Category Archives: Art Museum

Home at Last

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Friday night Hubby and I returned from a two-week vacation to London and Paris.  We saw EVERYTHING.  (Seriously, everything.)  We walked ten miles each day, plus rode the Tube (in London) and the Metro (in Paris) many miles to get to where we wanted to be. Mostly we saw tons of art, but also magnificent historical architecture and beautiful gardens. We stayed at really cool hotels (CitizenM Tower of London and Residence Foch) and consumed lots of fish and chips and hamburgers (the meat there is sooooo delicious compared to the ground beef you can buy in the States) and British craft beers.  Hubby and did not get in even one fight, which I consider pretty amazing. Things got dicey on our last day in England, when Hubby insisted on reading EVERY didactic at the Greenwich Museum, and I was so done that I considered pulling the fire alarm and then at dinner pretended I had poisoned him (“are you dizzy?  blurred vision? throat tightening?  No?  Hmmmmm). But overall, it felt like a second honeymoon, since we’ve never gone away for more than five days without the kids before.  We celebrated our 29th anniversary on the hotel balcony with a spectacular view of the Tower of London and felt pretty damned fortunate.

The best thing about a fabulous vacation:  Coming home.  Our youngest son, William, did an excellent job of holding down the fort while we were gone—feeding and caring for our five pets and keeping the house clean is not an easy job.  His best girl, Katherine, helped out, too.  I left William a credit card and I’m sure I’ll cry when that next bill arrives and I see how much money “we” spent at Dutch Bros Coffee while we were away. Apparently we also paid him in beer since our keg of expensive IPA was empty.  (College kids—what are you going to do??)

Today getting groceries I was so happy to have eye contact with people again. My experience was that in London and in Paris, there is absolutely no eye contact with strangers, unless you are a waiter serving dinner or hotel staff helping you as their guest. I did not like being invisible.  I like to smile at people and have offhand chit chat.  I can count on one hand the people who talked to us:

  1.  The French woman at the coin laundromat who spoke no English but was able to guide us through the very unfamiliar laundry system.  I gave her my most sincere smile, accompanied by a “merci beaucoup” and felt so grateful.  Hubby and I were already feeling irritated at not being able to find the darn place having walked a mile in all directions in a fancy neighborhood, each of us carrying black hefty bags of dirty laundry!
  2. The “skin heads” on the Tube elevator in London who alerted me that the doors would be opening in the opposite direction from where I was standing.  We’d traveled so much that day and I was daydreaming, not noticing that the 20 other people on this large elevator were facing the opposite direction.  I said, “Thank you! I probably would have figured it out eventually!  I’d think, where did all the people go?  Why am I all alone?”  They proceeded to do a bit which included the guy saying, “Dear Diary, Month 15 and I’m still in the Tube elevator.  It’s not all bad.  It’s warm in winter and cool in summer.  People leave bags of chips. I’m happy here.”
  3. The woman whose feet my suitcase fell on in the Tube.  She glared at me so hard I thought I might burst into flames.  Seriously?  I was carrying a huge paper sack which held three Starbuck’s London coffee cups and three London Toblerones that were gifts for the kids.  It was unwieldy and when I shifted, my bag fell over.  The part that landed on her feet was not heavy and I apologized sincerely, but she was just mad and mean and well, I’m sorry that when you ride the Tube you are so grumpy.  I love riding the Tube.  I love watching the comings and goings, and the families and the groups of friends and the handsome young men in their skinny suits headed to and from work  (I especially love that).
  4. The young man on the Tube escalator that kept me from falling backwards when  my huge, embarrassing, American suitcase started to fall off the step behind me.  I started wobbling and made a sound like “ooooohhhhh,”and he heaved my case up to the step and gently kept me from falling.  Oy vey, so embarrassing!  If you’ve never been on a Tube escalator, I can tell you it’s very stressful.  They are inclined at an extreme angle and go up four floors!  As a person who is afraid of heights, I can say going up is easier but going down I look at my feet and breathe slowly in and out so as not to scream out, “We’re all going to die!!!!”  Which would be really embarrassing.
  5. The business woman at the St. Pancras train station in London who so nicely gave me directions to where to catch our Eurostar (Chunnel) train.  This station is HUGE and is the only international station in London.  It’s super cool . . . if you’re not in a hurry to catch a train.  I mistook her for a station information attendant because she was in a suit and was standing next to the Information sign (most stations have these with staff positioned there to answer questions). She did not laugh at me and was very sweet.  Hubby, on the other hand, mocked me endlessly, so much so that anytime we were lost after that, I asked him, “Shall I go ask a stranger how to get there?”  If you don’t get lost while on your Europe vacations, then you’re just not doing it right.  We spent two hours one night looking for a restaurant called Hot Box that some website had recommended.  It was not a “good lost” since it was in a business area with huge sky scrapers.  We finally found the place.  HA.  Long picnic tables in a dark room with expensive hamburgers.

One reason I’m glad I was completely invisible in Europe:  I was the only person wearing leggings.  Here in Tempe that’s the norm!  Next blog will be European fashion tips!  Stay tuned!

Cheers,

Mary

A Blast From the Past

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Tonight I hosted our first meeting of the new Warner Ranch Book club.  I started it by asking if anyone was interested on our neighborhood website, and nine delightful women spent the evening in my living room getting to know each other and discussing a favorite book of mine called Plainsong by Kent Haruf.   I promised dessert, wine, and iced tea and had big plans for making a cheesecake and cupcakes, however, life got in the way, and I ended up baking some old tried-and-true recipes of cheesecake brownies and lemon company cake.

While looking on my blog for my favorite cheesecake recipe, I was delighted to read about a Monday of mine five years ago.  I laughed out loud; I used to be so funny! This is how most bloggers feel.  They post something and think, ugggh, that could have been so much better.  I was also pretty much floored emotionally by how much my life has changed in such a short time.  I miss having our kids at home, yet there is a new quality of serenity and order which I truly enjoy.  Plus, Hubby is still here and since we are BFF’s, it’s all good.

Here is the post from January 10, 2012 titled, “What I Did on Monday.”  And btw, I have no idea what that novel was about or where it went.  I think it ended up in the trash where most of my creative writing goes to die.

I had a beautiful and productive Monday. Here are some of the things I did:

Read the newspaper and snickered over the bickering Republican hopefuls.

Went to the library and picked up a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, an old favorite of mine.

Met Amy at Starbuck’s for a morning of writing.  Chatted with Amy for 1.5 hours and wrote for .5 hours.

Discovered I have lost an entire chapter from the novel I’m writing. (I’m hoping Hubby can help me locate it on my computer.)

Had a lovely lunch with Lynn at Hong Kong Buffet. The big news of the day:  She has a grandson due to be born any day now!

Feeling ill from too many crab puffs, I took a break with The Secret History and alternately burped soy sauce-flavored burps and pet Lucy.  Isn’t it nice how cats don’t care if you have bad breath?

Did some research on the artists I am now assigned at the art museum, Seymour Lipton and Mike Kelley. I must say I so do not “get” contemporary art . . . but I’m trying.

Vacuumed downstairs and sucked up enough cat hair to make a new cat.

Found three bowls, two forks, a spoon and a plate under the couch.

Went to the bank.

Mailed birthday presents to my sister and my step-mother-in-law at the post office.

Gave Eve a wedgie. “That’s for leaving your dirty dishes under the couch!”

Discovered my Aunt Chris’ 60th birthday is January 16th. (I should’ve known that, but thank you, Aunt Linda, for the reminder!)

Went to TJ Maxx and bought four fabulous scarves. Which one should I send to Aunt Chris? The others go in my “emergency gift” stash in the closet. Found some super-comfy oh-so-cute Seven7 brand jeans for only $16.99 and HAD to take them home. I love you, TJ Maxx.

Came home to find Lucy having a serious coughing fit. I gently stroked her back, and she began to purr. She found a comfy warm spot on Grandma Summer’s blanket and took a long nap. She is still hungry for dinner, so we are not yet at the end. I hate hate hate that she is sick. She looks normal. Her fur smells sweet like it always has. (Maybe it’s all a big mistake?)

Made the kids eat leftovers for dinner (the fridge was too full, and I do not believe in throwing away food). Talked Eve into eating the dried up leftover cauliflower from four days ago—more revenge for the dishes under the couch (hee hee).

After the kids were in bed, found the cauliflower dish under the couch.

Took William and Nathan to Boy Scouts. Said “Happy New Year” to all my Scout friends, and gave Patti L. a big hug because she very gracefully turned 50 over the weekend. (My friends make it look so easy . . . why do I dread it so?)

Came home and made two individual cheesecakes. I have two six-inch springform pans that produce the cutest little sweets. I took a photo of a decorated mini-cake at Whole Foods and totally copied it (who was it that said there is nothing new under the sun?), and I must say I am quite proud. I am taking it to my dear friend Mrs. Brown because today we are celebrating her birthday.

I had fun decorating the cheesecake with fresh fruit, which always looks better when you put a little melted raspberry jam on it to make it look shiny. I used blueberries, strawberries and mandarin orange slices. I stood back to admire my masterpiece and took a lick off the jam spoon. WHAT??? PEANUT BUTTER? Who on earth would put a peanut butter knife into the almost-new jar of raspberry jam? I think I owe Eve another wedgie. Does this stuff happen to Martha Stewart?

Here is the recipe for a basic, easy cheesecake that turns out perfect every time:

Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter two six-inch springform pans OR use a regular pie dish.

Smush a graham cracker crust into the bottom of your pan.

In a large bowl, beat 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) with ½ cup sugar and two eggs. Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or fresh orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt.

Bake for 25-40 minutes (depending on your pan) until it is firm in the middle. Cool before decorating!

Cheers,

Mary

Winning

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Big news:  I’m a winner!

That’s right—for the first time in my whole life, I’ve won an election.  I guess it’s not that amazing if you consider the fact that I’ve only ever “run” for something once before, and that was for 5th grade class treasurer.  I was new to Rural Elementary that year, having just moved from Illinois, so I’m thinking it must’ve been my mother’s idea.  I remember making posters decorated with tin-foil coins and buttons I made classmates wear that read, “Keep it rockin’—vote for Mary Koppen.”  It was not a surprise when Mary Ann Hendrickson won—I mean, she’d gone to school with those kids since Kindergarten . . . and in all honesty, I was a bit relieved.

This week’s election was for the Warner Ranch Phase II HOA Board.  My competition was a lovely neighbor who has served on the board for years, and a cranky woman I’ve never met who ran on the platform of breaking up “the old boys club” who didn’t even bother to attend the annual meeting!  I was a shoo-in, but still, I came home from the meeting feeling special about my glamorous new appointment.  (I’ve threatened to run for years.) My (hidden) agenda is to try to convince the board we really don’t need to call the attorneys every time somebody leaves their car on the street overnight.  I’m all about saving us some cash, yo.

In other news, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is having a health concern.  Suddenly her breath is terrible, and when I say terrible, when we drove by the dairy farm in Maricopa last weekend on our way to Mexico, our car smelled BETTER with the windows down to allow her stink OUT, and allowing the cow small IN.  Her breath is so terrible the cats back up with their ears down and run away when she attempts to kiss them.  It’s so terrible that my car still smells like her death breath a week after our road trip, even though I’ve been driving around all week with the windows open.  Ruby has a teeth cleaning scheduled in two weeks, so hopefully it’s something as simple as a rotten tooth that needs pulling.  Her teeth have rarely been brushed since we are very selfish and value the existence of having ten fingers over Ruby having healthy, clean teeth.

This next week is HUGE.  You may want to sit down to hear this news.  Are you sitting? BASTILLE IS COMING TO TOWN!!!! My favorite band is coming to town on Tuesday, and on Friday, Hubby and I are driving to Vegas to see them a second time.  I’m giddy.  More than giddy, I’m nervous something will go wrong and I won’t get to go to the concerts. A sick child, a car accident, the loss of a finger when brushing a dog’s teeth.  I know I’m being ridiculous.  I’m THAT excited.  This morning I hugged Hubby and said, “You are the sweetest husband in the whole world to take me to both Bastille concerts this week!!!”  I think he’d forgotten because he looked stricken . . . and now I’m looking for a sub for him on Tuesday.  I think our daughter will go with me.

I know I should be embarrassed to be so excited about a musical group at my advanced age, but answer me this:  Why is it okay to be gaga over classical music, but not progressive music?  I went to hear Gustav Holsts’ The Planets a few years ago and there were PLENTY of old people there who were clearly exhilarated to hear this performance, yet when I mention going to a rock concert, I feel the quiet mocking.  And let me tell you, Bastille concerts are 100% more interesting than the Phoenix Symphony playing Holst (it was quite the snooze fest).

Last but not least, I was happy to see a new sculpture installed in the lobby of Phoenix Art Museum.  I’m a big Yayoi Kusama fan, and her large-scale aluminum pumpkin with holes cut out of it is whimsical and charming.  Come check it out!

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

Saturday

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Is there a time of the week more heavenly than Saturday morning?  The whole weekend lays before you with so many possibilities for fun.  Tonight I hope Hubby will take me out on the town–maybe stop by the new Samurai exhibit at the art museum, then over to Angel Trumpet Ale House to try one of their 31 flavors of beer on tap, or maybe over to Taco Guild for their drool-worthy beef&blue cheese&cherry tacos (I swear they are the best food invented, after chicken shwarma).   I’m going to zip up my sexy tall leather boots and find my reddest lipstick, and uh oh, now I have Lyle Lovett’s song, What Do You Doin my head:

“You could put on some makeup
And you could pile up your hair
And at least try to do something
With what you’ve got there
You could tell me you love me
To put off my blues
But what do you do
Say what do you do?”

But now we are suiting up for a hike over at the War Paint Trail.  I’ve been walking a lot this past month, but not really getting my heart rate up.  So even though I prefer to bear to the right and go on the flat trails, I’m going to be brave and say, “let’s go left” which means steep inclines that leave me gasping.  Or maybe we’ll go straight and do the zig zag trail Corona del Loma trail that rewards you with a beautiful view of the Gila River Indian reservation to the south.  It’s the best time of year for a dusty walk among the blooming creosote and stately saguaros.

The tension is gone from our quaint little neighborhood (which I talked about in my last entry).  Our mentally unstable neighbor is in jail awaiting his bail hearing.  SO SAD.  There is a bustle of activity at their house as his wife prepares the home for sale.  It’s lovely with high-end everythings so will probably sell quickly.  Come be our next door neighbor!  I’d say the only annoying things about living next door to us is Cosmo occasionally walks the fence and might take a wee catnap on your patio, and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel barks every time I take out the trash.  She thinks the bag is a doggy pinata and often manages to bite a hole in the bottom, rewarding her with some stinky trash.  Good dog.  I hatched a plan to scare off any undesirable potential neighbors touring the house:  I’m going to fill a bag with beer cans which will be thrown on the lawn, and in my bikini will do yard work while listening to rap music played at a loud volume.

Happy Saturday!!!

Mary

 

 

Peaks and Valleys

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I had a super angsty weekend.  After taking our youngest son back to NAU yesterday (our goodbye looked like this), I came home and wrote a long, boring essay asking the question, “Who am I? Am I still a mom even though my kids are grown?”   There were references to my own college days and a link to this song which I danced to every Thursday night at Devil House when I was William’s age and attending ASU.  I turned it up really loud and danced to it in my kitchen, and memories came flooding back . . .  which made me even more worried about my young adult children (lol).  So then (since I was feeling angsty) I sat back down and wrote about all my youthful hopes and dreams that didn’t come true. I woke up this morning and I deleted that huge, stinking bucket of drivel, sipped a cup of coffee while watching the sun come up, and had a very nice day.

We loved having William home for a whole month over the holiday break!!!  He and his girlfriend were good company every afternoon and never made me feel like I was intruding on their time together–they are good kids, and I love them.  I’ve always been a  “Speech Sponge” which means I unwittingly pick up other’s speech patterns, slang, and accents.  I realized I’d spent too much time with William and his friends when docenting at the art museum Friday morning.  I commented that I didn’t care for a certain painting because the paint was “super shiny.”  My friends mocked me. (Note to self:  Eliminate the words super, awesome, yo, nasty, chill, and bounce from my lexicon.)

BIG NEWS:  Over the weekend, our oldest son became engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Samantha! (This was one of the things that was causing me to be angsty–how can my little Patrick be getting married?? Where did the time go??).  They have been dating for three years, and we’ve seen first-hand that they are a great team.  Patrick is 25 and a half, and Samantha just turned 23–the same ages Hubby and I were when we got hitched 28 years ago.  Sam is wearing Hubby’s grandmother’s diamond.  It’s been sitting in a drawer for the last ten years since Evelyn passed, so we’re happy  it’s out shining in the world again.  Evelyn and Clifford were married for 60 years, so that’s a Good Luck Diamond, don’t you think so???   I could not ask for a better DIL, and how fun to look forward to a wedding next year! THANK GOD it’s not soon,  because I have 30 pounds to lose so I won’t look like a Macy’s Day parade balloon in the wedding photos (menopause has not been kind to me).

So goes life:  a series of peaks, then valleys. I’m keenly missing my school friends and students, but on the other hand I’m enjoying catching up with old friends and having energy to be active.  I’ll not say too much, but recent health concerns are still being dealt with, but all in all, I feel 80% back to normal.   I’ve hiked (slowly) the War Paint trails, lunched at Mac’s, at Pita Jungle, at Indian Delhi Palace, Wildflower, etc., and found out it’s a treat to walk over to Teakwoods to meet friends for happy hour (it’s a mile each way walking through the neighborhood).  I love being home with our four pets.  Our house is tidy, and I have energy to make yummy dinners. Every day I’m reminded of the old adage, “the grass is always greener” because many days I wish I were still at my special, amazing school.  But as a favorite teaching friend, Rhoda, once said, “You can only  put your tuchus in one seat at a time.”  Every day I remind myself that my tuchus is where it’s supposed to be . . . and working from home means pants are optional.

Cheers,

Mary

Follow Your Bliss

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You might be wondering why it is I’m home on a Monday morning.  Well, I have a very special announcement to make (trumpets sounding):  Today is the first day in my new role as a part-time employee at my wonderful school.  Woot woot!  I’m happier than a clam. I’m missing my students . . . and I will see them tomorrow morning when I will be working in the One’s class! I have a list of long-term goals to tackle such as:  exercising and losing weight so I can be healthier and have more energy (and keep my blood pressure at good numbers), organizing and deep cleaning my home, catching up on neglected reading and writing, and returning to the volunteer stuff I’ve missed so much (Meals on Wheels and Phoenix Art Museum docents).

This morning found me at the EOS gym I joined in August and only went to a handful of times.  I paused at the door of this unfamiliar place, and the devil on my shoulder whispered, “Don’t go in!  Let’s walk over to the Dunkin Donuts!”  But then I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and walked in as if I owned the place.  I found an available treadmill and was filled with anxiety when confronted with so many buttons–which one starts the stupid thing?   I turned to look at the woman on the treadmill next to mine, and she gave me such a warm smile, all my anxiety melted away. I had a great work out and left with 8000 steps on my step counter.  Across the room, I was pleased to see a lovely preschool mom whose son was in my class a few years ago and look forward to chatting with her next time.  I’m sure I’ll be svelte again soon!

This afternoon I’ve done two loads of laundry, communicated with a few friends and two of my children, cleaned the meat off the turkey carcass, and swept the back patio.  The turkey bones are bubbling in a pot on the stove, creating a soon-to-be-delicious stock.  I “doctored” the leftover turkey and made it into Turkey Makhani, a favorite Indian dish.  I don’t know about you, but after eating turkey every day for four days, I am DONE.  The aromatic flavors of garam masala, cumin, and coriander will transform my boring bird into a few more tasty meals, and the stock will be frozen for future use.

While waiting for the stock to finish, I turned to cleaning out my bedside table.  OMG, what a mess.  This drawer is where I keep my mementos.   Whenever I’m given a thoughtful note from a friend, I throw it in my bedside table. Same with concert tickets and birthday cards and Mother’s Day cards and special sea shells and poems and inspirational esssays.  I found a small silver “teacher” pin given to me by a woman I worked with at my first school job (I miss you, Grandma Rhoda!).  I found a map of our favorite Mexican resort, The Grand Palladium in Akumal., and several airline ticket stubs from trips to see my family in Illinois. Alongside my grandmother’s watch and my first cell phone (a red Motorola flip phone that I was very proud of), I found a big piece of dryer lint.  When William was a baby, he liked to have a piece of fuzz to rub between his fingers to go to sleep each night, which he called “buzz.”  I must’ve saved one to remind me of when he was so small. So many memories!  I sorted them into piles and will enjoy my trip down memory lane.

One card from the drawer stood out amongst the heap of stuff layed out on my bed. In bold black letters it reads, “FOLLOW YOUR BLISS.”  That is what this next few months in my life are meant to be:  Following my bliss, while working toward physical health and finding balance in my life.

Cheers,

Mary

That Day I Almost Met the Queen

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A few days ago we returned from a two-week vacation to England and Scotland with our two youngest children, Eve and William (who are 20 and 18 respectively).  We had many adventures, and as circumstances would have it, had brushes with Very Famous People while we were in London.

On our first full day in London, we woke up early and got to the Tower of London by 9am. We knew we’d have fewer crowds if we arrived early, and it would be easier to catch a tour with one of the witty Beefeaters who dress in brilliant red costumes and wear silly plumed hats.  We were having a fantastic time exploring this tower, and then that tower, and since it was our first day of vacation, we happily paused to read each and every didactic, soaking up all the great British history.  I’d put it in the top ten of all the places we visited, and I would highly recommend it.

Anyway.  We were having a grand time, but I began to feel annoyed with a family who had a very loud, obnoxious “private” tour guide.  It seemed they invaded our space each time we entered a new room.  The guide’s voice was shrill and self important, and finally, I glared at her, hoping she’d understand she was being too loud.  It was then I heard a very distinctive voice—the voice of Katie Couric, once known as America’s sweetheart of the morning shows.    It was Katie on vacation with her family!

Allow me to pause my story for a moment and state for the record that I am NOT a superficial person, however, I take great interest in current culture, including famous people. I’m intrigued at their stories, since they, too, were once lowly folks such as myself yet now have international fame and boatloads of money.  So when I meet a “star,” I get pretty excited.

And Katie Couric it certainly was.  She is tiny.  She wore no make up and was still cute as a button.  She was dressed very casually and had a cap on with a ponytail  under it.  Her daughters (in their early twenties) are taller and thin, and her husband just looks like a plain Joe. I could have followed them (and their rude guide) but instead I watched her using my peripheral vision while sneakily pretending to look at my phone.  I figure the woman deserves to have a hassle-free vacation with her family without a sort of/kind of fan following and staring at her.

So.  THAT VERY SAME DAY we missed my favorite band who just happened to be playing a concert in a park ONE MILE from where we walked that afternoon.  I leaked out a few tiny tears when I found out, and kept thinking that if we’d known, we could have lingered about and heard them outside the venue since it was just in a big park.  In the end I calmed myself by remembering we were not in London to see Bastille perform, and we had a perfect day seeing the sights we’d seen.

The very next day we spent the morning at the National Gallery, walked an hour to see one of my favorite artist’s (Yayoi Kusama) thrilling new exhibit at a small gallery on the edge of town, and after many tube stops, finally arrived at Westminster Abbey.  It was at the top of our list since the ridiculous coach tour we’d taken three summers ago had not included entry, yet we spent a teasing hour lolling about the lobby and gift shop.  We arrived  at the huge cathedral to find many people milling about outside the gates, but nobody going in. My family walked the entire periphery but I (per usual) cut to the chase by asking the uniformed man at the gate.  “Closed today for a special memorial service, mum.”  I looked around and sure enough, there were signs announcing the vigil marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  The vigil remembers those lost in the battle, which claimed over one million lives and affected the lives of millions more at home during WWI. Those who took part on all sides of the Battle were represented, and the internet said all were welcome . . . but that was clearly complete HOGWASH because the uniformed men at the gate were keeping everyone out,  excepting the Very  Fancy People who were arriving in limos.  We had fun watching the swank guests arrive, and the next day found out the Queen (yes, THAT Queen) had arrived just minutes after we’d moved on to find a snack. A SNACK.  I missed seeing the Queen of England enter Westminster Abbey because we wanted a SNACK. (Kicks self in the arse.)

And yes, there’s more.  You remember I’m a fan of the band Florence + the Machine. You guessed it—she was playing Saturday afternoon at Hyde Park—which was only a half hour from where we were at the British Museum when I first heard the news.  After just missing Bastille, I was determined not to miss another opportunity and besides, Florence Welch is the coolest chick ever who happens to have the voice of an angel. I searched and found tickets were available but a) we had a full day planned, b) the tickets were expensive,  c) the concert was starting soon, and  d) the sky looked threatening.  Hip hip hooray for me that I did not insist upon seeing Florence because that afternoon, the rain came tumbling down sideways, drenching us from head to toe, the nasty wind inverting our umbrellas, ultimately causing us to board a bus to who-knows-where just to save ourselves from what seemed like an Emergency Situation.  Not the best day to be attending an expensive outdoor concert!

The final brush with greatness occurred days later in Edinburgh, at the East end of the Royal Mile.  It was our second day in this beautiful city, and William (Eagle Scout, Lover of Hiking) had requested we do a hike.  Lucky for us, there was a strange, yet accessible mountain called Arthur’s Seat which looked like what we in Arizona would call a butte.  Anyhoo, the bus system let us down and when we finally arrived to the little flat mountain, the weather was threatening, and because we had tickets to an underground ghost tour at 2pm, the hike was not doable.  William was disappointed, and because we didn’t have a Plan  B, we plunked down dejectedly at the edge of a fountain in front of the Scottish Parliament Building. It was our first low point of the trip, and we weren’t sure what to do.  The gates to Holyrood  Palace were right there, but we’d heard it was closed that week for some reason or other.

We began to notice crowds of well-dressed people walking toward the palace.  In fact, they looked so dressed up that we wondered if there was a wedding or a formal party.  After asking in a shop, we found at the Queen was visiting for one week and today was her big Garden Party!  As we shopped and lunched along the Royal Mile, I had fun watching all of the Fancy People in their finery, on their way to have tea with the Queen.  SO COOL.  Most women had a hat of some sort, even if it was only a “fascinator” which is a head band with some decorative stuff happening on the top of your head.  The following day, I met two people who had attended this party and they said it was to honor volunteers and also service men and women.  I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to curtsy for the Queen, then sip champagne and nibble sandwiches at a palace, but alas, that is not what we do here in America.

Tune in tomorrow for “The Many Sausages of the UK” when I’ll explain the mysterious Scottish dish of “neeps and tatties” and many other strange menu items seen on our trip to the UK.

Cheers,

Mary