Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pre-Spring Break Break

Last Thursday, the girls and I all went in different directions for the long weekend. The 6th grader went to Seville on a field trip...

(bullfighting museum, salsa dancing and cooking paella)

while the senior went to Paris on a school gig, too. 

(always involves lots of poses in front of the local landmarks)

As for me, I headed to Lagos, Portugal, to meet up with a couple ladies for a relaxing little break from mom duties.  The Algarve really is pretty, and this time of year it was ideal because it wasn't crowded. Temps in the low 60s and mostly sunny. Our 2/2 apartment was just lovely and only about three years old.

The beaches were deserted and it was obvious why when my traveling buddies (seen below)

dipped their toes into the surf... brrr!

We had some really fresh seafood dinners in Lagos. Above was the view from one of the restaurants situated right along the clifftops above the beach, looking out towards the ocean.

We toured the old city center of Lagos, which is surrounded by a wall.

We had a bit of rain that morning, but it cleared up and didn't interfere with our snooping through the shops.

I absolutely loved the tiled building facades and patterned pathways.

(zoom of tiles on house seen above)


For €2 per person, we toured through a little museum attached to the former church of St. Anthony's.  

We weren't allowed to take interior pics, so I had to filch one off of the internet. You can tell why it's called the golden church, rebuilt in the mid 1700s after an earthquake destroyed much of the original structure.

We saw a few more churches and signs of approaching Easter.

Although Lagos isn't a particularly historic city, which was great because then I didn't feel compelled to rush hither and yon trying to see all of the cool sights, I did discover the church of St. Sebastian in a travel booklet. Perched atop a steep hill, the view from the bell tower out to sea is supposed to be remarkable.  And an ossiary (bone) chapel. However, we didn't know the opening times and thus arrived in the period between 1:00-4:00 when it was closed.  Dang it - I would have loved to see the artful array of bones.

All was not lost since my traveling partner discovered one of those traffic mirrors right outside the church and she snapped our pic in front of it.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Narrowing the Field

The teen applied to 11 of 12 total colleges back in September. There was a last minute addition in February that has moved to the front of the pack recently, but I'll just save it for a whole 'nother post. We've been waiting for a decision from the admissions office with several of these universities for the past six months. 

On Friday evening, the teen found out she was accepted at a school on the east coast. One of the public ivies - historic and really picturesque. She danced around the house for a bit, then sat down to take a look at it again online and read about it once more in her college guide book. About ten minutes later, she came out and announced that she won't be attending this school. All of that work filling out the app, getting recommendations, having scores sent, arranging for transcripts from three different high schools and paying the application fee for naught.

Was I disappointed? Heck no! I just wish she could be this decisive about the final three still in the running to be America's Next Top Model my daughter's home away from home for the next four years. I've reached the point where I don't care where she goes, as long as she heads off to college somewhere when the calendar rolls around to August.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Doodle Doo

Lordy, lordy, y'all... the senior STILL hasn't chosen her university. Our resident Goldilocks is looking for the school that's just right - strong Greek system, mid-sized, out-of-state, attractive campus and wide range of study abroad options. Strength of academics was considered, but certainly isn't one of the more important deciding factors. 

Of the 3ish universities that are still left standing, this is one of her possible mascots. Every time I say it out loud, I giggle like a 5th grade boy. I don't know that I would ever have the balls guts to wear any sort of shirt or hoodie with this emblazoned across it. 

I think it's just fine to shorten the names of some mascots - Ags, Horns and Noles come to mind - but you really need to keep the Gamecocks intact.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Undo, undo, undo

I just posted a nice little diddy about the senior, went in to change a word via the edit button and poof! it disappeared. What the heck? I didn't hit delete, or at least not on purpose. So here I go again, but with a more abbreviated version in bullet points because I'm feeling lazy this morning. 

  • the senior graduates in three months and a few days after that our whole UK house gets packed into a sea container for the big ride back across the pond... ch-ch-changes a comin'
  • equal parts exciting and scary to contemplate the senior leaving high school for college
  • senioritis has hit and so the transition should be easier
  • the senior wants to Go Greek!
  • with the help of a Texas friend (Thanks, Denise!), we are getting her ready for sorority rush in the fall
  • sorority recommendation letters from alums are a must
  • you won't be taken seriously without them
  • in addition to a resume and information page, we also have to include two pics of the teen
  • I downloaded the photo contents off her camera, shots taken in Feb/March
  • really nice, expensive camera the husband bought her in the fall
  • even the dog could take some quality pics with this camera
  • the dog was busy licking his private parts and so it seems the 6th grader got some nice casual pics for us to include
  • and here is my fave
  • truly frameworthy

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flaky Spring Weather

Yesterday was glorious and today looks to be more of the same - lots of sunshine with temps rising into the mid 40s after frost on the ground this morning. 

The bulbs have burst forth and are about to bloom. 

And our back garden cherry blossom tree (at least we think it's a cherry blossom) has started producing pretty little flowers in anticipation of warmer weather.

Now we just need somebody to tell Mother Nature she can knock it off with the random snowflakes I caught on video Monday morning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

African Night Music

When we were staying in our fancy schmancy tent at the Fig Tree Camp in the Maasai Mara, we were amazed at the sounds we heard once the sun set. After spending two nights being subjected to the croaking sounds of the frogs in this short video that I made, I assumed these noisy critters must be eating size. And would have gladly gone out and gigged a few to be fried up just because they were so danged loud. But our safari guide told us they're really not that large. Plus he seemed appalled that Americans would eat fried frog legs. Then I think he was kinda intrigued by the idea and maybe mulling over whether or not he should give it a go. I told him my mother has always said they taste like chicken. 

Last Day in Kenya

Since the flight from Nairobi to London is an overnighter, we didn't have to leave our hotel until 8:00 pm for our 11:30 departure. Therefore, we had the chance to do a bit of final sightseeing on Sunday before heading home.

Our safari guide drove us out of Nairobi into an upscale suburban area aptly named Karen since we were there to tour the Karen Blixen Museum. She is the character portrayed by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. If you have never seen the movie, then you need to remedy that.

We were taken on a tour of the home, just me and the 6th grader, and the guide was wonderful. He told us all about Karen's life, as well as the history of the house. It has been set up to look just like it would have in the 1920s when Karen still owned it. There were also some recreations in the house, props donated from the movie, including period clothes worn by both Streep and Robert Redford. 

The grounds around the house were lush and well kept. The 6th grader insisted I take a pic of the big avocados growing in the side yard. The house wasn't huge - maybe 2500 sf - but it was certainly sufficient for Karen and her husband, then later her lover (Redford's character Denys Finch Hatton). It's sad that her coffee plantation failed. However, upon her return to Europe she embarked on a successful writing career and lived to almost 80.

After leaving the museum, we drove over to the Sheldrick Animal Orphanage, located along the perimeter of the Nairobi National Park. The center is only open from 11 am to noon every day and they only let in a set number of tourists, so we stood around in the shade like wildebeests to make sure we gained entrance.

Joining the queue, we paid our 1,000 shilling fee and walked to the roped off viewing area to see the orphaned elephants.

In the pic above, you can see the first little elephant has already bellied up to the milk bar for a snack. Over in the right side of the pic, you can see the rest of the babies hustling along the path with their keepers following along behind them. 

After guzzling the contents of the bottles, these orphans, ranging in age from 8-16 months, entertained themselves in the mud holes while the head keeper gave an interesting talk. He told us all about what they do at the center, in addition to introducing each elephant and explaining the circumstances that led to it being orphaned. I was surprised to discover that several of them had fallen down wells and were rescued by humans after their elephant herd had tried to free them and had no choice but to give up and move on.

There were several baby elephants that helped themselves to a drink from the water hose used to fill up the shallow holes. They seemed to have a really good time, getting coated in red mud to keep the pesky flies at bay.

After about 30 minutes, they led the younger group away and brought in the older orphans. Here you see them strolling along the path to the viewing area.

In the pic below, you can see the top of the 6th grader's head - no camera zoom necessary. That's how close we were to the elephants, close enough to touch.

I just had to take the pic above with that stupid stuffed elephant in the corner of the pic. The couple standing to the left of us brought along this stuffed elephant and kept holding it up to be in every danged shot. Special meaning, no doubt, but it got really annoying because the wife held it up and it kept getting into our pics, the folks standing beside or behind them. I finally muttered jackasses "Good grief!" under my breath and gave them a pointed look, at which point they knocked it off for a bit. 

Of course, karma jumped up and bit me in the butt about 5 minutes later. This time it took the form of red bird poo landing in my hair and on my pants. Several people around me also get bombed with it and I would swear it was a frickin' pteradactyl. I left the 6th grader to enjoy the antics of the older babies while I walked over to a shady spot to break out the moist antibacterial wipes I had in my backpack and get the poo off me.

We returned to the hotel for a late lunch by the pool and a long wait in the lobby before heading out to the airport. We got lucky - free wifi and an electrical plug adjacent to our sofa so we could entertain ourselves for several hours with the iPad. Plus we've added another card game to the 6th grader's repertoire. In the fall, on our Mediterranean cruise, I taught her gin rummy. In Kenya, she learned blackjack. 


Over the weekend, I took the senior, sixth grader and the sixth grader's BFF to our nearest mall over in Kingston-Upon-Thames for a bit of retail therapy. All of the girls needed some clothes for spring break, plus the sixth grader needed a birthday gift for the sleepover she's attending Friday night after the middle school dance.

There isn't a Top Shop store in the mall, but the big department store has a Top Shop section and it's always a hit with both girls. It's not as cheap as H&M, but the prices aren't bad for generally expensive England. 

The sixth grader and her bud are new to the excitement and independence of shopping, now allowed to look on their own and visit the dressing rooms without mom peeking around the privacy curtain to make sure it passes inspection. I was cracking up because the younger girls were really drawn to these Top Shop shirts and just had to have one.

When I was their age, there was no way in hell I would have worn one of these shirts to school... truth in advertising. Pointing out the obvious and promoting stereotypes. But the 6th grader wasn't fazed and so she asked me to buy two of them for her. She posted a pic of her wearing the GEEK shirt on Instagram and another friend, the most popular girl in her grade, was the first to respond with "Cool shirt" and asked her where she got it because she said she wants to get one, too.

The more I thought about it, I realized that the girls would have no problem wearing these shirts because they perceive them as humorous rather than accurate or true. However, there probably isn't enough money in the English treasury to get one of them to wear a shirt that reads BEAUTIFUL.