Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fahrenheit 451

How hot do these thermometers say it is?
And this is supposedly a break in the heat. 
True, it isn't the 115ยบ F we were having last week, so I guess I should be happy about that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Garden Trug

One of the many things that we brought back from King Johns Nursery is this lovely little trug.  A trug is a very British thing: a wooden basket made for gathering vegetables, flowers, etc in gardens.  We got the smallest trug that Harry's shop had-- namely because we couldn't cope with a bigger sized basket. 

I have to say, that, this perfect thing in which to gather our produce!  Having never heard of such a basket, it is immensely useful.  Why, look: we already have loads of home grown, vine-ripened tomatoes picked and carried in the trug.  A very useful souvenir!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Battle Abbey

entrance gate to Battle Abbey
After Rye, Will and I headed to Battle, in East Sussex.  (We did stop off in Hastings to see that town, but quickly left when we realized that it was really all about a slightly rundown, cheesy boardwalk).  Of course this little town is where the Battle of Hastings in 1066 actually took place.  This is where William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold II and took on the title William the Conqueror.  This is where the England that we know today was born.
waiting for the intro movie to begin
 Or, at least that last thought is what the movie and audio guide told us.  

To be fair, when you go to Battle Abbey, you are going to look at some ruins and a huge sloping field.  You can only go into the ruins of the common rooms; the refectory is now a school.  Will's school in fact held dances with the girls from Battle Abbey (which he and classmates graciously called "Cattle Abbey"...charming).  England Heritage has done a really good job of making the most out of the battle ground.  The new visitors center with the informative movie (narrated by David Starsky, so I kept waiting for him to go on and on and on about King Henry VIII's wives) put the invasion and battle into context.  The moving figures of the Bayeux Tapestry is quite clever, actually.

the battle field from the Norman perspective
In 1070 Pope Alexander II ordered the Normans to do penance for killing so many people during their conquest of England. So William the Conqueror vowed to build an abbey where the battle had taken place, with the high altar of its church on the supposed spot where King Harold fell in that battle on Saturday, 14 October 1066.  It was remodelled in the late 13th century but virtually destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, in late 1500s.  It became a private home until it became a private school in 1922.

The audio guide leads you around the battle field and explains the various positions of the Normans and the English.  It has stunning views of the landscape and we could really imagine what a cold, rainy day it was in October 1066 since it was pretty wet and chilly the day we visited. 

the refectory, which is now houses the upper school.
It must be odd going to school at a major tourist site at a spot that was foundation for modern England.  (Though, you would have access to some fun gifts at the gift shop.)  Once we left the abbey, we wandered back up to Etchingham to enjoy the remainder of our visit.  

common rooms and prayer rooms of the abbey

entrance to the museum, located in the entrance gate

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ancient Town of Rye

We were able to have one day of touring this trip over to the UK and so we decided to stay within the East Sussex and Kent areas of England.  A short drive away is the Ancient Town of Rye, one of the Cinque Port towns of medieval England. (A "Cinque Port" town meant that the town was obliged to provide the king ships and men to ward off pirates and invading countries--namely France-- and in exchange, the town was free from taxes, and therefore, considerable wealth for its citizens.) The town is no longer near the mouth of the channel because of centuries of silting, and so has remained small and retained its medieval charm.
The old town has these cobblestone streets and quaint houses--lots of writers, including Henry James, called this town home because of the scenery.  Lots of half-timber Tudor and Elizabethan houses are to be found, still in use. 

 St. Mary's Church has stood at the highest point of the town for over 900 years.  We climb up the turret clock tower for beautiful views of the Romney Marshes, Rye, and even out to the Dungeness Power Station way off into the distance. The clock is the oldest in the country, constructed in 1561 and has an 18 foot long pendulum that is supposedly the inspiration for the nursery rhyme "Hickory, Dickory, Dock."  The pendulum hangs through the floor and swings in gently in the entrance hall of the church. 
St. Mary's Church

 To get up to the turret tower, you have to walk through an extremely narrow passage, and then up some extremely rickety ladders, past the church bells that were once stolen by invading French forces in 1377.  A group of men from Rye went to retrieve them, and some other loot, the following year. 

super narrow passage to the clock tower

Bells in the towers--most were taller than me.
 The rooftops of Rye are quite stunning, with all the angles.  Signs assured us, as we climbed higher and higher, that the church officials had done everything to ensure a safe environment at the top of the tower but that we should still be careful. 
 At the top, there was only a thin bit of metal, about thigh height preventing anyone from going over the edges in the gaps between the turret tops.  You can see the rod just to the left behind Will in the photo below....  Um, yeah, I certainly felt super safe up there!
Views first, safety second
 The weather vain was very cool and was made in 1705 and still accurately shows the wind-- which, admittedly isn't too hard to do. 
 We could see, and eventually went into, the Ypres Tower, one of Rye's oldest buildings.  It was part of the town's defenses in the 12th century and over the years has been a jail, a fortress, and today is a small museum of local history.
Ypres Tower and the Romney Marshes

obligatory self-portrait
 The church yard of St. Mary's is full of grave stones and something I had never seen: above ground concrete full-body grave marker.  I am not sure if that is a true sarcophagus or not, but it was creepy to see a church yard full of graves like it.
I really hope there isn't a body underneath that
The funniest part of the old houses was the heights of the door.  I am a GIANT compared to the medieval folks who lived in these houses.  To be fair, this door seemed to be the smallest that we saw, but most were on the short side.  I would constantly be ducking my head if I were live in any one of these homes.
hobbit-size doors!

Clock tower

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cunninghams Assault Course Race

Harry, Freddie, Nudge, and James decided to race to the finish of the assault course at Edward's party.  A brutal race to the end, the highly competitive cousins battle it out to see who slides out of the course first...

(For a bigger and better picture quality movie, go to my gallery: it is totally worth it to do it.  I promise)

And the winner was Harry (no gloating though):

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy Birthday William!

Happy Birthday, William! 
A wonderful day to you and may all your wishes come true. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy 80th To Edward

Once again, the Cunningham Clan has gathered at King Johns Lodge to celebrate a great family event.  This time the honored guest is Edward, the patriarch of the clan, who is graciously turning 80.  He has invited family and friends to come and eat, drink, and be merry-- and toast to a most marvelous life.  The weather was less than marvelous: rain and wind kept the sun away for most of the day, though Pimms cups were still served. 

Happy Birthday, dear Edward!
rain didn't keep Oscar, or anyone else, from having fun.
 Edward had thought of everything: a marquis to keep us dry, compliant boxes, sack and egg & spoon races, bouncy castles & assault course capable of handling multiple children and adults.  A treasure hunt and poetry contents.  The rain didn't keep the kids from running around outside, thanks to the great Paul who was willing to keep running about even soaking wet.  It was quite exciting to meet all of Edward's friends.  Will and I sat at the "Uganda Table" and heard tales of adventure from when Edward was part of the Imperial Civil Administration in the then-colonies of Uganda and Kenya.

Other tables had neighbors from their time in Barbados and DC.  There were multiple god-children present.  Several friends from his Cambridge Trinity Hall days.  And everyone had a tale about Edward: driving to Italy in a beater of a car.  On the boat to Uganda.  Camping in Kenya.  Beach holidays in Barbados.  Flashlights and cops in DC.  All highly entertaining and highlighting what a wonderful person Edward is. 

on the assault course

We have a woman down!

thumbs up for a fantastic celebration!

compliant box
It was the same caterer as our wedding, so the food was absolutely delicious.  And it kept coming!  First lunch, then dessert, followed by tea and scones.  And for those still around, a light supper and another round of dessert or cheese. 
too many desserts from which to choose!
When the rain gave way to sun, everyone enjoyed wandering the gardens looking for clues to another word puzzle or running through the assault course.
on the treasure hunt through the gardens

All in all, it was, as Edward had styled it, the Great Event of 2011.

three-legged races

Friday, July 15, 2011

Potato Power!

We are off to England for the week for a very special 80th birthday party.  After an irritating trans-Atlantic journey with an unscheduled stay-over in Chicago, we made it to London to see our silly nephews, Oscar and Lucas.  We always bring them a present, one fun and one educational.  Who knew that the educational gift would be the most fun. 

We brought them an Enviro Battery: 
 You can make a clock using potato power!  Light a light blub using lemon juice!  Wreck havoc in your mother's kitchen searching for metal silverware and bottles with screw top lids!

Oscar and Will reading the blue prints for a potato battery
 Will was the company's president.  Oscar: the Construction Engineer.  Lucas: Materials and Quality Control.

Materials gathered, directions read and reread, wires were cut.  Forks were gathered.  Wires were twisted and vegetables for dinner quickly became required equipment.

Lori's kitchen was transformed into the latest production center for an environmentally friendly clock, powered by potatoes.  

Discussion with the Engineers and Quality Control: why won't the clock set?

The Production Team

I am not sure who had more fun: the boys or Will, as they scurried around their laboratory making electric connections with fresh veg.  It was amusing for us watching that is for sure, especially as Lucas kept running around in his jammies, yelling "Potato Power!" Course, I am not sure if anyone could explain why potato was able to power the clock.  On the other hand, we might have helped create some future scientists!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cuteness Overload

Um, isn't my nephew just the cutest? ever?


Why, yes.  Yes, he is.  

This is from my Uncle Keith's 90th birthday party we held over Memorial Day, and I just had to post it,  because he is just irresistibly adorable. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Silversmithing Deux

This is a photo of Minnehaha Creek.  Yes, named after the Indian women in The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow.  You have to cross this creek and these falls to get to a place just outside of DC called Glen Echo Park. 

Now, this crossing really is walking over a foot bridge, so not any real work.  But on the other side is a magical place: Glen Echo Park.  

 Glen Echo Park was established in 1891, and became an amusement park for DC residents--only it was segregated like much was in the South.  It had a pool, bumper cars, and a carousel.  There were once trolleys from Georgetown out to Glen Echo (the tracks are still there on some streets in Georgetown-- a pain to drive on, really). In 1971, it was turned over to the National Park Service and became an artist colony.  Today, one can take all sorts of arts and craft classes: photography, pottery, painting, calligraphy, and--the class that I took-- silver smithing.

creating my pendent, and some of the tools I used
Because the mother-in-law/mother is a silversmith and she has made all sorts of beautiful things, including our wedding bands, I wanted to see more about this craft.  I signed up for a class with the artist in residence, Blair.  She showed us how to bend, twist, solder, clean, stamp, polish, dap, anneal, saw, drill, texture, sheer, file, hammer, roll, and shape various bits of silver and cooper. 

We had two gauges of silver wire in varying lengths, from which I made a bracelet, a ring, and a set of earrings.  We had two small sheets (1 in x 2 in) of silver and cooper, from which I made a pendent and matching set of earrings.

It was an all day class and it flew by.  At the end of it, I got the basics down of silversmithing.  It made me even more impressed with the pieces of jewellery or serving ware we have from Sylvia.  And: I am hooked.  I have signed up for the follow-up class, which is silversmithing with natural stones. (It isn't for several weeks, so don't look for my silver & stone creations just yet.)

I am nowhere near as good as Blair, the teacher, who has been smithing for 25 years, nor can I touch the talent of Sylvia, at the trade for at least 6 decades.  I need to learn how to solder better and using some the tools was a challenge for me as they work better for right-handed people.  Regardless, it is exciting to see how how your initial thought for a piece changed as you "listen" to what the silver is telling you.  Twist one way, but not the other.  Cut this corner, but saw that. 

Before a massively busy week, it was a way to concrete on art in a way that I haven't been able to in recent years.  Plus, I have already gotten compliments on my pieces and the exclamations of surprise and astonishment when I say that "I made that silver bracelet" make it even more fun.