Tumbledown Mountain

img_3567

One thing Maine is loved for is the plethora of mountains to hike.   As you head North, there are plenty to choose from.   As the Fall is coming to a close, and mother nature gave us a reminder with 12″ of snow in the mountains this week, we opted to get outside for possibly the last hike this year.

We headed to Tumbledown Mountain.  Just near the town of Weld.

As we headed North, we began to notice a temperature drop…hoping we were going to be warm as we walked!   The access road to the trail is closed as of Nov 1st for the winter so we were just in time but another reminder that old man winter is too close for comfort!

The mountain itself is not huge.  An elevation of 3068ft (935m) but the views are gorgeous and worth the climb.   A novelty to the mountain is the pond that is almost at the summit. I’ve heard that in the summer, those that make the climb reward themselves with a swim in the pond.  Not for us today though.  By the time we reached the top, it was bitterly cold.  Before we reached the top, we encountered snow…more as we gained elevation.  Made for a challenging ascent and subsequent descent.

img_3553img_3555img_3551img_3556

The trail is very rocky…initially easily passable but soon became boulders and streams. Steep ascent and strenuous climb.  The kids took it in their stride but glad we didn’t take the dog…it would have been too much for his ageing joints….almost too much for mine!

img_3563img_3561img_3564img_3569

We tackled only the Brook Trail.  The easiest but still classed as moderate.  I would agree…some banged up knees as we scrambled up to the pond.   The pond is at 1600ft elevation from our starting point.  Not quite the top but due to the length of climb and 5 kids in tow, we opted not to go further.   We stopped for a snack and to enjoy the view before we took the trail back down.

img_3568

img_3565

Lake en route to the summit

Broken hearts

Today we’ve said goodbye to our sweetest Trinity. She’s been with us for almost 17 years. Our first baby. Adopted soon after I lost my mum, we rescued each other. 😌My daughter asked yesterday what was the best day of her life. After thought we realized every day could have been the best day of her life. Over 6000 of them. She has been the best cat for unconditional love despite living through a new kitten (Charlie), 3 kids, dog, 5 homes and international travel. She spent her last days basking in the glorious Maine Fall sunshine (photo taken yesterday) and she was most definitely in her happy place.  

We loved her with all our hearts and she leaves a void in the family 💔. I hope you’ve found Charlie in heaven Trinny. Sweet Dreams xxx

Cadbury World

Playing a little catch up here but thought I would post about a day trip I did with the kids before we left the UK.

As a true Brit, I am a chocoholic.  It’s a problem.  My whole family is addicted and the British definitely have a weakness for it.  Cadburys is our chocolate of choice.  Having lived in the US, we’ve struggled with brands such as Hersheys…a chocolate made from sour milk.  The Americans I would say, are less of chocolate people but more candy and sweet treats such as donuts to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Anyway, I had promised a trip to Cadbury World for the kids.  A day surrounded by our favorite chocolate…!  What could go wrong?

What a disappointment!   While I was fully aware this was NOT a tour of the factory, the entire experience was dull and tired.

First off, its most definitely geared to kids ages 2-7.  The ‘Tour’ was old and felt tired.  Antiquated in parts and then just a very long walk around the outskirts of the packaging plant.   The make your own chocolate was a small paper cup of melted chocolate with a couple of toppings thrown in….and so on.  Just disappointment at each turn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

making your own chocolate

There was a ‘ride’ that looked like it was from the 1970’s and a new 4D cinema experience.  This was fun but it felt it was just 3 minutes long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the tour

Costumed characters looked bored and it all seemed a bit awkward.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Characters at Cadbury World

In my research before we went, I was excited to learn more about the town of Bourneville.  The town created by Cadbury to house the factory and workers.  Some great history.  Cadbury created a town, housing, recreational facilities and more to care for the well being of all those that worked for him.  As he was a Quaker, no pubs were established and to this day, there are still no pubs in the town.  There is a small museum detailing this history as part of the tour.  This was the most interesting aspect of the day (well for me anyway).  In past years, they would include a map of the Bourneville campus allowing you to walk around to view and appreciate this history here.  This year, they have removed the map from their tour pamphlet (I asked a member of staff to dig a map out for me).  With this and how poor the day was, I couldn’t help think that perhaps this tour is winding down, soon to close?.   As we know, Cadbury was bought out by Kraft.  The sense of family pride is no longer there and sadly the experience screamed of corporate, waiting for another necessary budget cut.

Were the kids disappointed?  Yes. Would we go again?  No.  Can you get a much better deal on Cadburys at the Co-op?  Yep!

img_2907

Fall in Maine

So we are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world.  New England is beautiful in places and its famed for its Fall season and its stunning foliage.

This year is a particularly good year and the colors are spectacular.  We’ve taken a number of walks and today we ventured up Bradbury Mountain Sate park to take in the view.  Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used a little filter here to pop the color but not too far from the truth

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No filter.  The water tower you can see is actually where our home is situated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Splendid color – no filter!

 

Back to school

A post to debate…..for or against uniforms?  I know where I stand but the kids disagree.

Photos of back to school in the UK and back to school in the USA…

11934994_10153533417680767_4222445236824803611_n

 

 

14224736_10154348121150767_6516227002043135341_n14199188_10154350742215767_7154955818216114052_n

What do you think?

‘Home’ again

To follow up on my post on Leaving ‘Home‘, we are Home again!

We did it!  We did something different and had an adventure.  Many memories made and treasured and very lucky to have 2 homes…

14051665_10154319741295767_7302498310962770404_n

We cant really complain about being home, we do live in a beautiful part of the world – Maine.  Freeport to be exact.

Re-entry has been pretty smooth.  The actual day of travel ran like clockwork (I’d like to think that was due to my amazing organizational kills :-P)….travel to airports, pet check-in, people check in arrival in US and so on.   As we had rented our home in the US for the last year, friends had kindly been in to manage any needs at the house before we arrived….also, some friends were under instruction to make beds, stock fridge and get pet food in for our return late that evening.  Thankful for this as we rolled in late and could tumble straight into bed.   Also thankful for the numerous friends willing to stay up late to collect us with our baggage.  As mentioned previously, Icelandair has a generous baggage allowance.  2 x 23kg bags per person….so in all, we had 460KG of luggage (excluding ‘packed to the gills’ hand luggage x5!).

Despite my sadness of leaving England, its always good to be home.  Nice to have your things around you and that settled feeling.  The kids were excited to begin pulling their things out of storage.  It wasn’t long before toys and books were unpacked.

I was anxious to get the kitchen unpacked.  I had missed these items the most.  Managing with just essential kitchen items in the UK had become frustrating at times.  In addition to these, having appliances back!  Dishwasher!!  We’d been without one for 14 months. Obviously, a material luxury but the kids were thrilled to throw away that washing up roster 🙂   Fridge!!  We struggled with a miniscule British fridge for about the first 5 months.  I ended up buying another fridge in the UK as for a family of 5, the coolbox we had just wasn’t cutting it.  Also having to get onto my knees to peek inside was getting old (just like my knees!)   The UK is awash with charity shops so picking up a used fridge (Bosch no less) was easy and resale was even easier!  Last, but not least, a tumble dryer!  We didn’t invest in one on the UK (mostly as there was no place to put one in the house) and with it being one of the wettest years on record (2015), we missed the ease of drying the laundry.  The days became a battle with the weather.  Getting any laundry outside in the dry moments and dragging it all back inside for the wet moments.   I could never get anything completely dry and I couldn’t stand laundry on all the radiators!

14063843_10154315359935767_8286311977867768021_n

Ahhh….how I missed you 🙂

A non kitchen item I was pleased to see was my closet (wardrobe!).  In fact, all our closets.  The UK house had NO storage space whatsoever.   What pieces of furniture we had, we packed full. In fact, we little storage in our bedroom, opting for some plastic totes to hold our items.   Not ideal, but again, wasn’t worth investing a lot of money.  Coming back to a huge walk-in closet was bliss.  But now, we debated do we even need it?  As you see in the photos below, the clothes shown is all we took to the UK.  And then, we only wore half of them.  So do we really need any more clothes? Or storage for any more?.  As I write this piece, clothes we left in storage have been unpacked….and most have gone to charity.   We have learned to live with so much less and its refreshing and liberating.  Which makes us wonder…do we need all this stuff – clothes, things, anything?   Life takes over and you accumulate and settle.  We were happy and enriched with less and on the move.   Time will tell if we ever fill these closets again!

Our home withstood renters well.  We were lucky…..but the garden not so much.   I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos but here’s a shot of one of the twins holding a weed she pulled up.   Thankfully now we have it restored back to its former glory allowing us to enjoy the final days of summer and into the Fall.

14100244_10154322730155767_1153514700960250422_n

For everyone in the household, they’ve slipped back to their old lives easily.  Kids back in schools with all their old friends.  Husband back in the office, pets back to their favorite resting spots in the sunny garden.   What we do know is that despite being away, nothing really changed….except for us.   Everything and everyone around us has remained constant.   Reassuring and easy in some respects but I wonder if we will long for more change in our own lives.   In this journey, we taught the kids that change is good and not to be feared.  I hope they hold onto that as they grow into adulthood.   For now, I need to live by my own words and be comfortable with the fact that  I have not returned to the life I had prior. For me, the adjustment back home is greater.  I no longer have an office to go to, colleagues to socialise with.  Nor do we have the big trip to plan for.   So what next?  I’m not sure but happy to be home and so is Chester…

14358854_10154392760740767_7631807118906999579_n

 

 

 

Leaving ‘Home’

So its been awhile…and a lot has changed in our world.

Over the last 2 months, we’ve packed up one home and returned to another.   Its been busy and despite the lack of posts, we managed to squeeze in a little more travel before we changed worlds.  Those updates to follow.

Since we made the decision to return to the US (here), we kicked into moving mode.   We halted all purchases unless it was critical (such as food!), we began to pack up our belongings and anything not coming with us was to be sold/ donated.  We arrived in the UK with 10 pieces of luggage.  It was our aim to leave the UK with the same 10 pieces….and we did!  Contents differed slightly and brought back lots of momentos, but essentially, we traveled with just our bags.   Icelandair has a great baggage allowance which we used to its maximum!

I single handedly packed up our home over the last few weeks.  It was good to keep busy and have a focus and the prospect of leaving was depressing.  Thank heavens for Facebook groups for selling items.  Between 3 separate groups – I sold EVERYTHING!  Down to the cutlery in the drawers.   I honestly think we broke even in our home furnishings.   I priced to sell, built up a reputation of good quality and people were clambering to get a deal.  At the same time though, it was heartbreaking.

We got to the point where we had nothing left….what you see here was it!   The TV was sold at this point but not yet delivered…

13932683_10154275011345767_1736465234201410709_n

 

Packing to return to the US was much more difficult than packing to go to the UK.  Difficult in terms of needing to find a home for everything (no default of ‘put it into storage’), but mostly difficult as it marked the end of our adventure.   We knew a year (14 months in total) was probably not long enough, but it went by too fast.   Our year was up.   We did so much and including our planning, we had so much to look forward to for such a long period of time.  Now it was over.   We all held a certain level of excitement to come back to the US, the kids especially, but to be leaving family again was hard…so difficult.

We spent as much time with family as we could in the final few weeks.  With special time planned to make the fondest of memories.  If nothing else, the kids built strong bonds with family members allowing them to feel they belonged to a large family.

In addition to people, we had pets.  Sadly only 2 to make the return journey (the third was carefully boxed up in hand luggage).  No-one wants to put their pets through any stress, and knowing it would be a stressful moving day for them, I knew that it was important to keep them with us (vs re-homing).   Sure enough, they bounced back pretty quickly and have settled in well again back at home.

The process is much more simplified on a journey into the USA than into The UK.   A process I could manage myself but nonetheless, I worried about their travel. We booked the pets on Virgin Atlantic.  The outbound journey was smooth and hoped for the same on the return.  They were beyond excellent!  They eliminated the stress on my side with friendly and efficient service.  Also super flexible with us as we decided to hang out with the dog a little while longer before he was crated.   Additionally, they arranged for the Heathrow Vet to stop in and issue a passport for the dog.  It wasn’t needed but just in case we came back anytime soon :-).   Bizarrely, this service was HALF the price as if i had done it at our local vet.   For what should have been a highly stressful time, it proved to be a straightforward and laid back process.   For anyone considering pet travel, Virgin Atlantic comes highly recommended!

Even the cat got packed up (she had a temporary home for a couple of weeks)…..its was exhausting work for her too..:-)

13920730_10154277442275767_1177528981879809862_n

 

As we left the cottage, we took a few photos for the memory book.  We were very happy here and already miss the cosy nature of the home.   We even miss our friendly ghost (or so we thought there is there).  Its hard to tell but every time we went away, the new net curtains in a  front downstairs room were pulled down!  It was once a main room of the cottage that looks directly into the street.  I am sure our friendly spirit didn’t like the view obscured!  Aside from those times and her gentle hand on my shoulder one night, she was never really a nuisance!

13900349_10154284976500767_5346303688753764919_n

On our final stroll through the village, the sun was setting.  A poignant end to our time in this beautiful place.  One could say that life is about the journey, not the destination.  This time, I wish we could have lingered a little longer at this destination..

14102582_10154311049620767_2981490250114152412_n

Studland Beach – Dorset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Old Harrys Rocks from Middle Beach, Studland

Its been a busy week with family visiting…a lot to write about and STILL behind on prior travel I’ve wanted to write about!

So here’s a quick one as I wanted to share a new place we visited this weekend.

Taking advantage of the lovely weather we’ve had in England this week, we’ve done a number of beach days.  One was spent at Studland Beach on the South Dorset coast.

Studland is a National Trust Property and they maintain the coastline nicely.  As it is a NT site, having a membership is helpful as the car park is then free (usually £6).  There is no additional charge for the beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We visited Middle beach.  There is also a South Beach (with a great coastal walk to Old Harry’s Rocks) and a Knoll Beach….one section of the beach is also for naturists (further on the north side).

Middle Beach offers a nice sandy beach, toilets, cafe and ice creams!

Of course, with the weather being perfect, it was very busy.  Space on the beach was at a premium but we managed to find a spot and settle in.  In fact, we stayed all afternoon and opted not to make the walk to Old Harrys rocks this time.

13716029_10154227379145767_1374918051611627586_n

As you can see, dogs are allowed on the beach.  They need to stay on leash but we swam our guy far out and took him off leash so he could swim.   The water is shallow for a log way out so its perfect for kids and dogs alike!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Family Frisbee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Family swim

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great game of frisbee with the dog

13726658_10154227379155767_1535897115855614817_n

One year on…

11038385_10153383088625767_6917940979589165981_n

We embarked on this move with a one year time frame in mind.    To take a break, connect with family and do something different.

The kids signed up for ‘just a year’ and have seized every moment based on just that.

So now what?  We have had an amazing 12 months.  We’ve done a lot and the kids have grown in so many ways.   Daily we point out their achievements, big or small, and even tomorrow we will attend an awards ceremony where our oldest will be honored by her school…bearing in mind she has only been there for a year she has so much to be proud of.

Its been a gut wrenching decision but we will be leaving the UK and moving back to the USA.  Its complicated so its the easiest path at this time….but every single one of us has a heavy heart….:-(

Seven one way flights are booked (5 people, 2 furbabies), we are beginning to pack up the cottage and have begun to say our goodbyes.

We have a few more weeks left on the island so we will surely be making the most of it.   Look out for final UK posts and then more about our life back in the USA!

What we do know – we are ‘Always Home’ on either continent.

11692702_10153383638735767_1213907578452460269_n

10696372_764861130238990_3375315362390758118_n (1)

Maine Botanical Gardens 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Corfu June 2016

Corfu – Afionas

Another follow up post about our Corfu holiday.

As mention before we were staying in Agios Georgios in the North West of the island.  We were keen to explore neighboring towns and one that became a fast favorite was Afionas.   A short drive from our villa and judging by the guest book, some folks would walk over for dinner.

The village/ town is small but so pretty.  The main road in leads to what seems to be a dead end.  We tried to navigate a car one day but found it too tricky!  However, this road will lead to a path/ beach.

There ate alley ways and paths through the buildings laden with brightly colored flowers that led to some lovely restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Afionas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Afionas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Afionas

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the restaurant Anemoes

Our favorite was Anemoes Taverna.   Set on the side of a hill with  spectacular Sunset views.  The restaurant offers 2 outdoor terraces and we easily got a table.  I do think in peak season, booking would be recommended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset

Food was great too.   Probably the best meal we had during our stay in Corfu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pizza at Anemoes

Another restaurant we tried in Afionas was 3 Brothers.  We had read good things about this restaurant but were disappointed with it.  It lacked the charm of Anemoes and food was just standard for tourists.

Another bonus to Afionas was the beautiful beach.  Be warned, this is a serious hike to get to.  Sturdy footwear is better than flip flops (!) and take water.  Pick your timing wisely as in the heat of the day walking down to the beach s tough enough but back up to the town can be a killer!

The rewards are the views and quiet beaches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Agios Georgios from the trail in Afionas

Part way along the path is access to a restaurant Dionysis.  We stopped here one day for drinks.  Again, terrace seating and lovely views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from Dionysis Terrace

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Afionas beaches

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Afionas Beach

As mentioned in my previous post, beaches aren’t great in Corfu and the quality of the beaches in Afionas could be better.  However, the setting is gorgeous and we enjoyed the quiet snorkeling opportunities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Snorkeling at Afionas beach