Saturday, 31 October 2009

visit to Guildford with Geta

Geta and I went over to Guildford for the afternoon yesterday. I have never been there despite how close it is to London, but I have heard frequently how lovely the historic buildings are. Below is a building called Abbot's Hospital, which is assisted housing for the elderly and infirm that was founded (and has been in operation) since 1619.

The highlight for both of us was Guildford Castle, founded soon after 1066 and used for royal accommodation for hundreds of years thereafter. We went inside and looked through the spacious (and draughty) rooms. We climbed to the roof and saw some amazing views of the town.

Geta was so thrilled to be wandering around the Castle. And taking pictures!

Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) lived (some of the time) in Guildford. This little statue of Alice through the looking glass is tucked away in a nice little park near the Castle grounds.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

galleries and museums

Over the past two days I have been wandering around London. Just as I so much enjoy, I have been popping into shops (mostly used book shops), finding museums to visit, and drinking tea in cafes. For example, on Tuesday I drank this delicious fresh mint and cinnamon tea. Such an easy idea--it's little wonder I suppose that fresh leaves give a really vibrant taste when steeped in boiling water. I was at a little vegetarian restaurant recommended by one of my guide books called Eat and Two Veg.

I visited the Wallace Collection on Tuesday. It's a small, free museum in Marylebone that is less well known. But the rooms were beautiful and there are lots of important and interesting paintings there. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside, unfortunately.

I was quite taken with the fabrics in the rooms. Each room had a single fabric that was used for the curtains, the upholstery on the chairs and sofas, and also for the wall covering. (You can see it a little bit in these small pictures.) I wonder how difficult it is to hang walls with fabric. It was really lovely.

Yesterday I was walking around in the City and saw something that I think is so typical of London. Next to a group of office buildings there was this ruin with a little plaque explaining the dates and uses of this fort. There were lots of men and women in suits rushing past as I took this photo.

I went into the Museum of London, another smaller, free museum. I wish I had learned from past experience, though, not to visit any family-friendly places in half term. The Museum was very interesting but thronged with families and running, yelling children. I'm sure they were all enjoying themselves and relatively well-behaved. I just want a break from them. Sigh. I saw a reconstruction of a Roman pantry.

And here is a Roman dining room. This one is the reconstruction from a merchant's house and has vibrant wall painting (since the rooms were quite dark owing to poor lighting and a very small window). There's a small fire for heating the room in the bottom left of the photo.

Here's a monument outside commemorating John Wesley's conversion on May 24, 1978.

I met up with Bree for coffee after that, and we had the most delicious hot chocolate I believe I have had the pleasure of tasting at Manon cafe. It came with a free chocolate!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Yesterday I went into the city to see my friend Dave. We had lunch at The Cloister Cafe in Great St Bart's Church. The food was delicious and it was enjoyable to catch up with Dave. We had a very relaxing lunch.

Then Dave walked me over to the Barbican Centre where he now lives. It's a big council housing estate unlike any other I have seen. It's built above the streets of the area with raised walkways and communal gardens.

There's a lake with a small waterfall and it is very quiet even though the busy streets are nearby. I walked through the Barbican Centre, an arts venue which is part of the estate.

My main plan over half term is to eat in cafes. Cafes with friends, or with a good book, or with marking.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


I never knew I had so many friends! Last night we had more than twenty people over to celebrate my birthday with me. We had some nibbles and drinks, and lots of chatting and relaxing.

One of my guests (a maths teacher, clearly) said that he estimated that the guest list was one third teachers, one third Canadians, and one third church-goers.

Having so many well wishers made me feel really valued and special. I was so happy that everyone was able to come over and enjoy my entrance into my thirties with me. Thanks, friends!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

loving London

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending London Fashion Weekend for an afternoon. Kirbie was lucky to go on Saturday and she brought back some free entry tickets for Sunday afternoon. I went with Pari and we didn't see any fashion shows, but we did browse to our heart's content through all the designer stands. It was nice to feel as though we did not need to buy anything, and just to enjoy all the weird and wonderful things. There were some stunning handbags, and both Pari and I were seriously tempted. But a lot of the clothes were so "designer" that I couldn't imagine how they could fit in to any part of my life. Pari bought a gift for a friend, and I did too. Other than that we just took pictures and amused ourselves with giggling.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Canadian Thanksgiving seems to sneak up on me each year. A few times I have missed it by forgetting until after it has passed. Since it's not marked on any calendar here, it can be easily overlooked. This year, though, I wanted to host a big meal and this I did! But I accidentally invited everyone over one week too early. Silly me! In my excitement and determination not to forget, I didn't actually check (or remember correctly) the date of Thanksgiving. No matter, we had a delicious and thankful day anyway.

In fact, I was so excited about having people over that I probably invited more than I should have. We had eleven eating in the end (with one more who popped over for dessert) and we had a really hard time getting them all in the kitchen to sit down. We had to put our large desk next to the kitchen table in an L shape and a few people were a bit cosy. But that family feeling is a bonus, in my mind!

The night before I roasted two small butternut squash and then pureed it to make a pumpkin cheesecake. I made it last year as well, and it is definitely my Thanksgiving dessert of choice. The crust is made from ginger biscuits and pecans, stuck together with butter.

The other item I prepared the night before was the nut bake. It's a vegetarian main dish that is often served at Christmas. It was so easy to make with the help of my new immersion blender, which also has two mini food processor attachments, as well as a whisk. The nut bake is a mixture of cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts, layered with breadcrumbs, onion, and fresh herbs.

Ant and Matt were both a huge help to me on Sunday. Ant peeled about 3 kg of potatoes and ironed the tablecloths. Matt hoovered and went to the small Sainsburys down the road twice for emergency supplies.

I'm really grateful for the friends who came over to celebrate with me and share with us all the things for which they are thankful. God has really blessed Ant and I this year with new ideas and opportunities, and continuing health and jobs that we enjoy. We've grown in faith together and we've enjoyed getting to know our friends better.

Monday, 5 October 2009

busy life

The candle seems to be burning at both ends recently. Ant and I have been very busy both at work and at home. We have been flat hunting, and it is so much more involved than we thought. Hunting to buy is so much more stressful than when I did our previous lettings searches.

And work is all-go for both of us as well. I feel a bit as though I am struggling to keep up with the pace at work. I think I may need to tighten up on my productivity at my desk. But I am so tired that often I don't much feel like pushing myself; I putter around and then go home at "chucking-out time". Then work carries over into the next day and things spiral worse and worse. Sigh.

Sorry for wingeing. I have lots to be thankful for as well. I will write about those things after I get some rest.