Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning began with a very dark day. We were all "snug in our beds", none of us heard Tyler open his door and go downstairs. What awoke me was a loud "ripppp", the sound of wrapping paper being torn off a gift. I quickly ran to the top of the stairs and looked down. There was Tyler, sitting on the couch with a present. He held it up and cried, "Look-it!" very excitedly. I woke Julie up, and she stumbled downstairs, barely awake to watch Tyler open the rest of the gifts. He was quick and efficient.

He had lots of fun playing, got into his stocking chocolate. By mid-morning he and Julie were exhausted, curled up in front of the fire on this dark yet cozy Christmas morn:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Bathroom Remodel, Part IV - Finished!

We actually finished the bathroom completely several months ago, but I only today got around to taking photos:

The new towel bar/shelf, and a view of one of two "Toilet Boys" we have in our bathrooms - cute craft items my mom made long ago.

A view of both the medicine chest and the towel bar/shelf.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Last night I had the awesome and totally fun experience of singing The Messiah with the combined choirs from my church (St. Joseph's) and another one in a suburb just north of us. The other church (Faith, Hope, and Charity Catholic Church) hosted the concert and arranged the orchestra (including a harpsichord!). With two church choirs combined we had a very large ensemble. We presented highlights from Handel's work (the whole work in its entirety is around 3 hours, so ours was trimmed *a bit*). I had sung the Hallelujah Chorus before, but nothing else, so needed to learn several more pieces.

It was so much fun, and so moving.
Best parts:
  • Singing newer music with only a few mistakes.
  • Working with our two fabulous choir directors: Christian from FHC, who conducted, and Jill from St. Joe's, who played the organ.
  • Realizing that people actually do stand up, in the manner of King George II, when the Hallelujah Chorus is performed (If I had known, I would have warned Paul and Kristin, who came to see us and were a little confused when everyone stood up!).
  • Singing as a gathering of Christians, as one voice in praise of God.
  • The end, when all was done, and I was trembling from effort and holding back tears of joy at being a part of this.

What a wonderful way to experience Advent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Resuscitating A Wooly Blankie

This is a tale about my grandson's blanket:

It is a well-loved blanket that he has been devoted to since he was a baby. We tried to replace it with a similar one, but he still prefers "Old Ooo-Ooo" (his name for the blanket - he used to make this ooo-ooo-ooo monkey noise while hugging it, so we began calling it Ooo-Ooo, which is now its rightful name!).

However, Ooo-Ooo was in a pitiful state, near death really. His (and Ooo-Ooo is a he, according to Tyler) backing had completely separated from the seam joining it to the soft wooly top. The edges were ravelled, so the backing was now smaller than the top. Julie had safety pinned it back together, which wasn't working too well and caused some holes to form. So as a nurse, I decided to do some emergency surgery and resuscitation to see if I could bring poor Ooo-Ooo back from the brink. After scrubbing in (a gentle washing of the two parts of him in the Delicate cycle), I began.

First, in Ooo-Ooo's first of several surgical procedures, I excised (trimed off) the ravelled edges and sutured (patched) the holes. I didn't want the patches to be on the outside, because Tyler loves the soft backing. So I patched from the back, and then zig-zagged the openings of the holes so they would no longer ravel, leaving as much of the backing intact as possible in spite of the odd shapes this produced:

Next, I surgically removed (cut with scissors) the old seam off, in order to make the top and bottom the same size and not be bulky at the edges:

I basted the top to the backing, then sewed white satin blanket binding to the edges to finish them off nicely (plus Julie, his mommy, loved the the satin edging on her blankets when she was his age).
Ooo-Ooo had a quick recovery from the trauma his surgeries inflicted. Here he is, resting on the couch, regaining his strength (and it is impossible in this house to recover from anything without a cat):

Of course, it wasn't long before he was pressed into service again with the blessing of his surgeon. No rest for the weary. But I think Ooo-Ooo is happy to have not been given up on. His owner is surely happy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

London Final Day - Going Home

To sum it all up, this was one of the nicest trips ever. I am so glad I could share this experience with Kristin. We both had a marvelous time, saw amazing sights, met new friends, and enjoyed each other's company. I would love to go to London again, and this time with my whole family. I know Paul would simply love it, the gardens the palaces and the museums - he would be in heaven. My dream now is for our family to save up enough so that we can all go together, including little Tyler of course! I am so grateful to Jennie Chancey of Sense & Sensibility Patterns for making this trip possible for Kristin and me.

The View From The Plane - Homeward We Go

London Wednesday - Greenwich

Wednesday, our last full day in London, found us traveling to Greenwich. There we toured the tiny but beautiful Fan Museum, home to some of the most gorgeous historic fans you will ever see:

Here is a little cat that we made friends with after the tour (he and his buddy, the big, orange cat, tried to sneak into our tea later on):

Here is a view of Greenwich, taken from the top of the hill where the Royal Astronomical Observatory and the zero degree longitude mark is:

Here is Kristin, with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and one foot in the western hemisphere:

After touring the Observatory, we ambled down the huge hill to The Queen's House, which once was a royal residence but now houses nautical paintings. To be honest, we found this to be a little ho-hum, but the view back up the hill was very nice from the veranda:

After a few hours of touring Greenwich, we returned to the Fan Museum to have tea in their Orangery. This was one of the most beautiful tea houses I have ever had the privilege to be in. The walls were covered in trompe l'oeil paintings, so it was as if we were out on an open veranda:

I am over to the far left, wearing my Romantic Gown

The ceiling - breathtaking

The view to the outside

The garden

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

London Tuesday Evening - London Museum, Fabric Shopping, and Dinner

After our lunch, we went to the London Museum. This was primarily to see their costume collection, but we had time to explore the museum as well while we waited for our group's turn. Then we went downstairs to a special room where Hilary showed us an array authentic historic clothing from various eras. I cannot post photos of these beautiful garments, however, because this is against museum policy. To sum up the highlights in a few words though, we saw some divine creations, awesome embroidery, a bonnet actually owned and worn by Queen Victoria herself, and an Edwardian gown that was so beautiful and intricate, I don't think it could be duplicated.

After this, a small group of us decided to go fabric shopping at MacCulloch and Wallis. This was fun. It is very old-fashioned and it is housed in three stories of the building. There were some lovely muslins there that I was tempted to buy, but instead settled on some charming bias binding that was so unique and pretty, I couldn't resist:

Here is a part of a hanging basket outside the shop:

And here I am, belatedly mailing postcards home from a charming mailbox:

To end our evening, our group went to dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub. It was great food at a cheap price, but seating is limited. However, two nice gentlemen took pity on us and let us borrow their booth so we could eat. It was a nice dinner and a good chance to get to know our fellow travelers better.

London Tuesday Afternoon - Tea At The Orangery

After touring Kensington Palace, we went to The Orangery for lunch. We had a beautiful space in a rotunda, all white with orange trees on the table:

Then Catherine Hay from Your Wardrobe Unlockd, came and gave a talk about making one's "Holy Grail" costume. She dispalyed her Holy Grail gown, a copy of a Worth gown that she worked on for a monumental number of hours. One lucky young lady in our group, who had followed the construction and progress of this gown online, got to model the gown for us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

London Tuesday Morning - Kensington Palace

Our Tuesday started with Kensington Palace. The gardens were spectacular:

Inside, we saw gorgeous gowns, including many of Princess Diana's. Here are some gowns formerly worn by 1950's debutantes:

There was also an "Etiquette Room", where there were interactive displays to learn how to behave properly in the Queen's presence. For example, we learned how to walk a straight line balancing a book on our heads, how to waltz, how to set a proper table, and there was even a short video on how to correctly curtsy to the Queen (and I practiced with the video, but alas, did not meet the Queen!). There was this sign too, on how to tie a bow tie:

Here are some interior shots of the palace:

And here I am!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

London Monday Night - As You Like It

On Monday night we had the great privilege of seeing As You Like It performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. In spite of tired and wounded feet, we did go through with our plan to be "groundlings" and view the play standing in front of the stage. What fun! We were back against the wall for the seat, so could lean, and many of the actors walked right past us as they left the stage.

The acting was marvelous. We especially liked Jacques and Touchstone, who played their characters with such interesting interpretations and humor. Did we laugh! It was such a joyful time.

Afterwards, elated by our awesome Shakespeare experience, we walked home past the Thames and over the bridge to return to our hotel. Here was the view:

(I want to go back...please let me go back!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 6 - Monday at V&A and Suzi's!

Monday was our first big historical fashion day, plus our planned night out at The Globe for As You Like It. We were concerned because the previous night Kristin's ankle was seriously hurting her. I was afraid she'd be laid up for the day or worse. So I ran out to a pharmacy and got an ankle brace, some Arnica (an herbal ointment for brusing and swelling), and some little blister pads (we both also had blisters). We called room service at the hotel for ice. This was amazing: the ice arrive within five minutes, carried on a tray in one hand by a uniformed hotel employee, and the rooms in our hotel had doorbells (how neat!). So he rang the bell and presented us with our elegant ice delivery! We did the whole RICE routine (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) for the ankle, and I gave Kristin some Motrin for the pain and swelling. So we stayed in, ordered room service, and watched a movie. In spite of the calamity, it was fun.

By Monday morning, with the treatment we had done and plenty of rest, Kristin was doing much better. Aylwen (one of the two charming Australian ladies that made the trip very enjoyable) offered Kristin her ankle brace, which was much easier to move in, so we were all set to go.

We started at the Victoria and Albert Museum with our guide, Suzi Clarke. What a beautiful museum. We saw historical art, sculpture, furnishings, plateware, and jewelery, along with some Beatrix Potter original drawings. We also got to look at their study table collections - textiles preserved in glasss frames and catalogued. We were able to take whichever frames out we wanted and view them close up. I would have been happy to spend even more time there. There was just so much to see.

Here are some photos:

An actual foyer of a house, transported to the museum. Look at that inlaid wood.

The fireplace

The ceiling

Here is the photo of the house it was taken from. Silly me, I can't remember the name. But I love the picture and the foyer. It reminds me of the house in the movie The Others.

An example of the embroidery that can be viewed in the textile section. There were lambs (above), hedgehogs, and mice. So cute!

The entire display frame. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous embroidery.

After V&A, half of our group went over to Suzi's house. Suzi is Suzi Clarke , a London historical costumier and historical expert that we were incredibly lucky to meet. I have known Suzi through the Sense & Sensibility sewing forum, but never met or talked to her in real life. She graciously opened her home to us and shared garments from her collection for us to see and examine. Then she treated us to a "proper English tea", with delicious scones (that I am going to attempt to make myself tomorrow). Suzi gave us all sorts of pointers on costume construction and history.
It was a most educational day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

London Day 5 - Kew Gardens

A Sunday in the park - Kew Gardens. How completely lovely. We are avid Botanical Garden admirers, having the Chicago Botanical Garden 20 minutes from our home. I must admit that in spite of how gorgeous our Botanical Gardens are here at home, the British are one up on us in that regard. See below:

The conservatory - stunning

Inside the conservatory, on the spiral staircase


An English Rose

Cedar of Lebanon

Kew Palace

Kristin on the grounds of the palace

Me at the Wishing Well

Kristin in the gazebo

A Wheeping Beech Tree

Inside the Wheeping Beech - it was a completely sheltered and enclosed space. Oh, to be a child again and play in there, what fun we would have!

Holly boughs and berries - and it's not even Christmas yet!

We weren't sure what this plant was; there was no label, but it looked neat.

Swans, swans I tell you, right there in the garden

I have no idea what this bird is. Does anyone know? We loved his fern-like feet.

Kristin by the flowers. At this point, after walking miles and miles in the garden (and actually getting semi-lost - HELP!), our feet were killing us.

Me with sore feet

We thought the town was charming.

In spite of sore feet, we enjoyed our day at the garden and would recommend it to anyone travelling to London. I would love to go there in the spring because they have rhododendron plants there that are enormous. I can just imagine how beautiful they look in bloom.