Sunday, January 03, 2016

Goodbye Nelly

12 December 2015
After a rapid decline over a week with daily visits to our wonderful vet Kevin, we had to let our sweet Nelly go.   A huge hole in the fabric of our lives, that will take some time to grow around. Lots of tears, but she'll be remembered as our friend - Billy's ever present companion, Toni's running pal, and the reason we saw so much of the UK in the van.  A beautiful and sweet natured dog, followed everywhere with billowing shed fur.  We'll miss you Nelly.

Nick and Kat's Wedding Party

20 June 2015

After the legal event in the Peak District with just parents and sibs, the party was really a fantastic event - with a Frontier theme. Neighbours agreed to parking next door and Martin, the farm manager,  agreed to camping and a big tent in the hay field behind the house.

Blake and I did a dawn raid on a nearby field to pick wild daisies, and Kat added some from our garden.

 Ali and Blake worked on the cakes.
 100 guests in all - Coyboys, Indians and even a cactus!

Sadly Bill's dad fell ill a week before, so the grandparents had to cancel their plans to attend.  The big surprise Owl flying in to deliver the rings was comical - after a thunderstorm, he would not leave the perch! But everyone got to admire all the other birds they brought along.

Nick and Kat laughed about their meeting and made vows. Nick's comments about Ali even made her cry.

 The band played ceilidh folk music, and I worried about tent poles collapsing on impact with frantic dancers, but it was still standing when Billy and I got back from the B&B where we stayed the night.
Everyone took a mug home, and the only snaggle was the catering which was left for days, but Kat got some money back, so all was fine.  Everyone had a great time!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

OBE June 2015

A huge surprise to be on the Queen's Honours List for an OBE for services to Energy Development, and after initial feelings of self-doubt and sense of inadequacy, I decided to just brazen it out. The Monday in the office after the announcement was the worst, but after time I've sort of grown into it and actually now feel a bit of pleasure when someone mentions it.  I had tea with the DECC Permanent Secretary today with other recipients, and  got a nice letter from the Energy Secretary of State.  The local paper ever interviewed me!
Local paper link

Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

How very strange.  I think the kids got a kick out of it and Ali seems keen to meet the Queen when I get invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to receive the badge.  I do wish that Mom and Dad were still alive, they would have been impressed by the Royalness.

On 8 Dec, Ali and I went to Windsor Palace when I got to speak with Prince William for a minute or so about shale gas before receiving my award. Finding a hat was the hardest part and the curtsey went OK.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gas Kiln Pottery first results

Too long since I did a blog post! Spending more time in the pottery studio since I got a gas kiln - the glaze results are unexpected usually, so I'm trying to go back to first principles and do lots of test tiles.  Which is pretty boring, but I'm throwing away fewer pieces.  Still just using Southern Ice Porcelain, but I'm down to my last bag now - I need to resist the lure of something new when I can't control what I do now! Here's some recent results -
1) Bowl with reactive slip which was always mud brown in the electric kiln is really dramatic with gas.
2) Glaze that was celedon green in oxidising electric kiln is red in reducing gas kiln - but only on one side!
3) Black stain in porcelain slip then carved and glazed in matt glaze has interesting foggy/fuzzy edges
4) Most of the underglaze oxides are predictable, e.g. cobalt blue, but chromium oxide just turns baby pooh brown instead of green - which I now have read is do to the ball clay in the matt glaze. Really ugly!
5) Billy's now finished my pottery studio extension to house the kiln but here it was before the building went up around it and full of test tiles.  Its a bit scary to light it, and I'm struggling to see the cones and know when to adjust the flue, but hopefully more experience will help.

1 Reactive Slip
2 Derek Emms Copper Glaze
3 Black stain porcelain slip  

4 Underglaze colours
5 Boring test tiles

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Spring cleaning

Its too cold to do much in the garden, so Billy and I are taking on sorting out cabinets and closets and trying to coral all the dust bunnies.  Nelly must think it is spring, even if it hasn't warmed up as she's shedding in clumps.  A garbage bag full of fur after brushing today! If was more crafty, I'd figure out how to spin it.... but can't quite get too excited about wearing Nelly socks?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Farewell Mom

Photo: Missy, hope you like them.
Sunday morning we scattered ashes off the pier at Juanita Beach in Kirkland,which hit Nick hard. For me, driving by her old condo pulled my heartstrings even more.

It was blustery and cold, but we tried to think of a word or phrase that made us think of her. Miller's "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" made us all smile - How many times we'd heard her say that growing up! And its pretty good advice for an adult in social situations too...

I said "sufficiently surrencified", which Mom said her Mom wanted them to say instead of "I''m stuffed!" after dinner. It never really caught on with us, but would make us laugh.

Her brother Lymie and sister Janie spoke at the funeral, describing her as the feisty and stubborn baby of the family. How odd to think of her in that way, when I saw her as the peacemaker and calm one.

 Billy made Mom a lovely urn and one little one for each of the 4 kids.  It was surprisingly heavy when filled, making it feel more substantial and somehow valuable.

Sorting through her things was really painful. Hard to give or throw anything away that felt personal, but we had to.  I wished I could have taken an antique chair, but how would I have gotten it to the UK? A brass lamp pushed my bag to the weight limit.

There was great comfort in spending time with Stormi, Miller, Linnie and Missi. We didn't want to go home, back to our normal lives. And the grandkids wanted to be together too.  When will we all meet again without Mom's birthday to celebrate? A wedding perhaps?

It struck me that for all the business, charity and church friends that Mom had, the ones that really mattered at the end were family.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

My Mom passed away last weekend

It was after a long decline, and a release as she had lost her grasp on reality.  But now I want to remember her as she was before, when she was the centre of my world as a baby, then the peacemaker between and comforter to four kids and all our pets.  I don't remember her complaining about all the hassle of running a home that was always open to friends, adapting to new towns, people and places following Dad's  career. She took it all in stride.
I'm thinking about what to say at the Memorial Service, after my uncle who will be an eloquent speaker, about her integrity, good works and religious life.

I'm Toni, the oldest, chief troublemaker (but not the only one!) and as kids do, I mostly I took her love, interest in me and support for granted.  It was only when I became a mother myself - and of only two little monsters, that I realised that what I had come to expect Mothers did was actually very difficult to do.  The mob of kids that descended on our house, trips to the emergency room, treaties negotiated between warring siblings, while entertaining Dad's business guests.  The weekend trips from Chicago to Michigan (8 hrs each way!) with extra kids and dogs, packing all the food and gear...

I count 12 different houses that we lived in, so many school and sports events.  She told me once that she felt bad after she'd left her post after dropping her pencil in the snow when the sun went behind the mountain when she was on gatekeeper duty while we were ski racing in Breckenridge. (And I thought a little rain while watching Nick play rugby made me a hero).

But its her foibles that I recognise most in myself.  She rear-ended a car while teaching me how to blow bubbles in chewing gum... (yep, I've had less of an excuse to run into a car).

And when she was my age she used to read what we called "lady and the castle books", you know the picture on the cover, gothic suspense fiction like Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt - where the virtuous governess had to work out the mystery for herself, using her intelligence and bravery. (OK the escapism I read now has a few vampires and werewolves, but Mom introduced me to fantasy).

Sometimes she messed up our names, calling me Linnie or Missi and then looking exasperated - struggling to bring the right name to mind.  I suspect you'll hear me call my son Nick - Miller, or Miller -Nick today.

Most of all, we knew she was always there for us kids and grandkids. Mom had an incredibly positive mental outlook and if there is anything I want to emulate it was her ability to make the best of what she had, welcome change and to truly be happy.