Saturday, April 25, 2015

Moving On

I am starting a new job on Monday.  Same company.  Different job.   Not something that was in my plan.  Especially, not in my plan to go from part time to full time, but that is the situation.  I have never been caught up in a business decision that impacted my personal career decisions quite as much as this has.  It has been a difficult couple of weeks coming to terms with it - but I have come to terms with it and will be moving on.

I work with some really nice people and I will miss them.  I am most sad about leaving my partner in crime, Wanda.  We were thrown together about four years ago to lead a big program and I never could have imagined the impact she would have on me in that time.  I did not know her very well and really had no expectations going into the position.  We quickly formed a bond, learned each others strengths and weaknesses and made decisions about how we could share the duties.  We communicated daily.  Multiple times daily sometimes.  It was highly stressful sometimes, but we worked together really well.  When needed, she covered for me and I covered for her.  We knew each other's hot buttons and before too long could finish each other's sentences.  We definitely felt pressure to meet deadlines and solve big ugly problems that cropped up from time to time, but we could count on each other.  Without question and without fail.  Working with her was a pleasure and we have a sincere mutual respect for each other.  Regardless of whether we work together or not, we will be friends for life.  I am sure of that.

She sent me flowers on my last day of work.  And the sweetest note.  It made me cry.



I am going to miss her. 

Moving on to a new challenge.  Wish me luck! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Windows....Before and After

As I mentioned in my first London post, we have had some home improvement repairs going on around here.  It started with carpenter ants...which led to finding termites....which led to repairs and re-painting the house...which led to replacing some windows...which led to trimming back some big trees and replacing a fence.  Anyone follow that logic?  It makes perfect sense to me. 

We have a track record of waiting to do any kind of maintenance until it is absolutely necessary.  Does everyone else operate like that too?  Take for instance these windows.  I am pretty sure the inner seal was broken and they had these frosted moisture rings on them when we bought the house 10 years ago, but we are just now getting them replaced.  Don't want to make any snap decisions, so ten years is an adequate amount of time to make some decisions, get some quotes and pull the trigger.  

Here are some before pictures of the windows in the den.  There are three of them.






The picture below is of the big picture window above the front door.  Yes, it looks filthy.  Yes I have washed it.


But it also has the broken seal problem.  Never looks clean.  Always foggy and gross. 


After ten years it had to go.


Ta-da!  New shiny windows.  All three of them are sparkling! 


And the entry window is so pretty.  


Hubby doesn't notice much of a difference, but I sure do!  I am super happy with the results and so glad to have it done!  We have also finished the termite treatment, tree trimming, house repairs and house re-painting and the fence will be in by next week.  Getting stuff done!   More pictures to follow! 

Hope your Monday was awesome! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

London 2015 - Day Four

Recap of the last full day in London....

We woke up bright and early and left the hotel by 7:00 a.m. to meet the big double-decker Harry Potter bus and the much anticipated Harry Potter studio tour.  This is another one of those things that I would not have ever signed up for, but in hindsight cannot recommend enough!  It was great!  If you are not a Harry Potter fan, you will be by the time you leave this place.  Very cool! 

Are you noticing a pattern here?  I had no damn clue what we were going to do in London.  Didn't even care.  These girls laid out a great plan and I was happy just to do whatever they recommended.  It was like being on a real tour! 


Golden Tours - Harry Potter Studio Tour...tickets prepaid and they pick you up and drop you off at the studio door.  It was probably a 40 minute bus ride. 


This girl was not one bit happy! 
She loves Harry Potter.



This is the actual studio set of Harry's cupboard under the stairs.



Studio set of the Great Hall. 
It was really great! 



Look at the cute school uniforms! 



Costumes.


More sets.


Harry's dorm room. 


The Poisons and Potions classroom set. 


Those handles were stirring like magic.  It was cool! 


The Weasley's house - everything was all crooked.  Super cute. 



The train station!  One of my favorite parts.  You can see the kid on the right of this picture holding on to the cart and acting like he is running through the wall like in the movie. 



Animatronics and prosthetics


Hagrid head! 


Double-decker Potter bus.


Two moms acting like we are in the movies! 


We obviously missed our calling.


Look at those animated faces! Someone throw a green screen behind that car and it would look like we were flying through the air!   Lights, camera, action.....

We spent about three hours cruising through all the great exhibits and seeing all the props and sets and learning about all the fancy ways they made the movie seems so real.  Even after seeing it first hand it is hard to believe it was shot mostly in a big ol' warehouse.  Pretty slick.  We all bought a little souvenir (or several) and climbed back on the bus to London for our final afternoon in the city. 

We went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and then were going to have a proper English Tea! 

Back to the underground Subway.  Quite a terrific public transportation system once you figure it out.  If we heard "Mind the gap" one time, we heard it fifty times!  One funny story that I don't want to forget....we got off at one station and there was announcement about the lift being out of order or the escalator or something.  It did not phase us because all the stations had stairs right next to the escalators and we did not think it was any big deal.  We got off and there was this HUGE line of people waiting to go up the elevator.  We saw the sign for the steps and thought it would be quicker to hit the steps.  

Well, it didn't take long to figure out why folks were waiting for the escalator!


193 steps.  

Up a circular staircase.  It makes me nauseous just typing it.  I was looking down at the steps because they were terrifically narrow towards the inside rail and really wide on the outside rail.  Not just an even step, so you had to look down to ensure you were going to get a foot on the step.  It made me dizzy!   Malarie, of course was cracking jokes the whole time!  She loves steps!  Highly entertaining! 

They had countdown signs in the stairwell.

You have gone 64 steps. 

You have reached 81 steps. 

You have made it 109 steps.

You have 42 steps left.

You have 15 steps left.  

Finally we reached the top and were laughing and huffing and puffing....and then one of our subway cards would not work to exit the station.  We were NOT going back down!  Finally, we got some help and fell out on to the street! 



The subway stations are clean and well used.  Lots of people choose that method of transportation and it is mighty smart when you see the traffic on the street!  Those double-decker buses are all over the place and they come within a fraction of an inch of hitting each other all the time.  It is miracle there are not more accidents!  They also have painted on all the street corners in big letters "LOOK LEFT" or "LOOK RIGHT"  That is for stupid Americans like me who cannot for the life of me remember that cars are coming from the opposite direction!  It is not natural! 

Enough about trains and buses....let's reminisce about Afternoon Tea!  It was probably my favorite activity and we had some pretty nice activities. 

It was a vegan Afternoon Tea, which might make a few of you cringe.  I have been around that cute vegan in the yellow sweater below to know that eating vegan can be super yummy! 


Here we are, ready and willing to see what all this afternoon tea business is about. 


The table was beautiful and there was a set menu.  Five types of finger sandwiches, hot scones with fruit, coconut cream and jam, three desserts and the choice of tea of coffee.  BRING IT ON!!   

Look at this cute bowl of sugar cubes.  
Vegans are NOT afraid of sugar!  


Mal and Meg both got hot tea...one is Jasmine and the dark one was something called Darjeeling.  
Me and Callie got coffee!  


Dark, thick, pressed Italian coffee!  Delicious coffee!  

I had three cups. 

That was a mistake.

Big mistake.

I did not sleep at all.

At all.

Not a wink. 

Surely the rational explanation for my lack of sleep was the abundance of super delicious coffee at four o'clock in the afternoon! 


Look at these cute sandwiches!  Here is what was inside:

Scrambled tofu with mustard cress
Grilled Portobello with rocket pesto 
Lemon & thyme tahini with cucumber 
****Grilled aubergine with red pepper and coleslaw****
Courgette with  semi dried tomatoes and Parmesan mayonnaise

I gave my favorite the stars!  Don't even ask me what aubergine is because I do not know.  It was delicious. That is what I know. 



These scones may not look like much....they were much.  So fluffy, light, great texture, delicious!  And there was whipped coconut cream which when combined with the strawberries and scones was like a little strawberry short cake.  Dessert before dessert. 


The dessert selection was probably my least favorite which is kind of shocking.  The little tiny pie slice in the background was a raw orange cranberry gelatin pie that was my favorite. The middle chocolate brownie was a bit too dense for my liking and the lemon coconut cake was okay.  As I am typing this I wonder if my dessert issue was because I ate so much already and had pre-dessert dessert of strawberry short cake! That is highly likely!  

AGAIN, this was another long meal.  We were there no less than two hours.  
These Londoners are meal loiterers!  


After we left the tea, we walked through Kensington Park on our way to Harrods.  There were people and pets out all over the place enjoying the beautiful day.  The girls got wrapped up watching a little min pin dog that appeared to be looking for his people.  I was worried we would be fostering that dog - but eventually his owners whistled for him and he went tearing off across the grass!   While we were observing and stalking the little dog, I spotted this guy feed a parrot.  From his hand!  I googled "parrots in London" and apparently they have colonies of feral parrots that frequent the parks.  That was unexpected! 


We got a little closer and also had some pretty bold squirrels visiting with us.  Megan shared a leftover strawberry with this little guy and I snapped this picture for Hubby who has a bit of a fascination with photos of squirrels.  


Then Megan put a few crumbs of leftover scones in her hand and some of the cutest little finches landed on her hand to eat!  Isn't that neat?


A little blue bird.

There were also a ton of pigeons on the ground around her feet.  They were coo'ing and making all kinds of noise.  I wish I would have gotten a video clip! 


We loved the parks.  The were active and busy, but not nearly as busy as say, Central Park in New York City.  


The flowers were just gorgeous! 

We finally found Harrod's and it was a HUGE department store that was packed with people.  I did a little price snooping because I find it interesting what people will pay for things.  I found a silk robe in the lingerie department that was $2,450. What?  They have super soft robes at Target for $19.99.  Where do you wear a $2,450 robe?  Crazy!  And the shoes?  Little tiny children's shoes for $400.  They only wear them for two minutes!  And they can't even walk yet!  Shoes are purely for decoration on little tiny baby feet! 

We unfortunately entered the store through the perfume department and the smell was wicked strong and nauseating.  I felt sick for most of the night.  Too strong!  We rode a double-decker bus back to the hotel and sat in the front seat of the top deck.  It was like a roller coaster ride!  My stomach was not amused!  My advice to any future visitors to Harrod's....find a different entrance than the perfume department!  


We inquired at the front desk how much a cab would be to the airport so that we could avoid lugging our bags onto trains and buses and turns out it wasn't too bad.  We made an executive decision to take the cab route back to the airport and it was a good one!  He dropped us off right at the door to our terminal.  Woo Hoo! 

Our 10 1/2 hour flight back to Dallas wasn't terrible.  The plane was not full at all and we all spread out on our own rows.  It is just nice to stretch out when you are cooped up for that long!  Three movies, a couple good naps and  lots of snacks made the time go by pretty quickly. 

We hit all the highlights in London, making the most of the few days that we had!  I so enjoyed sharing these experiences with Callie and the girls.  They are great travel partners!  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and now I can get back to some regularly scheduled programming!  

Have a great day! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

London 2015 - Day Three

Day three in London was another gorgeous day!  Everyone in London commented on how lucky we were to have such beautiful weather for our visit. Apparently, it can get pretty gloomy and wet.  Everyone in London also made some comment about Lynyrd Skynyrd and Sweet Home Alabama as soon as they heard the girls were from Alabama.  It was hysterical that was the common bit of knowledge that all Londoners commented on when they heard the word Alabama! 


This row of flats reminds me so much of Boston. 


How about that map?   Where are we going today?  


How about we ride the Double Decker bus down to St. Paul's Cathedral?  Sounds like a plan! 

Throughout the trip Callie kept us informed on all the Royal family gossip and history.  Kate was due to deliver her second baby just any time (although that still has not happened!) and Callie had scoped out the location of the hospital in case we wanted to go down there and stand vigil if she went into labor!  


St. Paul's Cathedral was the location of Charles and Diana's wedding back in 1981.  It was a beautiful church.  HUGE!


Quaint view from the steps of the Cathedral.  It looks so historic and European.  You can't see the Starbucks just to the right of this picture!  


More of the Cathedral. 


Next up for the day was a walk across the Millennium Bridge toward our next destination...The Globe.  It was a very modern bridge which was such a stark contrast to the historic buildings in the area. 


There is The Globe.  An exact replica of the original Shakespearean Theatre, right down to the thatched roof, built almost in the same exact location as the original theatre. 


I never knew anything about The Globe, but it was high on Megan's "must see" list for London.  


Interesting to note, that one of my friends in the neighborhood is the Theatre teacher at the middle school.  She is also in my book club.  In January she was telling us about an opportunity she had found about teachers being able to apply for a summer program to learn theatre techniques at The Globe in London.  She had always wanted to visit The Globe and was planning to submit her application the first day she was allowed!  She really wanted to be picked! 

Well, the week before we went to London she found out she was selected.  Dream realized!  That is cool! 


I was so happy for her!  The entire time I walked through this awesome theatre I thought of her! 


I wonder if they will teach her jousting techniques? 


Costume design? 


How to wear a dress that makes your hips look huge and your head look tiny? 


Our tour guide, Jan, was just lovely!  She was funny and interesting and made someone like me who had no idea The Globe existed want to be a regular at all their productions. 


It is an open air theatre, for purposes of getting good light. 


They used building techniques that were the same as the original Globe.


No screws or bolts in this place. 


It looked old but really wasn't that old. 


This is the only building in London that is authorized to have a thatched roof.  They did have to make an upgrade to include a sprinkler system on the roof.  That was a modern touch! 


The loved the benches. 


The balcony. 


How did Megan come to know about The Globe at her young age when I was completely in the dark that it even existed until about two weeks ago?   Can I get a show of hands of how many of you have ever heard of The Globe and desired to visit said theatre?  My hand is down.  But please take my word for it...if you are ever in London, please include this on your tour stops.  It was so cool! 


There were many snapshots taken to document our visit. 



There is St. Paul's Cathedral from a window at The Globe.  See how close it sits to the river?  


Outside, was this fantastic gate with all manner of cute little creatures. 


Again, highly entertaining, educational and recommended! 


Once we left The Globe we strolled north for a bit to find the original location of the rival theatre called The Rose. 


Then we found the plaque where the original Globe Theatre stood.  
You literally could have thrown a rock and hit the new location.  

We kept moseying along the river and came upon this super cute pub called The Anchor.  It had a large outdoor pavilion that was packed so we grabbed a table inside and got some refreshments while we plotted and planned our next move. 


Look how happy we are! 


About fifteen minutes later, our glasses were empty and we were moving on.

BUT WAIT!

Where is Malarie's backpack?  

It was just hanging on her chair! 

We haven't gotten up from this table at any point in the last half hour.  

OMG!  Where is it! 

She took pictures at the Pub of our cute Stella cups and then packed her camera away in her backpack and hung it on her chair. 

WE WERE ROBBED! 

In BROAD DAYLIGHT! 

Who does that to someone? 

Stupid, mean, mean people, that is who!  

Her backpack was gone.  As was her very nice camera.  

Ugh. 

We all felt mad and violated and so, so sad that we lost the pictures that were on her camera.  She had taken a ton of pictures! 

Aggravating.  

We checked in with the bartender, the manager, the lost and found.  No luck. 

We only recalled a few people even being around our table, but obviously one of them was a professional thief.  

Jerks.  

I am done venting.  We had no choice but to continue with our day although it definitely did dampen the mood quite a bit. 

It was late afternoon and we were headed to Camden Lock in pursuit of a vegan cookie shop.  Camden Lock Market was a bizarre kind of place.  It was a tattoo, body piercing, hippie kind of place.  I was dressed absolutely inappropriately in my pastel stripped mom sweater! 



It was mobbed!  I had no idea there were this many people in pursuit of vegan cookies or tattoos!  There were hundreds of little stores all along this strip of road.


I don't know if it was the robbery or this batch of weirdness at Camden Lock, but we all kind of just fizzled out in the afternoon.  We headed back to the hotel via bus and took a nice break.  

After we regrouped we walked to a Pizza Express joint close to the hotel for dinner.  The food was great but the service in London is so different than the states.  A simple pizza meal at a place called Pizza Express took a solid three hours.  It took forever for someone to take our order.  The food came out within 15 minutes of ordering and it was terrific.  Big giant beers served nice and cold.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.  Then we waited.  Waited.  Waited some more.  Decided a shared piece of dessert would be a nice end to kind of crap day. So we shared a bite of something delicious that escapes me at the moment.  After another 20 minutes we were able to finally flag our girl down and ask  for the check.  That took forever.  These London folks seriously like to linger over a meal! 

It was late by the time we got back to the hotel, so we set our alarms for the next morning!  Our last full day in London was starting early for a much anticipated tour of the Harry Potter Studios!   

I hope you have enjoyed sharing a bit of London with me!  Day four with lots of pictures coming up next!