Hitting the road…

We began our farewell tour with a two day drive down the northwest coastline, heading for San Francisco. It’s a big drive, so we broke it up over two and a half days, with two nights camping out. We haven’t done a lot of camping as a family, but will spend quite a few nights on this road trip under canvas. I have to say that we got off to a pretty good start.

There were endless beautiful vistas and sights as we made our way to our first destination, Sunset Bay State Park…

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The girls had a blast racing down some of the Oregon dunes.
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We drove over another of Oregon’s unique bridges…
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arriving at Sunset Bay for…no words needed here!

The girls took the business of setting up camp very seriously, each taking on specifically assigned duties. Olive was Richard’s trusty tent setting up assistant, whilst Edie ably got all the camp mattresses inflated and installed inside the tent. I was relegated to assembling a couple of camp beds, which even I, with my thorough lack of camping nous, was able to pull off.

Once camp Croad was up and running we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the delights of Sunset Bay.

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Despite being awoken in the early hours by our nearest neighbor’s crying infant, we all managed to get a decent night’s sleep and were quickly up and back on the road for the next leg of the journey. Before continuing south, we made a quick detour to check out the seal colony you can find just north of the park. We weren’t quite sure how many seals to expect, but as soon as we opened the car doors we were hit with an overwhelming cacophony of bellows and brays…let’s just say there were quite a few seals!

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We were all very excited about our next stop – a chance to sleep amongst the giant redwoods in California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park.ย It didn’t disappoint. Because the night was so warm, we were able to leave the fly off the tent and sleep looking up at a canopy of intertwining branches…magic.

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I’m writing this from the beach front in Tulum, Mexico. We are coming to the end of a very special week here, about which I’ll blog next. Tomorrow it’s back to San Francisco and then on to Yosemite…the adventure continues!

 

Bent!

I think this is the fourth attempt I have made at writing this post! To be honest it’s usually a time of struggle or challenge that keeps me away from my little corner of the world wide web, but I’m happy to report that this time it’s down to being busy…to, dare I say it, embracing the very privileged moment in time we are experiencing. When Richard first floated the idea of this ‘sabbatical’ for want of a better word, I was quick to point out all the reasons why we shouldn’t do it – those of you who know me very well won’t be surprised by that at all. Change and I are somewhat uncomfortable bedfellows.

We have now been in Bend for just over six weeks and things are going well. Of course like anything, it’s not all wine and roses – I have on more than one occasion threatened to march Olive and Edie down to the local school for the last few weeks of the academic year – but all things considered, life in Bend is suiting us pretty well.

Before we made it to Bend, we did partake in a bit of a road trip, which is what this post was meant to be about when I made my first attempt to write it a month ago! Richard made the entire drive from east to west, whilst the girls and I did a wee bit less than that. When school broke for spring break we flew to Denver and met up with Richard and the tardis, aka our car, which was crammed full with all manner of necessary items…coffee machine, five bikes (!), scarves and sunglasses to reenact iconic moment from Thelma and Louise…you get the picture. We drove straight out of Denver and headed forย Moab in Utah, an amazing drive which took us into landscapes that looked completely other worldly.

So many cries of "wow, look" as we journeyed further west.
So many cries of “wow, look” as we journeyed further west.

Our goal in Moab was to go hiking in Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 natural stone arches, and a place that was settled over 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.

Heading into the park to walk to Delicate Arch, the unofficial symbol of Utah.
Heading into the park to walk to Delicate Arch, the unofficial symbol of Utah.
Olive and Edie were great hikers, full of interest in the amazing environment.
Olive and Edie were great hikers, full of interest in the amazing environment.
Delicate Arch in all her glory.
Delicate Arch in all her glory.
The girls were a bit braver than I when it came to venturing out on the rocks.
The girls were a bit braver than I when it came to venturing out on the rocks.
At times it felt like being on another planet.
At times it felt like being on another planet.
The girls took every available opportunity for climbing rocks.
The girls took every available opportunity for climbing rocks.
Places I never thought I would get to :)
Places I never thought I would get to ๐Ÿ™‚

From Moab we headed to Park City, home of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. We had to pass through Salt Lake City on the way and I amused myself by counting Latter Day Saints church spires – there were a lot. (I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the Mormons. My mother used to disappear off to the Mormon church in Hataitai to do genealogical research, I was a huge fan of the show Big Loveย and I’ve read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven…and then there was the time my sister invited a couple of missionaries in when they came knocking on the door one day. But that’s another story!)

To be honest I was a bit underwhelmed by Park City…not a celebrity in sight! Still it wasn’t film festival time…I’m sure it’s quite the place then.

Spot of snowboarding with True Blood's Alcide...mmm...could have been persuaded to stick around Park City for that!
Spot of snowboarding with True Blood’s Alcide…mmm…could have been persuaded to stick around Park City for that!

Next up was Boise, Idaho, one of those places that I’d read about or heard mentioned on tv or in movies but never in a million years expected to actually be in. We were only there overnight but were quite taken by it…had a very cool cafeย which is always the mark of a good town in our book.

We rolled into Bend on a Monday afternoon and set up home in our little house on the west side. Unfortunately we woke up the next day to the news that Richard’s mother had passed away so our first official day in Bend was spent sorting flights, accommodation and rental cars and getting Richard off to the airport.

With Grandmama in Byron Bay, December 2013.
With Grandmama in Byron Bay, December 2013.

The girls and I spent the week getting to know Bend, which required numerous trips to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – Winchester friends will understand the great excitement at having both these stores in town! The girls even did an art class for a couple of mornings which enabled me to focus on getting my big projects finished for the two courses I was doing. Richard made it home in time for the final few hours of Olive’s birthday and we were able to start getting into the swing of life in Bend.

Nine years old!
Nine years old!

Owing to Richard having to head to Australia for a week and me having to get all my study complete, we didn’t properly start homeschooling until our third week in Bend. We are doing a very hybrid, make it up as you go along kind of approach! We are using the K12 online system for maths, spelling and history; blogging and corresponding with friends and family are our writing themes and, as Bend is located in an area of great volcanic significance, we are focussing on all things volcano related for science. Reading pretty much takes care of itself although I have insisted on a daily SSR time where only novels are allowed to be read – the graphic novel obsession continues unabated! PE is the easiest subject to work on – we’ve hiked, mountain biked, explored playgrounds and the girls do gymnastics twice a week, and Olive is trying out a kid’s running club this week. (In Bend you can get picked up from school by bus and taken to mountain biking class! You can guess how tough Richard is finding it to live here ๐Ÿ™‚ I too am very happy to have found a great yoga studio and am starting each day with a 6am class. I didn’t think it would be possible to find a studio that could match Shine in Winchester but so far I’m loving it.) Olive and Edie’s foray into blogging revealed a need for speedier fingers on the keyboard so they are also doing an online typing program. We usually spend the morning working – 8:30am till 12, which leaves us the afternoon free to get outside and explore Bend’s fantastic outdoors, make trips to the library or meet up with our friends online. Or we bunk off school for a few days and head wherever Richard has to go for work – San Francisco anyone?!

We like to call it education outside the classroom.
We like to call it education outside the classroom.

We’ve decided to extend our stay in Bend and have found another place to move into at the beginning of July. Summer is the best time to be here and as everything is still a bit up in the air for us future wise, staying put for a wee bit longer feels like the right thing to do. The girls and I are making a trip back to New Zealand at the end of June…arriving in Napier on June 21st and leaving on July 6th. Olive and Edie are rather excited, Olive going so far as installing a countdown app on my phone which she diligently checks every day, “only 31 days to go Mum!”

I’d like to say a big thank you to wonderful friends and family who are supporting Olive and Edie’s letter writing. They get so excited when there is something just for them in the mailbox. Also thanks to those reading and commenting on their blogs. I suspect they are going to beat me to all the good stories! You can click here for Olive’s and here for Edie’s.

I think that’s enough for now. Once again I have written something which veers into essay-like proportions! I haven’t mentioned how hard it was to leave Winchester, how emotional it was, but I hope y’all know how special our time there was xxx

Until next time…

Costa Rica Roundup – Part Three

Christmas Day in Costa Rica turned out to be very quiet and relaxed. Unfortunately both Richard and Olive had upset stomachs. Olive had discovered the maracuya, a larger and slightly more sour type of passion fruit, and I suspect her tummy was telling her “enough with the maracuya!” Being the highbrow family that we are, we couldn’t get through the day without numerous references to maracuya and poohya…I always thought girls were meant to be immune to all that toilet humor!!

Oliva and Edie posing with one of the many and varied Nativity scenes we encountered during our trip.
Olive and Edie posing with one of the many and varied Nativity scenes we encountered during our trip.
Despite the dodgy tummies we did manage to make it down to Dominicalito Beach for a couple of hours...just like a real Kiwi Christmas day.
Despite the dodgy tummies we did manage to make it down to Dominicalito Beach for a couple of hours…just like a real Kiwi Christmas day.
Watching the hundreds of hermit crabs on the go was fun.
Watching the hundreds of hermit crabs on the go was fun.
Olive and her sloth. Our non stuffed animal lover instantly fell in love with this one...of course we left it behind :(
Olive and her sloth. Our non stuffed animal lover instantly fell in love with this one…of course we forgot to pack it!
Watching the sun set at Dominical beach on Christmas night. Magic.
Watching the sun set at Dominical beach on Christmas night. Magic.

On Boxing Day we went back to Ballena National Park to take a walk on the whale’s tail. It literally has the shape of a whale’s tail and is a place where humpback whales come twice a year. You can only walk on the tail when the tide is out so you have to time it right or you could get stranded.

The whale's tail from above.
The whale’s tail from above.
Our more down to earth view.
Our more down to earth view.
Once again Edie spent every possible moment in the water.
Once again Edie spent every possible moment in the water.
Our last adventure in Costa Rica was a trip to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.
Our last adventure in Costa Rica was a trip to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.
We got to meet all sorts of wildlife who had been rescued from various situations.
We got to meet all sorts of wildlife who had been rescued from various situations.
It's illegal to keep Costa Rican wildlife as pets, but many people do. When the animal is discovered it often ends up at Alturas. They also take in animals who have been injured or mistreated.
It’s illegal to keep Costa Rican wildlife as pets, but many people do. When the animal is discovered it often ends up at Alturas. They also take in animals who have been injured or mistreated.
The goal is to rehabilitat the animals and, if possible, get them back into the wild. Once released, many of the animals keep very close to the sanctuary and have been known to pop back for a visit.
The goal is to rehabilitate the animals and, if possible, get them back into the wild. Once released, many of the animals keep very close to the sanctuary and have been known to pop back for a visit.
I never thought I would describe a porcupine as cute but this wee girl was so adorable.
I never thought I would describe a porcupine as cute but this wee girl was so adorable.
Apparently these wee critters taste amazing - ugh - but as a result are very endangered.
Apparently these wee critters taste amazing – ugh – but as a result are very endangered.
Olive and Edie loved getting up close and personal with all the animals.
Olive and Edie loved getting up close and personal with all the animals.

And so the sun set on our Costa Rican adventure. Pura Vida is a phrase used a great deal in Costa Rica. Loosely translated it means the good life, living well, things are going great…perhaps even…no worries…it’s a sentiment we tried desperately to keep in mind when we arrived home late on the 29th to discover…

"Oh ?@*$!"....breathe...Pura Vida, Pura Vida, Pura Vida!
“Oh $#@*!”….breathe…Pura Vida, Pura Vida, Pura Vida!

 

Costa Rica Roundup – Part Two

We spent a quiet Tuesday morning, breakfasting at a great cafeย (so good we ended up eating there three times), taking in the beautiful views and watching a few locals get their downward dog on in a beachfront yoga class.

Good food, stunning view...happy, happy :)
Good food, stunning view…happy, happy ๐Ÿ™‚

Our adventure for the day was a zip lining tour, high up in the hills near the Osa mountain village. After a very bumpy and very steep ride on the back of a truck we arrived at the start of the course…a rather high zip line stretching off into the distance. “We’ll take the kids for the first one and then they can do the rest themselves”, I was cheerily told by our instructors. Um…I don’t think so!

Getting ready to fly.
Getting ready to fly.
I had to eat my words. Olive was immediately zipping away all by herself...
I had to eat my words. Olive was immediately zipping away all by herself…
and Edie was not far behind her. They even had to control a brake and slow themselves down before reaching the platform at the end of each line. Once again, very impressed with my girls!
and Edie was not far behind her. They even had to control a brake and slow themselves down before reaching the platform at the end of each line. Once again, very impressed with my girls!
It was so much fun...even I loved it.
It was so much fun…even I loved it.
Edie making her way down to the ground.
Edie making her way down to the ground.
Enjoying the rope swing at the end of the course.
Enjoying the rope swing at the end of the course.
And just in case you thought our wonderful pool wasn't getting any use...this is how every spare moment was spent. Edie would dash from the car, strip and jump straight in!
And just in case you thought our wonderful pool wasn’t getting any use…this is how every spare moment was spent. Edie would dash from the car, strip and jump straight in!

We spent Christmas Eve on a horse trek to the beautiful Nauyaca Waterfalls. I have to admit to being somewhat nervous as it had been a very long time since I’d been on the back of a horse and I wasn’t sure how the girls would get on. Once I’d reconciled myself to the fact that my horse had to be at the front of the pack, regardless of who she had to push out the way, or how fast she had to move to get there, I managed to relax and enjoy myself. Edie didn’t like it at all to begin with but after we’d had our first rest stop, she announced that everything was ok as she could now “communicate with horses”. Whatever she said to herself or to the horse, clearly worked because she loved every minute of the rest of the trip. Olive took to it like a duck to water and Richard, mounted on the dubiously titled “Tequila”, declared it one of the more boring activities he’d taken part in! What the…?

Saddled up and ready to hit the trail.
Saddled up and ready to hit the trail.
We made two stops for a traditional breakfast and lunch and were treated to some spectacular wildlife.
We made two stops for a traditional breakfast and lunch and were treated to some spectacular wildlife.
In the words of Dora the Explorer, "Senor Toucan!"
In the words of Dora the Explorer, “Senor Toucan!”
Me and my Speedy Gonzales!
Me and my Speedy Gonzales!
Oooo...this would be good for a Christmas card...one year I'll get around to sending some!
Oooo…this would be good for a Christmas card…one year I’ll get around to sending some!
Beautiful.
Beautiful.
One of our guides climbing the waterfall to set up the jumping station...you can guess who was suddenly not so bored any more...
One of our guides climbing the waterfall to set up the jumping station…you can guess who was suddenly not so bored any more…
hope his expensive teeth are still in there!
hope his expensive teeth are still in there!
During the lunch break it was time for some entertainment monkey style.
During the lunch break it was time for some entertainment monkey style.

Another exhilarating and exhausting day. Time for a very quiet Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

Costa Rica Roundup – Part One

In my previous post I did promise to write about every day of our Costa Rican adventure but in all honesty I was too whacked at the end of each fun filled day to attempt anything more than drinking a glass of wine and documenting the range of visitors that turned up in the grounds of the house after dark. I told myself I would write when we got home but, as many of you know, we arrived home to discover some pretty serious water damage…as a result my focus was somewhat diverted!

So this is my cheat’s version. I’ve been through the hundreds – I kid you not – of photos that we took, and picked what I think are the best. I won’t hit you with all fifty odd of them at once. Some today, some tomorrow and maybe some the next day. Hopefully they capture what was a wonderful holiday.

Our nest adventure after surfing was a snorkeling trip. We met the boat crew at the Ballena National Park, where the entrance was surrounded by lots of colorful buildings.
Our next adventure after surfing was a snorkeling trip. We met the boat crew at the Ballena National Park, where the entrance was surrounded by lots of colorful buildings.
It was beautiful - lush greens and palm trees galore.
It was beautiful – lush greens and palm trees galore.
You get the picture?!
You get the picture?!
Loading up the boat.
Loading up the boat.
Highlight of the whole day - seeing dolphins galore. Amazing!
Highlight of the whole day – seeing dolphins galore. Amazing!
En route to Cano Island National Park.
En route to Cano Island National Park.
The girls had lots of fun finding interestingly shaped coral on the island.
The girls had lots of fun finding interestingly shaped coral on the island.
And doing their best to promote Billabong!
And doing their best to promote Billabong!
As Cano Island is a National Park we weren't allowed to take anything with us. If we could ave, these two would have been in my pocket.
As Cano Island is a National Park we weren’t allowed to take anything with us. If we could have, these two would have been in my pocket.
With Eric, our very cool snorkeling guide.
With Eric, our very cool snorkeling guide.

I didn’t get any photos whilst we snorkeled – Edie absolutely loved it, Olive not so much. I made the mistake of screaming out “shark!” excitedly, as a small one swam below us…and that was it…couldn’t get her back in the water. I was very impressed with both of them though. We weren’t snorkeling in the shallows near the island – they had to jump off the boat into deep water, not something I would have done at their age.

It was a great day. By the end we were all exhausted and, sad to say, somewhat sun burnt! I’m sure all our dreams that night were full of the dolphins, sea turtles, exotic fish and even the sharks we had seen…in Olive’s case, nightmare might be the more appropriate word ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Surfin’ Costa Rica

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that it has been over six months since I posted. That has the dubious honour of being a record for me since I started blogging over four years ago. I’ve been away from this space for many reasons – which I won’t go into here!! Suffice to say that as our Costa Rican adventure drew near, I knew it was now or never. If a dream holiday in a stunning destination couldn’t spur me into action then I think all would have been lost for onthecroadagain. The messages I also received, politely asking just what in the hell had happened to the Croad family, were also a much needed kick in the pants. So here we are – surfin’ Costa Rica!

Just in case you'd forgotten what I looked like...here is the obligatory "I'm on a beach in Costa Rica" selfie :)
Just in case you’d forgotten what I looked like…here is the obligatory “I’m on a beach in Costa Rica” selfie ๐Ÿ™‚

We are here in Costa Rica for Christmas largely because of a set of teeth – Richard’s to be precise. He was in great need of some pretty major dental work but the quote given to him by a dental group in Winchester was…to put it politely…somewhat on the high side. Richard was not impressed when the dentist quipped, “hey, it’s only a new car right?”.

And this is the kind of new car the dentist was referring to...new set of teeth or Audi...new set of teeth or Audi...Audi??!!
And this is the kind of new car the dentist was referring to…new set of teeth or Audi…new set of teeth or Audi…Audi??!!

Being the resourceful chap he is, Richard was soon furiously researching other options and lo and behold, it transpires that Costa Rica is a great place to go if one is in the mood for a spot of dental tourism. I have to admit to experiencing some trepidation at the thought of a) Richard heading off to a tiny central American nation to have his mouth transformed and b) a significant change in the way he looked. My only experience of anyone having major dental changes was when my Dad (and I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning this – right JBG??) had a new top plate thingy put in and it took everyone months to get used to the dazzling white teeth that emerged every time he opened his mouth.

Ok...I'll admit...this is not JBG...but the pearly whites are pretty spot on!
Ok…I’ll admit…this is not JBG…but the pearly whites are pretty spot on!

When the Costa Rican quote came in at a significantly cheaper rate – second hand Ford focus anyone? – the deal was sealed. In late June, Richard made his first trip down here, and it was anything but a tropical vacation with a bit of time in the dentist’s office on the side. The phone calls home were miserable, chronicling nine hour stints in the dentist’s chair, needles, crowns, implants….ugh. But by the end of the week, Richard had endured all the prep work and had made a firm friend in Guillermo – a taxi driver who helped endear him to the seemingly haphazard Tico lifestyle in the mixed bag metropolis that is San Jose.

Richard needed about six months before his return trip to complete all the work, and as that coincided with late December, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and make his return to Costa Rica a bit of a family adventure. Richard went on ahead of us to get the final work done on his chompers and on Friday the girls and I flew down to join him. (And just in case you are wondering he looks just like the same…ahem…old Richard…and he’s been thrilled with the overall result.)

Ok...not Richard...Ed Harris and his smashing smile. On our first trip to Paris ten years ago, an American couple approached Richard and asked him "are you that famous actor?". We stupidly never asked which actor they were referring too, but we are pretty sure it was Ed.
Ok…not Richard…Ed Harris and his smashing smile. On our first trip to Paris ten years ago, an American couple approached Richard and asked him “are you that famous actor?”. We stupidly never asked which actor they were referring too, but we are pretty sure it was Ed.

We stepped out into the gloriously warm city of San Jose late on Friday afternoon and rendezvoused with Richard in the early evening, after he got the sign off from the head honcho at the dentist. Saturday morning was spent hunting down a few necessities – flip flops and sunscreen – then we hopped in our car and began the drive to Dominical. On our way there we had our first encounter with some of the abundant Costa Rican wildlife. We made a stop at a bridge which crosses over the Tarcoles river. There were souvenir stalls set up and lines of people making there way to the middle of the bridge, cameras in hand. As we passed one of the stalls we got an inkling of what we were in for…

bet they have good looking teeth.
bet they have good looking teeth.

We followed the lines of people and once at the middle of the bridge, leaned carefully over. We were met with this sight…

yes, it's a river full of crocodiles! Welcome to Costa Rica!
yes, it’s a river full of crocodiles! Welcome to Costa Rica!

On our arrival in Dominical we met up with Neil, originally from London but an avid surfer, hence his relocation to Costa Rica. We followed his car to the start of a very rough and steep looking dirt track, at which Neil let out a cry of “yee hah!” and we began our ascent to Gorde Vista, our home for the next week.

I think we are in for a pretty great week!
I think we are in for a pretty great week!
Mmmm...suspect we will have difficulty getting the girls out of the house to explore Costa Rica.
Mmmm…suspect we will have difficulty getting the girls out of the house to explore Costa Rica.
Looking up at the house from the garden. Just beautiful.
Looking up at the house from the garden. Just beautiful.

After much admiring of the house and garden, swimming, unpacking, swimming, grabbing a few groceries, swimming, popping out for a quick bite at a local seafood restaurant and more…you guessed it…swimming…it was time to hit the hay. We had to be up bright and early for the first of our adventures – surfing lessons for the girls at Dominical beach.

Monday morning was a scorcher. We met up with Steven – authentic Californian surfer dude – and the girls began learning the key steps to hanging ten…

first it's paddle, paddle, paddle...then pull yourself up into cobra pose...
first it’s paddle, paddle, paddle…then pull yourself up into cobra pose…
then pop up and adopt cool surfer stance...after that it's time to grab your board and head into the ocean.
then pop up and adopt cool surfer stance…after that it’s time to grab your board and head into the ocean.
Edie surprised us all by instantly getting the hang of it.
Edie surprised us all by instantly getting the hang of it.
My favourite picture of the day - love that concentration and determination.
My favourite picture of the day – love that concentration and determination.
Surfin' Safari!
Surfin’ Safari!
Olive in action.
Olive in action.

After all that excitement and action we spent the afternoon at home watching the monkeys playing in the trees next to our house…

I feel the need for a David Attenborough voice over as we encounter all this wild life!
I feel the need for a David Attenborough voice over as we encounter all this wild life!

and getting acquainted with some of our other neighbours…

Perhaps it will transform into Ed Harris if I kiss it!!
Perhaps it will transform into Ed Harris if I kiss it!!

Right – my word count tells me I have written over one thousand words which means this is in danger of resembling a university essay. We have had another action packed and animal filled day today…about which I will attempt to write after tomorrow’s action packed day. I suspect I will need another vacation to recover from this one!

Take me out to the ballgame…

The game of baseball is believed to have originated in England. Both baseball and rounders were played in England and are thought to be regional variations of the same thing – the name, I guess, depending on which part of England you were playing in. Whether you referred to it as rounders or baseball, the game is thought to have derived from a fifteenth century English sport known as “Stoolball”. This somewhat scatological term is nothing to do with number twos (!) – it’s actually a reference to the milking stools that were used as wickets, because stoolball was traditionally played by milkmaids. (By this point in my research I was laughing out loud. Stools, milkmaids…I think I would pay good money to see that!!)

Unfortunately this was the best image of stoolball I could find - apologies for the lack of buxom milkmaids.
Unfortunately this was the best image of stoolball I could find – apologies for the lack of buxom milkmaids.

The early form of baseball was brought to North America by English immigrants, where it is first officially referred to in a 1791 bylaw from a town in Massachusetts – the game was not allowed to be played near the town’s new meeting house. By the early 1830s, games of baseball were popping up all over North America, but it wasn’t until 1846 that the first officially recorded baseball game was played in the United States. On June 19th in Hoboken, New Jersey, the New York Nine defeated the New York Knickerbockers 23 runs to 1. The Knickerbockers were responsible for putting some structure around the game – establishing rules around the number of innings, types of pitches allowed and type of ball that could be used.

New York Knickerbockers
New York Knickerbockers

In the mid 1850s, New York went baseball crazy and the game started to be referred to as the “national pastime” or “national game”. Leagues and associations were formed and admission was charged at the big games. Today, I’m told, it’s NFL or American Football which holds the title of national sport or game, but baseball is still very popular, based on the crowds we witnessed at Nationals Park last Sunday.

Our neighbours invited us to watch the Washington Nationals play the Texas Rangers. This was a pretty big deal as our neighbour is from Texas and it’s not often that the Nationals meet the Rangers on the field. This is due to one of the many confusing aspects of baseball. In the US there are two leagues – the National League and the American League and each of these leagues is split into East, West and Central divisions. Because the Nationals are in the National League and the Rangers are in the American League, it’s rare that they face off against each other, so it was a particularly good game to see. Plus they didn’t just play one game – they played Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Another confusing aspect is just how many games there are…I won’t go into that because I’ve probably lost many of you!! I’ll just get back to the game we watched!

Nationals Park...home of the Washington Nationals...who up until five years ago used to be the Montreal Expos and were based in Canada...I promise that's the last confusing thing!!
Nationals Park…home of the Washington Nationals…who up until five years ago used to be the Montreal Expos and were based in Canada…yet more confusing things!!
We made sure we donned appropriate Nationals attire.
We made sure we donned appropriate Nationals attire.
Baseball sculpture thing inside the stadium.
Baseball sculpture thing inside the stadium.
First pitch of the game.
First pitch of the game.
"Mmmm...not a patch on an All Blacks test!"
“Mmmm…not a patch on an All Blacks test!”
The Ranger's secret weapon is their Japanese pitcher. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan - the first team was established in 1878.
The Ranger’s secret weapon is their Japanese pitcher. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan – the first team was established in 1878.
Keeping the crowd entertained is an important part of a baseball game. This is called the President's race!
Keeping the crowd entertained is an important part of a baseball game. This is called the President’s race!
Thomas Jefferson was the winner and he strolled around showing off his winner's belt.
Thomas Jefferson was the winner and he strolled around showing off his winner’s belt.
Edie indulging in some ice cream dippin' dots. Other important baseball snacks are peanuts and Crackerjack - kind of like caramel popcorn.
Edie indulging in some ice cream dippin’ dots. Other important baseball snacks are peanuts and Crackerjack – kind of like caramel popcorn.
The Nationals mascot wasn't too happy. After nearly three hours, the Rangers were victorious - two home runs to nil.
The Nationals mascot wasn’t too happy. After nearly three hours, the Rangers were victorious – two home runs to nil.

I have to say that my personal highlight came halfway during the seventh innings. This is when what is referred to as “the seventh innings stretch” takes place. Everyone stands, stretches and then sings Take Me Out To The Ballgame…felt like I was in a movie!! We sounded nothing like this…

So all in all it was a very fun afternoon. I don’t think we’ll be rushing out to buy season tickets but I’m sure if the opportunity presents itself we’ll be happy to venture out again to the old ballgame!

Special thanks to Tim, Corene, Madison and Chase for being such wonderful hosts and for patiently answering all my dumb questions ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

Tuckered out!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Tucker County, West Virginia, a beautiful part of the country which is known as a place to go for outdoor activities – skiing, hiking, camping, cycling, kayaking, caving, rock climbing…you get the picture! We rented a cabin at Timberlineย in the Canaan Valley, where you’ll find ski fields, zip lines and all manner of other outdoorsy things.

The focus of our weekend was getting out on our bikes and as both girls have improved so much on their bikes since our cycling adventure last Memorial Day weekend, we were keen to let them loose on one of the old rail trails. We chose the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail, a roughly 10 mile, downhill ride, which lies on the bed of an old railway line which was built in 1888.

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It was a beautiful ride and so great to see the girls confidently maneuvering their bikes along narrow trails, over branches and rocks, and even through the odd puddle of mud. I didn’t do too badly either!

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The rail trail took up most of the morning and then we spent the afternoon taking in the local art scene in the neighbouring towns of Davis andย Thomas. As luck would have it, Memorial Day weekend was also the Tucker County ArtSpring festival, so the two small towns were full of all sorts of art and craft activities – the girls even got to try their hand at a bit of tie-dying.

The other happy coincidence about visiting Tucker County last weekend was the Blackwater Classic, a mountain bike race that both Richard and the girls could take part in. So on Sunday morning we loaded up the bikes and headed to the start line. The kids were up first and as the lead adult headed off, one very determined Olive was the first rider behind him. She hung on in there the whole way, eventually finishing up fourth – the first girl home! Edie did a great job too and both thoroughly enjoyed their first big race.

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We knew that Richard’s race would take just a wee bit longer than the kids one, so the girls and I headed back to Thomas. There we had found a fantastic cafe called Tip Top – just like a kiwi one – so we refueled with coffee, hot apple cider and cake, before taking part in more ArtSpring activities.

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After a fun couple of hours dabbling in mono and screen printing, we headed back to Davis in the hopes of seeing Richard cross the line. We were just in time…it wasn’t long before he appeared through the trees…the girls were waving and cheering…and then the front tyre on his brand new bike had a major malfunction and he came crashing to the ground, pretty much right at our feet! Fortunately the mountain biking community are a friendly and helpful lot and there was no shortage of volunteers to help him back up and across the line – phew! Olive summed up how we all were feeling, “that was really scary Mum”!

Here are some official pics of the race…

OliveMTB

EdieMTB

RichMTB

 

So after a fantastic weekend we can highly recommend the Tucker County area as a great place to visit. We will definitely return here next winter to ski.

I’ve finally sorted through all my pics from Puerto Rico. If you click hereย you can check out the album I made, as well as photos from our trip to New Zealand over Christmas, which I finally got around to uploading!

On Sunday our neighbours are taking us to experience that quintessential American pastime – a game of baseball! We are off to DC to watch the Nationals – our team – play the Texas Rangers. There will most definitely be a blog post to follow – stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Gettysburg

The most famous and arguably most important battle of the American Civil War, took place over three hot summer days in July 1863 around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. What began as a skirmish between General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (the South) and the Union Army of the Potomac (the North), evolved into a three day battle involving around 160,000 Americans. It also produced one of the best known speeches in American history – The Gettysburg Address – given by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, four and a half months after the guns were silenced.

(Along with the battle of Waterloo, Gettysburg is one of the most documented battles in history and I’m not going to attempt to add to that!! You can click here to read more about the battle and the key players involved.)

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After our immersion in the fun and frivolous world of chocolate, it was somewhat sobering to travel a mere forty miles and be immersed in the world of battle and bloodshed. Despite not being American or having any sort of link to the Civil War, both Richard and I found it to be a very moving and haunting place, and once again we were kicking ourselves that we never got to Ypres in Belgium, where so many Kiwi soldiers lost their lives during the first world war.

At the Gettysburg museum we watched a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman – yours truly in tears before it was even half way through – and then experienced the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Cycloramas are panoramic scenes painted onto the inside of a cylindrical platform. They are designed to make the viewer feel as if they are in the middle of a famous place or scene and the first cyclorama was opened in Edinburgh in 1787. The Gettysburg Cyclorama was painted by a French artist, Paul Phillipoteaux, and depicts Pickett’s Charge which was the climax of the battle of Gettysburg.

Philippoteaux at work on the Gettysburg cyclorama.
Philippoteaux at work on the Gettysburg cyclorama.
Scenes form the cyclorama.
Scenes from the cyclorama.

We were all keen to explore the battlefields but they are spread out over a huge area. So we hired a guide who drove us around for two hours and brought to life key moments and people involved in the battle. With a degree in Civil War History he was the perfect teacher and kept us all engrossed as we visited key sites – Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard, Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill.

Out and about with Kyle our wonderful guide. Even Olive had questions for him!
Out and about with Kyle our wonderful guide. Even Olive had questions for him!
Exploring Cemetery Hill and the National Soldier's Cemetery.
Exploring Cemetery Hill and the National Soldier’s Cemetery.
So many interesting things to experience in Gettysburg.
So many interesting things to experience in Gettysburg.

President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg in November 1863 for the dedication of the new soldier’s cemetery. There were numerous speeches given on that day, the 19th of November, but it was Lincoln’s that became synonymous with the great battle. At around 270 words it was on the short side for a Lincoln speech but is now widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever made.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Abe shows up in many places around Gettysburg.
Abe shows up in many places around Gettysburg.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stop in Gettysburg and plan to go back in July when my parents come to visit and we’ll be making sure to book Kyle again so we can learn even more about this very important place.

I’m writing this after eating a delicious Mother’s Day lunch cooked for me by my wonderful husband. Wishing all those mothers out there a wonderful day…very excited and happy at the prospect of seeing my Mother in a couple of months ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care everyone xxx

 

 

Full Bloom

In the Tidal Basin area of Washington DC you will find approximately 3,750 cherry trees. In 1912, the people of Japan sent over 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. In Japan, the flowering cherry or Sakura, is held in very high esteem. It is viewed as both a symbol of the impermanency of human life, and the transformation of the Japanese culture through the ages.

Sakura in full bloom at the Tidal Basin.
Sakura in full bloom at the Tidal Basin.

A cherry blossom festival is held every year, usually timed to coincide with what is known as the peak bloom. It’s officially peak bloom when about 70% of the blossoms are open and the bloom usually lasts for several days. It’s a very hard thing to predict but peak bloom usually happens between the last week of March and the first week of April.

Joining hundreds of others in the predawn darkness to take a look at the bloom.
Joining hundreds of others in the predawn darkness to take a look at the bloom.

Naturally it’s all very weather dependent. Cool, calm weather can extend the length of the bloom whilst rain and wind can bring an abrupt halt to what is an incredibly beautiful sight. You might remember last year on our way to spend Easter in St. Michaels, we stopped in at the Tidal Basin in the hope of seeing the bloom but we were too early. Easter last year was late March and the bloom didn’t unfold until April 9th.

Blooms as far as the eye could see.
Blooms as far as the eye could see.

This year Thursday April 10th was predicted to be peak bloom kick off. Richard was inspired by some pictures of this year’s bloom taken at daybreak that he spied in the Washington Post on Thursday morning. He suggested we get up super early on Saturday morning so we could catch a glimpse of the blossoms as the sun came up. And so we did, joining hundreds of other people who’d had the same idea.

Taking in the view from the Thomas Jefferson memorial.
Taking in the view from the Thomas Jefferson memorial.
Early morning light on the Washington Monument.
Early morning light on the Washington Monument.

It was beautiful – well worth the 4:30am start! And it also made for the perfect excuse to visit our favorite (so far) DC cafe for coffee afterwards.

Bloomin' marvellous!
Bloomin’ marvellous!
Nice to be doing the touristy thing again :)
Nice to be doing the touristy thing again ๐Ÿ™‚

This week sees us doing a whole lot more of “the touristy thing”. We decided we haven’t been taking enough advantage of the travel opportunities available to us here, so in an effort to remedy that we are going to be spending Easter in…Puerto Rico!! (I get excited just typing those two words.)

No doubt I will have lots to say about that trip and oodles of photos to bore you all with, so stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚

And just when you thought you'd seen enough...here's some more blossoms!
And just when you thought you’d seen enough…here’s some more blossoms!