Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A New Baby and a New World!

2 very serendipitous things happened at once this week:

 1. The kids’ Aunt Vanessa (my husband’s sister) gave birth to a beautiful baby boy yesterday! They live in Williamsburg, so we were excited to go visit.

 2. Today happened to be another AWESOME weather day- low humidity, temperatures in the 70’s (practically unheard of in Virginia in July) and there is a park in Williamsburg that was on our summer bucket list.

Getting to see a new baby AND getting to visit an awesome park on a day with fabulous weather? SCORE!

First, a map:

We are A, in Richmond, Williamsburg is east of us at B.

We stop off at the hospital in Williamsburg first and Charmin gets a peek at his almost-cousin. He thinks he is completely adorable and we agree.

Then it’s off to Kidsburg! Kidsburg is a very fun playground that is designed to mimic the early settlements of America. There is a large ship, much like the Godspeed, the Susan Constant, or the Discovery, the 3 ships used in the settlement of Jamestown (which is only about 15 minutes from this park as well). The rest of the playground is designed kind of like a fort, much like Jamestown fort.

Here Tyson helps Charmin board the ship. 

Charmin studies the map to set his course. It’s a pretty old map, but I guess he figured it out.
Since it was going to be a long journey, he got out of the sun for a bit and sat with Tyson and Teeny below decks.

Ahoy, there! He spies land! Charmin will claim this land for Great Britain! (note the British flag flying on the ship)

Tyson gets creative when it comes time to disembark the ship. Charmin looks a little nervous about this explosive plan.

Charlotte and Teeny have a much better idea. This little canoe should get them to shore in one piece!
Now that he’s at the fort, he can check out this map to get his bearings. 

Get it? BEARings?

Uh-oh. Looks like this bear is getting toasted. 

 Tyson and Audrey save his singed fur and take him up to a nice high point to keep him safe from savages.

We had a great time and Charmin had fun pretending he was like the first settlers of America! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hadleigh - Part 1

Hadleigh is the next town from us, about two miles away. We've made a couple of trips there recently, and Tag came along.

First we went to the library. Each summer they run a summer reading programme, and Ceri was very keen to sign up.

Ceri and had to tell the Librarian all about herself. If she completes the reading challenge, she will be given an award when she gets back to school after the summer holidays.

Here are Ceri and Tag with their "Mythical Maze" record book. Each time Ceri finishes a book she can tell the Librarian about it, and she'll get a sticker to put in her book. Once she has a set of six stickers she gets a medal!

There were lots of pictures and displays in the library around the theme of "Mythical Maze". Tag particularly liked this dragon.

Hari didn't want to do the programme, but she did check out some books. Unfortunately the automatic checkout machine didn't recognise Tag, possibly because he's not a book.

After the library we popped across the road to our local supermarket, Morrisons, where big sister Gwen works on the cake shop. Here she is being a customer for a change.

These are some of the yummy cakes Gwen's shop sells. We recently had friends visiting from Wyoming who told us you don't have fresh cream cakes in America, or indeed fresh cream. They really enjoyed these cakes. (Not everything on the shelf is a cake. A little bear may have sneaked on there when we weren't looking. Here's a clue - he costs £1.09)

Something else they told us you don't have in America is good cheese. We love soft blue cheeses, goats cheese and Stilton. Tag does't fit quite so well on the cheese shelf.

Nearly finished! Tag is tired after all that shelf-hopping, so he hitches a ride in the trolley. Morrisons is quite a small shop, so it only really sells food and a few little things like greetings cards and magazines, but we do have some very big shops like Wal-Mart further away. We like Morrisons because it's close to home, we get a 10% discount because Gwen works there, and because so many of the youth from church work there that we call it "Mormonsons."

Somehow Tag manages to find the energy to have a ride in Peppa Pig's car before it's time to load all the shopping into the boot of our car and head for home.

As well as being our local shopping town, Hadleigh has an interesting history. Our next post will be all about the history of Hadleigh and our visit to Hadleigh Castle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Just Playing Around

Another delightfully non-sweltering day in Richmond! We took advantage of the nice weather and headed to a park we hadn’t visited in quite awhile, Huguenot Park. It’s about 20 minutes away from our house and unique in that it was designed with many features that make it handicapped-friendly. 

First we play “Charmin and Charlotte are Flowers”. 

Then it’s Teeny’s turn to be a flower with Charmin.

Then he got a ride with Charlotte on one of these very cool reclined seat swings (great for kids without the core strength to sit upright on their own). 

And Charmin always rides with Teeny on the swings too. 

Remember how Charmin wants to be an astronaut? He insisted we do this photo.

After we had played for awhile we took a break in the shade of this lovely gazebo for lunch. By then, our neighbors and friends (who have just returned from Indonesia and will soon be sharing photos of our other traveling teddy, Pandy) joined us. Charmin was sitting on a plate, but it was just so he didn’t get food on him. Don’t worry, nobody took a bite of bear.

Charmin watches the girls play in the sandbox after lunch. He preferred to be a spectator so as not to get his fur sandy.

Teeny and Charmin at the top of the slide! As you might be able to see from this photo, most of the playground is designed with ramps so that children in wheelchairs can get up and down. It’s also nice for the little ones like Teeny and Charmin for whom ladders can be a bit tricky.

Down the twisty slide! Charmin was scared at first, but then after he went down once he realized it was fun and he loved it. 

Guess who showed up just as we were getting ready to leave? The ice cream truck! It was warm enough that the popsicles made a refreshing treat. Here Charmin is desperately trying to reach for Teeny’s cotton candy flavored pop. She did let him have one lick. 

Hard to believe that summer is already halfway over for us! We still have plenty of things on our “summer bucket list” though, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Very Old Buildings

Today we drove to visit the children's Grandma and Grandpa J at their home in a little village just north of Ipswich, in Suffolk.

As we were ready to set off, our dog, Oscar, decided that not only did he want to come too, but he wanted to drive. I tried telling him that the pedal on the right was "go" and the one in the middle was "stop", but he wasn't very good at driving so we left him at home.

First we went to Grandpa J's church. Grandpa J is a Lay Reader, an unpaid minister for the Church of England. As we arrived the church bells were ringing, which is a very beautiful sound. Tag and the children loved hearing them. This is the medieval church with Grandma J outside it holding Tag.

As we went in, Tag read the notice on the door and wondered, just how old is "this ancient building"?

Once we were inside, however, he found the answer. Here he is looking at a list of the Rectors of the church. You might just be able to see that the first one took up the post in 1208!

Here is Grandpa J with Carol, another Lay Reader, and Tag. You'll notice that naughty Tag is trying to drink Grandpa J's coffee! I had to have stern words with him about that later.

The service was very short - only 45 minutes. Gwen, Hari and Ceri thought that was great! Afterwards, Tag and Ceri had fun looking around the church.

Ceri is standing near a lectern, where the Bible is placed. She thought it looked as though it belonged in Hogwarts! Behind her, with new, safer steps leading to it, is the pulpit, where the sermon is preached from. (She brought Rainbow Dash along too, but Tag didn't mind having some company.)

Behind Ceri, Rainbow Dash and Tag, are the pews where the choir sits, and the altar, and a very pretty stained glass window. There were various plaques on the walls and even some set into the floor. Some were memorials to people buried in the church or graveyard surrounding it, some had scriptures like the ten commandments, and some were memorials to people from the village who had died in wars. Tag enjoyed looking at the font where babies are christened (baptised by sprinkling).


After the church service Tag was invited by the kind owner to see her home next door to the church, The Old Rectory. It was built in 1830, and at that time people felt it was important that a building should look completely symmetrical. So when they put a window on one side, they had to put a window on the other side, but sometimes that didn't work with the layout of the inside, so they made a false window out of slate. In these two pictures, can you tell which ones are the fake windows? (And can you think of anything else important which happened in 1830?)

Then it was time to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house for lunch. Grandma made us a delicious lunch of meat pie with gravy, runner beans, new potatoes, carrots and broccoli, and then toffee cheesecake or crème caramel for pudding, and then cheese and biscuits. It was very yummy; Grandma is a great cook. Once we were all feeling very full we decided to show Tag Grandma and Grandpa's home, which was built in 1491. See if you can spot Tag in these pictures.

The house was originally two tiny cottages. Here's Ceri twirling her hoop outside the left side...

 And this is the right side. Lots of traditional homes in Suffolk are painted pink. It's called "Suffolk pink" and is like that because they used to put pig or ox blood in the paint.

The garage isn't really a garage. It's called a cart lodge, because it's where the carts were kept. It has no door.

Inside the house the ceilings are very low, and the walls are uneven. Because it was once two cottages, there are two big fireplaces.

The shelves to the right of this fireplace, where the Wedgewood pottery is displayed, are thought to have been the original location of the narrow, tight staircase leading to the first floor.

Tag was very tired after looking round three old buildings, so he went upstairs to have a little lie down before it was time for us to go home.

Meanwhile, Hari and Ceri had fun playing in the garden - until it started raining!

We have lots of these very old buildings in England, and one thing Tag really loved is that they are not museums, they are all still in use, like the church, or lived in, like The Old Rectory and Grandma and Grandpa's house. Sometimes people who live in homes which are of particular historical interest have to sign an agreement to open their home to the public occasionally, but we were all very pleased that Grandma and Grandpa's house isn't one of these, so Tag feels very lucky to have seen it.