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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Halfway Point

2010 Calendar
Originally uploaded by The Nebulous Kingdom of Anne-Julie

Today marks the halfway point for 2010. How has this year been going for you? A friend recently told me about this marvelous song from the musical Rent. It's called Seasons of Love and it answers the question, "How do you measure a year?".

There's a wonderful YouTube video with the lyrics of the song which I highly recommend to you. Embedding has been disabled by request so I'm unable to post it here for you to view but if you click on this link you can see it for yourself. Enjoy and be inspired to make the most of what remains of 2010.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

London: Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace entrance


Intricate clock face

I have a few more photos to share from my trip to London. Before leaving England, my son and I took a train from Waterloo station out to see Hampton Court renowned as one of Henry VIII's palaces. I had never been there before and I was excited to see the beautiful palace, gardens and maze. The day we traveled on was overcast but rain never made an appearance while we were there.

Hampton Court Maze
Due to the threatening skies, we started off with the maze. Despite my well established lack of a sense of direction, I felt confident I could conquer the maze if I made sure to only take right hand turns - a hint I'd seen on the internet ahead of time. Well.... it didn't work out quite like that. Getting to the center wasn't too hard (see photo proof below) but getting out again was a whole other story. I wandered round and round. Naturally after leaving the center, my teenage son had chosen to run ahead of me out of sight so I was on my own.

At the beginning I was creating a video with my camera of the experience. But as minute after minute went on and the maze entrance wasn't in sight, I began to wonder aloud if I was actually creating a documentary of my incompetence. At one point my son came to find me and lead me out, but for some crazy reason, I thought he was making a wrong turn and I chose another path. Bad move. I was lost again. And I stayed that way no matter which path I tried. Fortunately, Charlie came back and led me all the way out. He claimed to have gone in and out of the entire maze several times by this point. He's definitely got the bragging rights on this one.

Katherine Parr

Inside the palace, we saw many exhibits about King Henry VIII. Costumed characters interacted with visitors while reenacting the events of the day of King Henry's wedding to Katherine Parr, his last wife. In the photo above, Katherine is telling the women visitors her thoughts on becoming the king's wife. Surely it was a position she didn't take lightly! At one point we were summoned to the king's private council to watch as Katherine was questioned by the court regarding her fitness to be queen of England. Strangely, there wasn't an actual wedding ceremony for us to view which was a bit of a disappointment but the actors certainly did their best to bring history to life for us.

Metalwork gate

The grounds of the palace were stunning as you can see. I especially enjoyed the rose garden. The scent there was heavenly. The statues and topiary were lovely. I could have spent the whole day wandering the various gardens. I was definitely glad we had put Hampton Court on our itinerary.


Monday, June 28, 2010

I've Lost My Glasses

Last Wednesday I misplaced my glasses in my home. I know for sure that they are somewhere in the house because I lost them after I got home from work and couldn't find them the next morning before returning to work. The problem is they aren't in plain sight anywhere. Neither are they under anything, behind anything, or on top of anything. Believe me, I've checked! Where oh where could they be?

For now, I'm getting by (barely) with an old pair. After the missing ones didn't turn up over the weekend, I called my eye doctor for help. Unfortunately, he's booked solid and couldn't squeeze me in for 2 weeks. Yikes! I quickly called another doctor who's scheduled me for this Wednesday. Two more days - I will try to manage. It's been a long time since I've been to a new eye doctor. Perhaps I'll end up with a whole new look. I feel as though my eyeglasses are just as much a part of my Speak Up Librarian identity as my hearing aids. Maybe my avatar should check out some new styles for me.

If you wear them, have you ever lost your glasses?

I've Been Tagged

Kym from Cuteness of Curiousity has tagged me in a blog game. I am now required to answer 8 questions of her choosing.

1) Are your looks deceiving?
Definitely. People always think I'm younger than I am.

2) What are you currently reading?
Nothing. I haven't read a book in quite a while actually and that's tough for me as a librarian to admit. Does anyone have any suggestions?

3) Are you for same sex marriage? Why or why not?
Yes, I speak up for equality.

4) Lemonade or ice tea?
Lemonade every time. I am not a fan of ice tea.

5) What is a favorite dish you love to prepare for your family or friends?
Lasagna. You can find the recipes of some additional favorites here.

6) Do you take vitamins daily? Why or why not?
Yes. When I don't, I notice the difference in my energy level and stamina.
Also, my father worked for a major pharmaceutical company known for their vitamins so here's a free shout out for One-a-Day brand supplements!

7) Would you rather live in a farm or a city?
I am a country girl at heart. I would choose the farm over the city but I would really love to live by the water most of all.

8) Who would win in a fight - Wonder Woman or She-Ra?
Since I have never heard of She-Ra, my money is on Wonder Woman.

The game continues by having 8 other bloggers tagged, but I have gotten so far behind on my blog reading that it's quite possible my blogging buddies have already been picked by now. So I'm going to open it up to you readers. How would you answer these 8 questions? The first 8 people to respond with their answers, may also pose an additional question of their own choosing. I'll answer as long as it's clean.

Monday, June 21, 2010

HLAA Convention

This past weekend, I went to Milwaukee with friends for the 2010 HLAA Convention. As it was my first hearing loss convention, I wasn't sure what to expect. Overall, I enjoyed the social aspect of meeting other hard of hearing people and getting to know better some that I had only known online previously. Some of the workshops I attended presented material I already knew but a few were more interesting.

Bill Barkeley was the keynote speaker on Thursday night. This amazing man who copes with Usher's syndrome (deafness + progressive vision loss) told us the story of his climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. After hearing about his inspiring adventure, I felt motivated to meet him and tell him about my friend with Usher's Syndrome. Initially I wanted to get his autograph for her with perhaps a brief note, but I had second thoughts about whether that was feasible with his vision loss and the lighting in the room so I got my photo taken with him instead.

Then it was time for the Welcome Reception. I enjoyed getting to meet old friends and new at the beautiful Milwaukee Hilton Hotel.

The next day I attended a research symposium where several respresentatives from the major hearing aid manufacturers discussed their latest research and development projects. As fate would have it, I ended up sitting in the seat right in front of my friend (e, who I had never met before in person. She writes a terrific blog and you can read her version of our meeting here. The funny thing is that while reading her blog, I had always pictured her as a brunette and as someone who lives in the opposite part of the country than where she actually lives. In real life she is just as fun, artistic, and energetic as her writing style. I hope our paths will cross again someday.

At the exhibit hall, I went to a product demo by Oticon where I learned about an FM system that may be a solution to hearing better at the reference desk. Julie (pictured) was excited to learn about additional products that will work with the streamer she already has which provides Bluetooth access to her cellphone.

The most exciting event of the conference was the Oktoberfest Banquet held in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hilton. The Crystal Ballroom lived up to its name. It was one of the most beautiful rooms I had ever seen. The German food served was absolutely delicious. I felt as though I were Cinderella at the ball. Later I was even asked to dance by a member of the Blaskapelle band and my fairy tale fantasy was complete. This was the first time I had ever tried to polka, but my partner reassured me I did fine and as a bonus didn't even step on his toes!

The next morning, I attended the convention's worship service. How wonderful to have everything captioned and accessible. I sang the hymns with joy and a sense of freedom from wondering what others might think. It didn't matter here.

Truly, throughout my four days in Milwaukee, it was an amazing experience to see almost everyone around me wearing a hearing aid or a cochlear implant. I felt as though I was attending a family reunion of sorts. There was a very real sense of community at the convention. If you have any questions about the conference, be sure and let me know.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meeting Liz in London

Liz and Sarah
Kensington Gardens

I first got to know Liz through her blog about two years ago. We started emailing each other and having the occasional instant message chat when we'd manage to be online at the same time (despite the six hour time difference). Last year I started creating t-shirt designs and Liz bought two of the shirts and modeled them for my blog. With encouragement from me, Liz took a writing course to pursue her dream of publishing a children's book. Later, she started up an online forum and I immediately joined and had the pleasure of participating in a couple of her contests. By then, we knew we could count on each other for support.

When she contacted me to ask if we could meet up in London during my trip there with my son, I was thrilled. Liz lives about 3 hours by bus from London and this would be her first visit there. I felt extremely honored that she was willing to travel so far to meet me. Not only that, but she would be bringing her boyfriend Richard with her. I was very curious to meet him and see if he was good enough for my dear friend.

We made plans to meet in front of Westminster Abbey. If it turned out to be a nice day, we would walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. If it were stormy, we would visit the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery instead.

Charlie and I arrived at our meeting place first. When Liz and Richard walked towards us, I immediately recognized them and greeted Liz with a warm hug. Her boyfriend Richard turned out to be very personable and funny. I was especially impressed by the caring way he treated Liz.

It turned out to be a sunny day and we had a wonderful time walking through the beautiful grounds of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. We spent over 3 hours together, much of it walking. Midway, we stopped for a bite to eat and ate sandwiches under a tree by the Serpentine River. It was fun comparing notes on the differences between England and the United States and learning more about each other's lives.

Richard, Liz, and me
Hyde Park

It was difficult for me to say goodbye to my friend. I told her she was just as I thought she would be and she said the same of me. I look forward to getting to know Liz better through our blogs and emails. I've issued her an open invitation to visit me anytime and to bring Richard with her.

You can read what Liz wrote about our meeting here. For the record, I'd like everyone to know that these photos don't do Liz justice. In person, she has beautiful blue eyes and a lovely fair complexion.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Westminster Abbey & Sardines

Westminster Abbey's north entrance

Closeup on some of the beautiful stonework detail on the exterior. On Saturday we had spent the morning exploring the Abbey. A highlight of our visit was a 90 minute guided tour by a verger who explained the history and personalities associated with the Abbey. No photography is allowed inside the church, so I guess you will have to visit it yourself to see its beauty.

Here I am all dressed up for church last Sunday morning. We attended 2 services: Matins at 10:00 and Sung Eucharist at 11:15. I was very excited to attend church here because my home church is an Episcopal parish, also known as Anglican (or Church of England in America). It was amazing to be inside this beautiful, historical building dedicated to God's worship and hear the familiar words of my prayer book. The voices of the men's choir were incredible. This is a memory I hope to hold on to for the rest of my life.

The sermon that day by Reverend Gavin Williams was on the topic of finding God. He began by recalling a childhood game of hide and seek where one person hid so well that he and the others were unable to find him and when they were called in to tea left him still hidden and unaware that the game had ended. Reverend Williams said many people are looking for God as in the game of hide and seek. When they are unable to find Him, they just give up. But finding God is more like the game of sardines rather than hide and seek he told us. I was unfamiliar with the game of sardines and fortunately he explained how it's played. He said someone hides and when a player finds him, he joins him in the hiding spot. The game is continued until the last player has found all the others hidden together. As you can imagine, it gets easier to find the hiding spot the more children that are squeezed into it. Especially as giggling and whispering is bound to occur. Reverend Williams said finding God can be done similarly. When we find others who have found Him already, He makes himself known to us.

I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of him. Pray that they may find and be found by him. [Book of Common Prayer p. 386]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Knights in Shining Armor

I enjoy looking at suits of armor. Do you? In Chicago, armor is on display at the Art Institute. In London, you can see it at the Tower of London. This exhibit has undergone quite a change since I last saw it seventeen years ago. Now there are changing colored lights in the background of the cases and interactive displays for the kids. Charlie enjoyed playing an arcade style sword challenge where you had to hit the most shields you could in the amount of time provided. You could strike one of the four shields once it lights up in an ongoing random pattern. The game seemed popular with all the children there.

This suit belonged to King Henry VIII. Notice the extra protection for the family jewels, hee hee.

I liked seeing this piece of armor for the knight's steed.

Something about this knight brings to mind Darth Vader. Is it the helmet style or the pose?

Look at the tiny suit of armor posed next to the full size set.

Here's a closeup of the smaller suit. I don't think it was designed for a child or a very small man. I think it was a model. Does anyone know more?

You can find additional photos of the armor we saw on my flickr site.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flowers for Friday: London

I hope you enjoy these photos half as much
as I enjoyed the gardens of London.
Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

London: Changing of the Guards Ceremony

Buckingham Palace

Military Band

New Guard

Victoria Memorial

This monument is located directly across from the palace
and was our vantage point for watching the ceremony.

Here's a short video I made of the Queen's Guard
marching into the Buckingham Palace gates. To watch
it in full screen, double click on the video and it will
open into a new window where you can expand the size.

London: Weather and Food

We had fabulous weather during our visit to London. The locals kept commenting on how unusual it was. Some even gave us credit for bringing it with us.

In this photo you can see London's most famous landmark, the clock tower for the Big Ben bell. Our hotel was located right nearby, so we passed this icon every day. I was thrilled to be able to hear it ringing amid the noise on the busy street.

In the days before we had left, I had frequently looked up at the blue skies at home and wished aloud to bring them with me. My wish came true!

This photo is of a gate at Buckingham Palace. I took it simply to show off the gorgeous blue of the sky that day.

This photo shows the South Bank lion also located near our hotel. I took this photo from the double decker bus which is why the window glare appears. Even with that flaw, I still like this photo for the beautiful blue sky it depicts behind the statue.

This was my first English breakfast. I especially enjoyed the button mushrooms. The other food items in this photo are fruit, yogurt, croissant, beans, sausage, and decaf coffee. Oddly enough, I didn't drink a single cup of tea in London although I am a tea drinker at home.

This was Charlie's first breakfast. He especially enjoyed the sausage and bacon. In this photo you can see the salt and pepper shakers. To our surprise, the shaker with one hole was for salt and the shaker with several holes was for pepper. At home the salt shaker always has more holes.

I especially took these photos for Virginia and Jonathan. Virginia sent me a funny postcard about English breakfast before we left and Jonathan emailed me an interesting story about an 8,000 calorie English breakfast.

This photo shows my son's favorite dinner option: gammon steak. We both ordered it the first night. I assumed it was beef. When it was served, I was concerned about how very PINK it was - thinking it was severely undercooked. Then I discovered that gammon steak is ham.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Window Wednesday: London Eye

I took this photo yesterday from my hotel window.

I've been to London and back and will be writing more about my adventures in this wonderful city later this week.

[My apologies to my regular subscribers - on my first try I posted without including the photo. I'm blaming it on the jet lag...]