Seven

 

Finally she turned seven!
Finally she turned seven!
Lots of lovely gifts. This graphic novel series is very popular with both the girls...as you can probably tell :)
Lots of lovely gifts. This graphic novel series is very popular with both the girls…as you can probably tell 🙂
And a spot of that dreaded non-feminist Lego.
And a spot of that dreaded non-feminist Lego.
The gifts from big sis were a big hit.
The gifts from big sis were a big hit.
Dad even made pancakes for breakfast.
Dad even made pancakes for breakfast.
Les girls all ready for the party.
Les girls all ready for the party.
Three amigos.
Three amigos.
Edie and Isabelle in American Girl heaven.
Edie and Isabelle in American Girl heaven.
Just chilling with my tiny crown and my tiny teacup.
Just chilling with my tiny crown and my tiny teacup.
Happy Birthday Edie!
Happy Birthday Edie!

The Handley March

John Handley was born in County Wexford in Ireland in 1835. He emigrated with his family to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1850. Handley worked as a carpenter, before studying law and working in Washington DC for President James Buchanan. He settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania where he practiced law, eventually becoming a judge.

Judge John Handley
Judge John Handley

Handley showed great concern for those less fortunate than himself and was known for his charitable actions and the many donations he made, which helped students in many schools and universities complete their educations. During the Civil War, Handley sympathised with the South and was a great admirer of Stonewall Jackson, one of the best known confederate commanders. Jackson was based in Winchester for several months during the course of the war and I’m assuming this is the reason why Handley made many trips to Winchester and grew to love the town and the friends that he made here.

On his death in 1895, Handley bequeathed $250,000 dollars to the city of Winchester. The money was invested and when the estate grew to the value of $500,000 dollars it was to be used to build a library for the people of Winchester.

Handley Library, built in 1913.
Handley Library, built in 1913.

Handley stipulated that the remainder of the estate be used to build schools for the education of the poor. In 1922 construction began on John Handley High School, using funds from Handley’s estate.

John Handley High School
John Handley High School

Handley’s love of Winchester was so great that he purchased a burial plot in Winchester’s Mount Hebron Cemetery. He wanted his final resting place to be as close as possible to the many soldiers who lost their lives in and around this area during the Civil War.

Every year, in honour of Handley’s bequest to Winchester and his particular interest in the education of the city’s children, a parade is held from the centre of old town Winchester to Handley’s grave in Mount Hebron Cemetery. Children from the six schools that make up the Winchester Public School district, are selected to take part in the march. Dressed in their very best clothes, carrying flowers to lay at the memorial, the children parade solemnly through the town to Handley’s grave, where they listen to various school officials pay tribute to the man who helped make their education possible.

This year a little Kiwi joined the parade…

Edie all ready to join the Handley March. Olive somewhat miffed that she wasn't chosen!
Edie all ready to join the Handley March. Olive somewhat miffed that she wasn’t chosen!
One of Edie's great friends was on the march too...made it even more exciting.
One of Edie’s great friends was on the march too…made it even more exciting.
Due to my new role as a working person, Richard joined the parade and acted as official papparazo...
Edie loved having her Dad walk alongside her and take plenty of pics for Mum!
I think Judge Handley would have smiled as he watched this lot marching...
I think Judge Handley would have smiled as he watched this lot marching…
Edie's floral tribute.
Edie’s floral tribute.
Mount Hebron Cemetery.
Mount Hebron Cemetery.
Final resting place of Winchester's number one fan :)
Final resting place of Winchester’s number one fan 🙂
Our very solemn and respectful Edie!
Our very solemn and respectful Edie!

If you were hoping to read all about our trip to Puerto Rico…apologies…am still sifting through photos but promise to share something soon. It’s Apple Blossom this weekend and the town is already abuzz. We have decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head away. We are going to Pennsylvania to visit two very iconic but very different American attractions – Hershey World and Gettysburg. That might need two separate blog posts!!

Take care everyone. Hope you are all well xxx

 

 

 

 

Ice Ice Baby

We made it back safely to icy cold Virginia. As always, New Zealand, our family and friends, were hard to leave, and for the first time in all our comings and goings, Olive was very upset to be leaving 😦 Expat life has so many wonderful opportunities but also lots of challenges, of which the goodbyes would be the biggest!

So trying not to wallow in the post-holiday blues, we braved the cold on Sunday and made the short drive south east to Manassas. We’d heard about a skating rink housed in an outdoor pavilion – sounded like just the thing to lift our spirits.

We were the first to arrive and for a while had the rink all to ourselves.
We were the first to arrive and for a while had the rink all to ourselves.
Frosty the snowman was waiting for us.
Frosty the snowman was waiting for us.

This was our third attempt at ice skating and for Edie her first time going solo. It was heaps of fun and we enjoyed watching all the ‘professional’ skaters who turned up with their own skates. Very impressive.

Skater girls.
Skater girls.
Look at me go!
Look at me go!
Ice princess.
Ice princess.

So now it is back to reality and routine. The girls made it back to school for one day and then it was cancelled due to the extreme cold! Hopefully things will be back to normal tomorrow.

Thanks to all our family and friends for their hospitality and love. The fact that leaving is so difficult is a testament to all the wonderful relationships we have in New Zealand so in a funny way it’s positive too – well, that’s how I’m going to look at it!

Happy new year everyone! Wishing you a great year ahead!

Parade!

We’ve just got home from the Winchester Christmas Parade. The girls had an absolute blast and loved riding the float and singing Christmas songs. As they were on one of the ‘better’ floats they came right at the end, just before the big red man – all very exciting.

It felt good to be seeing the parade for the second time – time to stop and think how far we’ve come since our first parade, when we’d only been here a few weeks and everything was still so new and so strange. To be honest I could probably just repost all the photos I took at last year’s parade – not much had changed! Except, of course, the addition of a couple of Kiwis!

Old Town Winchester all dressed up for her big night.
Old Town Winchester all dressed up for her big night.
Costumes on! The theme of the float was Charlie Brown and both girls were dressed as Woodstock!
Costumes on! The theme of the float was Charlie Brown and both girls were dressed as Woodstock!
The float.
Last minute touches for the float.
What the...? A camel? In Winchester?
What the…? A camel? In Winchester?
Not to be outdone by the snowman? polar bear? running on a treadmill!
Not to be outdone by the polar bear on a treadmill!
Wouldn't be a parade without some stars and stripes.
Wouldn’t be a parade without some stars and stripes.
These little girls were toe-tappingly terrific.
These little girls were toe-tappingly terrific.
Here they come! Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy float.
Here they come! Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy float.
Snoopy's Christmas.
Snoopy’s Christmas.
Singing Woodstocks.
Singing Woodstocks.
Looking for the Red Baron.
Looking for the Red Baron.
Marry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
Quite at home in front of a big crowd.
Quite at home in front of a big crowd.

And so that’s all done for another year. As soon as Olive and Edie got in the car they were already debating possible themes for next year’s float!

Until next time everyone…take care 🙂

Spooky Sunday

Richard spent much of Sunday playing with his new mountain biking mates, so the girls and I indulged in a little playing of our own. We spent the morning driving around Winchester capturing some of the Halloween props, decorations and displays that have been popping up all over the city.

Here’s a wee taste for you…if you click on the photo you will see a bigger version…

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Olive and Edie are very excited about Halloween this Thursday – but are even more excited about what we are going to be doing on Friday. Exactly three years ago this Friday we left New Zealand on the start of our big overseas adventure. We broke the journey to Belgium with a stop in Hong Kong where we visited Disneyland. So on Friday history is going to repeat itself somewhat – we are heading to Orlando, Florida…home of…Disneyworld! Say tuned for much Micky Mouse madness!!

Under the Mountain

Virginia is one of only of six states in the US with over 2,000 known underground caves, and there are eight places that you can visit for a guided tour of what lies beneath. For whatever reason, six of these eight venues are not too far from Winchester, and on Thursday the girls and I paid a visit to the closest – the Skyline Caverns.

Getting ready to descend - scavenger hunts in hand. They needed to find, among other things, a place where people get married and a place that will drive you crazy!
Getting ready to descend – scavenger hunts in hand. They needed to find, among other things, a place where people get married and a place that will drive you crazy!

In the late 1930’s a retired geologist from Winchester named Walter Amos, was contracted by private and government agencies to search for caves and caverns. Skyline Drive  was due to open and more ways of attracting people to the area were being explored. In December of 1937, on the site of the cavern’s parking lot, Amos discovered a sinkhole. There was no water in the sinkhole which meant there had to be a drain nearby – most likely a cavern.

Going down, down, down...
Going down, down, down…

Amos found an opening and began digging out the first room in the caverns. He discovered a large system of connected rooms, most of which were navigable and clear of obstructions. Ninety percent of the caverns were easily accessible and, in addition to the entrance, only ten percent needed to be dug out. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The cavern floor was lined with fourteen inches of mud and clay which had to be removed before the caverns opened to the public. It took over a year but on April 13, 1939, the caverns welcomed their first visitors.

Aaaaah! The Wilberforces!
Aaaaah! The Wilberforces!

There were seven of us on the tour. We were instantly of interest because A: we come from New Zealand, B: we were the only tour members to have been in an underground cavern before and C: the underground cavern we had visited previously was in Dinant, Belgium. Once the lovely young tour guide stopped saying “wow” we made our descent.

Dotted throughout the caverns were coloured lights which made everything look even more impressive.
Dotted throughout the caverns were coloured lights which made everything look even more impressive.
A broken stalactite which was okay to touch. Apparently the oils in our hands spell certain doom to growing stalactites and stalagmites.
A broken stalactite which was okay to touch. Apparently the oils in our hands spell certain doom to growing stalactites and stalagmites.

The Skyline caverns are notable because of the fact that they required so little human intervention to be accessible to visitors, but also because of the discovery in the caverns of anthodites. Anthodites are perfect six-sided crystalline strictures made of pure calcite. They are protected by law and you could be looking at a jail term of up to four years if you try to break any of them off!

Step away from the anthodites!
Step away from the anthodites!
The fines are bad too. Several thousand dollars for every inch of anthodite you break.
The fines are bad too. Several thousand dollars for every inch of anthodite you break.

As we wandered from room to room the girls dutifully ticked off the places that were on their scavenger hunt list. But one place was eluding them – wherever it was that made you go crazy. Our guide explained this part of the hunt by turning off all the lights and letting us experience just how dark it really is down there. We all held our hands up right in front of our faces but could see nothing. If a human stays in that degree of darkness for just two weeks, they will have lost their eyesight and their mind. Getting back into natural light will restore eyesight over time but your sanity…well that just might be gone forever. Standing in that utter pitch black I could easily imagine going round the twist.

Apparently there are bats down deep in the caverns. On days when there are lots of visitors they often emerged - a bit freaked out by all the noise.
Apparently there are bats down deep in the caverns. On days when there are lots of visitors they often emerge – a bit freaked out by all the noise.
Buddha type rock formation and lots of dark!
Buddha type rock formation and lots of dark!

It was a great trip. We all learned a great deal and it was nice to be exploring the area a bit closer to home. We finished our day with lunch at Element Cafe in Front Royal which I can highly recommend.

One more week of holidays to go! On Thursday afternoon we will head up to John Kerr Elementary to say hello to Olive and Edie’s teachers. They are both so excited about the start of the new school year. Until next time, take care everyone xxx

Obstacles

Running is a pretty popular pastime in the US and there are always a whole range of races and events that one can sign up for. One of the things we have noticed is that many of these events are starting to incorporate obstacles – as if a good run wasn’t challenging enough! You can do the Spartan Race or the Tough Mudder, which is designed by British special forces. I was even invited to be part of team that’s going to do the Lozilu Women’s Mud Run in DC in July. I’m sure it would have been a laugh but fortunately we’ll be away at the beach – phew!

And it’s not just adults that can take part in these grueling feats of endurance – kids can too! On Saturday Olive and Edie lined up at the start of the World Explorer obstacle course which was part of an International Festival held in one of our local parks.

First official race number - something of a milestone in our house!
First official race number – something of a milestone in our house!
Listening carefully to the instructions.
Listening carefully to the instructions.

As it was part of an International Festival, all ten obstacles on the course related to a specific country. Each child went through the course alone, they all were timed and medals were given to the top three boys and girls in each age group.

Eyeing up the competition.
Eyeing up the competition.
Bursting out of the starting gate!
Bursting out of the starting gate!
A little bit of hockey at the Canada stop.
A little bit of hockey at the Canada stop.
Delivering apples to the hungry elephant in India.
Delivering apples to the hungry elephant in India.
Tossing a lei in Hawaii.
Tossing a lei in Hawaii.
A spot of show jumping in England.
A spot of show jumping in England.
The course culminated in the Brazilian mud pit. Here's big sis getting ready to cheer little sis on.
The course culminated in the Brazilian mud pit. Here’s big sis getting ready to cheer little sis on.
Doing her best to stay out of the mud!
Doing her best to stay out of the mud!
Off to the finish...
Off to the finish…
and then the best part of the whole course!
and then the best part of the whole course!

Later that afternoon it was Olive’s turn…

It was a very hot day with very little shade yet Olive would not be talked out of her covered up running outfit!
It was a very hot day with very little shade yet Olive would not be talked out of her covered up running outfit!
Heading under the chunnel from France to England.
Heading under the chunnel from France to England.
Tally-ho!
Tally-ho!
Pausing before descending into the pit!
Pausing before descending into the pit!
Future marine in training!
Future marine in training!
A well-deserved cool down.
A well-deserved cool down.

Both girls loved it and I’m sure will be asking to take part again next year 🙂

Richard has been away in San Francisco all this week and arrives back on Saturday morning. Then on Sunday he’s off to a trade show in New York. We are going to tag along with him as it’s only four hours drive and we can make another trip to Broadway. This time we are going to see Annie. Our first choice was Matilda which is supposed to be amazing but it’s all sold out. Still, Annie is not such a bad second choice – we’ll get to see  Jane Lynch aka evil Coach Sue Sylvester from Glee as Miss Hannigan! I will admit to being the most excited member of the household 🙂

Take care everyone – I’ll be back sometime next week with a New York report for y’all.

Broadway Bound!

Our local university, Shenandoah, has a very highly regarded music department. The Shenandoah Conservatory not only provides undergraduate and postgraduate study for college students from all over the world, but it also offers music, singing, dance and theatre classes for the children of Winchester through it’s arts academy.

Last week Olive and Edie took part in a Burning Up Broadway themed summer camp run by the arts academy. Over the course of five mornings they rehearsed and then performed a musical called Hats!

The stage is set for Hats!
The stage is set for Hats!

They had to learn songs, dance routines, lines of script, and also make the scenery and props. On the Friday morning they performed the show for invited parents and friends.

"Party! Let's Party! We'll take it from the top!" (Yes I did know all the words by the end of the week!)
“Party! Let’s Party! We’ll take it from the top!” (Yes I did know all the words by the end of the week!)
Edie's teacher in Belgium - the wonderful Miss Sarah - wrote on her school report that she is "a true performer". That was clearly evident on Friday morning!
Edie’s teacher in Belgium – the wonderful Miss Sarah – wrote on her school report that she is “a true performer”. That was clearly evident on Friday morning!
Delivering one of her lines, dressed in her beautiful hat.
Delivering one of her lines, dressed in her beautiful hat.
She even got to sing a tiny solo about the special hat one wears when graduating.
She even got to sing a tiny solo about the special hat one wears when graduating. Don’t you love all the technology in action recording the show!
Olive's character Ima Milliner didn't have a hat and Olive had to sing about her search for the perfect hat. The notes were pretty high but she was in tune - mum tried not to sniff too loudly!
Olive’s character Ima Milliner didn’t have a hat and Olive had to sing about her search for the perfect hat. The notes were pretty high but she was in tune – mum tried not to sniff too loudly!
A couple of old hats! Boom boom!
A couple of old hats! Boom boom!
This song was all about sporting hats.
This song was all about sporting hats but Ima didn’t want one of those.
There was a very patriotic song about Uncle Sam's red, white and blue hat.
There was a very patriotic song about Uncle Sam’s red, white and blue hat.
Here's Ima in the hat she finally settled on...a Carmen Miranda inspired masterpiece which was made by all the children.
Here’s Ima in the hat she finally settled on…a Carmen Miranda inspired masterpiece which was made by all the children.
"My head, my heart" - Edie belting out the closing number.
“My head, my heart” – Edie belting out the closing number.
Check out those facial expressions!
Check out those facial expressions!
The traditional after show party with the cast.
The traditional after show party with the cast.

To say that the girls enjoyed their week of Hats! would be a monumental understatement – they adored it! They leaped out of bed every morning (for Olive this is nothing short of a minor miracle) and bombarded me with “is it time to go yet?” every minute until we got in the car. Their teacher was wonderful and the other children were just as enthusiastic – worth every penny.  Olive and Edie have now decided to join up for the arts academy’s group singing class which begins in September. Methinks they have been bitten well and truly by the stage bug!

"Yo, yo yo...watch out Broadway! Here we come!"
“Yo, yo yo…watch out Broadway! Here we come!”

Ballerinas

The school year has come to a close and amongst all the end of school pot luck dinners, picnics and fun days, the girls took part in a ballet demonstration. They started ballet earlier this year. Edie had been desperate to start as soon as we moved here but as the school year was already well underway, most ballet schools weren’t taking any new students until the start of the next school year. Fortunately we found a newly established school that was willing to take students at any time throughout the year.

Skip two three four...
Skip two three four…

The ballet school they are attending teaches the Cecchetti method of dance. I have to admit to having had no idea that there were different types of ballet one could learn. Cecchetti ballet was devised in the nineteenth century by ballet master Enrico Cecchetti. His instruction can be traced in a direct line all the way back to the first ballet master at the court of Louis XIV of France.

and point that toe...
and point that toe…

Cecchetti has a particular focus on anatomy and involves lots of stretches and posture exercises. To be honest, I thought it might be all a bit too disciplined for the girls – especially Edie – but they both love it. Once those fluffy white skirts were on – that was it!

keep that back straight...
keep that back straight…
floating through the air on my fluffy skirt...
floating through the air on my fluffy skirt…

Like every ballet recital I have ever attended, it went on way too long, but the girls loved being up on a big stage in the university theatre and Richard and I were very proud of the girls’ efforts.

plie...I think!...
plie…I think!…
here come the gallops...
here come the gallops…

Their teacher, Miss Lorenza, is from Florence and having been to Italy, the girls feel they have a special connection with her. 🙂

butter wouldn't melt...
butter wouldn’t melt…
beautiful ballet fingers...
beautiful ballet fingers…

We are three days into summer vacation and the water slide in the back garden is taking a bit of a hammering! I’ll keep you up to date on all the things we’ll be getting up to – only eight or so weeks to go 🙂

Take care, and all those in the Antipodes – stay warm!

xxx

Baby you were born to run…

I was never a sporty child. My leisure time was split fairly evenly between reading books and watching television – my Mother would go so far as to say I was a tv addict. Captain Caveman, Hong Kong Phooey, Atom Ant, The Mickey Mouse Club and Scooby Doo were all a huge part of my early years. I balanced all  those American cartoon shows with a good helping of those great quality children’s shows that they just don’t seem to make any more – The Pheonix and the Carpet, Ballet Shoes and New Zealand’s own unsurpassed children’s series, Under The Mountain. ( I still can’t hear the name Wilberforce without shuddering!)

250px-Scooby-gang-1969Under the Mountain 2220px-Balletshoestv

When we moved from Wellington to Hastings in the early 1980’s, I was appalled to discover that at school in the provinces one was required to partake in an alarming amount of cross country running. Every afternoon we’d be ushered out onto the not insubstantial field and made to run three to four circuits. The teacher would stand out in the middle of the field and shout at those who walked – me – or those who dared to cut corners. There was never any actual teaching about how to run, how to get started if you’ve never done it before or how to combine running and walking to build up your endurance. I hated it. Those daily sessions left me feeling useless and like there was something wrong with me. My worst moment was in Form Two – that would be year 8 in modern school lingo – when my teacher used to write the fastest time on the chalkboard and underneath it the slowest time. No surprises who was the owner of the slowest time in the class 😦 I’ll never forgive Miss Hamilton for that.

As I grew I began to get much more interested in physical activity and by the time I left university I was a regular gym goer. Step classes, Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Balance all became activities that I regularly enjoyed and yet, I often looked wistfully at people running and thought “if only I could do that”.

I used to look just like this when I did Body Combat..really!
I used to look just like this when I did Body Combat..really!

My enjoyment and interest in exercise and fitness continued to grow when I met and married Action Man. One of the things we loved to do was go for big walks all over Wellington’s hills and when we moved to Wadestown we had the very hilly town belt right on our back doorstep. When Olive came along she’d join us on our ramblings – tucked snugly into the front pack or surveying the scene from on high in the backpack once she got a bit older.

Richard "Action Man" Croad
“Will you take this Action Man?”

One of our routes used to end in a short but very steep climb. As we tackled this climb one afternoon, a runner bounded passed us, seeming to float all the way to the top. I turned to Richard and said, “I could never do that” to which he replied, with a smile, “yes you could”.

And with those three words so began my running renaissance. Miss Hamilton be damned – I was going to run! Slowly but surely I progressed from tiny amounts of running interspersed with big amounts of walking, to being able to jog up that infamous hill. I was never very fast but I got to the point where I could run ten kilometres. I’d signed up to do a 10k race – my first official running race – and promptly fell victim to the overuse injury achilles tendinitis. I dutifully took myself to see a physiotherapist and one of the first things she said to me was “I hate running. Have you noticed that runners never have a smile on their face?” I think she was Miss Hamilton reincarnated.

I laid off the running until we moved to Belgium and it was there, on the incredibly flat streets of Antwerp, that – shock, horror – I discovered that I actually prefer a more hilly terrain to the not-a-hint-of-a-gradient-anywhere that one finds in the lowlands. It was relief to see a nice amount of undulating terrain in and around our new neighbourhood when we moved to the US. One of the reasons that I like to run is that it definitely helps me to handle whatever life is throwing my way, and when we arrived in Winchester last October, life was pelting me with a whole lot of stress. So I dug out my MP3 player, dusted off my sneakers and downloaded the wonderful First Day to 5k programme. And this time, I was determined to take part in a race at the end of it.

So fast forward to last Saturday morning and there I was lined up at the start of the Girls on the Run 5k. Girls on the Run is a nationwide organisation that runs after school training programmes for girls which culminate in a 5k event. The idea is that hopefully the girls will develop lifelong habits around health and fitness, build their confidence, make friends and achieve a challenging goal. It is exactly the sort of programme that would have done wonders for the fatigued and despondent ten year old me, and so I thought it an excellent choice for my first event.

Before the start - not nervous at all - yeah right!
Before the start – not nervous at all – yeah right!
About thirty seconds into the race - perhaps the champion arms are a bit premature!
About thirty seconds into the race – perhaps the champion arms are a bit premature!
About halfway...puff, puff, puff...
About halfway…puff, puff, puff…
Olive helped me make it to the finish line :)
Olive helped me make it to the finish line 🙂

It was hard but it was great. Watching all those young girls running with their dads or mums or a buddy who signed up to run with them, was lovely. Each girl’s bib bore the number 1 and there was huge vocal support for every one of them – even me – when they made it across the line. As it was an event aimed at encouragement and participation, no official times were measured – which means I am going to have to do another 5k event so I can have an official time.

Here’s to all those amazing girls who took part on Saturday, and to all their supporters. Thanks for letting this old girl join you.

PS I can’t claim all the Croad family running glory. That afternoon we got in the car and drove to Fredericksburg, where action man ran the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon. Thanks to him for saying ,”you could do that”.

Take care everyone. Missing you and sending all our love xxx