Thursday, October 16, 2014


Spent a week in Orlando recently at a conference, and as usual made the most of the spare time we had. The first day off we had a few of us hired a car and drove to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Nearly two hours drive, made all the more exiting by being in a left hand drive automatic car on the wrong side of the road with 6 lane highways and exits that go off to the right and left! Only two of us had driving licences, and I was the only one who'd driven over there before, so I took the first leg and drove there. Luckily we had a sat nav or I think it might have taken us considerably longer....

Big Cat Rescue is just what it says - a rescue centre for big cats which have been rescued. It's a fantastic place, but it was very hard hearing the stories of where they have rescued the cats from - abandoned pets, circuses, entertainment venues, concrete cages not big enough for them to turn round in...  Many of them have been declawed badly so have deformed feet. But, all of them are well cared for here, and spend the last years of their life being well looked after.

We arrived just after lunch and checked in for our keeper tour.

The first thing we did was make some "enrichment" for the cats - filling bags and tubes with strong smelling spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and catnip, or spraying them with perfume. The cats love them, and roll over on them and rip them to pieces - just like my cats do with catnip!

It was great going round with the keepers. There is no contact with the cats, so in order to make sure they can look at their paws, bellies etc, they train them with a piece of meat on a stick to stand up, open their mouths and show their paws.  The first cat we saw was a snowcat, very small, very cute, but very fierce! 

We also saw cougars, servals, bobcats, leopards, lions, tigers, and lots more. All in very big enclosures - bigger than they look in these photos as there are many enclosures joined together by tunnels.

The tigers were definitely my favourite. The last picture is of Nikitta, a lioness who was recused from a drugs den, where she had been kept as a 'guard lion"! Bit of a surprise to the police when they broke in....

Half way round it rained, and we had to put on our fetching ponchos

and Nikitta refused to come out, looking at us as if we were mad standing in it!

A really good day, spoiled only by two insect bites I got which over the next two days swelled up to about 6 inches in diameter, to the point where friends were threatening to take me to hospital. But  luckily they went down as quickly as they had swelled up!

The other free day we had was spent at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. It was so quiet, couldn't believe it. Went on my favourite Superman ride first, and instead of queueing for an hour, we were on in 5 minutes, so went straight round and on it again.

I love the park, and prefer it to Disney. I'm not a roller coaster fan, so gave the big ones a miss, especially the Incredible Hulk:

Since I last went, they've developed the Harry Potter attraction complete with Hogwarts and Hogsmeade

Fabulous attention to detail in the shops - the owls in the post office were animatronic and moved...

There was also a Harry Potter ride - one of the best I've been on - difficult to explain. A simulation where you felt you were flying and taking part in a game of Quidditch!

Of course we went on the obligiatory get wet ride where we dropped hundreds of feet (I could be exaggerating) in a log flume

But since I was last there they've installed people dryers. Not that it made much difference to us

Just as we were leaving the heavens opened, and it rained so hard we couldn't move. Luckily we were in a Margarita bar watching it...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Orangery

In another dolls house development - I've built an orangery. When I bought the house, I bought the basement as an added extra, and when you stand the house on it, the french windows from the kitchen open out onto nothing! My idea had been to construct a conservatory or orangery next to the house with a flat roof which would be a roof garden, and I was going to build it from scratch because none of the kits I could find were the right size. But then I found a Dolls House Emporium Orangery which has been discontinued for a few years) on eBay. This was just about the right size, nd although didnt hve a flat roof, I was fairly certain I could adapt it to have one.  It was a plain MDF kit, so plenty of opportunity to decorate it the way I wanted to.This the first time I had it out of the box, just checking it fits, and you can see the hanging french windows.

The first thing I did was a "dry build" where you put it together held with masking tape, so you can work out how you're going to decorate it etc. I decided to paint it in sections, before assembling it. All of the windows came in multiple pieces and had to be assembled - very fiddly, and everything took several coats of paint.

I went for a pale green and white theme which I thought matched the house, and looked a bit French! I wanted to make the inside very sumptious and lush, so had already decided  on a marble floor, and wanted some sort of tiled effect or murals in the arches at the back. I downloaded and printed loads of pictures and experimented with them, until setting on Alfonse Mucha's the Seasons - could only use 3 so missed out winter! 

Eventually I had it all assembled and I was able to put it next to the house

My next trip was to Miniautra, the miniatres exhibition in Birmingham where I conentrated on buying plant and garden material - I got quite a haul!

I made myself a pond using the stone trough, some plants, some goldfish I made from Fimo, and solid water. You can see it in the finished roof garden

Actually it's not finished - I'm still experimenting with it. Nothing is fastened down so I keep moving things around to see what looks best. I've even got some veg and an apple tree by the back door. All of the pots and beds I bought empty and made myself

Inside the orangery I'm still experimenting with what to put in it. This is what it looks like at the moment

Lots of plants, a chandelier, a table set with champagne, vases and garlands. I'm looking forward to putting a Christmas tree in, and lots of fairy lights!  I'm quite pleased with it, but it will probably remain a work in progress for a while.

Decorating the fourth wall

Right  it's definitely time I posted about my Dolls House - its over a year since I did! Not that I haven't been up to stuff, but I haven't got round to writing about it. One of the things I was thinking a lot about last year, was what to do with the inside of the doors that you open to see into the house. I had originally just painted them cream, and then added some curtains to some, but it didn't look right. So, I decided to decorate them to match the rooms. I've since found out it's called the fourth wall.

I started with the nursery, and painted the walls as close a match to the wallpaper as I could, and then cut out the balloons from the wallpaper and stuck them on upside down. Did something similar with a mixture of paint and wallpaper in the pink room - was quite proud of the results!

Then I started on the other rooms. I tries wherever possible to match up skirting boards and picture rails, and the wallpaper and any border. Some I painted to match. I managed to find curtains or blinds to match every room, and added as much detail as possible by sticking things to the wall. This is ground floor hall for example.

and the kitchen

The lights are battery operated so no need to wire them in.

The window seat I change occasionally, sometimes with flowers and champagne, and at Christmas it had a small tree, champagne and fruit meringues!

All of the fourth walls are now finished, and I think it makes the house look a lot more finished.

My next task will be to decorate it for Halloween with all of the pumpkins, candles and toadstools I've made from polymer clay.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Last few days at Whitby

Thursday was another lovely morning. Nothing particularly I wanted to go to, so had a wander round the shops, and met everyone in The Shambles for lunch.

Then off to the storytelling - first one I've been to - Pete Gritton and Gill Redmond - an excellent hour of stories and music.

In the evening it was the traditional themed ceilidh, and this year it was "Narnia". Not an easy one to think of costumes for, but we had an excellent wardrobe and a Lucy.

I made the mistake of letting someone loose on my face and hair with silver make up, and went as the White Witch

A great night and of course the band entered into the swing of things as well

And even Newcastle Kingsmen did a rapper dance featuring Will the Wardrobe Hampson. If this link works, watch it - it's hilarious!

Friday started with a talk on the life and times of Orkney's  John Rae, a Victorian Arctic explorer who went by the nickname of Long Strider. Told in story, song, verse and music by Bob Pegg. Very entertaining.
Then I went for a walk, over the new bridge and along the estuary. The view from the bridge into Whtiby is one of my favourites.

Met Stuart who was in a music session with the Longhill Ramblers, and then walked out along the pier. although the sun was out, it was pretty windy and cold - couldn't believe some people were in the sea!

Had a really good view of some cormorants sitting on the pier

and then caught some dancing at the bandstand on the way back - the colourful Gog Magog Molly

and Mortimers Morris

Then it was up for our traditional pint in the Elsinore to watch the procession go past, lead by Goathland Plough stots carrying the garland

Pie and mash from the pie and mash shop (where else) for tea, and our usual attempt to finish off what we had left in the drinks cabinet (not much by now!)

Jez Lowe was on in the Spa Theatre, so we caught a great concert from him

before the final ceilidh where as usual everyone gathers. Not as lively as usual, but we had a good dance anyway, and then it was time for the garland to be carried out, and the singing of Wild Mountain Thyme before we all got a piece of heather to take home.

Late night walk back and a final nightcap.

Saturday is an early start, coffee in town, walk round the shops, and lunch in the Crooked Billet on the way home.

Great week again - fantastic weather, good acts, and of course the lovely town that is Whitby. Just realised I haven't mentioned the Yards this year, so here's a picture of one. They're all over. So called because they're a yard wide apparently

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whitby - costumes, walks and salad!


Long walk up to the Rugby Club in the morning for a talk on traditional dress in the North East. Never quite sure what you're going to get in these talks, but this was really interesting. It was about the fisher women of a village in the North East called Cullercoats, and the lady giving the talk had researched their costume. Lots of petticoats, thick skirt, blouse, shawl and bonnet. And of course, open drawers. Called either easy access if they were in two pieces, or harvesters if they were in one piece. As in all is gathered in :-). Very interesting talk.

After that we headed for a rather fine crab salad at The Shambles

And then a walk to the Spa. The sun was shining and got some great views of this beautiful town.

On at the spa was a concert from John Kirkpatrick who was doing "Tunes from the Trenches" in commemoration of 100 years since WW1 started. He sang a mixture of songs from both wars, some of them music hall based, some from the soldiers, some funny, some very sad. Excellent concert.

After that it was Family Folk Tunes where a 100 folkies really are asked an assortment of questions - I know, I'm one of them :-) - which the two teams have to guess the answers to. Another fine event MCd by Stanley Accrington,

Then back home for a very nice beef stew cooked in the slow cooker, and a bit of a rest before setting off to the spa again where we had a few dances and watched Mortimers Morris do the floor spot.

It was also the annual Speed Ploughing Championship were various people see how fast they can play 2As and 2Bs of the speed the plough. Winners are normally around 15/16 seconds, with additional prizes given for humour!

We'd agreed that this was going to be our annual seafood salad day so I started by going shopping. Very few lobsters or crabs to be got, probably the seas were too choppy. But I managed to hunt some down, and some other tasty things. Then a walk up Caedmon's Trod which used to lead us to our holiday cottage. Quite a trek but it did give us amazing views every morning and evening.

Of course the cottages fell down a couple of years ago, which is really sad

Then onto the abbey where I had a great ice cream. Not the wisest thing to do when you've walked up three to burn off some calories.

Great view from up there, and I watched the Bark Endeavour being tossed all over the place on the choppy seas. Glad I wasn't on it - felt sick just watching 

Then walked down and discovered that the Abbey steps had a marker on every 10th step. Who knew???

On my way down I discovered a lonely Morris Dancer dancing his way up to the Abbey, and he made it to the top. The others cheated and walked!

Cheeky pint in The Angel and then to the Coliseum to here Graham Pirt give his excellent history in slides and songs of the Miners Union in the North East which although we've heard it before is excellent.

Back for tea!!

It was quite a salad and Beka, Paul and family came to help us eat it. Lots of good food, fizz and wine.
Then a few dances at the late night extra, and back for the usual nightcap.

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