"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

FHE: Pets

We've had pets on the brain here, lately. More specifically, fish. Da Boo got a 10-gallon fish tank for her 3rd birthday and we've had the same fish since: two orange tetras, a Chinese algae eater, and two guppies. One guppy died a few months ago. Then, while the Man was gone on business, I decided to get the kids something special, other than a toy. So I let them pick out fish. The Boy got a really cool-looking black guppy and da Boo got two of the speediest fish known to man (or at least to the poor kid who had to catch them). Her fish are neon yellow and are very small, called Glofish. We brought them home early last week and introduced them to our fish.

Early Saturday morning, while in denial of the fact that the kids are awake and out of bed, I was awakened by da Boo telling me that her Chinese fish was being silly, laying on it's side behind it's rock (it spends about 23 1/2 hours a day hiding inside said rock). Uh oh. It was dead. That night, the last original guppy lay at the bottom. Then the next morning, the new guppy wasn't moving. Not good. The surviving four fish seemed fine but would not swim in the top half of the tank. A call to the pet store assured us it was nothing that the new fish had spread to our tank, and that perhaps our tank needed fresher water. When the Man got home from work today, he set about changing the water and cleaning the tank. Seems like the algae eater hadn't been doing his job in his final days. So because this was going on and it was da Boo's turn to teach the lesson, she chose Pets. And she didn't want any help. And she drew her own picture.

It's a zebra. They can be pets, too, right?

Opening Prayer: the Boy was in charge of prayer and he wanted to say the first one. He's getting better at this but I still have to keep from giggling 'cuz it's too dang cute.

Opening Song: ABCs (I picked).

Lesson: Da Boo showed us the picture she had drawn of a zebra and announced that we were talking about pets.

Da Boo: Daddy, what are some things we should not do to our pets?
The Man: Well, we can feed them.
Da Boo: That's very good, Daddy, but I asked what we should not do.
(I am struggling not to laugh out loud)
The Man: Uh, then I guess we shouldn't be mean to them.
Me: and we shouldn't kick them.
Da Boo: Good job, Mommy. (and she pats my knee...I lose it and spend the next minute gasping for air!)

We continue to go back and forth on what isn't nice and what is nice until da Boo deems the lesson to be over. I think we all learned something.

Closing Song: B-I-N-G-O

Closing Prayer: when asked who should say the closing prayer the Boy shouts out his sister's name. She couldn't have been more thrilled.

Treats: The Man was in charge of treats so we had his favorite thing (next to me and his Wii), milkshakes.

Then we get everyone upstairs and ready for bed. And da Boo forgets to feed her fish.

Monday, July 30, 2007

LONDON! Day 12: Going Home

The last London post! I don't know if you're getting sick of hearing about London yet but I am looking forward to posting about something else for a change.

First, I have to show you this picture:


Hehehehehe...The Man thinks the European exit signs are funny so I convinced him to pose like one for the camera. Makes me giggle just looking at it! And one other thing I thought was funny...London Survival Tip #10: When crossing a street, look down first! All the crosswalks are painted with markings telling you which way to look for traffic. I guess they are used to foreign tourists looking left when traffic is coming from the right!

Our flight left in the morning so we didn't have much time to do anything. Didn't even get breakfast because the hotel cafe wasn't open yet. I had to face the daunting taxi ride on an empty stomach. The streets were nearly empty that morning so I wasn't fearing for my life as we zipped along to the train station. I said my silent goodbyes to the streets of London.

We rode the Gatwick Express train to the airport and I have to admit, I teared up a little. The experience had just been so wonderful! I was sad to see it come to an end. One last time watching all the green fields and the tightly packed townhouse. Last time to watch a big double decker bus crawl lazily down the street. Last time someone would smile when I started to talk because I was the one with the accent. Last time, last time.

Security at the airport was an amazingly long line! We were a little nervous...until we found out we were in the wrong line. That was the line for New York and we were going to Ohio. Phew! Got in the right line and the Man felt it necessary to once again remind me not to crack any jokes, just answer their questions and don't tell them any stories. He knows me so well. After we made it through, we had breakfast at the airport (they didn't have hot chocolate...looked startled that I would want that for breakfast instead of a good beer). We then proceeded to spend the rest of our change of getting more chocolates. This is me we're talking about, after all. And these were duty-free Belgium chocolates! Very yummy!


I don't remember much about the flight home. There weren't any extraordinarily annoying people on the flight. The Man warned me about the grumpy US Customs agents but our guy was rather cheerful. Our baggage arrived safely and I only got a little queasy on the airplane. Both of us were thoroughly exhausted and I keep dozing off on the drive home.

Arriving home, the house was quiet. And the kitchen was painted green! Since the Man never reads my blog, I can admit to you that I knew may parents were going to paint. :) I really like the color; the Man has no comment. Boys. We were completely exhausted but still managed to kiss the kids goodnight (finally got those hugs I'd been missing), show most of our pictures to the Crazy Grandparents, open a box of chocolates and relive the entire vacation. After having been there, I can understand why some people go to visit and then never go home.

But me? I was glad to be home!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

LONDON! Day 11: Geocaching

Now a little less soaking wet and with the whole afternoon ahead of us, we did what any person would do: we went geocaching! Since it was early evening in London, that meant it would be early morning in Utah. We called my good buddy - and fellow cacher - to get some info from her. During my many hours of working hard at the convention (read: being bored stiff), I was able to do a little (read: a LOT) of Internet browsing. So I wrote down a few geocaches in the immediate area of our hotel. While my buddy looked up some information for us (see? I knew hanging out with early-risers would come in handy), we realized something: we were standing in Hyde Park, in the infamous Speaker's Corner, no less.



Hrmmm...why exactly is this spot famous? Beats me. Looked pretty ordinary, actually.

After getting directions, we realized the cache was no where remotely close to where we were, which tends to happen a lot while in London. Nothing is close. We headed back to the hotel to get the GPS (essential to successful caching), my caching notebook, and also for a potty break because really, who wants to spend nearly on dollar on a public toilet?


First geocache was a webcam cache. See the two camers just above the curtained window? In order to claim a visit, you must stand in view of the camera, have someone else go online and copy the image of you, and then you post that along with your log to the cache website. By now, it was early evening. We called the Crazy Grandparents and asked my mom to be the one to save the image of us on the webcam. The kids got to see us on the webcam! They got very excited, wanted to know if we were right outside. Ooops...maybe not such a good idea. But we got the image and moved on.

The second cache was just a few blocks away, in the Tube's Paddington Station. The clue on this cache said that if we looked in a certain place, we might see someone famous. Hrmmm...whatever could that mean? And then we saw this:


Yup! That's Paddington Bear! He was found in this station by Mr and Mrs Bear, who then gave him the name Paddington. In order to claim this cache, you had to find the words on his suitcase and then email them to the cache owner. Done! What's next? Well, remember how I said that this area of town was known as Little Italy? It's because there is a canal. On the canal are these long boats.



The last cache was along the canal.



Here is the Man trying to look nonchalant while there are other people (or muggles, in geo-speak) present, people who might find the cache and - not knowing what it is - take it, ruining the fun for future cache seekers. So we try not to draw attention to what we are doing when we find an actual cache. This one was a small tube, fitted with a strong magnet and tucked in such a way that it looked like it completely belonged there. To claim this one, you sign your name on a rolled up strip of paper inside. You usually have to bring your own pencil on these, as they are very small.

By now it was getting dark and we were exhausted. And we were sick of eating in restaurants. Instead, we stopped at the little market by our hotel, picked up bread, milk (in the cutest little jug!), and chocolate. I intended to return home with half a suitcase full of English chocolates. Had to settle for a half full grocery sack instead. See, we had a lot of coins. The international money changers don't accepts coins, so we had to spend them. Used a good portion right here at the market, getting all kinds of chocolates: organic milk chocolate (for my sister), stuff called Maya Gold, Turkish Delight (kinda like jellied, chocolate covered perfume), nearly a dozen different Cadbury bars that I'd never seen before, and even a Kit Kat (but with the smoother European chocolate on it, it was a different experience). So back in the hotel room, we watched odd shows on TV while munching on bread schmeared with jelly, drank milk and savored the chocolate. Our last evening in London.

Friday, July 27, 2007

LONDON! Day 11: Plan B

After seeing the guards in the rain, we were thoroughly drenched. Now, originally, we were going to Buckingham Palace and then hop on a train and spend the day out at Windsor Castle - take the tours, go punting - just have a lovely time. But the British decided to make it difficult for us. Well, to be honest, not ALL the British. Just one. Arguably the most important one: the Queen. As I mentioned before, the country celebrated the Queen's birthday that weekend. And the Queen decided to spend some time at the ol' family homestead...which is Windsor Castle. No tours. So plans had to change at the last minute. We considered a different trip but decided we were really very tired and wanted to hang out, just chill a little.

We took the Tube downtown, our destination being the British Library, which is free and not gushing water. And hopefully it wasn't closed because royalty was visiting (actually, the cafeteria was closed but that was because someone passed out in line, but I suppose she could have had royal blood somewhere in her family, just to irritate me).

The library had recently opened a new exhibit called Sacred. The exhibit was free, which was the magic word, so we took a look around. The entrance was just very serene and lovely, with soft lighting and long pieces of white fabric hanging from the ceiling, reflecting the lights and the projected images of different texts. And gentle music was playing. I was captivated! So much so that I didn't see those stairs at the end. Yeah. Fell down six stairs. Way to make a graceful entrance. So typically me.

I thought the exhibit was - to use the English vernacular - brilliant. They took the three major religions and placed them side-by-side. It started with large copies of the Holy Bible, the Koran and the Torah displayed. From there, you could look through scale models of their places of worship, items used during services, ceremonial (wedding) garb, prayer books, and their respective histories. It was very interesting and really helped me see the other faiths a little clearer.

From there, we went to the other exhibits in the library, where they keep the very rare, very famous items. We saw a copy of the Magna Carta, pages from Leonardo DiVinci's notebook, illuminated (my favorite - means fancy font with pictures along the edge) manuscripts, Jane Austen's writing desk, and pages from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The most memorable part (besides my elegant entrance) was looking at Handel's hand-written notes on the pages and listening to his Messiah chorus through headphones. That was pretty mind-blowing.

After the library, we were starting to dry out. Lunch was at a place called Pret a Manger. These are all over London and seriously good food for a price that won't make you gag. It's a deli-style place. Everything is made fresh, "no nasties" or preservatives. You pick your sandwich and such from the cases and then pay at the counter. And their chocolate brownies are rather tasty. We actually ate at this restaurant a couple times. Highly recommend it!

After lunch, we went to the Kings Cross station to take pictures. Weren't quite sure what to do after that. Remember, we had planned something entirely different. So stay tuned for our next adventure!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dilemma

I have a serious dilemma. I really just don't know what I should do. Can you help me? The situation is difficult.




You can see the problem, can't you? That's a pan of delicious, fudgey brownies. They even have chunks of chocolate in them. Absolutely heaven! But isn't the problem obvious? Look at them. They are uneven. I was too hasty cutting out a portion to share with a friend and look what I did! Unacceptable! What to do? I suppose I could use that handy knife and just...trim them up a little. No one would notice. The evidence of my actions is easy to erase. And really, eating more brownie is a small price to pay for sanity. I can't think straight knowing I have crooked brownies in the house! Pretty soon, I'll have an uneven number of Diet Coke cans and we just can't have that, either.

Tip: Use a plastic knife to cut brownies. The gooey goodness won't stick to the plastic like it will to ordinary knives.

And we're all sick...again. Except for the Man. He's safe in California on a business trip. Out of reach of these germs. I got it first. Started as a sore throat and moved into the sinuses. Da Boo got it yesterday and the Boy has the goopy nose today. And there's not another adult around to let me take a nap while the kids spit out their medicine and whine non-stop.

Somebody ought to make it a rule that colds are not permitted during the summer. Seriously, they should be illegal.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

LONDON! Day 11: Buckingham Palace

We had to be typical tourists and go watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Since we had so much on our agenda during the weekend, we decided to go on our last full day, Monday. Not such a good idea.

You can't quite see it in this picture but the "Union Jack" flag is flying over the Palace. That means the Queen is not there. We knew where she was! But that's another post...
Our trusty guidebook suggested we get there early, and even where was the best place to watch. We weren't exactly on the ball about getting out of the hotel on time so we got there about the time the actual event started...



HORDES of tourists! They were stacked deep at the actual gate. We did get some good shots of the parade.


Just as the guards entered the Palace plaza, it started to rain. No big deal, right? It rains all the time! We couldn't see much through all the people so the pictures are mostly of the back of someone's head. There was some stomping, a little yelling and then more stomping. Then the guards went inside.


The friendly (and not-so-friendly) crowd control informed the masses that due to the rain, that was it. It was over! Lots of people left. We stuck around, took more pictures.


This is the Victoria Monument set in front of the palace. It was a rather grey day, due to the rain, and there were so many people there that my pictures aren't great. While we were taking pictures, the rain stopped!



Then the guards came back out! I'll have more pictures up on snapfish.



The actual "changing" seemed to be of the one guy standing in front of the guard booth. There might have been more than one booth but this was the only one I saw. Just as they were finishing, the heavens re-opened and a deluge ensued!

We only had the one little, purse-sized umbrella so we were both half-soaked. But we were still having a good time!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

100

Hey! Guess what? This is my 100th post! I know, I can hardly believe it, either! Blogger tradition has it that you must post 100 things about yourself. Seriously, 100? I don't think there are that many things about me...and only about 13 1/2 that are somewhat interesting. But you know how I love talking about me so here goes:

(and you thought some of my London posts were long!)

  1. I've never broken a bone in my body.

  2. I've never had my wisdom teeth removed (because I don't have any on the bottom).

  3. I was born blonde. I LOVED being blonde.

  4. Thirty years and two kids later, it was "dishwater blonde" and I've always hated that name. Sounds so ugly.
  5. Now I'm a brunette, courtesy of my hair stylist.

  6. My mom always cut my hair when I was a kid and always did a great job. Never had a weird haircut.
  7. My first paid haircut was just before my high school graduation. And really? It was just a trim.
  8. I like having long hair, I just don't know what to do with it. Can't get my hair into those really cute styles everyone else seems to manage just fine. I never was good with hair. My daughter is doomed.
  9. My husband prefers brunettes, but when he met me, I was actually a red-head.

  10. Got red hair from buying a "temporary" hair dye at Wal-Mart. It was supposed to be "Medium Brown #9." It wasn't.

  11. My roommate's boyfriend dyed my hair for me. Maybe that's why it turned red...

  12. Enough about my hair already! Geesh, you'd think I was obsessive or something.

  13. I'm not obsessive.
  14. I am utterly paranoid.

  15. Seriously.

  16. In fact, I should be on medication.
  17. Actually, I *was* on medication. Had to stop taking it because that stuff - as wonderful and lovely as it made my outlook on life - doesn't mesh well with babies.

  18. I really, really want another baby.

  19. I am not pregnant.

  20. If I were pregnant, believe me, I would tell you immediately.

  21. I am horrible at keeping wonderful, happy secrets; like being pregnant or what Santa is bringing.

  22. While pregnant and having pregnancy cravings, I never once sent my husband out in the middle of the night to tend to my cravings. Kinda wish I had.

  23. With da Boo, I got vertical stretchmarks. All over my torso and legs.

  24. With the Boy, I got horizontal stretchmarks on my belly.

  25. I am now plaid.

  26. I worry about what the next kid's stretchmarks will look like.

  27. I have a warped sense of body image. Hey, I know I'm not "slender" but when I see pictures of myself (especially from behind), I can't believe that that is really how I look.

  28. My husband thinks I'm beautiful and that is enough.

  29. I married my perfect match. I regularly pat myself on the back for that one. "Good job!"
  30. Once I realized he was not just any ordinary geek, I totally stalked him until he gave in and asked me out, probably just so I would stop hanging around all the time.

  31. It took two dates but by then, I had him.

  32. I broke up with him ten minutes before he pulled out the engagement ring.

  33. If fact, my family was telling me to break it off.
  34. Even got a detailed email from my dad on how to break up with him, how to act whenever I saw him after that, etc.

  35. I deleted it before I finished reading it.

  36. Kinda wish I had kept it. Would be funny to include a copy of that with the next baby announcement.

  37. I have a really, really good marriage.

  38. We hardly ever fight.

  39. When we do fight, it's usually because I am being selfish or he's got his priorities set different than mine.

  40. I'm not a good fighter.

  41. I cry too easily when I'm angry.

  42. Once I start crying, my brain stops working and I can no longer function properly.

  43. This is possibly the same reason why I don't publically share my testimony all that often. My testimony of Christ and the restored gospel is a very personal thing and it gets me all teared up.

  44. Even now, just thinking about it, I'm getting kinda misty.
  45. I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior.

  46. I believe He was on this earth as an example for mankind, a guide to show us our Heavenly Father's plan.

  47. I believe that Christ and God have not left us alone, far from it.
  48. I believe that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God, and as such, receives guidance from Him.
  49. I am proud to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  50. Despite all my claims as a writer and numerous competitions in speech, I still don't know how to share these things with friends, family, and others I meet.

  51. I wish I were a better member of the church, a better person.

  52. I try.

  53. Sometimes, I know I need to try harder.
  54. I am re-reading the Book of Mormon.
  55. I don't understand some of it. And it's okay that I don't understand it.
  56. My husband is an endless font of information, knowledge and wisdom. He helps me understand.

  57. His knowledge almost makes me wish I had served a mission for the church. I had my mission papers ready to go...then I met a certain percussionist.

  58. And don't tell anyone this but I actually like substituting for the teachers in the Primary.
  59. I love my kids more than I ever thought possible.

  60. I am really, really lucky to have such great kids.
  61. My daughter is beautiful and very smart. She gets these traits from her father.
  62. My son is adorable and curious. He doesn't talk much. ALSO from his father.

  63. I wonder which parts of themselves they get from me.

  64. I hope they didn't get my temper.

  65. Cooking is not my forte.

  66. There are about five dinners I make fairly well that you will always be served at my house. Anything not on that short list is a complete gamble. You may be asked to sign a waiver at the door.

  67. I can, however, bake like nobody's business.

  68. I also decorate cakes.

  69. I really, really love decorating cakes.

  70. I love the smell of my buttercream frosting. I'd wear it as perfume if I could.

  71. I think my frosting tastes pretty dang good.
  72. If you tell me you don't like my frosting, I just might charge you next time you ask me to make a cake.

  73. I stress out too much over little problems with my cakes.

  74. I really stress out over BIG problems with my cakes.

  75. My collection of cake pans and paraphernalia just might take over my entire pantry. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Who needs a place to store the rice and pasta? My fondant roller and springform pans need SPACE!

  76. I graduated from Brigham Young University.

  77. Also went to East Texas State University (where the only good thing was my roommate) and University of North Texas (got hit on more by women than by men).

  78. Got a BA in Communications, Print Journalism emphasis.

  79. I also am just four credits short of a BA in English.

  80. Those credits are for a foreign language. Not gonna happen.

  81. School was fun. I love learning and I liked making good grades (low self-esteem, need constant reassurance).

  82. Sometimes I miss it, so I occasionally sign up for a class (mostly craft stuff).

  83. I was so nervous about finally graduating and getting out into the "real" world that I delayed graduation for another semester and took two classes just for fun.

  84. Those two classes were Calligraphy and Opinion Writing.

  85. So now when I write my opinion on something, I can make it look pretty.

  86. I have a LOT of opinions.

  87. Sometimes I wish I weren't so opinionated and judgemental.

  88. I like to brag.

  89. Goes with my low self-esteem.

  90. My biggest dream left unfulfilled is publishing a book.

  91. I've written four books.

  92. Only one is anywhere near finished.

  93. That book is much too personal to me to ever let anyone read...except, of course, if you promise to never tell me anything you think about it that might make me cry and only if you like werewolves...and crazy people.

  94. I've entered National Novel Writing Month three times.

  95. I've won three times. I brag about this a LOT but it's not what you might think.

  96. Sometimes I get ideas for a plot or a character and these ideas will keep me up at night, distract me all day, and basically make me mindless until I get them down on paper in some form.

  97. I think I can write...and then I read someone else's stuff and think maybe I should crawl back into literary oblivion and eat my weight in chocolate.

  98. I have more than a passing interest in all things chocolate.

  99. I strongly believe that white chocolate is in the same category as Hitler, the DMV, and kidney stones.

  100. I can't believe I made it all this way and never once mentioned my metal shoulder! Ooops...well, no more space so you'll just have to silently envy my ability to set off metal detectors.

LONDON! Day 10: End of Day

Another collection of photos from the remainder of the day.




After our tour of the Tower of London, Roz treated us to a British tradition: the 99 Flake. It tastes like frozen whipped cream. And the little piece of chocolate poking out is a Cadbury Flake. They are interesting. The chocolate is very smooth but it's formed in a way that makes it very, well, flaky. I don't like flaky chocolate because I tend to get it all over myself. The 99 Flake, however, was really good!



We then strolled down the river. Roz took this picture.




We had to walk across the Tower Bridge. Apparently, they won't let you out of the country unless you've done that. Across the bridge was a nice pub that Roz suggested. By now, the non-stop whirlwind of touring was taking it's toll on us. We were really tired, but in a very satisfying way.

After relaxing for a bit, we had to say goodbye. Tomorrow was Monday and Roz had to work. That was hard. Even though we only just met Roz, I already felt like I'd known her for years, that she was a part of the family. She started to get a little misty-eyed, I teared up. Then we said goodbye. I miss you, Roz! It was so much fun spending the weekend with you. I'll glad your husband let you come out and play. And come to Utah! We've got good ice cream, too!

Friday, July 20, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: Tower of London Torture Chamber

Okay, Amanda, you might not want to read today's post...just warning ya.

Near the infamous Queens' House, is the Bloody Tower. Aptly named. It also houses the Torture Chamber.


Looks kinda creepy, huh?



Scavenger's Daughter. A Person is basically folded down so their thighs are against their chest and their shins against their thighs, then they are clamped into that position by this device. Can you see the faint white outline of what a person would look like during this torture? Said to be one of the most effective means. I believe it! I don't think I could even manage to get into this position!



The Rack. Obviously. A person is tied with their wrists at the top and their ankles at the bottom. The large wheel is then cranked, pulling the ropes up on the wrists and down on the ankles, stretching the prisoner. And it doesn't make make you any taller.




Manacles. As seen in the movies "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Shrek 2." A prisoner is hung by their wrists. Wrecks havoc on wrist and shoulder joints. A favorite for torturing the Catholic prisoners during a conflict with the Catholic Church (those Popes...so stuffy, won't condone adultery and such).




What? Why am I showing this lush green lawn with those picturesque houses along with devices of torture? Because these are called the Queen's House and that lovely lawn is the Tower Green, the site of the official executions (beheading) done at the Tower. There was a rather nice monument here but the site is currently under construction, in anticipation of a new monument, I suppose.

Okay, someone go tell Amanda that the worst is over...my next post should be safe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: White Tower

The White Tower is located inside the Tower of London. Originally built as a fortress, it's been a royal home, a military outpost, a prison and now a museum.

It's a rather impressive structure. You can imagine the sort of awe it would have inspired when it was built in 1075. The basement would have been for storage. The first and second floors for military and servants, while the top floors were reserved for the nobility and their families. The entrance was onto the second floor and held items from the Royal Armoury.




Up stairs and around, we get to see more items from days gone by.

Wouldn't want to go up against this guy! There was also a display showing the largest and smallest sets of knights' armour. They even had a certificate from Guinness Book of Records to authenticate their status.

These really don't need a label, do they? But I was never one for brevity. The axe was once thought to be the one that beheaded Anne Boleyn but that can't be the case, as she was beheaded by a sword. And the block was the one used in the last beheading at the Tower of London in 1747. Eerie.

There was an odd feeling in the White Tower, like there were more people around you than there actually were but I've always been pretty superstitious. Perhaps it was also the fact that the place has such a sinister reputation. While walking up the stairs to the entrance, we passed an open door that showed a staircase with a plaque on it. The plaque said that this was believe to be the place where two small skeleton were found, buried in secret. Those skeletons are widely thought to be the remains of an uncrowned king, Edward V, and his younger brother. They were sent to the White Tower in 1483 before they were teenagers - disposed by Richard III - and were never heard from again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: Tower of London Interior

Okay, sorry for the delay. And if you can't get enough Harry Potter funny stuff, you've got to go here.

Once inside the Tower of London, we went to a play, of sorts, that discussed the various forms of torture and who exactly was tortured. The guy in green is the gaoler (jailer). And the guy wearing the yellow sash was a famous prisoner, a wealthy Catholic who, during the course of the performance, escaped. The guy in black with the funny hat is a famous Lieutenant. It was really interesting, hearing the prisoners' different reasons - all perfectly practical - for asking for "contraband." Those items were then used as a means of secretive communication and even to escape.

After the presentation ended (and we were all released from prison), we went to see the Crown Jewels. Absolutely no cameras allowed. They were much more strict about this than at Westminster Abbey. So no pictures. but I will say that the vault was very impressive. And the jewels themselves looked so gaudy, it was hard to believe they were real. There was also a display of the royal serving ware. The punch bowl was about the size of a bathtub - all gold! And several salt servers. I guess the English really, really like their salt. Also got to see a mini changing of the guard when they relieved this guy up at the booth in front of the Jewel House.


This is a Yeoman Warder. There are the "tour guides" at the Tower of London. They are also the Queen's personal guards. To be a warder, you must have 22 years of exemplary service in one of the armed forces (excluding the navy - remind me and I'll tell you why). For every one job opening there are about 100 applicants. We jumped into this tour about 15 minutes into it (because it was the last one of the day). These guys have a real knack for this. Not only do they have endless amounts of facts and stories, but there are very interesting and entertaining to listen to.
Some Interior Shots:


There are 21 towers that make up the Tower of London. This one is called the Lanthorn Tower. It got it's name from the kind of lantern that was hung in the top area, as a sort of lighthouse and identifier to the boats on the river. Lanthorn Tower was built in 1220s but this is the restored version, as the original was badly damaged by fires.



And this was over by the bathrooms! A very cool view...but not such a great smell.

The famous Traitor's Gate. Prisoners who were brought to the Tower by boat came in through here. It's called the Traitor's Gate because this is where many tried to escape, like Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Moore.

Next time: The White Tower.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LONDON! Harry Potter

I know you are expecting the interior of the Tower of London and I'm sorry to make you wait but...We went to see Harry Potter last night! Really good! I think it's the best out of all of them, except maybe the first one.

So for all you Potter fans...recognize this place?


No? How about if I showed you the Man leaving for the new year at school?


I thought it was kinda cool that they did this. Took a picture of me with it but it looks kinda goofy (of course) so I'm not posting it. And yes, that luggage cart is really sticking out of the wall...I think they kinda ruined the effect by posting the sign but, oh well! We actually went here on Day 11, when we were goofing off downtown. There's a section in our guide book that takes you to some of the famous locations from the Harry Potter films. This is the only one we really made a point of seeing.


So we get to the theater an HOUR before it starts and already, there's a big line. As they let us into the theater, kids are pushing past everyone to get good seats for their entire family. Eh, what are you gonna do? Can't tackle a nine-year-old when his parents and younger sister are right there. We get really good seats, anyway. Nearly dead center and just at the right height. We would have been smack dab in the middle but those two seats are covered by the "Not In Service" thingies. They kinda smell funny, too, like strong cleaner, so I'm thinking that someone puked during the last showing. No worries. We settle in and watch repeated loops of their movie trivia. Then, just as the movie really starts, after all the previews and long commercials, two people come squeezing through the aisle. There are no seats, unless you want to sit in the front row. This couple proceeds to remove the seat covers and sit in the seats next to us! At first, I tried to warn them that I thought there might be puke on them but the guy just blinks at me and says that he had them reserved. WHAT??!? You can do that? I'm thinking he must work for the theater or be in tight with someone who does. I really didn't care, because we got good seats anyway and besides...the movie was starting.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: Tower of London, Exterior

Everyone we talked to said we HAD to see the Tower of London! I agree...it's very, very cool. And it is still considered a royal residence. AND all the tour guides are actually the personal guard of the Queen.

Since you know I take oodles of pictures, I am starting with the exterior of the Tower.


Main Entrance. You walk across the bridge to enter the Tower. This is also where you meet with a Yeoman Warder for a tour. More on them later.

Not much of a moat any more but it still looks cool! This site also has historical significance for the Romans. It was actually the site for a Roman fort. Parts of the original, ROMAN wall as still intact!

Pretty cool, eh? And, when they were digging a new subway, they found the remains of a Roman watch tower just outside the fortress.

It's not every day that you come across something like this. You can still see the narrow openings that the archers would have used. Seems like anytime someone goes digging in London, they hit a historical site.


This is an exterior shot with the White Tower visible. The White Tower is what started the whole place. It was originally a castle before it became a prison for the rich and noble. See, whenever some got on the bad side of the king (like, say, his wife cheating on him), they were sent here before being beheaded on the Tower Green.

The story of Lady Jane Grey just tears my heart out. She was someone else's pawn, had nothing to do with the politics. She was just unfortunate enough to have the almost-right family tree.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: Greenwich

Where were we? Ah, yes! Greenwich!

Now, a sure way to tell if someone is a tourist (like me) is to see how they pronounce Greenwich. Being a literate American who studied etymology in college, I'd like to think that I know how words should be pronounced. But the English like to have their own special version of the language and proper pronunciation is highly volatile. Remember Southwark Cathedral? Yeah, well, Greenwich is NOT pronounced "green - witch." It's "grin - itch." Weird. But I have to admit, the English accent is very cool. So, on to Grinitch!

Roz took us to an authentic fish n' chips place. Tiny little place with only four tables because most people order at the counter up front and then leave. It was so little that the sink in the bathroom was actually built into the wall to allow room for it. The Man got fish n' chips. As I am not a big fan of seafood, I got a sausage roll (was just like it sounds: sausage in a flaky pastry) and chips. Roz got something-that-I-can't-remember-the-name-so-hopefully-she'll-post-a-comment-and-remind-me that looked like a long, skinny, red hot dog (without the bun) and chips. London Survival Tip #9: Chips are not like American potato chips. They are more like our steak fries, but without the skins, and are quite tasty.

After lunch, we went across the street to the Greenwich market. We walked through rather quickly, looking for earrings for my mom. Found some lovely amber studs that I thought she would like. Amber is really a cool looking thing! I had no idea that it came in so many different colors, not just brown or yellow.

As we headed back toward the train station, we got a good look at the Greenwich Observatory, which has way more significance to the Man than it does to me. But hey, I can still say that I've seen it.

Roz made sure we got on the train at the very front because she thought I should see something. But she is a very sneaky person and would not give me a hint, just a mischievous grin. So we board the train and this is what I see:


Nice view, eh? Notice anything unusual? No? Well, notice anything missing? See the driver? Yeah, me, neither! This train had no driver! Kinda cool, though.

Next stop: The Tower of London. This one is going to require more than one post, I can tell you that!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Flowers

I just love flowers! While we were dating, I never once told the Man that I didn't like flowers because I really, really like flowers. My favorite flowers are gladiolus and I planted several behind my white rose bushes in front of the house. Last year, the neighborhood landscape people tore out my glads before they were done. See, once they shoot up and bloom, you're supposed to let the whole stock die and turn brown before you pull it out. This ensures that the corm (like a bulb) has enough to regrow in the next season. Since they were pulled up too early, I wasn't sure I was going to get many.


Look great, don't they? Even if they are only in patches...




My favorite ones are the white flowers. And then I finally got my promised service from that church activity so long ago...




Sooooo pretty! And they smell just lovely! Ahhhh...I love flowers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

LONDON! Day 10: Thames Riverboat Part 2

So, we're having a great time on the River Thames (pronounced "Tims"), laughing with the non-tour guide and just enjoying the morning. Onward!

While the guide had plenty to say about the buildings on the left side of the river, at one point this was all that was on the right:


Kinda lonely-looking, isn't it? Reminds me of that part in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Johnny Depp's father moves the house out somewhere all by itself.

See that little pub there in the middle? That's the only place in London where you can buy American stamps. Can you read it's name? The Mayflower. It's called that because the *actual* Mayflower moored there just before it's infamous voyage. Pretty cool, eh?



This is the HMS Ark Royale. It's an air craft carrier and also the largest ship in the British fleet. It was anchored here for the Queen's birthday celebrations. Comes with several helicopters and even some of these:


I tried not to take too many pictures...


The Millennial Dome, as seen in the James Bond movie. Pretty cool looking place! They couldn't dig into the ground for supports, had to find another way to keep the top up. Also, those large grey cages all around it are generators. It is completely power self-sufficient. Roz, our fabulous guide, actually worked there when it was in full swing.



The end of our ride: the Thames Barrier. This is a sort of flexible dam to keep the river from flooding. Arms extend between the large Conquistador-helmet-looking things as needed to prevent too much water upriver.

So that ends our boat trip! We exited the boat at Greenwich. More on that later...

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