Friday, July 29, 2011

Paige is Home for a Visit

Paige is home this weekend for a visit. Some moms of younger children look lovingly at their kids and wonder how they'll survive when the darlings grow and leave the nest.

Sometimes they leave by steps, and this is a help. For instance, they go away to college, but then they come home every summer. Each time they go, the adjustment is a bit easier.

This is Paige's first summer away from home. She's in summer school, but home for this weekend. Of course, today at 2 or 3 o'clock she heads off with friend Nikki for a camping trip, but I have until then with her...once she gets up. So permit me to leave Paris until Monday so I can go spend time with my daughter who lives in Atlanta. 

But she's great at calling, she always answers our texts and we got to go on a wonderful trip to London, Paris and Amsterdam together last month. Re-living that trip on this blog is almost like spending more time with Paige.

See you Monday when I talk about my time with Paige in Paris.

Thanks to all who have been reading my new blog. I invite you to become official members. Sign up is in the right column near the top.

Congrats to drawing winner and self-proclaimed Anglophile:

 steph seefeldt 

Steph, please send me your address at lorilipsky@gmail.com or message me on Facebook in the next 30 days, and I'll send the gift your way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

St. Paul's Cathedral, London and the Underground

After Harrod's we had lunch at a nearby restaurant and then headed to St. Paul's Cathedral. Still it rained, so went right inside. No lines.

St. Paul's Cathedral (all photos today public domain except the rail station)

Among the Royal Occasions that have been celebrated at St. Paul's are:

  • Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday in 2006
  • Marriage of Catherine of Aragon to Prince Arthur in 1501
  • Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee commemoration
  • The Wedding of Charles, the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981

Years after the wedding, but couldn't resist adding this

The State funerals of Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Winston Churchill and other dignitaries have taken place at St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

In 1964, Martin Luther King made a stop to collect his Peace Prize.

Our view of St. Paul's from the Tate Modern, across the Thames
After St. Paul's it was raining hard, so we located an Underground Station (with some difficulty since neither one of us is great with directions). A friendly worker helped us out with which ticket to buy and which train to board. We took the Underground back to our hotel and then got cleaned up and walked up the street for dinner. I had unimpressive fish fry and Paige had some icky spinach soup.

 In London, overall, we found the service excellent. At our hotel, clerks in shops, wait staff at restaurants and cafes, in cabs... I was impressed. Many kindnesses were shown to us in London (a contrast to Paris, for sure). The food was nothing special and sometimes quite strange. In general, the selections were more health-focused than in the States. More salads and fruits and fewer fried foods, snacks and desserts.

The train station under our hotel-the St. Pancras International Station/King's Cross stop.  It was new and clean.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel. It was time to pack up and prepare for Paris. We had tickets for the Eurostar which was scheduled to leave after lunch the next day, or so I thought...

Tomorrow morning is the end-of-the-month drawing for the free gift. It's your last chance to participate. Simply leave a comment on any post (here on the blog).

The free gift for tomorrow's drawing

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More of the London Visit, plus It's Easy to Participate in the Free Drawing

Dane County Fair is over, so today we’re back to our London visit.

We started out day four with room service once again. A fruit bowl, orange juice and tea, plus the croissants we’d purchased in the train station below when we went to scout it out the night before.

Tea for breakfast each morning at the hotel

Have I mentioned that I don’t like tea? I would love to like tea, so I’ve been working on it. Occasionally, I’ll order a Chai at Barnes and Noble. My sister told me it’s a good place to start. My friend, Joanie, served me tea the last time I was at her house just to prepare me for my London trip. Then, guess what? I drank a cup of English Tea every morning for breakfast while we were in London. As soon as we left London, however, I was back to coffee. But, I’m working on it.

We decided to begin the activities of day four at Harrod’s.

Harrod’s of London is shockingly huge.  After our visit, I researched and learned the store has over one million square feet of selling space and sits on 5 acres of prime London real estate. There are 330 departments. To compare, the average WalMart Supercenter is less than one-fifth the size.

Harrod's of London (public domain photo)

We arrived ten minutes before the store opened and the masses were waiting in the rain. All of the under-the-awning spots were packed with visitors, but by now Paige and I had each purchased an umbrella, so we only got wet below the knees.

Paige noticed that the commoners (like us) crowd the Food Hall and the room with the tea and chocolates. Most purchases seemed to be made there. Those are the rooms with the affordable merchandise.  Harrod’s is upscale like I’d not seen before. We were looking for a pair of casual shoes for Paige and we couldn’t find a single pair for less than 200 pounds (200 pounds equals about 325 dollars these days). Most were much more. I picked up one pretty vase in another room that I thought looked affordable and it was 2,700 pounds. It was about the least expensive item in the antiques room.  I set the vase down gently and walked to the next department.

After Harrod’s, we grabbed a taxi and went to see St. Paul’s Cathedral.  It’s where Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married. More about St. Paul’s and London in the next post.

There’s only a day and a half until the winner of the free drawing is chosen and announced. I’ll draw the name from a hat on Friday morning. To enter, simply leave a comment on any post. 

The drawing winner receives: Big Ben Bank, Boxed Harrod's Pen, Traditions of Britain Tea in cute tin set, Twinings from London English Tea

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Madison Restaurant Week-So Pay a Visit

Did you know this is Madison Magazine's sponsored Restaurant week? It runs now through Friday, July 29th. If you live in or nearby Madison, Wisconsin and have always wanted to try that special restaurant, now is your chance. Anniversary, birthday or another special occasion to celebrate? Take advantage of the special offerings. 

Here's a link with more information:


If you've visited one of these restaurants in the past and had a good experience, feel free to leave a comment here to recommend it. 

Remember, all who have left a comment this month will be entered in the drawing for the free gift. The winner receives a grouping of London-related items. Drawing winner is announced this Friday.

Come Visit a Girl and her Horses with Me

In my heart I am a city person, not a country person. To any true city folk, this will sound ridiculous, since I grew up in the Village of Walworth. The population went from 1494 to 1637 during the years I lived there. But, we lived right in the middle of town. Farms, farm animals, corn, and manure were not a part of my life.

Then came Sally, our youngest daughter, and that all changed. About twelve years ago, a wise horse-loving woman at our church gave me some counsel. She recognized "the horse bug" in our little daughter Sally, and told me it was probably in her blood, so it would be hard to fight. She predicted that Sally's interest in horses was something that was going to stick and so far she's been correct.

So we (sort of) gave up fighting against the horse thing and began to give in a bit. Little by little. First it was food and clothing:

Notice the horses on the western shirt

"All I want for my birthday is a horse, or a horse cake if I can't have the horse"

...and lessons once a week with Terri at Canterbury Ridge Stables:

Aunt Sandy from Atlanta came to watch her lesson ( she's on the right talking to another mom)

She learned to groom a horse, pick the hooves and take off a saddle

Her favorite hour of the week. She talked about it all week long.
After that, she had lessons with Jody for a while, and then we took the next step and leased a horse. His name was George. Oh, how she loved George!!

Sally riding George at a Friday night fun show.

Her first competitions were the Friday fun shows
Sally and her friend Lauren spent many hours each week at Brenda Lockwood's (owner) with their  horses

After years of leasing, Sally somehow persuaded us to buy Travis. 
Her first horse-Travis. He's a quarter horse. 
Travis and Sally at Dane County a few years ago

Then about fifteen months ago, we sold Travis to another young horse-lover, and Sally's trainer found Mickey for us. Mickey is a Grulla with awesome markings. Sally loves Mickey--he is a horse she feels she can trust and he's allowed her to compete at a higher level. He's a beauty, too.
Grand Champion Western Showmanship- July 2011 with Coos Mito Mickey(Mickey)
Tears of joy

This week Sally is in Tulsa, Oklahoma to compete in the 2011 American Buckskin World Show. Sally has worked and saved for months in order to attend this show. It's been a dream of hers for years. Her trainer, Shannon trailered Mickey all the way, and Sally's good friends Cassie and Aly are there, too. 

The ABRA World Pre-Show is today, and competition is Wednesday through Sunday. Best wishes to friend Cassie, who is also showing, and to Sally and Mickey!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Visit to Dane County Fair, July 20-24

The Dane County Fair is over for another year. For some, like our daughter Sally, it is a high-light of the year.

Some people go to the fair for the food:

Some go for the rides and games:

Some love to see the 4-H'er exhibits:

The decorating is amazing.

The flowers are a favorite

Tables and tables of artwork

But we went (like many families) because our daughter had an animal at the fair:

Mickey's head is often down because of the delicious hay

Sally's poster 

Mark with Mickey. He helped with some of the heavy lifting, especially the clean-up when fair was over.
Thanks to Bristol Blazers' leader, Carmen Fritz, and other hard-working parents, Sally was able to participate at Dane County again this year. The leaders, the Fair Superintendents and many of the parents devote long hours to allow the kids the opportunity. I'm amazed at their sacrifice.

Sally and the others waiting for Hunter Under Saddle Pleasure class results. Sally and Mickey had an awesome ride and won top blue in this class.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Touched by adoption? Me, too. A poem on the subject--The Crocuses that Never Came

I love our girls.  Usually I just think of them as family—as our daughters—but here and there I am reminded they joined our family through adoption.

Paige and Sally about a dozen years ago-South Dakota

Two of my friends asked me yesterday when I was going to include more poetry on the blog. The blog is named Visits and Verse after all. So, today I’ll share one of the poems most near to my heart. Even though the crocuses, daffodils and tulips are gone from Wisconsin now, I hope you’ll permit me to back up to spring for a bit and share my poem with you. I think you’ll recognize my girls—beloved daffodils and tulips.

I’ll continue on with the London visit soon, but may just drop by the Dane County Fair first to visit Mickey (the horse) and Sally.

Thank you to those who have taken time to become a member/follower. I appreciate the comments, too. It’s nice to know you’re there!

The Crocuses That Never Came

You are the crocuses
Longed for ones
First flowers of spring

Snow fell hard
Winds blew strong
Temperatures plummeted
And I dreamt of crocuses

You are my crocuses, dear ones
I yearned for you, waited for you
Watched each month
But you never ever came

Others raised in their gardens the
Short fresh blooms, but
I longed for my own—
Our very own

Crocuses never arrived
Hopes released
But then our social worker said
Here is a perfect little girl

Now here is another
And as daffodils and tulips
Erase the loss
Of crocuses that never grow

So too the beautiful babies from Minnesota
Wiped clear the memory of you
Who like the crocuses
Never ever came

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

London: Tate Modern, Pizza Express and July's Free Gift Drawing

We headed to our third museum of the day. The Tate Modern seemed more crowded than the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery. It wasn't my favorite, but Paige was excited for the opportunity to see many of the pieces she had just studied in her Modern Art History course.

Photos are permitted in the Tate Modern, so I took about fifty. Here are a few:

My favorite art history student

Zip paintings by Barnett Newman

My favorite. Henri Matisse by Derain.

Pistoletto's Venus of the Rags

Behind the museum and down a small hill is the River Thames. What a joy to sit on a bench there and just look at it. Directly across the river sits St. Paul's Cathedral. We could have walked across the sleek Millennium Bridge and toured it, but we were too tired (jet lag) and Paige was chilled. (It was in the 60's during our trip. and cooler down by the river). Instead, we went back to our hotel and took a nap. We made it to St. Paul's another day.

The Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's across the Thames

Fortunately, a hotel worker woke us up by bringing chocolates or we might have slept away the daylight. We walked up the street past the British Library and ate at the Pizza Express. Express means something very different in England than in the States. Servers are careful not to rush patrons. You are welcome to use a table for as long as you like. The service was impeccable and our waiter took the time to have a couple of short conversations with us.

We walked back to the hotel in the rain, darting from awning to awning. We still hadn't seen an umbrella to purchase, though we'd been told "they are everywhere in London." If only we'd known the train station and all those shops were just below our hotel! We didn't make this discovery until day three.

I invite you to leave a comment if you're reading. Hopefully the comment button kinks are worked out now. I thank you for your patience.

Monday, July 18, 2011

London: St. Pancras Hotel, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery

The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened in May, 2011 after years of restoration. I think it is the most fabulous hotel I've ever seen. And it was free, sort of. We were able to use Mark's Marriott points. When I was making hotel reservations for the trip, I had trouble finding a place in London that would take points on such short notice. The St. Pancras had availability, lucky for us.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel

The hotel with the British Museum next door (in front on the pic)

The side of the hotel-It's huge

St. Pancras Hotel lobby

The hotel is in a terrific location, there are restaurants just down the street and it sits directly on top of the London-St. Pancras Rail Station. When it was time to head to Paris, we just had to take the elevator downstairs and board the Eurostar.

Friday was our first full day in London. We took a taxi to The National Gallery. Eight pounds for two people, plus tip--not bad. The Underground would not be much less. The National Gallery and all major museums in London have free admittance.

National Gallery

The museum borders the popular Trafalgar Square.  What a fun place. We hung out for a bit and took some photos. It was busy, but not too crowded and had such a pleasant atmosphere about it. 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

We loved the National Gallery. It has elegant leather benches in most of the rooms that are great for resting/viewing. The small Renoir wall was my favorite portion of the place: At the Theatre, The Umbrellas and Gladiolis Still Life. All three are gorgeous. My other favorites were by Monet, Gainsborough and Van Gogh.

Paige's favorite was Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait. Once she explained that the magic is in the tiny details, I was persuaded, too.

After a lovely lunch at one of the museum restaurants (though Paige was joking about the yucky gooseberry custard for the next few days) we walked over to the National Portrait Gallery. Dame Judi Dench's life-size portrait holds the most prominent position in the place, with younger versions of brothers William and Harry positioned just around the corner. I found it interesting that the portrait of Charles and Diana is not flattering of Diana at all, and it was not easy to spot. There are portraits of every king and queen to ever sit on the throne, and hundreds of other famous folks: Handel, Jane Austen, John Keats, J.S.Bach, Robert Louis Stevenson...

Next stop: The Tate Modern and St. Paul's Cathedral