threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


Leave a comment

Keep calm and carry on – surviving the school holidays week 2

We had a lovely treat when we were met by dinosaurs on the way to the cinema. The shopping mall at Westwood Cross had a pop up dinosaur park. Seamus didn’t know which one to visit first! What a welcome surprise when you’re passing Primark. Just hope they are still there when we do the dreaded school uniform shopping!

We had gone to Westwood Cross to use our Sainbury’s Nectar Points offer at the cinema. £5 worth of points gets 2 tickets, which is brilliant value. Such an appropriate offer to have on during the summer holidays – brilliant timing! Thank you #Sainsburys. After diving in to Wilkos for their bargain half price pick and mix, the unanimous decision was to see Captain Underpants, which (thankfully) was extremely funny for parents too.  We’re going to use more of our Sainbury’s points to exchange for tickets to see the Emoji movie later, and Ian is going to see Dunkirk with Eoin.

I had to attend a course for my new job so was away for two nights – first time husband and child free for over ten years. Boy, was it strange! Especially ordering food without having to sort out everyone else’s choices first. I found a brilliant noodle place which had meat free beef so was in veggie heaven, more so because I didn’t have to share or swap with someone who regretted their choice.  I was in Salisbury, so spent a little time pottering around the cathedral on my first evening (too much homework and rain on the second night!) I took Cheese string, so he can add another place to his blog page too. (p.s. in case you are wondering, I passed my course – hooray!)

While I was away, Ian took over the mantle of childcare. He took the kids to some lovely events (I left a list!)

They had a great time at National Play Day event in Ellington Park, meeting the farm animals, Creepy Claws and having a bash at boxing. It is an annual event which is free and I believe it was very well attended (judging by hubby’s moans about the queues)

Quieter but just as much fun was the MENCAP festival in Margate. With stalls and activities, the event was really well organised and seemed a lot of fun. Orla is still talking about the football and the lovely man who helped with circus skills. The festival continued into the night for adults with a learning difficulty/disability with music, a bar and more. So great to see something so positive and totally inclusive.

I got back from Salisbury just in time for the fantastic Broadstairs summer fireworks, which had been moved from its traditional Wednesday to the Thursday due to the weather. One of my favourite live bands were playing (80s music Hyperactive) and the fireworks at 9:45 were spectacular. The kids had a fab time, although Aoife was a little embarrassed due to her parents dancing. Brilliant evening – so glad I got back in time!

Yep, the weather has been a bit disappointing – wet and miserable a lot of the time, which always makes things a bit harder. On the plus side, the veggies are growing and the honesty box is going well with people taking our fresh fruit and vegetables at the weekends when we put it out.

One of the language schools, KSE, held a BBQ for host families. We had a lovely time, the kids really loved the swimming pool and the bouncy castle. Thank you Kent School of English. We have had only a brief few days without students in the past few months but were ready to collect our newest arrivals later that same evening. We’ll be busy with back to back students for the next few months or so and always hope they will have a really great time and enjoy their stay.

The rubbish weather has meant more trips to the library and movie watching at home than expected, but in between the rainy days, we’ve still tried to pop to the park when we can. We went to the beach to spend an evening with some lovely friends (an Italian family who return every year with students) Here’s hoping the weather is better for their visit next year.

With Broadstairs Folk Week around the corner, I have my fingers crossed that the sunshine will return soon.

Well, the school holidays are well and truly underway and I imagine the time will fly by….however,  I’m stocking up on arts and craft stuff incase the wet and miserable weather is here to stay. We can usually find fun things to do at home but the holidays can be long so it’s good to have a few ideas ready. The kids want to re-visit slime making with ‘new and improved’ recipes and ‘honest mum’ promises to help tidy afterwards. After being left with the clear up of the last session, I remain a little skeptical to say the least.

One kid has a school friend coming round for the day, another is planning a couple of play dates too and Seamus is reminding us all that it will soon be his birthday when school starts (note to self: eeek! best start planning something) so one thing’s for sure, it’s still going to be busy.

 


Leave a comment

More fun in the sun

Most people would enjoy a lovely lie in at the weekend, but having students who need breakfast and packed lunches for the trips to London, combined with children who wake at the crack of dawn means an early start – Saturday or not!

One such Saturday, the girls were both eager to try their best at Upton’s Inter Primary School Cross Country at the morning race. Thankfully the weather was a little cooler than previous days, meaning the 1km run was more manageable than expected.

The sporty theme continued with school and nursery sports days. Orla had a fabulous time, completing circuits with her class group and then individual races, resulting in when her class being the overall year group winners.

The rain held off enough for us to enjoy Aoife’s sports day later that week. She took part in the exhausting mat flipping race and the skipping race, and her class group were the overall Year 5 winners! And Seamus, who not only took part in the siblings’ race at both his sisters’ event, got a Sports Day of his own, with a non-competative nursery sporty circuit. Thankfully both Ian and I managed to escape the parents’ race at all events this year … my excuse – I am still recovering from last year!

Although not natural athlete myself, I do still like to help out with community events, so I was one of the coaches from the local rugby club volunteering my time to run some taster sessions at local primary school. After the school visit, I learned the equation: Caroline + shorts + 2(rugby socks) = a red sunburn stripe on each leg! Sun cream for the following week’s taster day was applied after session!

However, one of the most striking images of sport has to be the iconic scene from Chariots of Fire. Seamus and I went to see the Mayor’s unveiling of the blue plaque in Broadstairs. Seamus got to hold the 1948 Olympic torch and also took part in the beach run. For full effect, look at the next photos whilst listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack, ha ha.

 

Whilst Aoife was in Dreamland rolling skating at a friend’s birthday party, Seamus, Orla and myself went to the Turner Contemporary. We looked at the exhibits but were also able to take part in a workshop. We left the ‘masterpieces’ they both made there, so the can both now say they have work displayed in the Turner Gallery, ha ha! The weekend event workshops are great and made the visit a bit more memorable for the kids.

A week later we returned to take part in the Artgate event, which marked the first day of the Margate Festival. We attended on of the four separate pop up art sessions, then joined the Rock Choir to sing our way through Margate town centre, along the sea front to all meet at the Turner Contemporary for the Big Sing and refreshments.

   

Margate is looking lovely this time of year, and each time we have enjoyed walking along the seafront or having a little picnic on the grass near the Clock Tower. When the weather is this good, it is a shame to be inside!

 

We love seeing the unusual and the bizarre …

Art of a different nature, Aoife’s school performance of Wind in the Willows was incredibly well done. All of the kids who took part were great. She has another play later this month, which we are looking forward to watching. They have worked so hard this term and their effort has really paid off. Really proud.

School has been amazing this term, topped off with the school fayre. Both girls chose to run stalls – Orla with a Treasure Map game and Aoife setting up a craft stall where people could decorate their own bookmarks. In an hour, they raised over £21 for the school, not bad going when they priced at 20p or less.

They did enjoy other aspects of the fayre too….

Learning doesn’t just take place in school though. To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we took part in a fantastic event delivered by Discovery Planet, with a wind turbine focus. The kids learned how electricity was generated and all about energy. They were tasked to design and make a wind turbine to be tested. Great hands on experiments, lots of encouragement and I hope, good inspiration for all three of them to consider engineering, science or mathematics as career choices.

The village fayres and fetes are coming thick and fast. We visited St Andrew’s in Reading Street and bought brownies and cupcakes. Sadly no success on the tombolas though.

We missed the St Peters fayre though as we lent our voices to the anti-austerity demonstration. Not usually overly political, but I am quite saddened of the thought of further cuts to schools and health in particular.  We joined the small but sweet gathering in Broadstairs, rather than the thousands in London.  Here’s hoping our little voices may still be heard.

Still, self sufficiency is getting closer.  Aoife distributed our excess courgettes, patty pans and potatoes amongst all of the neighbours, which were gratefully accepted and so lovely to see each kid taking a turn to visit a house. We do need to work on the wheelbarrow control a bit though.  Green fingers at the ready, we are off to Margate again tomorrow to help volunteer to make this year’s Listening Wall. We saw it last year and are so excited to be able to contribute to something in the area and actively take part in making something to be enjoyed. Be sure to see it when it’s complete.


Leave a comment

Manchester sadness and positive thoughts

Truly saddened by recent world events including the horrific attack in Manchester.  It is hard to know how best to discuss such tragedies with the kids but we’ve always tried to go with an honest approach, inviting questions as they arise.  The natural reaction is to want to shield the children from anything which may distress but that can give more worries and concerns as they find out information second or third hand.  Aoife mentioned that a friend was meant to be going to the London date of the Ariana Grande tour, as she had been given tickets for Christmas, so had obviously been talking with her friends.  It is so heartbreaking to think about the lives lost and the injuries and trauma to people.

Because of that, it has been difficult to summon a level of enthusiasm to do much but I am equally of the belief that fear should not limit us, so onwards we go …

Kindest to others is one way.  We had been busy the previous Saturday baking together. Seamus and Orla made a huge carrot cake for the family and mini cupcake sized ones to distribute to our neighbours. I take it that it was soooo delicious, Daddy obviously couldn’t wait to take a slice before we got a photo!

Seamus, who is thankfully too young to have the awareness of world events (his biggest concern this week was making sure he had the correct coloured socks for nursery photograph day) has been enjoying the glorious weather. He only attends nursery in the mornings, meaning the afternoons are free to be spent doing other stuff or chilling watching Cbeebies. He has been to the beach to collect shells and crab legs, after a little visit to knock on the Fairy Door near the High Street sweetie shop on the way.

Both girls have had a wonderful time at their respective school discos.  Orla doesn’t believe in dressing down for any event, so looked as if she was Pippa Middleton’s extra bridesmaid.  Aoife looked especially grown up too and was most pleased to be there until 9pm!

The latest craze, after the short-lived (and banned-from-school just as I ordered on ebay) fidget spinners, is now slime. Apparently there a hundreds of youtube videos showing how to make slime at home using household items. I tried to get them to stay clear of the more toxic sounding chemicals such as contact-lens solution and Borax, so our efforts may be less successful than professional blogging slimers in their stylish, unmessy kitchens. Seamus particularly liked playing with cornflour and water, watching the mixture thicken then return to liquid. His toy soldiers were well and truly covered. The girls, with a friend, mixed various potions and made some well and truly gloopy, gooey substances.

They also wanted to make edible emoji poo which as you can imagine was as delightful as it sounds. We used a Curly Wurly as it is a chocolate coated caramel. They then tried to sculpt it into the desired shape. The chocolate was a bit too crumbly, so perhaps there are more suitable chocolate bars to use, but it worked for the most part… and yes, they ate it!  Much hilarity and joking followed. “Are you playing with your poo?!” “Mummy, she’s eating poo”  Urgh – I am hoping the next craze comes along soon.

Other activities included making bracelets and pendants out of drinking straws which were melted between baking paper sheets.

The allotment, aka Ian’s Sanctuary, is in full glory at this time of year. The garlic is ready to be harvested, the broad beans are fattening, the glut of spinach is blanched and in the freezer, the strawberries are ripening (that’s if they hadn’t been picked by an over eager Seamus!) Despite the ever-changing conditions faced so far this year (mild, drought like, then frost, followed by heavy rain, now heat wave) many of Ian’s crops are doing well. The question is, does that mean we give each other a chest freezer or pickling jars as an anniversary gift?!

So half term holidays are fast approaching, and even in such saddening times, I’ve got to keep positive thoughts and get my mojo back to find fun things for the kids to do. After all, you do not fight darkness with a sword, you defeat it with light.

 

 

 


2 Comments

Autumn Montage

November’s here, the world’s still reeling from the US presidential election results (I am still recovering from the Brexit shambles, and so tired of such hatred in politics at the moment – especially as we had White Supremacists / WLM organise a march in the next town last month!) Anyway, onwards we go …

Orla has been learning about the USA at school and has been given some great homework, so we decided to embrace that. Last week she had to research the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and she was able to include info and photos from our visit to the memorial in Montana.  This week she has to organise an American meal, so we’re braced for her cooking hotdogs (veggie, of course) and fries. Not one to do things by halves, the next door neighbours were invited and US themed fancy dress was on the cards.  Goodness know what the teacher will think goes on in our house when he sees her report!

Her idea to call her pop up restaurant ‘McDonald Trumps’ has had me giggling.  Decorations include signs and pictures of American icons and we even included the much talked about Wall, so we’re topical too.

Seamus decided he would like to be US astronaut, Neil Armstrong – well, as he is only 4, he actually just wanted be a space man, but we’ve made it fit the theme of the evening.  Aoife was TOLD by Orla that she’d have to be the Statue of Liberty, as Orla had bagged the rights to be Sacajawea / Pocahontas or anyone else which means she can dress like a Native American she has so enjoyed learning about. With an array of supporting cast of Cowboys and politicians, we were all ready for a good night and – I have to type it –  good food …

img_20161109_132051 img_20161109_155133 img_20161109_155333 img_20161109_162015 img_20161109_163552 img_20161109_180135 img_20161109_180853 img_20161109_181613 img_20161109_181835img_20161109_163334 img_20161109_165922 img_20161109_170842 img_20161109_185836

 

 

 

It’s been busy as usual at home, with language students from Italy and then Germany staying with us as well over previous weeks.  We have met some wonderful people and hope they have enjoyed their time in Broadstairs and their stay with our family.

A rare, student free weekend we celebrated Halloween. It was as fun as ever, and we spent it taking part in the Trick or Treat Trail in Broadstairs High Street. Such fun to see hundreds of mini witches, pumpkins and skeletons visit each of the shops for sweets and cupcakes. Aoife was lucky enough to go to a friend’s party afterwards too.

img_20161028_140921 img_20161028_140940 img_20161028_142239 img_20161028_142736 img_20161028_164448 012

We enjoyed carving pumpkins at home. Even Seamus managed to complete one and so did our lodger from France, Jules. We never did get round to making pumpkin pie though, despite the kind gift of an extra pumpkin from a lovely neighbour.

img_20161026_165752 img_20161026_170157 img_20161026_170405 img_20161026_175408 img_20161026_195943

However even with our best efforts, we couldn’t compete with the wonderful pumpkin grown by Ben at Beechgrove a Bruderhof Community where we have some lovely friends.  Check out Ben’s story in the link attached to his name to show you his project. It is an amazing video. We always appreciate spending time at Beechgrove, including the Lantern Walk. It is a place which helps us to reflect as it embodies family values, community and more. Even though we are not particularly religious, we have the utmost respect for the beliefs and works of the community, which give so much both here and around the world and thank them for their hospitality, friendship and kindness.

orla-beechgroveimg_20161105_174518 img_20161105_174610

To reflect our change of pace in life, Ian has been spending every waking moment at the allotment (his second home) and we’ve been fortunate enough to eat what has grown. He’s even been making chutneys with the tomatoes which didn’t ripen – Tom and Barbara from The Good Life here we come!! He’s currently encouraging the children to earn their pocket money by collecting the hops from the brewery for his compost – I would go on about exploitation and child labour laws but think the children are fleecing him!

004 005 006

We all had a wonderful half term holiday recently (another Staycation!)  We loved our visit to the Hornby Visitor Centre near Margate. They had a Halloween themed event and the children also got to paint models to take home. The centre is great and well worth a visit. There was a treasure hunt of clues to solve as we went round the displays and of course, they loved the Scaletrix.  Brilliant day out and kept everyone’s interest – not easy to do with their differing ages. We’ve been before, and will be back.

img_20161025_112107 img_20161025_113226-copy img_20161025_113326 img_20161025_124157 img_20161025_125522 img_20161025_125554 img_20161025_125640

We also ventured to Rascal Bay Adventure Golf  near Manston, Ramsgate. A wee bit pricey, even for a family ticket, but it was fun. The mini golf has everything Seamus loves – dinosaurs, pirates and as it was approaching Halloween, the surrounding moat was flowing red – urgh! A couple of hole in ones, a few more hole in twelves!

 

img_20161026_115603 img_20161026_120227 img_20161026_121526 img_20161026_122309 img_20161026_122505

 

Orla has been busy with a inter-school running event which she enjoyed and Aoife and Seamus have been taking part in rugby each week.  Let’s see what the future holds as the winter approaches and what comes next …. after this election result, quite frankly anything is possible!

orla-medal img_20161023_120052001


2 Comments

Back to normality … whatever that is

September. Swapping the beach, buckets and bbqs for back-to-school and raking leaves. The weather however, continues to be wonderful – as hot as summer and so it hasn’t been too much of a shock to the system yet, although the nights are drawing in.

September is a busy time for birthdays in our house. Seamus celebrated his 4th birthday (a little early so it didn’t clash with starting nursery) I gained another year, too. The theme for Shay’s party was Ghostbusters! Fantastic costumes, especially from our neighbour who is in her 70s and made an absolutely fabulous Marshmallow Man!

217 221 224 230 232 252 255 260 275 276

So yes, this post is a bit of a departure from a “traveling with young children travel blog” (sorry Nicky),  but as I have been asked for some of the details as to making a DIY Ghostbusters Party and can’t figure out Pintrest site, I’ll post what we did here ….

The decorations and costumes were all homemade. This was lots of fun and (I hope) saved a bit of money. We drew characters, made a ghost containment unit out of construction card and blu-tacked it to a picture frame. Lots of Slimers and ghostbuster logos were stuck everywhere. Green balloons and hazard tape added to the effect.

Orla made a stunning Statue of Liberty – her costume was a green bedsheet with a 99p garden light to hold. Aoife and Seamus were Ghostbusters, (I bought boiler suits and sewed on Ghostbuster patches saying Spengler and Venkman.)  Ian and I were Louis and Janine. Ian’s hat was made with a colendar, wires and chin strap, and I channelled my inner 80s and topped my costume off with a tacky ra-ra skirt. Guests could come as any character or anything spooky.  As a theme, it was different, funny and seemed to go down well.  Who doesn’t like the Ghostbuster theme music for pass the parcel?!

213 214 215 216 220212 225

 

Food – the best part of any party! This was really easy to do in comparison to other parties we have had at home.

  • lots of hot dogs (vegetarian ones, of course for our house) in finger buns, with ketchup and NY mustard
  • pizza (always a favourite)
  • meringue and marshmallow ghosts
  • green jelly (our tribute to Slimer), green grapes,
  • ghostbuster lollipops bought online
  • cheese and pineapple on USA cocktail stick flags
  • cheese and french bread for the grown ups
  • cupcakes decorated with ghosts
  • we decorated Shay’s chocolate cake with lego Ghostbusters, a statue of liberty paper crown and rice paper Slimers

Games . We tried to have games suitable for all ages which were funny, not too overwhelming and involved as many or as few people who wanted to take part.  Firstly, when guests arrived we all decorated a green paper party bag (colouring, ghostbuster stickers etc) and whenever you won a prize, these would be put int he bag to take home. Party bags also included an Americn flag, birthday cake and we made small packs of marshmallows with a thank you sticker on.

  • Musical statues – when the music stops pose as the Statue of Liberty or Ghostbuster firing his ray gun.
  • Pass the parcel – traditional, easy and fun
  • Pin the smile on the skeleton
  • Knock down ghosts (place a tennis ball in tights and wear on you head. work as a relay team to knock over  line of skittles / bottles) I imagine this would make a great game at an adult alcohol fuelled party!
  • Silly string spray fight
  • Chilled Chocolate Challenge (roll a dice, when you get a number 6 you run to the table and put on a large pair of green rubber gloves – just wish I had included goggles too.  Using  knife and fork, you cut a square of refridgerated chocolate. Keep going – and eating one square at a time – til the next person has rolled a six) Gets quite frantic!
  • Toilet paper mummy wrap
  • Spaghetti and marshmallow skyscraper challenge
  • 239 240 244 250 267 282 283

All in all, the party went well and Seamus is already asking when he can have another one! Every year I say, ‘never again, next time we will go out’ as the clear up is always immense. However (bar tidying up the silly string in the garden) this was a straight forward party to organise and one I would recommend for any age, or even an alternative Halloween party.

All the decorations are currently on sale on ebay so it is ‘never again’ on the Ghostbusters front for us, as I hope someone else gets a bargain and another use out of the stuff we made, saving them a bit of work. Perhaps I should set up a ‘recycled party shop’ to save parents the hassle of party prep!  Look out for me on Dragons Den!I require $1,000,000 for 5% stake in the buisness.

 

Another chance to dress up was at our visit to an event at the Marvellous Micro Museum which had a James Bond theme one weekend. Of course, we rose to the challenge and went as James Bond, James Bond Jnr 003.5, Bond Girl/Russian Spy Ivana Kissyacheek (although we instantly regretted not naming her Ivana Kickyabutt) and ‘M’ aka Mummy.  Despite having secret identities, we made ID badges! Again this would be a great theme for a party – a few dickie bows, a Russian hat or two and hey presto, it’s almost Casino Royale. Granted we had small water pistols rather than anything more dangerous, and boy did we look cool taking the bus to Ramsgate!

180 184 187 189 196 206 209

Next big event for dress up is Halloween … decisions, decisions!

 


Leave a comment

Reflections

Ok, we’ve been back in the UK for 3 months now and time has flown. In some ways our travels seem a lifetime ago and it has taken me a while to get back in the swing of things.

Adjusting back, unpacking the house, re-establishing old routines, hosting language students and of course, our budget constraints meant we have stayed close to home, however we’ve still tried to be busy.  Perhaps we have a new appreciation for where we live, perhaps because we haven’t jumped back into the world of work we are able to enjoy more of what’s on offer locally, perhaps the glorious sunshine helped … whatever, so far we have had a lovely summer and continue to do so.

So what can we say about Broadstairs other than it is a fabulous place with lots to offer. For those who don’t know, it is a small town on the South East coast of England in the county of Kent. It is near to Margate and Ramsgate. There are beautiful beaches and we are lucky enough to live within walking distance of Joss Bay, Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Botany Bay and more! Google it and see!

087 1387 1198

Ok, granted the weather wasn’t the best when we got back. Good job we kept the warm clothes and woolly hats. That didn’t stop us from going to Margate to see all the bikes at Margate Meltdown , a great place to see scooters, Mods, leather clad bikers and every bike imaginable. Seamus loved it! Even got to catch up with a lovely friend and her super scooter.

1083 1078

Our first visit to Dreamland, we joined friends for some old-fashioned roller skating.  Surprised to find out that even though it must have been over 30 years, I managed to skate without the ‘Bambi on ice’ impression and have a new-found Kudos from my girls. Dreamland has been recently re-established.  I wasn’t here to see it in its heyday in the 60s, 70s and 80s but wished the new Dreamland had a bit more oomph and had been done better.  It is struggling financially, but hate to say it but I wouldn’t go back as feel it could have been so much more.  Yes, the skating was cool and I would do that bit again, but the rest just doesn’t live up to the expectations of what it could be. Ooops, forgot I am not on TripAdviser!

11261125 084

Ok, more good stuff and less moaning.

One of the nicest bunch of people you could ever meet organise an Annual Pirate Party in Broadstairs. We love Helter Skelter Pirate Party Music, fun, friends at the sunny seaside – everything an event should be.  They have been a big part in organising so much for the town in the past, such as Abba Dancing Queen World Record breaking dances, cinema on the beach, wonderful Trick or Treat town trails. Thank you, we love any excuse to dress up. “Aaaarrrrrrrgh!”

14021409

More wonderful community spirit with the fabulous Ramsgate event that is Lark in the Park, every year they offer tents full of free activities for every age group. Seamus loved the Fun Factory, Orla spent happy times in the art tent and Aoife enjoyed the gunging which took place in the parent-free zone that is HQ.

020

We  have been frequent visitors to Margate this summer. The colourful Margate Pride was great. We dressed to impress wearing as much colour as we could as the invite suggested. The town was bustling and the atmosphere was great.

047 025 043

The quieter side of life saw us finding the tranquil Margate Listening Wall ; a beautiful oasis with flowers and positive messages, where people can post their thoughts privately through the post box or chalk on the board.  Gorgeous.  Topped off by the fantastic free herb garden beside where we touched, smelled and had a tiny taste of the beautiful things growing there.

055 049 313 053 317

The quirky side of us loved the Super Sleuth Day in Margate Old Town. The kids met the old-fashioned bobby who was trying to solve the crime. After under taking lie detectors, fingerprinting and a visit to the court-house judge, we were (thankfully) found not guilty! Orla saved the day by saying that a vegetarian family would be unlikely to steal the pork pie in question. So we were able to head home with all three kids in tow again, phew!

1445

The highlight for me was Broadstairs Folk Week I love the parade at the start of the festival. The weather was perfect, the town was filled with music and dancers. Great stuff. The musicians and folk dancers are wonderful to see and bring so many people to the town every year.

1549 1580 1578 1567 1560 014

The town has looked beautiful with the annual Yarn Bombing which takes place. This year there were pom poms galore, but previous years have seen knitted seagull and fish take over. Every credit to the people who patiently make them. The time and effort involved must be immense. We appreciate your talent and it makes us smile.

1370 1371

Staying at home, our house has been full of students – adult language students from Iceland, teenagers from many parts of Italy and a return visit from our Sicilian friends, and we’re soon to be joined by students from Germany and Japan. We always try to make their stay interesting, as travelers ourselves we appreciated everyone who made our journey memorable.  One of the things we like to do is have a Harry Potter evening. The kids make invitations and we have a feast in the Grand Hall … well, dinner in the dining room! Dumbledore’s Dessert, Snape’s Shepherds Pie, Professors Pudding …. who knows what will be on the menu or whether you’ll be in Gryffindor or Slytherin!

I told you, we’ll make any excuse to dress up!!

1458 1457 1456 1453 1450 1451 1454

Great weather means we can be outdoors. Fantastic cardboard box car racing with friends from holiday club, family fun days, music events at the bandstand, the brilliant Broadstairs fireworks and camping in the garden. Can you imagine if this had been the V festival how much I would have paid?!

1419 038 268 1379 1388

009 1299 323

So now what? Well, we’re getting ready for Seamus’ Ghostbuster 4th birthday party (dressing up of course!), looking forward to a James Bond event in Ramsgate (you guessed it, requires some dressing up) and the children have their places sorted for school and nursery (uniform – check, haircut – check, sensible bedtime – work in progress)

It has taken a while to re-adjust. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here and we are so fortunate to have so many great things and wonderful people nearby. Maybe it’s getting my head round that we are back much sooner than expected, the realisation and disappointment that we’re unlikely be able to do it again even on a smaller scale, or the fact we had to unpack and rebuild all of our furniture in order to settle back home. Who knows, it’s still early days.

The kids have settled back so quickly.  They have taken everything in their stride. Aoife is playing rugby. Ian has a new allotment and is slowly transforming it from the long grass a la Little House on the Prairie opening credits to a lovely plot with vegetables. He’s bound to start his own blog, I bet. He and the kids are currently sorting out some beans for next year.  The summer weather has been superb and we’ve had some wonderful events, such as a family wedding in Bath.

402 349 401 377

Right, enough blogging for today as I have to get back to finishing the Ghostbusters costumes or else I will be roped into sorting beans too!

1339

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Ian’s brief take on the USA

243120
Alaska was probably my favourite part of the States, a true wilderness and so well preserved.  I don’t imagine that it would have survived in such a pristine condition if in the hands of e.g. the Chinese, given they way they are destroying the coral in the South China Sea.  Our ship had to switch to  a higher grade of fuel to enter the national park, which was 3x more expensive than their usual fuel and their emissions were monitored closely by the Park Rangers.
The year before, near the John Hopkins Glazier, the sea conditions were rough and deck chairs were flying over the sides of the ship.  They still had to lower a tender which circled the ship during the visit picking up any flotsam, so as not to pollute the area.  I was doing my daily 5 mile walk around deck 3 early in the morning as we entered the park and saw dolphins, whales and sea lions as we came in from the open sea.
Cruising was an experience.  The Indonesian and Filipino staff had the patience of Jobe given some of the rudeness they have to tolerate mostly from a limited number of Americans- “I said I want my bacon crispy”,  “don’t overcook my eggs”,  all said with a total absence of please and thank you.  And do people eat?? OMG –  you’d think some of the guests were having their last supper. Entertainment was a much better standard than I’d expected.  All of the reviews that I read praised the staff as the key attribute of the Volendam and we certainly found that to be true.  They were so kind to the children as well.
So, 2880 miles later we are within an hour of Newark Airport where we will spend our final night in the States. We had under-estimated the sheer size of the country and thought that we could easily cross in 10 days at an average of 300 miles a day.
In fact, we tried to put some miles behind us in the early stages in the less populated states, so e.g. in Montana we did 480 miles in one day and still didn’t hit the state line into Wyoming.  Montana is around 147,000 square miles with a population of a little over a million souls, compared to the UK which is 94,000 square miles containing 65 million of us.  It is huge, but only the fourth largest after Alaska, Texas and California.  The kids were great and sat patiently for a minimum of 6 hours each day without once complaining.  No DVD’s or electronics to pass the time, so real heroes.
019 038 109002
The most boring bit was probably the 5 hour straight road between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in South Dakota – a mere 346 miles.
Several times we thought how brave the original settlers had been to make the journey from where they had landed to the Western states in rickety old wagons with no roads, wild animals, disease, bandits, Indians and all sorts of other hazards.  It’s not surprising that the majority of settlers chose to settle within a stone’s throw of New York.
We met some lovely people along the way and the driving was fairly easy, particularly in the Western states.  Drivers were courteous and gave you plenty of space.  Noticed a bit more impatience as we passed Chicago and as the roads got busier in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, there was a lot more tailgating and speeding.
In Montana and Wyoming, almost everyone seemed to have a huge pickup truck, but cars were dominant in the East.  The lorries seem to be super-charged and had no problem doing 70 mph up steep hills.  Petrol/gas is around $2.20 a gallon, so no real incentive to develop a high speed train service like the Japanese.  We didn’t see one passenger train on our entire trip, only huge goods trains.  We counted one at 125 trucks long.
Tomorrow will be the most challenging drive and that’s the 30 miles into Newark Airport to drop the car.
Oh and a quick mention of the beer, which has improved enormously since I was here over 20 years ago.  The craft beer movement has been hugely successful and you can get a tasty brew in most bars and restaurants.  My personal favourite was a pleasant hour or so in the  Kodiak Island Brewery sampling the 12 beers on tap.
103  099
Some of the more unusual sights along the way:
013 025 068
  058 054 080  062