Friday, 27 May 2011

A May update (including wine!)

So......half term begins! Phew!

Been a busy last few weeks.  'A' had her SAT's a couple of weeks ago but the least said about that the better - a lot of needless stress and pressure if you ask me!  She's now moved on to Sex Education (or 'THE' Education) as she calls it and rehearsals for the end of the term show, so much more interesting times all round :)

'S' is pleased that he's been offered the Options that he'd chosen and has been informed that they're all off to Drayton Manor Park at the end of term as a graduation reward from KS3 to KS4.

'P' and I had a lovely trip to The Three Choirs Vineyard on 13th May.  I actually bought 'P' the voucher for wine tasting and a two course lunch for his birthday last year and due to the fact that it will soon be his birthday this year we thought we'd best get moving.  The Vineyard itself did not disappoint, set in beautiful Gloucestershire countryside it really was idyllic.  Unfortunately, the sun decided not to play ball on this occasion and headed off behind the clouds about 5 minutes after our arrival never to be seen again....well till the next day.

[caption id="attachment_881" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Wine tasting time!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_882" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Wine tasting in the courtyard"][/caption]

We walked around on the short guided tour and then returned to the courtyard to sample our selection of wines.  Shortly after this we headed to the Vineyard Restaurant to enjoy our two course lunch.  We were seated at a lovely table with a scenic outlook over the many acres of vineyard.  Being midweek the whole place was very quiet but no less attention to detail was paid by the staff.  The food was absolutely delicious, one of the best meals we've had and the fact that it was washed down by one of our 'tasting' choices made it even more memorable.

[caption id="attachment_883" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lunch at the Three Choirs"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_884" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lunch in the Vineyard Restaurant"][/caption]

School choir now have one rehearsal left before there Summer Concert next month and for once they actually seem quite ready! Shocking, I know !  We think the song choices have helped this year, funky as it is, all inklings of High School Musical have gone with their replacements being the likes of Hans Christian Anderson and South Pacific - much more choir friendly songs!

The ladies choir performed there concert 'It's a Man's World' again last night on behalf of Halesbury Special School to help raise much needed funds and awareness about the school.  This went well and a fair number turned up to support which was nice.

So now, on the brink of June all thoughts in the Griffiths house turn to the imminent birthday on the year.  Yes, 'P's big 4-0 that's coming up next week!!! So while he rapidly tries to complete his final year's uni work all celebration plans are left firmly in our hands.  Brave, brave man ;)


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Silent Sunday

Gorjuss crafty creations

There were some lovely free backing papers with my last couple of card making magazines so had a go at a few new designs this afternoon.  Had a go at some new techniques using crushed paper circles to create flowers and inking paper edges to create a shabby chic effect.

My friend Emma bought me a lovely card for my birthday back in March from the Santoro's Gorjuss range.  I was really chuffed when I found some super decoupage packs in Hobbycraft in the same range and had a go at creating a couple of cards today.  Now looking forward to making more of these.


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Unforgettable Sea World

Yes, it's time for another holiday post as it's been a bit of a while since the last one.  I really am beginning to forget all the details now so thought I'd better get on and get them finished!

The second week of our holiday saw us visiting Sea World.  Now, I've read a lot of mixed reviews about Sea World both before and after our visit and I'm still on the fence about some of the issues raised.  Although the creatures appear to be treated well and also appear to enjoy their performances and interaction with humans I can't deny that I too feel it is cruel to hold them in captivity.  However, I also know that places such as Sea World offer us an opportunity to learn about and view these creatures that we would not get otherwise, this in turn helps to promote conservation efforts by building an interest in nature from a young age.  So, with my views out of the way onwards to our visit!

One thing I will mention that was very noticeable upon first entering the park is that, like Universal, staff are simply not as friendly and approachable as at the Disney parks.  There was still a much higher level of customer service than you would expect in the UK but I think after you visit Disney you just get spoilt!  The park itself is lovely, very well laid out, clean and areas are easy to find.  We decided to head to the 'Blue Horizons' show first as this was next on the schedule and we were near by.

If anyone was to ask me about the favourite part of our Florida holiday the 'Blue Horizons' show would have to be in the top 3 - it was simply astounding!  The show featured water performers, bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, exotic birds, high divers, trapeze name it!  The dolpins were just amazing performing flips and spirals out of the water and their interaction with the performers was just wonderful.  The show came to a dramatic conclusion with numerous dolphins jumping from the water simultaneously, exotic birds flying over the crowd and into the performance area and the lead performer being spun into the air on a high rope.  What with all this and the stirring original soundtrack played by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the whole spectacle is just spine tingling and I have to admit brought a tear to my eye.

There were many other great sites to enjoy at the park including the sea lions, stingray pool, turtle point, aquarium, penguins and of course the 'Believe' show in the Shamu Stadium.  We'd been warned in advance that the 'Shamu' show had lost a lot of it's pizazz due to the sad death of a trainer in February 2010.  Although it was still wonderful to see the Orca's in all there glory and the amazing feats they're capable of the show didn't come close to the marvel of 'Blue Horizons'.

'A' absolutely loved the 'Jewel of the Sea Aquarium'.  This was well laid out with loads of weird and wonderful sea creatures to see such as the 'leafy sea dragon' which we had lots of very blurred photo's of :).  There was also another opportunity to see the stingray's up close as you could actually watch them swimming overhead at one point.

Food was very nice I have to say.  We ate fish and chips at the 'Seafire Inn' and had a wonderful cheesecake for dessert.  Again, the whole place was very clean and well organised and food was pretty much cooked to order.

Our last trip of the day was the exhibit 'Wild Arctic' unfortunately this left us on a bit of a downer as for the first time that day we really did feel like the enclosures for the Polar Bear and Walrus were just too small and it was very sad to see them in these circumstances.  Our initial impression upon entering 'Wild Arctic' was that it had been really well thought out.  There was a drastic drop in temperature as you walked around and even a false arctic sky, it's just a shame that more thought wasn't put into the actual enclosures rather than the exhibit as a whole.

All in all, as I said at the beginning of this post, I have very mixed feelings and memories of the day.  One thing is for sure though, Sea World if nothing else is certainly unforgettable.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Youth Onstage do HSM!

Back in January 'A' joined a group called YouthOnstage in Birmingham.  The group had been recommended by a lady called Jude Petty who just happened to be attending one of the courses we deliver.  'P' mentioned to her that 'A' loved singing, dancing and acting and she thought she might like to give it a try.  At first, although she enjoyed rehearsals, I think she found it a little hard joining a group where she didn't know a soul and we were extremely proud of her for giving it a try and continuing to attend each week.  What probably didn't help was our holiday back in February that took her away from rehearsals for 3 weeks, but unfortunately this had been booked and paid for long before 'A' had ever decided to join Youth Onstage.  However, a few weeks into her return and we could see her confidence was beginning to blossom and she slowly started to speak of new friends and good times.

Last week Youth Onstage performed High School Musical at the Old Rep theatre in Birmingham and what a superb performance it was.  We'd already seen the group perform their pantomime back in December so we knew what they were capable of but it was great to see even more talented youngsters taking the lead the parts.

It never ceases to amaze me that a group of youngsters aged 9 to 21 can have such power when they sing and I know many adult societies who could take a leaf from their book.  The whole cast has such an enthusiasm for what they do and you can see their enjoyment as they perform.  Music for the show was directed by Andy Johnson and the trickier numbers such as Stick to the Status Quo were handled with ease.  Suzy Petty was in charge of choreography and as with the pantomime it was great to see the whole cast taking part in many of the dances along with the more challenging routines that the cheerleaders and basketball players had to learn.  Direction was by Deb Brook and was fabulous, nothing was over played, the actors and actresses reactions were timed to perfection.  Our only fault with the show would be that in some of the songs the backing music was a little loud which meant that it was difficult to hear the soloist at times.  On many occasions however, the soloist was then joined by chorus which meant the track volume was required to be louder to compete with their fantastic volume :).

There were far too many talented individuals to mention them all but we were really impressed with Alick Draper and Georgia Towler who played Ryan and Sharpay.  Their comic interpretation of the characters was superb, especially with Alick 'camping' it up whenever he possibly could.  Hannah Brook and Adam Brown did the roles of Gabriella and Troy justice and were careful not to overplay the parts - their voices combined wonderfully.  Hannah Thomas playing 'Kelsie' was also a hit with us - we also couldn't believe how much she looked like the actual 'Kelsie' from the film!

It was a tiring week for 'A' with dress rehearsals on both bank holiday Monday and also Tuesday evening and then the show itself began on Wednesday evening and ran till Saturday.  But however tired she was her enthusiasm didn't wane and we could tell she'd thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of being on stage and the atmosphere that goes with being part of a cast and show such as this.  She's made some great friends and is always keen to tell us how pleasant and friendly everyone is - she can't wait to return in September when rehearsals start for 'Hairspray'.  She actually asked me this morning, "Is it YOS tonight?".........I think she has the bug!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Gallery - I'll remember April

April, in my mind, was a good month.

As far as I'm concerned nothing can make you feel better or remove stress more efficiently than waking up to a bright sunny, cheery day and April definitely had lots of these.

April was our first opportunity to take pooch off for his first holiday and it's also been a time for extended dog walks along wooded paths, admiring the flora and fauna along the way.  Add in the fact that school was shut for a huge part of the month and a beautiful royal wedding saw us all celebrating in various styles and I think we have as pretty near perfect in 'month' terms as you can get.

So to sum up I'll Remember April, not as in the lyrics of the Frank Sinatra song but as..............

Woodland walks..................

Picnics in the park..................

Wonderful wild flowers and....................

Beautiful blue skies and glorious green fields as far as the eye can see.