Friday, April 29, 2011


The word yearn, when used as a verb, is defined as follows:

1. to have an earnest or strong desire; long for
2. to feel tenderness; be moved or attracted

That's the word I was looking for today.

Y is for yearning

Since I am yearning for London and cannot be there in person and it's Royal Wedding Day I thought I'd do the next best thing and post some photos from the years we spent living in my favorite city in the world...Cheers!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

An X-tra special post

That might not be quite true...isn't every post here special?
Regardless, I wanted to write a little bit more about our trip to Normandy and I figured letter X would be a good time to do that. If you missed part one you'll find it here.

X is for X-tra special

There is so much to see and do in the Normandy region of France.
Much of it centers on the WW2 sites and I'll get back to that in a minute but one side trip we took that we all enjoyed was to the little town of Bayeux.

There is something quite famous known as The Bayeux Tapestry. The whole time we were en route to Bayeux hubs and my brother in law kept saying things like-

We're doing what?
We're driving an hour to stand in a queue to go see a tapestry?
Isn't that like needlepoint?

But we ladies who had done our pre-trip homework knew that this was most definitely something to see. The tapestry illustrates the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Legend says the tapestry was made by Reine Mathilde, the wife of William the Conqueror but it's more likely the tapestry was designed and woven in England. The tapestry hangs in a museum in the town center but its original home was the huge Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux.

This all might sound so very very dull but it is absolutely fascinating. Even the boys agreed. The tapestry is about 230 feet long and took approximately ten years to complete. After viewing the tapestry I felt like I finally understood the chronology and characters who were key to the conquest. Let me just add that William the Conqueror and the Battle of 1066, while very very old, are still talked about pretty darn often as you travel around the UK and France. Its good to understand what all the fuss was about. Plus the town of Bayeux is so old France.
It's in the Calvados region which is also pretty well known for something else...Calvados Brandy.
Tastes like apples.
Tipsy apples but apples nonetheless.

I want to talk about the American Cemetery in Normandy before I wrap this up.

(This photo is a postcard and no credit is listed)

Really, what words does one use to describe a sight such as this or the feelings that wash over you as you stand high on a bluff overlooking a beach called Omaha? There is no looking matter where you turn your eyes they will land on a row of white crosses which mark the final resting place of over 9,000 American servicemen and women. The American Cemetery at Normandy is 172 acres and free use as a permanent burial ground was granted by the government of France 'in perpetuity without charge or taxation.'
That means forever.

There is an area in the cemetery known as The Garden of the Missing where the names of over 1500 soldiers who gave their lives in the region but whose remains were never recovered or positively identified are engraved on stone tables.

The six of us walked in silence thru the cemetery and after a few minutes we met at the intersection of a row of graves.

A row like every other row.
Row upon row upon row.

We talked quietly and were commenting particularly on the age of some of these brave boys.
We looked down at the cross that happened to be in front of us.

We couldn't believe it.

The cross marked the grave of the young man from Utah whose letter we'd read that very first day in the museum at Caen. It was a distinctive name and town so there was no mistake.

Of all the graves in the cemetery we had come to stand before his.
One grave among thousands.
He didn't feel like a nameless faceless soldier.
We'd read his words, so poignantly written before he died.

We 'knew' him.
Or at least it felt like we did.

He was someone's precious son, a young bride's beloved husband.
A boy who went to war and had plans to come home and work the family raise a family of his own.
A boy whose life took a different turn.
Bravery and courage and patriotism are not just words.
They are words that require action.

Frankly I think every American should plant their feet on the soil in this cemetery for a day.
Acknowledge the sacrifice.
Let politics and rhetoric and protests fall away.
The land we live in that is so truly free might be a very different place were it not for the farm boy from Utah and all those many other sons and husbands and brothers who lay beside him in this place of unspeakable beauty and peace.

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
C.S. Lewis

This post was originally part of the 2011 A-Z April blog challenge.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge Vol 24...that's a W, right?

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge.
If you happen to be visiting from the A-Z challenge you'll find today's letter under question #8. You are welcome to join the fun today or any Wednesday...just answer the questions on your own blog and then link your post at the bottom of mine.

1. What is something that bothers you if its not done perfectly?

Hmmm...I like the towels folded a certain way when they come out of the dryer. Doesn't everyone? I also like the pillows on the beds a certain way. And I like the table set a certain way. And the books on the coffee table need to go a certain way. I think that's all. At least that's all I can think of right now. In spite of how this answer sounds I'm really not nit picky.

2. What is one of your best childhood memories?

The first thing that came to mind was a trip to the circus. I know that doesn't sound like much but it was a big deal. My dad had been overseas and not long after he returned home he and my mom took all four of us kids to see the Ringling Bros. circus. I was in the 4th grade and I don't remember ever having been before that day plus we were picked up early from school which made it all the more exciting. My dad did not spend money wily nily and taking a family of six to the circus was not an inexpensive thing to do, even in 1970.

One thing all four of us kids remember from that day was that my dad didn't seem to say no to anything. We had cotton candy and ice cream and cracker jacks...whatever we asked for he said sure! All four of us kids remember this day as special and count it as one of our happiest childhood memories.

I think about that day sometimes and wonder if kids today (my own included) still feel like a simple outing is truly special. In general I think parents today are much more indulgent (third graders with cell phones?) and I know we had to work hard to save certain things and experiences for our girls as they were growing up so they would feel like special treats.

3. Do you plan to watch the Royal Wedding and when was the last time you wore a hat?

Well of course.

I wore a baseball hat to the grocery store the other weekend since it was early and I hadn't done my hair yet. Kind of like a disguise. And I lived in a hat this winter because hello, winter was brutal and only ended here about a week ago.

I last wore a fancy shmancy hat to an English tea hosted by my women's club in the UK. So fun! I miss these girls.

4. Where do you fall in the birth order in your family? Do you think this has influenced your personality?

I'm the third of four children and I think there is something to birth order. Typically middle children are flexible, diplomatic, competitive, peacemaker...those all fit.
Hubs is a first born and common traits among first borns are they're movers and shakers, natural leaders, perfectionists, assertive, and driven. Check.

I taught kindergarten I could generally tell who was a first born, who had older siblings, and who was an only child. Not criticizing, just saying I think certain characteristics hold mostly true when it comes to birth order.

5. Where do you think you spend most of your money?

That's easy. University tuition. When daughter1 started uni in 2006 someone turned on the money faucet and it has been running, not dripping, definitely running steadily ever since. We're on the home stretch now though!

Lately home improvement is getting in on the action too.

6. When you need to confront someone would you rather communicate in person, by phone, by email or by letter? Why?

Oh cringe. I hate confrontation (see question #4). Can't we all just get along? I guess it depends on what the confrontation is all about...I would go for an email if I could get away with it. If I can't then that means its probably a conversation that needs to happen in person.

7. Dodgeball, freeze tag, kickball or jump rope? You have to pick one.

Definitely not jump rope. Women over a certain age don't need to be jumping rope. Or jumping period. Just sayin'. I'd choose kickball.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

This will be my last A-Z challenge post included as my random thought in the Hodgepodge. Next Wednesday we're into May and the A-Z challenge is over. I'll be back to my normal random in this slot next week. Lucky you.

W is for Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor is a magnificent country house set in the village of Waddesdon in the UK. It was not all that far from the village where we lived so it made for a nice day trip and it was a pretty spot to take visitors. The French chateau style house was built in the late 1800's for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and since the late 1950's has been in the hands of the National Trust.

If you saw the movie The Queen some of the interiors and gardens of Waddesdon were used for the Buckingham Palace scenes. The house contains 45 rooms and its Victorian garden is considered one of the best in Britain. There is even an aviary stocked with species that were once a part of Ferdinand's collection. I've been to Waddesdon often so I feel like I can call him Ferdinand.

As we were leaving Waddesdon after our very first visit we saw this...

Oh that English countryside.
W is for wow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vacuous...Vapid...Verbose? That's it! Verbose!

It's still April so you know what that means.
It means if you are here looking for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge questions you must first read the A-Z blog challenge letter of the day entry.
You'll find the hodgepodge questions at the end.

You aren't planning to skip the letter of the day portion of this post, are you?
I thought not.

V is for Virginia

More specifically Williamsburg but I have something else in mind for the letter W. I ran across some photos from a trip we took to Williamsburg way back when and they were too cute not to include here somewhere. I've just spent a weekend with my girls and they are not so different today from the sweet things in these photos. Plus, my blog brain is a little bit tired after all the weekend sugar fun and since I have a few more letters to get through and the Hodgepodge to complete I figure cute will have to do.

We write what we know and sometimes we assume everyone reading has a reference point from which to picture our words. That isn't always the case. If you live west of the Mississippi or outside the US then you may never get to see Williamsburg Virginia or have any idea what would make it a trip worthy destination. I've written alot about how much history is tucked into every village in the UK but America is not without its own amazing story and Virigina is a big part of that tale.

In 1607 the Jamestown Settlement was established by some English colonists on the Virginia peninsula.The very first meeting of a representative government group in the colonies was held at the Jamestown Settlement. I know my husband is smiling as he reads this because daughter1 and a friend had an assignment in grade 5 to create a model of the Jamestown Settlement and let's just say that when the final grade came home hubs wanted to know if he'd gotten an A. It is possible the two dads may have gotten just a teensy bit too involved with this particular school assignment. ahem.

Moving on...more settlements popped up along the James River and eventually a spot known as Middle Plantation was established on higher ground between the James and York Rivers. Jamestown kept burning so eventually the capital was moved to Middle Plantation. Okay so I may have omitted some details but that's my own Cliffs notes version of Virginia history. The college of William and Mary was established beside Middle Plantation and did you know Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall are both graduates of this school? Middle Plantation was eventually renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III and it wasn't until sometime during the Revolutionary war that the capital was moved to Richmond.

We lived in Richmond for a few years. That's another town packed with charm and history and worth a visit if you're interested in taking a colonial trail tour.
You do stop here for travel tips don't you?

Anyway, back to Colonial Williamsburg...the town is considered an interpretation of a colonial city with some buildings being original and others being reconstructed copies. Interpreters work, dress, and talk as they did in colonial times. My girls were a bit obsessed with costumes and the 'olden days' when they were young and they absolutely loved our visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Pretty sure whenever you see stocks you have to put yourself inside and take a photo.

We bought the girls hats and rented dresses for the day.

Be still my heart.
That's a colonial expression isn't it?
It's still useful.

It must have been 105 degrees in the shade so they definitely got a feel for the pre-ac days of the 1600's...

When I see something like this I'm so grateful I live in the 21st century.
I'm not sure I was cut out to be a colonist.
Did I ever tell you about the time I was on a tour with a group of American Women in the UK and our guide referred to Americans as 'the colonists'?
I think he was kidding.

People working in the town who are in costume spoke to the girls as if they were actually living there in colonial times and they loved that. If your girls are into the American Girl Dolls there is a Felicity tour around Williamsburg that might be fun. And because kids sometimes need to mix the educational stuff with the just plain fun stuff Water Country USA is just down the road and its awesome.

Several commenters have asked how we get so many family photos of all of us together when we travel and btw that is not hubs and I in costume in that last picture. I think hubs will want me to make that point clear. Anyway, a few people want to know who takes all the pictures. It helps a lot that hubs is not shy and has never met a stranger. We usually try to swap picture taking duties with other know, I'll take your picture if you'll take ours.

This works well most of the time but I can't say it works all of the time. We asked a young man to take our picture in front of the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg.
Here is the photo-

I know the palace is around there somewhere.

And now, back to present day and the questions for this week's Hodgepodge.
See you back here tomorrow (Wednesday) to link our answers-

1. What is something that bothers you if it is not done perfectly?

2. What is one of your best childhood memories?

3. Do you plan to watch the Royal Wedding and when was the last time you wore a hat?

4. Where do you fall in the birth order in your family? Do you think this has influenced your personality?

5. Where do you think you spend most of your money?

6. When you need to confront someone would you rather communicate in person, on the phone, by email or by letter? Why?

7. Dodge ball, freeze tag, kickball or jump rope? You have to pick one.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

London Bridge is not falling down

It's Monday and I'm feeling the need for a list. So much has been happening around here in recent weeks and I've not really blogged anything besides the A-Z challenge. I will include today's letter in the list and I've decided you'll have to read the whole thing to find it. You never skim my posts, do you?

1. My girls arrived home Thursday night about 9:30 after their flight was delayed and then delayed again and then delayed one more time for good measure. I cannot remember the last time any of us flew without delay or disruption of some sort. Look who else was happy to see them...

2. Hubs took the 'day off' on Friday which of course means he had a conference call at 8 am.

3. Have I told you we have a patio under construction? Well, we do. It is going to be fabulous but right now it is a mess out back and we have a skip in the drive along with piles of bricks and gravel and dirt which make backing out of the garage extremely tricky.

Every day since they started working hubs comes in from his job and asks me a bajillion questions about why such and such is here and why such and such isn't there and what do they plan to do about abc and did I ask the work crew about xyz. This weekend, as he was wondering about yet one more component to the project and I was happily doing other things he actually asked me this, "Don't you want to know how it's all being put together?" Hmmm...let me think about that. I care about the finished product. I care about the cost. I care about the time table. I'm happy he cares about the detail and am really really happy he was home on Friday to get all his questions answered from the boss man.

4. We went to see Soul Surfer Friday afternoon...such a wonderfully inspiring story. Once we were back home daughter2 made dinner for all of us-lemon garlic shrimp. Yum!

5. Saturday was gray and rainy. We spent most of the morning baking a Robert E. Lee lemon orange cake for our Easter dessert.

It is four layers and very labor intensive.
It may contain a few eggs, ahem.

My patio workers are going to be in for a treat today...the cake is huge and we have a lot of left overs. I do not have four identical cake pans so it looks a teensy bit wonky..

Lopsided you might say but we prefer the term 'whimsical'.
It was delicious.

6. We spent the afternoon dyeing Easter eggs because you are never too old...

7. Easter day was lovely...warm and somewhat sunny for a change. We had baskets before church, a wonderful service with my favorite hymns and a really great message. It makes me extra happy to have my family all together and sitting side by side in the pew. Afterwards we went home to a delicious meal that we all helped prepare. It was my favorite kind of day.

8. Hubs took Daughter1 to the train Sunday evening so she could get to her new city to start her brand new job first thing Monday morning. So exciting! We are not actually moving her furniture and belongings for a couple of weeks so she was loaded down with two ginormous suitcases and a bag to last her until then. She was taking a train followed by a subway and I think she was wishing she had a pack mule to carry all her stuff. Growing up is hard work sometimes.

9. I tried not to cry when my girls hugged each other goodbye. I was semi-successful. They've lived in the same city for the past three years and spend a lot of time together. They are very close and it warms my heart. Growing up is hard work sometimes. Did I say that already? Daughter2 returns to uni Monday afternoon. It's never easy but it's not quite as hard to send them off when I know we'll all be together again in just a couple of weeks.

10. The end of my list....time to awkwardly transition to my A-Z letter of the day challenge...we are all the way up to letter U. Whoohoo!!

U is for Under

Under London Bridge to be more precise and one of my absolute favorite spots in all of London...The Borough Market.

Borough Market is one of the largest food markets in London and is an absolute smorgasbord of deliciousness. A market has existed at the footings of the bridge since before the 12th century. In the mid 1700's a trust was set up to ensure the market's future by providing resources for a fresh produce market on the site and in 1997 Borough Market became a registered charity in the UK.

The market does get crowded but that's part of the fun. Everything wonderful and fresh and delicious you might like to sample can be found somewhere in the Borough Market. There are all sorts of ethnic foods as well as amazing breads and cheeses, seafood and meats, flowers and produce. If all you do is eat a chorizo sandwich from the vendor there you'll leave happy. We tend to nibble our way thru the market but we always end with a chorizo sandwich for lunch.

The market is a fun place to browse and sample and of course buy. It's open Thursday-Saturday and the hours of operation vary so check before you go. If you enjoy fresh foods, international cuisines, cooking, and especially eating, you'll definitely enjoy a morning spent here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time Travel

We are heading into the last week of posts for the A-Z blog challenge.
It's been fun and challenging and I have to say a little bit emotional revisiting so many treasured family memories.

T is for Tower

this image courtesy of free

Often people we know or who hubs has worked with somewhere will call to tell us they have just a day or part of a day to spend in London and what would we recommend they try and see. I usually tell them to take the Red Bus Tour for an overview of the city but to hop off at the Tower because if I could only see one 'sight' in London this would be it.

The Tower was founded around 1066 as part of the Norman conquest of England. There are actually 22 towers on the property but the name comes from the White Tower which was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The history associated with the Tower is long and fascinating. I have been here countless times but never tire of listening to the Beefeaters tell its secrets and tales...

There are twelve guards at the Tower called Yeoman Warders. They're responsible for watching any prisoners at the tower and guarding the Crown Jewels but they also act as tour guides. Their nickname is 'beefeater' and that likely comes from a time when they were paid a portion of their salary in beef. There is also a Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster who is responsible for caring for the ravens of the Tower of London. Ravens have lived at the Tower since King Charles II rule and legend says if they ever leave the tower and monarchy both will crumble.

The Tower was used as a prison but at one time was also a royal residence. It has also served as an armoury, a treasury, home of the Royal Mint, and home to the Crown Jewels which you can see there today. I'm not even going to try to get into the history of this place because it is so long and deep I wouldn't know where to begin. I will just say it's a great place to learn a lot and don't miss it if you visit London.

When you leave the Tower you will find yourself looking at one of the iconic sights of the city...The Tower Bridge. This is not London Bridge which I am going to mention in an upcoming post.

You can walk across the bridge and even go inside to the exhibition but one of my favorite ways to see it is from the water.

We took these pictures on the ride back from Greenwich, a village in the southeastern corner of London that is full of maritime history and home to the Cutty Sark, the world's last tea clipper built in the mid 1800's.

The Cutty Sark was damaged extensively during a 2007 fire and is currently being restored but we were able to see it prior to the fire.

The Royal Observatory is in Greenwich and it is here you can stand at the Prime Meridian with one foot in the Western hemisphere and one in the Eastern hemisphere.

This is where Greenwich mean time originates and is the official starting point for each new day and year.

The girls and I were not that excited to see a museum and exhibit about 'time' but it was something hubs really wanted to do and as is so often the case, we ended up loving it.

A really interesting place to explore...this is the view as you near the Observatory and that's the the Royal Naval College in the background.

And then of course we had glorious sunshine on the boat ride back into the city. The bridge opened just for us as we were passing underneath...

Okay, maybe not just for us but it made for a perfect way to end the day.
Who says the sun never shines in London?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Take off your rainbow shades...

Switching continents for today's A-Z challenge post...
time to touch base with the good ole' US of A.

S is for Sedona
or Scottsdale...take your pick.

In a sense I think choosing a topic for the letter S was almost harder than some of the tricky letters still to come. Those tricky letters don't give you too many options but with the letter S the possibilities are endless.

I met hubs and some of his work colleagues/friends out in Scottsdale Arizona one December for a few days of R and R following a sales meeting. Hubs says every day is R and R when you're me, but I digress. I love the landscape out west so we're talking Arizona today.

Did anybody out there get my post title?
If you were born after 1980 forget it.
Unless of course you are one of my children and you've grown up knowing all the words to the music of the 1970's. The song has nothing to do with the state but is actually about a hippie girl named Arizona. As my daughter pointed out, it doesn't matter what the song is about because I only sing the chorus.

I've been out west fact, both of my parents were from 'out west', not Arizona but nearby states, and I lived in one of those states as a toddler. We made a few trips west when I was growing up too, to visit grandparents and cousins and I love the big sky and the mountains and the red rock.

Arizona in December was nice because it was warm during the day and cool in the evenings.

I do talk excessively about the weather, don't I?

This trip was eleven years ago yet here I am recalling the temperature.
Great weather can mean the difference between a great trip and a not so great trip ya know!

We were staying in Scottsdale but spent a day in Sedona and I thought it was beautiful.

On the way to Sedona we made a stop at Montezuma's Castle which is perched right into the side of a cliff. This amazing five story stone cliff dwelling at one time had about 20 rooms and as many as 50 people living inside. It was carved right into the limestone on a high cliff and you needed a series of ladders to reach it.

Just look at the color of that sky.

I read later that visitors used to be able to actually climb up there but that ended in 1950 due to extensive damage. Thank goodness because hubs, aka the mountain goat, would have been all over that. The 'castle' and area around it were declared a US National Monument back in the early 1900's and it is definitely worth a stop if you're in the area.

Once we got to Sedona we had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant called L'Auberge. L'Auberge is a luxury hotel in the desert and is a place I'd love to return to spend a weekend in one of their cabins on the creek. The setting is gorgeous.

We wandered around town and later took a jeep tour so we could get a closer look at some of the amazing rock formations.

The color is not like anything you see on the East Coast.
Most of them had names based on what they resemble and we might have had fun coming up with names of our own.

How would you like to go to church here?

This is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church that rises two hundred feet high in the red rocks. I don't think any regular services are held here but, the view...I am all about the view.

And the weather, but especially the view.
Would you look at that blue sky?

Another fun thing we did while in Arizona was a trail ride.
Hubs is always disappointed if they don't let him canter.
Once on a holiday in St. Lucia (see, there's another S) they let you run your horse across the beach if you wanted. They did not have to ask him twice.

Arizona looks nothing like St. Lucia.

I love all the cactus.
fyi-we do not have cactus growing in NJ.
They like it dry don't they?

Our guide was an adorable little cowgirl who warned us to keep an eye out for snakes...might make the horses skittish.


If you live out west do you ever stop noticing the sky?

We trekked up Camelback Mountain while we were in Scottsdale.
It was warm and we were not really dressed appropriately because I had a fleece on when we started out and was broiling by the time we made it back down.

It's actually a pretty good climb.
Do you see the teeny tiny blue speck in the middle of the bottom of the mountain?

That's a person.
She changed her mind about going any higher.

Changing your mind isn't an option when you're with the hubs.

Most of my A-Z posts have been focused on Europe because that's where we've spent most of our life and travel time in recent years. The more you travel the more you realize just how much there is to see in this world and how little you'll manage to get to in your lifetime.

Travel broadens your view of the world and of your own back yard. It connects you to people you'd probably never connect with in the course of an ordinary day. It makes you think. It makes you appreciative of the place you call home while simultaneously making you long for the places you've never been.

America is a beautiful country and its geography is so diverse from coast to coast. Each part of this great land offers something different in the way of food, language, custom, and natural beauty.

And I would like to see it all.