Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Magic" Roundabouts

We decided to journey to Swindon this past weekend to visit the Outlet mall there. The mall was great (finally I find a good place to shop in England and it's almost time to leave!) The journey to the mall was... well... an experience.
Swindon is one big traffic experiment. Someone with very little wisdom and, most assuredly, an endless supply of hallucinogenic drugs decided to invent the "magic" roundabout. A magic roundabout consists of four (or more) small roundabouts placed equal-distance around one big roundabout. The system is complicated by the fact that you can travel two different directions - clockwise or anti-clockwise - approaching it you can turn either left or right onto the roundabout and proceed around it in whichever direction provides the shortest route to your exit. The result, for the uninitiated that is, is absolute mad panic! Cars to the left. Cars to the right. Cyclists everywhere. The temptation is to just close one eyes, put pedal to the metal and pray.
Inexperienced panic aside, they claim it works quite efficiently. However, I still think the only "magic" about it is the fact that people aren't killed on a daily basis! And I did find a list claiming it as number 3 on the top-10 list of England's scariest junctions.
I have actually become quite fond of roundabouts in my time here. In most situations they work exceptionally well - no more waiting at red lights when there are no other cars in sight. And of course, the bean-counters like them because they cost next-to-nothing to maintain. In higher-volume traffic their efficiency reduces dramatically - but intersections and traffic lights don't work so well in that case either. I will miss the roundabouts - but definately not the magic ones!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nanny and Poppa Part Deux

Nanny and Poppa decided to squeeze in one more visit to Oxford before the big move home. With a chill in the air and all the big tourist spots already visited last trip, we spent most of their visit cosied up in nice warm pubs - but I don't think they minded much!

We did venture out into the cold to visit the big car boot sale at Kassam Stadium - it runs year-round, every Sunday and presents a very interesting social portrait. Forget all the bargains - what a great people-watching spot.

Another visit to the Victoria Arms - it's become a favourite spot for us - one of the things we'll truly miss about Oxford.

After leaving us, Nanny and Poppa hopped on the Eurostar for a few days in Paris - really I think we were just an excuse for a long-weekend in France! ;-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Apple Adventures and the Creative Spirit

This past weekend we ventured out to Waterperry Gardens for their apple weekend. They have extensive orchards there with many rare, but delicious breeds of apple. We tasted apples, toured the orchards and even picked a couple on the sly ;-)

The girls jump at any opportunity to get their faces painted - didn't want to try the apple bobbing though.
After learning the correct method for picking an apple - using the palm of your hands and not your fingers so as not to bruise the flesh - the girls were anxious to give it a go!

Meanwhile, with temperatures dropping and and a little more time on my hands, I've been back at my creative pursuits. My love affair with all things wool and felt continues. The recent addition of a bamboo mat (like a giant sushi roller) to my kit has improved the texture and consistency of my felt and I've been experimenting with colours and shading. This week I made scarves to go with girls' new winter wool swing coats (such an awesome deal at Debenhams!)
Mira got lovely candy floss colours perfect for a little girl - merino wool with just a pinch of greeny-blue silk.

My little drama queen got purple and orange merino with flaming orange silk curdled throughout!
Next week I'm going to try my hand at matching hats using a beach ball as a resist.
I also experimented with a new fiber - Wensleydale - with fairly disastrous results - there was supposed to be a charming curly fringe, but really the ends just look like a balding clown in humid weather! Hmmm... can't bear to throw it away though - any ideas?

And of course I've been hard at work beading. While not finished yet (that's the problem, I get bored nearing the end and switch over to some exciting, new project), I think this cuff bracelet will perhaps make a lovely Christmas gift for a certain someone I know who loves turquoise. I picked the cabochon up in Cancun, Mexico a few years back and finally put it to use.

Earlier in the summer I attended a workshop with British bead artist, Jean Power. The workshop involved her beaded star, but I fell in love with the examples she had on hand of this design. It's a fairly monotonous pattern (good to work on while watching TV) but the results can be quite stunning. I'm thinking it might have good self-defence attributes too - just slide 'er down over your knuckles and blammo! :-)
I love this beaded netting over wooden beads.
This masterpiece took ages. I was fringing delicas in my sleep by the end of it! Not something for everyday wear, but a bit of a eye-catcher, don't you think. The focal bead is from one of the amazing glass artists at Beadfx in Toronto.
I'm trying to shift away from using patterns and develop some of my own designs. I'm quite proud of this simple and versatile piece that incorporates the clasp into the focal part of the necklace. Simple Cellini spiral.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Last Blast - Kos, Greece

We've returned from our final European adventure. We traveled to the Greek Island of Kos for a week of sun and exploring. Kos is actually closer to Turkey than mainland Greece, but still a reasonable flight from the UK.

Hannah and Mira love the ocean!

We decided to take a day and explore a few of the surrounding islands. The Santa Maria is a beautiful wooden sailing boat that sails out of Kos Town. We had a lovely day lounging on the ship and visited Kalymnos, Plati and Pserimos.

Posing on Pserimos.

Kalymnos is the sponge fishing center of the Mediterranean. The girls learned how sponges were traditionally fished and were able to see the different types of sponge available at different depths. The story of sponge fishing on Kalymnos is quite tragic really. When the the diving helmet was developed, it enabled the sponge divers to access sponge beds much deeper. However, divers were constantly subjected to the bends - and thousands of men were crippled or killed over the years.

Our resort boasted a wave pool which the girls loved!

Eeyore (as the girls nicknamed him) lives just outside the room we stayed. The girls kept smuggle him food from the dining room.

Sunset dinner of the rooftop.

For two days of our visit we rented a car to explore the island. How nice it was to drive on the "right" side for a couple of days!
First stop - Plaka - a sunken forest that is home to dozens of peacocks and cats - unlikely bedfellows. We brought some bread along and watched the cats and peacocks try to out-do each other.

One would expect that the cats might have an edge over the peacocks, but they are actually quite shy of the feathered creatures.
A view of the shoreline from Kefolos.

The girls were a little perplexed that this flopping fish was soon going to be the fisherman's lunch.

...so typically Greek!

We drove up to Zia, a beautiful mountain village with a fabulous view...

...and befriended this little kitten. We all wanted to smuggle it back to the hotel with us.

We also visited the Asclepion, the birthplace of modern medicine where Hippocrates once lectured students on the art of healing.