Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Floozie in the Jacuzzi

During our married life, AJ and I have moved house ten times and lived in six different parts of the UK. One of our moves was to the Midlands where we lived a few miles from Birmingham. This is a city of great cultural diversity and we have always loved it. Even though we now live in the south west, we often travel up to the city and enjoy visiting some of our old haunts. Things have changed a great deal in the twenty five years since we lived there, but we still love the vibrancy and the energy of the city.

Birmingham Town HallBirmingham has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the UK. The Council House, built in the 1870s, is the home of Birmingham City Council and houses the council chamber, the Lord Mayor’s suite, committee rooms and an ornate banqueting suite with minstrels’ gallery. The exterior balcony on the first floor is now often used by winning sports teams to address the celebrating crowds who gather below in Victoria Square.

Victoria square is considered the centre of the city and the point from where road sign distances are measured. The central water feature in the square, The River, was designed by Dhruva Mistry who won an international design competition. It depicts a bronze statue of a reclining woman basking in the surrounding water.The RiverThis is the largest sculpture in the square, and is now more affectionately known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

But a visit to Birmingham isn’t complete without a little retail therapy and a trip to the commercial centre called The Bull Ring. This has been an important part of Birmingham since the Middle Ages when, in 1159, a local landowner obtained a charter to run a textile market there. Today The Bull Ring shopping centre is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom. BullringAt the main entrance stands The Guardian, a nearly two and a half metre tall bronze sculpture of a turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. The Guardian, or more commonly known as Brummie the Bull, has become a very popular photographic feature for visitors to Birmingham, and every time I visit the Bull Ring there are always hoards of people surrounding the sculpture. It is strangely beautiful and rather cute.

After a busy morning’s shopping, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet. One of the nicest places to relax is at the Edwardian Tea Room, housed in the nearby Museum and Art Gallery. The tea room not only offers some delicious cakes to go with a nice refreshing cup of tea, but original paintings adorn the walls and offer some food for the soul. We never visit the city without wandering the hallowed halls of the Art Gallery and taking a look at their wonderful Pre-Raphaelite collection. They have a large collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones, but it’s a painting by another Edward I’m always interested in viewing. Night Leading the Stars HomeNight Leading the Stars Home, by Edward Robert Hughes, is one of my all time favourite paintings and I have a poster of it in my bedroom. Sadly, this trip the painting was in the archives, but I was able to leave my contact details with the information desk who will inform me when the painting is on display again. Ah well, any excuse for another visit 🙂

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Orchids

P1030048My first Orchid was a corsage my father bought me when I finished the 8th grade. Back then there was only one high school so leaving our small country school was a big deal. A graduation was even held. There weren’t many orchid corsages and I remember feeling very special.

Until a few years ago I didn’t give orchids much thought except for a corsage. Then a friend brought me a plant. I was amazed at how long the blooms lasted and how hardy the plant was. And, how very much I enjoyed it.

Recently I purchased two for the new house. P1030047The yellow one I had intended to put in my bathroom but it ended up on the table. So of course I still needed one for the bathroom and bought the purple one. I can see myself getting addicted to these spectacular flowers.

When I went online to learn a little more about them I was surprised to find we get vanilla from orchids. I love the smell of vanilla. Pure vanilla extract can be pricey but so worth the price.

You’d think their beauty alone would be enough but I surprised to find that parts of the flower are used to create medications for various diseases and illnesses including arthritis, eczema, earache, hepatitis and a number of other conditions.

I’m hooked and plan to keep one (or more) in the house at least during their season. I didn’t have any luck with getting my first one to re-bloom so we’ll see how I do with these two.

Book Review – Tree Soldier by J. L. Oakley

treesoldierTree Soldier is a very interesting look at a time (1935) when America was struggling to recover from the depression. I think the whole world was. With unemployment over 25%, not many people could find work. Thus was born the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), which both promoted the conservation of our natural resources and put young men to work. Many of these men sent their checks home to support parents, siblings, and anyone in their families.

The men of the CCC built forest roads and bridges, fought forest fires, and planted trees, among other things. They also finished or extended their schooling and were held to strict moral standards.

Tree Soldier is the story of Park Hardesty, a boy who grew into manhood in the CCC. Park is a quiet man with his own ghosts that need laid to rest. And one who catches the eye of Kate Alford, who is trying to convince the CCC there’s a place for women in their ranks.

I’ll admit to a personal interest in this story since it’s set in my home state of Washington. Generally, I’m more focused on the characters than the historical significance of the story. I’m all about the relationships in stories I read and there were a couple places I wanted a bit more on Park and Kate, but even this finishes strong.

Tree Solder seemed so well-researched and so steeped in history, I felt fully immersed in the time. It actually made me strike up conversations with my parents about that post-depression era and I appreciate that.

I understand there may be a prequel coming out and I’ll be standing in line to pick it up when it does.

Here’s the author’s website if you’d like to read further: Janet Oakley

Slop’s On! by Valerie J. Patterson

My mom is an excellent cook.  Just ask anyone she’s ever fed, and they’ll tell you the same.  No matter what she fixes—unless it’s liver and onions—it’s bound to be fabulous, and you’ll be determined to make room for seconds.

Growing up, if we had a favorite teacher, Mom would occasionally make a couple jars of her homemade spaghetti sauce and send it to school with us to give to the teacher.

My fourth grade teacher comes to mind.  That was the year I was mauled by a big dog and was out of school for a while recovering.  When I finally came back to school, I came sporting a giant bandage that covered nearly the entire right side of my head.  When I got on the bus, the kids were great, but when I got to school, my teacher made a joke and I cried.  I was homeward bound before lunch.  He told my mom I wasn’t feeling well and maybe came back to school too soon.  I told my mom what he said, and my best friend Debbie from across the street told her mother the same story.  That night just happened to be parent/teacher conference night, and my mom was like a lion about to rip into the beast that hurt her cub.  Let’s just shorten this story by saying my teacher didn’t receive any of Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, and is in fact fortunate he wasn’t wearing a jar of it home that night.

But the real subject of my story is one my dad was fond of telling.  It’s about the little boy who lived across the street from us.  One evening he had dinner with us because his parents had to visit someone in the hospital and they didn’t want to drag him along with them.  My mom fixed a pasta dish that really was a combination of spaghetti and chili complete with the red kidney beans and all.  It might not sound delicious, but she served it over a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and with a side of bread buttered to perfection and there was rarely any left over.  It was also a meal that stretched when there were extra mouths to feed like that evening.

So we all sat down, and the neighbor kid exclaimed what a delight dinner was, which always tickled my mom when someone complimented her cooking.  When his parents called to say they were home, my mom was going to walk him across the street—deliver him safely.  When they got outside, his mom was waiting on their porch.  She called over to him, “What did you have for dinner?”

He beamed with pleasure as he yelled back, “Slop, Ma.  She fixes the best darned slop I ever ate.”

My mom’s face was about as red as one of those kidney beans and so was his mother’s face!

She met my mom at the edge of the yard, face still as red as could be, and asked, “Did you serve chili?”

Mom nodded.  “Sort of.  I make a spicy tomato sauce, add kidney beans and ground beef and elbow macaroni.”

“That’s what we call slop because there doesn’t really seem to be a real name for it.  It’s not the best name for it—and I certainly didn’t expect it to ever be called that at someone else’s house—but that’s what my older son called it when he was little.  It sort of stuck.”

Mom smiled, glad her neighbor didn’t think she served her son something unfit to eat like he was a barnyard animal.  From then on anytime she made that meal, she’d call us all to the table by yelling, “Slop’s on!”

I don’t know what made me think of this incident today, but it made me smile, and I thought you might smile as well.

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the fresh start of summer!

Until next time…

True Blood

Do any of you watch True Blood? I don’t but since we got a free HBO weekend and one of my friends is absolutely obsessed with it, I decided to give it try. I watched one episode about two years ago and thought it was silly but I decided to give it another go since it was the season premiere this weekend.

I also read book one of the series way back when it came out and didn’t really care for it but I’ve been assured by people who watch the show that it’s not the same as the books.

I’m here to tell you that I don’t care for it. It’s a bit too cheesy for me and is also a little too weird. Now, I’m a fan of weird vampires- after all, I was a die hard Dark Shadows fan as a kid but for some reason, I can’t get into this show. I guess that’s good since I don’t want to add HBO to my already too expensive satellite bill. LOL

How about you all? Can any of you explain the appeal to me? I really would like to “get” it. Help?

Ahhhh June

DSC00271I love June. Here in the Pacific NW it isn’t usually too hot. The spring flowers are still in bloom and of course the roses are flowering.

Last month, in searching for a blog topic I researched May and enjoyed the experience so thought I’d continue the thread.

“It’s beautiful, the Summer month of June.

When all of God’s own wildflowers are in bloom.”

— “June” by Francis Duggan

Most months have a traditional and modern birthstone but June is graced with three. The traditional ones are Pearls and Moonstone and the modern one is Alexandrite. I could write a blog on any one of these fascinating gemstones.

Falling in the middle of the year June boasts the longest day of the year (Northern hemisphere) and shortest (Southern hemisphere). It’s been a favorite month to be married in.

The name “June” has never risen to the top of naming charts but still remains one that is frequently used. Currently it’s ranked #470 in the U.S. and enjoyed it’s highest rank of #137 in 1950.

Honeysuckle shares the month with the Rose.

So okay, these facts are well known and a reminder and way to share June with you, but —- (drum roll here), did you know that in Iceland, folklore says that if you bathe naked in the morning dew on the morning of June 24th, you are supposed to keep aging at bay for longer. Brrrrr .

Enjoy June and remember —- Take time to stop and smell the roses.

Hats and Gloves: Addendum

Some of you may remember a blog I did last winter about hats and gloves. If you are so inclined, you can read that blog here. In that blog, I state that I’m starting to get into hats and gloves more. True enough. Until now.

I was recently invited to an author tea, where hats and gloves were the outfit of choice. Now, I have several hats, none of which would dare be seen anywhere near the Kentucky Derby. My hats are functional. Warm. Sun-shading. But none of them are pretty enough for a tea.

So I set out to find one. I hit up my Facebook friends for ideas. Combed the internet and finally found something that was inexpensive and looked decent. It had free shipping, so I never even bothered looking at the shipping date. After all, I had 3 weeks. A few days before the tea, I realized the hat was coming from overseas and wouldn’t arrive until after the tea. Sigh. So off I went to some local stores to find an emergency replacement.

HAt2m

I did find one, and wrapped a scarf I already had around it to dress it up.

Guess what? The first hat arrived in the mail with two days to spare. Sigh. Hat1m So now I had two hats. And a quandary. I wanted to wear my beige gloves because they have little bows at the wrist. But the sea-green hat seemed cuter. I waited until the day of the tea to decide. Here are the hats. Which one would you pick?

The tea, hosted by fellow author Jami Davenport, was lovely. The weather cooperated and we were able to sit on deck. It was an afternoon of visiting and discussions and friendship and we all very much appreciated her inviting us. So, figured out which hat I picked? Here a group shot. Can you find me…and my hat choice? 🙂  hat3

So a lot of angst over a hat, but a fun day because of it. Oh, and I DID put the other hat in the trunk, just in case I wanted to switch. 🙂

I hope you’re all finding some sunshine to brighten your day today! And I have to take a quick minute to wish my brother, Ron, the happiest of birthdays!