Monday, July 15, 2019

On the Good Ship Black Watch -- and a Giveaway!

One of the joys of life, watching the blue skies at sea!
There's lots of blog-worthy events at home, but I don't want to skip at least a few posts about my English/Scottish/Irish adventure. After our visit to Liverpool and Chester, my college classmate and present day neighbor, Betsy, embarked on our dream trip, a cruise to ports in Scotland. Betsy did lots of research and found a great itinerary that didn't empty out our bank accounts. We sailed on the Black Watch, part of the Fred Olsen cruise lines. I wasn't familiar with this company before the cruise, as it isn't well known in the United States. There are four relatively small ships -- less than a thousand passengers each -- which give them access to ports unavailable to large cruise ships.
The Black Watch turned out to be a great choice for us. The people we sailed with were among the most friendly I've met on any cruise I've been on. The activities were enjoyable and the food was excellent. My best discovery were English treats, including two puddings at every lunch and tea every afternoon. 
I had small samples every day, except for my favorite, the chocolate and orange sponge.
For that one I went back for seconds and don't regret it at all. 
I'm ready for tea at Buckingham Palace
I found this fascinator at the British Heart Thrift Shop in Greenock, Scotland. It was brand new and at a great price, and I decided it was just what I needed to complete my outfit for our first formal dinner. I'm not one for wearing hats, except for sun or cold, but this was so much fun. If I'm ever invited to a formal event calling for a fancy hat, I'm prepared. 

  We sailed past  Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa,
which inspired Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture
Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows that it's not a holiday for me if I don't do any shopping. This trip was no exception. I have birthday gifts, hostess gifts and presents for Chanukah and Christmas put away. I also have several surprise goodies for a blog giveaway, too. It's an easy entry. Please be a friend of Buttercupland  (a follower) and leave a comment about what destination would be your dream trip. On Saturday, July 20, I'll choose one name and announce the winner in a post on Sunday, July 21. 
I hope you've enjoyed our visit to the good ship, Black Watch. Had a productive day today, I found my new sneakers at a neighborhood store -- love to shop my neighborhood -- recommended by my friend, Jane. I also got to the Y for water aerobics. We spent some time swapping stories of our experiences during the power outage. My water aerobics buddy, Charlie, had the most memorable. He was just getting out of the pool after Saturday night pool time when the lights went out. Fortunately, he wasn't in the pool, which is down a flight of twisty stairs. 
Tomorrow afternoon I have my first major medical appointment of the week, an MRI with contrast for a clearer picture. Appreciate your prayers!
As ever, thanks for visiting and take good care.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

(The Morning After) The Manhattan Power Outage 2019

Twelve hours and a mile north of last night's Manhattan power outage,
Sunday morning at the West Side Community Garden
My planned activity for this week's Big City Saturday Night was an after dinner walk to watch the sunset over the Hudson River. I'd spent an hour trying on sneakers -- not one pair fit -- and then went to Columbus Circle to grocery shop at Whole Foods. After shopping I made dinner, cleaned up the kitchen and caught up on the New York Times, while I listened to music. It was calm and peaceful -- no television and my phone was quiet. As I was walking out of my building I saw a message from a friend in Pennsylvania, "Do you have power?"
We did, indeed, have power. The Manhattan Blackout of 2019 extended from Times Square at West 42nd St. to West 72nd St. My building is not quite a mile north of 72nd Street. Aside from an occasional fire truck it was a typically quiet summer Saturday evening. Riverside Park, on the Hudson River, was lively, but not crowded, and there were a number of people walking their dogs. The Whole Foods where I had been just a few hours before had been evacuated and the subway beneath it, as well. Several thousand people had been stuck on subways on my regular line and led out of the stalled trains by subway personnel. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them.
By 11:00 power began to be restored in the area and I got a text from my friend, J., whose building is in the center of the blackout zone, that their electricity was back. And twelve hours later and a mile north you see a serene moment at the West Side Community Garden in its summer plumage.
Otherwise, it's been a quiet weekend. I had a long list of errands I wanted to accomplish and I'm happy to report I checked a number of them off my list. I've got two days of medical tests this week and I wanted to get as much done as I could before my first test on Tuesday afternoon. I start tomorrow off with water aerobics and then I'm continuing with the "Great Sneaker Hunt." Does anyone else have trouble finding shoes that are comfortable?
As ever, thanks for visiting. Take care and have a happy and healthy week! 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Now I'm Sixty-Four, Plus Five

 I spent part of my 69th birthday at one of my favorite places, the West Side Y.
My 69th birthday has come and gone. As birthdays go, it was a quiet one, with a small celebration -- eating wings! -- in the evening. I had two celebrations before, a weekend of fun and two celebrations are yet to come. I thought about how I wanted to spend the day and realized I wanted to go to my water aerobics class at the Y.  
Though I haven't become a "gym rat" and likely, never will, I do enjoy my exercise time. I took up water aerobics, which is technically "Aqua aerobics for active older adults with arthritis," a few months ago and love it. I love being in the pool and exercising to music. I've still got "Take Good Care of My Baby" on the playlist of my mind from my class on Monday. It's a lively and very friendly group and I enjoy seeing my water buddies every Monday. One of my Y friends who is a regular at the morning class celebrated her birthday at the Y with her water aerobics buddies. She is turning 70 in a few days and has inspired me for possible celebrations for next year. 
At sixty-four plus five I'm more committed to good health and healthy habits than I was at 64. Every year seems to bring a new health awareness and I want to keep up the most active life possible. I know how quickly good health can slip away and am grateful for the opportunity to exercise and eat healthy. I like my treats, but the wings I enjoyed on my birthday are just that, a treat, and not a daily or even monthly occurrence. 
Here's a cheer for another birthday! So grateful for another year of adventures, great and small, good times and I pray, the blessing of health and peace for family and friends. 
On a different birthday note, I received my new driver's license today. If there is an award for the worst photograph taken at Department of Motor Vehicles in 2019, I know I will be in contention. My previous picture was pretty good, maybe even good for a license picture. This one will scare small children. It looks like I've just come face to face with an axe murderer in a movie I would never see. It was about ninety degrees at DMV and any makeup I started with has vanished and my hair is sticking to my head. I'd think about going back for a new picture, but the cost and the time deter me. The picture really is that bad.
As ever, thanks for visiting and Louisiana and Gulf friends, stay safe!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Long may it wave! Old Glory in Guilford, CT 
Two hundred and forty three years ago in Philadelphia America was born. The Declaration of Independence is its birth certificate. An extraordinary document and the extraordinary commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I've just reread it and as always, I am struck by the courage and vision of the founders of the United States. 
I'm off on a little adventure, not far from where America was born. I'm bringing my iPad and hope to post pictures while I'm away. Wishes for a bright and sunny Fourth of July and a great weekend.   
As always, thanks for visiting. Happy birthday, America!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Google, My Trip Planner

The Green, Guilford, CT
Usually I'm a planner, especially when I travel. When I'm in a place for a short period of time I want to make the most of it and I enjoy researching places to visit and eat. I think I spent two hours looking for the best fish and chips in Dublin during my recent trip, and yes, I found some very good places. 
But I do a lot less research when I'm visiting familiar places, and Connecticut, where I grew up, is definitely familiar. On the spur of the moment I met my friend, Lonni, for a day at the Connecticut shore. Our custom is to search out the "best" lobster rolls in Connecticut. Instead of our usual research, we were quite casual and took the recommendation of one of her friends. The fish was very good -- my pick was clams this time -- and we stayed in New Haven and avoided the Saturday beach traffic. After lunch we had an entire afternoon and no set plans, not our norm. But we decided to get ice cream and turned to Google. Best ice cream of Connecticut led us to the extraordinary Ashley's. 
  So many flavors and so little time! Nutella chip and whipped cream over a layer of
grapenut ice cream, a New England favorite
Ashley's has several location, but we opted for Guilford and the opportunity to explore an unfamiliar town. Thanks, Google, for leading us to this citadel of fabulous homemade ice cream. We splurged with waffle cones and two scoops in an early celebration of my birthday next week. I was delighted to find grapenut ice cream, a quirky New England specialty that is made with grapenut cereal. The only other place I've seen it is in Maine and we were both happy to see it here. Ashley's has been voted best ice cream in New Haven and best ice cream in Connecticut. There are at least 40 other flavors to sample, so I anticipate many return visits.  
Guilford, situated on Long Island Sound, is as lovely a New England town as one could hope to find. It was named for Guildford, England, south of London, where its first settlers came from in 1639. It includes five historic house museums, which we will explore on another visit. We walked around the green, savored the architecture and browsed the shop windows. It was laid back, leisurely and a perfectly lovely afternoon.  
  Geraniums, topiary and flags for the Fourth of July!
I also discovered the most intriguing shed. No reason for a backyard shed to be dull.
The last stop of the day was at Evergreen Fine Crafts, on the Green. If I wasn't deep in the midst of deaccessioning -- sounds better than decluttering -- I could pretty much have bought half of the contents of the store. It's another definite return before Christmas.

Lots of fun and useful goodies here!
I so enjoyed my day in one of the loveliest of New England towns. A dear friend, great weather and homemade ice cream -- it doesn't get much better. I wish I could have brought all of Buttercupland with me.
It took me over a week to get back into my routine in New York City and then in a blink June is over, and July is only a few hours away. I've got a short fun trip for the Fourth of July and then it's my birthday, which always means the summer is in full swing. I'm taking this summer, like the trip to Guilford, easy. I have my Yoga and water aerobics, but I want be laid back about scheduling. I want time for the Farmer's Market and lots of iced coffee and reading books in the park. Here's to the glories of summer!
As ever, thanks for visiting and happy July!     


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Appreciate a Teacher

History teachers of Weaver High School, Hartford, CT 1967-1968
My favorite high school teacher, Mary McDonnell, is seated at the far right. She was a wonder. She was funny, she was patient and she was so intelligent. She took the initiative to put together a curriculum for American Intellectual History and kept us engaged and questioning, which is the hallmark of a great teacher. She was one of the teachers to whom we dedicated our yearbook. Part of the dedication read "Her sense of humor cuts through the trivial and makes learning a memorable experience."
 I loved her class and I know I let her know how much I enjoyed it. I went back to see her after I graduated. I probably sent a Christmas card for a few years. And then my thoughts drifted away from high school, as they had drifted away from elementary school, and as they would later drift away from college and graduate school. There were now jobs, friends, relationships and an entire world to explore.
A few days ago one of my Hartford friends posted an obituary on Facebook. It was for Mary Heslin, another beloved history teacher. She had followed her years of teaching by becoming Deputy Mayor of Hartford, then Consumer Affairs Commissioner for the state of Connecticut. Her passing brought me back to thoughts of the many teachers that contributed so much to my life. It also brought a measure of regret for how few of them I thanked in later years.

In most cases it's too late. My beloved elementary school principal, Margaret Godfrey, and our wonderful high school gym teacher, Marilyn Strong, stand out, and in both cases the time has past. But there is at least one college teacher and one graduate school teacher I need to find -- thanks in advance, Google -- and thank. It's time to appreciate a teacher, or two, or three and let them know how much I appreciate all of the gifts they gave me. Please join me in appreciating a teacher!

In our next post we move back to vacation time and glimpses of life aboard the Black Watch. Isn't that a perfect name for a sailing trip to Scotland?  

It's fully summer in New York City, but at least today was sunny. I'm catching up on post-vacation errands and getting back into the routine of water aerobics, Yoga and grocery shopping and food prep. The big change is a new teacher for water aerobics. I loved our former teacher, who was promoted. On the theme of this post I need to thank him!

As ever, thanks for visiting. Have a wonderful Wednesday! 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cross the Mersey

Sunset across the River Mersey

One of my favorite songs when I was in high school was Gerry and the Pacemakers, Ferry Cross the Mersey. I knew about the Mersey sound and of course, the Beatles as well as Gerry and the Pacemakers. These were Liverpool bands, but my thoughts of Beatles' sights tended more to focus on Abbey Road in London. When I made my list of places I wanted to visit in England, Liverpool never got to the top of the list. Fortunately my cruise through the Scottish Islands sailed from Liverpool and I planned a three day visit there before the cruise. One day was to insure that with any flight delays I would still get to Liverpool in time for the cruise. Another day was to see Liverpool and the third day was to spend time with my blog friends, Sheilagh and Ralph.

  It wouldn't be a vacation if it didn't include blog friends!
Ralph, Sheilagh and I in Chester, England. Two of the most gracious hosts imaginable.
Even with a year of English History in college, I had very little to no knowledge of the history of Liverpool. It was a major shipping and immigration port and the Royal Albert Dock was built in 1846 to accommodate the shipping industry. It was the first structure in England to be built without any wood, which made it non-combustible. With changes in shipping it was closed in 1972 and then reopened as a tourist site in 1984. The views are extraordinary and there are a number of museums in the Dock area, National Museums Liverpool. One of them is the International Slavery Musuem, which includes Liverpool's role in the Triangular Trade across the Atlantic.  
The Roman Wall in Chester
I spent an extraordinary day in Chester with Sheilagh and Ralph. Sadly our dear friend Marie wasn't feeling well and I missed seeing her. I wasn't familiar with Chester before planning this trip. Though it's Marie's home, it wasn't on my radar. I'm very grateful that my friends suggested it. It dates back to Roman times and has a beautiful cathedral, which we visited. The picture above was taken on the cathedral grounds and includes the original Roman Wall. The weather was as splendid as it appears in the photograph and it was a perfect day. Good food, beautiful sights and great friends!

The English part of the trip surpassed any expectations that I had. I enjoyed all of the sights, learning about the history of the area with which I was quite unfamiliar and seeing friends. I spent the  morning before boarding in Liverpool doing a few last minute errands and visiting the Liverpool Museum. I especially enjoyed seeing an exhibit about John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Next stop, Scotland!  
I've gotten a slow start back to blogging, but back I am. I will be featuring other parts of the trip throughout the rest of June and July, as well as returning to New York, coffee and book posts. 
As ever, thanks for visiting and sending wishes for a great week!