Tuesday, July 29, 2008

green and thrifty

Many of us are becoming more and more aware that how we spend our money is nearly as strong as our vote. Seven Americans in England for two weeks represents a significant amount of money on a global scale (maybe not by NY or LA standards, but a fair bit for us).

In addition, there is so much being written lately about green tourism, eco-tourism, low-impact travel, etc. Some of it holds up, other claims are little more than propaganda. Our trip was not designed to be an eco trip, but we made many choices that ensured our adventure would be more conscious of the local economy and the footprint we left behind. I'm calling this approach "green and thrifty" and here is what we did:

1) Rented a flat in a working neighborhood in London. Not too expensive and the property was owned and operated by a couple who live, work, and play in the community. The rental was a large portion of the travel expenses and we can be happy to know it will stay local.

2) Bought food from local markets and farmers whenever possible to take home and prepare together. Transportation to purchase food was minimal and we brought and used our own EnviroSax from home to carry the purchases to the flat. So much joy from cooking and sharing together. We swapped nights to prepare meals, with another set doing the washing.

3) Several of the sites we visited had themselves worked to offer green or local options. For example, at Castle Howard, the boyfriend I purchased gifts and part of dinner at the Farm Shop. This shop stocks local dairy and meat supplies, even some that come from the grounds of the estate.

4) I searched through neighborhood thrift stores and second hand shops to find souvenirs and fun clothing finds rather than spending money on new items. Today I'm wearing a belt I found at an Octavia Foundation Charity Shop on Brompton Road near the Victoria and Albert Museum.

These types of charity shops, much like our Goodwill and Salvation Army, are located not in the dodgy sections of strip plazas or resigned to back streets, but rather located in some of the sharpest parts of town. In addition to good finds and the greener choice of buying second hand, the revenue from these shops supports excellent causes. The Octavia Foundation has 18 shops across west and central London. Their work includes a housing association, support for after-school programming for at-risk kids, care for the elderly, and programs in workforce development.

As a result of entering their shop, I also learned more about their patron, Octavia Hill, a 19th century social reformer who created the first housing development in central London.

I never would have stumbled across this piece of urban social history if I hadn't started out to reinvent my travel experience! Moreover, I actually came home from one of the most expensive cities in the world with money left over! My new collection of thrifted bags, books, clothes, and dish ware reminds me that we can all make choices, everyday, that change how we go about living in this crazy capitalistic world.

Monday, July 28, 2008

time to get back to it

6:15 came awfully early this morning.

After weeks of lolling about in the streets of London and on the hills of the English countryside, getting back to it seemed a bit unfriendly. But, I have several new projects at the job, two in particular that I worked hard to get (client wise, we have a long process for securing work) and now I am refreshed and ready to dive in. Time itself was barely a concern the last two weeks. These clock faces were more about the aesthetics for me than anything else.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

flora and fauna

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to visit gardens. I garden myself, but nothing like that seen in the grand formal estates dotting the English countryside. On this trip taken with my family to celebrate, among other milestones, my 30th birthday and the conclusion of my doctoral studies, I was privileged to encounter a range of gardens. Some were small cottage spaces, riotous with color. Others were exquisite creations requiring an armada of groundskeepers. Some were kept in hothouses. There were even community gardens in villages and city neighborhoods, much like the ones I've worked in at home.

Private cottage garden in Helmsley, north of London by way of York.

Garden gate in Oxford.

Helmsley community garden, heavy on the beans and leeks, appeared to be 3-4 weeks behind my veggies in Albany

Formal estate grounds at Castle Howard, approximately 30 minutes from the Moors and 30 minutes from the North Sea.

Herb garden at Castle Howard, adjacent to the Rose Garden.

Hydrangea display in the courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Roof terrace next door to our flat in Camden.

St. James's Park near Buckingham Palace.

Courtyard garden at our hotel in Helmsley, the Black Swan.

Waterlily house at Kew Gardens outside of London.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

call me, post this

At every turn, I gravitated to the iconic images of communication in old England. Although the Royal Mail post box and the phone booth sentinels are standards of a past that relied on words and static voice, I couldn't help myself. Email has trumped them both, and yet, there these elements stood, punctuating the urban landscape.

Friday, July 25, 2008

home again, home again

I have soooo many photos to share from the family's trip to London Town! Trying to sort through them today and organize into themes. There are many items, styles, things that captured my attention again and again. Upon returning, I have found my garden to be overflowing with harvest! Green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs...I have my work cut out for me this weekend to put it to good use. In the meantime, here are a few pics of the street signs I loved and me at the Tower of London in the chapel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I'm off to London. Here's some Chesterton to keep you company until I return!

The Old Song

A livid sky on London
And like the iron steeds that rear
A shock of engines halted
And I knew the end was near:
And something said that far away, over the hills and far away
There came a crawling thunder and the end of all things here.
For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down,
As digging lets the daylight on the suken streets of yore,
The lightning looked on London town, the broken bridge of London
The ending of a broken road where men shall go no more.

I saw the kings of London town,
The kings that buy and sell,
That built it up with penny loaves
And penny lies as well:

And where the streets were paved with gold the shrivelled paper
shone for gold,
The scorching light of promises that pave the streets of hell.
For penny loaves will melt away, melt away, melt away,
Mock the men that haggled in the grain they did not grow;
With hungry faces in the gate, a hundred thousand in the gate,
A thunder-flash on London and the finding of the foe.

I heard the hundred pin-makers
Slow down their racking din,
Till in the stillness men could hear
The dropping of the pin:
And somewhere men without the wall, beneath the wood, without
the wall,
Had found the place where London ends and England can begin.
For pins and needles bend and break, bend and break, bend and break,
Faster than the breaking spears or the bending of the bow,
Of pagents pale in thunder-light, 'twixt thunderload and thunderlight,
The Hundreds marching on the hills in the wars of long ago.

I saw great Cobbett riding,
The horseman of the shires;
And his face was red with judgement
And a light of Luddite fires:
And south to Sussex and the sea the lights leapt up for liberty,
The trumpet of the yeomanry, the hammer of the squires;
For bars of iron rust away, rust away, rust away,
Rend before the hammer and the horseman riding in,
Crying that all men at the last, and at the worst and at the last,
Have found the place where England ends and England can begin.

His horse-hoofs go before you
Far beyond your bursting tyres;
And time is bridged behind him
And our sons are with our sires.

A trailing meteor on the Downs he rides above the rotting towns,
The Horseman of Apocalypse, the Rider of the Shires.
For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down;
Blow the horn of Huntington from Scotland to the sea --
...Only flash of thunder-light, a flying dream of thunder-light,
Had shown under the shattered sky a people that were free.

GK Chesterton

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

picture pages 1

no words, only photos, for the rest of the week before i fly away from all this.

photo by: little brother 2

Monday, July 7, 2008

keeping it local

RJR and I have been trying to stay local in these days of high gas prices so this weekend's holiday leisure time was kept close to home. We ventured out to Hudson, NY on Sunday. According to a story in a Boston paper, Hudson has become a go to place for antiquing and wandering: "Along this one-mile stretch of Warren Street there are 65 antique dealers, 28 restaurants and cafes, 27 gallery and exhibition spaces, 15 architectural styles, plus gift shops, clothing boutiques, houseware emporiums, thrift shops, junk shops, convenience stores, bookstores, and one vacuum cleaner retailer."

We thoroughly enjoyed the jaunt (Noun - a pleasure trip or outing). One of my favorite stores was Neven and Neven Moderne, populated by mid-century finds, including these fantastic chairs.

There was an especially nice selection of Herman Miller pieces. You can see more of the history of this company and its '50s design aesthetic here.

Another great aspect of Hudson is the architecture. It ranges from Georgian to Carpenter Gothic to Arts and Crafts. This particular home was also on Warren Street and a bit anachronistic in color, but what a hue!

This place was a jumble of industrial and farm tools.

The Spotty Dog Books & Ale has hit on every intellectuals dream shop by combining beer, books, and art supplies. I purchased a red journal for the London trip and some ink pens to add to my pack of drawing and painting supplies I'm bringing to document our journey.

Hudson is a fine location for a weekend trip, there are a range of Bed and Breakfast options and dining opportunities. Our lunch at Mexican Radio (also a restaurant in NYC) concluded with a scrumptious flan rated Best in America by Latina Magazine.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

being a part of it

I am Roman Catholic. Our religious tradition is grounded on seven sacraments. The first three are organized under the heading, Sacraments of Initiation. Yesterday, RJR and I participated in one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism, with his childhood friend and his wife. Their son Gavin Charles was initiated into the Church with this rite. I have never been to a baptism like this one, it was a special gathering with just the family surrounding the baptismal font. Why water you might ask, well, according to the Catechism (our Church's marching orders as it were): "Since the beginning of the world, water, so humble and wonderful a creature, has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Sacred Scripture sees it as 'overshadowed' by the Spirit of God: At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness."

Too often in our white bread culture we have lost sight of these amazing gathering points in family life. Traditions and celebrations have been left behind in favor of shopping and other consumer pursuits. We barely slow down to think about rites of passage. Heck, much of my generation has sworn off children altogether.

This was an incredible tradition to be a part of, and I was immensely proud of RJR for standing up as Gavin's godfather. He has a lifelong responsibility to this little guy and I look forward to being around to support them both in their faith journey.

Friday, July 4, 2008

new city soon

I will be visiting a new urban space very soon and I can barely contain the excitement.

London in nine days.

There is laundry to be done, packing, cleaning (who wants to come home to a mess?), weeding of the garden (who wants to come home to a jungle?) and much more...the countdown begins!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

esty love : : pistol stitched

I spoke with this vendor on Saturday and fell in love with her bags. The price tag kept me from making a purchase, but "window" shopping is fun too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

movie list

Another list today...recent movies I have seen, either with the Albany Movie Monday crew that RJR and I have gathered to view films at the local indy theater or ones we have seen through Netflix. These are in no particular order of preference.

The Great Gatsby with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. Stunning depiction of the Roaring Twenties and a perfect selection for warm summer afternoons.

The Visitor another beautifully constructed film, this one set primarily in New York City, celebrating culture, friendship, and passion for art forms while exploring the political issues of immigration.

Priceless also known in French as Hors de Prix features a starving Audrey Tautou in a number of gorgeous dresses prancing around Nice with a glut of wealthy men who she preys upon to feed her lifestyle choices--although obviously not her stomach because she is really, really thin here.

King Corn is a nuanced documentary on the prevalence of corn in our diet--and now our bodies. Two Boston boys plant an acre of corn in Iowa and see it through to the massive grain elevators that sell the yield off for everything from high fructose corn syrup to cow feed. I'm never eating grain fed beef again. Wow.

Mongol we saw last night. It is a bloody, fight filled epic that explores the origins of Ghengis Khan. The costumes and terrain were rich with detail, but I could have seen far less battle scenes and still appreciated the guy's tenacity.

What are you watching?