Saturday, 26 December 2009

Gingerbread Castle

We made an enormous Gingerbread Castle this year. I really enjoy making Gingerbread anything, and since I was in Montana . . . and my Dad and Brother-in-Law had built the 2 foot tall catapult in July, I thought . . . Well, it really needs a castle to siege, doesn't it?!? So, the Castle had to be big enough to be fun to destroy. We made it 25x25" wide/long and 23" tall. Told you it was enormous! Here's the finished product (I'm holding the tiny catapult for the photo.)
We finished the castle on the 23rd, so Christmas Eve, we took it down to the Hospital to brighten the patients' holiday. Our original idea was to take it round the Childrens' Ward, but they'd manage to get all but 1 kid (who was about 1 year old, so too young to enjoy it) home for the holidays. So, we took it to Oncology (Cancer) instead. They LOVED it. We'll pick it up next week before I leave (going to Lois' for New Years) and catapult it :D

If you'd like to read the whole story, along with tips and tricks for making your own gingerbread creation, visit my ScrapBlog. If you'd like to download the plans for the castle, they can be found here. You can either leave them as is, or scale them down. The Full Plan has all the pieces, but in small size. They are in scale to themselves, though, so if you want to make a tiny version, you can. If you do make one, please leave me a note? Either here or on the Scrapblog. And a link to a photo would be awesome!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas, and all the best of luck in the New Year.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Dashing Throught the Snow!

Dashing through the snow,
In a 2 horse open sleigh.
Or the fields we go, laughing all the way. (Ha! Ha! Ha!)
Bells on bobtails ring,
Making spirits bright.
What fun it is to ride and sing this sleighing song to night!

Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!
Jingle All the Way!
Oh, What Fun It Is to Ride
In a 2 Horse Open Sleigh, Hey!
Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!
Jingle All the Way!
Oh, What Fun It Is to Ride
In a 2 Horse Open Sleigh!

A day or two ago,
My mother booked a ride.
And so we set right out,
My parents by my side.
With friends we rode along,
Across the fields of snow.
Hiding in a groves of trees we saw a little doe!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Santa's Been Delayed

Got sent this photo from my Dad. I was actually sitting in the room when he opened it, and he laughed so hard he couldn't breathe. It's great.

What I wondered, though, is . . . what do you tell your kids? Are they going to end up with nightmares about Santa crashing into an airplane? Will they worry that they won't get their pressies because he's a red smear across the nose of a plane? And . . . what about the reindeer? And, wouldn't smashing into Santa bring the plane down?!? At the very least, it'd put you on the naughty list for the rest of your life!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Driving Home For Christmas

One might well ask, 'How is it possible to drive from England to the Untied States? There's that pesky little bit of water in between.'

The answer, of course, would be, 'Start in Canada.'

Yes. Canada. Why Canada? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Rather than going to Georgia or Texas and then up, I went from London to Calgary, Alberta. I was supposed to connect to Denver and then to Billings (yes, I know. It's ridiculous.) However, we were an hour late leaving Heathrow, and then we had to circle the airport for half an hour before we could land. I'd nearly missed my connection before I even left the plane! I got through Canadian customs very fast (I ran to be at the front of the queue) but then got stuck waiting for 30 minutes for them to decide to deplane our luggage. Finally got that, walked over to the connecting area, and they said, 'Your plane is gone. You'll have to rebook.' Nice. That was the last plane Stateside for the rest of the day. After quite a long discussion with the airline personnel, we came to the conclusion that they couldn't actually get me to the US for 48 hours. Uh huh. 2 days. Ummm... it's only an 8 hour drive!!!! So, we decided (the reservation woman and I) that it would make most sense for me to cancel the rest of my flight, and drive to Billings. So, I canceled my remaining flight (and got a refund). [color=red]NOTE! DO NOT DO THAT UNTIL AFTER YOU'VE DEFINITELY FOR SURE GOT ALTERNATE BOOKED!!!![/color] Then I went over to the car rental desks and tried (note the word TRIED) to get a car. Umm, turns out you can't rent a car in Canada and return it to the US. Or, you can but it's very difficult and quite expensive. So, there I am, in a foreign country, no way out, jetlagging major time. I didn't actually burst into tears, but it was an effort. I called my folks (again) and just as I was starting to tell my mom the full situation, the manager of National Car Rental comes up and said, 'You'll never believe this. We've just had a US car returned, and we need to get it back across the border. I can give it to you for 1/2 the price of a domestic, turn up on the day rental. That's $150 plus tax.' (Canadian dollars.) Umm... YES! I'll take that! :D So, I drove out of Calgary last night.

Stayed the night in a tiny little . . . I hesitate to say town . . . just north of the Canadian/US border. It was that small. It was a hotel over a bar. The room had a bed, a light, and a sink. That was it. (Everything was very clean, just very spartan.) Smelled faintly of smoke. Didn't care. It was 10.45 pm local (6.45 am London!) and I was tired. Very tired. I was asleep before 11. But, by 5.00 in the morning, the random plink-plink noises the radiator was making got to be too much for me. I got up and hit the road.

And then, the border crossing. For the second time this year I've managed to confuse a US Customs Officer on the US/Canadian border. Last time it was because my answer to 'Purpose for visiting Canada' was 'To get a haircut.' This time it was 'Driving from England to the US.' Ok, so what I actually said was 'In transit from England to the US.' But, I got an equally blank look. (The answer to the previous question - How long were you in Canada? - was, 'Over night.') So, then I had to explain why I was now driving, instead of flying to Montana. Eventually he gave up trying to understand and just sent me on my way. It was funny.

Finally, I got to Billings a little before noon today. Yeay!! I'm home!! We immediately drove up to the airport to return the car, then stopped off at WalMart for necessary supplies (DIET COKE!!!!), and now we're back.

I'm tired!!!!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Thank You, Vandals!

Today is my last day of teaching for the term. Every Monday I've been heading into London to teach my Language in the USA class at Queen Mary University of London. And I turned up at the train station this morning to catch my train in, only to discover that vandals had stolen the signal box (or something to that effect) up in Wittham, so trains into London were cancelled. All of them. For the whole day. In other words, I ain't gettin into London today! Which, of course, means my class is cancelled. So, I rang the office and told them that I needed someone to put a note on the door and email the students to try and let everyone know. Exciting way to end the term!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Little TOO Much Excitement!

This last Monday I came home a bit early from London, intending to get to bed before midnight. Normally on a Monday night I don't get in til gone midnight, so getting home at quarter past 11 was quite good. Unfortunately, the gods were against me. I live on the corner of a street (more or less, it's kind of complicated, because the actual street I'm on is a close, and it's really more of an extended drive than a street. I'm ignoring that for the moment, so you'll have to just sort of go with it). The street my house is on (for the purposes of this essay) comes to a T-Junction, just a couple doors down from me. So, I'm driving up the cross-road (the top of the T) on my way to my road from the Station. At the T, I turn right, onto my road. Up ahead, opposite and a couple houses down from my house, I see an orange glow. And then some sparks. And the top of a flame. And then . . . it blossoms. An enormous housefire. I quickly parked the car and ran up the road to see if anyone had called it in. Someone had, and in fact, the fire brigade was just arriving. We ended up with 6 trucks out there, and they stayed til after 11.00 the next morning. And then came back at 2.00 in the afternoon!

The Fire Photos:

Due to the location (next to an Electrical Relay Station and a Gas Mains) we were unsure if we were going to be evacuated or not, so it seemed a bit pointless to go off to bed if they were just going to come knocking at our door to send us off somewhere! And anyway, who'd want to miss the excitement?

I ended up meeting all these neighbours I didn't know. I only knew the 5 families on my close, and the people I share a back fence with, so there were a lot of unknown neighbours there. Was really quite nice to meet all these lovely people. In fact, I've been bumping into them all week at the Co-Op and the Local (Pub). One of them, Jean, said to me, 'I don't see you for 2 years, and all the sudden, you're around every corner!'

So, it was well after 2 in the morning when I finally got off to bed. Fortunately I didn't have to be up crazy early on Tuesday. However, what I didn't know was there'd been a power cut. Daylight, though, not such a big deal. Except. Except. Except that it's Winter! And winter means Cold! And no electricity means no HEAT! We eventually did get electric back. It wasn't til sometime in the late afternoon, though!

I went round to the house and the owners let me take a bunch of photos. I'd met them the night before. What was tragic about the fire (apart from the fire part, of course!) was that it was the original house to the area. Fortunately the owners had not been living in the house. But, it was sad to see such a piece of Colchester history destroyed. The land has had a house on it since the end of the 13th Century (1200s), and this house since the middle of the 14th Century, with additional bits being added on in the middle of the 17th Century. This whole area was once owned by the author Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), and his daughter lived in this house.

Here's what it looked like in the cold (wet) light of day:

Sunday, 6 December 2009

T Minus 10

I'm heading to my folks' house in 10 days!! But who's counting? Oh...right, me. And my mom. Possibly my dad, too. It's been a really rough term, and every day's been a bit 'just get through today'. Well, this next week looks like it's going to continue in much the same way. I'm going to be working like a mad woman all week just to keep my head above water. As many of you know, I'm a big holiday decoration fan. I always have up my Christmas Tree (usually sometime in November!) and garlands over the windows and down the banister. A wreath on the door. Yummy smellies throughout the house. Not this year. I didn't even dig out the wreath for the door. Yep, that's how pushed for time I've been.

And speaking of time . . . I'm out. Gotta get back to work.