I've been out of town again this week -- and this time I mean really out of town. My husband and I have traveled to England, to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. We left home on Monday, and after arriving in London early Tuesday morning, we headed straight for the most beautiful little city in the United Kingdom -- Bath Spa.
I love, love, love Bath. Just look how beautiful!
The Roman baths just slay me. This beautiful and ancient space (originally dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sulis) was enthusiastically usurped by the Romans, who called their spa and holy place "Aquae Sulis:" they also usurped the goddess, and they didn't even change her name!
Later the Saxons built an abbey on the site -- by then the Roman baths were buried under hundreds of years of rubble, but the Saxon king Bladud watched his pigs and knew that the hot spring clearly still served a healing purpose.
Today you can look up from the excavated Roman baths and see the beautiful abbey tower. How lucky are we that we got to see this?!
Of course there are those who will say, "yeah, yeah, but Bath is really all about Jane Austen." Well, of course! My favorite Austen novel, Persuasion,is set in Bath and the movie was filmed here, against the backdrop of stunning Georgian architecture in the classic Palladian style. Again -- look how lovely!
And oooh! Amanda Root and Cieran Hinds as Anne Elliott and the yummy dashing Captain Wentworth -- I repeat: look how lovely!
Today Bath is quite the happening place -- with fancy upscale shopping, fun eateries and bistros, and a busker performing on every street corner. Here my husband (not a smiler, let us note) shows a giddy lack of restraint as he enjoys a clever street magician (with -- why? -- a deck of cards in her mouth).
We were so lucky to be here during an international guitar festival. This young man looks twelve, but is probably all of eighteen. His beautiful classical guitar performance -- in the middle of the abbey courtyard -- brought tears to my eyes.
This is the traditional take-and-eat delicacy of the region -- the Cornish pasty (rhymes with "nasty," but it sure isn't!). Have you tasted one of these?! I mean -- mercy!
I have visited Bath before, with my sister and with dear friends. Now, I'm so glad my husband and I got to come here together -- and that he loved it as much as I do. Now we head to Salisbury, to see Stonehenge and the stunning cathedral.
My youngest girl is convinced that she has single-handedly caused the Great Potato Famine of '09.
The "Garden Guru" on our local radio station has been sounding the alarm about Late Blight -- the plant disease that caused the infamous Irish Potato Famine. This year, Late Blight is terrorizing gardeners and farmers all along the East Coast. So of course my girl picked this year to plant a spud in a pot and see if it would grow.
Now, with no signs of disease on this plant -- but no spuds, either -- she is packing her bags, preparing to emigrate back to County Cork (who knew we were Irish?). She keeps saying stuff like, "You know -- those people in Ireland had to eat grass, because the potatoes ALL DIED! And I don't even like SALAD!"
I exaggerate. But she is a little worried.
Meanwhile her plant is thriving -- and yes, that is a school ruler used to stake the plant, because that's how we roll at my house.
** In case you're worried, the sad tomatoes don't have Late Blight, either -- I checked. No -- they're just sad.
Dinner with excellent friends. My husband and I had a great night, enjoying fabulous summer food (mmmm! tomatoes and fresh mozzarella . . . . ) with some of our dear ones. Much laughing and joy ensued.
And oooh! Check this out! You just think this is iced tea -- beloved beverage of all true Southerners. But you would be wrong -- this! is a Summer Hummer. Our host started listing the ingredients, but then my husband said, "Just stop. You had me at 'rum and a splash of Pimm's.'"
My friend Coleen wants to paint a word border around the top of her kitchen walls -- she sees it as a way of displaying a collection of quotations that sum up her life as a mother, a wife, a student of life. Here is the quotation that will go right above the fridge:
Here's your popsicle -- now get the hell out.
As for me, I like to stick pithy sayings on my refrigerator. Here's what's motivating me right now:
Be the change you want to see. -- Gandhi
So much to do -- so few people to do it for me . . .
Life is good.
Things have never been the same since that house fell on my sister.
I cannot live without books. -- Thomas Jefferson
and a small little button that reminds me to:
RAISE FUNNY PEOPLE.
Of course, this is on my fridge, too:
As someone once said -- I'm just keepin' it real. What do you have on your refrigerator? What inspires you, annoys you, or just makes you laugh? Please leave a comment -- I'd love to hear from you!
Here's Tammy Faye, our lunatic neighbor cat (and sister tothe evil Jake). She strolled into our house the other day after she'd had a little too much gin.
She is quite the glamour girl, and so supportive of the gay community. I love her stylish flair and sense of color. Still, no one has been able to convince her to cut back on the eyeliner. Oy, when the tears start flowing . . . !
People, this is my entire tomato crop. Three -- count 'em, three -- tomatoes. What the hell happened here?!?
Please don't tell me that I haven't watered enough. Usually I would be agreeing with you (I'm not so good with the remembering to water . . .). But I've been gone so much this summer that the fabulous neighbors have used my hose more than I have (that sounds dirty, but whatever).
I would suspect an evil tomato competition-type plot, but a) the fabulous neighbors have too much real stuff to do, and b) my hydrangeas are lovely -- so watering is not the issue.
Pathetic, isn't it, that because I've been gone all summer, my yard is more lush and green than ever before (tomatoes aside, obviously). Fabulous neighbors, I'm telling you.
OK, so the tall boy is away for a month, attending this swingin' program, and he is having the time of his life. Even though -- dig this: NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED! You know what this means, right? NO TEXTING!
The tall boy spends his time studying in a rigorous academic climate.
The people are very formal -- a tie is often required for social functions. My shades-wearing knucklehead is in the back, still trying to master the Windsor knot.
Love the multicultural aspects of the program . . . . Aloha Ladies -- who knew?
We stopped by for Family Day on Sunday, on our way back from the beach, and took care of all the necessities:
Junk food supply replenished -- check.
Ensure that he can live Coca-Cola in a Pepsi world (oh, the horror!) -- check! (three twelve-packs ought to be enough for the next two weeks, right??).
See the new Harry Potter movie (# 1 on his list of things to do) -- check!
Gorge with food at Cheeseburger in Paradise -- double check.
It was great to see the tall boy, because I do miss him dearly. Does he miss me? Not so much. When I say he's having the time of his life, I'm totally not kidding. He lives with a whole campus of nerdy goofs kids like him, who actually love to learn. He's taking classes like "Crusades and Jihads" and "Creating a Graphic Novel," as well as workshops on random things like swing dancing. Really! Swing dancing!
And he's very polite and all, and graciously hugged his sisters and me, but dang! -- he was so ready for us to leave. I had a foreshadowing taste of how it will feel to send this firstborn urchin off to college -- my nest feels emptier already!
Photo credits: Virginia Governor's School for the Humanities/Christopher Newport University
Looking back on this beach reunion of people to whom I am not related, I have to say that I've rarely laughed so much. These people are hilarious -- although I've noticed that joy in someone else's company causes laughter, too. Here is a look back at our excellent beach adventure . . . .
The smoochie patriarch of this family (call him Pop-Pop, call him Uncle Bob -- just don't call him . . . . oh, sorry!) and his patient bride are the parents of this motley crew:
These six siblings are all educators of one kind or another -- although each found a different route to the same end result. Must be in the blood.
Visual tangent: these three brothers have the bluest eyes you ever saw. Mercy!
My youngest girl spent much of her time hanging out with this sweet young woman -- who either took a real shine to my urchin, or is a certified saint -- or maybe both. They are both big goofballs (a high form of praise, let me assure you).
A beauty queen vacationed with us -- wearing the most beautiful clothes . . . .
All in all we had a fabulous time at our un-family reunion. We read a lot of books -- some deep, some trashy. We ate a lot of food. I mean -- a whole lot. Jigsaw puzzles, boogie boards, games at night, the new Harry Potter movie -- we did it all. Mostly, everyone got to spend time with their favorite people in the world. It was a perfect week. And by the way --
Please look at this face and then dare to tell me that angels don't exist.
So my son the genius is off three hours away at this whoop-de-doo program because he's, like, real smart? And I'm, like, all braggy and proud and stuff? So it is definitely ironic, in a not-that-funny, sucking the life out of me sort of way, that he's been there for three days and just realized that he left a big honking pile of "necessary" crap behind:
I know that some of the crap in this pile of crap really is necessary, but you do see the flip flops on the top, right? And the Bing Crosby hat? Totally necessary. And the "Kum-Ba-Yah" guitar. And he needs it all. Today.