Friday, May 28, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and CityLink Buses, and Caledonian Ferries and Scottish Taxi Drivers)!

     Today I want to praise public transportation!  Most specifically Scottish Public Transportation!  We just returned from an eight-day trip to Scotland.  For the first time (ever, I think) we didn't rent a car, even for a portion of the trip.  And we probably had one of the most stress-free trips ever.  Even the disruptions on our two flights out of the US didn't bother us very much. 
     When we got to BWI to catch our connection flight to Philadelphia, there was a slight problem--no plane!  Interestingly enough, we got hustled back to the check-in counter, and herded into a five-passenger taxi for an incredible 90-minute DRIVE to Philadelphia.  That was one happy taxi driver!  All courtesy of US Airways, thank you.  When we finally borded our plane to Scotland (booked to the gills with passengers who had been trying to get out of Philly for two days due to "ash closures" in the UK), our plane "broke".  Five hours later we ended up leaving at midnight, with "dinner" served to us at 1:00 a.m.
 
Needless to say, we were late arriving to Glasgow and in danger of missing the 12:30 train to Oban.  No worries.....our intrepid Scottish taxi driver (unfortunately, I could only understand every third word he spoke in a Scottish accent so thick I thought maybe I had landed somewhere else) ferried us AHEAD of the train to the next station so we could catch it!  Plus, he locked his cab and carried our bags into the station for us, and introduced us to the station master.
     
The rest of our trip was like that--buses ran on time, people made sure we got "concessions" for being seniors, even though we weren't UK residents, train conductors rescued me from what I was sure was the fatal mistake of getting locked back on the train while Guy watched in horror as I sped away down the track to the next station (that's another story).  Did you know that being left on the train after missing your stop just means that you have been "overcarried."  I LOVE that word!  Isn't the train station below just adorable.  It's the one at Pitlochry, but almost all of them look like this.

Our taxi drivers to and from our hotels and our Bed and Breakfast were knowledgeable, friendly, and determined that we would see the best that their cities could offer.  For about $250 we had an incredible transportation experience for an entire week.  And stress-free!  We never worried about driving on the "wrong side of the road," we didn't have to puzzle out roundabouts, we never had to find a parking space, and we didn't have to fuel up with "petrol".  And mostly, we didn't argue about anything having to do with highways, best routes, incorrect maps, or incompetent driving.(you all know what I am talking about, don't you?)
       I never thought I could fall in love with buses and trains, but I've been converted.  Here's to ScotRail and CityLink!  And I haven't even started on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry to the Isle of Mull and our awesome tour guide to Duart Castle.  His take on life on the Isle of Mull - "nobody died of stress last year, and only six people died of boredom!"
     We didn't "die of boredom" on our trip; we just sat back and enjoyed the ride........

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend of Enjoyment

I got a full dose of "Momism" this Mother's Day weekend.  Guy and I went into NoVa to visit with Patrick and Blanton.  Blanton gifted me with a full manicure and pedicure Friday evening before our dinner at Present, a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church.  We ate our way through "Autumn Shawl", incredible "spring rolls" made from rolled rice crusts, and I had the "beef special" which was shredded beef mixed with vegetables, scallions, ginger, smoked in a bamboo shaft.  It was awesome.  Duck, calamari, and soft-shelled crabs also got shared with everyone.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Moving Forward, One "Stitch" at a Time...

It's been a busy and productive week; finished up lot's of stuff for Masterworks Chorus, played piano a little, sang a little, went to two book clubs and exercised my mind, finished three quilts and mailed one off to Susan for Baby Kirsten.  I found some great gifts for my daughters-in-law for their birthdays and Laura's wedding shower, and am excited to be seeing both of them (and our sons) within the next two days.  We bought a new camera for our trip to Scotland; now we will just have to wait and see if that little Icelandic volcano causes any more air travel excitement.

Business plans are taking shape.  We will be taking our training classes on our Gammill the first week of July and the machine will be delivered shortly afterward.  I should be up and running by August, I think.  I've even reserved my domain name, and will start planning my web site soon.  Guy is busy reading the 265-page computer manual that we will have to become familiar with.  Shown above are a few pictures of the machine we are buying, for those of you who don't know what a long-arm stitcher looks like.  This one comes with a computerized module that is pretty incredible.  The picture below shows the size of the machine.  It's a 14-ft table with about a 4-ft bed.  I'm finishing up quilt tops like crazy so I will have lot's to experiment with.  It's going to be a beautiful Mother's Day Weekend.....happy Mom's Day to all my friends, grandma's, aunts, etc.
 

Friday, April 30, 2010

Busy Busy Day!

Well, I am moving forward on our thoughts for a business.  Registered our name in Virginia today, "Quilted Solutions."  Got an EIN number from your friend and mine, the Internal Revenue Service.  Registered our name as DBA in Shenandoah County.  Got a Home Occupation business permit from the Planning and Zoning Board in Shenandoah County.  Almost made it through the Virginia Department of Taxation Website when something went "flooey" and couldn't finish getting my number.  We are making progress.  I am setting up a business spreadsheet.  I am reading books; Guy is reading computer manuals.  Research on marketing, advertising, good business practices, and the like.  I'm having fun; now I just want to get my longarm quilter and start making lovely things.  Have to wait a while, though.  Off to Scotland on the 17th and back the next week; no sense planning training sessions right now.  But, a thoroughly satisfying (and only slightly frustrating) day.  Posted some new pictures.  Enjoy!  Enough of Winter; spring is almost over, too, given the temperature tonight.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where does time go?

It's been a month since I published anything.  What have I done?  Well, I finished a bunch of quilts, with the help of Jane Moll.  I also revisited my "wishes and desires" list and decided my life had to take a new direction.  So, Guy and I are thinking seriously about investing in a long-arm quilter (big bucks) and starting a home-based business.  I want to take my quilting to another level.  I want to finish what I've started (myself) and help others turn their notions and ideas into a finished product.  I want my husband to be integrally involved in my day-to-day hobby.  A computer-aided quilting machine is right up his alley (I know lots about graphics, but CADD design is not in my vocabulary).  Anyway, more to come soon.  Life is a changing for my whole family.  New daughters-in-law, new expectations for life---these are good.  I want to participate and not fall behind.  Wish me well.  More to come later.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Value of Friendship

I watch, read, and listen to my friends in their blogs, and on Facebook, and it reminds me that even though we can express our thoughts every day, in every way (doesn't that rhyme nice), none of it matters much without feedback from our friends.  Friends are wonderful in so many ways:  they give us sustenance and support through difficult times, they give us confidence to face up to our weaknesses and fears, and they give us comfort when it seems that nothing else is available to us.  We may rely on our husbands and children for love and affection, but we rely on our friends for truth, honesty, and sometimes, just being there when everyone else doesn't seem to care.  So this post is all about.....friends....thanks.....you know who you are.....more than that.....you know who you could be....go out and be a friend today to someone who just might ask you a question and need a real honest answer....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The benefits of work.......

What a wonderful day--sunshine, 65 degrees, snow almost melted, and what did I do?  I sat in front of the computer working on budget spreadsheets.  But, as it happens, I feel really good about that.  I've been spending quite a bit of time this month (and last) working on paperwork for the Chorus I belong too.  When I got started at it, there was a tinge of resentment associated with it, but now that I am well into getting a (whole) lot of things organized, I have a different feeling.

I am accomplishing something concrete.  I am writing, thinking, computing, planning, strategizing, and organizing.  I have put a plan in motion, and I am following through.  Four hours of paperwork is translating into something I feel proud about.  Since I retired almost 12 years ago, I have had periods of intense activity, joining groups, spreading my "enthusiasm" around, and certainly taking things seriously.  But often those bursts of activity would give way to long periods of semi-activity.  I gave up quite a few things because I didn't feel the end result justified the amount of time I was spending on them.  But with that abandonment, there was also a relinquishing of the sheer pride in "work."

Of course, I have my quilting, and that is a creative activity that continues to bring me a lot of joy.  But I must admit that I am not so singularly dedicated to quilting that it can occupy me "24/7" as it were.  I need to exercise my mind, too, and not by just reading books and magazines.  Anyway, it's just nice to rediscover the joy in a few hours spent in contemplation, thinking through problems and postulating potential solutions, and just "staying in the box" for a while.  There was much I was more than happy to give up about work when I retired--the constant stress of worrying about jobs for people, contracts to be negotiated, personnel problems to solve, but I did miss the way that work flexed my "mental muscles."

Well, just some observations on the "retired" life and how it adapts and changes as we come to view things differently with age.  Having said that, and having finished a good day of "problem solving", I think I'll go have a glass of wine and plan dinner....