Sunday, March 26, 2017

Leaving London

Everything about our trip to London had been so completely amazing. We mostly just had fun exploring and talking and laughing and being together.

Every person we met was kind and helpful, every place we visited was well run, and well presented, every bit of food we ate was good (surprising I know!) and our hotel room was so comfy and cozy. Even the weather was sunny and warm every day!!

We couldn't believe we were in such a magical place seeing so many wonderous sights, and reflecting back, the tragic events of this past week really are painful. The attack took place exactly where we had stood taking photos the week before. Our tour bus crossed that same bridge several times.

The British invented the phrase "Keep Calm and Carry On" and I have no doubt they will do just that. But we left a part of our hearts in London and we will go back if we ever get the chance to again!

At the airport, while waiting for our flight home, I dropped my phone without realizing it, when we retraced our steps, some nice folks sitting near where I had lost it, told us they had seen my phone but that it was picked up. And truly, the phone could have been replaced, but the photos were all I could think about! We were told to look at "Lost Property". It took a while to figure out where that was located, and were worried when we realized it was all the way back at the main security desk. We took the long walk through all of the duty free shops and found the desk. After waiting in line, then telling my sad tale, the phone was produced from a small bin. It had been labeled with my name and flight number and was going to be delivered to the gate prior to departure! Seriously?!? I was so impressed with how very kind and well organized the whole system was that I nearly leaned over the counter and hugged the security official! I can't help but feel that I never would have been so fortunate in an American airport. Ever.

So London will always remain in our very best memories and we are so grateful for the time we spent there. Thanks for going along with me through the photos and stories, and thanks especially to all of the amazing folks in London who treated us so well.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Harry Potter and our visit to Hogwarts!

On our third gorgeous and sunny day in London we took the train to the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesden. We chose to purchase the guided tour (in the link) that included the train travel to and from as well as the private guide with behind the scenes access. It was totally worth every penny!! I cannot say enough good things about the CityWonders tour, their guides and the way the information was presented. Truly a great experience!

After the bus arrived at the studios, we were greeted by some intro information, a short video and then we walked into the great hall itself! Kelly and I both had tears in our eyes. We felt like we truly at Hogwarts! 

The actual costumes that the characters wore were on display throughout the sets as well as many of the props. It was fascinating to learn about the special effects and the funny pranks and stories about the actors as well. There was even special information shared about the animal actors, which we loved!

Besides the great hall, we also got to visit the boys dormitory, the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid's Hut, the Weasley's kitchen, and several other sets. It was interesting to see how the sets were either stand alone or the ones that were connected and how the actors could move from one to the next while still filming.

Even the Potters house, 4 Privet Drive and the bridge to Hogwarts were fun to explore as they were outside and the day was still gorgeous as you can see.

I've always felt short, but standing next to the scale painting of Hagrid really made me feel puny!

Of course we also went to Platform 9 3/4 and boarded the real Hogwarts Express. It's a beautiful old train that's been beautifully restored.

This is the Knight Bus that they used for filming on the actual streets of London at 2am so as not to have traffic issues. It's specially weighted at the bottom so it doesn't tip over.

For the record, Butter Beer is DELICIOUS! It tasted like a combination of ginger ale and root beer with super creamy whip cream on top. This stuff was amazing, no lie!

After lunch, which was delicious vegetable soup and home made mac and cheese with a spinach salad (you know, just like US theme parks...NEVER!) We walked through Diagon Alley and then into the special effects and concept art as well as seeing the scale models made from paper first. Truly  a fascinating process and it was so well depicted. There are so many steps from concept to actual finished film that it was kind of mind blowing.

And the tour ends with the surprise full scale model of Hogwarts with tv screens showing how the actors are inserted into the video of this model. It is so amazing to see how all of the elements come together to create magic! Literally!

Kelly described it as the best day of her life. For me, it was just magical!

I am so glad I got to experience it with my sweet girl. It was a dream come true.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Liberty of London, the store of my dreams...

The moment Kelly decided that we were going to London, I knew without a doubt, that I was going to Liberty of London. I simply could not pass up this chance. It's been 25 years since I last went to London, it could be another 25 before I get there again. I simply HAD to make this happen!!

Unfortunately my photos are not great as I was mildly hyperventilating while I was trying to take them, and my hand may have been shaking a bit. The Liberty of London website has great photos that actually show the store better than mine do. (imagine that?) LOL

Upon finding the fabric floor and drooling a bit, I gathered myself together and remembered to snap some good photos before hauling bolts to the cutting table. Look how adorable this special edition sewing machine is!! And the fun little Liberty of London replica sewing box. I would have totally brought these home if they would have fit in my suitcase.  How stinking cute are they?

And while there weren't very many precut fabrics, there were quite a few one meter cuts in these little individual packages and the bundles you see on this table.

And then, of course there was a full wall of these amazing Liberty prints in cotton. There were also large areas of home dec and other fabrics, but this is where I kept my focus!

See these cute little bundles in the basket? Yep, one of those came home with me. As well as a one meter cut of one fabric. I decided to use a little self control. It wasn't easy, but I was just thrilled to be able to choose anything at all!

Here's the gorgeous bundle and fabric that came home with me...

I've been petting it, and pressing it, and admiring it ever since. I have no idea what I'm going to make out of it, but for now, I'm just thrilled to have it!!  Each piece in the bundle is about 6" wide and 45" long. Not sure what size that is technically, but who cares! Isn't it pretty?

And that my friends, it what happened when I went to Liberty of London. It was even more wonderful than I had imagined!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

London...Day 2

After a good night's sleep we started Day 2 in London with one of Kelly's most anticipated events...The changing of the horse guard. These horses did not disappoint!! They were so beautiful and so full of personality. Clearly, they were extremely well trained, but that didn't suppress their attitudes.

They were happy to get up close and personal and they kept wanting to nuzzle and play with each other. It was very entertaining as well and interesting. The riders were all men and I was a little annoyed that in this day and age, there wasn't even a single female rider. The police horses were all ridden by female officers so that was something at least.

We then popped into a pub for a cup of much needed coffee and were off to our next stop which was just next door to the horse guard!

The Churchill War Rooms were fascinating. I wish I could have stayed here all day but I actually had to finish the second half in a bit a rush because I was getting so claustrophobic! I didn't expect that or even realize I was claustrophobic but it really made me appreciate the conditions under which these folks served during the war. There is an incredible museum attached as well and the guided tour headphones were really interesting. This was pricey but well worth the cost!

*By coincidence, I watched the film Allied on the flight home and it had scenes included that were clearly filmed here or filmed on a very accurately depicted set of this location. Super cool I thought!

We then took the tour bus back across town to the Tower of London for the full tour this time. Above is the 'traitor's gate' where so many folks made their final journey to the tower. I have read every Phillipa Gregory book in print and I can say that this place is just as amazing as was described in the books. It's so full of history and mystery and walking through the tower grounds gave me chills!

We followed along with the guided tour and enjoyed very much the details that were shared before we spent time exploring the grounds. I could have stayed here all day as well, but once we saw the crown jewels and each of the buildings, we headed off to our next destination by foot.

It was a short walk to Leadenhall Market. This lovely little covered shopping area was used for filming scenes from one of the Harry Potter movies (Kelly could tell you all about it!) By now it was late in the day and we realized we hadn't eaten a proper meal yet so we sat and enjoyed some delicious pizza at a window seat and just soaked up everything about this place!

While we did not have tickets to the Harry Potter play, we did enjoy how amazing the theater looked from the outside. It was creepy/beautiful in such a cool way!

We walked through several neighborhoods on our way to my destination of choice...

Liberty of London! We arrived just an hour before closing but that was plenty of time for me to accomplish all the shopping I needed. This place deserves a post of its own, so I'll share more about it later. 

We then walked along Oxford street, shopping a bit along the way. Kelly got an adorable pair of boots at Doc Martin's. We finally made it back to our hotel in time to collapse. Who knew we could do so much in one day!?! We even impressed ourselves. 

Stay tuned for more Liberty of London and our day at the Harry Potter Studios Tour!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

LONDON was amazing!! (day 1)

As you know by now, my daughter and I took a trip (just the two of us) for her spring break last week. My boys don't have spring break for another few weeks, so we decided it was time for our first ever, mother-daughter adventure.

Because we fly standby (as airline employee family) we only get seats on the plane if there are any leftover. That meant we went to the airport and watched both flights leave without us the first day, then we went back to the airport the second day and got the last two seats on the last flight of the night. It was a relief to get on the plane, but it was super cozy in the back of coach with a full flight. We watched the movie Finding Dory after dinner and then tried to nap. Poor Kelly fell sound asleep just as we were almost landing.

We finally made it to LONDON and took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. This was wonderful, fast and so easy! After a quick taxi ride to our hotel, we checked into our comfy room at the Churchill Hyatt in Mayfair. We've never been so happy to see a bed! But we only took a 20 minute nap before heading out the door!

Our first stop was for coffee of course! This cute little coffee shop called Daisy was just around the corner from our hotel. We then walked to the Marble Arch to catch our sightseeing bus. Yep, we wanted to ride on the top level of the double decker bus and our amazing tour guide made us laugh and told the best stories along the way. Perfect way to shake off a long miserable flight!

The weather was sunny and gorgeous the entire time we were in London. Not a single drop of rain and barely a cloud in the sky! I liked how this photo from the bus silhouetted the parliament buildings.

We hopped off the bus at the Tower of London and walked to the Tower Bridge. It was too late to enter the Tower for the tour but we had fun poking around and learning about the area. This was the place I most wanted to explore and we would come back the next day for the full tour!

After spending a little time here, we hopped back on the bus and rode to the other side of the city. We got off in Kensington and walked a couple of blocks to Harrods for dinner and shopping.

By now we were feeling the long flight and wanted something to eat before heading back to the hotel. Harrod's has amazing food options and we almost couldn't decide!

Kelly wanted to look at it ALL and I wanted to eat immediately! I get cranky when I'm hungry and she just laughed at me. We did have a wonderful dinner and then took a taxi back to the hotel.

Our first day in London was so fun and we got to see and explore so much!! But the best was yet to come. Stay tuned...


Friday, March 10, 2017

Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild Show

Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild has it's annual show beginning today! Please grab your friends and plan a visit. You will be so happy that you did. Not only are there many gorgeous quilts hanging, but the setting is in a beautiful historic home. You can read all about the show HERE and you can read more about the setting HERE.

I won't be there this week as I'll be having fun with my daughter in London, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the show in the comments. I look forward to hearing all about it when we get home.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Free Pattern from Retreat

This fun little quilt is a result of the quarter inch seam test blocks we made at the Tiny Stitches retreat in January. I have written up the pattern which is available as a free download HERE.

I hope you enjoy it!
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