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White…February?

We haven’t had any snow all Winter, despite the massive warnings in mid-October that it was going to be a “hard winter” with “snow as early as November”. Granted, it has snowed in other areas of the UK, particularly Scotland, but this weekend was the first time it snowed over pretty much the entire country. When I woke up on Saturday to see the light dusting of snow, I laughed as I thought that was all we were going to get. The hard frost on Saturday morning was thicker than the snow. However, we received more Saturday night into Sunday. As far as I can tell, it started around 8PM or so, it was still snowing when we went to bed, but it had stopped when I woke up around 4AM and looked outside. There wasn’t much by my standards – only about 5cm total in our garden – but it was enough to grind the county to a halt.

As a Northeastern US girl, I’m used to snow. It’s not Winter unless we’ve been dumped on with a foot or more of snow, so it always amuses me how badly most of the UK handles the slightest amount of snow. Busses get cancelled (good thing it was Sunday), local shops are shut, and people can’t seem to understand the idea of shovelling their driveway and clearing the snow off the roof before trying to move their cars. My first Winter here as a visitor, it snowed. It was November 2008 and it was something like the first time parts of the UK had seen snow in over 20 years. I decided to walk down to the Co-op in the next village over, and I was amazed at the state of some of the vehicles on the road. People had barely cleared off their windscreens of snow, let alone the rest of the car. Since then, it has snowed pretty regularly each Winter, with at least one snow “storm”. You would think people would have learned and remembered how to handle it from one year to the next.

If Tim has off work, snow for us is just a reason to get out the snow plow for the garden railway. Fortunately, this was Tim’s scheduled Sunday off. We invited our friends Helen and Mark over to help — well, Mark was outside with Tim, and Helen and I stayed warm inside and chatted over a cup of tea. Our snow plow seems to be allergic to the camera though, because every time I aimed a camera at it, it decided to derail, but I still managed to pull off one nice image:


It took Tim 4 tanks of gas to get the lower circuit done (one tank is good for a 20-30 minute run). Our upper circuit goes into a cutting about 4 inches deep, and the cutting was completely full of snow so we decided to only open the lower circuit. We might have gotten the plow around, but it would have made the cutting unstable and probably would have caused an “avalanche” (at 16mm to the foot that’s what it would have looked like). Plus, the upper circuit has two level crossings across our front walkway, and most of that snow had been compacted down by our boots so it would have been a struggle to move!



Mark used an end of train marker from Austria as a temporary stop sign to indicate that the line off to the left (what line?) was currently closed.


The platform at Horncastle. We actually have 5 tracks here, but only cleared the one for use.


Running the first train completely around the service.

While stating “England doesn’t get snow” might have been an accurate statement 5, 10 years ago, I think these photos prove that is no longer true*!

[This post has been cross-posted to my LJ as my entry for this week’s The Real LJ Idol topic: Current Events.]

*Not something I say, but something a friend said she was told by a friend.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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European Road Trip Day 3 – Kristallwelten and Innsbruck

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Tim and I decided to split our trip evenly – for every railway we visited, I got a day to pick something I wanted to see. Sometimes, things overlapped and we did both a railway and something I wanted to do because we needed the railway for transportation, but for the most part, we stuck to our plan.

Today’s trip was actually Tim’s idea for me, so kudos to him for knowing me so well! Swarovski, as many of you know, is a synthetic crystal made in Austria. They use it in all sorts of things from crystal figurines to dinnerware to jewellery…and I use Swarovski a lot in my jewellery creations. Tim spotted a brochure for Kristallwelten, and we headed out.

Kristallwelten was nothing like I had expected, but I still loved it. Kristallwelten is located directly next to Swarovski’s factory, but it is not a factory tour. Kristallwelten is more of an art museum with a twist – everything in the museum is made from Swarovski crystal or features the crystals in some way.

When you walk in, one of the first things you will get to see is the Kristalldom. You walk inside, and it’s like being in the interior of a giant Swarovski crystal. The panels reflect the room back at you, and it can get very confusing! One time I thought I was heading towards Tim, but it turned out I was walking towards one of his reflections!

Kristallwelten is based around a “giant” and his possessions – The outside of Kristallwelten is a giant head with a waterfall, complete with Swarovski crystals for eyes, and you enter the attraction through his ear. Inside, you can view his possessions, including a giant accordion, walking stick, and gloves. Outside the attraction, the grounds are an impressive garden culminating in a hedge maze in the shape of a hand. And even though it was a fairly “small” maze as far as hedge mazes go, it still freaked me out when I was in it and didn’t know where I was!

Kristallwelten is located in Wattens and is the second highest visited Austrian attraction, second to Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna (we didn’t go there on this visit, as I was there in 1997). Kristallwelten caries a hefty admission fee. Adult admission is 9,50 Euros, but children up until the age of 12 are free, so that’s a break for parents. I’m not sure Kristallwelten is very child-appropriate, though. Some of the sections are quite dark and scary, and we witnessed children running around, not paying attention to where they were going or what they were looking at, and then getting separated from their parents.

Attached to Kristallwelten is of course, a Swarovski shop. I was really looking forward to our shop visit, because I thought I might be able to get some beads to make a bracelet as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the prices directly at Swarovski were just as expensive as ordering online from Swarovski, and my online supply company came in as less expensive even with factoring in shipping to the UK!

Kristallwelten took up our morning. We packed sandwiches and sat in the gardens to eat and took a stroll through the gardens, where we explored the hedge maze and climbed up to a lookout point where you could see the entire maze.

We headed back to the car and decided to go to Innsbruck, where we learned an important lesson: Don’t drive into a city without a map! We had our big Austrian road map, but nothing for the cities and we got lost several times trying to follow the directional signs. But we did get a spectacular view of the Bergiselschanze (ski jump) used at the Innsbruck Olympics! We planned to go to Schloss Ambras, but by the time we found it I wasn’t feeling too well and didn’t want to climb up all the steps, so we just took pictures of the castle and the gardens. Tim asked if we could instead take a ride on the trams up into the hills.

I thought this would be great fun and a great way to see some more scenery, but I was to be disappointed on the trip up. The tram was crowded and we wound up standing for most of the journey, which did not help my feeling ill. We also had to spend part of the time standing directly on the bendy part of the bendy-tram (like a bendy bus, only it was a tram), which really started to give me motion sickness.

But, the trip to the top was worth it, and we found a small cafe to get a drink and a bite to eat at. As we were the only patrons other than family at the cafe, we were treated very well and even were offered biscuits (cookies) out of their personal stash.

Fortunately, we were able to get good seats for the trip back down and were able to look out the window. Below you’ll find an edited video of our hour-long trip back!

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

Next Up: Zillertalbahn!

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Camping in Our Garden

A few weeks ago, Tim and I went camping in our garden. One of his co-workers alerted him to a great deal at Halford’sa 4-man tent, 4 sleeping bags, 2 air mattresses, & 2 lanterns for £90 online marked down from over £200. We also tacked on to the purchase a cooking kit which has a burner, 4 pots/pans, 4 plastic containers, utensils, and a carrying case for £25, and then we picked up a kettle at Tesco for £6. We thought we ought to try to put together the tent – a) to make sure we knew how it went together before we book a pitch somewhere, b) to make sure there aren’t any defects with the tent or gear, and c) because it’s been on the warm side and last week I told Tim I wanted to sleep outside.

It was….

-Chilly. We unzipped two of the sleeping bags and used one as a pad for the air mattress and the other as a cover. But unzipped it isn’t quite big enough to cover both of us if we aren’t cuddled up, so I wound up covering myself with the spare blanket I grabbed last night (my Penn State stadium blanket) But it was also…

-Hot. Tim and I always are warm at night because both of us are human furnaces. It was difficult trying to sleep in it because if our bodies were touching, I felt sticky from the combined body sweat. But then when we weren’t touching/cuddled up, it was chilly!

-Small. The mattress, despite claims of being a double, is smaller than our bed upstairs. I wound up moving practically off the mattress close to the “bedroom” wall in order to try to put some space between us, and Tim rolled (in his sleep) towards the other wall. Another word to use might be…

-Cozy. Even though we have a huge 4-man tent, the side “bedrooms” are only large enough to hold the air mattress. It was nice when Tim and I were cuddling before bed, but once I zipped shut the door to the “bedroom”, it felt really small.

-Hard. The air mattress lost air overnight, but I think that’s fairly typical when using an air mattress. I’m wondering if we should get a bedroll/mat type thing for underneath it, since my back started to get cold from feeling it seep through the mattress. I think Tim has one already, but it might just be for a single mattress. Alternatively, since we have 4 sleeping bags, we could always line the floor with a sleeping bag, then put the mattress on top or even just get a tarp to add a layer between the mattress and groundsheet. I’ll talk it over with Tim and see what he thinks. (also, how did I manage to sleep on an air mattress at Mom’s for years*?)

-Noisy. Lots of wind that kept waking me up. I know at least twice I woke Tim up, too. Actually, I’m awake now at 5:30AM because I needed the loo around 4 and figured I might as well stay in here until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

Fortunately, the tent is a “two bedroom” tent. Our plans are/were to use the second “bedroom” to store gear, but I might suggest we take along the second mattress and set it up for moments like this. If I’m going to be awake well before Tim, I’ll need somewhere to go/something to do. I could keep a book in there and just move my pillows and a blanket if I couldn’t sleep, that way I wouldn’t disturb Tim trying to read until I felt tired again.

We still need to get a folding table (for dining/food prep), and some kind of cooler and then we might have everything we need to go camping. Our first big trip is scheduled for this September, when we’ll be camping in Germany & Austria! I’m really excited. Originally, we were going to take the train the whole way and stay in B&Bs and things, but even with adding in the cost of petrol, camping will save us money. The average campsite cost is €6/night, and with making our own food, we’ll even have money leftover for a few nights out at nice restaurants or for some souvenirs!

I practised cooking with the gas stove, and while I completely trashed the pan (fortunately, I was able to clean it!), I still managed to cook breakfast 2 mornings – the first morning I did scrambled eggs and sausage, and the second bacon & fried eggs. Tim even bought a device for making toast on the stove that works pretty well!

The tent we purchased IS kind of big for just two people, but the hope is that this will be a long-term investment even after we have kids. If we can keep the tent in good condition, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be able to use it in the years to come.

….now to find a place to store it! I’m hoping it will fit in the loft after we get the flooring laid in there, but for now I guess we’ll have to store it in one of the bedrooms, since the workshop and shed are a bit full of workshop/shed stuff!

There also is a video, but youtube is taking too long to upload it, so I will have to post it later, as I’ve had this window open for THREE weeks…..

*Long story short – when I moved to Michigan in 2006, I told Mom to sell my bedroom suite because it was a four-poster twin sized bed and I knew I wouldn’t want it in the future. I had an air mattress (with bedframe) to use in my house in MI. After I broke my foot and had to move back to PA, my old bed was gone, so I set up the air mattress. The plan was to eventually buy a new bed, but I just never had the money for it, so I lived on the air mattress until the bedframe finally broke and then I yanked the mattress off the sofabed and used that on the floor.

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Feeding Lambs

Since I promised I would blog about this…

My friend Lynne had some lamb visitors at her house a few weeks ago. Her daughter’s husband raises lambs, and these were lambs that were rejected by the mother. Since they were all visiting Lynne this weekend, the lambs had to come along, too. Mom and I got to feed them their dinner!

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Walking on a Country Road…

Tim and I have been trying to get out and do more walking lately, and one of the best ways to do so is to walk on one of the many Public Footpaths in our area. Public footpaths are pretty interesting. If you’ve got one on your property, you aren’t allowed to block access to it and need to let people walk on it, so some of the footpaths run down the middle of a farmer’s field or behind someone’s house! Apparently there have even been cases where a house had been built over a public right of way, and the owner had to let people traipse through their house! (not really. If you needed to, you could provide an alternate path and ask that the current path be diverted).

All the paths are marked on the Ordinance Survey map, and Tim happens to have one for the area. Tim’s parents walk the family dog along a public foot path and we did some walking with them (or just with the dog) last year, so this time we set out for a different path. Last week, we drove over to explore a new path in a nearby town, but yesterday we stayed close to home and probably walked about a mile round trip.

The walking was great fun….until we came to a muddy field that almost took my new shoe! In the future when we walk that path, we’re going to make sure it has been dry for a few days, I think. It also started to rain on us, which wasn’t too pleasant either!

We made it about halfway to Scothern (a neighbouring village) yesterday before we had to turn around and head back home due to the weather. Our goal is to walk the same path multiple times and to see how far we can get in a half hour as we improve our stamina.

I got new shoes just for doing all this walking, too. I think I spent at least an hour in Millets trying on multiple pairs of hiking shoes until I settled on the pair I got. They were a little pricey at £69, but not as high as some of the pairs they had (there was a pair I wouldn’t even look at because it was priced at over £120!). And I actually do notice the difference walking in them. My feet don’t hurt as much (or at all) when I’m wearing the boots. They’re a bit cumbersome though. I’m not used to clunky shoes so I keep tripping myself. But it’s still way better than trying to walk the muddy paths in some of the shoes I usually wear! I should take a picture of my shoes sometime ;).

Here are some photos of our ramble yesterday. It looks like (judging from the quality of the photos) my camera might be on it’s last legs (or it was the dying battery), so please excuse the poor quality:


(this also was my first try at using the WordPress gallery function. Pretty neat!)

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Fast Update

I’ve been awake since 3:30 this morning with a sore throat and I’m about ready to go back to sleep for a bit, but before I go, here’s a few photos and video from the most recent road trip. I’ll have a longer write-up and the rest of the photos later on in the day or week, depending on how I feel!

“best of” photos on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=65789&l=e3597&id=522022159

Videos on YouTube:


Waves crashing


North Yorkshire Moors Railway


North Yorkshire Moors Railway


Rescue Helicopter drill

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Stamford Photo Album

Oops! I forgot to post the Stamford album from last Friday!

Link: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/stamford/

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Photos Post

Last photos from Manitoba, traveling, and the index of all the albums from my trip:



the 12-seater prop plane I was on!


The snack shop once you go through customs in Winnipeg had a huge mural of US sites….including flying killer whales.


Snoopy is all over the Minneapolis airport. I forgot to take photos of this, but the airport also had a vending machine for Elizabeth Arden perfume and for Sony products (like a PSP and games!).

and one more photo:

Will!


Photo Index:
Misc
Walking around Winnipeg
VIA Rail Winnipeg to Dauphin
Quincy, Hobbes, and Casper
Dauphin
Storm
Lake Dauphin
Camping at Blue Lakes
Vermillon Park and Manitoba Brain Injury Assn. Walk
Flying Home

13 Days until I leave for the UK! The blog might be a little on the light side as I work on unpacking and repacking, but expect regular updates once I’m in the UK! 😀

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Manitoba Brain Injury Association

On Sunday, C IMed me in the morning and asked me if I had plans for the day. I didn’t have anything planned other than going grocery shopping, so I told her no. She asked me if I wanted to participate in the Umbrella Walk for the Manitoba Brain Injury Association, and I readily agreed.

The walk took place over at Vermillion Park in Dauphin, and the course was about two and a half miles by my pedometer. We were a small group, but all there for one purpose. Most of us had to put down our umbrellas because it was windy out, but we all walked the full course, and then enjoyed some food together and a door prize giveaway, where everyone was a winner!

We were provided with tote bags and water bottles by the Manitoba Nurses’s Association and given mustard yellow coloured wrist bands from the MBIA. My door prize was a T-shirt for the association – it’s going to be funny to wear it around Lancaster!

Taken straight off their website:

Every year, over 6,000 Canadians become permanently disabled by an acquired brain injury. The effects of a brain injury differ from person to person, but have an impact on everyone in that person’s life.

A brain injury can be a devastating diagnosis and because it is not a visible disability, those affected are often misunderstood and lack support.

The Manitoba Brain Injury Association helps individuals and families cope by offering support, education and advocacy. We also work to prevent brain injuries through public awareness initiatives and educational programming.

I realize we don’t all live in Manitoba, and why would you want to support a charity that’s not where you live? So I encourage everyone to do some reasearch, maybe even just using google, and find a similar organization local to you. Here is a list of brain injury associations across the United States, and here is a link to the Brain Injury Association of Canada. Perhaps you’ll find a way you can help someone.

Here’s some photos around Vermillion Park:



Changing leaves

And when I got home and emptied out my bag, Hobbes decided to get comfortable on my new shirt:

To see more photos from the park, check the gallery:
http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/index.php?album=winnipeg-manitoba-august-2008%2Fvermillion-park

I’ve also completely updated the cat photo album with all the photos I’ve taken while I’ve been here:
http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/winnipeg-manitoba-august-2008/quincy-hobbes-and-casper

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