Summer Vacation Day 3: Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford

For day three of our amazing summer adventure, Pam and Darlene and I headed off once again in a lovely climate-controlled coach for a day-long trip to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon (home to William Shakespeare), and finally Oxford University. It was the only day during our entire trip that it rained and was cold, so that was a bummer, but it was still a lot of fun!



Our first stop was Warwick Castle which dates back almost 11 centuries! Inside they have tons of art and antiques including paintings, armour, statues, and busts, and several rooms are roped off and displayed with wax figures from Madame Tussaud's portraying various people who lived or stayed at the castle throughout the years. They also have a variety of shows and activities at the Castle (those actually made it feel a bit theme-parky to me; not that that's a bad thing!), but we pretty much only had time for a tour of the main castle (sadly no time to tour the dungeon!) before moving on to Stratford-upon-Avon.



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In Stratford-upon-Avon, we had the opportunity to tour Shakespeare's birthplace and grab some lunch. I was hoping to visit Gower Memorial in Bancroft Gardens that has all the statue of Shakespeare and some of his characters, but I wasn't sure exactly where that was, and the cold and rain made the idea of just walking around a bit unpleasant. Still it was fun to see Shakespeare's birthplace! The house was staged with furnishings and clothing items as it would have been when he lived there, and they had costumed actors and guides who share historical information and insight into his life. (I thought this was a lot more fun than the wax figures - as fascinating as they were - at Warwick Castle!) By far the most popular room was the Glover's Workshop where John Shakespeare, the playwright's' father, made gloves. It was packed, and I wasn't able to get any good shots of the demonstrator, but it was still fascinating, and I recommend checking it out if you get the chance!







After lunch we hopped back on the coach and headed for Oxford to tour the University, and do a little shopping in town. The University campus is gorgeous with cobbled walkways and amazingly ornate buildings! After the tour, we had a few moments to do a little shopping in town which was a  Harry Potter fan's dream come true! Nearly every shop had something to do with Harry Potter - T-shirts, scarves, novelty glasses, beer steins, and replica wands just to name a few. My friend Pam and I discovered the Fudge Kitchen, and bought ourselves some delicious treats! And, of course I had to stop by a small churchyard that was right in the middle of town. They graves were very old, and most of them covered with ivy or moss. It was really beautiful and so peaceful!






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Coming up: spending a little more time in London! Cheers!

Toys for Tots 2015

So, last Friday was our annual Toys for Tots party at work. We have a fun time with this yearly charity toy drive by doing a Secret Santa gift exchange, with a twist. We still draw names and keep quiet about who we're buying for, but the twist is each participant is randomly assigned a different age (usually between 3 and 15 or 16 years old). Then, instead of buying a gift for that person that they would use and enjoy now, we buy a toy or gift that we think that person may have played with or used at the age they've been assigned, then the toy is donated to Toys for Tots! For example, the woman whose name I drew was given the age 13. Now, I have worked with this woman for many years, and know that she loves to have her nails done. Every couple weeks or so she'll have different coloured glitter tips or a design on her fingernails. So, a gift box with different coloured nail polishes, glitters, and stencils was the PERFECT gift for her, and I'm sure some lucky little teenage girl will enjoy it as well!



In the end, we had about 40 presents to donate to Toys for Tots. Not a bad haul, though we have done better in the past. Hopefully these gifts will make a child's Christmas just a little merrier this year! Do any of you do charity giving at Christmas? If so, is it at the office, or on your own? Do you have fun with it, or just buy a toy to donate? Let me know in the comments! Cheers!


Toys for Tots 2014

We had our Toys for Tots/office Christmas party last Friday, and it was quite successful! We received around 40 wonderful toys including dolls, board games, craft kits, and stuffed animals.










We put up a few festive Christmas decorations as well. That second little pair of snowmen apparently sing a song and "dance" a bit. They're super cute!



We had some wonderful food and beverages as well including breakfast burritos, fruit and veggie trays, cookies, candies, deviled eggs, and salsa and hummus. Not pictured: the crock pot full of amazing vegetable soup!




 Did your office have a Christmas/Holiday party? Was it awesome? Let me know in the comments! Cheers!

Toys for Tots Update

From one tiny counter full of toys to an overflowing Toys for Tots BOX:


I can't even tell you how excited I am about this! I didn't think our box would be even a quarter full with the toys we bought, but over the past couple days, folks from other departments have been showing up with armloads of additional toys, and now our box is overflowing! We have two additional bags of toys that didn't fit in the box! This is so awesome! I know it's tough (especially around here were we've been furloughed for a year now), but to see people come through at this special time of year really warms the cockles of my otherwise cold and saddened heart. I'm thrilled that so many kids in our community will be able to have a present to open on Christmas morning! And, if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: I truly work with some of the most wonderful, amazing, and generous people in the world!

Friday Five #3

  1. This is my furlough week, so I'm enjoying today off without pay. Yay! Except boo! because I like getting paid!
  2. I finally switched out my awesome Twelve South BookBook iPhone case/wallet for my TARDIS hard case and iPhone wallet. As much as I love my TARDIS case (Though no one except my mom "gets" it! Honestly, where my geeks at??), I find I'm really missing my BookBook case. I think my biggest problem is having to remove my phone from the new wallet in order to use it, whereas with the BookBook, all I had to do was open the Book. Also, I didn't worry so much about dropping my phone as I do now. Pity the phone deosn't fit in the BookBook with the phone case on it! That would be perfect!
  3. Wednesday I bought myself a new pair of gloves, ones that have special threads on the thumbs and first two fingers so you can use your iphone/tablet/nook without taking off the gloves and freezing your fingers off. I had been using a pair of convertable mittens, but they were a pain. The mitten part folded over and buttoned to the back of the glove revealing "fingerless gloves" underneath. The problem was the button never held the glove part, so it was always flapping about. And also my fingers got cold. So, I found this awesome pair of texting  gloves at Urban Outfitters for fourteen bucks and I LOVE them! I can use my phone at the bus stop early in the morning (and late at night), and not freeze my fingers off! Score!
  4. Coming up with five things every week for this list is HARD! Especially since I'm posting nearly every day (I missed a day this week, I think Monday) and therefore already telling you everything I would probably usually use Friday Five for.
  5. And, since photos are easy, here are a few shots of the Toys for Tots haul this year (with a closeup on a few of my personal contributions). It's nothing like years past, but it's better than having an empty box!

Toys for Tots 2011 #31photosin31days #holidailies

Well, our annual Toys for Tots campaign didn't do so well this year. I'm not sure if it's the economy or the fact that our usual Toys for Tots party organizer is out, but we ended up with only a handful of toys for the tots.

In past years we've made the charitable toy gathering a big party where we'd draw names of our coworkers who were each assigned a random child's age (for example: Lisa-Marie, age 12), and would buy a toy based on that. We'd wrap them up and having them sitting on the back counter for everyone to see (and wonder what it is!) until our party where we'd each open our "gifts" as well as have festive refreshments and listen to Christmas music.

This year, however, our party organizer is out, so we skipped the party and just bought toys to display on the back counter in the hopes that people coming in would see them and want to bring in toys as well. It's worked pretty well in the past.

I only hope it's enough.

Toys for Tots 2010


Tonight we had our Annual Toys for Tots party at work. We make a game out of our charitable gift-giving by randomly choosing the name of a co-worker who has been given a kids age. For example, I got E.D. at age 12, so I purchased what I thought E would have played with when she was 12-years-old.  I picked a Bohemian bracelet-making kit and a YA book (Radiance by Alyson Noel). I wasn't 100% happy with my gift when I bought it (I really wanted to get one of those cool digital journals by Girl Tech, or even just a nice paper diary and fun pen, but Target didn't have either of those), but it turns out it was perfect, as E told me she was really into the bohemian/hippie stuff when she was young, and in fact was still into it today!


Turns out I was 8 (a totally awesome age, in my humble opinion!), and got two great games and some colourful sidewalk chalk:


It was a fun little party - it's always nice to have these "down times" when we can all just relax and just enjoy hanging out together without having to worry about work! And, best of all, there are now lots of great presents for some kids who might otherwise not have had anything!

Toys for Tots 2009 #Holidailies

Friday afternoon we had our annual Toys for Tots party at work. It wasn't as big as years past, but everyone who participated had a great time and there are some awesome gifts for some lucky little kids in our community.

We like to make a game out of it: we get a name of one of our co-workers and a random age (example: Lisa, age 13), and we're supposed to find a toy/game/gift, etc. we think they would've played with at that age. It makes shopping for the gift a lot of fun, and seeing what everyone gets is fun, too!



 We all pretty much fell in love with this adorable stuffed horse.  I know of at least four girls who wanted to take it home, myself included!


The person who got my name (not sure of the age; it didn't say on the tag) did a great job picking out a gift for me: paperback copies of Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse and a couple little books on the hunky stars of the Twilight and New Moon films!!



(Totally awesome special effects and holiday borders by