Thursday, July 30, 2015

Those lovely bumbling bees

We love it in the summer when the bumble bees visit in our garden. 

We have never seen them in the numbers we saw at Leeds Castle today. 

A lot of thought seemed to have gone into including plants the bumble bees are attracted by. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Getting to know Anna-Clara

It has been delightful for our family group to get to know my grand daughter, Anna- Clara, during our time in London. 

She has come to accept our presence so readily and so today we had another short but happy reunion in Trafalgar Square. 

We were all quite taken by the 'living statues' in Trafalgar Square and so was she. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Flat whites in London

On the 4th December 2012 I was in London and my son, Rick took me to lunch at Granger & Co in Notting Hill, owned by his favourite Australian chef, Bill Granger.

Back then a good flat white in London was hard to find so I really appreciated  the one we had there. 

Yesterday we breakfasted at another of Bill Granger's restaurants in Clerkenwell. 

The flat whites were as good as ever along with the lightest and tastiest 
scrambled eggs you could hope to find. 

Since my last visit flat whites have become more commonplace and so I don't have to feel deprived of a 'down under' part of life. 

More things that make me smile

We went the Broadway Markets in London today and it was great to see the way the marketplace has developed since I lived here in the seventies. 

So many amazing food choices from England and abroad. Broadway Markets are small in comparison to many in London but it was just the right size for us. 

After we had finished wandering it was time for a drink in a corner pub. 

There, under the wine list an encouragement to honour God, and outside the pub a promotion that this was the House of Revelry - a contradiction in terms that made me smile. 

In addition the other morning we went to have breakfast at a local cafe. Four adults and every breakfast platter had at least half a dozen fries as extra. 

David had ordered bacon and egg with toast for his but when it came it had bacon eggs and fries only. 

When David queried her, the waitress said, 'oh the fries are there for decorative purposes only' and very quickly produced some buttered toast. 

Fries for decorative purposes only  has become a bit of a by word amongst us. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

First Encounter

Good bye, Canada, hello England.

After an extended time in a very long Customs queue, Linda and I then had to get from Terminal 2 and had to make it to Terminal 4 to meet up with family.  This seemed to take forever.  Just as well we were able to find a cappuccino to fortify us.  We were a bit foot sore and weary by the time we hopped into a car to go to our apartment which is to be our home for the next eleven days.

My eldest son, Aaron, was waiting for an appropriate moment to bring his daughter, Anna-Clara to visit with us.  At first she was very shy and only wanted to be with Daddy.

Then we got talking and she found a space on the floor and started twirling around in a world of her own.  

It didn't seem long until she found a spot to sit between her Uncle Ricky and Great Aunty Linda to settle down and have a chat.

It seems that meeting your overseas relatives for the first time is not so daunting after all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From Vancouver to Whistler

 Whistler was to be the highlight of our Canadian sojourn but if we hadn't been on top of the situation I don't think our bus driver would have even picked us up.  Even when we did get on the bus we spent the best part of 60 minutes scooting around the city hotels to pick up, swap passengers until we finally had the correct mix of people for our journey.

At last we were on our way, out into the pleasant countryside.

Whistler put me in mind of the Bavarian town of Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains.  Whistler is nestled between mountains much like Leavenworth, the buildings are built chalet style with limited color schemes to blend in with the mountain scenery. 

We stayed overnight and it was very pleasant but the gold nugget of our visit to Canada was the return journey on the Rocky Mountaineer train. 

The customer service on the train was excellent. 

The views of mountains with snow, sharp cliff faces, deep canyons with rivers at the base, all the picture book stuff we had ever seen about Canada was right there before us.

You may have to pay more for the experience than other places but well worth every mile/kilometer travelled.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The things that make you smile

When you travel you hope along the way that the toilets/bathrooms/restrooms/washrooms will be of a reasonable standard. 

It wasn't until I saw this sign that I began to look around and realise that, yes indeed, the washrooms were looking a bit tired and in need of refreshing, especially when the sign itself was looking a bit tired. I do wonder how long the sign had been there.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Viewing Vancouver

We commenced our North American adventure in Vancouver and to Vancouver we have returned for a couple of nights. 

Certainly a bit overcast yesterday but it did keep the temperature down which was nice. 

Part of our visit here was a 4 hour bus tour of the city. Not sure that I would venture to do that again but we did come away a little better informed than when we started. 

Stanley Park was certainly a lovely place to visit and the drive through the temperate rain forest there was beautiful. 

New Zealand enjoys an ever growing cruise ship industry and so does Canada with the flow of cruise ships travelling to and from Alaska each year. 

With the tour over it was nice to find somewhere to have a long cool drink. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bucket list?

If we said we had a 'bucket list' for our trip to the States then you could say we ticked it off by going to The Sisters Quilt Show in Oregon.

The show was due to start at 9am but we planned to get there earlier than that so we could park relatively close by and walk to the centre of town.

When we got there they were still hanging quilts.  All very well organized and a troop of volunteers were  busy getting the show on the road.

Although the surrounding countryside was very dry the weather was not too hot making it very pleasant to walk around and look at the quilts.  I understand that there was a total of 1300 quilts hanging on the day and although we did not see them all we were well satisfied with what we did see.

Modern style quilting was alive and well at Sisters.  Not all of it pleases me but I did see a lot of modern quilts that were worth close inspection.

Lots of very bright colored quilts.

This image shows all the quilts that were hung on one of the outside walls of the town's only quilt shop, The Stitching Post.

I liked this quilt not so much for its craftsmanship but because it depicted what was typical of Sisters and the surrounding area, ranches, mountains, snow, canyons, wildlife and quilting.  We had it all and if we had a bucket list it would have got the big tick.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Where can I buy a cup of coffee

MWhen Linda and I travelled to the States together nine years ago we struggled to find coffee that we really liked. 

Things have changed a lot in nine years and these days Starbucks serve our favorite, flat white, and lots of coffee shops now sport espresso machines.

Spotted in Starbucks:-

Their latest blend of coffee which just happens to be the same name as the town where we grew up in New Zealand.

On our trip to Cascades we asked the gps system to take us to a town called Monroe.  It told us we were at our destination under a bridge and there were no shops in site so we set about looking for somewhere to have coffee.

We ended up at a hospital cafe and went in to buy a cappuccino each.

The lady started to serve us and said, 'Will that be two per cent?'

'Two per cent of what?', we asked.

Well we could have two percent, full fat or no fat milk.

We got that sorted and then she proceeded further with our order, 'Would you like your cappuccino wet or dry?'

Another coffee mystery for us.  Apparently dry is when they really froth the milk on top of the coffee and wet is when it is not so frothy.  We went for the less frothy option.

That was our lesson for the day on coffee making.

We have been able to find Starbucks for our coffee ever since that experience so no more trick questions when we buy our coffee. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Coming back from Yakima

We only stayed overnight in Yakima and then it was back through the Cascade Mountains.  Lots more picture postcard scenery along the way.

One of the unexpected delights was the township of Leavenworth. 

With an excellent backdrop of mountains the town has been totally refurbished in Bavarian style and must be a total winter wonderland during the snow season.

It was more like 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there but it was a busy hub nevertheless because of the American summer holidays.

Lots and lots lovely colorful potted flowers and hanging baskets added to the charm of Leavenworth..

The view from my bedroom window

When I am at home in Taupo I have sometimes shared the river view from my bedroom window.

A few days ago Linda and I travelled through the Cascade Mountains to the city of Yakima so Linda could visit with a quilting friend she has met through quilting.

The whole trip was a great experience with some breathtaking views along the way.

We stayed in a basic hotel overnight and the Yakima River could be seen from our window.  Not quite the beautiful Waikato River that we can see from home but it was lovely to have some water close at hand.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Vashon Island

Following on from our 4th July celebrations, the next day we went out for the day to visit Vashon Island.

Isn't this hanging basket just beautiful?  Just one of many we have seen since arriving in Seattle, all full of the wonderful colours of summer.

Vashon Island was a lovely place to visit, nestled in Puget Sound it is just a twenty minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle and you can take your car too.  How convenient is that?

We were able to get a snapshot of life on the island, stopping at the local shops, which didn't open until 12 noon, and then a bit of a drive around the island before another ferry trip back to the mainland.

One of the unexpected surprises of our visit to the island was a local quilt store, the Island Quilter.
Because of its location on an island I had expected it to be a relatively small shop, nothing of the sort.

The shop has just relocated and even though they had not unpacked all their fabrics there was no shortage as you can see her.  A stash collectors heaven but I am able to report I did not buy any.  Wouldn't want to be bursting out of my suitcase now, would I?

Vashon Island, will I ever return?  I would like to think I might be able to, but if not, it will always remain a happy memory from this visit.

Where have the days gone?

The 4th July is such a big event in the American calendar and it seems to have come and gone so quickly without me even commenting.

After a delicious meal, grilled steak from the bbq and fresh vegetables, we gathered with the neighbors in the parking lot opposite David and Lisa's home.

This is a relatively new neighborhood so a good way for the local residents to get to know each other and share over fireworks.

My boys grew up in Sydney where backyard fireworks were banned when they were quite young so it was quite unusual for me to see what the locals here could put on for the fun of their friends.

Other groups had gathered in the surrounding neighborhoods and so we got an ongoing display from ours and other groups.

The activity went on long into the night and I excused myself well before it was over.  I went to sleep to the sounds of firecrackers popping all around.

Good to be here and share yet another part of the American way of life.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The down side of travel

You always hope to only have good things to report when you travel but sometimes the bad catches up. 
Our long haul flight from Auckland to Vancouver was a full flight so without room for movement I found myself sitting next to a young woman who had a very bad cold. 
I did hope that I would be immune to any virus she might be carrying but three days later I developed a high fever which was a bit if a knockout. 
I was able sleep off the fever with the help of medication but an unpleasant experience nonetheless. 
Still life goes on and we have been out and about including a trip to a local Farmers Market where we saw these ducks doing whatever ducks do all over world.
Delightful English style cafe at the market was lovely with high tea available but it was such a hot day I opted for a cool refresher. 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Back tracking, a little

Before Linda and I embarked on this journey we announced to family and friends that we would be taking cabin baggage only.

'Well, that's a brave decision,' said some. Others said that we were being 'very courageous' and that it couldn't be done. 

We talked to Mr Google and found on YouTube that many had gone before and succeeded. 

There were plenty of videos to be watched about the process and so we decided it was for us. 

The first segment of our journey has been completed and so far we are impressed it can be done. So nice not to have lots of heavy luggage or to be waiting at the carousels at the airport.

We can always fall back on checked luggage if need be but at this stage we do not plan to do so. 


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Accelerated Reading

Today was our first full day in Seattle. 

My nine year old grandson, Jackson, is on summer vacation but has enrolled a summer Accelerated Reading program at his school. 

He needs to read an ebook then once a week go to the school library to sit a test to see how well he comprehended the story. 

Today he asked me to walk to the school with him so he could participate. 

There was a line up of computers for the children to log in to themselves to sit the multi choice questions. 

Jackson seemed to go through the process easily and reported a 100% result. 

This was all very interesting but even more so, the number of mothers and children turning up to participate as well during summer vacation. The library was positively humming with activity. 

A very insightful outing for Jackson's Nana today.