Category Archives: Museums

Well hello there!

picmonkey-collage

It has been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been wanting to post again, but then when I think about how to start, it fills me with this vague anxiousness. So I’m just gonna jump back in and start talking. 🙂

A lot going on in my corner of the world right now. Some of it isn’t great–my mother is ill so I’ve been spending two days a week down in CT caring for her–but most of it’s pretty good and holding steady. The highlights:

  • My long-time writing partner and I started a publishing company on January 1, which is keeping me (us) super busy. I enjoy using the left side of my brain to run the business instead of focusing strictly on writing, which I don’t particularly enjoy on its own.
  • Since my work hours are more regular, I use the weekends to work on my sewing. I really enjoy sewing blouses, and that blue one above is the best I’ve made so far.
  • Knitting I mostly do at night while watching my TV programs or during a lunch break, which means I’m not knitting as much as I used to. The hat above is one of my favorite knits of the winter, the Mortice Lock Hat. I’ve also been working on a Isabell Kraemer cardigan (“Dexter“), which is coming along nicely but slowly. I’m using some Drops alpaca in a silvery gray…it’s going to look great against the blue of my new blouse! More on this knit later. I’m also trying to catch up on gift knitting…a few babies born this winter are in need of my craft. 😉
  • I completed the Whole 30 diet in January, which is why I included that slice of pizza above. I don’t think I lost weight, but one thing I did learn the hard way is that my body does not like wheat. I’ve suspected this for awhile, but it is good to know for sure that wheat causes me such problems. I was also able to kick my sugar habit, woo hoo!
  • My son is heading to high school this fall, which has sent me into a tizzy because I swear, he just graduated from kindergarten. This week was spent choosing classes, and I’m pleased he’ll be taking Latin as his foreign language (he has taken Spanish since grade school). I met with one of the Latin teachers a few weeks ago, and she seemed really passionate about her class…my fingers are crossed she’ll be his teacher!
  • And the big news is that we’re heading to Europe this summer for two weeks! I’m very excited about this because we’ll be spending time with my husband’s family in Munich, as well as traveling to Berlin with my brother and his wife. I’ve never been to Berlin and am looking forward to exploring the museums and historical sites.

Spring seems to have arrived early here in Massachusetts. Bulbs started popping up through the earth mid-February, and today it was in the low 70s! The rest of the week will be cooler, but definitely spring-y.

I’m glad to be back and will post more detail about some of the projects I’ve been working on. What are you up to?

A trip to Bath

Next month we’ll be hanging a left for our Mt. Washington climb!

Bath City Hall

I just noticed the sticker on this Subaru Outback!

Beautiful ghost sign on the side of this building

This sign reminded me of what signs used to look like when I was a child in the 70s.

Botanica Mittens, unblocked

Last week while my boys were in Houston — Texas in August? No thanks! — I took a short break and drove about three hours north to Bath, Maine. Bath is home to Bath Iron Works, a shipyard that builds battleships, cruisers, and destroyers for the U.S. Navy. What I didn’t know is that Bath is where the first boat the colonists built to make a return trip to England.

But I’ll be honest … I wasn’t in Bath to look at ships or 19th century architecture. I was there for Halcyon Yarn. I’ve always wanted to visit and it was well worth the trip. What I loved about it was while it was a large shop — they have not only handknitting yarn, but plentiful rug, weaving, and spinning departments — it wasn’t totally overwhelming like WEBS in Northampton can be. (My #1 piece of advice to knitters visiting WEBS for the first time … shop off a list or know what projects you’re buying for, otherwise you’ll wander around like a art-sick tourist in Florence. That’s Florence, Italy, not nearby Florence, Massachusetts.)

What I also liked about Halcyon is that the women working there were very helpful and kind. After I made my big yarn purchase (to be revealed in a future post), I needed a tea break so one of the women spent some time pointing out nearby cafes and other places I should visit. Fortified by a pleasant walk and a cup of very hot chai that wasn’t really appropriate given that it was in the mid-80s that day, I returned to the shop for Round Two, where I purchased some yarn I’d been thinking about during my ambles. It was at this time a sample pair of mittens caught my attention — I liked the colors and the picot edging — so I bought the pattern and the minute I got home, commenced knitting.

Two nights later, I had my own pair of Botanica Two-Way Mittens, which look very preppy in green and pinks. The mitten on the right was knitted by following the instructions exactly, by creating the picot edge in the round, which I found rather fussy. So with mitten #2 on the left, I knit the mitten flat until the picot edging was complete, then joined the yarn to knit the rest of the mitten in the round. I also knit this mitten on DPNs. I normally knit in the round on two circulars, but I do have to admit my stranding looks better when I use DPNs. This picture was taken before blocking; after blocking my stitches look so much neater.

I’ll post some pictures of my yarn haul in another post. I told my husband I hemmed and hawed about driving to Maine by myself — I worried about leaving our geriatric cat alone, worried about the car breaking down, worried about…what a wuss I’ve become! — then finally decided to heck with it! I’m going! And I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful visit. Next time, however, I’m bringing my boys with me. They can look at ships while I entertain myself with more yarn. 🙂

First recordings of family Christmas found

wall_familyLast night I was knitting and watching BBC World News when this story caught my attention. Curators at the Museum of London found the earliest recordings of a family Christmas celebration. The recordings, made between 1902 and 1917, capture the holiday festivities of the Wall family in London (above). Back then, recording ordinary family activities was quite rare, according to the BBC report. The phonograph machine was cutting-edge dictation technology used in offices, not in family parlors.

Do check out the recordings on the BBC’s website. They are quite special! Like the museum curator, I, too, got chills listening to their voices, especially of the seven-year-old boy singing.

 

Retro video and photos

I spent a good amount of time this morning poring over the photos and videos posted at How to be a Retronaut, which is sort of like a web-based time machine powered by a database of video, photos, documents, recordings, and more. My favorites are the color film of London shot by cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene in 1927. There’s a brief shot of the women bending down to leave flowers at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which brought me to tears as I was reminded that WWI was only a few short years behind them and their grief was probably cold and fresh. We also know that in just a few years, London would be under raid by the Germans.

Then there are the high definition photos taken around London in the late 40s (love the signage!) And, of course, this opening sequence (above) from “The Prisoner,” filmed in the mid-60s. You’d never see a long opening sequence like this in a television show today! Another series worth checking out are the color photos taken in Paris during the occupation by the Germans. In many ways, Paris looks the same to me today than it did then, except for the fashion and cars (and Nazi soldiers, of course.)

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 3

From Flickr/Michael Stringer

From Flickr/Michael Stringer

Thursday, August 10, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

I’m beginning to shake off the last of my jetlag (finally!). I could have slept for another two hours this morning, but Frances woke me bright and early for tea. She wants to feed me more, but in the summer my appetite isn’t good, plus we Americans seldom eat a hearty breakfast like our English cousins do!

It was a bright morning, and we generally had a sunny day with huge, billowy clouds drifting across the sky, their shadows trailing on the hillsides. Frances and I took a morning walk around the neighborhood; we were able to view an “aspect” of Lyme Park. [Lyme Park was used in the BBC’s adaption of Pride and Prejudice as Darcy’s family seat. I can just see Colin Firth stripping off his jacket now …] I noticed an ancient fortress on a distant hillside. Frances thought it was a place where ancient warriors locked up prisoners.

We returned to the house. At 11:30, William and Margaret arrived to take us to a pub lunch. We drove through some of the Peak District in Derbyshire. Margaret pointed out the heather for me … huge amounts covered whole hillsides — pretty! The countryside is covered with dry stone walls … some of the roads we drove on were lined with them. We stopped at the Lantern Pike Inn, a pub in Hayfield that William and Margaret had picked out the day before. It was a typical English pub, dark with a few sour-faced Englishmen sitting in a corner downing pints. I had fish & chips with a half pint of Guinness.

Before we went into the pub, William had some fun parking his car. The man who lives behind the pub was shouting out to him, “Are you parking a bus?” Margaret, Frances, and I thought it was funny, but I think William was offended. On our way back to Disley, William got lost, which furthered his bad mood. I wanted to pick some heather, but didn’t press it. Back at Frances’s place, I wrote up some postcards, then we watched tv (or the “telly” as they call it here). Frances brought out some old family pictures. She had a lot of Margaret and William’s children: Ruth*, Catherine, and Jared. Frances told me of her holidays abroad, trips to beaches in Spain.

*Ruth tracked me down a couple years ago, and knock wood, this fall I hope to meet up with her when I’m in England!

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 2

From Flickr/DaveKav

From Flickr/DaveKav

Wednesday, August 9, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

Today Frances, her friend Brenda and I spent the day at Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron’s ancestral home in Nottinghamshire. First we enjoyed a leisurely drive through the countryside, long, winding roads lined with mauve weed and grasses and goldenrod. Miles of dry stone walls pitching recklessly along hillsides and winding through valleys. We drove through towns with wonderful, odd names: Chapel-en-le-Frith, the famous plague town Eyam, etc. Then we passed through grimy towns famed for their collieries: Mansfield, Chesterfield with its crooked steeple (I thought of D.H. Lawrence the whole time).

Newstead Abbey itself was stately, and there were sloping miles of grass, trees, and tended gardens. We began the tour with the house itself. I read aloud from the guidebook we borrowed from the admissions desk. The rooms were rather dark and somber; medieval. I enjoyed viewing Byron’s dining area. I could imagine the poet penning a few lines of verse over his morning tea. We met a tour guide in Byron’s sleeping chambers. Frances, Brenda and I were fascinated by the presence of ghosts in the Abbey, and we asked if he had seen any. He replied that he hadn’t, but he led us to an adjoining dressing room and informed us that the poet had seen a spectre several times: a monk in a black habit. He told us, too, that one of the female tour guides had some strange experiences in the room: feelings of child, dizziness, etc. And another guard saw a ghostly figure emerge from a boudoir in another part of the Abbey. When we later arrived at the boudoir, Brenda and I noticed a distinct chill  … but nothing else.

I took many pictures; hopefully they’ll come out. When we returned to Disley, we all went to dinner at the Red Lion, a nice pub a few blocks away.

Tea in London

(Today I have a guest post from Denise LeCroy who runs Tea in London, which specializes in tours to London for tea lovers. Denise tells me that registration for her upcoming September tour has been extended to the end of this month.)

***

Do you have a passion for something, or perhaps a passion for several somethings? Hello! My name is Denise LeCroy and I have several passions – tea, travel and London.

Several years ago, I married a man from London and left the United States to live with him in that most glorious of cities. I had visited London before with friends, but living there was a dream of a lifetime. I think I dragged my poor husband to every tearoom, tea shop and tea event in London during those years!

When we returned to the states, I settled into married life on this side of the pond and the days and weeks proceeded smoothly until a routine mammogram showed an abnormality that turned out to be breast cancer. Early detection saves lives. Surgery and radiation followed immediately, all went well, and today I celebrate being four years cancer free.

Throughout those soul-searching months of recovery my illness forced upon me a new perspective on many things…life, relationships, what matters and what doesn’t matter. I was given a second chance and was reminded that it was time to dust off my dreams and goals and aspirations that had been neglected for far too long.

I thought about my passions and how I wanted to further pursue them. I already had been a local tea educator for quite some time and although I was also a seasoned traveler, I studied to become a London Destination Specialist. I realized that London’s rich tea history was being virtually neglected by the travel industry, and so I started Tea in London tours – the perfect combination of my love for tea, travel and London.

English Afternoon Tea at traditional and non-traditional venues is a daily event on our tours, together with a combination of other unique activities that include guided walks through areas in London where the tea trade once ruled England’s commerce; visits to museums and galleries to discover old and new tea treasures; journeys to gardens and ancestral homes of early English tea drinkers; and much more. (I can assure you that if one digs deep enough and I haveone can find a tea-connection to almost anything in London!)

We use a charming hotel in Bloomsbury as our base. It’s a great, quiet location. All of our transport is on a private, comfortable air-conditioned coach and my favorite London Blue Badge Guide, Sarah, accompanies us every day. She loves tea, and you will love her.

But Tea in London is not strictly for tea lovers as we encounter many of London’s famous places and landmarks. Opportunities for shopping are built-in, as well as a free day to privately experience London.

The next Tea in London tour is scheduled for September 13-18, 2010 and I am happy to announce that it will include an optional full-day Tea Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew. I invite you to visit our website http://www.TeaInLondon for more information about the Masterclass and about the tour.

I hope 2010 will be the year that you have Tea in London!

Weekend roundup

A Brit for all Americans: Alistair Cooke — The 100th anniversary of his birth was last Thursday and the Independent’s Sarah Chuchwell remembers the iconic Masterpiece Theatre host. (The Independent)

Delia Smith on pumpkin pie — It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., and what’s Thanksgiving without a little pumpkin pie? But please, Delia, a store-bought pastry shell? Tsk, Tsk. I’ll let you off the hook since you’re British and the recipe’s supposed to be quick. (Telegraph)

Spend Christmas in London — Take advantage of the weak £ in the capital city this winter with these 25 tips. (Telegraph)

How to get British television worldwide — Jonathan over at Anglotopia has a two-part article on how to get British shows on your telly, even if you don’t have BBC America (which, of course, doesn’t offer every British show, but at least gives you a taste).

The 28th Great Christmas Pudding Race — If you’re in London on December 6, you can watch contestants run an obstacle course around Covent Garden Market while holding trays of Christmas pudding. Yeah, only in England. (The money raised goes to charity, though.)

Find free entertainment in London

London’s bloody expensive, especially for someone like me who loves to dine in the city’s best restaurants. It’s why I cheerfully spend my time between meals browsing secondhand bookshops, studying portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, or simply walking around neighborhoods to enjoy the sights. I’m always on the lookout for cheap, fun things to do, so I was happy to find this clickable map on Londonist that points me to free entertainment in the city. All the museums are included, naturally, but there are interesting activities I didn’t know about, like free music at the National Theatre, M-F at 5:45 p.m. and talks about financial matters at the London School of Economics. Hey, in these dire times, it might be worth a serious listen.