Monday, October 28, 2013

London -- Part VI: Last days

Thursday Brother Tom had an early flight home and D#2 stayed in our flat to work on a paper (due electronically shortly after the new year) and meet a friend who was coming in from Amsterdam, where she had studied for the past semester.  D#1, her BF, and I grabbed a double-decker bus and rode off to visit to Westminster Abbey, followed by a train ride to Cambridge to visit with D#1's BF's parents who now live there.

The chill, damp weather is almost visible in the photo I snapped of the nearby Parliament building with Big Ben.  

When I'd been here ten years ago, the Abbey had closed early for some event.  Even without this glitch, there is so much to see in this palpably sacred place that I was eager to spend some more time there, taking advantage of the now-available audio tour that ensured I missed none of the most important places, though I augmented the tour with plenty of just wandering about.

Looking through the ironwork fence:

Of course, I had to take a photo of the door leading to the "Librarian and Keeper of Muniments":

The statues above the Great West Door of the Abbey are of 20th century martyrs, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

At my request, D#1 and BF had headed off to the train station and Cambridge without me, as I was feeling quite sick by then.  By the time I left the Abbey some of the clouds had cleared and, looking toward Big Ben, the London Eye was visible.  

Taking my time walking back to our flat, I enjoyed the sights and sounds of this incredible city, with the "Shard" prominent in the skyline.

While the chill and damp had been ever-present during the trip, it was never really cold, so many places had blooming flowers.  I loved these pansies in window boxes outside a shop.

On Christmas Eve day, I had not joined the others on their excursion to Borough Market, but now I found myself nearby and happily discovered that many of the shops were open!   Had a lovely time poking around, buying a few things here and there -- including some yummy chicken curry that I had for dinner. 

Tucked it all into a great Borough Market reinforced burlap shopping bag that is now my first choice "go to" bag for my grocery shopping here at home.

An earlier screw-up on my part had meant that a planned Friday outing to the Victoria and Albert Museum with quilter-friend Judi of Canterbury had been cancelled.   Turns out it was just as well.  Friday I was sick.  Really sick.  Coughing-and-hacking-and-not-breathing-very-well sick.  There was nothing I could do but stay in the flat, rest, and start packing for the early Saturday morning trip to the airport.  However, through email, Judi had passed on enticing information from her husband that our flat was very close to London's last galleried coach inn, which was frequented by the likes of not only Charles Dickens but William Shakespeare himself!   So Friday evening, we four set off to find it!

As with so many places in London, when you look around a corner, there are wonderful surprises to be found.  That's how we discovered "The George Inn." 

We could only wander into the courtyard, as the Inn was booked for a private party, alas.  Some months later, I was able to return the favor by emailing Judi that the book, Shakespeare's Pub had been recently published in case her husband was interested.

Saturday morning came, and meant that D#1 and I had to be on our way to Heathrow.   D#2 and her classmate were going back to her flat at Queen Mary where they would meet my "German daughter" who had arrived in London the night before.   They planned to see in the new year together and go their separate ways early on New Year's Day, with D#2 and friend stopping over in Paris (sigh!) for two days, and arriving back in the states later that week. 

I was, predictably, sad to leave London.  In two trips there -- a decade apart -- I still had not visited a single palace!   And my museum time had been limited to half an hour or so at the National Gallery on the Friday I arrived!   Even so, we had managed to enjoy a number of activities in the available time, without rushing through them, which left me no regrets!  


I suppose I will have to return one day.  The next time I go to London, it will be in nicer weather, especially because I want to attend at least one production at Shakespeare's Globe, to visit Hampton Court Palace (D#2's favorite), to see the V&A (at least), to see London from the Eye (maybe), to take the train to Cambridge to see the Corpus Clock, and, perhaps, to visit friend Judi in Canterbury, with its historic cathedral.  

Can't be too soon for me. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I had planned to finish up with one or two non-quilty posts and, by then, dump the photos of the most recent from my camera's memory card so I could show all the finishes from the past few months. But somehow a "draft" got posted with photos and temporary text so, rather than take it all back, I just added the correct text to the pictures. 

Graduation quilt for D#1's boyfriend.  He's from Seattle, spent a semester in India, and went to school in Washington DC.   The quilt, called "Oh, the Places You've Been" is made up of fabrics representing these places and was quilted by my usual long-armer.

The back is pieced from yellow (his favorite color) polka dot fabric with a strip of green for his environmental studies degree.  There's also a scrap of London fabric relating to the time he spent with us there over Christmas, and a strip with the Canadian flag (a late addition since I didn't find it until the back had been pieced) because he was born in Canada.

Our hand-sewing group made baby quilts for the Baby Bureau as a summer project.  Nancy posted photos of them here.  I'd forgotten to take mine to the meeting, but had finished up three small projects that were in process when we'd decided on the summer goal.  All of these were quilted by me.

My personal challenge from a while back.

Center was from sample blocks from previous quilts, bordered with a lot of scrap 2 1/2" squares.

Yet another way to use the "V-blocks" which I made by the hundreds!

I didn't put a label on these but did embroider my initials on the corner of the backs. 

More posts (and quilts) to come.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

London -- Part V: Boxing Day

Boxing Day (December 26th) dawned, not unexpectedly, gray and dreary again.  On this day, public transportation was limited, but not absent, which slowed us only slightly as we were by now used to walking fair distances and were, fortunately, within a hike of much of the central city.  Our primary destination for the day was St. Paul's Cathedral, for many, itself the symbol of London.

The view as approached from the Millennium Bridge:

A large evergreen had been hung with weather-resistant decorations, marking the season.

In front of the entrance stands a statue of Queen Anne, the reigning monarch when the Cathedral was completed.

In keeping with my promise to D#2 to allow my picture to be taken whenever we visited a church, here I am with both daughters in front of St. Paul's.

I don't seem to have any photos of the interior, so I can only presume that photography was not allowed.   We explored the beautiful sanctuary on the main floor, with its mosaics, sculptures, and other art work (both old and quite modern), then climbed to the Whispering Gallery, which we (of course) tested to see if "it" worked.  ("It" did.)  From there, we ascended a long, tight, winding set of stairs to the "Stone Gallery", the highest outdoor viewing area that was open that day.  I confess it took me some time -- and several stops to catch my breath -- but I made it!   The bullet-shaped building just left of center in the photo below is one of the newer additions to the London skyline and is nicknamed the "Gherkin."  Need you ask why?

The triangle piercing the sky is another skyscraper, this one called, quite simply, the "Shard". 

In the distance you can see the circle of the London Eye, which we did not get to experience, in spite of discussion both of whether it was worth the cost and whether or not some of us (me) could deal with the height!   We never actually made a decision, but simply ran out of time slots in which to plan a "ride."

As with so many London churches, the undercroft area contained crypts and burial places, and, as one might expect because of the history and importance of St. Paul's, it was the resting place of many notables, including poet John Donne (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Christopher Wren (architect of medieval London), as well as military leaders, the Duke of Wellington and Horatio, Lord Nelson.  We were among the last to leave the cathedral, and I believe I still missed seeing some of the lower areas.

Night had fallen when we worked our way back past the cathedral on our way to the evening's entertainment.

Daughters had been up bright and early to try for student "rush" tickets to the hottest musical around.  Sold out for every performance, the theatre sold a handful of tickets to those with student ID's for a pittance -- I think it was around 10 pounds ($15 or so).   I doubted if they'd succeed -- after all, all the local students were home for the holidays, not to mention any visiting.  I was wrong.  They scored two of the scarce prizes.   Off they went to see "Matilda" -- especially appropriate since this was one of D#1's favorite books as a youngster and they'd both watched the movie multiple times on our VHS player. 

D#2's BF was staying in Cambridge for the holidays, as his parents now live there, so he had taken the train into London to explore with us several times.  He was staying over that night, so he, Brother Tom, and I went on a London Walks tour, exploring the sites connected with Jack the Ripper, a subject I'd been fascinated with for many years!   Almost nothing of Jack's day remains other than an open court area, but we walked in his footsteps, or in the path his carriage took, if, in fact, he traveled by carriage....  

Walking back to our hotel from the Tower Hill tube stop where our tour ended, we had a nighttime view of the lit-up Tower of London. 

Of course, we took a few minutes to stop in a pub on the way back to the hotel, and raise a pint to quench our thirst!  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


When I get my act together (no breath-holding, please!), I hope to do a couple of posts with actual writing.  Want to finish up my London trip, and put up a few photos of subsequent travel.  Till then, here are some of the quilts I've finished and photographed.
The pattern for the main part of the quilt below became known as "The Quilt From Hell" as it flummoxed blog-free Honna, one of our White Oak Group, a while back.  Consequently, I gave her some small assistance so she could finish the large one she was making as a gift.  I just knew that, with the right fabrics (contrast, contrast, contrast), it would be lovely.   Last year, I decided to make it in purples and pansies for D#2's "new" room.  (We've only been in our house 3 years now...).  When I asked Honna if I could borrow the pattern, she graciously rescued the pattern from the trash and gave it to me for keeps!  I lengthened so it would fit D#2's bed and designed the pieced borders, using actual math!  Unfortunately, when I started to put them together, I discovered that my "actual" math was wrong.  I therefore named the borders "the borders from Hades"!   But, when it was FINALLY completed, I was mostly happy with it!   Size is a touch small to be the generous bedspread I wanted, but it still covers the mattress and box spring.

An office colleague has two daughters, each of whom announced in January that he would be a grandfather!  Their due dates were just one week apart and the babies' actual birthdates were back-to-back!  "Standard issue" baby quilts for both!   His favorite color is orange, so a nod to granddad on both bindings.

The organization "Quilts for Kids" hosted the Philly Modern Quilt Guild for a sew-in a while back.  I went along as the guest of my friend, Bobbi.  There I started putting together a pre-cut kit of fun Laurel Burch cat fabrics.  Finally finished it so it could be returned to QfK.  This photo was taken before I added some additional quilting, per the organization's request. 

Years ago, a pattern called "Pointless Wonder" was floating about -- one of those stack-and-slash patterns where end up with all the fabrics mixed up in each block.   Not long after 9/11, I'd made one in red, white, and blue, one of many delivered to the families of the firefighters killed that day.  

Last fall, I brought to a close (temporarily at least) my relationship with a therapist who had seen me through the worst of my "annis-es horriblis-es".   I wanted to make her a "parting gift," so to speak). I decided this pattern, with stars whose points were all chopped off, would be appropriate, partially as a representation of my struggle to break free of my perfectionistic attitudes. I chose the fabrics because she and I share the favorite color of purple, she works with many women, hence the pink, and green is the color of growth.  Thought I'd call it "Perfect Points are for Perfect People", but that was way too long, so I settled on just Pointless Wonder, and included a note about the rejected name as well as the color scheme. 

The last of my purple trio -- a free pattern from Susan Mallery called "Land of Happy Endings." Oddly, though I am known for my love of purple and I own a ton of fabric in those tones, I'd never made a purple quilt!   Then, for a while, I had three in progress -- the purple pansies for D#2, PW for T, and this one.... just because.  Currently a quilt with no owner, it was made of scraps, with the yellow and white 9-patches my leader-ender project for some time.  I was so excited when I found that polka dot border fabric!  You may be able to see it more closely if you click on the photo.   

I've already had a couple of offers to take it off my hands....

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wrapping up Day Zero (for now at least)

Over three months ago, I posted the last monthly update about my Day Zero (101 things in 1001 days) project.  I started DZ just a few months after moving into my "new" house, and right after my younger daughter graduated from high school, starting on July 1, 2010 and ending on March 29, 2013, presuming I counted the days correctly.  I had a lot of life-revising to do back then.  Sort of like re-starting your computer from scratch.  A "cold boot" in [old-fashioned] computer terms.

I knew I needed to create structure in my new life, hence "newfutureahead" (this blog was one of my 101 things) so the ready-made structure of the Day Zero Project was appealing.  I fashioned my list to combine a "to do" list, a few "bucket list"-type projects, and a number of aspirational goals, as well as a couple of things I hoped to do often enough to become a habit.

After I jotted down a number of ideas, I found that my best approach was to categorize them.  During my 1001 days, I completed all 8 that were labelled "Financial/Legal", all 4 "Entertainment" (I surpassed my number of books to read and movies to watch relatively early in the process), and finished all but one of the 9 "Family and Friends" goals.  The last of those was to help D#1 get her driver's license which didn't fall inside the deadline, but has since been accomplished!  

Only 18 of my goals remained untouched at the close of the project!  Almost half that number, in "Home Improvement" or "Recreation," were not undertaken because of physical or financial limitations.  The rest were mostly "Education/Self-Development", though there were two unstarted quilts in "Hobbies" and one entry under "Charitable/Religious" that was never available to me within the time frame.  I made some degree of progress on 6 other goals, mostly related to "Health," on which I know I need more focus.

Overall, DZ was a positive experience for me, helping me to do just what I set out to do: get specific things done while remaking my life in a larger sense.   I'm beginning to put together a list for a follow-up DZ project, to begin at some unspecified future date.  About a third of that list will be the unfinished (and un-begun) items from DZ1, along with a number of actions that I want to keep doing actively.  With my younger daughter beginning her senior year of college in about 5 weeks, there will be more re-structuring to do before long. 

For the one or two of you who read here, my blog isn't going away.  I hope to do some catch up posts that are travel- or quilt-related, and then to try to be more regular in posting.   See you soon!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Progress report: month 33 (March 2013)

Last month of my Day Zero project.  Counted down the days as I went.

71. Finish t-shirt quilt for D#1
72. Finish quilt for D#2's bed
80. Updated quilt photo albums
90. Finished reading Psalms for Lent

7,26,28,33,99,101. Kept up to date.
48. Watched 6 movies:
      Quartet (theatre)
      Poison Ivy
      About last night...
      The reading room
      Call the midwife (season 1)
49. Finished 4 books:
     The book of air and shadows (Michael Gruber) [audio]
     Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
     Ship fever (Andrea Barrett)
     Left neglected (Lisa Genova) [audio]
Extra quilts: finished binding baby quilt for A's new grandson, got two back from long-armer ("Pointless wonder" & "Land of happy endings")

Will do a wrap up post on the whole experience. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

London -- Part IV: Christmas Day

On Christmas Day in London, there is no public transportation.  No buses, no Tube.  There may be taxis, but otherwise, if you don't have your own car, you walk.  Almost all retail establishments, including restaurants, are also closed.   Some serve Christmas Dinner, but require reservations well in advance and are generally quite expensive.  A few weeks before our visit, D#2 informed me that she had arranged a surprise for Christmas Day dinner.  She noted that we would have to walk (quite do-able from our hotel) and we would eat at mid-day rather than in the evening. She also mentioned that there would be a Christmas Day service first.   Sounded just fine to me at the time, but, given that we had missed Christmas Eve services, when Christmas Day dawned, I was very pleased that we would have a church service to attend.

It was raining (no surprise) when D#2 led us across Tower Bridge to All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the City of London.  All Hallows site has held a religious institution since the 7th century when it held a Saxon monastery.  In the intervening times, among other roles in history, the church had been where they took the bodies of those executed on Tower Green.  Samuel Pepys had watched the Great Fire of London from its tower in 1666.  The church itself had been damaged heavily in the Blitz (actually, this was common in several places we visited) and rebuilt thereafter. 

Not only does All Hallows have an American connection, it has a Pennsylvania connection, and even a Philadelphia one!  Here is where John Quincy Adams and his wife were married and William Penn was baptized!  And Christ Church, Philadelphia is its "sister church."

The church is Church of England, but the service thankfully included a few carols that were familiar to us, Lutherans though we are.

(photo from website)

After the service, more sparsely attended than in the above picture, all who were there -- or who wandered in at any time -- were invited to stay for Christmas Dinner!   The more-than-reasonable suggested donation was to go to the food banks for Tower Hamlet, one of the poorer areas of the city.   No one was turned away even if they didn't donate, and I suspect many others, like us, gave more.

The verger gave us a brief tour of the Undercroft area.  There we saw a section of tesselated Roman flooring from the 2nd century which was found during renovation along with other historical artifacts from the intervening centuries.  When we came back to the main floor, we found the area at the side of the sanctuary was set with folding tables.  "White or red?" was the question and our first glasses of wine were poured (with many to follow).  All the guests claimed seats, we sang grace to the tune of "Frere Jacques", and serving began.

At each place was a Christmas cracker, quite the novelty for us Yanks.  But we pulled them, found our toy and donned our paper hats!   Salad, rolls, turkey, gravy, potatoes, parsnips, and much more that I can't remember!   Oh yes, and more wine...

My best guess is that there were 50 people at dinner.  With guests from Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Croatia, Netherlands, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. (and maybe I missed someplace), it was like having lunch with the United Nations!    We chattered about why we were in London, for how long, etc., as well as about what a typical Christmas dinner would be at our homes, and what our other holiday customs were. 

As we had our dessert (Christmas pudding, of course), the verger took our his guitar and led us in singing a variety of Christmas songs.  It was mid-afternoon before we helped to clear the tables, fold and put away the tables and chairs. 

By the time we began our walk back to the hotel, the rain had stopped and it was almost dusk.  At dinner, the Vicar had asked me what the highlight had been for me during this trip.  I described him how much I loved visiting the Tower of London and soaking up the history there.  But, in fact, I told him, Christmas Day dinner at All Hallows had been more memorable and meaningful than anything else I had experienced (or hoped to experience) during this trip.   What a truly wonderful and unique event!

We owe our thanks to the chaplain at Queen Mary University, Jenny, who had informed D#2 about this welcoming place and their annual meal!    I must remind D#2 to email her with our deepest gratitude.