Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Artistic Graffiti?

I spotted this graffiti at a train station in Amsterdam and I was just drawn to how colourful it was. Graffiti in Belgium and the Netherlands always seems to be more artistic to me than anywhere else. I'm not sure if it's because Belgium is the home of the Smurfs and other various comics and cartoons or what. A few years ago when I travelled by train from Brussels to Rotterdam, I was intrigued by a series of ladybugs had been spray painted onto the walls along the rail tracks. It was a burst of colour amongst a mess of grey concrete, metal and wires.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Europe is so spoiled with its air travel and it makes me jealous! Everything is close by and there is a multitude of airlines offering cheap flights to various places. This is great for travellers like me who want to take advantage of their cheap offers! I flew out of Birmingham to Amsterdam via BMI Baby for about £75. I can't even get a 30 minute flight for that price at home! The added bonus was that it was only 1 hour to fly to Amsterdam.

I had a great time in Holland. I have some family there so I did a little visiting; catching up with Aunts, Uncles and cousins mainly and then spent a day wandering the streets of Amsterdam.

I visited Rembrandt's house; it's one of my favourite sights in Amsterdam. It's not gigantic like some of the art galleries and it never seems to be as busy as some of the other attractions either.

I really enjoy viewing some of Rembrandt's works in the house where they were originally painted. It just gives a more realistic feel to the circumstances of the artist and the painting. Rembrandt's collection of artifacts is also still in the house; this is one of my favourite parts of this museum. Rembrandt collected all sorts of things: seashells, fossils, coins, gemstones, stuffed lizards, whale vertebrae, tortoise shells...all sorts of quirky things!

if you have never visited Amsterdam, it is definitely worth visiting at least once just to see it's old canals, cobblestone streets, and bicycles everywhere! Just don't walk on the orange-coloured pavement or you will get run over... by a bicycle!

The floating flower market

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hike up Pen-y-Fan

Myself and two of my friends visited Brecon Beacons national park which is a mountainous park in south Wales. We hiked up to the top of one mountain, called Pen-y-Fan. It is the middle peak sandwiched between the peaks of Corn ddu and Fan-y-Big.

The weather was VERY wet and windy, but made the challenge just that much more fun. I've included a photo of myself from the top of the peak. When that photo was taken, I had my eyes shut because the rain was driving in sideways! We should have brought goggles!

Time to the top: 45 min
Height: 886 meters

Friday, August 20, 2010

St Fagan's National History Museum

This afternoon, I went with a friend to the National Welsh History Museum in St Fagan's. Despite having lived in Wales for 4 years, I had never gone to the museum and I'd have to say it was worth the trip! It was free to view the grounds and a lovely way to spend the afternoon. 

We started off looking at an old stone house with a thatched roof. The house had been painted red (supposedly to ward off evil spirits), but the barn, which was attached to the house, remained white. I was surprised at how large the rooms were in the house. There was a staircase as well and large rooms upstairs. It was also surprisingly dark inside- the furnishings were dark and the walls had not been painted white. It must have been quite a "rich" house in its time though.

There was also a Celtic area to wander around in. There were replica round houses here; one of them had a fire going inside and you could see how smoky they were to live in. It's crazy to think that people once lived in houses like these with their thatched (and spidery!) roofs and smoke-filled insides. I imagine that they didn't spend as much time inside as we do now.

We eventually ended up in a village-type area where we perused the goods in the general store; I bought a jar of lemon curd (YUM!) and then we snacked on scones. There was also a cute little post office in this area. How typical, with it's little red phone box. I thought it was a cute little building.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trip to the Craft (Super) Store

I just came back with a whole bag of crafting goodies *evil grin*. My friend and I went to a Hobbycraft store; a store that I love even more than Michaels! We were there for a few hours and found lots of great things. 

I love shopping at craft stores in different countries. Sometimes there are new items to check out that haven't become available in North America yet.  Quite often certain types of crafts are more popular too; for example decoupage is very popular in Europe but I only know one person in Alberta who does it.

I was amazed at the wall of stamps in the craft store. It was HUGE! I couldn't resist two of the Beatrix Potter- themed stamps (along with some others). There were so many nice stamps I'm impressed at how well I resisted the urge to buy more!

I've started working on my Christmas cards already so I was on the lookout for inspiring things for the upcoming season. I found some really cute background papers and Christmas brads with such cute little animals on them; I can't wait to get started on these! 

Down South

I am now in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Cardiff is in the far south of the country located at the mouth of the Severn estuary (where the Severn river meets the Atlantic ocean). 

I lived in Cardiff for four years while I was doing my music degree. It was a great city to live in. It was easy to get around, has a fantastic central park, a wonderful arts & culture community and dozens of great places to eat at too! 

For now, I will just say that lots of things have changed since I was here last. The biggest change has been the addition of a new St David's shopping centre. My friend picked me up from the train station and I felt a little bit like a fish out of water because I didn't recognize anything! The new centre is massive though, and I am planning to explore it a little bit further in the next few days  (ie SHOPPING TRIP!). I can't wait to visit the new and improved versions of all my favourite shops!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Locks and Narrow Boats

Today, I had the pleasure of wandering down one of the many canals that can be found in Britain. They snake their way all over the country; you can get from one major city to another via narrow boat. It will take some time though- they only travel at 4 mph!

The narrow boats are like long house boats with motors. Spending time on a narrow-boat is a popular mode of vacation travel for many people. Even some tourists try it out too! Today we met some people from Holland who were vacationing through the UK on a narrow boat.

The locks that I visited were at New Marton. It was a hive of activity! The locks only take one boat at a time so there was a queue of boats on either side - each waiting their turn. It was neat to watch: one boat enters, the back gates close and the front gates open. The water level rises and eventually the boat exits and a new one takes its place. Then the whole process is reversed so that the new occupants can travel downstream. One by one, they all make their way up or down the canal.

The mentality of vacationing on a narrow boat is very laid back. There is no way to force the water in and out of the locks any faster so while you're waiting your turn, you might as well have a cup of tea, go for a walk along the canal or peruse the little 'shop on the wall' at the lock. You might find a good book to read, pint glass for your drinks, or some fresh produce from the lock-house owner's garden.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lovely Garden

Today I am in the Shropshire countryside- in a town called Ellesmere - which is just a few miles east of the (North) Wales border with England. It is close to the towns of Oswestry and Wrexham and about an hour away by car from Shrewsbury.

I've only been in the UK for about a day and I'm being spoiled already! Not only is the countryside beautiful, but I've been fed homemade cake and pizza too! Today, I had the luxury of a lovely summer day to explore the back garden from my hosts. I also had a little helper, by the name of Celyn, assist me in my explorations! (if you look closely, the freckles on the top of his nose spell the word "Yo")

Typical of British gardening style, none of the plants (apart from the tomotoes) have been planted in rows. Things have been lovingly plunked into the ground or into pots and are growing- happy as can be!

I really like the little robin garden ornament that they have. Isn't it cute? I also found some very pretty shamrocks (oxalis) with pink flowers and some gorgeous lillies - nearly as big as my hand!

One thing that I see commonly in the UK but not in Alberta, are things called "grow bags". They are basically bags of soil with small amounts of fertiziler, that you cut holes into and then either pot plants into them or simply put the plants right into the bag. I've seen them mostly with tomoatoes in them - like the ones in their garden. I think it's a neat way to keep the root systems of heat-loving plants warm. As you can see, the tomatoes here are doing quite well!

In the evening, some friends and I took the dog for a walk around the Mere (small lake or pond) where we saw some swans. Did you know that killing a swan is considered illegal treason? Apparently all swans are considered property of the Queen! I can understand why; they are very regal looking with their tall, slender necks!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Airplane Travel Tips

An eventless flight- yay! And yay to Thomas cook travel for providing gluten free meals. I am very impressed! Unfortunately (and fortunately), my gluten allergy is only an intolerance so I can't testify whether or not there were trace amounts in the hot meal. I was so impressed though with the gluten-free crackers and the abundance of fresh fruit. I think this was the first flight I've had where I didn't feel like there was a cement brick in my stomach because of lack of fibre!

I just want to share a few of my tips on flying because I've done my fair share. I tried to count up all my flights, but lost count when I got over twenty-five :S

1) If you're going specifically to the UK...try to avoid Heathrow. It's so busy and I have found the staff to be very grumpy. I can only imagine the things they see everyday (I can't blame them for being grumpy!) but I find it's a place best avoided. Manchester has become my new favourite. Friendlier people, shorter queues, and the city, and its location, is well linked for rail travel all over Britain.

2) Wear your heavy items on the plane: long pants, jacket, sweater, sneakers, etc. As a woman, I know how much extra we want to pack in the suitcase. Wearing the heavy items creates a bit more wiggle room in the suitcase. I hate paying extra for baggage!

3) Carry an empty water bottle and a fresh piece of fruit in your carry-on. You can fill up the water at the fountain after you go through security (beverages in airports are ridiculously expensive). The fresh fruit will perk you up if you're feeling tired, give you a vitamin boost, some fibre, and some fuel; especially if you don't like the on-board dinner!

4) Ear plugs are priceless...especially if you end up in a seat near to the toilets!

5) When you're off the plane: go to the bathroom and freshen up before you get to security (if possible). You'll feel better when you're standing in line and you won't look so sketchy and antsy when you're going through (it might just be the pee-pee dance but they don't necessarily know that!) If you can't go before, go immediately afterwards. Don't bother getting your bags first. There's no point in leaving them unattended outside of the bathroom. They are safer and less likely to be tampered with on the carousel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Living Life Large

So while I am traveling, here is some inspiration from artist, Bonnie Mohr. I love this!

Life is not a race - but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work Hard. Be choosy. Say "Thank you", "I love you", and "Great job" to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental - search for your purpose and do it as best you can. dreaming does matter. It allows you that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself - plan for longevity. Recognize the the special people you've been blessed to know. Live for today and enjoy the moment. ~ Bonnie Mohr

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Packing, packing, packing...

...or is it deciding, deciding, deciding...?

I leave for my vacation to the UK (and a short trip to Holland sandwiched in between) tomorrow so I am busy packing today - no this is not a last minute thing for me- I've been doing laundry in preparation for this all week! My problem with packing is always deciding what to take and how much to take. It's a good thing that the airline limits me to 20kg!

Fortunately, I always have a willing helper (as you can see).

I am really looking forward to this trip. I used to live in the UK, so it'll be great to see all of my old friends. The UK is like my second home, and the people there are my second family. The great thing about knowing people in a location is that your vacation is just that much more off the beaten track. I will be doing some things that most visitors to the UK never do! Maybe I can inspire some people to try a little something different the next time they are in the UK.

I am going to be blogging during this trip because I want to share some of the things that I love about the UK and Holland. Visit here again to see what I've been up to!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Lovely Day in the Mountains

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going, with two other people, to Waterton Lakes National Park. This park spans across the Alberta -British Columbia border as well as the Canada - USA border (Montana). The American side of the Park is also known as Glacier National Park. It was a gorgeous day! Warm, dry weather, with few clouds. We couldn't ask for anything better!

We started out by driving up to Cameron Lake to start our trek. We were going to head up the east side of the mountain to Summit Lake and then onwards to the summit at Mount Carthew. It was a little bit hazy from all of the forest fires in B.C. recently, but we still had good views down onto Cameron Lake and the higher we got the more turquoise the lake looked. It was so pretty.Just before we left, we snapped a quick photo of the map at the base of the trail. Even though I like to carry a map with me, I always like to get a photo of the map provided on the trail. Sometimes it contains more information than the map in my hand. In this case, the distance between each point was listed on the trail's map (my map only had a scale for distance so I'd have to figure out distances myself).

It took about an hour to reach Summit Lake. It was a cute little lake, enclosed by the trees with the mountain peaks just peeking above the trees. We stopped for a quick look at my map to check out the time, elevation and how steep the trail to the summit would be when a deer ambled by us down the path.

The pathway up to the summit was a gorgeous walk. We had views of our destination almost the whole time we were walking: below us was a valley with a perfectly formed meadow. It looked like a golf course! Behind us (towards Montana) were two glacial lakes; a beautiful shade of blue and turquoise. We could also see the end of the tree line just below the summit where the meadows of bear grass were in full bloom.

We ended up stopping for lunch at the point where the meadows give way to rock and shale. It was a perfect place to stop; the views and the sunshine were glorious, and there was also a lovely breeze which keep the deer flies and horse flies away. The rocks we were sitting on radiated just enough heat to keep us warm too. Mountain breezes on a sweaty back can cool you off very quickly - in about 3 minutes we were happy for the warmth of the rocks!

After our lunch stop, it was a quick 30 minute hike up to the peak. I was amazed that there were flowers and bumblebees at the peak as well as a golden mantled ground squirrel (the kind that looks like a chipmunk). But he was too fast for me to take a photo of him! You'd think there wouldn't be anything making their home up there!

I loved the view from up there. The view went right into the USA. Through the haze from the forest fires, you can see the bigger of two glacial lakes. The smaller one, just visible is to the right of that. Both of these lakes are in Montana.

After adding our stones to the cairn, we had a little breather at the peak and headed back down. It was nearing sunset so all the smells of the various flowers were really noticeable. The Cow Parsnip was especially sweet smelling. Weather wise, we've had an exceptionally wet year. It has obviously been good for the mountain flowers, I have never seen Waterton in full bloom like this in August: Indian Paintbrush, Fleabane, Beebalm, Alpine strawberries and raspberries, cow parsley, bear grass the list goes on and on and it was all blooming!

On our way back, I spotted this little toadstool. Isn't the colour gorgeous?

Time from base to peak: 3.5 hours, total 6 hours
Total km covered: 15.2 km (9.44 miles)
Elevation: 1660- 2300 meters

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Finished Product

I promised I would come back to show what the added Welcome tab looks like on my Facebook Page. Well, here it is! Click on the photo to see it for yourself! Feel free to 'Like' my page too!

I think it looks pretty good! And now that I've done one page, I think it will be WAAAAY easier to add more.

What I failed to realize when I made this is that I can't just jump in and make the page. There is some prep work that needs to be done before all of that!

Step 1: Create the photos/ pictures that you want to have on the page.
Step2: Create the html code and save it in a safe place. Also type up any blurbs/ info that you want to go on the page. If you want fancy fonts or colours, you will need to create the html code for those too! I used Blogger to do this because it has a tab when you're composing that lets you copy the html.
Step 3: Add the FBML application to your Facebook page
Step 4: Make the page. I used the tutorial I found here

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Items for Pimping Facebook

I am trying to pimp my facebook page. What I'd like to do is add a Welcome Page and possibly a an 'About Me' and a 'What's New'.

It looks like the most common way to do this is by adding an application called FBML. I'm sure it'll look great when it's done but here's the first hurdle; it looks like FBML uses html.

Well, I know how to do it but for me, it takes FOREVER! So, I am doing a little shortcut by posting everything here. You see that little tab above that says "edit html" when you're writing a new post in blogger? Well, that little tab is great for people like me who don't have time to write out the whole code. Blogger does that for me! And if I want small changes, I just go in to the html and tweak it myself. No massive essay writing or overhauls!

And this way, everyone gets a sneak peak of what I'm up to!

So here is the jpeg for my opening welcome page

Okay, I'm off to start constructing. I will check in again later!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Sunset

What a gorgeous summer day it was today and it ended nicely with a gorgeous sunset which inspired me to share this Etsy shop with you. The gorgeous set of cards above is from a shop called Mystuff2, run by a lovely lady by the name of Donna. She is an avid photographer and her work is gorgeous!

I have personally gotten things from her shop and I'm very happy with them! An item I'd definitely suggest to purchase is one of her lovely bookmarks. It's better than using an old receipt as a page marker and she'll even put an inspirational quote of your choice (or some other personal message) on the back for you!

If you see something fantastic in her shop that you would like to buy, just mentioned that you read about her shop in HornCat's blog and she will give you 20% off! Her offer is available for this week only so don't delay. Happy shopping!

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