Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holiday Trip to London

Well, I have a few funny things to share with you. Christmas was delightful, though I was on call. The kids ask for funny things these days: Lucas wanted a Hazmat suit for a video, and Drew wanted a multimeter...well, he is in Engineering so I guess that's not funny.

I bought for myself the Alabama Chanin Swing Skirt Bundle that goes with the Craftsy class that I didn't need, but bought because I wanted to hear Natalie talk about sewing some more.

So after Christmas, the school band and chorus took a trip to London to march in the New Year's Day parade there...

which we have surmised is a money-making scheme for the charities of London to raise money from US families who come to watch their kids march in a parade where the spectators are all family members of marchers! I'm sure that's not really the case, but we met a native Londoner who was going to watch a different parade entirely, and we studied the list of "international" performers to discover that the only act NOT from the US was a group of baton-twirling dancers from Italy. And of course there were the equivalent of Shriner's funny cars and stuff like that from local clubs in London...

but the dancers from Colombia? Just a Colombian social club from London. The Chinese dragon dancers? The local Chinese interest group from London. At any rate, Lucas said it was the best thing he's ever done, with a huge crowd stretching for 2.2 miles, so we won't tell him. It was actually the first parade his school has ever marched in, which should be a clue right there that this is not the Rose Bowl Parade!

So to start at the beginning, we get to the hotel and everyone's just laid out across chairs and the floor in the conference room where we're based because the jet lag is so bad, and the coordinator starts handing out room keys. We're not called till the very end, and the coordinator tells us we have a temporary room because our real room was "soiled by a disabled person," and they're cleaning the rug thoroughly, but we can't get in it until after dinner. Ummmm, okay. So we go to a tiny room to wait an hour for dinner, but we can't unpack or anything. I decide that a room that's required a rug cleaning isn't going to be ideal, so I ask at dinner about having another room. The coordinator assures me they use so many chemicals that we could eat off the floor. She sends us off with our new key after dinner to move to our new freshly cleaned room. Well, as soon as I walked in, I was hit with the overwhelming smell of poo. This was not a cute baby-diaper leaking onto the floor, this was apparently a full adult bowel evacuation all over the carpet from the door to the beds. And not only that, when I stepped into the bathroom, I left brown watery footprints on the tile floor! Unbelievable! We went back down to the front desk where I tried to convey the direness of the situation with words like "reeking" and "suffocating," but the manager said all she could do was move us to another room tomorrow afternoon. She did give us 3 free drink coupons while Housekeeping went to spray some air freshener and open the window, but they didn't cover the hard liquor I wanted, only beer and wine.

So that night, we wore shoes between the beds and bathroom, kept the suitcases away from the wet area, and slept with the window open. The next afternoon while everyone else was doing an audio tour of the palaces and Parliament, we were moving to another room and unpacking. And by that point, the smell had seeped into the hallway, so they actually sent more housekeeping people up to clean the carpet again.

One other outrageous event was that we were supposed to pick up tickets for the grandstand where we'd watch the parade on New Year's Day at breakfast that morning. When I went to get them, the coordinator told me I picked them up the night before. I told her that I didn't, because we were out at a lovely Indian restaurant enjoying a New Year's Eve dinner that Dean had booked,

then we watched fireworks from the banks of the Thames before coming back after midnight. She told me someone had picked them up for us, which also wasn't true. Turns out, everyone wanted their tickets early, so she just handed them out willy nilly, since she thought adults could be responsible and only take what they were supposed to. Apparently someone had friends in France who wanted to see the parade, so they took a couple of extra! Luckily another mom remembered who it was, and we spent the next hour tracking them down. It doesn't sound very dramatic in retrospect, but after the room incident, I had a bad moment where I declared that we would board a plane for the States if we weren't able to watch Lucas in the parade. After all that, it became the running joke that we had the worst luck of anyone in the group.

And speaking of bad luck, I came down with a horrible cough and sinusitis to the point that I stayed in bed instead of going to the Arsenal-Chelsea football game the night before we flew back.

On the flight back, I couldn't clear my ears - has that ever happened to you? It's the worst upon landing, so I'm sitting there madly swallowing and blowing my nose, twitching all the while as it feels like I'm being stabbed in the ears and around my face, and holding a napkin in case my eardrums rupture, all while slowly going deaf. It turns out they didn't rupture, but they did hemorrhage to the point the left one will need surgery if it doesn't clear up in a few weeks, and I remain slightly hearing-impaired. Nice.

This is Winston Churchill's chair in the cigar shop he frequented, and they let just anyone sit in it! See the indentation in the back of it?

But the funniest story is about the fabric store. I wanted to go to The Berwick Street Cloth Shop because I Googled it and it carries exotic fabrics for plays and movies. The reviews were good, and there were no red flags, but Dean insisted on going with me since it was a fair walk from where we were. Well, there's construction in the area, so there's a bit of a tunnel with a sign that says Berwick Street is open and go this way. I did notice the large poster of shirtless men before I saw the name of a store we were walking past, which I can't type here (okay, it was Hot Squirt, sorry), and it occurred to me that we were in the redlight district. Then the posters changed from shirtless men to pantsless men and naked ladies, then the stores changed from products you could buy to, ahem, "services" you could purchase. Dean realized this before I did and stopped walking, calling out my name to get me to stop, but I was plowing right on through with my mouth hanging open. He apparently saw that it appeared to be a dead-end, but I was noticing that normal-looking people were coming our way, and obviously not from these shops, so I assumed there was an exit somewhere ahead, which there was indeed. This prompted a discussion of my gullibility and naivete, but I maintain that I researched the store and knew right where I was going, although I was mighty glad to have Dean and Drew with me. We didn't get any pics of anything, sadly, and when I google-map it now and do a street view, those posters are not in place and there's no hint of seediness! I will, therefore, be leaving a warning about it on Yelp or somewhere in case other women get scared off. Oh, here's a beautiful jersey knit I bought and am making a tunic from:

Also, here is a cowl I made from some hand-dyed yarn my sister gifted me for Christmas:

And I'll leave you with a bit of Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the choral finale of the New Year's Day parade group, performed in Westminster Central Hall. Lucas is 3rd row up, 2nd boy from the left.

I will say it was a fantastic trip and amazing to hear them sing in places like Southwark Cathetral and the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral...illegally. Maybe we need some video of that:

While they were making the travel arrangements, the choir director asked if they could perform inside, and they said no. He asked if they could perform on the steps, and they said no. So apparently while we were touring (they were already dressed in tuxes for another performance), he just told them to run up and sing one song. The crowd and the security guard didn't seem to mind!

Hope you had a great Christmas and that you're avoiding the flu epidemic!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

5th Annual GCGSW!

Oops, I thought it was #6, but it's just #5. So this year we added Edith, who's a prolific knitter, but we missed Katrina, who couldn't make it. And Nancy and Edith couldn't stay Saturday night, so they came Friday night to start the festivities early! And, no, once that bottle was open, there was no sewing, just talking on the porch until 1:30 AM! (There may have been a second bottle involved.)

We all woke up without headaches, and everyone else arrived, and the big new dish this year was Heidi's Thai chicken salad, which was a-MAZ-ing! Here's just the vegetable noodles made with a Spiralizer, which I shall be buying forthwith.

And here's with the yummy sauce and chicken added. We ate every bit of it.

On to crafting, Nancy made tassels, and Heidi's perusing her tassel-making tool in the background.

Heidi brought her loom and showed us how it worked. She's weaving pieces to sew together for a top!

Nancy contemplates the vintage bell-pull she was working on with crewel work.

Yaffa and Robbie discuss deep issues, while Edith knits and Becky sews.

This is some jewelry Yaffa made using polymer clay...

and beads, sadly out of focus but stunning in person.

Yaffa nearly finished this doll outfit,

and Robbie cut out a top then worked on her Alabama Chanin dress.

And this is Becky's paper-pieced project, with a tutorial she shared.

I finished a dishcloth and started a sweater that may or may not work out, but I'm not worried about it, because I had a relaxing weekend with cool friends who do fascinating crafts, and cook really good food. Thanks to everybody for bringing all the food and doing all the cooking! Katrina, we definitely missed your signature cocktails! Hopefully you can make it next time, and Pam, I fully expect you next year! Let me know if you're planning a Gulf Coast trip!

Fall Update of Family Stuff

So September is the month that Lucas went viral with his YouTube channel taking silly pictures like this (of him, not me) and making an 8-second video at the Battleship. Want to remember this moment when he hits it big.

And Drew brought Camille home for a 3-day weekend, which made me feel special, because when your kids choose to spend time with you at this age, it means a lot.

I went to Chicago with my college roommates for our big 50th birthday weekend. Everybody arranged one outing or meal, so we did some diverse things like touring a famous recording studio where the Rolling Stones and I think Muddy Waters worked.

This was our view from the apartment we rented...

and we did Bobby's Bike Hike to the zoo and around a bunch of neighborhoods.

Let's pause for a beautiful dress my friend wore hosting the Greekfest Gala. I love it - it's like confetti on ice cream!

And Drew showed up on TV when Auburn played somebody - Jake even started barking at him when I yelled, "There's Drew!"

So in October my mom and I flew up to Fort Knox to see my sister Tracey and BIL Joe.

Apparently there are deer all over the base that come out at dusk.

Would you believe there are 4 deer in this picture?!

And Joe took us for a ride in his cool convertible.

One other thing we did was groove with Misty Tripoli's CD's I brought. Mother declined to participate, but did provide video evidence of the shimmying.

Then it was back to work, bleh, and we were Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for Halloween...well, just 5 dwarves, but we walked all over the building asking people if they'd seen the other 2 - such a hoot! ("I think Queasy's in the lab.")

Next up was that I knit a sweater using a book of edgings to make hearts around the sleeves and bottom.

Wore it one day and laid on the couch against something sharp, which cut an actual hole in my yarn - arghhhhh!!!!

So then Drew turned 21 and we went to Auburn to see the Georgia game and take him out for a birthday dinner.

It was an amazing game, if you watched it, and we had great seats in the end zone.

And this is what we found when we finished dinner and walked down to Toomer's Corner.

Finally up is Thanksgiving with everybody coming here. Tracey tried out some new hardware on my hair.

Yes, lovely!

And Camille provided beautiful flowers for a centerpiece, plus she and Drew polished all the silver - yay! Tracey made place cards with "fun facts" on the back about each person, most of which were outright lies, but were funny.

Dean made his signature shrimp remoulade.

Here's a little bit of the spread.

We played some game that I forgot the name of, plus had a fire in the backyard, and lots of good times practicing for a big Dr. Fun performance at the hospital. Thanks to all the teenagers drafted to dance with me...and Joe, who danced briefly!

So that was our Fall roundup, and next up will be the 6th annual GCGSW - stay tuned!