Friday, July 30, 2010

House/Land Progress

Ever since we closed on our property on July 2nd, Rich and I have been going up there on weekends to clear out trees and other brush from where the house and yard will be.  You don't really notice how much things have changed until you start to look at the photographs. 

In the photo below, you can just barely see the stone well (where the sun light is at the bottom 1/3 of the photo).


Also, you can see the wood pile on the left in the picture below.


Here are some new pictures of the property.  Now when I say these are "new", they are after only a week of clearing.  I haven't taken my camera up to the property the last few times.  So the pictures above are from July 2nd, and the pictures below are from July 10th.  There's quite a bit of difference from just that week.  Of course, we were on vacation that week and spent it working on the lot, so a lot of progress was made that first week.





One of the neatest things is that we saw a bunch of tadpoles in the creek at the back of the property.  They were getting pretty big then and I'm sure they are now full-grown frogs.


We're supposed to be up at the property working this weekend, so I hope to take some new pictures to show the difference we've made.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July Book Reading

One of the pretty good authors I have gotten hooked on recently was Lynn Austin.  She writes some good womens' interest novels that do have a bit of a religious swing to them.  I think the reason I like them is that they are what one could consider "wholesome" but the religious aspect of them is very understated.  The characters are typically very Christian, but its not like the author is trying to preach Christianity through her novels.

Anyway, the most recent one I read is called "A Proper Pursuit".  Here's the description from Amazon:

The great strength of this novel comes from the first-person narrator's charming voice: 20-year-old Violet Hayes is distressed to learn that her father is remarrying-and that her mother, whom Violet believed lay recovering from a mysterious illness in a sanitarium somewhere, had in fact simply abandoned her family and filed for divorce. To escape a stepmother-to-be she can't stand, Violet heads to Chicago to stay with her grandmother and great-aunts. Although she's recently graduated from a genteel school for young ladies, it's in Chicago that Violet's real education begins. One great-aunt tries to persuade her to join the suffrage movement, while another introduces Violet to elite society and urges her to catch a wealthy husband. Her grandmother, who takes her cues from Jane Addams, introduces Violet to the world of revivalist Christianity and inner-city good works, prompting Violet to re-examine her own faith. Two questions drive the plot: will Violet find her mother, and will she encounter true love? Readers will enjoy accompanying Violet as she discovers the answers, her calling and her adult self.

The book truly has a good story in it and its a quick summer read.  As with most of Lynn Austin's books, the main character interacts with several other supporting characters that have totally different views of how the world should be.  Its really interesting to see the conflicts that Violet goes through when trying to make all of her relatives happy. 
In the end it really comes down to the fact that you have to choose how YOU want to live your life to make you feel happy and that you're doing the right thing.  While you can listen to the advice of those around you, its not necessarily in your best interest to model yourself after any one person.  You have to do what will make you feel good and right about your own life.

July Goals - Progress Update #2

So I've actually made progress on the goals for this month, and I think I've pretty much gotten them all done with the exception of the final trimming of the QSTs for "Shine on Bayou Cane".

  1. Post at least weekly on blog. DONE! - I've posted every week this month with a total of 9 posts.
  2. Finish pressing and trimming all QSTs for Shine on Bayou Cane quilt.  I've sewn all the QSTs and pressed them.  I just have to trim them to the finished size and then this will be done.  I trimmed 20 of the 60 last night, so I'm already 1/3 of the way there.
  3. Upload pictures from England. DONE!
  4. Read 3 books. DONE! - two Harry Potter books, "A Proper Pursuit" by Lynn Austin, and almost done with "Under the Lemon Trees" by Bhira Backhaus.
  5. Finish up page 10 on Starry Night needlepoint. DONE!  I'm not about 30-35% done with page 11.  Only 14 more to go. ;-)
  6. Get together with friends for TEA. DONE!  I posted about it here.
Hope everyone else is have a good July.  I can't believe that its already almost August.  Where does the time go????

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tea & England

Saturday afternoon I was finally able to get together with a friend for tea.  We had a great time!  There's a little tea shop in the area that serves some pretty good food and tea.  Now I'm partial to Harney & Son's tean, but this place was fairly decent.  I had a Peach Blossom White tea, which was very good for a warm summer afternoon.  I also had one of their berry crepes...and let me tell you...its probably a good thing I don't go there too often or else I'd be a lot bigger than I am right now.  :-)

We apparently had more to talk about than we originally thought considering we didn't get to talk about books at all and we talked for nearly 4 hours!  We'll definitely have to do it again soon.

On the way home from the tea shop, I started thinking again about the trip to England.  My friend and her husband had made a trip there last year and loved it.  I think I would like to go again with my husband just as a nice vacation instead of a work trip.  On the drive home, I did happen to recall all the "odd" things in England:

  • Public Restrooms - in the US, pretty much wherever you go there's a public restroom of charge.  Now, most of the restrooms aren't exactly "clean" but in a pinch, you can use the bathroom.  In England at the train station, you had to pay to use the restroom.  Now it wasn't a whole lot (I think maybe 15 or 25 pence), but I thought it was really weird to have to pay to use a bathroom.  This is especially the case when the bathroom isn't really that clean.  I've seen gas station bathrooms that are cleaner than this one at the train station and that's saying a lot considering most gas station bathrooms are pretty disgusting.  One would expect that if you had to pay to use the bathroom, it would at least by clean.
  • All bathrooms - so the other weird thing..while still on the dirty topic of bathrooms.  The toilets in England were DEFINITELY not water savers.  When you flushed the toilet, I think the water came from the ceiling and about 10 gallons filled the bowl then washed away.  You got used to after a while, but the first few flushes really catch you off guard.
  • Friendly people - onto a better topic.... ;-)  One of the great things while we were traveling around was how nice other people were.  We didn't have many maps with us and the roads over in England don't typically have street names, which made things even more confusing, so we got lost a few times.  However, people in both London and Durham were always very nice and helpful in giving us directions.  In the US, people would just as soon not talk to you or give you the wrong directions and then laugh when you went off in the opposite direction of where you should have been going.  It was refreshing to have so many people willing to help you.
  • Walking - I completely understand now why so many British are thinner than Americans....they walk EVERYWHERE.  The oddest thing was that even though they would walk miles to various places, all the women wore fancy little shoes with high heels.  One day I wore my work boots (dress boots) to class where we had to walk 1-1.5 miles.  My feet were killing me that day and I ended up wearing sneakers the rest of the week.  I don't understand how these women walk so much in such little shoes that have no cushioning and no support.
I think that's all the random thoughts I remember right now.  On the way back from the tea place, I ended up taking a detour in the development that we were considering buying into last year.  There was a 2-acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac that we had put a deposit onto, but since we didn't sell our house, we gave up on it.  Since I was in the area, I decided to check it out.  Its amazing how many new houses they have built in the past year.  The lot we were considering now has a full house on it and people moved in.  I'm definitely glad now that we decided to wait (even though at the time I was pretty upset that we had to pass on the place).  The side yard on the lot was very steep and I'm assuming the backyard probably was, too.  These people basically only had a side yard and that's where they had a kid's playset.  So much for having a 2 acre lot...they could only use the first 1/4 of it.

Anyway, hope everyone is having a good week.  My week at work will be very hectic with most people out on vacation.  I'm essentially doing another person's job this week by checking their drawings and getting none of my own work done.  It will probably take me another 3 weeks to dig out of the hole once that person comes back.  Of all the weeks for him to take vacation!

I'll post on some quilting progress later this week! :-)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New House - Property

On July 2nd, we finally closed on the property that we were trying to buy.  We had the septic tests completed earlier this summer and paid to have a well dug.  Thankfully, the well proved to be a good producer and we have clean, potable water at 9 gallons per minute (local code is 3 gallons per minute for a residential home).  We're so excited to finally have our land that we're going to put our house onto!

Before we did anything with the land, our first stop was to Lowe's to get some No Trespassing signs.  We've seen deer stands on the property along with lots of deer footprints.  We know that people hunt there during hunting season, but now that we own it....we don't want ANYONE hunting on our property.  For starters we just put signs up in the front, but later this summer (before hunting season in the fall) we'll put up signs in the back so that people know its private property.


The piece of property is in Charlton, NY which is about 20 minutes west of Albany and a little bit north.  Its a very pretty area and most of it is agricultural (no - we don't mind the smell of farm animals).  The property is just over 16 acres and its all wooded.  The majority of the trees in the front 1000 ft of the lot are Cherry, with some maple and birch mixed in.  Towards the back of the lot, the trees are more pine trees, but there's still some hardwoods back there.  There's also a stream/creek that flows through the back of the property.

There's a "road" that goes into the property mainly from us getting the well truck in there.  We had to have our builder put a culvert over a wet area to make sure that the well truck wouldn't get stuck.  There was a cleared "path" before, which we think was from when the logged the property MANY years ago.  So here's the views as you walk into the property:

Walking in right at the front

About 50 feet in
About 100 ft in

About 200 ft in

About 350 ft in

Our nice little well :-)

Looking down the final curve to the house area

You can barely see the stone wall (where the sun peaks through).  That's where the front of the cleared area will start.  The house is about 30-40 feet back from the wall.

Standing at the wall looking in towards where the house will be.  Unfortunately, that nice big tree in the front will have to be taken down.

See that wood pile on the left....that's now completely moved.  A bunch of the trees are taken down, too.  That whole area is bathed in sunlight most of the day now.

More of the wood pile ;-)

The happy lot owners! ;-)  Sorry about the picture being fuzzy - I didn't let the camera focus long enough.  I didn't know how long Rich would sit still for the photo.

And the stream at the back of the lot.  This is with very little rain.  Once we get more rain (and in the spring time) there is a lot of water in the streambed.

July Goals - Progress Update #2

I've made a little bit of progress on my goals this month, though not nearly what I would have like so far.  Here we go:

  1. Post at least weekly on blog.  So far I've posted 7 times (including this one), so I'm well on my way to meeting this goal.
  2. Finish pressing and trimming all QSTs for Shine on Bayou Cane quilt.  Haven't made much progress here.  I did get all the HSTs pressed, but I now have to trim half of them, and then re-sew the two halfs into QSTs.
  3. Upload pictures from England.  DONE!
  4. Read 3 books.  DONE!  I've finished two Harry Potter books and "A Proper Pursuit" by Lynn Austin.  I'm now working on "Under the Lemon Trees" by Bhira Backhaus.
  5. Finish up page 10 on Starry Night needlepoint.  DONE!  I'm now about 10-15% done with page 11 (only 14 more to go).  ;-)
  6. Get together with friends for TEA.  Haven't made much progress on this one.  It seems like our schedules are pretty full, so its been tough to find a good time to meet.  Two more weeks to get this done! ;-)
Overall, I wish I could get some more quilting done.  I think part of my issue is that I don't really enjoy trimming blocks for quilting.  Its just time consuming and I don't see a lot of progress being made when all I'm doing is trimming.  However, I do need to get moving on the quilting front!  I have two baby quilts that I have to make by the end of the year.  I have the pattern and colors picked out for one of them, so I just need to order the fabric and get started.  Its bad that I haven't even wanted to order fabric.  I think I'm just in a quilting funk right now. ;-(

Monday, July 19, 2010

England - Final Night

By the time Friday evening rolled around while I was in England, I was definitely ready to go home.  While it was really nice being there, there truly is nothing else like home.  So Friday's class finished up early since many of us had to leave to catch trains back to London.  Our train left Durham at 6:30pm, which put us back in London around 9:30pm.  Thankfully our hotel was within walking distance of Paddington Station, so we just had a quick trip on the Underground that night and then to the hotel.  After checking in, we went out to grab dinner and didn't get back to the hotel until close to midnight.

Now, the hotel.... that's a weird situation.  We got a really good deal on the hotel in Durham -- a group rate of 97 pounds per night and it was a really nice hotel.  My guess is that normally it was close to 200 pounds per night.  So the hotel we stayed at in London that final evening...we tried to get a place with a similar rate of 97 pounds per night.  Let me tell you....that gets a clean, but REALLY SMALL room!  I couldn't help myself but take some pictures of it because it was so small.  To be honest, I don't know how any large people would be able to stay in this hotel since the bathroom was so small.  I'm a relatively small person and my elbows hit the sides of the shower when I showered the next morning.  However they did have the all important necessities...a teapot in the room. ;-)






As I said.... a REALLY small bathroom!

So the trip was uneventful and overall I had a good time.  Next time I would much rather travel there with Rich and be able to enjoy the trip.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Reading

When I was in high school, I used to spend my summers reading tons of books.  In one summer, I read ALL of John Grisham's books...which is quite a feat I think considering his books are typically pretty large.  I think I read about 50 books each summer.  Now this was partly due to the fact that my parents had a summer home by a lake.  When I say summer home, its a 1 story, 1 bathroom, 2 bedroom home that was only about 1000 sq ft.  Considering we had 8 people (yes EIGHT) staying in this home, no wonder I wanted to spend all my time outside reading. ;-)

I'm now trying to spend more time reading versus sitting on the computer or watching TV at night.  Sometimes this cuts into my quilting time since most of my TV watching happens when I'm either quilting or working on my needlepoint.  Head on over to my "books" page to see what I've been reading.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July Goals Progress

I've actually made some progress on the goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the month.  Here's an update:

  1. Post at least weekly on the blog. - So far I've managed 4 posts (this one included) in just under 2 weeks.
  2. Finish trimming and pressing all the quarter-square-triangles for Shine on Bayou Cane quilt.  - Halfway done with this one.  I finished trimming the QSTs that I had already sewn.  Now I just have to press two sets of HSTs before I can sew them into the remaining QSTs.
  3. Upload pictures from my trip to England.  - Almost done!  I've put 2 posts online about the trip to England and I have one more post to go for the last night in London.
  4. Read 3 books. (starting out small here ;-) ) -  I've finished two books already...but they were re-reads.  Most summers I re-read the Harry Potter books and I've already read and finished the first two.  I'm currently reading "A Proper Pursuit" by Lynn Austin.
  5. Finish up the current page on the Starry Night needlepoint pattern (there are 25 pages total and I've finished pages 1-9).  - DONE DONE DONE!! ;-)  I'm onto page #11 now!
  6. Get together with friends for TEA!! :-) - Still need to do this one.  Hopefully it will happen soon.
That's about it for now.  I have a post in mind for what we've done up on OUR land, but I don't want to spoil anything, so that's all I'm saying at this point. :-)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

England - Days 2-4 (Durham)

Most of my time in England was spent north of London in Durham, which is about a 30 minute train ride from the border of Scotland (so pretty far north).  The oddest thing to get used to (besides the time difference) was that they had a ton of light.  Duham/London is much further north than we are here in New York State.  Due to that, in the summer, they have a lot more daylight.  The sun came up in Durham around 4am and didn't set until close to 10:30pm!  While it was light for along time in the summer, I don't think I could handle the short amount of daylight (if they have about 5.5 hours of night during the summer, that means only 5.5 hours of sunlight in the winter!).

There wasn't a huge amount of stuff to see in Durham, but it was interesting.  They had an old cathedral and a castle.  The interesting thing was that some of the student housing for the University was actually in a castle!  The way the British schools work is that you have a overall University (Durham University had 35,000 students).  Then within the university, you have colleges which are essentially large co-ed fraternities.  The colleges usually have about 700 students.  Each college has its own headmaster.  In the Castle college, they were required to have formal dinners (ladies wear dresses and heels and the men wore tuxedos - both also wore gowns similar to those in the Harry Potter books/movies).  These formal dinners were held twice a week and the rule was that everyone stood at their place until the headmaster arrived.  Once the headmaster sat down, no one could leave the tables before the headmaster left...that includes no bathroom breaks!  NO way would I have survived! ;-)

So's some pictures from Durham:

Map of Durham - I didn't trust my co-workers to remember how to get from the train station to our hotel, so I took a picture of the map at the train station so we could look at it if we had to. ;-)

Durham Cathedral on the right...castle on the left

River around central Durham

Durham Cathedral


A very nice looking garage... ;-)

Durham 7am



Here's the train coming into Durham..."Woo! Woo!" as my niece would say

More of Durham Cathedral.  Notice the black....that actually soot from when England/Europe used to use coal for EVERYTHING.  All the old monuments/buildings were all heavily soiled and black.  The government has been working to power wash all of the buildings to remove the black.

Here's the inside of Durham Castle (at least the courtyard).  The dining "hall" looks just like the Great Hall from the Harry Potter movies.  It would be pretty cool to say that you lived in a Castle while going to university.




More of Durham Cathedral -- the stained glass windows inside were BEAUTIFUL!  Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us take any pictures.


Just had to take a picture of this one.... ;-)




Just one more day's worth of photos and those are pretty slim.  Friday afternoon we took the 6:30pm train back to London.  We got in around 9:30 at night and then had to check into the hotel and get something to eat.  It was definitely a long day....more on that later.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

England - Day 1

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity at work to take a training the United Kingdom!!  I was nervous at first (considering I had never traveled outside the country before...Canada when I was little didn't really count), but after I got to London I actually enjoyed myself.  Since the trip was for work, I didn't have a lot of time for sight-seeing.  I was traveling with 3 other people from work, so at least that made it a little easier.

We arrived in London (after a WAY TOO LONG flight) Monday morning at 11am their time.  I didn't get a lot of sleep on the plane, but I was able to get a few hours of sleep.  We stored our luggage for the afternoon and did about 4 hours of sight-seeing before we had to catch a train north to Durham.  The course we were taking was held at Durham University.  Durham is only about a 30 minute train ride from Glasgow, Scotland, so we were pretty far north.

Here are some pictures from Day 1 of the trip:

Everywhere you went on a train or a subway (the Underground) the announcement said "Mind the gap".  Most times they really meant it as there could be a 12" or 18" gap between the train and the platforms!


Paddington Station

Clock Tower outside St. Pancreas/King's Cross

Tower of London - yes, its not just a tower, but a full castle

Trebuchet! ;-)


London Tower Bridge

This was some modern building right next to all the old castles.  It was weird to see something so new next to buildings that were made in the 12th century.

The Belfast - one of the British Navy ships

Hey, kids!  Its Big Ben!....


And Big Ben!....

And Parliament!... ;-)


And Big Ben again!


Westminster Abbey




Couldn't leave England without a photo of a red telephone booth!  And to add to it, I have Big Ben in the background.

And of course...the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant. 


We didn't really go into any of the places we saw...not enough time, but we did get to see some pretty neat things.

More to come on what we saw in Durham.