Monday, November 30, 2009

Reading Rainbow

I came across a reading challenge today that I might try. Nothing *crazy* like 100 books in 2010 or anything like that! :)
It's the Lost in Books Colorful Reading Challenge.
When I go to the library, I often have no idea what book I want, I just pick something colorful. So this is an interesting twist to my "choose a book with a colorful cover"'s "choose a book with a colorful title" instead!
I'm not exactly sure that I'll do the full challenge, 9 books in 9 different colors, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for colorful titles.
Some books I might consider are:
White Oleander
Snow: A Retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Black Stars in a White Night Sky (a book of poems)
Paint it Black (the sequel to White Oleander)
Black Star, Bright Dawn
The Black Pearl
Bitter is the New Black
Gathering Blue
Island of the Blue Dolphins (one of my favorites from my elementary school days)
13 Little Blue Envelopes (I checked this out before, but didn't get to it before returning it!)
Something Blue (I read the first book, Something Borrowed, but haven't come across this one yet)
Once in a Blue Moon
Before Green Gables
Little Green Men
How Green Was My Valley
Purple Heart
Purple Hibiscus
Half of a Yellow Sun
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Five Quarters of the Orange
Code Orange
Blood Orange  
My Life in Pink and Green
Little Pink Slips
Pink Palace
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit  
Where the Red Fern Grows (If I'm in the mood to cry!)
Red Hook Road
Woman in Red
Red Dress Walking
Red Glass
The Red Umbrella  

That's 9 colors...but maybe there's books with color names that come from the Crayola 64 box instead of the crayola 8 box! I might look up some of those later. I think I've got a pretty good starting point for now though!

Dublin: IMHO

I went to Dublin with fairly low expectations. I had heard from three different people that Dublin may not be Ireland at its best. In my opinion, big cities rarely are. Places that got raving reviews were Cork, Kerry, Killarney & Donnegal. But, for this weekend, the only thing on the itinerary was Dublin, so I decided to go check it out for myself, since I hadn't made any other Thanksgiving plans anyway.

The verdict is in: I agree with my three friends--Dublin doesn't get two thumbs-up from me. When you think Ireland, you might think "green," "sheep," "craggy sea cliffs," "accent," or "cute little old men wearing tweed hats." that's definitely not what you get in Dublin! It has a few interesting, pretty points, but I bet I could've done enough Dublin to satisfy myself in one day with a hop-on/hop-off bus pass. And without a pregnant travel companion.

More later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To Do

 Yeah right. I wish that was all there was on my pre-Dublin to-do list. The rest wouldn't fit on the post-it. What the heck did I do all day???

Even though it's not Tuesday, I had some time to waste, so I figured I'd participate late. Or early. You know, instead of doing the things I need to do. Makes perfect sense. 

Find out more about Post-It Note Tuesday here.
Or, if you just want to make your own Post-It, go here.

Feeling Lucky?

I have mixed feelings about the Kindle/Sony Reader/Nook.
In my last post, I was talking about how much I love libraries. I love that they just give you a book, for free, and you get to take it home and enjoy it for a while. Three weeks at my library. I love that if you pick a book and don't really like it or find another book that you want to read first, you just take it back. No money wasted. I love that if you want to read a book that your library doesn't have, they might be able to borrow it from another library for you! No running all over the place looking for a book.

So, even though I love getting my free books from a big selection at my library, I couldn't resist entering this giveaway for a Kindle! Because I like reading. And I like winning things. So it is a perfect contest for me. Click the link and try to win one too. Because if you enter using my link, I get an extra entry. And if you're not going to win, don't you want me, your internet friend, to be the one to win? If I don't win, I hope it's you!

Now, I don't have a Kindle---yet. After my name gets drawn in the Kindle giveaway, I will!---so I can't say for sure how much I would love it or when I would use it. But I like to think that even with a Kindle, curling up on the couch with a book will still be something I want to do. Partly because I love these little magnetic bookmarks that I have, and I would miss using those if I used the Kindle exclusively. Plus the whole paying-for-books vs. getting-them-free-at-the-library thing. (My friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about how we think there should be a some kind of library license, where the library purchases the Kindle file or whatever and you check it out onto your Kindle...and then just have it expire or drop off when the three weeks or whatever is up. Maybe they already do this. Or maybe we just invented it because we are geniuses.)
Right now, I am packing for a trip. At least that's what I'm supposed to be doing. I think trips would be the #1 reason to have a Kindle. Besides the super cute Kindle cases, of course.  When I go on a trip, I need to have plenty of stuff to keep me busy. Even if I'm never going to get around to it. I need a knitting project. I need a book. For the airport, maybe the plane, for waiting in the hotel for the other people to wake up or shower. But what if the plane is delayed? What if the flight takes longer than expected? What if the other people sleep really late or take long showers? What if I finish the only book and knitting project I brought with me? So, I must bring extra. It's the only solution. But what if both of the books I bring are real page-turners? And I can't put them down and I finish before I've even gotten there?  Do you see where this is going? If you had a Kindle, you could load that puppy up and put a thousand books into your carry on bag, and take up less space than a single paperback. So, try and win a Kindle!
My trip is only 4 days, and is a see-stuff kind of trip. I'm packing 2 books. Imagine what I would "need" to pack if I were going on a week-long lay-by-the-pool and relax trip instead! But at least that kind of trip would require fewer and smaller clothes in the suitcase! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One of my favorite places in the world...

I've been lots of places, and I feel grateful and lucky for that. But one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world is not faraway or fancy, and I feel grateful and lucky for that too! It can be found almost everywhere and it's FREE!! It's the library!
I've always loved the library. I remember my mom taking me to the "little library" down the street from my house. I mostly remember doing puzzles there. When we moved, we ended up getting a bigger library!
One of the first things I did when I got here was to get a base library card. I was so excited to see that the library here has a McNaughton collection. The library at Kadena had this collection (newer books) but then lost the grant/funding for it, so there was this big chunk of empty shelves that practically shouted (or whispered very loudly, it's a library after all) "Remember that best-seller with the pretty shiny cover that you wanted to read? It's not here anymore!! Go pick one of the old stinky books."

Today, I went to the library to return a book (House of Mirth, Edith Wharton) and print something out (boarding pass to Dublin) and ended up spending nearly an hour browsing. That's one problem with the library. It's very hard to "just run in to return a book". Because, you see, there are, probably THOUSANDS of other books whispering, "I'm good. Pick me. Take me home." Almost like puppies in a pet shop! The other problem with the library is that it's very hard to choose a book. That's why I normally choose 2 or 3. There's not a limit at this library...I could check out 63 books if I wanted to---but I wouldn't be able to read them all within 3 weeks. And when I renew too many times, I feel like I'm being judged.
So today I saw a whole bunch of books that I would like to read, and I didn't have a little notebook with me to write down the titles. So now I'm sad! This library doesn't have tiny pencils and index cards or paper scraps near the "card catalog" computers, so I had to try and remember which books were interesting (I only checked out two today...I already have 2 Ireland travel guide books checked out from the other base's library.) I've already forgotten...which means that next time I go to the library, I'll be there at least an hour perusing and choosing. Good thing it's one of my very favorite places!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thanksgiving Meme

Maybe it's because there isn't a turkey defrosting in my fridge (good thing, because I don't think one would fit in there!) or because I haven't been busying myself with lists, timelines and spreadsheets about groceries, side dishes and serving utensils, but it hardly feels like Thanksgiving is just a few days away! 
I'm not hosting (or even going to) Thanksgiving Dinner this year, which feels kind of weird. I'm going to Dublin with a few friends instead. But that doesn't mean I can't think about turkey dinner!  

1.What are the traditional favorites?
Everything! Mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, corn souffle', pumpkin cake, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole.

2.What new recipes will you try this year?
Well, I'm not making anything for Thanksgiving, but if I were, I would make this pie I saw this morning on Bakerella. I think I will make it for Thanksgiving-in-June. Which I have decided should be an official event, right before Christmas-in-July.

3.What part of the meal do you never compromise?
 All of it!

4.Who gets to carve the turkey?
David. I don't know/remember who carves it at family Thanksgiving at home.  

5.Family style around the table or buffet style and everyone sits wherever there's room?
A little bit of both? In Okinawa, we had all the food in the kitchen, the only thing passed around the table was bread I think, and after loading up our plates, everyone who could fit would sit at the dining room table. Anyone who couldn't fit spilled over to the living room-couch or card table.  

6.How many will be at your table this year?
Four, I think. In a pub in Dublin, most likely!

7.Three best pies for Thanksgiving dessert?
Apricot Cranberry Pie. And that's the only kind of pie I've made. I don't love pumpkin pie, but I'll eat it. I love pumpkin cake!! Apple pie too, but not the recipe I attempted last year!
8.Cranberry sauce...yeah or nay?
Absolutely! Times two! One straight from the can, complete with the lines, and one "doctored up" version.

9.What time do you eat Thanksgiving dinner?
When we host, about 1600/1630

10.Favorite leftover?
All! Green bean casserole, probably. I love having mini Thanksgiving dinners in the days following Thanksgiving, and then I love having Thanksgiving on a Sandwich when the leftovers are dwindling.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Party Planning Panic!

In the middle of the night, I woke up from a nightmare.
In my nightmare, it was the day of a baby shower I've been planning since August. And I didn't have anything ready. None of the crafts on my list were done. My gift wasn't wrapped. My cupcakes weren't baked. The ONE request I had from the mom-to-be---taco salad---wasn't prepared.  But none of that really mattered, because I hadn't sent out the invitations.
So this afternoon and evening, I worked on my baby shower plans.
This baby shower is going to ROCK!
It's a "Rock the Cradle" themed shower, after all.

I already have the invitations designed, I just need to finalize a date with the mom-to-be. (Late Jan/Early Feb).
I've already drawn out what I want my living room & dessert table to look like. 
I made a list of all of the weekends in Jan/Feb as well as the dates invitations would need to be mailed, etc. so when we do pick a date, all the "math" is already done.
I asked the mom-to-be to let me know who's on her guest list.
I asked the mom-to-be to send me a baby picture of herself for a "Very Important Project"
I started working on the Very Important Project--a concert-style VIP Pass for her to wear during the shower. Like a corsage, only hipper.
I made a list of baby shower games that I would be interested in playing, and prizes. I'm going to see which games the mom-to-be is interested in.

I still have lots to do... ordering some things (temporary tattoos! guitar shaped soap! white chocolate bark/melts!), making some things (ribbon wreath for my front door! paper globes to put in vases! onesies to hang on the wall!), and planning/organizing some things (menu! guest addresses & phone #s! plan for parking!)... but I feel like I accomplished at least a little bit today and should sleep soundly!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Small Talk Six

It feels like I just did a Small Talk Six post... this week has gone by without my even noticing! This week's topic:
6 things you are most thankful for this year

1.  Being Independent. This year, I had to move from Japan to England by myself, while my husband is stationed somewhere far away. I had to find a place to live, accept three shipments of household goods, open a bank account for pounds, hook up the internet, etc. And the military refers to us as "dependents". Puh-lease. 
2. Hobbies. Like I said, I've been in this house alone all this time, no job, no consistent human interaction. Good thing I have plenty of hobbies to keep me busy! Reading, running, knitting, scrapbooking, crossword puzzles, and now, playing the piano!
3. The Kindness of Others. Coming here on my own, I wasn't sure what to expect. People here have checked up on me, included me in weekend plans, invited me for dinner, helped me find a car, a house, the commissary, kept me company, and gushed over my baked goods. What more could I ask for?
4. Airplanes. I've been on a lot of them this year, and a few more to go. One took me home from Japan, then here, to Florida so David and I could see each other after about 6 months apart, back home again, back here again. Then one brought David here, and another took us both to Scotland. Next week, I'll be on an airplane again headed to Dublin. And next month, on another airplane to go spend Christmas with David.
5. My family. They are the very best.
6. The Armed Forces. Thank you, for what you do and for what you would be willing to do.

Road Block

After moving along so nicely on my Amused sweater, I have officially hit a road block. I hit the road block about a week ago. Yep, it was definitely a week ago. The body is finished, the sleeves are finished, and now it's time for the collar. I have to pick up (and remove from the crochet cast-on...maybe there is an easy way to do this, but I don't know it!) a hundred and something stitches around the collar. I did maybe half of them last Saturday (and I did about a quarter of them twice, because I decided I was doing it wrong the first time), put it down because I just couldn't take it anymore and I needed a break. I've picked it up twice since then...and moved it to a different part of the living room. Maybe today I can make myself finish! Finish picking up the stitches, that is... not finish the collar! I bought the yarn for this sweater almost a year ago! I am determined to finish. I am determined to finish. I am determined to finish.

I even washed a whole bunch of dishes this morning rather than knit. That's how intimidated I am by this project right now!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My new substitute-favorite game show

I haven't seen my old pal Alex Trebek or heard that "thinking music" in ages. When David was here, we played Trivial Pursuit (Pop Culture Edition, and I WON!!!) and I didn't give all of my answers in the form of a question. I miss Jeopardy. I think my brain pistons aren't firing as rapidly as a direct result of not watching.
So, I must find something to take up for my daily dose of smart. I have the "Challenge" channel which airs a lot of game shows. I love game shows. But mostly, I love Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I was pretty excited when I saw that Wheel of Fortune was on, but when I watched it, I wondered why on earth the WoF set was so dated. Our Wheel of Fortune has come a long way since the 80s, but this one...well, hadn't. As I watch more and more "Challenge" channel, though, I think (or at least hope) that many of the shows are actually rebroadcasts from the 80s. The hair, the clothes, the glasses... wow.  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire seems to be new, but they ask questions about stuff I don't know. British stuff. One day, I was super excited because I got a question about English Geography right!!! Because they said "What county are Diss and King's Lynn in?" and I knew that because those names are on a sign that I pass nearly every time I drive away from my house. But that was not a typical occurrence, so I needed to find a game show that I could watch, play along with and have a chance at feeling good about myself afterwards.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, I found Countdown.  (again. I had seen just the end of it once before)
Oh, Countdown. It's on every weekday afternoon at 3:25, just five minutes before Jeopardy would be coming on at home, so that's got to be a good sign!
Here's how it goes: There are two contestants. Each "letters" round, one of the contestants asks for 9 letters by saying "consonant" or "vowel" and the letters are revealed one at a time. The players then have some time (30 seconds, maybe?) to find the longest word they can with the letters. I'm not exactly sure how the scoring works...sometimes only one gets points and sometimes both do. There is also a lady with a dictionary who tells you the longest or most interesting words that could be made with the letters. I love letter games, but I'm not that good at Countdown yet. If the point were to find as many words as possible, I'd really be something at this game. But it's not.
Today I was really excited to find an eight (!!!...usually I'm stuck with sixes, and sevens with the right letter combination) letter word from these letters:
I also found the longest word possible in this round:
But I did not fare as well with
R W S U A A I D P or R F R O E A L S J
(I won't tell you what I found, just in case you want to play along in the comments!)

There are also three "numbers" rounds in each game and this is where I really struggle. My math anxiety kicks in when the Countdown version of "think music" comes on.
For the numbers game, the contestant chooses 6 numbers by asking for "big" and "small". I think the available "big" numbers are 25, 50, 75, and 100. Then a target number is randomly selected and you have like three tenths of a second to use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to make any or all of the six numbers (don't have to use them all, but can't use any of them more than once) equal the target number. The players try to reach the target number, or as close as possible.
It always stumps me. Except for the day when the target number was 108 and two of the numbers given were 100 and 8. I finished that one way before time was up.
Today I was SO proud of myself, because I solved a slightly more challenging numbers problem within the time limit.
The numbers were 5 small and one large (3, 9, 2, 5, 5, 100) and the target was 175.
Right away I saw what to do... again, I won't tell here in case you want to play along.
I was so excited that I drew stars all around my answer.
The next numbers challenge was to reach 336 using 9, 1, 9, 25, 50, 100.
I managed to get to 334, which was just as close as the contestants. The Vanna White of Countdown (Rachel Riley, who is apparently incredible at math) said she got to 335, but didn't show how.
And the final numbers challenge, the target was 167 and the numbers were 6, 3, 4, 75, 100, 25.
I got to 168 (and 166), and I was happy enough with myself for tying with the contestants. The Pat Sajak of Countdown (don't know his name) got 167 exactly. But he used division, and I just don't think I'm ready for that. :)

Thursday Thirteen*

Thirteen cookies & treats on my 2009 Christmas baking list:

1. Chewy Chocolate Cookies (check!)
2. Snickerdoodles (check!)
3. Pumpkin-Cranberry-Oat Cookies
4. Easiest Fudge Ever. In the History of the World.
5. White-Chocolate-Cranberry Shortbread Cookies (but only to share with people who have never had these baked by my mom)
6. Buster Bars (which are so good that I named them after myself!)
7. Minty Thins
8. Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
9. Chocolate Chip Cookies
10. Candy Cane Cookies (just like my grandma's! only drizzled with chocolate & crushed minties!)
11. Saltine Toffee
12. Buckeyes
13. Snickers Surprise Cookies

I originally had only 12 things on my list (because 12 seemed like a good number for Christmas treats--12 days of Christmas, a dozen cookies, etc. It just made sense)...but after a friend at ScrapVillage mentioned the Snickers Surprise Cookies, I had to add them!

*The Thursday Thirteen is something I saw on this blog and learned a little more about here. It's simply a blog meme where participants make a list of thirteen things on Thursdays. Makes sense, huh? The list can be anything you want it to be, there isn't a weekly topic or prompt.
Beware, you might see a sudden increase in the number of meme posts on this blog. But don't get too attached, because bloggy stick-to-it-iveness is not necessarily my forte'.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scotland: The Complete Travelogues

Since it's taken me 8 posts to tell about my 2.5 days in Edinburgh, and since those posts are scattered around among the other attempts to make 30 posts in November, I decided I'd compile a list of all of my Scotland entries, right here to make them easier to find!
 November Goal #6
 Edinburgh: First Things First
Royal Mile plus 250 meters (part 1)
Royal Mile plus 250 meters (part 2 and 4)
(Not Quite) Just like Rabbie Burns
Royal Mile plus 250 meters (part 3)
Up Again
Goodbye Edinburgh

I  must take a moment to be completely honest. The real reason I decided to compile this list is because I'm supposed to be cleaning up the living room and/or (oh, alright, AND) kitchen because I'm having a friend over for lunch and possibly crafting (or possibly not, because that would mean I'd need to clean up my crafting room too) in 12 hours, 6-8 of which I intend to be sleeping. If my middle name began with P, it would be "Procrastinate." But it doesn't. It begins with S. So it's Suzanne.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Goodbye, Edinburgh!

We turned in early on our last night in Edinburgh (actually, we were exhausted early *every* night of our trip, but we purposely went to bed early on the last night) because we knew we had an early morning ahead. We woke up at 0300 so we could get ready, get checked out, get to the bus stop, and get to the airport in time for our 0630 flight.
It had been "fireworks night" on Thursday and on our way to the bus stop we passed lots of night owls in the streets.
We thought that the AirLink bus would leave at 0400, but it didn't leave until 0420, but it only took about 20 minutes to get to the airport, so we weren't feeling rushed. The bus was packed!
Our goal was to stay awake until we needed to board the flight, so we walked around in search of some breakfast. Look what we found:

A vending machine for books! In Okinawa, there were vending machines everywhere, but only for drinks.  Here, the vending machines are less plentiful, but I've seen them for candy and snacks as well as drinks (when I was here in 2000, there was a Hooch machine and a Grolsch machine in our hotel lobby!) But this was the first time anywhere that I'd seen a vending machine full of books! As luck would have it, it was out of order! That was actually a lucky thing because 1---the books were more expensive than typical vending machine fare and 2---I already had a book and a half left to read in my bag. If the book machine had been functioning, I don't know if I would've been able to resist getting a book just for the fun of getting it out of a vending machine!

We ended up having a "delicious" airport breakfast consisting of Cadbury chocolate and McCoy's crisps (chips). Once we boarded, I think we were both zonked out before take-off. We both slept through breakfast, and we both woke up right after the meals had been passed out. I would've rather slept for another 10 minutes so I wouldn't have known that I slept through an airplane meal. I think airplane food is fun!
Anyway, the great thing about the flight between London and Edinburgh is that, unlike the flight from Chicago to London (or especially, from Okinawa/Tokyo to Chicago!), when you wake up and check your watch, you're going to be landing in just 15 more minutes instead of 6 more hours. After we landed, we had a lot of time to wait in the airport for the shuttle back to base. D played with his PSP and I read my book. When we got on the bus, we tried to get comfortable enough to sleep just about the whole way back. I fell asleep to the sound of a retiree talking to this other lady and woke up to the same thing when we were just a couple miles from base. He seemed like a real sweetheart, but I was thankful that he hadn't chosen me to talk to because I really wanted more sleep! Edinburgh really knocked us out... we were asleep again for the night by about 8 or 9 pm!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Arthur's Seat was crossed off our list, but we had more climbing to do on Thursday morning. One of the first things we noticed on our first day in Edinburgh was the super-tall, Victorian-Gothic-style Scott Monument.
I think David was more interested in the car than the monument. 

After a Scottish breakfast (the Royal Mile Full Scottish Breakfast for David and the Mini Mile for me... both had eggs, toast, sausage, haggis--I ordered vegetarian haggis this time--hash browns, and some kind of mystery meat. David's came with black pudding as well), we headed to the Scott Monument and spent a little time checking out the poppies in the Garden of Remembrance that was set up for 11 November.

Poppies, just like us! 

Then we paid our entry fee, which one of the workers assured us would be the best three pounds we'd spend all day. Right after getting our ticket/brochure thing, I spotted the sign on the wall that said, "If you are afraid of heights or don't like small spaces, don't come in." Ha! Perfect for me on both counts! *eyeroll*
We started climbing the 287 steps to the top. The steps were small and spiraly, so they were extra scary! And I don't know exactly what would've happened if we would have met up with people trying to come down as we were trying to go up. I was thankful that it wasn't high tourist season and that we got there right when it opened, rather than trying to battle crowds in this tiny space.
The first "landing" had a really pretty indoor section with placards, carvings, and stained glass paying tribute to author Sir Walter Scott, Scotland, Edinburgh, and the design, building and restoration of the monument.

The Scotland crest/shield thing. 

And then there were more stairs. The next 3 viewing areas were just small paths leading around the monument. The views were nice, but the whole time we were up there, I was dreading getting down! But I didn't necessarily like being 200 feet off the ground either. David took tons of photos on the way up and down the monument. We met an American on one of the landings on our way down. He was on his way up, and was contemplating whether to continue, because he didn't like heights or small spaces. I assured him that if I could do it, he could do it!

Looking out at Edinburgh, down at the poppies, and up at the monument.
When we got out of the monument, we were both feeling a little dizzy from coming down the spiral stairs! Our next stop was right around the corner at the National Gallery. We could see it from the monument, as well as Edinburgh Castle.


We spent quite a bit of time in the gallery (more than I had thought David would be up for, honestly) checking out art by artists like Monet, Degas, Titian and also Scottish artists. There was an exhibition in the Scottish artists section inspired by Robert Burns.

We had thought we'd hit up one more museum, but it turned out we were both feeling kind of museumed out. We headed to Princes Street & Rose Street to browse some shops. I really, really wanted to find the black boots that I was searching for in London.

Really, really wanted to find them! We went into Clarks, where 3 pairs came close to meeting my specifications: really low, stack-style heel, tall enough but not too tall, the right kind of leather, etc. One pair wasn't available in my size. The other two pair were alright, but I decided to wait and maybe come back later if I didn't find anything. There was another shoe store right next door. We went in there, and I found a pair of boots that looked a little better than the others and were 10 pounds cheaper. But I still wasn't ready to commit! We went into one more store and I chose 2 pairs to try on. While I was waiting for the girl to get them from the back, a pair in the children's section caught my eye. I tried those on and they were perfect AND half the price of the adult boots next door. It took all of my might to refrain from hugging the salesgirl. I am now the proud owner of a practically perfect pair of black boots... a pretty atypical souvenir from Scotland! We did a little more shopping and browsing, then had lunch at the Fueling Station (I think). After lunch, a little more browsing (we went into a golf shop and Jenners, which I read was like the "Harrods" of Scotland.)
We dropped our bags off at the hotel, and headed back out to look at the souvenir shops (that we had already looked in many times in the past two days! Got a few things (David got a fleece jacket, I got a real kilt!) and relaxed in the hotel a little while before dinner at an Italian restaurant right around the corner. There were real Italian girls at the table next to ours and I had fun trying to listen in on their conversation ;) We made it an early night, as we had to get up at 0300 to get ready, checked out, and to the AirLink bus to make it to the airport for our flight. Our trip to Edinburgh was officially almost over! :(

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Small Talk Six

This week's Small Talk Six survey asks for a list of "Six stores at which you wish you could register for Christmas presents for yourself."

Etsy---I looooooooove so many things at Etsy! I think it might be time for another Etsy favorites post! 
Amazon---I was going to pick Borders or Barnes &Noble, but then I figured Amazon would work for books and a vast range of other stuff too. And, I already have a wish list there!
KnitPicks/Sonny and Shear/Jimmy Beans Wool/Eat.Sleep.Knit---yarn, needles, patterns & more yarn!
JoAnn/Hobby Lobby/Michaels---for all the other crafty stuff!
The Gap/Banana Republic---I'm definitely a Gap/Banana girl!
Pier 1/Pottery Barn/Crate & Barrel---for seasonal and all-season decorations and serving dishes. I love serving dishes.

Edited to Add: I *totally* forgot about another store at which I'd want to register... so maybe I'd drop Pottery Barn, etc. in favor of Road Runner Sports. I just used a big gift certificate from last Christmas there and only ended up making a very very small dent in my list. (Just to give you an idea, I had to knock about $1,430 off my list in order to make it to the amount on my gift certificate. And it was a bigger-than-average gift certificate!) 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Belated October Round Up

Saw this "round-up" questionnaire out in blog-land somewhere and it's been sitting in my drafts since the end of October. I got side-tracked by posts about Halloween, London, Scotland, etc. but rather than just scrap this, I thought it would be useful in helping me get to my 30-posts-in-November goal!

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
The Know-It-All (still reading that!), Gossip Girl (first in the series) and House of Mirth (I decided that I was doing too much fluff reading and not enough brainy reading)
What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?
How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty, Two and a Half Men
What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?
David came here at the end of the month!
What gifts did I give and/or receive?
A piano! It's an early Christmas present.
What special or unusual purchases did I make?
I bought an out-of-print NFL logo crochet pattern book
What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
None... I don't have a classroom full of kiddos to give me germs this year!
What were my accomplishments this month?
I made the most delicious cupcakes IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
What were my disappointments this month?
Adjusting to sharing my time & space with David again was tricky, but not altogether disappointing. Definitely not as disappointing as neglecting to order my Survivor buff on time for Halloween.
Anything else noteworthy to include?
I can't really think of anything *noteworthy*... I pretty much laid low all month!

Royal Mile plus 250 meters (Part 3)

So, as I alluded to in Parts 2 and 4 of this story, we needed to travel to the South (I think...or maybe West. Possibly North or East. Let's just go with "other") end of the Royal Mile to get to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You see, the Royal people just weren't satisfied with Edinburgh Castle. I think it's on the top of my "favorite castles I've visited" list, but they just didn't think it was fancy enough...and that was precisely what I liked about it! Even though there was a long span of time in which I fantasized about meeting, wooing and marrying Prince William (or any prince, really, but he was the only one I ever saw on People magazine, and there wouldn't have been a language barrier, so that seemed the most realistic option), now I see that I would not make good royalty. I think that the palaces and castles I've been in have been really over-decorated. All that gold stuff and the tapestries and ... it seems that people who live in castles and palaces don't really subscribe to the notion of "less is more". Nor do their decorators. I just wouldn't be happy there. And that's why I decided not to marry a prince after all.

Well, anyway, according to the guide, Edinburgh castle just wasn't fancy enough and a little too drafty, so the royal family decided to relocate to the other end of the road to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which had been a monastery and a guesthouse where Kings had been staying for years. James IV decided to add on to the guesthouse and make a proper Palace in 1498. This was Mary, Queen of Scots' residence until she fled (lots of good stories about Holyroodhouse to share in another entry) and today, this is the official residence in Scotland of The Queen.

We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but it was a lot like all the other castles I've been in. Lots of paintings, beds with curtains, and intricately carved (sculpted?) ceilings. Some of the highlights of the palace included seeing the table where Queen Elizabeth entertains guests and learning which seat was hers (and it's not at the head of the table) and seeing her official Order of the Thistle ensemble. Here's something that *wasn't* like most of the other castles I've visited---the audio guide was FREE! Woohoo! Well, maybe not free, but "included" in the admission fee. I enjoyed listening... and taking notes in my little notebook.

My favorite part of the palace was Holyrood Abbey, and it was photo-friendly. This is the oldest part of the palace grounds, and was originally a small monastery in 1128. It grew into an Abbey, and an important one at that, with coronations and royal weddings taking place here. It was pillaged & plundered in the 1500s and again in the late 1600s, and after a brief attempt at restoration in the 1700s, it ended up deteriorating. It's in "ruins", but beautiful ruins.

(I'm not on the phone, I'm listening to the audio guide. And I think I'm standing on a grave! Didn't realize that as the picture was being taken!)
As we were leaving the Abbey, a royal beast came bounding toward me. At first I wanted to keep him, but then I realized that a Scottie Dog would've been a more appropriate souvenir-pet, so we left him frolicking in the park. 

Doesn't it look like we should be holding a "SOLD" sign in this picture?

After shift-change, when David was free to stop guarding the palace, it was time to scale Arthur's Seat. David read about this in one of the guidebooks (sometimes knowledge is NOT a good thing!) and decided that we should do the 30-minute climb to the top to check out the views of the city. Since I had encouraged him to be involved in the planning of the trip, I had no choice but to go along with his suggestion. 

It was only 250 meters (over a three and a half thousand less than Fuji) and took less than 40 minutes to climb, but I was still having Fuji Flashbacks. Just like Fuji, this is an extinct volcano (actually, Fuji is not extinct, just dormant). And just like Fuji, the beginning of the climb started out with a nice trail of steady but moderate incline. Then, bam! Suddenly you are on slippery rocks with no idea where to safely step next.

I don't really understand the compulsion to go to high places to get great views. I, for one, do not like being so high that the massive palace you were just standing in front of looks to be the same size as Barbie's Dream House.

We made it to the top (well, David made it all the way to the tippy-top, I stopped at what I deemed the "official" top) and I held on to this cement marker-thingy for dear life. I let go long enough for a picture with David, and then hurried back to the cement thing until it was time to descend.
 We finally made it down. It took a while because I kept getting "stuck".

This is my "I'm stuck. I'm scared to take another step. I'm going to die on the side of this stupid hill" expression...all the more reason to avoid climbing up and down things.

And that concludes my tale of the Royal Mile plus 250 meters. Finally.

Friday, November 13, 2009

(Not Quite) Just like Rabbie Burns

I found a blog through another blog that led me to this teacher blog, the Miss Rumphius Effect. I figure I can at least keep my teacher brain active by reading what other teachers say.  Each Monday, she presents a "Poetry Stretch" in which she challenges her readers to try a particular poetry form or topic. This week's challenge was to create a "Rictameter"-a non-rhyming poem of 9 lines in which the first and last line are the same. The trick is that there's a certain requirement for the syllable count of each line: 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2.

So, I figured that, since I had just come from the land of Robert Burns, maybe I'd take a page from his book (not really, they were encased in glass at the Writer's Museum) and take the poetry-writing challenge this week.

So, here goes:

Spent two days in
Edinburgh*, where we
followed a Royal foot path from
the castle to Holyroodhouse and scaled
Scott's Monument to get a view
of this old and charming
city, star* of

*1-remember to pronounce Edinburgh the right way, Edin-burrah, not Edin-berg, to make the syllables work! And to sound like you know your stuff!
*2-I'm going to pat myself (and my AP English teacher, Ms. Frye) on the back here because I think I am so darn clever as Edinburgh is the capital and a star is the symbol for a capital city on a map!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A 12 of 12 in which I left the house....

I have to interrupt the Scotland "travelogues" to share my 12 of 12. It's a good one because the photos aren't all of my living room (although I did sneak a couple of living room photos in, because it just wouldn't be my 12 of 12 if there weren't some lame living room photos thrown in there!)

So this was a pretty exciting 12 of 12, because: 1. I remembered that it was the 12th. 2. I had plans to leave the house. 2. I had plans to leave the house and go to London. and 3. I had plans to leave the house, go to London, and meet up with another 12 of 12er! Oh, and 4. I had 5 articles of handmade-by-me knitwear with me.

But it wouldn't be MY 12 of 12 if I hadn't let plenty of photo ops just pass me by. Here is the 12 of 12 that will exist only in my mind:
1. 6 tubes of wrapping paper falling out of the closet when I removed my blue coat.
2. Me remembering to put my running clothes in the washing machine. This would've been hard to photograph, as it did not actually happen.
3. The 4 balls of yarn I put in my bag as a reminder of just how much I overestimate myself sometimes.
4.  The clock in my car, to prove that I managed to leave the house even earlier than I had planned. Miracle!
5. A new parking pass machine at Epping.
6.The girl filing her nails on the tube. I wonder if she does this every morning. She had really nice nails.
7. My hazelnut hot cocoa.
8. A singing vacuum cleaner in the underground station. No photos without a donation. And I used all my change in that new parking meter.
9. The Christmas garland decorating Debenham's department store.
10. UniQlo- another reminder of Okinawa!
11. Frogging the three rows of new knitting project I started on the ride in, and casting on again...twice. 
12. The super-hot actor Channing Tatum sitting next to me on the tube and asking if he could hold my hand. It exists in my mind, and you can't disprove it!

And here are the 12 of 12 that actually exist in photo-form:
1. 0800- Tottenham Court Road, London. Helen said that an easy place to meet would be the Dominion Theatre and that I couldn't miss it because there is a big bronze Freddie Mercury and a huge "We Will Rock You". She wasn't kidding!

2. 1045-(I camera is still on Okinawa time and I'm too tired to figure it out) National History Museum, London. A dinosaur! Don't be scared, this diplodocus is a plant-eater! And he's dead and has no muscle tone whatsoever.

3. 1055-National History Museum, London. On to the primates! Chimps are cute! Even though I read a friend's facebook status this evening and it said something about a bad chimp that was featured on Oprah. I still think they're cute. Mom, tell Aunt Cookie that neither of these guys stuck their tongue out at me.

4. 1120-National History Museum, London. There is something out there that is cuter than a chimp. Waaaaaaay cuter...and it's called a moose! I thought this would turn out to be a bad picture (and you may think that it did) but as it so happens, it's an excellent picture. How could a picture with a MOOSE in it be anything but excellent?

5. 1135-National History Museum, London. The museum building is really beautiful! If you want to see photos that really do it justice, you should probably check Helen's blog. She takes so much care in taking her photos and actually takes more than 12 seconds to get her camera out, turn it on, snap a picture, turn it off, and shove it back in her bag. Which is probably why her photos are always so great and mine are always so... not quite as nice.

6-dry ice
6. 1200-Science Museum, London. The 3rd floor of the museum had all kinds of things to play with. Now, we all know we shouldn't actually play with dry ice, but this exhibit was fun to watch.

7-thermal imaging
7. 1205-Science Museum, London. This is Helen and I as thermal images. The light spots are the warm spots and the dark spots are colder. I am the one with the cold nose and cheeks. And freezing cold glasses.

8. 1210-Science Museum, London. These magnets reminded me of the same sort of activity at the museum we went to in Fort Lauderdale. David and I spent quite some time building towers of magnets there. Partly because the longer we played, the longer we got to stay in the airconditioned museum, but mostly because connecting magnets together is just plain fun! I will have to bring him here because there was lots of fun stuff!

9. 1330-Dee's Diner, Debenham's, London. Yesterday Helen e-mailed me and asked if there was anywhere particular I wanted to go for lunch. She said that there's a diner in this department store and that they have fun milkshake flavors like Rolo and Oreo. I think she went on to talk about some other food options, but I'm not sure. She does not know me well enough yet to know that once I hear or read "milkshake," I've checked out of the conversation... there is only one thing on my mind, and it is cold, thick, and, preferably, chocolatey. Like my Rolo Milkshake.

10. 1845-Living Room, Thetford. I promised you living room photos, didn't I? I had a lovely day touring and chatting with Helen, but I was glad to get home, because it meant that my hour and a half drive from Epping was over and that I could turn on my Christmas tree!

11. 1915- Living Room, Thetford. Time for jammies and slippers! I loooooove my new slipper boots. I try not to let them make me think about the slipper boots I'm knitting for myself but need to rip back quite a bit. They are hiding because they don't want to depress me any more than they already have.

12. 2100-Living Room, Thetford. My Amused sweater, which I am determined to finish tomorrow, one month after starting it. I have just a little bit of sleeve left, and the collar. The title of this photo is, "Get off the computer and Knit!", but I think I will get off the computer and sleep. After all, I have until tomorrow to finish it! I'm not happy with the way the yarn is pooling in the 2nd skein I used. :(

Anyway, thanks for reading about my 12 of 12. And, Helen, thanks for doing 12 of 12 with me today!
Tomorrow, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled programming (Another Scotland blog entry).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Royal Mile plus 250 meters--Part Deux (and Quatre)

After the castle, my notebook said we needed to head back down the Royal Mile and check out a few things on our way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

(I just love streets like this!)

Our first stop was the Writers' Museum. Free entry! Woohoo! This little museum focused on the lives of three Scottish writers, perhaps you've heard of them: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. This museum had a thing for displaying locks of hair. We just did a quick walk-thru because we were pretty starving...

(The Writer's Museum)

Next we went into St. Giles, which was really pretty inside. We didn't take any pictures because you had to pay a fee to take photos, but you get in for free. It's hard to get a good picture in a big church like that anyway.

(St. Giles Church)

Finally, it was time to do what we'd been waiting to do since the previous lunch! We passed by "The Baked Potato Shop" on our way to the Albanach for dinner the night before and decided that we wanted to go there for lunch. David ordered better than I did. I didn't know what the fillings were, so I picked one that looked good, with corn and red beans. But it was too spicy to enjoy it. David picked 3 different fillings, pasta salad, chickpea salad and something else and says his was delicious. He didn't share a bite with me, but I let him eat mine. There was only one table in the place and it was taken, so we ate outside.

(Mr. Potato Head)

Next, on the list: The John Knox House. It's been there since the 15th Century. We had no idea who John Knox was (but a quick internet search says he was the founder of the Presbyterian church, and he used to be the preacher at St. Giles). We only went in as far as the gift shop, because 1--you had to pay to get in and 2--we still had 2 really time-consuming things on the list! We actually went to the John Knox House twice, because the first time, I saw a really cute picture book called "This is Edinburgh" and I wanted it. So we picked it up on the way back.

(John Knox House)

Somehow we missed the Museum of Childhood, which we should've come across right after the John Knox House. I don't think David was too distraught about that. We passed by the new Scottish Parliament (10 years old this year). I'm going to skip ahead a little here to Part Four (I'll do part 3 later!). After the next 2 stops on our tour, we went into the Parliament building and one of the greeters gave us passes to the gallery to listen to the debates that were going on. We listened just for a little bit (I think because David, who claims to be Scottish---although I have my doubts--- didn't really understand what they were saying. :) And we didn't really know the issues.) It was a nice chance to sit down nonetheless!

(Funky building!)

On the way back, we stopped for a snack...fudge! We asked the (American) girl who worked in the fudge shop what her recommendation was. We could only pick one kind, because we only had 1.32 pounds with us by this point! She said the very Scottish thing would be to order the Butter Tablet. So we did...and it was absolutely fabulous. We sat in a bus stop shelter and ate it, and this nice woman came and asked us if we were waiting for a bus, and if we wanted her day pass!

We had dinner at Pizza Express, which is actually the very first restaurant I ever ate at in the UK (in 2000). It was a very convenient location, as it was directly below our hotel room!

The Royal Mile plus 250 meters--Part 1

Now that our first afternoon/evening in Scotland was over, we had just 2 days to see all we wanted to see, so there was no time to waste!
I am a planner, so I had a strategy in place to make sure we didn't miss anything that we wanted to do in Edinburgh. I'm sure we missed a lot that we didn't know about, but we don't know about it, so we're not too upset!
1. We checked out 2 Scotland books from the library--a Frommer's & a smaller one with lots of pictures.
2. Each of us looked in the books and we came up with a list of things we wanted to see.
3. We went online to verify the admission prices to all of the attractions on our list (prices were also listed in Frommer's, but it was an older edition) to determine whether or not it would be more cost-effective to buy an "Edinburgh Pass". Yes, I'm serious...and it turns out, it was a good time-investment to do this, because we ended up saving around 20 bucks by NOT buying the saver's pass!
4. I looked at the map and separated the items on our list into 2 categories: Old Town/Royal Mile and New Town/Not Royal Mile.
5. Since Wednesday would be Royal Mile day (those were the things we felt were most important to see!), I looked at the map again on Tuesday night and wrote down the sensible order to visit the things on the list.
6. I put my handy little notebook in my bag and got some sleep... because we had a lot to see the next day!

Edinburgh Castle would be our first stop, and it opened at 9:30. So we wanted to be fed and at the gates waiting when the place opened.
We went to breakfast at Deacon House Cafe, where we learned (via mural on the wall and pamphlet on the table) that Deacon Brodie was a well-respected but sneaky cabinet maker who would make copies of the keys of the places he was building cabinets in and then use the keys after-hours to open the doors of the shops and rob them. But really, he had no choice, because the poor guy had to support his gambling problem and five illegitimate children somehow. He was so handy that he designed a set of gallows for hanging criminals...and ended up being hanged on them. How's that for irony?

                                          (He looked nice enough to me!) 
So we found ourselves having breakfast in his old workshop, which was charming but freezing. David had a bacon & egg sandwich and I had a pot of tea and a really really yummy scone with some clotted cream & raspberry jam. It was such a huge serving of condiments that I wished I had another scone, but I feared that if I asked for another scone, I'd end up getting more jam & cream as well. Or that I'd request that the spreads be left off the plate, but I'd end up paying full price anyway. so I just let those delicious extras go to waste. Note to self, carry 2 small Tupperware containers in your purse for these emergency situations!

After brekky, (which I haven't heard anyone say here in the UK like they do in Australia, even though the Aussies call fries chips just like here, but since brekky was my very favorite word in Australia and I still like it, I am going to use it. Maybe it will become a thing. Or maybe everyone here says it, but I've just not been privy to conversations about morning meals.) Anyway...after brekky, we walked up to the castle. It's a little incline, but sidewalk all the way. We passed a restaurant called the Witchery, which was so named because it's just down the hill from the site in front of the castle where hundreds of witches were burned long ago! Spooky! We also passed the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center.

We still had some time to kill before the castle opened (and we didn't feel like burning witches or drinking whisky) so we took lots of pictures outside the castle grounds.

                          (The Duke of York. The Grand Ol Duke of York. He had 10,000 men. He marched them all right up the hill and marched them down again. And when you're up, you're up. And when you're down, you're down. And when you're only halfway up, you're neither up nor down! I couldn't resist singing that little ditty (and doing the motions) for David when we saw this statue.) 

(Scotland's Motto: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, "No one provokes me with impunity," or, as the guide translated, "If you hit me, I'll hit you back," or, as a site found in my internet research translates, "Don't f*** with me". Take your pick.)
Finally, we got to go in! We crossed over a REAL moat! (but it wasn't filled with water, nor did I see the giant spikes that would've impaled us if we tried getting in before the castle was open and they decided to dump us off the bridge. I don't know if they still do that. I sure hope not.) So we made it through the first of 7 entrances to the castle. Just like that! Had we lived a few centuries ago, we would've made really excellent invaders. We stopped to buy our tickets into the castle (11 pounds for one, and 14 for the other because we got a guide book)... maybe that counts as the second gate? We opted against the audio guide, but joined up with the FREE guided tour. It took a while for me to get used to the guide's heavy Scottish accent, but every interesting thing I could understand, I jotted down in the margins of my guide book. Sometimes, I just can't help myself. I'll share some of my favorite stories in another post. Remember, I'm trying to get 30 in November!

The tour only lasted about 15-20 minutes, and the guide left us in the Crown Square. So I kept saying, "Crown Square, like Crown POINT Square!"  At her suggestion, we walked back to some of the parts that we had passed by, like St. Margaret's Chapel and the Dog Cemetery for the soldier dogs. Then we went into the Scottish National War Memorial, which was really beautiful, but out of respect for the fallen, we're not allowed to take pictures inside. They have books of all of the names of Scottish people who died in wars since WWI. I scribbled down the numbers that the guide rattled off: 150,000 in WWI; 57,000 in WWII, and 1,000 since 1945. The most recent addition to the most recent book was October 25. It was a pretty heart-rending feeling to read that... kind of brings it all right to the surface...we are living history right now.

(St. Margaret's Chapel and the Scottish National War Museum)

Then it was time to go  in the Royal Palace to see Scotland's Honours...the Crown Jewels. These are the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles, and if I heard the guide correctly, the second oldest complete set in the world...only Hungary has an older set. No pictures allowed in there, either. And it's not like on the Disney Cruise I went on when I was 10 when I got to pose for a picture wearing the Captain's Hat and holding the steering don't get a souvenir photo wearing the crown & holding the sceptre, darn it. Now that I think about it, maybe it wasn't actually the captain's hat. Or the real steering wheel. Anyway, seeing the crown, sword & sceptre on display was really neat! Especially the "Stone of Destiny"...more on that in another post, too!

The Great Hall was really neat, too. There was lots of armor along the walls, really intricately carved walls, and a unique ceiling. The guide said that when this room was being built in the early 1500s, the people building it hadn't ever built a roof before, but they had made more than their fair share of boats. So, they decided to construct a boat hull, the flip it upside down and use it as a ceiling.

(The Great Hall)

We went down into the Prisons of War, where lots of Americans were kept during the Revolutionary War, or as the guidebook calls it, "The War of American Independence". I didn't think prison looked too shabby. Sure the lighting wasn't the greatest, but they had bread and dominoes and a big deck of cards. I could be happy with bread, dominoes and cards! And they got to do crafts and sell them!

(Prison hammocks. And me with my guidebook and pen. David said he didn't mind if I wrote in the book.)

Our next stops were the Regimental Museums. By this time, we were (sadly) kind of losing interest and momentum, so it was a pretty cursory tour in there. We'd already spent 3 hours at the castle!!

(David tries to get a bagpipe lesson at the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum)

A few more pictures, including one of the One O'Clock Gun, which is fired every day at, you guessed it, one o'clock. The guide said, "We fire it at one because, you know what they say about Scots and their money... we don't want to waste 12 shells!" and that got a good laugh. Even though I hadn't known what they say about Scots and their money. A small part of me wanted to wait around at the castle to hear the gun go off, but a bigger part of me was really getting hungry, so we decided to go grab some lunch since we'd probably hear the gun as we were walking back down the Royal Mile. We didn't.


Related Posts with Thumbnails