villain from Sleeping Beauty) is on the middle shelf, and on the bottom is this cool little ceramic dragon thing my mom gave me, a vase Lee bought me in Murano, Italy, and a little pink Ryukyu glass vase.  And there's Sadie's noggin in the corner.

Here's how the dining room looks now that we've got it painted, pictures hung up, and the furniture is here (we got it at the end of April after we painted).  The poster on the left is The World by Night, a cool satellite composite image of all the lights on Earth.  It's funny, you can tell where big cities are like Dallas/Fort Worth.  I don't think Okinawa shows up too much though, I'd have to go look again to see.

I just think it's kinda amusing to have a movie poster from Breakfast at Tiffany's in the dining room.  It was this or my Princess Bride poster, but that one is staying in the study.

So Lee and I worked very hard to get the house completely spic and span (not that we're total slobs, I try to keep it clean enough that I wouldn't be mortified if someone dropped by unannounced) because I hosted this month's coffee here last night, so we had like 20 ladies over here.  My new friend Katie co-hosted with me, and we did a trifle bar:

Found this idea online where you make a bunch of stuff that could be used in a trifle and let people build their own concoctions.  We had angel food cake (I know my dad is indignant I made angel food cake the day *after* he left), brownies, banana bread, blueberry muffins, chocolate pudding, butterscotch pudding, vanilla pudding, vanilla creme, strawberry Jell-O, orange Jell-O (no one seemed to eat the Jell-O, I'd leave it out if I had it to do over again), blueberry pie filling, cherry pie filling, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts, and maraschino cherries.  I totally forgot to cut up the kiwi and put it out.  Everyone seemed to like it pretty well, so I call it a success : )

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hello, my name is Pablo...The Pool Boy!

So...Christy and I (really just me) have an ongoing joke about Pablo the pool boy. I'm a gentleman (yeah right) so I won't discuss it with the ladies, but feel free to nag Christy about it until you get the goods (insert evil cackle here).

Anyways, as I'm sure you all know, we have a pool in our back England...which still makes no sense. It was apparent that this pool has been neglected for several years. Regardless that it was well covered, it still had MANY things growing in it and moving no less when we took the cover off to inspect it. As soon as we removed the cover we were swarmed by mosquitoes. Here's a picture several days after the cover was removed (after the bugs died down).

Now, I'm one of those people who treats the unknown with enthusiasm. I know NOTHING about pools and therefore I was bound and determined to learn something while I had the opportunity, since we probably will never have a pool again. I did some studying on the subject and once I got a decent grasp of what I was suppose to do, I was off to the races...only to find that the pump was shot.

NEVER FEAR...I'm also a tinkerer in my spare time and was able to fix, yes FIX, the pump and I upped the output too :-). Now it can spray water over 20 ft!

So, I got the chemicals, got the pump working and look what happened...

OMG!!! Blue (or sort of) water! So here's the phase where all the bacteria and algae were screaming in pain because I dumped almost 3 times the normal dose of liquid chlorine into the pool (hey, I'm horrible at chemistry and figured more is better in this case)...and I was right so nyeh!

I let this cycle for a day and then did some clarifying of the pool. Here's the end result...

TADA...clean, clear pool. All I have left to do is vacuum the junk off the bottom and we are ready to go swimming. Sadie's going first since I don't like cold water.

Mom and Dad, be proud...after getting a Masters degree, your son is now qualified to be a pool boy.

- Lee

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts

I'm having a really good day today.  I did a workout this morning, I'm feeling good (I think maybe it's vitamins that make me feel better, who knew?), annnnd I got my Stampin' Up order today with a brand-new catalog to drool over.  Oh yes, they will be getting lots of my money next year (Lee, you so totally did not see that last sentence!)

And here I am with the last of the Scotland pictures.  First up, I remembered this time to post the picture of the sticky toffee pudding!

I have no idea what it actually is, other than totally delicious.  The cakey part was warm and there was vanilla ice cream with it; other places you'll get cream rather than ice cream.  We weren't sure what the little fruit on top was (under all the powdered sugar)...a kumquat maybe?  I forget.  Lee ate it though.

And here's my new Hogwarts banner hanging up in my house since I know my Harry Potter trivia : )

Here you can see where I hung it up; there was a screw in the wall already and we didn't have anything else to go there (perhaps we should have taken the screw out when we painted, but whatever) so that's where the banner will live until we get something else to go there.  If we get something else to go there, I kinda like the Hogwarts crest.

So, for our last stop on our Scotland trip, we went to Hogwarts.  Really!

This is Alnwick Castle in Northumberland,  which was used for exterior shots of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies.  For whatever reason, the name of the castle is pronounced "Onnick" or "Annick" (rhymes with attic) so they ignore the L and W.

This is the Lion Arch, which was used for the front entrance to Hogwarts in Sorcerer's Stone.  It's also been used in some other movies, most notably Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves.

I remember all the little statues from the Harry Potter movies, remember the one that had two crossed swords that Harry hit the Bludger between during his Quidditch lesson with Oliver Wood?  That one was made just for the movie, it's not actually part of the castle.

Just 'cause I thought it was a neat shot : )

This is where they filmed both Harry's first flying lesson with Madam Hooch and the Quidditch lesson with Oliver Wood.

The castle belongs to the Percy family, and I think that I heard it was the second-largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor.

The Lion Arch again; there's a plant off to the left side of the photo, I think it was holly, which was supposed to keep witches/wizards from entering the castle.  We had a little guided tour and our tour guide pointed that out and noted that Harry and his friends had no trouble getting in the castle.

The Lion Arch and the parapet were also used in Robin Hood, you know when Robin goes to the castle near the end of the movie to rescue his guys?  He stands on the castle wall here at Alnwick and shoots an arrow that severs the hanging rope of one of his men that was hanging in a castle in southern France.  As our tour guide said, that had to be a world-record shot!  You also see this bit of the castle walls in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron fly over the wall in the flying Ford Anglia.

Oops, I didn't realize I did two almost identical shots on here.  Oh well, here's a second view of the walls!

There is a row of what looks like manhole covers running diagonally across this courtyard, which mark the line of the Whistling Tunnel.  There is a little narrow tunnel running across the courtyard which servants used to transport food from the kitchen to the big formal dining rooms; since it was enclosed it kept the food from getting cold en route during the winter.  To keep them from sampling the food, they had to whistle while they walked!  It's also reputedly haunted by a woman's ghost.

This is a statue of Harry Hotspur, a Percy family ancestor who was a big hero back in the day.

And there's a view from up on the castle parapet, pretty countryside, huh?  This concludes our trip to Scotland.  So now we need to go somewhere else so I can post more pictures for you : )  Until that happens, I'm gonna go look through my new Stampin' Up catalog again!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aboard the Hogwarts Express

Most of the third day of our Scotland trip was spent aboard the Hogwarts Express.

Ok, I'm not 100% sure that any part of this train in particular was used in any of the Harry Potter movies, but let's just go with it here.

This is an honest-to-goodness coal-powered steam train.  Cindy warned us ahead of time to try to keep the windows shut when going through tunnels because if you don't, you get coal dust all in the train compartments.  (We forgot at least a couple times.)

Told you it was the Hogwarts Express.

Our tour group was all sitting in the first class section and I wish we'd gotten a picture of Cindy, because she had on her Hogwarts best--Gryffindor robes, gray sweater and red-and-yellow tie.  And there's me with my Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and a Chocolate Frog.  (I ate the frog but not the beans.  I'm with Dumbledore on that one.)

So here's a not-so-great picture of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which I know for sure IS in the Harry Potter movies.  This is what they use for the iconic shots of the Hogwarts Express chugging along towards Hogwarts.

A couple shots of the scenery we rode past...Cindy had several Harry Potter-related activities for us and we were so busy with the coloring contest that we kinda forgot to look out the windows for a while.  Lee made up for it though, in the end we had 159 pictures from the train, which is like 1/3 of all the photos we took over the weekend.  So I'm only showing you 10% because a.) uploading 159 photos would take forever, b.) there were quite a few that when you click through them on the computer, they look like a movie, and c.) no way would you bother scrolling through all of those on the blog.

The ride was maybe two hours I think, and our destination was the small town of Mallaig, which Lee absolutely fell in love with.  It's a quaint, picturesque little town and luckily the weather cooperated and didn't rain on us the entire time we were there.  Our waitress at lunch said it was the first day in over a month that it hadn't been pouring down rain.

We only stayed in Mallaig long enough to walk around a little and eat lunch, then back on the train.  And I was trying to be good about keeping my trip log updated...I still haven't written in it about our last day of the trip though, whoops.  I keep that little notebook with me whenever we go anywhere so I can write down the details of what we do and what we see.  Helps when it takes me months to scrapbook stuff.

Incredibly, Lee got this shot from the train.  No joke.

I don't remember why he was giving me that look.  I get that a lot though.  On the return trip, Cindy gave us all a Harry Potter trivia quiz, and I totally rocked it 'cause I know Professor McGonagall's first name, Hermione's favorite class from her first year at Hogwarts, and how many siblings Ron has (not to mention their names).  I won a prize, too--the Hogwarts banner that was hanging on the door of the train when we arrived (you can scroll back up and look at it again, hee) which is now hanging up in our house.  Wonder what House I would have been in...I think Ravenclaw even though the Gryffindors get all the love.  Lee I think would be a Gryffindor.

Just 'cause I thought this was a cool shot with the train and the smoke and the scenery.

And here we are on the viaduct again.  I kinda would like to go down into the countryside around there and take photos of the viaduct from the ground.

During our ride back to Fort William (I think it was Fort William where we started from), two men in traditional Scottish garb came through selling raffle tickets for a couple bottles of whiskey, and then this one guy agreed to have his picture taken with a bunch of us from our tour group.  The other guy, an older dude with a gray beard and a wicked sense of humor, happily hiked up his kilt when asked if he really wore it in the traditional way, and even let the girl across from us take a picture.  Full moon in Scotland!!! (He did at least make sure none of the kids in our tour group could see before he did it.) 

So yep, that was the train ride.  We got back to Fort William and then hit the road for a couple of hours to get to our hotel outside of Sterling (and Lee and I will have to go back to Sterling some other time).  Ah, crud, I forgot the sticky toffee pudding picture again!  Dangit.  When we had dinner that night, I ordered it again 'cause it was that good.  Lee had something with lots of strawberries :)