Monday, June 16, 2008

Beating the Heat

So, it's finally cooled down here in Boston a bit, but the last week and half has been so hot! It got up to 99 two weekends ago! And with the humidity it was pretty miserable. So what better way to beat the heat than to go to the beach? The breeze off the water was nice (if a little smelly) and we had fun soaking up some rays and playing in the sand. Check out the awesome sand turtle Bryce, Ben, Nicole and Abby made! People kept stopping to look at it, it was very impressive!

It's Myrtle the Turtle!

Nicole, Bryce, Ben and Abby

Also, I haven't reported on J.K. Rowling's Commencement Speech, which of course was amazing! You HAVE to go read it, or better yet watch it, here! I was almost in tears at one point during the speech. Our seats weren't too bad either, we could see the stage, but were a little far away for pictures, but we planted ourselves right behind the big screen so I got some good pics of her on that. Anyway, she is one of my heroes and it was so great to hear her speak live.

This weekend was a little cooler, like I said, so I didn't do too much outside other than walking to the Library with my roommate. I was able to go see Prince Caspian finally and loved it! Seriously, go see it! And if you haven't read the books you have to! They are some of my favorite stories and I think Prince Caspian is one of the best.

Plus, so exciting, but I got to see a trailer for Twilight before the movie!! Oh my gosh, I was freaking out! There are some things that turn me into a total "tween" and Twilight is one of them. So in honor of my excitement I thought I'd share the trailer with you too! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And look! Another post!

And since I'm on a roll with the posting, here's a look at the BBQ we had on Sat. for my roommates big achievements: Abby and Nicole both graduated with their Masters, Nicole is starting a new job and Lisa was promoted to "the floor" at work! My roommies are the best and the smartest. Can you believe I'm the only one in the house without a Masters Degree now? Smarties, that's what they are!

So we had about half the ward over to celebrate. David, our neighbor, brought his sweet new grill over and we cooked up burgers and good times. I made more of what is quickly becoming my famous Banoffee Cream Pie and we had a good 'ol time! Check it out:

This is what the pie looks like before the whip cream, just so you can get an idea... That's the toffee under the bananas.

Trisha looking fabulous as always!

My roomie Nicole really getting into a burger... Mmmrughh, yummy!

Marci and Erica, who came back for a visit.

Matchy-Matchy, me and Molly!

The Grill Master, David

With the Famous Banoffee Cream Pie

My roommie Abby and her BFF, Barbara

Laura, Alice and Leah chillin'

A good gathering

Picnic BBQ next to the square foot gardens

I'd say the party was a good success! The rain held off until most of us were done eating. We brought it inside at the very end and ended up watching a movie with a few people still hanging around. For me it's the first BBQ of the season, and I say, Bring It On!!

Oh, and I just have to plug The Cuteness... It was my niece and nephews One Year Birthday Party Picnic at the same time in Salt Lake! Wish I could have been there, but it looks like it was fun, check out the pictures here.

Jack and Kirsten are one year old! Such cuties!!

Remember to stay tuned for a post about J.K. Rowling! I get to hear her speak, live, tomorrow afternoon!! Can't wait!!

England Trip Part 3 - West Dean

Ok, so here's the last bit! West Dean College!

Wow, is all I can say. This place is Beautiful! I mean check out the front door!

So I got here on Monday night and didn't see anyone really at that point, but the next morning when I went in to breakfast I met Lili, who is my email friend at the school. It's kind of funny actually, her brother is in my ward in Boston and we've been emailing each other for the last year and half because she was applying for a job at Harvard, plus she went to BYU, knows everyone I know, and so it's just funny that this was the first time we'd actually met in person! She is really lovely, I wish I'd gotten a picture with her, oh well!

After breakfast (which was delicious by the way, all the food there was, they have meals "cafeteria style") I met up with the instructor of the book course for my Practical Test and Interview. He gave me a tour of the facility and set me to work on making some things. It went well, in fact I wasn't nervous at all, until they started asking me questions in the interview and portfolio part... But overall I think it went well.

This took pretty much all day, but I was done at 4 and after having a tour of the accommodations and talk about financing options, I went to bother Lili a bit in her room. She was trying to finish a huge research paper, so I tried not to distract her for too long. Luckily though, she had an adaptor that I could use to recharge my camera battery, so yay! Pictures! After dinner she took me on a lovely walk through the Arboretum where most of the pictures were taken...

A view of the school from the top of a nearby hill.

The beautiful green fields next to the school (these don't really do it justice... it was raining most of Monday and Tuesday)

Lambies!! All the lambs here have twins because they are artificially inseminated. Baby lambs are the cutest!

These are fields of white daisies. Pretty!

Coming back to the school (we did a big loop), isn't it just so picturesque?

This is the hallway on the way to my room in the main house! Crazy! There are like hundred-year-old tapestries hanging on the walls, antique marble pillars, urns, armor and dead animal heads all over the school!

The view from my window in my room, showing the back-side garden. You can see a quaint little cottage behind the shrub wall there...

A better view of the cottage.

Another view of the front of the school.

So anyway! That is pretty much the end of my trip! I went to bed on Tuesday, got up early Wednesday morning for breakfast and then drove back up to the airport. My plane left in the afternoon, so I had plenty of time to return the car and do a bit of airport shopping before it was back to Boston, this time through Toronto!

All in all, it was an amazing trip! I'm so glad I was able to go! I'm still not sure what to do about school, in fact I'm almost more confused than I was before, but I'm glad I got a feel for both of them, and that I was able to meet up with some friends! It was so great to be back in England after 7 years. It's still the same as I remembered, which I'm glad of, and I really hope that I'll be back again very soon!

Next up are some pictures of what I've been up to since getting back. Yes, my life never stops.... Seriously though, it's usually really boring, but maybe since it's summer it's getting a little more exciting. Anyway, I'll be sure to be better about posting what I'm up to this summer, so keep checking back!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

England Trip Part 2 - Hampshire and Jane Austen's House

So, to continue the journey, I got up bright and early on Monday morning to pick up my rental car at the airport. That's right! I drove in England! On the right hand side of the car! On the left side of the road! And I lived to tell the tale! It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I got used to it pretty quickly.

Anyway, after a short hiccup at the rental desk I was off in a cute little sliver VW hatchback. It was an automatic, so luckily I didn't have to worry about anything other than getting used to driving "backwards". I actually didn't have a map (maybe a bad idea and I found out later that the rental company had one I could have borrowed, why they didn't tell me that at the time...) but I had printed directions from Google which worked just fine. I headed first to... Jane Austen's House!

Oh man, I wish I had someone there to share the excitement with, but at the same time it was great to be able to go through at my own pace. I was really lucky because I love fashion and costuming from this time and they were having an exhibit throughout the museum of dresses from the new adaptation of Sense & Sensibility that just aired on Masterpiece (which you should all watch, because although it's not as great as the Emma Thompson version, is still a nice long adaptation).

So onto the pictures!

This dress was in the entrance to the museum. Elinor Dashwood wears it throughout the movie. So fun to see it up close!

This is Jane Austen's writing desk. It's in the same place it was in her lifetime. In the breakfast room under the window. It's actually really small and I can't imagine her sitting and writing six novels here!

This was in the same room as the desk and was worn by Fanny Dashwood, the evil step-sister-in-law, in the movie. It's accordingly a "finer" dress.

One of my favorite dresses, worn by Marianne Dashwood, this was upstairs in Jane and Cassandra's room, which was actually quite small!

I'm pretty sure this was another one of Elinor's dresses.

I believe this was an original copy (couldn't be sure as it was in the back of case) of one of JA's first "novels", "Love and Friendship". The illustrations were done by her sister. I actually ended up talking the with curator of the museum for some time about who they have doing conservation work on their objects because there were many, like this one, that I wanted to cradle like a little baby and fix myself! I got a contact and might be able to do some work for them when I get over there...

This is an actual quilt made by Jane, her mother and sister. It's actually so amazing and this picture doesn't do it justice! Can you imagine piecing all these together by hand?!

This was worn by Edward Ferras in the movie... swoon... man, I love Regency Men!

This is JA's donkey cart. At the end of her life she was very sick and it was hard for her to move around, so she would get out in this little cart which was pulled by a donkey.

A view of the pump and behind it the bake house where the bread was made.

A view of the entrance gate on the side of the house.

Jane Austen's House!

After getting my fill of her gardens and house I went on to Winchester where she died and was buried. There's a memorial to her in Winchester Cathedral. This is the only place I actually got lost. The directions I had were hard to follow as they don't like to post the name of roads in England (so it seems), have a million one way streets and the directions only told me to stay on roads for about 200 yards before I was supposed to make another turn! I was just going to park and find my way on foot, but I was out of cash and so I got in a catch-22, I couldn't park without cash, but I couldn't stop to get cash without parking! So eventually I stopped at a petrol station and a really nice bloke (see I'm picking up the lingo already!) helped me find an ATM and gave me directions to the cathedral, so eventually I made it! I wish I had more time to explore this quaint little city. It had some fun shops on the High Street too. I ate lunch then made my way to the Cathedral for pictures.

The entrance to Winchester Cathedral. There has actually been a church on this site since like the late 1100's, can you believe it?

This is the stone in the floor that marks Jane Austen's death. It was placed here by her family. It actually doesn't mention anything about her being a writer.

This plaque was placed here later above the stone on the floor and refers to her writing. There was also a stained glass window above it which also commemorate her as a writer.

Unfortunately after this the battery on my camera died so I didn't get any pictures of the rest of my adventures on Monday. But after walking around the church a bit more I decided I wanted to try to get to Brighton before going to the school. I figured I had the car, why not take advantage of it! Brighton was about a two hour drive from Winchester so I didn't spend any more time in the town and just took off on the motorway. I kept thinking the whole drive down there "But I want to go to Brighton!", like how Lydia Bennet says it in the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice! Fun times.

Again, I didn't have a map, and although I knew where it was, I hadn't printed any directions from Winchester to Brighton, so I just decided to wing it by following signs on the motorways! It turned out fine and I made it there in no time at all!

When I got to Brighton I found a parking garage and followed signs to the Royal Pavilion. Since it was a bank holiday Brighton seemed pretty busy! There were tons of people out walking around, and while this was fun, I felt a little conspicuous walking around by myself. So I did the tour of the Royal Pavilion and then walked down along the Victorian Boardwalk, which has an amusement park on it. Again, I didn't linger long at many things, but bought some cotton candy (or floss as they call it) and played one of the booth games they had where you compete against a lot of other people. It was pretty fun!

The Royal Pavilion (this picture was not taken by me, my camera had broken but I wanted you to see what it looked like). This is one amazing place!

Again, not my picture (obviously) but this is a shot of Brighton Pier from the air. It's a pretty big place!

From the Beach. The white building had a huge arcade inside.

I decided I'd get some dinner before driving to the school, so I walked around The Lanes, which are little alleyways that have been turned into a shopping district, and found a little Italian restaurant that didn't look too uncomfortable for sitting by myself.

After dinner I drove back along the coastal road to West Dean and was astonished when passing this castle, which I found out later was Arundel Castle! Wish I'd had time to stop!!

So amazing! I could see this off in the distance sitting above a little village and I can't wait to go back and explore more!

Well, that brings me to the end of that leg of the journey. Next up, West Dean! I made it in at about 8:30 that night and went right to sleep in my beautiful old room!

Monday, June 2, 2008

England Trip Part 1 - London

Get ready for picture overload!

Ok, so I've needed some time to recuperate since my trip so sorry for the delay on posting. I have a million pictures so I'm going to break this into a few posts, so you've been warned! I'm sorry if I overload your computer, but really, I crammed so much into just a few short days, it's amazing! Ok, onto the recap!

I got in at 9:30 am on Thursday morning after flying all night. I had a layover in Halifax, and unfortunately didn't get much sleep, so was pretty dead. Aimee, my friend from High School who I was staying with, met me at the airport and we headed to her "fella's" house in south London. I crashed as soon as we got there. Man jet-lag is such a pain! I seriously didn't feel normal until 4 days into the trip! After a good 2 hour nap, I was ready to get out and see some sights.

We had decided before hand that we should try to see a play on Thursday, since it was a bank holiday which meant more people in London over the weekend, so we first went down to Leischester Square to the discount ticket booths. Unfortunately Les Mis wasn't on sale that weekend because of said bank holiday so instead we got a great deal on tickets to... "Spamalot"! This one has always been on my list, just because I love the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" so I was actually happy to go, plus it was high on Aimee and John's (Aimee's fella) list. Since most of the day was gone (thanks jet-lag) we walked around the book stores on Charing Cross Road looking for used paperbacks with not a lot of luck. We eventually ended up at Foyle's, a five story mega-store, like Borders and they had newer editions of what I was looking for. Then we met up with John, grabbed a quick bite at McDonald's (don't worry I had better food on the trip) then headed to the theater with you "pick-n-mix" candy (shhh...)!

The "curtian" before the show opened. The stage was great! Very "Python"...

This theater was seriously cool, there were little cherubs along all the balconies. As you can see from the pictures our seats were pretty great. Right in the center about ten rows back. But the seat I wish I had (and which you should all try to get if you have the choice is D1... you might just get to meet the cast, we'll call it a mini role). The show was so much fun, Aimee got a killer rabbit, plus there was even a famous actor in the cast! King Arthur was played by Alan Dale who's in Ugly Betty, the O.C., and aparently some really famous Australian TV show... he was pretty good! Overall, I'm glad I got to see it. Les Mis would have been great, but this was fun, and very British!

We got Chinese food in China Town after the show, then headed home to collapse again, this time for about 8 hours.

My attempt to get up early the next day was not very successful, so by the time we got to our first stop, The Globe Theater, we didn't have time for a tour before I had to run off to meet with people at Camberwell College, one of the schools I'm considering for Grad School. We grabbed some lunch, which included some Banoffi Pie and then I braved the busses to get to the school.

My tour of the school was great and it's made my decision making process even harder! They both have pluses and minuses, but they are pretty much opposites, so we'll have to see which is a better fit, luckily I have a bit of time to do that.

Then it was back to meet Aimee! We had missed the last tour by that time so decided it would have to wait until the next day. We grabbed some pictures and then boarded a boat for a tour of sights from the Thames.

In front of Shakespeare's Globe

From the boat:

London Bridge

Tower Bridge (don't know why I didn't get close to this last time)

The Tower, this inner building used to be the Norman's castle. It's most famously been used as a prison.

From the other side of Tower Bridge

Passing back by the Tower, this is Traitors Gate, where prisoners used to be taken into the prison.

The Globe again.

The London Eye (a 400 ft tall ferris wheel, scary!)

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Did you know that Big Ben is the bell, not the clock?

After our boat tour we walked from the Houses of Parliament up to Buckingham Palace. There's a beautiful park along the walk, I was so glad that the weather was nice for the first few days of my trip!

St. Jame's Park

The Palace with a monument to Queen Victoria

Palace Gaurd

In front of the gates!

It's hard to remember (since a lot of this and the next day had been spent in the same area) but I think this was also the night we ate at Wagamama's for dinner, which on the reccommendation from Aimee was very tasty. We also had some fabulous coconut ice cream for dessert! Yum-O!

We were tired after all that walking so headed home, watched some telly, then crashed again!

The next day we got up bright and early to do the Globe tour! Yay! Finally! It was a really great tour, great museum, and I only wish I could have seen a play! If I'd come a week later I could have seen "A Mid Summer Night's Dream" which is my favorite, so kind of a bummer, but someday... This building is obviously a replica, the original was somewhere in the near vacinity but had burned down only a few years after Shakespeare's death. I learned lots of interesting facts that I hadn't known before, and now of course I want to go read more! I'll spare you the details though as this post is getting long and just get to the pictures...

The Stage and the pit. You can see the decoration on the ceiling and pillars.

More of a view of the audience seating.

After that we headed to Oxford Street for shopping at New Look (great deals!) and then lunch at the Marloborough Head, a true English Pub! I wish I got pictures of the basement where we sat. It had a whole wall of bookshelves (with false spines) which cleverly concealed the doors to the "loos". It was funny to watch people try to find their way. We helped many a poor soul since we were right next to the Men's room... so funny. I had a true English Sunday Roast, with Yorkshire Pudding (yay!), Mashers (mashed potatoes) and Roast Beef. It was delicious!

After that we headed up to the British Library, but first since we came out at King's Cross station we had to make a pilgramage to Platform Nine and Three Quarters of course!! So much fun to push a trolley through the barrier...

Off to the Hogwarts Express!!

Oh, and in other related Harry Potter news, guess who gets to hear J.K. Rowling speak this Thursday at Harvard's Commencement!? You guessed it! I'm sooooo excited!

Ok, back to London... We spent a good chunk of time at the Brit Lib of course. Had to go check out the new Conservation facilities even thought it was Sat. so they weren't open. It was great to see all those treasures again, especially the Jane Austen letters and manuscripts!

So that night we went home to have a Birthday Bash for Aimee's friend Claudia which involved ordering "a curry" (indian take-out to you Yanks) and watching the craziest thing this American's ever seen, Eurovision! And of course cake! Just for a little taste of what the competition looked like this year, check out my favorite of the performances: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Let's just say it was an experience...

On Sunday we packed in the last of the things on my "to-do" list. First we hit Harrod's and saw the "Egyptian Hall" and the "Food Halls". Wow, that is all I can say. Shopping at Harrod's really is an "experience".

At the top of the Egyptian Hall

They even had an opera singer singing live!

We then went on to the Victoria & Albert Museum where we had lunch and then I walked quicly around my favorite exhibit, the Fashion hall, before heading off the the Brittania ward, which is the only singles ward in the UK.

They were having a special exhibit about the Supremes, which looked great, although I didn't see it.

While I was at church the rest of the group went to the Natural History Museum to see a live Buterfly exhibit. I snapped this picture of the great hall while I was waiting for them in the gift shop.

By that time it was getting close to the end of the day. We had just enough time to head home, change, grab some food then walk to the local movie theater to see the new "Indiana Jones" movie! So much fun!

Wow, so that's just the first end of my trip! Whew, is everyone even still with me? I think that might be the longest post I've ever written! So maybe tonight or tomorrow I'll post about the next part which I think might be my favorite! London was great and I'm so glad I was able to stay with Aimee and that she played all weekend with me, but the English country side is GORGEOUS! Just wait, it's gonna be good!

Ok, that's all for now! Check back soon!