Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finished another piece

Woohoo... got a piece off the to finish pile! Time Warp is done. This piece just did not call out for a facing to finish the sides, but thanks to a piece I saw by Jane Davila, who had pinked 2 of her sides, I decided to pink all 4 sides. It works for this. Thanks Jane.

This piece is a great departure from my usual work but it was fun. It has about 8 layers of fabric paint and is quilted.

Happy baby...

...happy grandma! I just spent a week + in New Jersey battling the heat wave there (it is more comfortable in Arizona at 108 than NJ) and cuddling this cutie. I have fallen hard for this grandma thing! Have to find a way to spend more time with Robin and Will.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google Plus or Facebook?

I, for one, am not ready to make that choice yet. Most of my friends are still on FB, and Yes, I like some of the features of FB. Perhaps since I do not friend the world and they me, my list is manageable. Plus most of my friends don't post much so I don't have to wade through a lot of garbage. I have had no qualms about defriending people who only wanted to sell me something or just boost their numbers. Right now, I am not sure I like Google Plus. It has lots of things going for it, but I am not sure it will be a total replacement of how I interact with family and friends. Many of my friends and family are not tech savvy and don't want the learning curve of having to learn something new. Am I suppose to ditch them because they prefer to stick with what they know and I want a new toy to play with? I don't think so. Social Media is fine... up to a point. Most of the big guns have moved over but frankly, that doesn't really excite me. It is not likely they spend any time reading what I post or have the same interests that I do. Let them have their fun, but I have never been a lemming. Jury is still out for me. For now, I will have one foot in each camp.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I decided today that along with a haircut I needed a bit of funky in my life.  I am not into tattoo's... I can't imagine what they would look like with wrinkles, and I not into piercings. I decided a bit of color in my hair was about my speed..... as long as the color was lavender. I kind of like it. Not sure how long it will last as my hair does not hold color. Here is the result.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quilt National 2011 book

I have the good fortune to be on Lark Books list to review certain Art Quilt books and it was a pleasant surprise to find a copy of "Quilt National 2011" sitting in front of my door when I returned from my trip. Until now I have not had the time to really read through the book and I am glad I waited.

Quilt National is an international juried quilt exhibition held every 2 years at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. 85 quilts are ultimately chosen from hundreds of entries by 3 jurors. I would not want to be in their shoes. "The Quilt National 2011" book is a photographic feast of those quilts that were chosen to be in the show this year. Two years ago I was able to visit the Dairy Barn for the 2009 show. It was very impressive. I am sure this years show is no less so.

Each piece is professionally photographed and a description of the materials used and a short statement about the piece is included. The pieces chosen encompass the world of contemporary surface design and traditional quilting techniques. Almost half the pieces chosen were by newer artists that had not been in any previous Quilt National shows. It is nice to see that so many innovative quilts were chosen that did not depend on heavy traditional quilting techniques.

Some of the artists are Kate Themel, Elin Noble, Jean M. Evans, Marianne R. Williamson, Judy Kirpich (cover artist), Gay E. Lasher, Patty Hawkins, Jan Myers-Newbury, and Mary E. Stoudt.  These are just a handful of the great artists in this book and I just picked the names at random.

This book is a must have for your library.  You will enjoy the variety of styles chosen for this years biennial event and perhaps inspire you.

Perhaps there is hope for me yet!

Monday, July 11, 2011

This one is a wrap or....

... when less is more. Time Warp is done... except for the edges... Maybe I should call this Time Line Warp instead? After letting this sit for a day, I decided that Gerrie was right.. it needed more red and blue. This is so not me, but it is growing on me. Here are the pluses and minuses. It was fun to do, but I think I would like it better using dye than paint. The hand of the fabric is "rubbery" and it was hard to hand stitch through. I gave up on that pretty fast. It was fast and right now I needed something not too intricate. I prefer playing with fabric. I never envisioned myself as a painter and this is much closer to canvas art than fabric art. Who knows, maybe there is room for both.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not getting much done

...this might be why!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Time warp

Seems like my muse has been on vacation along with me.... but longer. She decided to make a short appearance so I grabbed on. While waiting for my grandson to be born, I had the opportunity to visit with Rayna Gillman and take her one day workshop on screenprinting using paper as a resist with paints. I decided that one of the pieces had some potential even though it is not my usual style. I stenciled more paint on it and will add some hand stitching before I figure out how to finish it. At least it is something to work on for a change! Gotta start somewhere.

If you click on the thumbnail, it will come up in full size and you will get a better idea of the piece.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

Saturday morning I woke up sick. Low grade fever, sneezing, and scratchy throat.... bummer. We were suppose to drive to Florence today and stop along the way at some of my favorite small towns. I didn't have the energy and I know Ned was disappointed. He had never been to Sienna and San Gimignano, but I just couldn't do it. I was hoping that if I took it easy I would be OK tomorrow for Florence. I was feeling so lousy that we never made it to our favorite restaurant, La Barca. We ate in the hotel and I went to sleep early.

Plan worked and I was feeling much more human on Sunday. Some ibuprofen and some throat lozenges and I was ready to go. Florence is my favorite city. I love the art and the architecture.

It is said that Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance. It was called home to the Medici's, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo just to name a few.  We were going to only be here one day and the weather was gorgeous. We decided to just walk. We had to park the car pretty far out of the old city but we headed toward Ponte Vecchio, along the Arno river.

We passed by the Uffizi Gallery,  the Pitti Palace Museum, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and lots of lovely typical Tuscan buildings. We ogled the jewelry in the shops along the Ponte Vecchio. We had a lovely lunch in one of the piazzas and were serenaded by a (really good) female opera singer. We were going to stop in and see Michelangelo's statue of David, but the lines were too long. If I had been feeling better the day before I would have ordered tickets online but I wasn't sure I would make it. If you haven't seen it in person, you really don't get the full impact. It is usually one of the things I always do when I come to Florence. I found one of the street markets and bargained mightily for a leather pocketbook. Probably the only bargain in this area are the leather goods. The jackets are to drool over in both color and style as are shoes. Probably just as well I wasn't feeling great and not in a real shopping mood! It was time to drive to Venice for my return flight early Monday morning.

Monday... the downside to using points for flights is that you get the crappy routes. My trip home had me going Venice, Munich, Toronto, Chicago to Phoenix.  Luggage got tagged through to Phoenix but I had to go through customs and immigration in Toronto and pick up the boarding passes for Toronto and Chicago flights. I thought I had plenty of time. It took 40+ minutes for luggage to arrive, another 30 minutes for the agent to arrive to hand out boarding passes, and immigration was a zoo thanks to some crazy lady directing traffic.. that took another hour having to schlep luggage through the maze. By the time I got through customs and dropped my luggage off, my flight was already boarding. I was going to have to sprint to the gate to make the flight. Thankfully, the gate was pretty close and I made it with about 5 minutes to spare. Turns out everyone else was having the same problems so the flight was delayed. We finally pulled away from the gate only to hear an announcement that there would be another delay because they were experiencing a mechanical problem. Some sensor in the landing gear was acting funny and they were going to try to fix it. If they could it would only be a 20 minute delay. If they had to replace it, it would be longer. I had almost a 4 hour layover in Chicago so I wasn't all that worried. Two hours later and it still was not fixed. We were still on the plane. Crew explained that if we got off the plane we would have to go through Canadian immigration and U.S. again before we could get back on. They were starting to take some passengers off and reroute them if they had connecting flights. I still figured that if they fixed it, I could make my connection. Another hour and they cancelled the flight. They were going to rebook us all for the next day and provide us with a hotel and a meal voucher. Not the end of the world. Here is where everything went to hell. We were going to have to go through Canadian immigration, collect our luggage and find our way up to the rebooking desk. One would think there would have been some airline representative shepherding us along the way. Toronto airport is very large and very confusing. Not one person representing the airline was anywhere around. We got separated in the crowds going through customs and immigration (there were 130 of us), baggage was delivered haphazardly and people weren't sure where to go after that. Turns out we had to go somewhere on the 3rd floor... again schlepping all our luggage. We finally all straggled to where we were suppose to be only to find out that the computer systems for the airport were down. It was well past 9:00 p.m. by now. I hadn't eaten since the morning ( Venice time) and was starved save for the junk food I picked up. It took about an hour before the system started to work again. There were 3 agents trying to juggle 130 passengers. We were given vouchers for hotels (several different ones) and a dinner voucher. 17 of us were going to one hotel... it turns out there was a west hotel and an east hotel and the voucher did not say which one. When the van arrived the driver refused to take us because he didn't know which one. I called the hotel and was told there were no reservations for us! One of the other passengers ran back upstairs to ask the agent which hotel. By the time she got back the van driver had left..... turns out it was THAT hotel. The driver did not return for over an hour... he didn't want to deal with us apparently... and he couldn't fit all of us in on one trip. By the time the first group of us got to the hotel it was well past 11:00 p.m. Their restaurant closes at 11:00. We were pissed off and starving. We did notice a Burger King a few blocks away so a few of us walked over and had to use the drive up window at that hour. I will say they were very nice to us. The beds were supper comfortable but I had to take a 5:00 shuttle back to the airport. I wasn't going to get much sleep but I was able to snag a direct flight to Phoenix. We were told that it could take up to 3 hours to get through immigration in the morning so we should be there early. I was switched to another airline and also had to get boarding passes. I originally had 2 bags checked but the new airline insisted on charging me for the 2nd bag. I was too tired to fight with them (but I am going back to original airline... I did ask them the night before and was told there would be no fees). Getting through immigration was a breeze although the agent did ask what I purchased in Canada... I cheekily told him just a bottle of water and a hamburger. I had already told him that my flight the night before was cancelled.  I was able to use the dinner voucher for breakfast. Flight home was uneventful.

I got home a day later than planned but was happy to get home and see Lucy and sleep in my own bed for a change. While I had a wonderful trip, I need to decompress for a while.

Hope you all enjoyed the trip along with me.  You can see all the photos HERE.

Friday Cinque Terre

Wanting to get out of Genoa today, we decided to take the train to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is comprised of 5 local villages that cling to a remote stretch of the Italian Riviera and are part of the national park system and a UNESCO world heritage site. The only way to see them is by walking. They are charming villages and we made a plan to walk from Vernazza to Corniglia. Hike would be more accurate. Varnazza sits at sea level and is a charming little old world fishing village.

Corniglia sits high on a hilltop and is known for its wines and olives. There are 2 trails available, one is far easier than the other.... we didn't do our homework. In fact we didn't even know there were 2 trails until we were well into our hike. Need I tell you which one we took? Most of the trail is comprised of steep stairs carved out of the soil and lined with stepping stones, except when there are avalanches, which then cause havoc with this steep and very windy trail. In most places it is one person wide and set with lots of switchbacks... after all we are climbing into a mountain.  Passing is fun. As you get higher into the hills the view is spectacular... so is the drop off.
Corniglia in the distance

They told us it would take 90 minutes.... I assume they really meant if you were in tip top shape. Two and half hours later we limped into Corniglia. We had to stop and rest along the way and at one point I was not sure I was going to make it. But make it we did.
We made it to Corniglia!

We found a lovely outdoor restaurant with a wonderful breeze (it was hot as hell) and had lunch. It was 400 steps down to the train. The other two women decided to take the train to the next village but I decided to go back to Genoa. I was exhausted and I told Ned I would be back at a certain time. With no way to get in touch with him, I was already going to be much later than I told him.. I didn't want to add another hour to that and really have him worry. I needed that 2 1/2 hour train trip to recover. I set an alarm so if I fell asleep I wouldn't miss my stop. They do not call out the stops. I can tell you that if I had known how difficult this hike would be, I never would have done it. While I am in decent shape, I am not that fit and while we were in the UK I did not get to do the kind of walking I wanted due to the rain.

By the time I got back to hotel, Ned was wondering where I was. Finding a restaurant for dinner was going to be an adventure. Because of the holiday, almost everything was closed. And while I usually wouldn't mind walking a bit to find something, my legs were screaming. We walked farther than I wanted but we were well rewarded. We stumbled into a wonderful restaurant. The owner is the chef and the waiter knew his stuff. It was empty. There was one other couple and by the time we left only 2 other couples turned up. Apparently this is one of the Pope's favorite restaurants when he comes to Genoa. We were presented with photo albums from the last several years. I suspect that had it been any other time we would have needed a reservation made well in advance. We let them recommend both the food and the wine. We were not disappointed. I needed the walk back to the hotel!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thursday Genoa

Ducal bedroom
Today was going to be a fairly low key day. Four of us were going to get together and take a closer look at some of the places we didn't have time to do yesterday. Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Bianco, now museums, were formally palatial residences of some of the richest Genoans. We chose to spend time in Palazzo Rosso first and see how the time went. We drooled. They lived like princes. I will let the photos tell the story.

The security guys must have liked us four old bats because they unlocked the top level and took us up out on the roof to get a panoramic view of the city. What a treat. You can really see how the city spread up into the hills.
View of Genoa from the roof of Palazzo Rosso

Paganini's violin
After spending a few hours here we went across the street to Palazzo Tursi, city hall of Genoa. Our goal here was to see the violin of Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840). It was made by one of the best violin makers, Guarneri, and after Paganini's death it was left as a gift to the city. Paganini is not buried in Genoa. It is a rather sad story. Apparently, after giving a Ducal concert, Paganini was asked to perform an encore... of the same piece he had just done. He refused, stating that he did not reprise his same work but the Doge did not want to hear a different one. He was banned from the city and he never returned. He left the violin as a reminder that his home city snubbed him.

Next we explored some of the alleys whose shops had beckoned the day before. We indulged ourselves mostly by window shopping but collectively we picked up a few trinkets here and there. We were ready for lunch which we ate outside in one of the Piazzas and people watched. Gelato and sorbetta (for those who are lactose intolerant) was for dessert. Time to go back to our hotels and rest up for dinner.

Dinner was planned by the folks running the convention at the Aquarium. First was a tour of the Aquarium, then hors d'oeuvres and drinks followed by a sit down dinner. There were almost 500 of us spread over several rooms looking at the shark tank. The whole thing was rather impressive. The attendees got to relax after listening to technical papers for 2 days and the spouses got to socialize.

There are a lot of feast days and Saint's days in Italy and every city/region has their own. Friday was going to be such a day in Genoa. It was the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. We noticed while we were walking around all the preparations that were going on. Bonfires were being built, churches were being decorated, etc. Nothing was going to be open.. this was a real holiday. There was still one more day for this convention and we needed something to do on Friday that would get us out of the city.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wednesday Genoa

Frescoes painted on outside of palace
The history of Genoa goes back to the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.E. Its position as a port has contributed to its varied status as it absorbed many ups and downs of financial prosperity or lack thereof. It has been part of the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and France. It has been said that Christopher Columbus grew up here. It suffered from the Black Death in 1347 and more than half its inhabitants were wiped out by the  Plague in 1656-57. Genoa flourished in the 16th century and it drew many artists and architects. You can see many of the works of Rubens, Caravaggio, and Van Dyck and palaces designed by Alessi. The city is not very large, 251 acres, and it is squashed between the mountains and the sea. Everything is uphill or downhill. Fishing, shipping, and banking were the main contributions to Genoa's fortunes. As they became more prosperous, people wanted to get away from the poor fishing villages on the coast, so they moved uphill and built spectacular palazzos. Amazing how life is a loop.. now people want to live by the sea. The 1200's saw the power of such families as Grimaldi, Doria, and Spinola controlling the city. Today you can still see the magnificent palaces of these families which were built in the 1500's. Most have been renovated and are museums, banks, or government offices. Many have been designated as World UNESCO heritage sites.

These aren't small

The weather in Genoa was the opposite extreme to the UK. We had above normal temperatures and humidity. Normal temperature for this time of year is around 75. It was in the high 80's and low 90's. The days excursion was going to be a walking tour of the old part of Genoa. We were to meet at a square near Via Garabaldi which my hotel told me was a 5 minute walk. With map in hand, I set out. It was a good thing I left early.... 15 minutes later after huffing and puffing uphill and downhill I arrived wondering if I were going to last the whole day! The 8 of us managed to find each other from our scattered hotels and we waited for our guide. The architecture is both imposing and impressive. The artwork on the palaces is mind boggling. A fortune, even in those days, was spent on these building. There is a combination of sculpture, paintings, and tromp l'oeil, on the facades of all these buildings. One of the stories our guide told us had to do with the "Sunshine" tax imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte. There was a special tax that had to be paid for every window in a building. In order to maintain the symmetry of the structure and design, fake windows were painted on the facades and the tax was avoided. Two of the old palaces had been turned into museums but we were not going to have time to see them today. (This turned into tomorrow's outing for some of us since we had no official plans).

The alleys in Genoa resemble those in Venice.... narrow, dark, serpentine, and full of surprises. We ogled the store windows, vegetable markets, meat markets, and candy shops. Our next destination was to have been the Cathedral of San Lorenzo but it closed at 12.00 and was not going to reopen till 3:00. Lunch was scheduled for 1:00. There was another church nearby that would be open till 1:00. Everything shuts down in the afternoon and reopens at 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. Lunch was in this really weird restaurant. The decor was posters and memorabilia of movies from the 1950's. So was the music. I will stand on record stating that I am not fond of Elvis.... please don't shoot me. The food, thankfully was pure Italian and delicious. Pesto is one of the local regional specialties and our first course was loaded with it.

Piazza de Ferrari

Porto Soprana
After lunch we retraced some of our steps past the Piazza de Ferrari (we wanted to jump in the fountain) back to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. We passed the Porto Soprana which is one of the gates in the old city walls, ruins of the old cloisters (which were relocated) and the purported family home of Christopher Columbus.
San Lorenzo

The interior of the church is stunning. No expense was spared here. There is still a lot of restoration work going on and you can see the old fresco's that were painted on the walls.

They used a combination of marble and slate to get the bands of color.

Bicycles are not very common here but cars are not very practical either. In a population of 700,000 there are more than 200,000 motorcycles and motorbikes. They are really the only practical way of getting around such a hilly city

I was pooped by this time and still had to hike my way back to my hotel. Most of us opted to call it quits for the day and some of us decided to get together the next morning and explore some of the places we did not have time to do today. There were no official plans for dinner. Ned and I ate at a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea.

Tuesday, Genoa, Italy

I am doing some skipping here... but I will do a short catch up. Sunday was a travel day and everything went without a hitch. We did find a fantastic local restaurant for dinner that has always been closed when I was here in the past.. turns out they are closed Mondays, but not Sundays. There was no menu and we ate for 2 1/2 hours.... and drank way to much. Monday Ned had to work... usually I take the car and do day excursions but to be honest I was tired... so I crashed. The weather was lovely so I took my iPad and sat outside to read. Dinner was low key. Tuesday morning and we have to drive to Genoa.... the reason for this whole trip. Ned's conference starts this evening and I am looking forward to hooking up with some of the other wives... some of whom I know and new ones I hope to meet. We were not staying at the host hotel (near the airport)... his company is cheap, but rather one closer to the old part of town. Luck had it that it was more convenient for me. There were shuttle buses for the guys as it turned out that the conference got a last minute boost and the host hotel could not accommodate everyone. We were a bit scattered around. Rather than check into our hotel first, we stopped at the convention spot as Ned's company had a booth and he wanted to make sure all the materials had arrived.

Next stop our hotel.... or so we thought.

If any of you have driven in old Italian cities you know that some of the streets are nothing more than narrow alleys. Genoa is a hillside city so think long, windy, narrow, and steep alleys. The "street" our hotel was situated on was one of these.... there was less than a foot clearance on either side of the car... it was not marked as one way. The hotel was down the middle of this alley.... We arrived to find out there had been a fire a few days before and there was no electricity. No one was notified! BUT, they did re book us somewhere else. Ned started to make phone calls to reroute the rest of the group.. and then we had to figure out how to get out of there.... the alley was a dead end! There was a small clearing at the bottom and a steep drive into a garage whose metal doors were closed.  15 minutes later and a lot of sweat, Ned managed to get the car turned around.... think a zillion baby K turns. I think I had my eyes closed for most of it. Now we had to head back up this alley and pray no one was coming down. We found the other hotel without too much trouble, and checked in without incidence. Now we head for the lift and I started to laugh. I haven't seen one of these in ages. It was the old fashion cage type.
At least we didn't have to schlep our luggage up the stairs.
Ned had to be back to the convention early... he HAD to work. I wandered into the bar and found my buddies and we sat and caught up till the reception started. There was suppose to be a program all three days for the spouses but 2 days were cancelled due to not enough interest. In truth what really happened is that they made it almost impossible for anyone to sign up. Instead of accepting credit cards or stating you could pay (in cash) when you arrived, the sign up insisted you do a money transfer in Euros. That did not go over so well. Ned had called and they told him to just pay when we arrived, but most didn't call. As a result, many of the women who would have signed up, didn't. To make things worse, the person who was in charge of this took off early and rather than be there in time for the reception when most arrive, never came back.  So those who might have paid that evening, never got the chance. There were going to be 8 of us on this tour the next day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 9 UK Kew Gardens

Yay! We woke up to sunshine! Our excursion today is going to be The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew... better known as just Kew Gardens. Sue was going to meet us and we would take the train out. Kew Gardens is located southwest of London and houses the worlds largest collection of living plants. There are over 30,000 different types of plants in a 300 acre park. Obviously, were weren't going to make much of a dent in a few hours but we were going to give it our best shot. The history of Kew as gardens started in the 1700's and thanks to some very foresighted people it has grown into one of the worlds most important sites for experimentation and seed repository, not to mention a feast to the eyes for the general public.
The Palm House, Kew Gardens

Our first stop was the Palm house which was constructed between 1844 and 1848. In front of this greenhouse are a line up of mythical creatures who I thought were kind of cute. I am putting their pictures in the gallery and a description of what they represented. There are more than Palms in this house and we all ooed and ahhed over the variation of plants but most especially the markings on the leaves. Some of them look like they could have been appliqued.
I am sharing lots of these pictures in the gallery, but please remember that these are mine. If you want to use any of them, please ask permission. With few exceptions, these plants are not labelled.... some I know, most I don't. In the lower level of the Palm House are some aquariums... lighting was horrible and my flash was bouncing off everything...

Next stop was the Water Lily House. The structures of some of the Lily pads were really interesting. This was the smallest of the greenhouses we visited.

By now we were hungry and needed a break.... this was a lot of walking. Just as we got to the cafeteria, the skies opened up! Good timing. By the time we were done, the sun was out again. Welcome to the weather in the UK.

Our last stop was the Temperate House. This is the largest surviving Victorian glass structure. It took 40 years to construct and has the floor area twice that of the Palm House. I forgot to take a picture, but here is a link to one that is probably better than I would have done. This greenhouse has plants from all the temperate zones for all the regions of the world. Did you know that there are a zillion types of Fuchsia??

We had company on our walk to the Temperate House.. this lovely peacock who just took us in stride. This stately old tree also caught my eye on the walk.

We had a great time and the weather cooperated. Thank you so much Sue for spending time with us.
Sue Sanderson and yours truly

Dinner is going to be late... we are exhausted. Tomorrow is a travel day for us to Italy... it is also Father's Day and my birthday... we are celebrating tonight... who knows what we will find open tomorrow night or how tired we will be.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 8 UK London

I am still flying from yesterday. Not much is going to top those memories. We arrived in London late morning and of course could not check into our hotel. Weather is the norm... not that I am getting use to it, but I guess resignation has set in. We decide to go to The Victoria and Albert Museum via the Underground. We are hoping the weather is better tomorrow and we can go to Kew Gardens... if not, we will go to the Tate. The V&A have a special exhibit called "The Cult of Beauty", The Aesthetic Movement of 1860-1900. This would be better known as Art for Art's Sake and would include Rosesetti, Whistler, Leighton, Burne-Jones, and of course William Morris, just to name a few. They would take art in a totally new direction. The entrance to the museum has a gorgeous Chihuly chandelier. They didn't allow photography in the exhibit, sorry.  I can only do museums in short spurts... the floors are too hard on my knees and back. Guess I am going to have to come back for another visit. I would like to see more of it.
The weather improved and we decided to walk back to our hotel which was a few blocks from Buckingham Palace... we passed it on the way in and it was very crowded. I believe the changing of the guard was taking place as we drove by. Since we both had already done that eons ago, we were steering clear. I decided that this was a good opportunity for High Tea... we tried to get a reservation at Claridges but it turns out you need those months in advance. We settled for Harrods. Of course we had to wander through a bit and fresh off a new grand baby we headed towards the children's department.  They had really nice stuff, but, OH,  the sticker shock. One outfit would have set us back $150... and that wasn't even the expensive ones! Sorry Will..... We did find some cute stuff animals though..... and maybe you will see them one day (they are in Ned's luggage which is currently lost). High Tea is an experience... it really is a misnomer. It is a full meal in itself. There were cucumber sandwiches, egg and watercress sandwiches, salmon and cream cheese sandwiches... all with the crusts cut off. There were scones with clotted cream and jams, and some pastries, all of which were presented on a 3 tiered serving piece. And of course you had your choice of teas. While we were enjoying this sumptuous repast, we were treated to an impromptu piano concert by a child... no I am not kidding. I have no idea who he was but they unhooked the baby grand player piano and this kid sat down and just played. Amazing. I bet they didn't get that at Claridges!

After stuffing ourselves, we needed that walk back to the hotel. I enjoyed the window shopping. Normally these days when I travel, I tend to see the same stores everywhere. It was nice to see new ones although I am sure some of these are just the local equivalent of chain stores. Mixed in were the high end shops as well. I think Ned was happy that I was not in a shopping mood.  We got ourselves settled into our room and relaxed for a bit. We arranged to have dinner with a Quilt Art list member who I had also taken a Carol Soderlund dye class with a few years back. Sue Sanderson saw my post on the list and offered to spend some time with us. We didn't want to go was raining again, so the hotel recommended a restaurant close by. Who would have thunk that an Indian restaurant could garner a Michelin star rating? If you are in London and enjoy Indian food, try it. It is called Quilon. I can well understand its star rating. The service was impeccable and besides being well presented, the food was excellent. Even more, the chef was very gracious. We were served an appetizer drink that is called Tomato Rasam. It is a thin spicy mixture that is traditionally poured over rice but here they served it as a drink. We asked for the recipe and they gave it to us! They even used dual measurements. We had a lovely evening.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 7... And we are off... to see the Queen

Literally. Remember that hat from an earlier post? Well, I had a real need for one. We are attending Royal Ascot, Ladies Day... in the Royal Enclosure.  Sometimes the long shots come in! This story starts a few months back when I knew I was going to Genoa with Ned. Because of the nature of free tickets, one doesn't always get the best or most convenient routing. One of my transfers was through London so I suggested to Ned that to break up my trip, he take a couple of days of vacation and we spend the weekend in London. His schedule can change on a dime, and usually does.....In May he informed me that he had to see a customer in the UK.... if he could change the dates on my tickets did I want to go early? Such a silly question! Hubby suggested we see if there were any steeplechase races going on that week since he knows I am a horse lover. Turns out they were out of season BUT Royal Ascot was being held... I thought that would be fun. I always reach for the moon hoping I will get a star so I decided to see if we could get into the Royal Enclosure in Ascot where all the really high society hob nob with each other..... oh, and also wear those wonderful hats. The fine print on their website says that sometimes the Embassies have available tickets.... OK, so with nothing to lose I wrote to the American Embassy in London and asked. Much to my surprise I got an application back that we had to fill out plus a requirement for a letter of recommendation from some professional who knew us to be fine upstanding citizens for at least the past 5 years. ( Yes, you can interpret that as you wish). We passed muster. Now the fun began. I needed a hat and dress and Ned needed a morning suit plus top hat. He was less than thrilled but was willing to go along. I will spare you the details getting him attired properly. The dress code for women is pretty strict... no spaghetti straps, no halter dresses, nothing too short, no midriff showing, and no straps narrower than 1". Anyone notice the fashions for spring/summer this year? I was determined!! I also needed a way to get my hat there undamaged. Hat boxes are not easy to come by anymore, but I ordered one online.

The big day was finally here... and it was pouring rain. We were planning on taking the train to Ascot and walking the last 1/4 like many do as the parking is insane. In view of the weather, we decided to hire a car. Thankfully, it was flat rate. Good thing as it took us over 2 hours with the traffic to get there... of course by the time we did, the rain had stopped.... oh well. To say I was excited is probably the understatement of the year. We walked in with everyone else dressed to the nines and enjoyed the scenery. Some professional photographer liked my hat and snapped a photo.. but I don't think it was published anywhere... still, it was nice for my ego. What I forgot was a hatpin.. and with the weight of the flowers, the hat kept swiveling around.

People watching was almost more fun than the races... we didn't win, but we only bet on 2 races. One of the Queen's ladies in waiting places bets for her... and we watched as she both bought and cashed in her majesties winning tickets. It was hard taking pictures as everyone kept moving around. I really didn't care. People were pretty friendly.... and the champagne was flowing. We saw several of the Royals.. and I easily was able to snap a photo of the Queen although she did not look up. We did take the train back to Reading that evening. It really was a very fun day.

I have posted lots of pictures to the gallery.