Blogathon 2011 Update

As you may have noticed, I stopped posting for several days. First there was an issue with the blogger site. The blogs could be viewed but it was not possible to post for several days last week. I continued writing in a notebook, in order to post when the site came up. Unfortunately there were a series of "life events" (nothing serious) just time-consuming things, and in order to get at least 5 to 6 hours of sleep every night I had to give up writing posts for a few days.

I'm back and although I am not in the running to be a winner for the 2011 Blogathon, I will add the blogs I wrote and will continue to write as much as possible the rest of the month.

In addition to maintaining a happy marriage, raising my elementary age children full-time, enjoying quality family time together, I also help my friend with her Educational Materials website (, write posts for my three blogs, work as a realtor, and own and rent vacation homes. I also try to read books, other blogs and try to keep abreast of global issues.

To add to all the excitement, we are now in the process of buying a new home which happens to be a short sale. The house has been abandoned for close to two years, so when its finally ours, we are going to have to do a great deal of work to be able to move into it. Something has to give...I only have 24 hours per day and like 50 hours worth of work...

I still have so much I want to do...I have several children's books I've started and haven't finalized. My husband and I have an idea for a children's television show, we've written the treatment but need to pitch it to networks...

I will eventually do everything I want, I just need better time-management skills and a few assistants.

By the way, the answer to the "haiku" is:  The Royal Wedding of William and Kate.

2011 Blogathon Haiku Day

I am participating in the 2011 WordCount Blogathon.  As a participant, I must post on my blog every day in May.  I can tell you there are days when I just don't have time to write, but I have been working hard and keeping up so far, even if it means staying up and posting seconds before midnight.

During the Blogathon there are designated theme days.  Participants are encouraged to follow the theme for the day.  Today's theme is Haiku.  This is the 17 syllable, three-line poem most of us learned in elementary school.

This was fun to do.  My family and I wrote it together.  In order to figure it out, you must  be familiar with my blog/ previous posts.   I will post the answer tomorrow...

Wish we would have stayed
missed it by five days,
once in a lifetime event.

***Okay, okay...I know its not a true should have been 5/7/5 syllables in that order...I forgot that detail...All I remembered was that it had to be 17 syllables total.  I'll try to rewrite it at some point...

England...April 25th, 2011 Part 1

In the morning we woke up, dressed and walked across the backyard to the dining room.  There was a sumptuous English buffet for breakfast.  My children couldn't get enough.  We packed up the car with our bags and checked out.  We left the car parked in the backyard of the hotel so the employees could keep an eye on it. 

We took the bus to Oxford.  The bus cost 6GBP for the 4 of us for a day pass.  We were advised by a hotel guest not to drive and park in the town because it was nearly impossible.  The bus worked out well and we met a couple from Wales.  The gentleman had attended Oxford in his youth and now their daughter was studying there and they were visiting her.  We rode the bus with them and they gave us a mini tour and took us to some points of interest as long as they could. 

We continued walking to the river.  We finally arrived at our destination, it was a quaint little area by the river where you could rent boats or go out with a guide punting on the river.  Punting is similar to rowing but with a long, long pole that you use to touch the ground to propel the boat forward.  Steering is done by moving it in the direction you want through the water.  This boat ride was one of the highlights of the trip.  I enjoyed it very much.  It was different, serene and the views from the river were beautiful.

After punting we headed back to town to Christ Church where parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed.  It was pretty and we took magnificent pictures along our walk, in the gardens and by the building.

Next we went to the Carfax Tower and climbed to the top.  Although there are several towers you can climb in town, this one is the only one where you can get a panoramic view of the whole area.

After the tower we had lunch at Starbucks (at my children's request) and Alex and I got some super, yummy hot pockets/pies from a neighboring window (it wasn't a full restaurant, they just sold the pockets from a window). 

We left there and walked around the shops a bit.  Then we went back to the hotel to get the car and continue the journey.

I tried my luck at driving the manual transmission on the opposite side of the road and my family made it clear that I must not do it ever again.  Kudos to Alex...he did great!!!  Although many times I though I was going to have sap as an apperitif (because he veered way too much to the left) he drove very well and we made it safely to all our destinations.


London...April 24th, 2011...Part 2

Alex upgraded our rental to a Volkswagen Passat wagon because we had to take all our bags and they wouldn't fit in a small car.  Driving back to the hotel was a mission...we found it okay, but Alex driving a manual transmission car on the left side of the road was more than I could handle.  I was petrified!

We made it to the hotel, I stopped by the front desk to get an extra key, and the agent was so nice, she gave Alissa an Easter teddy bear with chocolates.  They parked the car and we went upstairs to get the bags ready.  WOW!  We thought we had done a good job the previous night, but we still had quite a mess! It took us a long time to get everything ready.  It was so late there was no way we could go on the Thames River cruise now.  We might not even make it to Windsor Castle.  We'd really have to hurry!
The concierge, who was great our entire stay, gave us directions to Windsor castle.  The problem was we couldn't see the street names in the city so we got very, very, very lost.  We were lost for over one hour.  We finally got our of London but continued to get lost along the way.  I guess at some point we figured out how to decipher the map, roads and roundabouts.
We took so long that by the time we reached Windsor Castle it was too late to go in.  The last admission was at 4:00pm and we arrived at 4:30pm. 

We were disappointed but we walked around the town , took pictures and then went back to the car to try to make it to Stonehenge before the sun set.  I thought the town of Windsor was too commercial and "touristy", but the castle was beautiful and I would have loved to see it.  I will see it when I return.  We definitely needed more time in London, but this was the best we could do since there were other places to see in England before taking the ferry to Ireland on Tuesday. 

We continued driving and arrived in Stonehenge after it had closed but just before the sunset, so were were able to get some spectacular pictures of the site with the sun setting in the distance.    Stonehenge is an ancient stone circle.  It is an amazing engineering feat and most important pre-historic site  in England.  It is also a place of spiritual significance.

We wanted to continue to Bath, but time would not permit.  We had to make it to Oxford for our hotel reservations.  We quickly drove through Salisbury, because it was already dark and we couldn't see much.  We saw the Salisbury Cathedral which is an international symbol of Christianity.  The spire is the tallest in England.  At the Cathedral you can see one of only 4 surviving copies of the Magna Carta. 

Soon we were back on the road to Oxford.  Thankfully many of the roads were divided highways with two lanes on each side so we were able to drive more comfortably, less afraid. 
We got lost several times again... the roads and signs are just not clear and many times they just didn't even have signs.
When we arrived in the Oxford area, we must have gone around at least 5 or 6 times and couldn't find the road we needed, even after getting directions...why????  because there were no signs...we basically had to guess which way to go.   What a waste of time!  We really could have saved some time and enjoyed the sites more had the signs been better.
We stayed at a boutique hotel just outside of Oxford in a town called Summertown.  My son and I are a bit spoiled when it comes to hotels, we obviously like luxury hotels but since we like to travel so much we have to opt for as luxurious as possible on a budget ( or have it comped or at least given for a reduced price), but the hotels must be clean, safe and have wifi.
Occasionally we are pleasantly surprised when we get above and beyond our basic requirements.
This boutique hotel was a pleasant surprise.  We had a ground floor room- which normally I wouldn't like, but the place seemed safe and it was steps away from the car so unpacking the car was easy.  The bathroom and room had been redone recently and the room had contemporary furnishings. 

Sofa bed for the kiddos...

We were also welcomed with a tray of complimentary teas,  coffee, cookies and chocolate.  We arrived around 11:00 pm to shower and go to sleep.


Look how close the car was...this was the best packing and unpacking ever!!!

London...April 24th, 2011...Part 1

The plan was to wake up very early at 6:30am and leave to Westminster Abbey for an Easter Sunday Eucharist Service at 8:00 am.    From there Alex would run back to get the tickets for the cruise while the children and I walked to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards ceremony where Alex would meet us by 10:00 am  After that we would go take the cruise to Greenwich to the Prime Meridian and stand on two hemispheres.  Later we'd go pick up the rental car at Hertz and pick up our bags at the hotel and then be on our way to Windsor around noon.

This is what actually happened (which gives you an idea of why my "to do" list never gets done and just keeps growing and growing.  I think I just don't know how to manage my time very well, or I think I can do much more than I really can in the amount of time I have):

Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011
We woke up around 6:15 am, dressed and went downstairs for the buffet breakfast (the dining room was empty so we had the buffet all to ourselves) lines.
We ate quickly and rushed out to find a taxi to take us over the bridge to Westminster Abbey.

 We arrived 25 minutes early and had to wait about 10 minutes outside with a small group of worshipers for the gates to be opened.  Around 7:45am, someone opened the gate and let us in.  Of course I tried to take photographs of this spectacular building...I was reprimanded and reminded that since I was there for the service, I would not be able to take photographs (I was able to take two before).

The group that was waiting walked in and attempted to sit in the choir box, but again the gentleman corrected us and told us all to move to the chairs that were closest to the altar.  We all obliged.  The service was similar to a Catholic Mass but there was no homily although the Gospel was read, there was a first reading, but no second reading and no singing.  There were no Eucharistic ministers either- the priest gave Communion to each person himself (approximately 70 attendees). 
After the service the priest greeted everyone individually at the door, he blessed my daughter and we walked out.  He called for us to return so Alissa could get an Easter egg from a lady with a basket.    Both of my children went back in to get their eggs.  What a beautiful experience! Although very simple, the service touched me!!! 
<<<Note:  I sat in the chair where Pippa (Kate's sister) sat at the Royal Wedding.  My family sat next to me to the right, which is where the children in the wedding court sat during the Royal Wedding. >>>

The moment of our separation came...Alex would go for the river tickets and the children and I would go to Buckingham Palace where we'd all reunite by 10:00am.

Preparations for the Royal Wedding

  We got directions from the guards at the Abbey and walked along Great Smith St. and Great George St. to Horse Guards Road bordering St. James's Park.

  We went by the Household Cavalry Museum and Horse Guards. I hesitated and considered staying to see the Changing of the Guards there at 10:00 am, but since the one at Buckingham Palace was at 10:00am and I had no way of reaching Alex, the children and I walked and  took pictures in St.James's Park.

 We headed to the Palace through the Mall. 

As we approached the palace we noticed the  many media stands and "scaffolding-like stands" where journalists from all over the world would be in just a few days for the Royal wedding.

 We had seen similar stands along the road across the street from Westminster Abbey and along Great George ST and Parliament Square.  At Buckingham Palace, the media area was different, a little more elegant draped with green fabric and awnings and "quasi"  sets for taping live shows. 

We miraculously found Alex...I was starting to fear we had made a mistake and would never find each other in that mess. We saw a changing of the guards at 10:00 am (I read in a magazine that during the spring the changing of the guards on Sundays is at 10:00am.

 It turns out that was wrong.  The changing of the guards was not until 11:30 (someone overheard us and set us straight).  We hesitated and struggled with the decision should we wait 1.5 hours more or should we just skip it.  We decided to stay.  We lost our standing area right by the palace gate but later we found front row room in front of the fountain facing the gates. 

Prime location...we had an excellent position.  We were corralled and led around but eventually we ended up in front of the gates in the center.
We saw the processions, the marching bands, the guards, all the pageantry. It was a memorable event, one not soon forgotten, that coupled with the upcoming royal wedding I'm sure will live in our memories forever.

I reminded everyone to look carefully at the balcony because we'd see all these things in a few days on TV during the Royal Wedding coverage.

After we walked along the palace garden and through the Green Park to the Big Bus stop.  Alissa stopped a million times to pick up dandelions and blow the puffy area all over the place.  She collected them throughout London, she really enjoyed blowing the seeds all over London.  I enjoyed watching her and taking beautiful pictures of her doing it.
I didn't have photos of the dandelions alone but I had these beautiful tulips so I included them.

 We climbed aboard and rode to the Marble Arch where we were dropped off to pick up our rental car at Hertz.  While Alex went into Hertz, I walked across the street with Alissa and Jake and ordered a pizza for lunch at L'artista Pizza and Piadina Restaurant.  We sat down to a very simple lunch of Margherita pizza and water.  The place was very simple but the pizza was very good.