Monday, December 31, 2012

Turns Out Neither of Us is an Axe Murderer!

Several months ago, my online friend Vicki emailed me and said that she was planning to come out to the UK around Christmas this year because her son Keaton is doing a masters program at Cambridge (well, since it's at Cambridge I suppose it's a programme 'cause they're weird like that here when it comes to spelling) and HEY guess who lives under 100 miles away from London.  So we decided we'd finally get to meet in person.  Last month sometime, Lee and I had dinner with our Brit neighbors, Mark and Ness, and when I told them we were planning a meet-up, Ness told me she bet that Vicki was actually an elderly male axe murderer.

I laughed.  And then I told my mom, who said she's sure that Vicki is NOT an axe murderer because she saw Vicki's pictures on her blog.  To which I replied "You believe everything you see on the Internet, Ma?" and then whilst (I live in Britain, I have to use the word whilst) chatting on Facebook one day I asked Vicki if she was an axe murderer.  (Wish I could have seen her face when that popped up in the chat window.)  She said that indeed yes, she IS an axe murderer, but we decided to meet up anyway.  Because that's how we roll.

Fast-forward to last Saturday and Lee and I trundled down to London and he kindly let me go spend even MORE money in the Twinings store and I bought even MORE tea (be still my heart, how I love that man...and now I've got a lovely stash of my favorite kind of tea [Ceylon orange pekoe] plus several new varieties to try out).  Thanks to the magic of text messaging, we knew that Vicki and her family were at the Tower of London, so Lee and I headed in that direction and found a nice warm cafe to sit in and have a cuppa since the weather has been very British for like the last two weeks straight.  Once Vicki and her husband Rick left the Tower grounds, we tried to explain where we were but didn't do a very good job so I left the cafe to go find them and lead them back (which is when Lee thought  something like "oh yes, we think she's an axe murderer so let me go send my wife out alone to meet her online friend, we are geniuses").  It took a few minutes but then I spotted Vicki's red hair and we squee'd and gave each other big hugs and hey, now we're not just online friends anymore!


Wow can I talk a lot, that's a lot of lead-up for one picture.  If we look slightly windblown, it's because we are, and there's rain in our faces but I wasn't going to let a bit of drizzle keep me from meeting my friend the axe murderer.  We spent almost two hours chatting in the cafe whilst (there's that word again) our respective husbands did the same and Vicki's kids and granddaughter Emma finished up looking around the Tower and did some shopping, and then Lee and I got to meet the whole crew.  I gave Emma a little teddy bear with a pink shirt that says London on it, but she was too shy to talk much to me, though I hear she thinks that it's weird that her Giffy and I became friends on the Internet in the first place :)  I will say it's kind of funny to meet someone with whom you've spent so much time conversing online, because you've never spent any time in their company but you know all about each other.  But it was fun.

And somehow I never once saw an axe. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas at Our House

Hope everyone out there had a merry Christmas or other midwinter celebration of their choice ; )  Lee and I had a wonderful time...just us two for Christmas Eve and then for Christmas Day, we spent the afternoon and evening at some friends' house, stuffed ourselves silly on delicious food and played games like Catchphrase, Uno, and Skip-bo.  I love me some card games and you really need more than two people for most of them, so to me that was just awesome!  We had to explain what we meant when we said "Missy draw" during the Uno games...when we played Uno all over China, Missy would consistently draw just one card from the stack and get something she could play while the rest of us would have to draw a half dozen at least.  Now it's an official Uno term (in our house at least!).

So for today I have a few Christmas Eve pics from our house.


There's me with my favorite Christmas present...my brother just got home from a 6-month deployment to Afghanistan and that's where the rug is from.  That's not my favorite thing though, it's the card I'm also holding--Adam had all the people in his unit sign it to say thanks for all the cookies.  And it also says May the Force be with you, just to increase its awesomeness.  'Cause Adam knows me.  (I also got Star Wars shot glasses and a Star Wars cupcake decorating kit, and those were from two people who don't even know each other.  That made me giggle.)


Lee says "If it weren't for your parents, I'd never get new clothes."  He also got several new long-sleeve shirts and the annual pair of boxers from my mom...we're not entirely sure why she buys him boxers every year, but it's a thing.  (This year's were Superman.)


I cracked up when Lee opened this...now we just need to figure out where to put it!  Don't want it to get too messed up by dirty doggy paws.  Vader barks every time he thinks he hears something, and sometimes he'll be dead asleep and wake himself up with a bark.  I think he's got doggy Tourette's.


Self-portrait, Christmas edition.


And here's the aftermath...had to take a pic of the wrapping paper (though quite a bit of it had gone into the fire by then) and the funny Merry On sign that my mom sent.

Lee took today off work too and we cleaned up the house so now I'm extra happy.  And this weekend we're going to London to meet Vicki in person!  Several weeks ago we had dinner at our British neighbors' house, and I told them I was going to meet my online friend soon, and they said she's probably really an elderly male axe murderer.  My mom says no way, she's seen Vicki's picture on her blog (you believe everything you see on the Internet, Ma?) so I asked Vicki herself and she says she's not elderly or male, but the axe murderer bit is true.  So on Sunday I'll meet her AND her axe, bwahahahaaa!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Salzburg, Part 2: Drama

Thought I'd get the rest of the Salzburg photos posted before the apocalypse tomorrow.  Know what I forgot to put in the last Salzburg post?  We got to the airport (Stansted, here in the UK) and the security guy was real chatty.  He wouldn't let me go through the line till I answered a bunch of questions:  "Where you from?  Where in the States?  The capital of Texas is Austin.  (Yes, I know that one.)  So in what state do you find Mount Rushmore?"  Lucky for me, I knew that one too.  Karen laughed, she went through the line on the other side and got through without playing Jeopardy.  Then when we arrived at the airport in Salzburg, there was a sign on the baggage claim that said "There are no kangaroos in Austria.  See information kiosk for more info."

So anyway.  We left off after the hop on/hop off bus tour.  So on Saturday morning, we got up and decided to go to Hohensalzburg since we'd missed it the day before.  But first we had breakfast at a bakery (mmm, pastries.  But mineral water is GROSS).


This is a view of Hohensalzburg from the Mirabellplatz gardens.  We need more words like "platz" in English, it's just fun to say.  Platz platz platz!

PLATZ.  Ok, I'm done now.


The gardens have several mythologically inspired statues and I don't care what my computer says, "mythologically" is totally a real word.


If you watch The Sound of Music carefully, you can see the gardens with these whimsical patterns in the background.  Check it out when Maria and the children are singing Do Re Mi.


Karen likes unicorns with beards.


The steps behind us were also in The Sound of Music, the Maria and the children sing part of Do Re Mi on them.

Then we got to all the abduction statuary.


I'm going to hazard a guess that this is Paris and Helen, 'cause Helen looks happy to be abducted.


So maybe this one is Hades abducting Persephone, who is less happy about it.


I'm thinking this is Aeneas carrying his father Anchises away from Troy, and that's Aeneas' son Ascanius on the right.  Otherwise, if he'd intended to abduct a woman, then he's a "should have gone to SpecSavers" commercial.


This was off in the corner, Aphrodite in her bath.  She's depicted like this so often in artwork that Karen and I think she spent most of her time bathing where she could "accidentally" be seen by hot young men.  They really don't need the encouragement given how many women are abducted and ravished in Greek myth.


One last statue of a chick with grapes just because I thought it was kind of neat the pattern on the stone.


That is Mozart's house, which we toured with the group on Friday.  No pictures allowed inside, but it was pretty interesting.  Mozart is not one of my favorite composers (I gravitate toward the Russians, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade is one of my favoritest pieces EVER) but the audio guide did play snippets of a lot of his best-known works.  And touring the house kinda makes me want to see Amadeus again.


View of the river, just 'cause the sky looked cool.  So we happily trudged through Salzburg and got to the gondola to go up to the fortress when Lee discovered his wallet was missing.  WHAT.  So we RAN back through the town to the cafe where we bought breakfast and sure enough, that's where it was.  And there was much rejoicing.  So that was our minor setback for the trip and then we had to walk all the way back through the town a third time to get back to the fortress.


Soooo a lot of the rest of the pictures are just random views from the fortress.




Giant door inside Hohensalzburg.



I'm  not sure I want to eat at a place that has a picture of a boar's head outside it.  Call me crazy, I don't want my food looking back at me.


This was above one of the doorways.


Inside the fortress.  There are a few museums inside, including a marionette museum which we sadly missed (though our friends who went the day prior said it was creeptastic).


I don't know where this was from?  I got tired of holding the camera so Lee took a lot of today's pictures.


Think this is a chapel inside the fortress...and hey, there's that dude from the picture before this one above the door.


This was in one part of the fortress where they had some bits of furniture and historical stuff.  Lovely carving on this, huh?


And a cool ceiling.  How come most places in America have such boring ceilings?






And that's it for Salzburg.  Glad I finally got these pictures up; been running slow with this cold I've got.  At least now I don't feel too bad anymore other than my ears popping a lot and the constant need for Kleenex.  I think Lee and I need to Clorox the whole house this weekend.  Until next time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Salzburg, Part 1: The Sound of Music

So, before Thanksgiving, Lee got a cold.  I held off for a while before I caught it (though not as severe as Lee had it).  Lee started to get better, then he got hit with round 2.  Guess what happened when I got up today...oh yeah, round 2 has started for me too.  I feel like a plague rat.  And since I've had about 6 cups of tea today, I'm a well-hydrated plague rat.  At least I got my Christmas cards and 90% of the presents sent off in the mail before this hit.

So let's move on to something not related to the plague....like our Thanksgiving trip to Salzburg!  We ended up going with a group of 7 other people, though somehow I don't have pictures of most of them.  I do have this however:


It's the Kare/yns!  That's Karen on the left and Karyn on the right.  Add in our friend Carrie (the four of us had lunch together today) and I think I need to change my name.  So anyway, the one full day we were in Salzburg, the four of us (Karen, Karyn, Lee, and me) decided to do a hop on/hop off bus tour of Salzburg to see some of the sites associated with The Sound of Music.


I forget the name of this place, but it was used for some of the exterior shots of the rear of the house when you're looking out on the lake (remember when Maria and the children fall in?).  It's privately owned though so this is as close as the tour buses get.


That is Festung Hohensalzburg, the fortress in the mountains adjoining the city.  We went up there later on, but I thought I'd include this picture because I think it's pretty good considering it was taken from the window of a moving vehicle.


One of the other stops is Schloss Hellbrunn, which was also used as an exterior for shots of the Von Trapp mansion (I noticed the yellow walls in the scene where Maria is singing "I Have Confidence" on her way to the mansion).  Bonus:  there's a Christmas market there, so that (above) is what the Christmas markets look like.


Just 'cause I liked the decorations : )


Look, it's Rolf and Liesl's gazebo from "Sixteen Going On Seventeen"!  In the movie, the gazebo wasn't located at Schloss Hellbrunn but that other place, but it was a movie prop and they donated it to the city of Salzburg after filming and eventually it was moved here.


Lee saw that giant reindeer and started talking about how much fun it would be to tump that thing off in my parents' front yard in the middle of the night as a surprise.  So, Mom, Dad, if you happen to receive a giant reindeer...IT WASN'T US.


We stopped for hot chocolate in a little cafe to warm up, and then continued on out into the gardens and I liked this dog statue.


'Nother shot of the schloss...I don't think I'd paint my house that color, but hey, whatever floats your boat.


This is my attempt at an artsy statue shot.  How'd I do?



Couldn't pick just one shot of the unicorn statue.


Just because the swan is pretty : )


You can tell I took that picture because once again, it leans to the left.  I have got to get my V-8 today.


Haven't a clue what building this is, but Lee took this when we got off the bus to climb up to Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was a postulant before encountering the von Trapps.  Something odd that I noticed:  throughout the movie, the family is referred to as "the von Trapp family", but when you tool around Salzburg and read the signs, they're always referred to as "the Trapp family".  Just thought that was interesting.


Tree branches for Miss Vicki!


We took so MANY pictures overlooking Salzburg that I'm trying to pick only the ones that are particularly interesting.


My new band name:  Christy and the Karens!  Yes?


And here's the abbey forecourt.  They used the actual abbey for exterior shots in the movie, but not the inside because it's inhabited by a cloistered order.  The fact that there are still cloistered orders of nuns boggles my mind.  Think they have Internet?


Graves inside the abbey's court.


View back down to the city as dusk falls.  You can see a gold ball in the lower left corner of the picture...


...which is this rather odd statue.  I vaguely remember reading something about it in Rick Steves' guide to Salzburg, and it has something to do with an annual statue contest or something and this was the winner one year.  Ooohhhhkay.  Sometimes art is weird.


View back up to the fortress atop the hill.  We climbed up to the entryway (oy, more climbing!), but it was about to close so we decided to come back the next day.

Hope you enjoyed the first glimpse of Salzburg! : )  I'm off to drink more tea.