Welcome! Grab a cup of tea, and enjoy browsing some of the photos and stories. As the 'teawife,' it is my duty to watch and listen and be a supportive friend, and a loving mum and wife. I should post more often, but sticking my nose into everyone's business keeps me busy! Kathy the teawife

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dawn Rise at Buckingham Lake


One advantage of having jet leg and getting up early is the ability to catch dawn rise over our lake. During the winter, there are some amazing colors that merge and morph and change over Buckingham Lake, around 6:15 to 6:45. Each day is a little different. And, you can also so the lights and colors dance on the ice on the lake. Here are a variety of photos taken on the morning of December 13th. Enjoy!












Geese on the March


We've been awaiting a visitation by the geese this winter on our icy Buckingham Lake. Two Christmas holidays ago, the geese were on our property at least once a day. You could here them as they came into land on the ice, heralding their arrival with punctuated honks. 



Although they can leave a mess on our lawn, we rarely go to the lakeshore when it's iced up. And, the trade-off is the amusement they provide.

They are quite humorous as the tentatively place their webbed feet on the ice, skating as they go. Sometimes they lose their footing and plop on the icy surface (I can understand that!). Other times they chase each other around the ice, protecting their patch (not sure what is worth protecting!). At the lake edge, they are able to break through the young ice and nibble at submerged but fresh grass.

Mariana Butte and the area can see hundreds of geese at one time in one place. While commonplace, I don't think I'll ever take their presence for granted.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Need a better mousetrap (or a bigger boat)

We had a mousy problem. This is not uncommon in old English homes as the damp and cold relentless weather sets in for the winter. Many homes have entry points that mice love to exploit. Our garage is riddled with opportunities for scrawny rodents to slide inside.

The house has been refurbished countless times since it was first built in the 1930s. The wiring and plumbing in the garage look like some kind of Frankenstein experiment of bad engineering. Our bedroom is placed over the garage, and I sometimes wonder if we are just going to go boom in the middle of the night. Gas lines, hot water pipes, electric wires -- all cross over one another like some scary bowl of spaghetti. One spot that allows access for electrical wires into the circuit system in the house also allows access to clever mice.

We've been in the house for five winters now. From experience, the mice problem creeps up when you are not aware. They make themselves comfy, invite their friends, bring in the beer kegs, all while you mindlessly go about your business. UNTIL . . . you see signs. This time, I discovered evidence of mice activity in the laundry/storage room, where I keep the bird seed. Okay, you would expect them to hone in on the bird seed and stuff themselves silly. But no . . . instead they were more interested in special bags of Pamela's Gluten Free Pancake Mix, which I hand carry from the US to England. It's a rare and special stash. The plastic packaging is sealed completed and nearly impervious to outside forces, yet some mouse sniffed it out and gnawed open the package. They had to shimmy up the dryer and into the drawer of a storage unit that is 7 feet off the ground. Two bags of my precious flour were destroyed!

Where are those darned mouse traps anyway? We didn't have mice last winter, so I lost track of the traps. We have been using humane traps; Niall would then take captured mice on a car trip and release the buggers miles from the house. In case you aren't familiar with mice, they like chocolate, and peanut butter. Once the humane traps were found and dusted off, I used a Cadbury Dairy Milk Button as the bait.

Next morning, I surveyed the traps and found all three to be missing the chocolate! How did the mice manage to liberate the chocolate without trapping themselves. In addition, some smart alec mouse had climbed up our bar, where I had displayed some Christmas-themed chocolate animals, and eaten the arse out of a chocolate polar bear!


Hmmmmm . . . I needed a better mouse trap. I bought a slightly larger humane trap at the local 'iron mongers,' and baited all of my traps again. Eventually, we caught two mice, which were entered into the witness protection program and relocated to another section of Surrey.

However, one mouse remained, and he came to be known as Einstein, as he had perfected the ability to slide into traps and retrieve the chocolate and escape.

Now we needed a bigger boat! I was off to the iron mongers again, and it was time to play dirty. We bought a different kind of mouse trap, if you know what I mean, reading between the lines. Incredibly, this cagey mouse figured out how to steal the chocolate, set off the trap, and never get whammied. But not to be out done by a clever mouse, my clever hubby used the other favorite food of mice (peanut butter) as glue. He put a dollop of peanut butter onto the trap and stuck on the chocolate. Stealing the chocolate would be a sticky and tricky situation for Einstein.

The next morning heralded a sad day in the household for all mice kind. Einstein had finally met his match.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Withdrawals

As many of my friends know, I'm often called 'the teawife.' This Irish term has much more depth and meaning that just 'a wife who drinks tea.' It also represents a sisterhood of women who share, care and are concerned for others. That's a polite way of saying that a teawife loves a bit of gossip!

But a teawife does enjoy a good cup of tea with a 'natter' (idle chatter).

Some of you might be surprised that this teawife not only loves and is pretty much addicted to tea, but I also like a strong cappuccino. I realize in my tea circles that this admission is akin to admitting to some horrible crime!

There are certain times of the day that call out for a comforting tea. There is nothing better, when arriving from an international flight and dragging with jet lag, to see the electric kettle and know a cup of tea is minutes away. Or when the stress and chores of the day take their toll, an afternoon can be soothed with a cup of strong and dimensional tea.

Likewise, cappuccino has its occasion, such as when I need a quick jolt in the morning. I also find it a calms my hunger in the afternoons as I continue my weight loss. I almost view a cappuccino as a fine food as opposed to simply a beverage.

If I need a thirst quencher or a comforting-hand-holder, I opt for a tea. If I am hankering for a creamy, indulgent, get-me-going experience, I reach for a cappuccino.

One thing I discovered about coffee when living in Abu Dhabi is that I prefer Arabica beans to Robusta. The Emiratis love their coffee, and they have a partiality for fine Italian Arabica blends. I could buy coffee everywhere, from boutique shops to grocery stores. I eventually settled on Lavazza (www.lavazza.com) as my favorite. One of my friends introduced me to the Italian stovetop espresso percolator, and I was hooked!

I made espressos and cappuccinos with the percolator for a while, until moving to England when another friend introduced me to the Nespresso system, complete with electric milk frother. My life would never be the same. While the percolator took at least five to 10 minutes from start to finish to make a cappuccino, the Nespresso was minutes, as fast as making a cup of tea! I was in heaven! And, the Nespresso Club has a wide range of coffee blends for you to discover if you like rounder, bolder or smoother cups.

I liked the Nespresso system so much that I purchased an identical Essenza espresso maker and electric milk frother for our Colorado home! Dear son will acquire my English system when he moves off to university next year. I can imagine having an espresso maker in one's student room might be a pretty good ice breaker!

This morning I needed an espresso boost, and you can imagine my horror when I went to fill up the water receptacle on the Nespresso, and I dropped the tank on the tile floor! Ooooooops! The plastic water tank is a complete write off, cracked all the way down the side. Was I going to have to purchase a whole new machine? Thankfully, no . . . the folks at Nespresso are so friendly and helpful! It will cost a princely $5 to replace the water tank, and they waived the shipping charge! I'll have the replacement water tank in a couple of days.

After all that hoopla, I needed a soothing cup of tea. Thank goodness the kettle's working!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Shelob Shed


We are back in England after six wonderful weeks in Colorado! I still need to post photos from our trip, and I sure hope to catch up with that soon. The photos on this page were taken a few years back, in January 2009 at our English home, when we had a spectacular hoarfrost. I never realized that there were so many cobwebs on the Wendy playhouse, until the frozen crystals captured the fragile webs.

Friday's end-of-August weather in SE England was nothing like that. In fact, it was sunny and sumptuous and in the seventies. I felt inspired and tackled one of the sheds in the garden. This shed project was delayed from early summer when we were having hot and sunny days, and I had planned to get out the pressure washer and do a proper job. However, we had that blasted garden hose ban as we were in a drought that immediately was followed by more rain than England has seen for 100 years! Hmmmmmm . . . I digress . . .

One thing I've learned from my seven years of living in England is that spiders love the spring and summer climate. English spiders can be incredibly huge, too, like the one that jumped on my head one autumn morning as I was climbing into my car at the gas/petrol station. I didn't realize I had picked up an additional passenger until I was rolling out of the station. There were lots of primordial screams and shrieks as I quickly stopped the car, flung open the door, and shooked the monster off my body. Shudder.

English sheds are always frightening, full of all sorts eight-legged creatures.We have come to nickname the shed that holds our Christmas decorations as 'the Shelob Shed,' named after that horrible spider from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. No one ever wants to go into the shed, as large spiders hang from webs in the ceiling and in every corner, nook and cranny.

The shed is attached to a kennel dog run, which is partially open to the elements, and it seems to be the perfect place to collect leaves, grass clippings, mice, spiders, wood lice, snails, etc. etc. I wonder how many of you are still reading this, or if you've flicked off the page because you're worried about the nightmares you'll have tonight!! This is the shed that dear-son-and-moody-teen and I bravely addressed. After we finished, I think my son had his second shower of the day! Eeeeeuuuuuwww, we never feel like we can completely rid ourselves of the feeling of cobwebs and creepy crawlies!

Under piles of chairs, papers, and boxes, we uncovered a bike that was slowly rusting away in a corner. I decided it was time to give it a new home, and I put a sign on it -- "FREE, please take" -- and rolled it to the front of the house and the edge of our drive. The bike is still in working order; just needed a bit of oil and TLC. Branduff laughed at me, thinking no one would want the bike. Five minutes later, Branduff went to the front of the property to check, and YES, the bike was GONE!

That's a good feeling as we are trying to downsize before moving next year. It almost makes up for the cobwebs and stuff that gets in my hair! Yuck! Almost.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More August Sunset Images


Here are some photos taken the other evening when storm clouds were gathering on the Rocky Mountains (near Estes Park). We are down in the foothills, and these photos were taken from Mariana Butte Golf Course.

In the photo above, you can see the reflection of the sunset in the golf course pond. However, the camera could not capture the true richness of the skies. If you watch the video from my earlier post, you'll be able to see just how moody and vibrant the skies were.




Below, I played around with the camera settings to achieve these darker and richer tones; however, the foreground detail is missing.


August Sunset in Mariana Butte

video

The changing weather is fascinating to watch as it hangs and dances over the Rocky Mountains. Niall and I decided to have a short walk in the Mariana Butte neighborhood, and we were amazed about the colors in the sky. I ran home for the camera and shot a bit of video. It was getting dark, so the camera struggled with the focus, but I still managed to capture a bit of the mood and action. You will notice  the lightening on the mountain; I didn't think I caught it but was happy to see I did!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garden in Bloom


In addition to the slide show on my previous posting, thought I would post some of the floral photos individually.

Above is a Rhapsody-In-Blue rose. Below is a giant poppy, which comes back every year, spreading over the bed with larger and abundant blooms.



Monday, June 18, 2012

June 2012 Garden

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Click above to see the most recent photos of our garden.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where's the blog?!

OK, I did it again . . . I intended on blogging all throughout the Easter/Spring break, and I didn't! We're already into May, and I'm back in England after a very satisfying month in Colorado.

Since I've been back to England, I think it has rained, to some extent, every day. Last week, when I returned, I had to overcome the expected jet lag. Gray skies, rain, and slick and semi-flooded streets do not encourage a break out from the doldrums of trip exhaustion.

But don't worry about all the flood waters and continual dreary rain: We are officially in a drought and probably will remain so through the year.

I felt quite impressed with myself that I managed to get motivated enough to order groceries for delivery to the house! Yes, that is one aspect of living in England that I like. It means that I don't have to get in my car, battle the elements and the traffic, use up gas/petrol, fight for a parking spot at the store, and continue that fight to get through the aisles inside the stores. The supermarkets in SE England are always packed and busy.

There is nothing leisurely and enjoyable about shopping 'live-and-in-person" for groceries here. I am one of those folks who like to take my time, eyeing new things on the shelf and reading labels. I am not popular in an English grocery store. I have been known to be run over by crazed mums pushing carts laden with food and their toddlers. This is not supposed to be bumper cars -- or dodge 'ems as they say here.

Most times, no one says anything, like 'excuse me' or 'I'm sorry.' They just push you out of the way, as if this is how all human kind acts. No, it is not!

Sometimes, I feel like a Martian here . . . oh yeah . . . that's right . . . I am!

But back to the grocery delivery . . . it is a divine aspect of living here, as my friend Alisha pointed out the other day. How sublime to sit in jammies at night and casually peruse the grocery aisles without a pushy trolley mum in sight.

That said, I do thoroughly enjoy my trips to the butchers and fruit and veg stands in some of our villages. We have a fantastic butcher shop in the nearby town of Bookham, and it is well known for great produce and wonderful gab. They are always exceedingly friendly, and I will miss them when I eventually leave here.

It's still raining this week, but I have ventured out several times now, and I seem to be heading back into some routine. Living in Colorado and England almost simultaneously is making my head spin a bit, and I try to remember who and where I am!

Point in question: Dear hubby comes home from work after an insanely busy day. Him: "Hello," in a very loving and friendly way. Me: "Do you know what happened to the olives in the fridge?" Him: "I don't remember any olives." Me: "They were there. They were special olives stuffed with pickled garlic." Him: "That's not ringing any bells." Me: "I know they were there, and now they are gone, and I need them to make our salad."

It finally dawned on me this morning that those special olives are in the refrigerator in COLORADO, not England. Where am I? Who am I? Where's my blog?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Back in Colorado!

It's another Easter break at our home-away-from-home in Loveland, Colorado! Sunshine is in abundance, and the temperature this week feels more summer than early spring. But the tiny buds on trees and lack of leaves are true season indicators. Everything is very dry and the only colors come from the few narcissus growing in my neighbor's front garden.

We left our England home at a point when the bulb plants were coming into full bloom -- many daffodils, narcissus, tulips and other plants were happily soaking up the English spring. I always hate missing the floral show and the busy nesting birds that are flitting to and from feeders, but we are still slaves our son Branduff's education schedule.

He especially feels enslaved at the moment, as he's busy revising for mid-May exams in Math, Chemistry, Biology and Physics. The good thing is he has a change of scenery from his tiny little box room he uses as a study in our England home. In our Colorado home, he has run of the finished basement, and has managed to spread out all of his notes, as you can see in the photo.

This afternoon, we pulled Branduff away from his books and notes to head up to the Wapiti Pub and Restaurant, located at the Mariana Butte Golf Club. He was able to sink his teeth into a real American burger, this one with a Southwestern twist of barbecue sauce and bacon!  In fact, we've already managed to have Mexican food, Texas barbecue, and American pub food in the space of three short days! I must say that I am loving my freedom from the kitchen and cooking, which are my masters at home in England. Restaurants are scarce and expensive in England, and I find that I have few breaks from my routine as chef and dishwasher. So yes, I am celebrating!

We've had a quiet start to our Easter holidays as we overcome jet lag, and we hope to begin exploring and adventuring out soon. The trip over was, as usual, a literal pain in the backside. I think that things went pretty smoothly, but I will never ever love travel days. They are a necessary evil of getting us to our destination. The entire process of taxi to airport, checking in at the arrivals desk, passing through security, waiting for the flight, boarding the plane, sitting uncomfortably in a rigid airplane seat for 10 hours, standing in lines at immigration, watching the luggage carousel go round and round, arranging the rental car, and driving to our home all takes about 20 hours. Okay. So that's not even a full day. It's manageable. The rewards are wonderful. But I like travel days about as much as I like going to the dentist.

As usual, I seem to have some kind of sign that says, "Kick me." Why am I always the one "randomly" selected for an extra security check and pat down? Why? The three of us were within eye shot of the plane when they pulled me aside, away from my family. Here I am . . . a fat, middle-aged lady of 52, wearing glasses, and sporting a cast on my hand to protect my arthritic hand. Oh yeah. I look like I need to have extra scrutiny and a pat down. Random screening accomplishes nothing. Let's face it. Let's speak the truth about politically correct random checks that cost us all tax money and accomplish nothing, but supposedly give someone (who?) the illusion that we are safer. Really?

Okay, moaning over . . . we are in lovely Loveland right now, and that requires rejoicing! We have been greeted by the Canadian geese that eat our grass near the lake and simultaneously enrich the soil with their natural fertilizer. We also discovered that our robin mates have returned to their nest under our balcony.

The neighborhood is so quiet, and I have to adjust to sleeping in total quiet. I am used to the constant hum of traffic outside my English home. Occasionally, the quiet of our Colorado Rockies home is punctuated by a honking goose or brisk gust of wind. It is all quite blissful, and I hope to keep up with blog posting and write more later.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A February visit to Wisley Gardens

My friend Judi and I had a lovely late February trip to the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Gardens, which is located just up the road from our Hillside home.

There was a butterfly exhibit in Wisley's big Glass House, but I found that the warm humidity caused my camera lens to fog over. However, just outside the butterfly area, the orchids were in full and impressive bloom.

In addition, I took a few photos of the snowdrops and crocus growing on the extensive grounds of Wisley.

What a great day we had!