Monday, December 31, 2012

Fun with flowers update

On the 25th December I wrote about the fun I was having with the floral applique die cut I bought when in the States recently.

This week I revisited the project and decided to make some changes.

I originally had double layer stems for the flowers but decided they would be too thick against the single layer leaves and flowers.

I want to try my hand at machine sewing the pieces and so decided to make a sample piece to play with.

Most unlike me to do this.  I am usually far too impetuous and want to get on with the project.

I did the leaves and stems first and was quite happy to proceed the same way on the main project.

Next came the flowers and I had thought I would outline them with a blanket stitch.

I have a Janome sewing machine which does a very good blanket stitch but in this case I decided I did not like it for the edges of the flowers so I proceeded without.

It seems that practising first paid off for me.

I have now completed the machine stitching and could call it a day at that but the crazy quilter in me wants to put some beading and embroidery on the project before I call it quits so I am not quite there yet.

Still hope to have this completed before next Christmas.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blackberry jam

Our brother Alan was due to visit with us yesterday.

We know he loves home made jam on toast with his cup of tea in the morning.

No home made jam in the pantry but we did have frozen blackberries in the freezer.

For the last few years Alan has visited at the end of January and from his long walks has discovered quite a few places around Taupo where the blackberry plant grows unheeded and so he usually brings home some pickings for us.

Linda is very good at making blackberry and apple pie and/or sponges from these harvests.

Last year was an exceptionally good crop and so we put the surplus away in the freezer for a later day and yesterday was that day to use some.  After all January will be with us all too soon and we may have more blackberries to deal with again.

Three bags from the freezer yielded 1.5kg (3.3lb), I added the equivalent of sugar and microwaved at 5 and 10 minute intervals until I came up with this lovely spread, just in time for his breakfast today.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pansies and clover

The lawn mowing man said our lawn was a mess and that we needed a makeover.

He sent someone in to quote and he said about NZ$800.  Another person added his voice and said about NZ$2,000.

We were not agreeable to either solution but our brother Alan suggested a good dose of all purpose fertiliser, some lime and a liberal seeding of clover.  The cost - about NZ$120.

With some generous watering the clover happily established itself in our lawn.

The lawn mowing man was not impressed.  Did we know our lawn was infested with weed?  We told him of our solution and initially he was not pleased but he has come to terms with it now.

We are in the middle of summer, have had a lot of rain and the clover is very happy.  Every time it is mowed we see fresh growth and within a week the lawn is back in flower again.  The clover is gradually taking over and filling in what used to be large tracts of poor quality lawn.

The lush green growth of the clover is a much better alternative.

 The clover seed is happily migrating to all parts of the garden including these pots of pansies at the front of the house.

Normally these pansies would have been dispensed with by now but with clover as a companion they make quite a pretty display in these pots - at least we think so!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Crosswords and such

As a mother of seven our Mum was very resourceful at finding things to keep us occupied.  One of those was reading, even if it was comic books, we were encouraged to do so.

To this day we all love reading in one form or another.  A great way to keep occupied in doctors surgeries or waiting for the next flight at the airport.

Mum also loved doing cryptic crosswords.  She was self taught.  She would attempt them in the weekly women's magazine she used to buy and then when the solution came out in the next week's edition she would compare the solution to her efforts and so built up a knowledge on how to solve them.

She had an excellent knowledge of grammar, loved reading herself and kept up to date with news and politics by reading the daily newspaper, listening to the radio and watching TV.

In her latter years she loved nothing better than to nab one of her children and persuade us to learn the art of cryptic crosswords.

Linda and husband, Glynn, were converts to Mum's way and they spent many a Saturday, and other times, sharing this interest with her.

At Christmas time, she loved the bigger than usual cryptic crossword the newspapers printed for the holiday periods and they would give these their best shot.  Unfortunately, with time, these faded away but Linda found a collection of The Times newspaper jumbo crosswords and so every year Linda picks one of those and we do our best.

We share them with brother Norman in Christchurch and brother Bob in Melbourne via the internet and there is much phone calling and texting these days as we work towards a solution.  It escaped us this year (by about 8 clues) but no doubt we will be back for more next year.

Thanks Mum, the memories live on!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mere cats need Christmas too

Our Mother had a lifetime fascination for mere cats after observing them in a visit to a zoo.  She just loved they way the looked out for each other.

Mum has gone but somehow we decided to keep this ornament of hers and it sits in the sun room where she used to spend most of her days.

When we decorating the house for Christmas a few of the ornaments ended up at their feet and on Christmas morning I picked some roses and they found their way to this part of the house as well.

She has been gone just over a year but she would be surprised (and, I think, pleased) that she comes into our conversations most days.

Thanks, Mum, for the special memories.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Then there were three

We had a lovely quiet Christmas this year - just the three of us.

My dear brother-in-law, Glynn, has a military background and loves the toast - 'here's to us and them like us - damn few!' and so we commenced our lunch in this way and with just three of us there it somehow seemed very appropriate.

Linda treated us to a lovely traditional turkey roast with all the trimmings and much later we finished that off with a trifling of trifle - all very nice.

Linda found this lovely centre piece for us at the local op/thrift store.  With the addition of deep red roses and silver candlesticks we thought it looked rather special and added to the season.

More pictures of our day shared are on Linda's blog and I do believe there is a picture of me about to imbibe a little - lovely sparkly sauvignon blanc - made in New Zealand, of course.

In this part of the world we have already entered Boxing Day and post Christmas recovery.  For those of you still sharing the enjoyment of Christmas day - have a good one!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fun with flowers

On a previous trip to the United States I purchased a Go Cutter with die cuts for cutting squares and strips from our quilting fabric.

This time I decided a would like to buy a floral applique die cut set and with help from my daughter-in-law, Lisa, with discount coupons we managed to buy the Rose of Sharon die set at the right price.

It was nice to have a play the other day and come up with all sorts of bits and pieces to spark the creative juices.

I have never been very fond of having to cut out applique pieces by hand and so this seemed a great improvement.

Then I had a further thought, if I put my Steam A Seam fusible webbing through the Go Cutter then I could get shapes from that as well.

I then married the fusible webbing to the fabric pieces - no hand cutting for me!  The white pieces on the left bottom are the fusible webbing pieces that I added to the collection.

From my first lot of cutting I am developing this posy of flowers on a calico background about cushion/pillow size.

Still some tweaking to do before I get down to the serious business of sewing the flowers to the background.

This sort of thing could be seriously addictive.

Check back next Christmas and see if there is any indication that I have actually finished this project!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Livingstone Daisies

Livingstone Daisies will always be a favourite of mine.

Last year, for some reason, they did not do very well at our place but this year they are doing extremely well giving us lots of happy, smiley faces.

They seem to do very well as a border plant and respond well to the reflected heat off the pavers.

These little treasures were just some more of the home delights ready to greet me when I returned from my holiday.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favourite things for Christmas

Claudia at Mockingbird Hill Cottage is hosting a Favourite Things for Christmas link party today.

I guess one of my favourite things for Christmas is just being able to be at home in familiar surroundings with my family.

I know that is not possible for everyone but it is like comfort food for me.

This week we held our last sewing group with the Sweet Pea ladies before the Christmas break and Linda and I took time out to put some Christmas decorations around the place.

Andreena, from the Sweet Pea group, had given us a tree skirt and as we don't have a Christmas tree Linda used it as a centrepiece for the dining table.  Some lovely dark red roses from the garden in the centre bowl just set things off nicely.

Linda has shared some more images from our day together on her blog.

Nice to be home for Christmas.  Ours will be quiet and peaceable, I hope yours will be too.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reunited with old friends

When I visited with David and Lisa in Seattle it was so nice to be reunited with quilts that Linda and I have given them over the years.

David and Lisa's son, Jackson was born in 2006 and we visited when he was still a baby and took this cowboy quilt with us a gift for him.  You can read more about the quilt here from my blog entry at the time.

It was so lovely to see it still being used around the home as were others.

This quilt had a real New Zealand touch.  It was made by Linda and she had called it Kiwiana Fusion.

She made it for me as a snuggle rug for my travels but David and Lisa were so taken with it I left it with them and it has become a regularly used household item.

The I Spy quilt is from my last visit with them in Dallas.

I wrote about it on my blog.

It is backed with polar fleece and very snuggly to use.  I was happy to be able to use it when I was there for this visit.

Sometimes you can give quilts to people and they want to put them away to keep but for me I get such a lot of pleasure to see items like this being used and was pleased to be reunited with them on this visit - thanks, David and Lisa.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bloomin' flowers

Last winter we took out a hedge in part of our garden to make way for a peach tree.

We were happy with the decision as the dark green of the hedge had blotted out so much light and this area became a lot more light and airy.

Once the peach tree was planted we had a lot of garden space with no cover so we bought a whole lot of gazanias to make ground cover.

They had wintered quite well and were just coming into flower when I left for my overseas holiday mid November.

What a lovely surprise to see the myriad of colours on my return.  We are so happy with the solution we found for this area of the garden.

Violas have begun to self seed in the front part of this area and we have put some geraniums at the back so we will soon have a lovely assortment of flowers to look at.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The sum total

Every time I go away I seem to come home with bits and pieces of paperwork that seem to sum up the events of my holiday.

The ever essential passport which is beginning to look a bit travel weary but has a bit of life in it yet.

The travel insurance paperwork, most important but fortunately a claim was not required.

Travel documents - a bus ticket, boarding passes, train travel - I used the Oyster ticket system on the London trains and buses quite extensively.

Must not forget tickets to theatre shows, One Man Two Guvnors and the Mousetrap - lovely memories.

What else do I see, ah yes, documentation regarding free wi-fi at airports.  This has improved greatly over the years and so handy when it is available in our digital travel age.

If I was a scrap booker I would probably use all this to create a photographic treasure, but for me, these items will get tucked away in a drawer and be looked at from time to time to revive happy memories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Home again, home again

I was advised that Hong Kong would be very hot after the freezing temperatures of Europe but not so. I found the warmer weather to be quite nice even if a little humid.

However on my arrival home to Auckland I was very surprised by the heat. Summer has arrived in New Zealand.

My brother-in-law, John, picked me up at the airport and together with my sister, Wendy, we spent the afternoon with friends instead of me waiting at the airport for the connecting domestic flight home.

These lovely red poppies were in their garden. Summer has really arrived and there were more lovely flowers in store when I finally got back to Taupo that evening.

My bags are unpacked and as wonderful as my holiday has been I am happy to be home!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pub lunch a fitting end

One last day in London before the big journey home to New Zealand.

Marcele and I spent a relaxed morning mostly window shopping in Wimbledon Village. I did manage to buy a light garment for wearing back to the warmer Southern Hemisphere even though the shops were decked out with winter wear.

We had agreed to meet Aaron for lunch and what could be more fitting than to have a meal together in a 17th century English pub called the Rose and Crown not far from the Wimbledon Common and Tennis Courts.

As might be expected all the decor was dark wood. It was a cold day but the skies were clear for the most part and so we found a sunny alcove to soak up some warmth and atmosphere while we shared a pub lunch together.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goodbye to Paris

When you go up in the Eiffel Tower and look out over the city, most of it is built on flat lands but off in the distance is the hill of the suburb of Montmarte and at the top of the hill you can see the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur which was just a short distance from our apartment.

We walked by it a few times but did not go and look inside - for me the stairs were rather daunting and there were many more than this picture reveals - but it really did look like a rather grand building.

Our taxi experience improved and Ricky found out that he could book a cab for us on Sunday morning to take us direct to the railway station.

It arrived in good time to take us on our way and as the driver turned to take us down the hill he took us to the other side of the Basilica and there was another world that was so near but so far.

There was a fantastic lookout with amazing sites back over Paris as well as a market place and shops that had totally escaped us.

If we ever have the chance to return this would be a definite inclusion in our places to explore.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Getting around in Paris

 Ricky took care of booking our apartment in Paris and it was in the old part of town in the Montmarte District.

Lots of character and old world charm, even if it was removed from the main sightseeing areas of Paris.

After being able to leave our luggage in our apartment we decided to wander down the hill and take in the local area.

The 'hill' seemed to go on forever but we were happy enough to take in the surroundings and shops.

Ricky was very taken with the colour of the limestone in the buildings as well as the iron lace work on the apartment balconies.

We decided to walk as far as we could and then we would get a taxi home again.  Cafes along the way beckoned us and we stopped for refreshments as well as to escape the cold.

When we had done what we thought was enough walking for the day we decided to get a taxi back to the apartment but this was no easy task.  The taxi drivers obviously felt that a fare up into the streets of Montmarte was not worth their while and so we were not able to go home this way.

We had no choice but to walk.  It was a long slow walk and we did get lost along the way but eventually made it home after night fall.

It seemed we could be in a bit of a quandry if we could not hire a taxi for our needs the next day, but things greatly improved.

When we set out next morning we headed for a taxi stand that I had seen the night before and fortunately there was one there waiting for a fare and so we were able to get to the Eiffel Tower without any problems.

Getting from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame Cathedral and in turn the Louvre by taxi was not a problem either.

However after the Louvre we faced another taxi dilemma.  Although there was many a taxi to be seen we were not able to find one willing to stop and take us home.  We were not quite sure how to resolve the situation when Ricky just happened to spot a bus stop promoting 2 bus routes only and one of them just happened to be Route 95 which just happened to go to Montmarte.

We walked to the bus shelter and within a minute a bus came and took us all the way back to Montmarte and we were able to alight not far from home.

Another last walk through the streets, taking in the various shops that seemed to be doing a good trade after 5pm.

Ricky and I popped into a local bakery and bought a baguette still warm from the oven and we wandered home breaking off pieces of baguette to eat as we went.  It seemed a happy way to end a fulfilling day in Paris.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Cafes of Paris

After our visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Ricky and I found a cafe opposite where we could be sheltered from the weather but observe the comings and goings around this historical site.

This was just one of many cafes which line the streets with large open windows so you can take in the view.  They also have many tables outside and in warmer weather the streets would be lined with extra patrons enjoying their time in the city.

If we had had more time in Paris we probably would have repeated these cafe retreats many times.  The wine never failed to please and you could partake of snacks or a full meal if preferred.

The passing parade of people was of great interest and this image does not take in the many, many people we observed in our time there.  It made me appreciate how much Paris is a visited city.  If they were here in their droves in the winter, how much more so in the summer.

The cafes were good, the food was great and our short time spent here was very precious and will always be a treasured memory for me.  Thank you, Ricky, for making it possible.

The Louvre

For our one full day to see the highlights of Paris we were not going to make it to them all so our last stop off for the day was The Louvre.

I did not feel I could go home from Paris and say that I had not at least seen the Mona Lisa.

My first impression was the size of The Louvre. The building is not only magnificent but huge.  From her wealth of information our tour guide at the Eiffel Tower had told us that you could visit The Louvre for a whole year 24/7 and never get to see all that is there. Her recommendation is that you study up and make a point of going to specific sections to make the most of what is available.

We came to see the Mona Lisa and that is what we focused on.  Again there were queues but they seemed to be moving quite well and so we made it inside.

When we went to pay for admission of E11.00 each Ricky indicated we wanted to see the Mona Lisa and the attendant pulled a face as if to say, well that is what everyone wants to see.

Although not well sign posted (in my opinion) we did eventually find the painting and crowds of people jostling for position to take a look and a photo.

We did it!  We got there.  It was nice to say we had been there and done that but I have to say I was probably more impressed with the many other paintings there in abundance.  Wonderful images from the 15th century onwards, I am not sure how all have survived these many years.  This area of the museum also had many statues from the Roman era and they were fascinating as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Notre Dame Cathedral

When Ricky and I came through to the other side of the tunnel, on our way to Paris, it became clear that it had been snowing in France.

The rolling countryside was covered with snow and for those of us not so accustomed to such sights it was very pretty.

My other observation was that throughout the countryside there were towns and villages and as a centrepiece of most of them were these grand churches with their spires rising high into the sky. It was almost as if the surrounding dwellings were  clustered there with the church as their centrality to life.

When we were at the Eiffel Tower the guide was talking to us about the Notre Dame Cathedral and telling us that the Cathedral was the located in the centre of Paris and it was from there all kilometres were measured.

Because of the size of the city it was hard to picture that the Cathedral was indeed the centrepiece but it did bring to mind my observations as we made our way into Paris.

Regardless of any religious persuasion this 850 year old Cathedral is worth taking a look at inside and out.  Ricky was very taken with the lovely creaminess of the limestone used in the buildings in Paris and this place was no exception, beautiful inside and out.

Queues can be a problem in Paris but we joined the one here and it was not long before we were inside.  No charge to get in but if you wanted to light at tealight candle it cost E2.00 or a bigger one E5.00 and from the number of candles lots of people obviously liked to participate in this.

You can only stand in awe at the magnificence of the architecture of this building.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Can you tell I am cold?

It does seem customary when tourists are touring that the proof that I have been here photos need to be taken.

I wonder if they should be taken when temperatures are at freezing point and it is a bit hard to muster a smile.

Ricky and I had arrived at the Eiffel Tower with time to spare for our tour and so we walked across the River Seine and this is the photo to prove I was there.

This photo was taken from the first level of the Eiffel Tower. Still very cold.

Amazingly I lost my gloves before the day was through.  You would wonder that I even took them off.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Eiffel Tower

We had booked a Skip The Line tour to see the Eiffel Tower and left our apartment by 8.30am to ensure we would be there on time. As things turned out we were well ahead of time so found a take out place for coffee and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

It has to be said that this was a very cold day to be out and about in Paris.

I don't think the temperature rose above one degree Celsius all day and there were not any places to shelter while we waited.

The Tower does not open until 9.30am but queues were there well in advance of this time. We were glad we were going to be able to skip the line.

Eventually our tour group gathered and we were on our way.

Our guide was very good. She took us up to the first level and explained in an interesting and clear way the many landmarks of the city. She happened to be from San Francisco and the whole of the tour was in English.

She left us with the option of taking the next lift to the top but in this case there were queues and it was all outside. In the freezing temperatures we thought that best left for another time.

Apart from the cold an extremely worthwhile experience. If I had a bucket list this item would have been ticked.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

This one is for Lisa - spotted in Paris

When Ricky and I arrived in Paris we were not able to get immediate access to our apartment. However there was a nice restaurant next door and so we decided to opt for our first genuine taste of French cuisine.

We were not disappointed. I had the most delicious vegetable tart with salad and Ricky had eggs and bacon. He thought he add ordered omelette but something must have gotten lost in translation. Very nice nevertheless.

The weather was very cold with snow falling outside as we ate. Up on the windowsill a small snowman, part of the Christmas decorations. I thought of my daughter- in- law, Lisa. Snowmen would have to be one of her favourite Christmas decorations

Even after lunch our apartment was not ready but we were able to leave our luggage so set off to wander the street and to soak up the atmosphere as part of our brief stay in Paris.

Friday, December 07, 2012

We had snow

I received a text from Ricky early in the morning to ask if I knew it had been snowing in London at 7am.

Although I was up and about I was not aware of this.

A few minutes later he sent another text to say it was snowing in Cambridge.

We had been contemplating where we might go for the day and as soon as Marcele heard news of snow that was our destination for the day.

The temperatures had certainly plummeted but it was worth the effort to go.

We got an express train to Cambridge which took about 45 minutes from Kings Cross station.  It seemed hardly any time at all and we were beyond city limits but it was quite a while before we actually saw snow.  When we did it was just delightful.  Acres and acres of rolling countryside sprinkled with snow, heavier in some part than others, very, very pretty.

Cambridge itself did not seem to have much evidence of snow but that did not seem to matter.  A very helpful cab driver dropped us near Kings College so that we could have a good wander around the city streets.  I captured some remnants of snow in the foreground.  Aaron was very intrigued by the abundance of bikes everywhere.  Economical travel for students, no doubt.

Living down under and having watched shows like Inspector Morse, it all felt like familiar territory to come here - well worth it and the effects of the snow on the scenery was a real bonus.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Kensington Palace

What would a trip to London be without a visit to at least one of the Royal landmarks so it was off to Kensington Palace for us.

I had seen advertised an exhibition of the life of Queen Victoria and I thought this could be of interest.

I did find it very interesting and in particular loved the garments of the era which were beautifully displayed.  

In addition to the exhibition you could also visit the Queen's and King's apartments.

The coronation garments of King George III  in the King's Apartments were particularly magnificent.

As interested as I was in everything that was on show I struggled with the poor lighting.

There was quite a lot of information on hand to read but I did not find it easy.

In the end I spoke to one of the guides about it.

She went to great lengths to explain that they had to take care to have minimal lighting to protect the textiles in the exhibition because of their great age.  However, she did add at the end that a lot of the palaces were closed for the winter months and that they were only closed for three days of the year.  This meant that other castles had more in their budget for lighting but Kensington Palace did not have enough so this was part of the reason for dim lighting.

You can have a great exhibition but never mind if the people can't see it properly, we just don't have money for the lighting.

 So to lighter matters.

Squirrels scuttling across the grounds of Kensington Palace.  This one was quite familiar with people and was making the rounds to see if someone would provide his meal for the day.

Aaron had a lot of fun feeding this one some nuts.

We moved on from here and caught a bus to Trafalgar Square, a favourite spot for me and so to the National Gallery to have a look at just a little of the magnificent art collection they have.  This is the third time I have been there and it never ceases to fascinate me.

Aaron and Marcele had never been there before but felt it was somewhere to which they would like to return .

We met up with Ricky for an evening meal together and then on to the theatre to see  One Man Two Guvnors. What a fun show that was.  The others had all seen it before but felt it worth a second viewing.  I would happily go back to see it again too.  It was very cleverly done.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Please excuse the hat

If you knew me, you would know I do not like wearing hats, but during my time here in England I have really felt the need, so if you have to wear a hat why not have something bright so you don't get lost in the crowds.

Images in this post are from our outing to Southend-On-Sea.

Even though it really is a summer resort I wanted to go there just because I could.
It boasts the world's longest pier, 1.3 miles I believe, and fortunately, for people like me, you can take a train that will take you to the end of the pier and back.  I do believe it might be a nice walk in warmer weather but I think we could have become very cold had we chosen to walk the plank this day.
The Adventureland Park at the base of the Pier was closed for business during the winter months but one could only imagine what a hub of activity this area might be in the summer.  I was happy to able to observe in the peace and quiet of winter.

A visit to a local restaurant Tomassi's was required and both Marcele and I enjoyed a sampling of plaice.  Deliciously fresh and tasty.  I was very impressed.  The restaurant was already decked out with Christmas decorations and Aaron just had to try the Christmas turkey meal.

Spotted near the railway station - a fish and chip shop selling fish and chip combinations with curry sauce - not quite what you would expect - chips and curry sauce - is this really England?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Maybe I am back in New Zealand?

Sunday morning, after attending family service at a local Anglican church, Aaron, Marcele and I set off to Notting Hill to meet up with Ricky.

He said he wanted to take us to a restaurant there but did not give an indication as to what sort of a restaurant it might be.

Ricky's favourite chef is Australian celebrity chef, Bill Granger, and he was taking us to his London restaurant, Granger and Co.

We had to wait some time to get seating for a table for four but it was well worth the wait (much better experience than that of the Chinese restaurant the night before).

The first thing Ricky did was order a flat white and when I saw the fern decoration in the froth I thought for a moment I was back in New Zealand.  Ricky said it was the best flat white he has had since coming to London.

Bill Granger's food was delicious.  He has what I would call a simplistic style in presentation.  His food was lovely and fresh and well presented.  The menu is simplistic too but good enough for us to have a variety of meals, banana pancakes for Ricky, the full Aussie breakfast for Aaron, a lovely fresh salad for Marcele and I had a BLT on sourdough bread - yum.

Following on from this delicious fare we took a bus to Camden Town and spent several hours exploring the market scene there.  People galore, even when it was getting close to 5pm on a Sunday people were still coming in droves.  The markets of London are a great way to soak up the tradition of this lovely old city which will always be a favourite of mine.

A bit of a giggle

We waited for Ricky to arrive on my birthday and then the family was taking me out to see the play, The Mousetrap.

We had to get to Leicester Square by train and then a bit of a walk to the St Martins Theatre where it is showing.

On the way we decided to walk through Chinatown and thought perhaps a meal at a Chinese restaurant might be a good idea.

Most of the eateries seemed to be thriving with customers waiting at the door to get in.

We found a place we thought we liked. It was busy but the waiter assured us that if we would like to go downstairs they would have a table for four in 'just a moment'.

Downstairs we went and moved to one side to make room for others who were waiting too.

We waited and watched as the head waiter went backwards and forwards many times accepting, table for 2, table for 3, table for 9, each time assuring us that they would have a table for us in 'just a moment'.

Eventually we became concerned that it was getting too close to theatre time to stay any longer when they finally cleared a table for us and we sat down.

However, our dilemma continued because they then ignored us and did not send a waiter to serve us.  In the end Aaron decided to protest by leaving.  A waitress asked me why we were leaving and I said that we had to be at the theatre. 'Oh don't worry', she said, 'We can cook your food and hold it for you.'

Marcele and I looked at each other and had a bit of a giggle - there was no way we would be letting them cook our food for us!

We moved on and having found the theatre we spotted a Moroccan style restaurant close by and had just enough time to have an appertiser each - very nice alternative.

Our arrival at the theatre was just on starting time but at least we got there.

The Mousetrap was very good and well worth the effort of going to.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Birthdays and such

Mixing travel and birthdays and international date lines can be a bit confusing - almost like having two brithdays rolled in one.

My travel to London commenced on the 30th November and I arrived on the 1st December (my birthday).

However, I had already been receiving birthday greetings on the 30th from friends and family down under where it was already the 1st December.

It was a bit of an all day and night affair getting here from Seattle but all was well in the end.  Aaron (my eldest son) was at Heathrow to meet me and after a considerable journey by taxi we arrived at their home in Wimbledon.

Aaron and Marcele have recently purchased their first home, a one bedroom apartment in Wimbledon and it is very nicely appointed.

Marcele had put together a collection of goodies for my birthday so that was a lovely surprise.

Birthday goodies were opened.  Included in the image on the right is a lovely red top that Lisa bought for me at a craft market we went to in Seattle.

My youngest son, Ricky, joined us later in the day to complete the family circle.

I had a wonderful time in Seattle with Lisa, David and Jackson, but I can see that my time in London will be equally as good.

The Salish Sea

Our travels through the San Juan Islands on the Washington State Ferries were very peaceable on tranquil waters.

We left Friday Harbor on the 1.55pm ferry and even though it was relatively early in the afternoon, to me it felt like it was close to dusk.

The overcast skies played with the sunlight and I played around with the settings on my camera to try and capture the moment as best I could.

For those who love yachting how wonderful it must feel to traverse these tranquil waters at such a time as this.

Being able to take in this scenery was the icing on the cake at the end of a wonderful excursion.

Travel and Smart Phones

On advice from friends at work David took me out for the day to take a ferry ride to Friday Harbour on San Juan Island close to the Canadian border.

As we traveled past several of the islands we saw a number of lovely houses nestled in isolated locations.

I know this is some peoples dream life style but not for me.  Maybe it is because I have never driven a car but as I get older I really appreciate being close to facilities for shopping and medical needs.

David takes out the smart phone and starts looking up information to find out whether the people who live on these islands are really so isolated after all.  Indeed there are shops to service these people and air strips and one of the islands even supported two air strips.  Of course, these islands are serviced with a regular ferry service with room for motor vehicles so I guess you could live in splendid isolation but still get back to the real world if you have to.

After a good wander around the shops we talked about where we might have a bite to eat for lunch.

We stopped outside the Cask & Schooner which boasted an English style pub menu, with meat pies and mushy peas or bangers and mash or fish and chips.

I was a bit dubious as to how authentic the food might be and we wandered up the street to look at some other restaurants.

Once again David took out the smart phone and with a little bit of research and help from the app,, he was able to confirm that the Cask & Schooner had pretty good ratings 4.5 out of 5 so we went back there and had an enjoyable lunch.  The cheese platter appetiser was a highlight and in spite of the English style food I had a good old American hamburger.

It was a lovely day, greatly influenced by the use of a smart phone - how times have changed.