Monday, October 21, 2013

What You Might Learn

Yesterday I decided that I needed to watch one of the online sewing courses I have acquired. You may or may not have come across this relatively new phenom.  I first heard about it from my quilting teacher in Japan.  She enthused about being able to watch whenever and repeat if necessary.  I remember looking at what they had to offer and deciding that there wasn't anything there I wanted.  Over time though they have added a lot of different classes on a multitude of crafting genres.

So, in the last year, when they have put some classes I had some interest in and they had a really good sale, I have purchased access. There was one I got that was about fitting garments to plus size  figures. So, as I am looking at making some new clothes I decided I should see what I could learn.  I watched about 6 lessons, one right after the other.

The most revolutionary thing I learned was that in America today, wearing as I do a Women's 18 in skirts and trousers and a 1X or 2X in RTW tops and a C cup bra, I am not even really considered a Plus Size. I'm still not sure who's fooling whom here.

Another thing that these lessons crystallized for me was that in the world of making your own clothes, and caring how they look, and wanting a bit of style and detail, there are several schools of thought about how to make flat pieces of fabric fit onto our multi-sized, curved figures.  One is comparing your actual measurements to the pattern and making adjustments, then fitting the paper to your body. Another is to make some general adjustments to the pattern paper, making sure it's bigger than you are and then fitting the fabric to your body or a dress form that has been adjusted to your shape.

I have never worked with a dress form.  I have no desire to make a dress form with paper tape and an old t-shirt that ends up looking like a naked me. Just not on my list of wanna dos.

So it's back to Sewing With Nancy and her Fitting Finesse that's been in my library for years.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Being a Senior Citizen in Florida I

Last year when I returned to Florida I had already applied for Medicare and had a certain number of days to obtain Supplemental Coverage.  Fortunately I had some good friends who could refer me to an agent who helped me make a decision by the deadline.

What I'm finding one year later is that this was one of several areas where my decision making skills were taxed. It was quite difficult for me to decide how much was a reasonable amount to have to pay for different services; how it would all work together and what the bottom line would be.

This year I have reached full retirement age and have begun receiving Social Security Benefits. The bottom line has become a lot more clear. My real needs are more evident.

On my return, there were many things I felt very strongly about.  Some of those things I put into practice immediately, other things I put on hold.  Now I'm finding it's time to make some changes.  I'm really glad to be able to think a bit more clearly and not have strong emotions guide me so much.

One by one, step by step, little by little I'll get there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9, 2012

All good things must come to an end, someone said.  That was the case one year ago today. It was up early to catch a train to Gatwick Airport and then the flight home to Florida. It was great to see the face of a friend waiting to pick up my stuff and drive me home. My adventure was coming to an end.

It's taken the better part of that year to rest up and readjust to life in America. I finally can see progress toward acclimating to retirement and the pursuit of new ideas and enjoyment of familiar pleasures.

Thanks for accompanying me on this two weeks of remembrance. Even though the pictures have been in a Picasa album for most of the past year, I never felt I had done them justice.  It has been fun looking at them again and choosing which ones to put in each post. It has been especially good to remember all of the people involved and their willingness to not only put me up, but put up with me.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nearing the Finish

October 8, 2012; Ruth's kind niece was willing to take us by car to Windsor on this day. The weather was a bit drizzly, but bearable. One of our objectives was to do a little shopping along with our sight seeing.

Of course Windsor is the home of the Queen's favorite weekend home.

We didn't do the tour, but walked along the high street.
The Thames flows through Windsor as well and here there are lots of swans and other water birds.
There was an authentic Pillar Box on the street.
And around the corner from the castle was the Queen's official Pharmacy.
Across the river is Eton.  This was one of the uniform shops. It seems like a lot of gear for a scholar to keep track of. The students we saw didn't look quite this neat or well put together somehow.
A peek into a residential area.
And up on the hill is Eton.

We had a lovely stroll and then a big chunk of time for lunch and shopping. I even found a pair of trousers in my size and on sale at Marks and Spencer. I also got a few last minute souvenirs.

Meanwhile at home in Florida some of my friends were preparing for my return.  One had a plumber come by and check that I wouldn't have any rude surprises. Other friends cleaned the house which had unexpectedly sat unoccupied for four years not one. Food in the fridge and sheets on the bed.  They thought of everything!

Monday, October 7, 2013


For October 7, 2012 there are no pictures in my file. This is because the cold I was working on when I returned from the north did take hold and my hostess, who is a nurse after all, decided I should stay home for a day. I had planned to accompany her to the service at her church.

It really is good when you are ill to stop and take a rest. So, I obeyed and loafed around in jammies and slippers and ate the good food that was prepared for me. It was cozy in the lounge with the gas fire and kind of dreary outside.

It did aid my recovery. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you to go lie down.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

One More Day in London

My hostess was anxious to show me more of London so after breakfast we headed out again.  It turned out to be a glorious day with deep blue sky and ever changing cloud patterns and bright sunshine.


There was no wind, so the surfaces of the water were like glass and reflected the surroundings and the sky.

A piece of Roman wall

The Tower Of London

Tower Bridge and the view

The Shard

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October 5, 2012, The Cotswolds.

After our lazy morning, Hannah drove us to her parent's home. I had met her mom by email when Hannah first came to Japan and helped me at the Guest Home. She showed me some paper piecing she was working on. Hundreds of 'hexies' pieced together by hand in the English paper piecing style.  I was impressed.  

Hannah and her parents
Our objective for the afternoon was to take a brief driving tour through a section of the Cotswolds and to have lunch at a nice pub they knew.  Sometime in the late afternoon they would find me a train that would take me on toward London. I was expected back at Ruth's that evening. The weather was a bit cloudy and drizzly. We drove through lovely countryside and small villages. Everywhere were the characteristic buildings of sandstone. Lots of thatched roofs too.  It was really lovely.  We had our pub lunch and stopped in one village where there were several gift shops. We also visited an organic farm market that also sold housewares. It was really quite big and had lots of the things to look at and food to think about buying. 

All too soon we were figuring out a train route and found the rail station they had in mind. I was on my way again by British Rail. I'm pretty sure that Clapham Junction played a role in my return trip, it being the center of the universe, and once there I knew I wasn't far from my destination. I walked from Frimley station in steady light rain and got back to Ruth's just on time for her return from her day's activities. We were both glad to be warm and dry..

Friday, October 4, 2013

Taking Friends' Advice

I had asked for travel advice from all of my hosts and hostesses before I left Japan. After all, they live in the UK, I was just going to visit. However, for some reason I don't remember, I opted to take my own advice about crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland and England.

I have already recounted that I took the ferry to NI. It had been my first experience on a ferry and it had pros and cons. It had seemed like long enough to be on board, however.  I wouldn't like to look at longer trip without a bunk, but I hadn't booked one on the upcoming trip on October 4 and for the first time I realized that it was indeed a much longer journey.  It was already booked and paid for, however, so I thought I would have to take it. When I really looked at the timetables I realized I would not reach Gloucester until near midnight. I was realizing that the advice of both of my NI hostess and my Gloucester hostess had been to consider flying that leg of the journey.  I had ignored them.

Very early in the morning of October 4, I received a phone message from the ferry line stating that the ferry would be delayed an hour leaving the port. This was the final straw.  Alison was up as there was breakfast and lunch to prepare for the children as they needed to go to school. I went to the kitchen to tell her the news.  I asked if it still might be possible to schedule a flight to England if I could cancel the ferry. Alison is a wizard at the logistics of transportation. She got on the Internet and I got on the phone to Stenna.  I canceled the ferry ticket stating that the changes in time had made it impossible to make connections at the other end. Alison found me a very reasonably priced flight in the early afternoon for Birmingham. which is a reasonable train ride away from my next destination.

This change in plan meant that I had a bit more time to spend in Northern Ireland.  There were three alternatives for a morning's activity. I could go to a local shopping mall for a look around, or I could spend the morning with Alison's mum, who I knew from her visits to Japan, or I could go to "Mum's and Toddlers" with Alison which was held at their church.

I think she was surprised that I chose the children, but I was really happy to have the opportunity to see how this was done.  Mums in the neighborhood are invited to bring their children to the church for the morning. Activities are provided for the children; one large room for the older toddlers and a smaller room for the younger ones. One group of people talked to the mums while the children played, another group directed the children's activities and yet another group made tea and toast for morning tea break. I was able to help with the tea as well as working with children at a table activity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We went to Alison's mum's house for lunch and then to the airport for my flight to England.

Belfast Airport had the highest level of security of any I visited on this trip.  After putting my carry on luggage on the belt for the x-ray, the female security person frisked me.  We chatted pleasantly throughout the process and I didn't feel at all put out by it.  Of course I knew I didn't have anything on my person that I shouldn't have.

A quick up in the air was followed by the descent approaching Birmingham.  Painless.  I should have listened from the start. It was the best way to go.

Hannah met me at the station.  She was walking up as I was exiting. Great timing. She had her car so I was able to stow my luggage and we went for a little walk along the river.

After our walk we went to Tesco's  and then to Hannah's house.  She cooked dinner and we chatted. It was great to catch up with her face to face and to see her cute little house.

I was feeling the onset of a cold, so we opted for a relatively early evening and agreed on a bit of a lie in and relaxed morning the next day.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Here There Be Giants!

After two days of totally inadequate pictorial souvenirs came October 3, 2012. With my battery freshly charged I again got into the car with Alison and she drove us north this time, and along the coast for the most part.
We stopped from time to time in towns and villages and walked around to see the local sights.

We stopped for lunch and had some more lovely wheaten bread with soup and salad.
The weather was glorious and we had views of such varied landscapes; grassy hillsides and rocky beaches.

Blue skies and shifting cloud formations greeted us at every twist and turn of the coastal route.
In the afternoon we came to Giant's Causeway. In ancient times lava floes were extruded into fantastic hexagonal columns that marched into the sea. This area is now a tourist attraction with all sorts of fables and legends about giants crossing the sea on the path.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         There was enough natural beauty left to really enjoy a walk along the rocky beach...  

 and a climb up the steps to the top of the cliff.

What  beautiful day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Faults of Memory

I find it interesting that there are parts of my trip around the UK last year that are quite clear in my memory and other parts are not.  I have theorized on the reasons this might be.  One factor I believe is how much it was my responsibility to know where I was going, did I have to catch a specific train at a specific platform for example. Another factor I think is what kinds of pictures I have in the files. I took a lot of pictures on this trip and the program they loaded into in my computer automatically grouped them by date taken which has been a tremendous help to my memory.  Another factor I think is what I was doing, where my mind was focused during the travel.

And so we come to October 2, 2012. I put myself in the capable hands of my hostess who drove me around in the car all day. I had been tired the night before and did not plug in the battery for my camera for overnight recharging. I have only three photos from this date. Two were the view from Mary's place and one was the Irish Harp Symbol done in sculptured hedge from the garden we visited that day.  I remembered we went to a National Trust property to see the gardens and home there. Then there was mind focus.  I was centered on my hostesses on this trip, catching up with various things they have been doing and plans for the future. There was also quite a bit of time spent in thinking about what I had just been through in Japan and my leave taking of the job and friends and places that meant a great deal to me.

So I emailed Alison to ask if her memory was better than mine.  I knew it would be. She had planned for my visit and had so many things to show me in her homeland. Here is her account of the day's travels:

We drove from our home near Ballyclare to Mary's home in Groomsport. We then drove down the east coast of the Ards Peninsula to Greyabbey where we had lunch. After that we drove across to the west (inland) coast (Strangford Lough) of the Ards Peninsula and stopped off at Mountstewart Gardens.                                                                                                                                                   And, here are the photos:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another Day Another Country

October 1, 2012 bright and early I caught a train to meet a bus that took me to a ferry.  I had decided to make the crossing to Northern Ireland by boat, just for something different.  One of the biggest ferry lines in the area is Stenna.  They have all the transportation links set up and if you follow along in those set up ways, you reach your destination.  The crossing itself took several hours, combined with the other transportation it ate up a big part of the day.  It was cloudy and rained most of the way across. Below is a photo of the deck of the ferry in the rain. 

There were several people I wanted to see in Northern Ireland and they had conspired together to provide me with a variety of activities an diversions.  John was scheduled to meet me at the ferry port in Belfast and I was to go to his house for dinner.  I was really happy to see wee Anna and Emily as well.  
We had meat pie for dinner and John's mom introduced me to Wheaten Bread which I have written about previously here. I think Wheaten Bread is on of the best kept secrets in NI. Just thinking about it, I think I need to make some very soon. 

After dinner I was picked up by Alison and we went to the airport to pick up Graham before heading to their little house on top of a hill overlooking farm country.  I was intrigued by the hedge all along the little road going up the hill and thinking of what it looked like in winter when it snowed.

Into the house we went and I was engaged in the entryway, saying hello to the children and watching as dad gave them the onigiri he had brought them from the airport. In this short interval, Alison had disappeared into the kitchen and in a few minutes reappeared with a cake and candles in hand.  She had seen on Facebook that it was my birthday and had made me a cake sometime in her busy day. I was really surprised because even I had almost forgotten my birthday with all the other excitement.