Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ella Jane

 This is our new granddaughter, Ella.  I think she is gorgeous!  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Month of May and a new grand baby!

The month of May has been BUSY!  I have a new granddaughter, the first one, we are so excited...  born yesterday, on her mom's birthday.  She is still in the hospital for a few days getting a little oxygen, but it seems that all will be ok given a few days...  I'll have pics and a name soon... more to come.  Congrats to Kate and Tim!

Chrissy graduated from college and needs a civil engineering job... we are hopeful that something will turn up soon.  She is finishing up the research job up north and will be home in a few days.  Harold and I, EB, and Terri and Patrick were there to celebrate with her....  Don and Kate were there in spirit.  She is the one on the right, on the left is her room mate, Merete.  Congrats to Chrissy and Merete!

Merete got her quilty gift, a thoroughly modern quilt, made of white strips and squares, like the next photo, but with turquoise squares.  But as usual, I gave it away without the photo.  Harold quilted it with a daisy pantograph, so it is a great summer quilt...light, crisp, and cool to look at.   Compared with this one, Merete's was easy.  This one had to be washed 9 times with oxiclean and color catchers to wash out the dye from the navy batik squares.  It ran and ran and ran, but I finally used the hottest water I could get, another 6 color catchers and a cup of oxiclean and it came out white!  I was sure that I was going to have to make another quilt!

Don's friend, Emily, graduated with her Masters from MSU this month.  She also got a quilty gift.  She was in the Peace Corps in Africa and had brought me home many yards of lovely African fabrics.  I found a Ghanian batik of women working and dancing around a tree and used it for the center medallion.  The rest of it is strips of African fabric and the hourglass units made with her fabrics and a light commercial batik.  I think it turned out well and she loves it.  Congratulations to Emily!  But I also gave it to her before I got a photo...ugh.  Chrissy hasn't received a quilt yet, because I had too many others to give as gifts.  Hers will get done after the summer wedding quilt is finished...

Though her graduation is technically in June, Dr. Kate, the new mom, will graduate from her residency program next week and be a graduate medical doctor.  She is exhausted this morning, but I'm sure will be like new in time to celebrate her achievements next Saturday.  She will start work in September after taking the summer to be with her new babe...  our new babe, though I'm not sure that we mentioned that she is expected to share...LOL.

My London Visit!

I know this entry is late, but May is always way too busy...  This is Primrose Hill in London, and though I did walk the hill, this is obviously not from my April visit.  This is Chris, Emily, and Don in December, when my daughter Chris and Don's friend Emily visited Don.  I went for a two week visit in April, had a fabulous time, took 2000 pictures, and promptly lost my camera on the day before I left.  Ugh.  However this morning, I was downloading Chris's graduation photos and found her London photos, so I have this one to show...  I had a wonderful time.  Don was a great host.

Don's living arrangements are great.  He is staying in a house where the landlady lives on the first floor and she has rented rooms out on the other floors.  Christine, the house owner, and the other tenants are very pleasant and the house has a lovely English garden behind the house with brick walls and a small greenhouse.  The house is near the tube and bus stations, so it was easy to come and go.  I stayed in the guest room on the first floor.  It was absolutely wonderful to have a welcoming space to come back to in the evening, with hot coffee, a bottle of wine to share, and a warm bed.  Christine and the housemates often eat together and share food.  They are a very multicultural, multilingual family, and it is too all their credit that it works well.  It was lovely of Christine to welcome me into her home.

I went to all the museums I had planned and a couple that I didn't know about.  The V&A was fabulous of course and has the best museum gift shop ever, the British Museum was everything I had anticipated, the Tate Modern (thank you for the suggestion Aga) was great, the Fashion Museum had a Kaffe Fassett exhibit which was wonderful, the National Gallery was lovely (though I don't think there is an altarpiece left anywhere in Europe) and the National Observatory with the Greenwich Mean Line was interesting.  I had two favorites.  One was the British Museum of Natural History, not so much for the exhibits, though they did have a nice collection of British rocks, but for the building design.  Every stair, every column, and every wall and floor space, inside and outside, had plants and animals carved into the building stone or mosaiced into the floor and walls.  It was a magical space, designed for the hordes of children running through the place (and for the most part ignoring everything except the gift shop), but tremendously appreciated by adults enthralled with natural history.  The other was the Enlightenment Gallery, built in the former King's Library, in the British Museum.  The whole museum is overwhelming of course, but the Enlightenment Gallery is on a personal level.  Housed in absolutely fabulous bookcases, it is the cumulative collection of stuff that British explorers, think Captain Cook, brought home in the days when it was encouraged for world travelers to have natural history collections.  There are dried plants and animals, oddities like mummified fingers, amazing shells and minerals, statuary, books and manuscripts, religious artifacts, and cultural stuff from everywhere (some of it even fake).  It was amazing.  Gram would have loved it.

We attended several evening concerts in churches; St. Annes, St. James, and St. Martin in the Field, and the music was lovely.  I loved how every church also had a lunch time concert and a cafe, with reasonably priced soups and sandwiches, and the obligatory tea, of course.  I was less enthralled to find in many churches, they had used old, really old, gravestones as the flooring in the basement cafes.  There is something not quite right in walking on gravestones.  The marble certainly worked as flooring, but I was sorry that the lettering (and the history) were being eroded by tourist shoes...  All the churches that I was in during the day had homeless people sleeping in the pews.  Though it is good to have a warm, quiet, and safe place to sleep, it reminds you that London, after all, is a large city with the big city problems found everywhere.  One of my favorite days was the last Sunday when Don and I went to the Catholic mass at the Westminster Cathedral.  The choir was lovely, the message was timely, and the beautiful old arched brick ceiling was totally stained with incense smoke which was liberally used during the service.  I have never been so well blessed with smoke and water as there.  It was a beautiful service.  Again, we thought of Gram, she would have loved the intersection of culture, religion, politics, and history found in these churches.  

We walked through many of the public gardens and though it was early spring, the gardens were clearly going to be spectacular, the edging was perfect, the pruning lines on the trees were perfect, and the urns were waiting to be filled.  The camellias, cherry trees, magnolias, frittilleria, and primroses were blooming everywhere.  My favorite, without Don unfortunately, was Kew Gardens.  It is a big place, put together by a forward seeing royal a couple centuries ago, and has trees, shrubs, and flowers from all over the world.  It also has the one of the largest, oldest, and rather dilapidated glassed in conservatories in the world, and has several smaller ones as well.  Like many gardens, they appear to have a corps of die hard, very knowledgable volunteers.  I followed a couple tours and they were very well done.  I also contributed a small amount to the restoration efforts.  The camellias, cherries, and magnolias were gorgeous.  It also had a wonderful bookstore and I found my book on espaliering and coppicing.  Don has to go before he leaves London.  It was a lovely day.

The city center was a blast.  I spent many mornings sitting outside at Cafe Verona drinking my latte, watching people and counting different languages.  The architecture and statuary were amazing, Big Ben was loud, Chinatown's ducks hanging in the windows were fun, and I loved the double decker buses.  London has wonderful bookstores, Hatchards was my favorite and I spent a lovely afternoon there.  Waterstones was huge and both bookstores carried many small publishers, something that I can't find in the US anymore.  I love small publishers since I read natural history and other non-fiction.  I did purchase a few books, one that I am reading now, called "Survivors" by Richard Fortey, a retired paleontologist at the Natural History Museum.  It is a great read.  I found several fabric and costuming shops in Soho, including a silk remnant sale...enough said.  I also found the Royal Geological Society downtown and went in to see the William Smith geological map of the British Isles, one of the very first stratigraphic maps.  The book, "The Map that Changed the World", was based on this map.  After reading the book, I had to see the map.
Don and I also did several of the markets on Saturdays and Sundays.  The Borough market had wonderful breads and cheeses (we tasted everything), teas and fabulous coffee.  It would have been Harold's favorite place in London (well that and the food sections of Harrods and M&S's).  Portobello Road had anything one could possibly want (including a couple scarves that called my name) and the Columbia Road flower market had little topiaried olive trees that I particularly coveted, but didn't think I could get through customs, though maybe in hindsight, I might have.  I did purchase a few souvenirs, though not much, because as it turns out, Americans are totally spoiled about what is available for a pretty good price compared to other places, and I didn't actually see much that I couldn't get here (except those olives of course).  We found a little shop on Columbia Road called Stoned and Plastered (I know, great name) which carried all kinds of unbaked statuary, including wonderful green men with wide open mouths.  I carried one of them home and though he had to be glued upon arrival, he will look cool on the deck.  I also found an open front box divided into little boxes that I loved and holds my collection of stones and trinkets that I brought home.  Don and I ate dinner at several nice restaurants, but my real find was fresh egg salad sandwiches at every museum, garden, and church cafe.  I ate them every day for lunch after my morning croissant and latte.

I missed some things.  I didn't visit Highgate Cemetery, or do the tour of Parliment, and I didn't get to the Clock Museum or the London Museum.  I didn't go to Billingsgate and I didn't see the textiles at the V&A, since they are building a new building for them and they are in storage.  I also didn't get outside London proper, so I didn't get to Bath, or the Roman ruins, or the reed basket areas in Somerset, or Wales and see Welsh quilting, or Stonehenge, or Isle of Wight, or the ammonite beds on the coast, so maybe I will have to go back someday.   However, all together, it was a lovely way to spend two weeks...  Thanks, Don.