Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tarantula Towers

Tarantula Towers in the name we give to the set of shelves that are the home to our eight lovely spiders--Lily Rose, Blanche Dubois, Rossetti, Pirouette, Pippi Longstocking, Tibia, Polychrome and Frida Kahlo. Spiders make fantastic pets as you only need to feed them about once a week and you only need to clean out their tanks about once a year unless you suspect they are ill or you get fungus on the substrate or something weird. We try to get everyone a clean out in the summer when we have more time. You have to get the tarantula into the travel box--which for scared-y cats like Tibia can take hours--and then give it a good old scrub and dry and then get the tarantula back out of the travel box--again Tibia took hours.

 Here is a view of the newly renovated Tarantula Towers--thanks to Spiderman for doing all the work. All I did was watch.
you can clearly see Lily Rose climbing the wall

We decided on a few changes this year. First we decided that Pippi and Pirouette deserved proper tanks not just sweet jars with holes punched in them. We bought a new tank for Pirouette (one that opened on the front not the top to make getting in easier) and one small one for Frida then shifted some about. Rossetti got a bigger tank and Pippi moved into her old one which was slightly smaller. Polychrome is still so small she is housed in a sprouting jar with a mesh lid. We’ll get her an open in the front tank like Pirouette has when she gets a bit bigger.

Secondly we agreed not to add any fake plastic plants because spiders don’t really care --that fake greenery is really for people as it makes the tank look nicer but all they every do is cover it in webbing and it is a bitch to clean. Rossetti took a real dislike to her fake tree--dug out all the substrate from under her half a log hidey-hole, uprooted the tree and shoved it under there. It was funny to watch, but we didn’t know what she found so objectionable.

Then we decided to turn their tanks width-wise not length-wise to get more spiders on a shelf and be able to share heat mats evenly between tanks. Spiderman arranged everyone’s “furniture” --their hidey and water dish--so we could get a better view when they were hiding. We went round to charity shops and found several cheap ceramic mugs and little shallow dishes so everyone could get new furniture.

Lastly, we decided to go back to water dishes. We have gone back and forth with this idea--we used them for a few years, but were convinced no one was using them. Several dumped all the water out and then sat in the empty dish. What was that about? Who knows what a tarantula’s thinking. We tried bug gel--which is like water flavoured jelly (jello to my American peeps)  for a while as someone said their spider’s loved it and it didn’t evaporate. But again no one seemed to use it. We tried just keeping the substrate moist as we read somewhere that spiders can get all the water they need from the soil.  But the reading of some new books on spider care indicated that they really did need a watering hole so we did (except for Polychrome--she is still too small and could drown in a dish) and all the girls immediately went over and had a drink or at least splashed about. We got a really good shot of Rossetti having a drink with her bum in the air. Spider’s mouthparts are on the underside of their body so they have to balance on the edge of the dish and lower themselves down.

she has a bald spot on her abdomen

 I am glad we did it as Blanche has been seen sucking it down as well. Now that everyone has a clean tank spiders have started to mess them up a bit. Tibia did a big poo right down the front of the glass (that may have been a dirty protest for making her go in and out of the travel box) and Blanche has just strung up some messy clothes lines of web. Pirouette and Polychrome have quite rightly made little hammocks between their sticks as they are arboreal tree climbing sorts. Everyone seems happy in their new homes.

Well that’s it. That’s all the stuff we got done on our summer holiday. We’ll probably never be this productive again.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Notice me

Scrappy bits of paper used to rule my life. There were lists here and there and everywhere and you never knew where the one you wanted was. Need to write down broccoli on the shopping list? Sorry--this scrappy bit of paper is a list of things to buy at the hardware store. So you start a new shopping list only for someone else to unearth the original one after you spent ages trying to remember and recreate the first list. Then the swearing commences. Do you live like this?

Well, live like this no longer. You, my friend, need a handy-dandy adorable notice board.  I am a bargain shopper at heart. We shop at several different shops all about town, 3 supermarkets, 2 health food shops, the Tuesday/Saturday market and the greengrocers. I know who sells what and who has the best prices on things. I watch for sales and then stock up on certain items I know we use. My recent best buy was boxes of Merchant Gourmet vacuum sealed chestnuts for £1 a box--normally around £2.50. Mmmm…chestnuts.

Because we shop at so many places there were always umpteen lists floating around and you could never quite lay your hand on the one you wanted. So I had a bit of a think and came up with a notice board to hang on the kitchen door. Something to organise our lives. Take a squinty at this.
click to see me up close

I used scrap booking paper and my tried and true “ransom note” font of cut out magazine letters to make several spots for designated lists. I even laminated them to keep them protected. There are places for Waitrose and  Sainsburys (our biggest supermarkets where we buy the most stuff) a space for the market/greengrocers and the Health Food Shop. An etc for anywhere else we need to shop (ASDA or Wilkinsons) There’s even a space for the weekly menu. Let’s see what we’re having this week:

There’s also a space for when my library books are due back (they don’t stamp your book anymore--they give you a fiddly bit of paper to keep up with)

I made a handy receptacle  for recycled paper cut into quarters  and sewed a little felt holder for a pen and pencil.

I also put a monthly calendar space called What’s On so we can see at a glance things we have coming up to do and nothing gets forgotten. 

I think we paid less than a tenner for the board and Spiderman figured out a way to hang it on the kitchen door. I made all the rest out of bits and bobs I had lying about in my craft room. It has made a HUGE difference in our lives as far as organisation. If you suffer from scrapophobia (that’s fear of scrappy lists taking over your house not fear of Scrappy Doo--although I can completely understand the latter--that annoying dog with a the huge head gives me the shivers) then what you need is a Notice Board.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Quit bitchin’ in the kitchen

I admit it. I have kitchen envy. Whenever I go to someone’s house the first thing I do is check out their kitchen and sigh. Our kitchen is small and narrow--so small that most of the stuff is stored on shelves in the hallway. There never seems to be enough counter space when you want to serve the food.  I am foodie who loves to cook and I lust after a bigger kitchen. Spiderman made some sarky remark  about it being all about size with women and I fully admit, when it comes to counter space, that’s true.

However, I have to live with what I have and so this summer I tried to pinpoint things that annoyed me and try to fix them. I store all my food in jars in the pantry so when I was reorganising the pantry I decided to put labels on every jar to make it to make it easier to find stuff. I heard Spiderman mutter something about in case I suddenly got amnesia and forgot what rice looks like, but I just ignored him remembering the time he couldn’t tell millet from quinoa. I could have brought it up and shamed him, but I chose not to.   I also  bought a few things--mostly second hand--to make organising easier.

Check out  this little ceramic container with a ventilated lid to store garlic bulbs I found at a charity shop. This replaces my stick- it- in- a- brown- paper- bag- and- then- forget- where- you- put- it previous technique.

This little window box was meant for plants but I have put all my baking things in it to make them easier to get to. Also second hand. It means no more knocking over (and spilling) the baking powder when I am reaching for something in the back.

I found some basic coat racks at Poundland for £1 each and Spiderman painted them with leftover green paint from the Key Box and hung them in the kitchen. I sewed some hanging storage bags to store (from left to right) plastic carrier bags, yellow duster cloths that you use like a washable paper towel, small micro fibre cloths for more heavy duty scrubbing. Since we went paper free in the kitchen all those cleaning cloths were just jammed in a drawer making me cross as a bear every time I went to find one. Now they can just be easily pulled out the bottom, used and tossed into the dirty clothes hamper. Genius. There is also a coat rack for hanging  tea towels that looks so much nicer than the mismatched plastic stick on hooks we had been using.  Lovely-jubley. Thank you Spiderman for painting and hanging them up.


You can also see my black and white apron cleverly made out of tea towels. I got the idea from this blog. http://thepickledweasel.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/christmas-making-tea-towel-apron.html It was easy-peasy to sew and keeps all manner of food and flour off my clothes. Here is me grinning inanely whilst wearing my pajamas about to cook us a lovely meal.
you can see my Oz tattoo if you look at my arm

I also bought these adorable bags for storing onions and potatoes from Poundland for £1 each. They have a draw string top but also a zippered side to make getting things out easier. They are lined with blackout cloth so they really keep things so much fresher and they have a designated place to go, not just forever rolling out of the cabinet onto the floor. I ended up with four bags--red onions, white onions, white potato, sweet potato. But how can you tell which is which? Easy. I tied a scrap of red ribbon on the red onion and sweet potato bag to differentiate. Who’s a clever girl?


I also rehoused all my loose recipes that I print off of the internet into a big D ring binder and made a decorative cover because a pretty cover makes it more fun to use. FACT. You can see I used my favourite “ransom note” technique for the letters. It is a great way to use old magazines and junk mail. You’ll see more of this tomorrow when I show off the kitchen notice board.

 I also laboriously made a recipe index by main ingredients by collating all my loose recipes and cookbooks. It took about a bajillion hours, but it was worth it because it now makes meal planning a snap. Sweet potatoes on sale this week? Check the index for 2 pages of  meals that use sweet potatoes so you can use the 4-6 that come in the bag. Want to cook enough chickpeas for 3 meals to save time? Look under chickpeas in the index and choose 3 meals. If the meal also contains sweet potatoes (such as roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes, red onions and peppers in a teriyaki sauce)  it will be cross referenced. There is even a section for meals that look good but are untried from new cookbooks. As we try them I can either add them to the index or cross them out as not to be repeated. 

I also rehoused my cookbooks into this red box I bought at Wilkinsons for about £8. Now they are all easy to get to. I also like being able to utter the phrase “Over by the hedgehog of course” when people ask me where I keep them. Isn’t that where everyone keeps their cookbooks?
the hedgehog doorstop is on the left

 Lastly, I did a bit of arts and crafts (or farts and craps as Spiderman used to call it when he was a camp councillor) and  embroidered this lovely picture of the vegan society logo to remind me what it’s all about--being kind to yourself, the animals and the planet.


Stay tuned for the amazing notice board.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Boxing without the black eyes

Spiderman and I are HUGE fans of the graphic novel series Locke and Key—written by the amazing Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) and illustrated by the equally amazing Gabriel Rodriguez. This series is full of realism and the fantastical, horror and human triumph as well as human foibles. It has a mesmerising plot line that only trickles clues to you about so many dark and winding threads—that really all pay off in the end.  You end up screaming Nooooooooooooooo at the end of each issue as you are left hanging where something terrible has happened to a character you really love—all the characters are ones you end up with such great feelings for you can’t bear to think that something tragic will happen to them. And it will. No one is safe here. The good guys don’t always make it to the end.  When an explanation is finally offered, you feverishly work back through all past issues looking for all the clues that led to the revelation. We love it so much that when we get the shipping notice Spiderman and I sit like coiled springs waiting to pounce on it as it drops through the letter box. A rumble has ensued on more than one occasion over who gets to read it first. Seriously.

Go here to read about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locke_%26_Key Then go to your local comic shop and see if they have it. If not—buy it from Amazon and be prepared for the ride of your life.

 OK, what does this have to do with our summer vacation? Well…Locke and Key is all about a house called Keyhouse where there are strange keys that can unlock all sorts of magic, they are made from the whispering iron—a metal which is not metal—and they can only be used by children –a rule set about by Hans Riffel during WWII to stop them being used for the purposes of war. We meet Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke who have come to live at Keyhouse after the brutal murder of their father by someone looking for the keys. Now they must use the keys to stop evil being unleashed on the world.

OK, but you still haven’t told us what this has to do with anything. I’m getting to that. We collect replicas of some of the keys. We currently have four keys and were looking for a way to display them. Enter the keybox. Spiderman found this cool key box that was barely whitewashed like an old farmhouse. It has a front door like a knob and it just looks like it is saying: welcome to Keyhouse. But we decided to paint the interior forest green to help the keys show up better. Here is the finished project:

click to see it up close

We currently own the animal key (top) which when used in the animal door turns you into a beast of tooth or claw or feather. Then we have the head key (bottom left) which can open the top of your head and you can put thoughts in (why study for a test—just put the book in your head) or more worryingly, take thoughts out (key witnesses to crimes suddenly can’t recall the event)  Next we have the moon key (bottom middle) which opens a door from this reality to the next—it once helped poor Ian Locke who was dying of a brain tumour to fly in a hot air balloon up to the moon, open the moon and join his family who had died before him) Lastly, we have the angel key (bottom right) which after putting on a harness with wings, if you insert the key in the back you can fly.

We also purchased some original cover art from the series illustrated by the splendid Gabriel Rodriguez. It came all the way from Chile and got a teency bit water damaged—no ink smeared, thank goodness, but it is a little wrinkly on one side. We don’t care—we are thrilled to have it. It is a drawing of the mother of Kinsey, Tyler and Bode falling apart and drinking heavily after the murder of her husband.

click to see it up close

 Lastly, Spiderman bought a tiny silver shadowbox to frame replica Joe Friday badge set. I am also a lifelong fan of Dragnet (known in my house as Dum de dum dum—from the opening music) He also bought a replica of the whale of a car he and his partner Officer Gannon ride a round in.
click to see it up close

I also have two biographies of Jack Webb, a TV Guide with him on the cover, Sgt Joe Friday’s safety colouring book and a set of finger puppets with Friday, Gannon and Blue Boy and his magic sugar cubes so you can re-enact the first episode of the colour series where they try to get LSD classified as an illegal drug.

So that’s some stuff we hung on the walls. In boxes. Without getting into a punch up--except for maybe waiting for the latest issue of Locke and Key. Stay tuned for the kitchen makeover.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Anyone who knows me knows I am a massive OZ fan. I have dozens of illustrated versions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is the first in a series and is the most well known. I have all fourteen of the original OZ books by L Frank Baum, including several that belonged to my mother when she was a girl. I even have OZ Barbie dolls. I love the magic and wonder of the OZ.

I have been having the discussion about how we, as human beings,  make up our own rules and follow them to suit ourselves. We often have a set of conflicting criteria that makes sense to us when deciding what we like and what we do not. I adore all the Baum books. I cannot get into other authors who have continued the series. Ruth Plumly Thompson who wrote more books that Baum did--does nothing for me. I know others *love* her, but she leaves me cold. Her puns are stupid. Baum’s puns are hilarious. Spiderman would say that puns are never funny, no matter who says them. I have some weird prejudice about her writing. It just doesn’t float my boat. 

The same for Wicked. If I had £1 for every person who asked me if I had seen the musical Wicked or read the novel, I would have about 11quid. Which is not nearly as impressive as I thought it would be when I started the analogy. Wicked doesn’t do it for me. The underground comic The Royal Historian of Oz written by Tommy Kovac and illustrated by Andy Hirsh is a gem. An emerald, I think it would be appropriate to say. It completely captures the feeling of Baum’s OZ and his characters who are so quirky and charming that you love them on sight. We have two original drawings from this outstanding comic. If you want to buy the comic (and you totally should--it is a great read) then go here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Royal-Historian-Tommy-Kovac/dp/1593622163   
  The more you know Baum’s works the cleverer it is--but it can be read and enjoyed without any knowledge of OZ history.

Why is it thumbs up to the Royal Historian and thumbs down to Wicked? Who knows. But it is.

Why all this waffle about OZ? You ask? Well because we bought two original pieces of artwork from Skottie Young who illustrates the Marvel comic version of OZ. Yes Virginia, there is a Marvel comics version. Not only of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but they are planning to do all 14 in the original Baum set! That is just a dream come true for a OZophile like me. They are currently working on book 5--The Road to Oz. In fact, I just got an email that said my copy of Dorothy and the Wizard has been shipped. Hoorah!

Please excuse the wonky photos. Spiderman did an excellent job of framing and hanging our artwork if they appear all skew-whiff (that’s British for catty-wompus)  that is because I am crap at taking photos, not because he hung them crookedly. 

The first picture is a drawing is from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and shows all the characters you’d expect walking down the yellow brick road…Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion. The bottom panels depict the scene where the tin man accidently steps on a beetle and kills it and is so overcome with grief he cries. His tears rust his jaw completely shut—such is the depth of his anguish.

click to see it bigger

The second is a drawing from Dorothy and the Wizard. It is a picture of Eureka the kitten sitting on the head of Jim the cab horse. Spiderman once scanned the colour page of the comic and labeled Eureka—the cheeky, naughty, always up to something cat—with my name and his name was by Jim the put upon, expected to carry all the heavy stuff horse. So this was an extra treat that he bought us the original.
click to see it bigger

Lastly, I am decorated with OZ myself. My newest tattoo is the symbol for OZ—the Z within the O. 

I wanted to get something to remind me to keep that magic in my life—to hold on to the innocence and joy found in those books. To be reminded to be brave and level headed like Dorothy. But also to celebrate being a British citizen. As Dorothy says, There’s no place like home.

Stay tuned for the next installment of  What I did on my summer vacation.

What I did on my summer vacation

Remember that old tired chestnut? How many years did I have to write the same  boring essay about doing nothing on my holiday? You start to inflate experiences that were just routine into something grand.

Actual examples of things I wrote about as a child:

I walked down to Lekkies (a small convenience store near my house) with a friend and bought a box of Chef-Boy-R-Dee pizza and made it.
Translation: I was so bored I made a pizza from a box. The pizza was tasteless, the box would have had more flavour. The thrill was playing dodge ‘em with the cars on Twin Bridges Road, but don’t tell my folks that or I’d never get to walk there again.

It is worth mentioning that Lekkies was shut down when I was a teen because they would sell alcohol to minors. Any minor. You didn’t even need a fake ID and you could look like you were 12. FACT. Mum--you don’t want to know how I know that.

We drove 4 hours in the car to stay with my grandparents in Texas. They are called Sweetie and Pawpaw. There was a thunderstorm and my Sweetie had to hide in the bathroom closet. She says shit a lot but slaps you in the mouth hard if you take the Lord’s name in vain by saying Oh God.
Translation: It was a long car trip and I was car sick. It was too hot to go outside and play but my grandmother made me. They have nothing to read except Reader’s Digest and TV Guide. Oh God I was so glad to get home.

I am pretty sure I had enough sense not to mention that she said shit a lot. But she did.

I went to work with my Daddy. I was allowed to run around the whole of the university while he was teaching, but once an hour I had to come back and check in. He did this so I would practice telling the time, but I just asked some nice college kid with a watch what the time was. There were other professor’s kids there as well. After I found a comb sitting on a chair in the library I made up a great game where we were the Scooby Doo gang (I was Daphne) and the comb was a clue and we had to search all over the campus for other clues to solve the mystery.
Translation: I was beaten up again for coming up with an imagination game that no one else wanted to play.

Where is this leading you may wonder? Is this just some demented walk down memory lane? We were very productive over the summer--I did a lot of sewing and making and Spiderman did a lot of hammering and nailing things up. I thought it would be nice to show you some pictures of all the stuff we did.

So stay tuned over the next week for some pictures of What I did on my summer vacation.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Oh, that's very different. Nevermind.

Do you remember the character of Emily Litella played by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live? Well I had a moment like that yesterday.

Some background information:
Swimming is on the national curriculum for PE in the UK. You have to take your class to the swimming pool once a week for lessons in year 3 for two terms and in, I think, year 5 for one term. We are lucky as our school is just over the road from the pool, but other schools have to get a coach to take them.

Anyway, I was reading the minutes from the staff meeting yesterday and I saw the words SHARK SWIM in the diary.

What??? I completely had a freak out. What kind of people take children to a shark swim??? I'm sure it is educational and what not--but SHARKS and CHILDREN are a bad match. And then I realized I work in year 3 this year. Usually, the teaching assistant for that year group is required to go on trips with their class. Was I going to go on a SHARK SWIM? Not no but hell no. There is no way I was going to do that. Someone else was going to have to go in my place. I went to find my line manager to excuse myself from this nightmare and it turns out what the diary *actually* said was START SWIM. As in, we start swimming lessons for year 3 on that date, not that we are going to go swimming with sharks on that date.

Oh, that's very different. Nevermind.

And to make it worse, I was laughing so hard that I ended up falling over one of those yellow caution the floor is wet signs that someone had carelessly left on the floor after mopping.

So that was my first day back at school then.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Spoiled Rotten Part the forth

The last day of our magical holiday was just as wonderful as the rest. For a long time we had wanted to go out to the Watts Gallery in Guilford but it was just an ooch too far from where we live. However, being in London we were half way there so we tubed to Waterloo station and caught a 45 minute train to Guilford, then after a 10 minute taxi ride, we were plonked in front of a cool art gallery.

According the museum guide this is the only museum in England dedicated to one artist—G.F. Watts. From their website http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk

George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817-1904)

In his own lifetime George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian age, enjoying an unparalleled reputation. His ceaseless experimentation embodied the most pressing themes and ideas of the time. A complex figure, Watts was the finest and most penetrating portraitist of his age, a sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist which earned him the title ‘England’s Michelangelo.

His fame and renown was not limited to Britain and in 1884 he was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, a show so enormously successful that it led to a longer run and a gift of his great work, Love and Life to the American people. His works also found great favour in Europe winning gold medals at the Paris Universal Exhibitions in 1878 and 1889. His influence among symbolists was profound and can be seen in the works of Gustave Moreau and Fernand Knopff

The work of G F Watts is of seminal importance in understanding the Victorian period because he was one of its most notable artistic innovators. Watts’s own refusal to become part of any painting movement coupled with the reaction of early twentieth century critics to all things Victorian left his reputation a little tarnished. Ironically, that outspoken critic of Victorian painting, Roger Fry, considered Watts an exception. Fry recognized his great importance within the British School, as shown by his visits with his students to the Watts Picture Gallery. Until the late 1930s, the Tate Gallery had a Watts room which exclusively showed the work of the artist. The legacy of his Hall of Fame portraits form a major part of the National Portrait Gallery’s nineteenth century holdings and the Tate Gallery’s huge collection are a tribute to his importance.

Hope 2 - George Frederick Watts - www.georgefredericwatts.org
Hope--his most famous painting


He painted many “social justice” paintings and many of his worries about the homeless and the poor are as relevant today as they were then. His paintings could be photographs from today.
Found Drowned, 1848-50 - George Frederick Watts - www.georgefredericwatts.org
Found Drowned--she has a locket in her hand from her lover who abandoned her
Under a Dry Arch, 1849-50 - George Frederick Watts - www.georgefredericwatts.org
Under a Dry Arch--where the homeless *still* sleep

Ophelia - George Frederick Watts - www.georgefredericwatts.org
Ophelia--about to drown herself

He was a progressive guy and one of the founding members of the Society For the Protection of Birds (later to become the RSPB) and he once removed a feather from the hat of Lillie Langtry when she sat for a portrait because “no exotic bird should have to die so that women might decorate their hats with the plumage.”
A Dedication - George Frederick Watts - www.georgefredericwatts.org
A Dedication--an angel weeps over the feathers of dead birds used in the millinery trade

Famed for his sculpture as well as painting--here is one of my favoutite busts of Clytie--who was turned into a sunflower after pining away for the Sun God. This way she could always follow him as he made his journey accross the sky.

my favourite Greek myth

Lastly, my favourite painting—one that I recall seeing in 1990 when we exchange students—is called Choosing. According to http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk
This delicate yet sensuous portrait shows the seventeen-year-old Ellen Terry choosing between the camellias, which despite their luscious appearance have little scent, and the violets in her hand which are far humbler in appearance but smell sweeter. The choice, which is symbolic of that between worldly vanities and higher virtues, had a personal significance for the artist and the sitter. 1864 was the year in which Terry gave up the stage to marry Watts, thirty years her senior, and to be educated by him. The marriage lasted barely a year, and despite Watts's disapproval, Terry eventually returned to the stage
File:Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry ('Choosing') by George Frederic Watts.jpg

There was also a mini Charles Dickens’s exhibit entitled Dickens and the Artists which was very interesting.

Plus we saw there will be an Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale exhibit February of 2013 so we know we’ll be there!

The we did it all in reverse—taxi, train, tube, until we got to out tiny hotel with kitchenette and ate a scrummy, but cheap dinner whilst we watched a CSI/NCIS marathon because that’s what you do on a holiday.

 It was a wonderful four days and we felt completely refreshed and ready for school—which we should be as it starts next week!