Preparing to leave paradise

So – for the past 2 blissful months, we’ve been happily snuggled up in a divine beach house in Misty Cliffs, Cape Town.

As I type this, I’m sitting on my bed… looking out the window and drinking in uninterrupted views of deep blue sea.  Every day, the Southern Right whales come to frolic in the surf in front of our home.

The house is flanked by cliffs and fynbos.  It’s teeming with wildlife… and is so, so beautiful.  The sound of the waves crashing on the beach rocks us to sleep at night.

I really do love it here.  I love that it’s so secluded.  It feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere (but the city is about a 45 minute drive away… in good traffic, that is).  I love that the Southern Peninsula is so family-friendly.  Almost every restaurant and coffee shop offers a play area and a kid’s menu.

It’s certainly a lifestyle that I’ll miss… because the time has come, once again, to move.

Nick has been offered another film and he’s needed for 12 weeks in Joburg – from September to December.

I can’t say I’m overly delighted to return to Joburg… even if it’s just for a season.  Joburg (like Benoni) had been packed up in my mind and boxed away as a place that I had “left”… a place that we had moved on from.  I don’t like going back to the places I’ve moved on from.  I like going forward to NEW places.

However… work calls.  So, back we go.

Because our Joburg home is rented out indefinitely… I’m now hunting around for a short-term, furnished rental.  Preferably in a place like Monaghan Farm… or somewhere outside of the city where I don’t feel boxed in… and I don’t have to read the shitty newspaper headlines stuck on every lamp-post on every main road!

So… if there’s any readers who have friends in Monaghan Farm… who have a small, furnished cottage to rent to us on a short-term basis…  lemme know, okay?

We have one more month here.  We’re staying in Cape Town for this year’s Silwerskermfees where Nick’s latest film, “Hard to Get” will be featured.  Then, we’ll hit the road for a 2 week road trip.  Maybe we’ll go visit our Karoo friends… or the big hole in Kimberley.

And then… 12 weeks of Joburg.

And then… 2 months of holiday (much deserved for Nick!)…

And then… the next film (the location of which is currently undecided).  So… who knows?  Such is the life we’ve chosen to live…  we can only live in the *now*.  Tomorrow is another day.

A tour of our new nest

So…

I’m sitting here, typing this to you… from a lovely beach house in Misty Cliffs – which is our new home for the next 3 months.  If you’re wondering where Misty Cliffs is, just go and have a look at the continent of Africa… and trace your finger down to the southern most tip of Africa – Cape Point.  Misty Cliffs is just down the road from there.

It is beautiful here.  Unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful.

Behind us are towering cliffs… in front of us, an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic Ocean (which today is broody and stormy – just the way I like it).  And surrounding this house are indigenous trees and fynbos and flowers… and birds and creatures of all shapes and sizes… including (sigh) baboons.

Baboons are a bit of a menace in these parts.  They embark on regular organised raids and given half a chance will sneak into a home… head straight for the kitchen… and steal every edible thing they can possibly carry (and leave a big mess in the process… and lots of poo too, because when they get nervous, they poo!!)… (ugh!)

Anyway, I’m very determined not to be a victim of a baboon raid – so I make sure every window and door is secured whenever we leave the house… and I make sure not to leave any food out on the table.  Let’s just say, I’m very… aware.  I’m not scared of baboons (and I don’t want my kids to be scared of them either)… but I’m aware of how sneaky they can be, so I keep an eye out for them so I can make my presence known if they start plotting.

Here’s some photos of the new nest:

The driveway leading up to the house (it's actually very steep)...

The driveway leading up to the house (it’s actually very steep)…

The house… and the splash pool (it's cold - but in spite of that, the kids are determined to swim in it… at least once!)...

The house… and the splash pool (it’s cold – but in spite of that, the kids are determined to swim in it… at least once!)…

The lounge / dining area… with windows leading out on to the deck… all with uninterrupted views of the sea.

The lounge / dining area… with windows leading out on to the deck… all with uninterrupted views of the sea.

The kitchen… which kinda inspires even ME to cook...

The kitchen… which kinda inspires even ME to cook…

View from the kitchen over the dining area...

View from the kitchen over the dining area…

Main bedroom with en-suite bathroom….

Main bedroom with en-suite bathroom….

And a special treat… for me (who has only been showering for the past 4 or 5 months)… is this wonderful TUB…!!! (Oh, I have missed having a bath!!!)...

And a special treat… for me (who has only been showering for the past 4 or 5 months)… is this wonderful TUB…!!! (Oh, I have missed having a bath!!!)…

What's next-door to us on our left….

What’s next-door to us on our left….

to the right

And… on our right…. this is the neighbour’s cottage…

These fish are on the wall in our living area.  Can you guess why I like this little arrangement so much?

These fish are on the wall in our living area. Can you guess why I like this little arrangement so much?

The shell path leading to my Happy Bench...

The shell path leading to my Happy Bench…

In case you’re wondering why we aren’t in Noordhoek any more….

Well, it was simply to do with size.   The Noordhoek apartment was gorgeous – and our hosts were wonderful, laid-back people (and our kids got on famously well with their little boy).  And, for a quick visit to Cape Town, the apartment would have been perfect…  but now, because it seems like we’re extending our stay… we need a bigger space.

And we need a bigger space… mostly because of Nick’s work.

It was pretty challenging for him to focus on editing when kids were running through the apartment, chasing and playing and making a noise.  Also, having Nick’s editing suite set up in our bedroom wasn’t ideal.  I found it hard to sleep if he was editing during the night… and he felt bad about waking me.  We knew that if we were going to make nomadic work (for Nick) a viable option, that he would need a dedicated room that we could convert into a small studio.  A place where he could shut the door and be left in peace.

So – we knew we wanted a place with at least 3 bedrooms… and we also knew we wanted a garden (the bigger the better) so that the kids didn’t feel too cooped up inside the house.  And – of course – we knew that we wanted a beautiful view.

One of the main reasons we’re living in Cape Town in the first place… is because of the natural beauty.   Being surrounded by natural beauty just… I dunno… does something… for me.  It nurtures something deep inside of me.  We always said that if we lived in Cape Town, we wanted to live somewhere that “felt” like we were living in Cape Town.  We didn’t want to move into one of Cape Town’s many landlocked ‘burbs.  Then, we may as well live in Joburg again.  We wanted to see the sea.  We wanted to see the mountains.

Nick and Joah on Long Beach...

Nick and Joah on Long Beach…

That's me… sitting on a rock and writing in my diary...

That’s me… sitting on a rock and writing in my diary…

So that’s how we ended up here… in Misty Cliffs Conservation Village.

The house we’re in is usually rented out in Summer for a daily rate (that is considerably above our budget)… but, because we’re staying here in Winter – we have got it for an affordable monthly rate.   And I’m grateful… and it’s beautiful… and I feel very blessed.  Now – I just need to persuade some Joburg-based family and friends to come and visit!!!

As a final photo… I wanted to show you my little bench:

My happy bench...

My happy bench…

This little bench is tucked away in a hidden corner behind some trees in the garden.  It looks out over the sea, and when I sit there, I feel as though I’m secluded… surrounded only by nature.  It’s the place where I have a conversation with God… and myself… about how grateful I am for this life – and how I take none of it for granted.

It’s time now for me to light up the fire place… and boil the water for the kettle.  Anyone coming over for coffee??  🙂

How dreams helped me escape my old life

About 6 years ago… when I was still living my old life…

  • When I was still working long hours in a job that exhausted and drained me…
  • When I was still rooted in suburbia, surrounded by all my *stuff*…
  • When I was still drowning in debt…
  • When I was still dropping my kids off at pre-school at 7am (and fetching them at 5pm)…
  • When I was still 30 kilograms heavier, dressed in drab-baggies… and filled with self-loathing…

Back then, I used to have a little daily ritual.

Every day, at lunch time, I would leave my phone with my secretary and I would ask her to take messages… and I would visit the Wimpy restaurant down the road from my office.  (For international readers, Wimpy is like a slightly more upmarket Mac Donalds).

And every day, I would visit that Wimpy… and I would sit in the same place – a corner booth – and I would order the same thing:  a Wimpy double cheeseburger with chips and a coke (and later, a coffee).

And I would sit there… alone… in my corner booth.

With my cheeseburger.

And with a pen… and a notepad.

And I would allow myself to DREAM.

I would allow myself to… IMAGINE… what a different life might look like.

What would I want from a different kind of life?  What would I LOVE to be doing with my time?  What would my daily routine look like?  Where would I live?  What would I do?  What would make me happy?  What would make my family happy?  How could we live differently?

And I would write these dreams down in my notebook.  And I would draw some pictures.  And I would allow my mind the complete freedom to just… imagine the possibilities.

The dreams for my life materialised there… in that Wimpy corner-booth.  In that space of depression and frustration… the first seeds were planted.

And every day, I watered those seeds.  

And my “What if’s…”  slowly became…  “Maybe we actually could…”  which slowly became… “Maybe we actually should…”  which became  “What the heck is stopping us?  Let’s DO this thing!”.

Which then led to the mini-holiday in the Southern Drakensberg of Easter 2012 – when Nick and I solidified our decision and decided to make our dreams a reality.

Today – I type this to you, as I sit at Blue Water Cafe… a charming restaurant which overlooks the valleys and mountains of the Southern Peninsula of  Cape Town.  The restaurant itself is situated in an old, renovated farmhouse.  The walls are thick… the ceilings are high… there are beautiful proteas (my favourite flower) in glass jars on every table.

I’m sitting at a large, wooden table.  There’s more than enough room for my artwork, my laptop, our food… and there’s a lovely cup of coffee next to me.

No more Wimpy.  No more lousy, processed, plasticky cheeseburgers washed down with a coke and gulp of self-loathing.

I’m here now.

bluewater cafe

As I’m typing this post on my laptop, I’m watching my kids.  There’s a lovely organic playground outside… and the kids have made friends and are climbing trees, feeding horses and running free.  Every now and then, they’ll drop in for a bite of food or a sip of water… then off they go again.  Full-tilt.

We’ve been in Cape Town for 3 months.  Before that, we were road-tripping around the United States for 2 months.  Before that, we were road-tripping and road-schooling in the Karoo, the Eastern Cape and Hoedspruit.

Next month, we’ll move on to Durban… for the Film Festival… and then later in the year, another international trip (but I’ll tell you about those plans when we have the plane tickets).

We’re nomadic now.  We travel slowly… and we rent furnished apartments or homes as we journey along.  We own very little stuff.  Our own house in suburbia is rented out – and we live very comfortably on a combined income generated from the rental of our home, Nick’s work as a filmmaker… and my work as an illustrator (which is now morphing in to something else).

Nick and I are able to generate an income anywhere… as long as we have our computers and access to the internet.  Right now, as I type this, he is finishing off the post-production of his latest film project… while he enjoys an uninterrupted sea view from our rented apartment on Beach Road, Noordhoek.

We road-school and world-school our kids.  We are happy… and very, very content.

So… today, I am grateful.

So very, very, very grateful – for everything that has changed and everything that has happened in our lives.

Every now and then, I think back to that corner booth… in that Wimpy (which has since closed down)… and, I’m grateful even for those experiences.  Miserable though I was at the time.

Because that’s where the dream-seeds were planted.  And that’s where change was birthed.  In the corner booth of a crowded, franchised restaurant.

I’m dreaming a new dream now.  A big, crazy (scary!!) dream.   And I’m watering it daily.  It’s not ready yet… not ripe enough for plucking and enjoying…  but every day, I water it.  Every day I invest into it.

Every day, I dream.

So, after a month in Cape Town…

Here’s what the past couple of weeks in Cape Town have looked like…

  • Settling in to Noordhoek… figuring out where to buy groceries, where to buy real cheese, where the closest pharmacy is, where to buy loo-paper at 11pm…
  • Getting to know our awesome hosts, Meg and Miles (while our kids enjoy their son, Jonty).  There has already been a fair quantity of red wine quaffed while story-sharing…
  • View watching.  I just can’t help myself.  Every morning, I have a ritual:  make a cup of coffee, sit in front of window… and just drink in the gorgeous view!
  • Beach-walks most afternoons (since it’s like… right there!)
  • Swimming (since there have been many hot days)…
  • Connecting with old and new friends over coffee…
  • Visiting the Kirstenbosch Gardens with the kids (which is just a blissful paradise place)…
  • Reading with the kids (Morgan’s reading is coming along nicely)…
  • Art on all fronts.  My art… kid’s art… just art!
  • Buying bikes.  Riding bikes (I mean – biking is part of the culture here – especially on the Peninsula!)…
  • Camel riding…
  • Tree climbing…
  • Visits to interesting places around Cape Town… the markets, the food places, wine farms, climbing gyms, snake parks, museums… (so much to see and do here… just SO much!)
  • Work in the evenings (I’m currently being employed by producers of a new film to create a mood board)… (among other things)…
  • And – of course – missing Nick when he’s not around!  We LOVE Cape Town – but we MISS Nick!  This commuting-thing isn’t easy… but thankfully, it’s only for a short season.

And… (sucky!)… for the past week, I’ve been unwell.  I haven’t quite recovered yet – and getting increasingly frustrated by the limitations of what my body can do (when sick).

And the whole sick-thing has got me thinking very seriously about the whole FOOD thing…

But I’ll talk about that in another post.  In the meantime, here’s some nice Cape Town photos…  🙂

Joah (and some kelp) on Long Beach… (Morgan is in the background)...

Joah (and some kelp) on Long Beach… (Morgan is in the background)…

Chapman's Peak...

Chapman’s Peak…

One of the interesting antique shops in Kalk Bay… we could browse in there for hours!

One of the interesting antique shops in Kalk Bay… we could browse in there for hours!

Kirstenbosch Gardens - I absolutely LOVE it there!

Kirstenbosch Gardens – I absolutely LOVE it there!

One of Cape Town's many yummy markets (where you can buy all kinds of freshly prepared food)...

One of Cape Town’s many markets (where you can buy all kinds of freshly prepared yummy food)…

Morgan and Joah made a shop and were *selling* acorns and other bits and pieces to other kids in the playground (at Noordhoek Village)...

Morgan and Joah made a shop and were *selling* acorns and other bits and pieces to other kids in the playground (at Noordhoek Village)…  (It must be the Greek in their blood… they come from a line of cafe owners!  hee-hee!)…

Enjoying pancakes in an old train (converted into a coffee shop) in Kalk Bay...

Enjoying pancakes in an old train (converted into a coffee shop) in Kalk Bay…

Cathedrals, Monasteries and a creepy, dead child

This post continues from here.

Once back in Washington DC… we decided to explore the museums and the magnificent landmarks.  DC is full of beautiful buildings and I let out gasps of awe everywhere we drove (I have a *thing* for grand buildings and architecture from eras gone by).

We decided to visit some churches, crypts and graveyards (long-time readers of this blog will know that we also have a *thing* for graveyards – and especially the really old ones).

First up was the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.  What’s interesting about this monastery is that they have replicas of many shrines found in the Holy Land… like, many replicas… and all very beautifully done.

We went on a tour… gawked at the magnificent architecture and artwork (including some of the most beautiful mosaics I’ve laid eyes on)… and the kids asked a lot of questions like this:

“What’s this stuff even for, Mom?”

And like this:

Offspring:  “Mommy, what’s a replica?”

Me: “A replica is a copy of the real thing.  So these tombs are replicas of tombs found in Israel”

Offspring:  “So they’re not real?”

Me:  “No”

Offspring:  “So they’re fake?”

Me:  “I guess so… yes”

Offspring:  “Why did they build all these fake things in this church?”

(try telling a 5 year old and an 8 year old the answers to those questions)…

Anyhoo…. change of subject… here’s some pretty pics:

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dd

Our tour guide spoke very matter-of-factly about the church and the shrines and the stories they represented… and I felt both intrigued (and a bit annoyed) at how *certain* he was about the “Answers” to the Big Questions.

Because so many… many…. MANY… people claim to *know* The Truth… The Answers… The Right Way… (and yet, the Knowers all contradict each other at the same time)….

“You’re wrong, I’m right!”…

“No!  You’re wrong, I’m right!”…  (and on and on it goes… an infinite battle of religious opinion – everyone believing that *they* hold the “Right” answers about God – and that everyone else is wrong, deceived or misled…)

If tours around religious shrines and churches teach me anything – it’s how to Question… and I try to hold my beliefs and opinions with a very open hand…

As for the kids – the most fascinating part of the tour came in the form of a dead child.  This dead child (whom the guide told us was martyred-for-Christ)… has since been declared a Saint (by the church Powers-That-Be).  As a result… the child’s dead, blackened corpse… encased in a glass coffin with various kitsch embellishments… is regularly visited and prayed to… and the coffin glass is regularly kissed and mauled by the devout… and…  jeez, I have to be honest, I don’t know what to do with information like this.

But then again, each to his own, I guess.

Maybe some religious people find it comforting to pray at the leathery remnants of a child…  I just found it weird… and eerie.

But that’s just me.

Here’s a pic of Saint Innocentius.  The corpse has been dressed up in an outfit and a wax mask (of a sleeping, peaceful face) has been placed over the dead face.  There’s also a wig and a crown and a halo.  The hands and feet, however, can still be seen.

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The monastery also keeps a collection bones of another saint (can’t remember whom) in their crypt.  The bones and body parts are cubed together in a decorated canister.  Apparently, the head of the person-in-question was misplaced… but there are still remnants… and people still come to pray there – and ask the bones for special favours.

Apologies.

I am being a bit facetious.  I don’t mean to ridicule the belief-systems of others… but yes, there are some things that I just don’t… *get*… perhaps somebody who prays to dead saints can explain it all to me?  Perhaps I just need to hear someone’s real-life account – or perspective – on how it matters to them.  Maybe then, I will better understand…

After the tour… (which included a tour of their gardens which included a replica of the Virgin Mary’s tomb)…  we left the monastery and drove ourselves off to the very huge (and only recently completed) Washington National Cathedral.

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The Washington Cathedral seems to have a very different approach to religion (one that I found significantly more palatable).  Their vision statement says this:  “The National Cathedral will be a catalyst for spiritual harmony in our nation, renewal in the churches, reconciliation among faiths, and compassion in our world”.

As a result – we noticed that they had a lot of different activities on offer that had decidedly… different spiritual roots.  And, in their bookshop – they had books and trinkets on ALL faiths and belief systems (not only Christianity).

And they had stickers and T-shirts that looked like this:

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…and you could buy small replicas of the gargoyles found on the outside of the building – including THIS one:

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I find it amusing that the Washington National Cathedral has Darth Vader on it’s northwest tower.  🙂

Also on display was a collection of nativity scenes… each crafted by different artists from around the world, using different materials.  They were fascinating to browse… a lovely little art collection in the bowels of the cathedral…

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The cathedral is huge… and we spent a few hours browsing around… but finally, it was time for us to leave.

As a final note, I don’t write often about spirituality on this blog.  A couple of years ago, I would have written everything from a very Evangelical, I-have-all-the-answers perspective (not saying that *all* Christians feel that way, but I was certainly one of the dogmatic types that did!)

These days…  I would probably call myself an agnostic.  Or – to coin a phrase by my friend Rogan, a “romantic agnostic”.  I like the idea of Something Bigger – but, I’m no longer claiming that I know what or who that Something is… or what that Something wants… or what that Something says.

And… I am wary… and rather suspicious… of anyone who claims that they *know*.

That’s a really strong statement:  “I know!”… and I’m not sure I like to use those words any more.  And certainly not when it comes to something as mysterious and un-knowable as God.

These days, I have a new name for God:  The Divine Mystery.

Because who can truly know everything (or even anything) about God?

If the beautiful cathedrals… and mosques… and monasteries… and chapels… and synagogues… and religious texts… and artwork… and architecture… and shrines… and stain-glass windows… and statues… and sacred monuments… and altars… teach us anything… perhaps they teach us more about ourselves than what they teach us about God.

Perhaps, visiting these places provides us with a deep insight into the hearts and minds of humanity… and our deep yearning to connect with the *More*…

Perhaps we find in these places… a reflection of who we are – and, more importantly, who we want to be.

For me… personally… my visits to the great places of worship… cause me to question… and reflect… and think… and wonder… and marvel… and consider… and mediate… and imagine… and to give thanks… (I do lots of that:  giving thanks…)

And – I think… all-in-all… that’s a good thing.

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The White Christmas cabin, the frozen lake and the fish that bit Joah…

My Mom used to call me the Eleventh-Hour-Child.  And – admittedly – nothing much has changed.

Yes, there is much to be said for planning… and, when it comes to road trips, there are certainly people who plan everything months in advance… (I know someone who even planned which gas stations she’d stop at on her vacation-trip to the coast).

We’re not planners.

We enjoy the freedom of travelling where we want… when we want.  We like our schedule to be unhampered by dates, ETA’s and deadlines – and especially when it comes to a road trip. We like the freedom to stay (if we’re enjoying a place)… and the freedom to leave (when we don’t like what we find).

When Nick and I got married, we enjoyed a two-week honeymoon in Austria.  We had 3 things booked for that trip:  flights, a car and a single night (upon our arrival) in the city of Vienna.  Then… we hit the road and simply followed our noses.  We stopped in the little cities that looked quaint and interesting… and we drove straight past places that didn’t catch our interest.   We found interesting (and unexpected) hotels and guest-houses along the way:

  • An en-suite room behind a restaurant in the city of Melk… (in order to get to our room, we had to walk through the restaurant kitchen)
  • An antique dealership in Lintz (that also doubled as a guest-house).  The owner brought us plates of complimentary Austrian food… (much of it served on animal shaped crockery)
  • A 300 year old hotel in Saltzburg
  • A quaint log-cabin hotel, deep in the mountains… where we enjoyed hot chocolate and strawberries dipped in Nutella as the snow drifted down outside…

Suffice to say – unplanned road trips usually work out in our favour.

But – occasionally… things only work out at the very last minute.

That was certainly the case, during the early hours of the 24th of December – trying to find ourselves a lovely cabin-in-the-woods to enjoy a white Christmas.

But we did find such a place – and it DID work out… perfectly!

The Adirondacks in New York state have been added to my list of favourite-places-in-the-world.  It’s a massive area – spanning over 6 million acres – and it’s all a protected state park.  Just think mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, deer, bears, fishing, birds… and beautiful little cabins and homesteads tucked in-between the trees.

The home we rented was in a little town called Indian Lake – smack in the middle of the state park.  And the house couldn’t have been more perfect (I waxed on a lot about the house in this post).  Here’s a photo:

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We enjoyed a few blissful nights… tucked away in that cottage – and best part – it’s right on the banks of a frozen lake.

This was our very first frozen-lake experience… and, initially, we were very wary about stepping out on the ice (I had dark visions of news headlines:  “Ignorant South African woman thinks lake is frozen and falls through ice”).

But, when we saw ice fishermen… drilling holes into the lake (and later, snowmobiles driving across the lake – some of them pulling sleds full of ice-fishing supplies) we thought:  “Okay, the lake is definitely frozen!”

Here’s some frozen-lake photos:

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Anyway… so I was super-curious about ice-fishing.  I have only ever read about ice-fishing and I wanted to know more… so I approached two men who were fishing fairly close to the cottage and asked them a lot of questions.

They were very obliging and showed us the tricks of the trade (although, there was a somewhat awkward and embarrassing moment when one of them bent down to check on his fishing gadget and let out a loud fart by mistake).

Here’s some pics of ice-fishing stuff:

That's the live bait that they use… and there's a collection of scoops and odd kitchen-looking utensils that they use too...

That’s the live bait that they use… and there’s a collection of scoops and odd kitchen-looking utensils that they use too…

They drill their holes in the ice with this thingy...

They drill their holes in the ice with this thingy…

Ice-fishermen guys...

Ice-fishermen guys…

The fishing gadget that goes over the holes...

The fishing gadget that goes over the holes…

So… anyway…

We spent most of our time in Indian Lake doing the following:

  • Sitting in front of the big, wood fire… drinking hot chocolate, playing games, building puzzles and creating art…
  • Sleeping!
  • Eating!
  • Playing in the snow… walking on the lake.. and sledding down the hill (straight on to the ice of the lake)

It was very relaxing.  A time for us to just *be*… for a while.

The owner of the cottage recommended that we pay a visit to the Wild Centre – which is a small, but lovely centre that tells the explains the story of the Adirondacks region and the wildlife that lives there.

There were so many interesting things for us to see and do and experiment with…

Here’s some pics:

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Otter watching...

Otter watching…

So… anyway… at one stage during our visit, we found a lovely trout exhibit.  It had glass tanks and a strong current – so you could see how trout do their up-stream swimming-thing.

The trout seemed friendly enough… they swam close to the surface and all of us enjoyed stroking their slimy little backs:

joah stroking trout

All fun and games, of course… until one of the trout decided that Joah’s little fingers resembled some tasty morsels of food… and bit him!  Hard!

I know I shouldn’t laugh… but the expression on Joah’s face was priceless.  He was so indignant!  How dare that trout bite him?  After the initial indignation, there were a few tears.  The trout had left two needle-width lines down his finger… both of them oozing a bit of blood.

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Joah cheered up quickly though… there was still lots to see and do.

Here’s two more fun photos of the Wild Center before I end this post…

moose us

moose nick

Anyway.  So that’s my little catch-up post about Christmas (you can see I’m a bit far behind – since it’s now the 19th of January and I’m typing this from South Africa… where we’re currently experiencing a brutal heat wave!  Very… very different weather to the icy Adirondacks!)

After a few blissful days at the Indian Lake cottage, we packed George-the-Car and drove southwards – back to Washington DC.  We stopped over briefly in a dodgy motel in a town called Sherburne.

And… a day later… we were back in Washington DC with our friends, Joel, Meg and their daughter, Juno.

And – it was time to hit some more DC sights… (which I’ll write about in another post).

But, now it’s time for me to sign off.  Lots of people to see and catch up with here in Jozi…  I’ll blog soon-soon!  🙂

Cake, car accidents and late-night panic…

So… after we were finished with the Great Wolf Lodge, we hunkered down in Norwalk (Ohio) for a few days with Molly, Terry and Margie.

Norwalk… by the way… was the small town where I lived in 2000.  As is typical of small towns, not much has changed (since when I lived there).  The Bob Evans restaurant has moved to a new location… the manager of the Mexican restaurant was jailed for employing illegals… and… they’ve built a new cinema!

Okayeee, then…

Moving on…

We stayed with 3 of my favourite people:  Terry… Molly… and Margie.  We arrived to warm hugs, a roaring fire and hot chilli bubbling on the stove  (Chilli – by the way – is a bit like a bolognaise sauce… with added beans and spicy-things… and you serve it with nacho chips – not pasta).

It was awesome spending time with them and catching up.  You know the types of friends that you don’t see for years… but as soon as you walk through the door and see each other again, it’s like you never left?  That’s what it was like.  There was such an easy-going warmth between us (and that always makes me happy).

The next couple of days, we relaxed, I wrote blogs, the kids played… we watched The Hobbit at the new Norwalk Cinema (with Terry), we ate at Jim’s Pizza Box (same Jim… same pizza)… and we took the kids to Thomas Edison’s birthplace to peruse his various inventions.

That's the house where Thomas Edison was born (it has a little museum in there too).  It's situated in Milan (which is down the road from Norwalk)...

That’s the house where Thomas Edison was born (it has a little museum in there too). It’s situated in Milan (which is down the road from Norwalk)…

Morgan standing in Edison's old kitchen...

Morgan standing in Edison’s old kitchen…

As it turns out – quite a lot of people have a lot of opinions about Edison – and many of them aren’t positive.  It’s alleged that he was a businessman more than an inventor… and that he treated his staff terribly and stole people’s ideas.  That said… one can’t deny the genius of the phonograph (apparently his favourite invention) – and especially since he was deaf when he invented it!  Did you know that?  I didn’t!

Apparently, he was such a brilliant lip-reader that few people realised that he was deaf – and, at dinner parties – if too many people were talking simultaneously (and he couldn’t simultaneously read lips… obviously)… his wife would tap the conversation in morse code (discreetly) on the table… so he could be kept abreast of the general conversation – even when focussing on only one person’s lips.

So – whether folk like or loathe Edison (and the jury is still out on the lightbulb thing)…  he certainly was a genius.

I liked exploring his childhood home too… a lovely little stone cottage on the banks of an old canal (the kids were given flashing lightbulb necklaces as gifts by a sweet lady who was very excited that South Africans had come to visit her tiny museum.  She even snapped a photo of us on her iPhone – as proof!).

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On our last night in Norwalk, a couple of old friends popped in for a visit.  Amy is a friend I haven’t seen in years… and we chatted for ages (so much catching up to do!).  Ashlea and Brenda were there too…. and Morgan and Joah had Ashelea’s 3 kids to play with – so there was lots of noise, chasing-games and screeches of glee… while the grown-up’s yakked away (and consumed way too much cake!).  Here’s pics…

Nick and Terry sitting by the fire...

Nick and Terry sitting by the fire… (her granddaughter did her hair)…

Me… Amy… Terry...

Me… Amy… Terry…

Terry's grandkids having fun with their "Nona"… (hee-hee!)...

Terry’s grandkids having fun with their “Nona”… (hee-hee!)…

The following day, it was time to go.  I really wanted one last coffee-and-conversation with Margie… but she was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her.

So… we packed George… said our goodbyes to Molly and Terry – and drove off…  and… just a few kilometres down the road, we crashed George!

Yip.  It was rainy and foggy and there were a gazillion people on the roads in Sandusky doing their last minute Christmas shopping… and whilst trying to turn into highway 50 (after a coffee-stop at Starbucks), we drove smack into another car (trying to turn off highway 50).  It was a mild accident… the most damage done was spilling my newly-purchased Caramel Brûlée Latte all over my lap.

The man in the other car was shaken – and very concerned about whether we were all okay.  We were.  The kids weren’t even slightly phased – although Joah was concerned about George.  “Is George bruised?” – he wanted to know.

George – as it turns out – being an old, sturdy car… escaped with nary a scratch.  The other man’s car wasn’t as fortunate.  The front bumper was bashed in… the lights broken too.  Thankfully, everyone was insured… so after the routine exchanges of information… photos taken on cell phones… and curt, polite goodbyes… we were on our way again.

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We took it slow.  The weather was rainy, misty and miserable… so we ended up reaching Geneva (on Lake Erie)…. still in the State of Ohio… and we decided to call it a night.

We took this photo in Geneva… and I find it a bit tough to believe.  Seriously?  It's illegal to move chairs or close umbrellas?

We took this photo in Geneva… and I find it a bit tough to believe. Seriously? It’s illegal to move chairs or close umbrellas?

After driving around Geneva… we found a reasonably-priced place to stay:  a lovely little 2-bedroom cottage, right on the lake.  I imagine that in summertime, Geneva must be quite the holiday mecca – but it’s a bit of a ghost-town in winter (hence the good prices for accommodation).  We ordered in pizza and watched movies and tried to figure out WHERE we’d be spending Christmas!  At the time, we had no idea… we knew we wanted a white Christmas… we knew we wanted to visit the New England area… we knew we didn’t want to be in a hotel or motel… but we didn’t know where… or what… or how.

Look how amazing Lake Erie looks in wintertime!?  All that ice mixed with sand… it felt a bit surreal - like we were on another planet...

Look how amazing Lake Erie looks in wintertime!? All that ice mixed with sand… it felt a bit surreal – like we were on another planet…

Another pic of icy, interesting Lake Erie...

Another pic of icy, interesting Lake Erie…

After browsing the internet and coming up with nought… we left the following morning and drove through Pennsylvania to New York State.  We spent the whole day in the car (rainy weather and lots of mist – so we couldn’t even enjoy the scenery)… and eventually ended up in a tiny town called Salamanca – which had a HUGE glass casino!  It was rather odd… driving through this beautiful, rural area… lots of mountains… and forests… and suddenly, in the middle of nowhere – there’s this ostentatious monstrosity!

We found a Holiday Inn nearby.  The kids splashed in the indoor pool (and bubbled in the jacuzzi)… and then we ordered Chinese take-aways and watched Home Alone on the TV.

We were about to hit Christmas Eve – and we still had no idea where we’d end up spending Christmas… and things were beginning to look a bit bleak!

The next day was spent entirely in the car (again).  We drove to Schenectady (which I still can’t properly pronounce)… and ended up staying in the tiniest hotel room we had experienced thus far on our travels.  The 2 “double” beds were only slightly wider than a single… so, in order to fit, Nick and I each slept with one of the kids (since we couldn’t fit 2 adults in one of those beds).

The next morning was going to be Christmas Eve… we had no accommodation booked… we didn’t know anything about New York – or which direction we should head… and our attempts to find accommodation online were looking spectacularly dismal.  Everything was either fully booked… or way too expensive for our budget…. and I began to imagine us spending Christmas cooped up in a tiny motel – somewhere along the highway… toasting with cheap wine in foam cups and watching adverts on TV.  I sent off one last e-mail request for a place that looked as though it could be what we were searching for (and waited for the inevitable “sorry, we are booked” response).

After the kids had gone to sleep, Nick decided that he was going to sneak out and buy them Christmas presents.  He said he’d found a Target store down the road which – apparently – was open ’til late… and that he’d be “back soon”.

Two hours later… and he was not back.  Three hours later… no sign of him – and I began to panic.  I had visions of him crashing George… visions of him lying dead in a ditch… visions of becoming a widow on Christmas Day (I’m one of those overactive imagination types).  Four hours later… I was frantically googling “Schenectady Traffic Incidents” sites… and when I saw that two *serious* accidents had occurred in that region, I began to feel sick with worry.  I sat at the window… staring at the parking lot… counting every car that passed… waiting desperately for a car that looked like George.   Eventually – a car pulled in (and it looked a bit like a cop car) and my heart jumped into my throat:  “It’s cops!  It’s cops!  Nick must have gasped out the hotel name as they carried him off on a gurney… and they’ve come to tell me some awful news!”

(Of course… it was NOT the cops.  Just a few guys… in a branded car… checking in to the motel)

I went to speak to the guy at the front desk (who had a piece of sandwich attached to his facial hair as he talked to me)… and just as I was asking him for the telephone number of the local hospital and police…  I spotted George… pulling in to the parking lot.

Nick relayed a frustrating tale of how Target was closed… so he drove to another Target… which was closed… and then he asked for directions to a Walmart… which was closed… and then eventually hunted down a *Super* Walmart (which was on the opposite side of town).  I was relieved to have him back… and he had purchased the prezzies (which I wrapped on the bathroom floor at the hotel at almost 4 in the morning).

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Christmas Eve… we woke to some wonderful news:  the owner of the cottage on Indian Lake said that it was free.  We could go!  (I wrote about our delight here)… Christmas was going to amazing, after all!

Okay – so this has been a long-winded post… trying to catch you up on so much travel-news because we’re due to leave the States in just a few days – and I still have so (!) much to share.

Thanks for reading! x

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