Friday, 31 December 2010

In which we admit to being stoooopid

Did you read that little rant about the morning lost to getting our dryer back up? Well, everything said to check the power supply, as a dryer takes two circuits and one can still power the machine but isn't enough to heat it up... We did check the circuit breaker and found all the switches in the "on" position - nothing tripped.

When Bob plugged in the loaner dryer this morning it didn't get hot either.

He turned off every circuit in the breaker box, and it still had power.

So we went hunting for a second, previously unknown box. It was outside, on the back of the house, and a fuse was blown.

That's right, folks, we went for several days without a dryer, took dirty clothes to my parent's house to wash, and wasted a whole day trying to not be frustrated at policy because we dumb.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

my food philosophy

I've been reading a few opinions on food, and decided to articulate what I think is "healthy." Mind you, I don't actually eat like this, but I think I *should*.

Most healthy (and to be consumed in great quantities): things you grow yourself. Local, fresh, organic fruit, vegetables, and grains.

Next: things others grow. (organic fruits, vegetables, and grains)

Next: Things you raise yourself. Animals and their by products like cheese, eggs, honey, and meat.

Next: things others raise. (Organic, free range.)

Next: any of the above categories grown or raised in a non-organic way.

Next: Things you manufacture yourself. This would include things with bought ingredients like bread (made with yeast), other baked goods (made with sugar and other additives), pickles, etc.

Worst and to be consumed in limited quantities: things others manufacture. This would include boxed food, cake mixes, candy bars, jelly, ketchup, and other canned or prepared foods.

Ingredients that should be avoided altogether are high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

What's your philosophy? Do you live by it?

my new diet

Yep, here we go again. My new diet has a twist. It starts "now" in the Biblical continuous present tense. Not yesterday, tomorrow or Monday, but "now."

The rules are:
1/2 Texas grapefruit before breakfast (I'm not torturing myself with Florida's - when I can't get grapefruit I'll do oranges)

salad with protein or homemade sandwich or wrap for lunch (with fruit if possible)

1/2 grapefruit before dinner, which should contain a broccoli or other brasaica (Sorry, that isn't in spell checker)

candy should be limited to the limit that I wouldn't lie about in an anonymous confession.

I take an Omega 3,6,9 supplement (from Sam's; made of fish oil, flaxseed oil, and a few other things like evening primrose), and when I remember I take Gluclosamine with MSM. I bought some ground flax seed and will start implementing it into baked goods.

I'm also trying to stand rather than sit as much as possible.

Yes, it's pretty simple and not a huge change, but I feel like I'm making a positive change FOR my health instead of sabotaging it as usual. The rules have to be pretty flexible considering how often we eat out.

catch up

Due to my bad memory and time/space constraints, I will try to keep this short.

In the last 6 weeks since I stopped blogging, we've:

Been to Springdale/Fayetteville about a zillion times (45 minutes each way)

Been to Oklahoma about a thousand times (3 1/2 to 6 hours each way)

Fixed the van twice (once at a body shop, once in my Dad's driveway)

Spent thousands of dollars (New washer and dryer, new lens, utility trailer, groceries, eating out, Christmas, TV, deposits on utilities...)

Broken several things (my old comic books, Mom's dishes, my new dryer)

Finished Bob's VA disability Dr appointments

Brought home the Mini

Joined a church (founded by Bob's great uncle, a local non-denom)

Tore down a wall and built a floor for the new master bathroom

Negotiated a sale of Grandma's stuff (they should get the last load today)

Acquired a kitten (a cousin knew a guy... We think it's a she, about 10 weeks old, grey striped, tentatively named Tiger)

Attended two Thanksgiving feasts

Hosted a Christmas celebration

Planned and prepped a New Year's Eve/Cedwryck's birthday party for tomorrow.

I think that's about it.

in which I begin again

More to come, but today was one of THOSE days.

We had a plan. It was simple, really; get up and go shopping. But first I called the service department of Sears to come fix my brand new dryer. The over the phone diagnostic wasn't working, so they scheduled an appointment. In two weeks! Or, since it was less than 30 days since we picked it up, he suggested we could return it. Great. We couldn't find the receipt, and wanted to know if a replacement was in stock, so called the store. Except they aren't in the phone book (???!), and when I did get the number, it's long distance plus they don't open til 10am.

We managed to still be home at 10, so I called. The customer service guy who answered said the receipt wasn't a problem, but before I could ask about a replacement he transferred me to the appliance sales lady. She was with a customer but promised to call back. Finally (about 10:30) we got a call, but she hung up before I answered. By 11 we decided to go for it.

First stop lunch (of course!). Chick-fil-a was good but expensive. Then to Sears where the return guys were eager to whisk the old dryer away in exchange for a piece of paper, which we then took over to the appliance section. Only one person working today, and she was busy, so we waited. When she came to us she remembered the phone call, and said she'd called again after we left. She was rather put out that we'd brought the thing back in, saying she might have been able to get a tech out sooner, but that bridge was already burnt. So after an hour of paperwork and a conference with a couple of managers we went home with a cheap discontinued dryer on loan until our replacement arrives on Jan 8. We have an order for the new one labeled COD (cash on delivery) that is supposed to make it come sooner, but worries me a bit that they might forget we've already paid and they are supposed to cancel the COD and let us have the thing without paying. Anyway, I'm glad that I was able to stay calm and polite throughout the experience, and that it all finally worked out.
We remembered something else we needed while there, and bought what they had. I was pleased to learn upon checkout that it was half price.

After that we went to Sam's where I got some groceries and the children didn't break anything (that I know of). When we left, we forgot to get gas so had to turn around (not the easiest thing at that highway junction), and when we got back there were 4 cars in line at the diesel pumps. But two of them pulled out, and then the guy in front was done, so Bob pulled around (there are two pumps in each lane) and backed into the spot. But he backed too far and bumped into the guy behind us. The guy had a few choice words to share, but decided there was no damage so no problem.

On the way home we stopped at Sonic for dinner, where I forgot to order William's food, but they added it on with no trouble. There is a minor spill near the rear van door.

Bob was to preach tonight at church so we had to get home in time to find his Bible.

Hmm. On writing it down, it doesn't sound so bad! You have to add in the imagination: 7 excitable children, achy knees and fingers lifting a dryer, wet clothes draped across the living room, piles of boxes everywhere, worry and frustration... Speaking of which, we "lost" the new cat for about an hour. Not good on the nerves. She turned up sleeping behind a dresser.

So anyway, it's midnight-thirty. But I hope to get on tomorrow and do some short catch-up type posts to get this blog rolling again.

Friday, 26 November 2010


John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

Well folks, I'm not saying this is the end of the blog, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of blogging in my future.

Good night and God bless.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

interesting times

The other night when we were coming home from Springdale, I saw a rustling in the bushes at the house end of the driveway. I kept looking, and had just decided there was nothing there and was looking away when suddenly a cow head appeared just a few feet from my window! (It was quite dark, and the cows are solid black.) Turns out that when the children were playing outside earlier, Riah opened the gate from the yard into the pasture, and the cows took advantage of the new grass. (Did I mention before that a relative was keeping cows on Grandma's pasture?) So anyway, Bob went in the house for a flashlight and a stick. He chased the cows around the house (as soon as they saw the light, they started running), and I stood guard at the corner so they all trotted back through the gate and out to pasture. As we locked the gate the cows huddled in the farthest corner, plotting revenge.

Sunday night Bob's ex called him at 11pm, in hysterics about some "emergency" regarding stepson. Turns out he'd quit his job and she was mad at him. Truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but in my humble opinion (after 15 years of dealing with her) she sees us making life changes and figured it was a good time to reassert her influences. And it worked. Bob talked to her for 30 minutes, calming her down and promising to take care of things for her. Gah! I'm torn between self-expression and not airing dirty laundry. I guess I'll stop there and leave it to you guys to imagine how you'd feel if you were in my place. (Keeping in mind that Bob had long told me that we wouldn't have to deal with her once stepson turned 16 - 4 years ago.)

Yesterday we were awakened to William wailing. He was sick on both ends. Riah, Cedwryck, and Taryn were also sick. There was an excess of dirty laundry made, showers given, and rags used. Enough said.
Bob and I cleaned out the back room (since it is obvious the other family isn't interested in getting it done), finding a few gems among the Christmas decorations that are now "mine" (sorry, inside joke). After the shelves were cleared, we took them down. These were quality redneck shelves - cinder blocks and boards. Bob took the boards somewhere and I used the cinder blocks to start marking out my garden beds. Gardening makes me happy.
Bob got a call back from the trash people, and they agreed to come today to get the trash pile from the carport. It looks much better now (smells better, too!). So things are finally getting done.

This morning I got online to check my mail and Facebook, only to find my Facebook account was disabled for being a fake name! What??? Now I have to send them a picture of my driver's license to get it reinstated. So I got my camera out (Bob's memory card doesn't fit in my computer), but the battery was dead. And the spare battery was dead. And I can't get Bob's battery out because his camera was dropped once and it's a little bent there. So I can't do anything about that until he wakes up. sigh.

At least things aren't getting boring now that we've "settled down." :-D

Monday, 15 November 2010


LOL, Elijah is watching VeggieTales with Bob, and he's really into it.


Where did I leave off? We DID buy a van at the auction, though it isn't as nice as we thought at first (we only got a 2 minute inspection).

The day after we got back home we got a call from the shipping people that our "Unaccompanied baggage" was ready to be delivered. The next day. To Mom and Dad's house. So we got up at 5 am and drove down there to meet the delivery van at 10. We stayed to visit a while and left there about 1pm to drive back home. We did have to open the 6 large shipping boxes and put everything loose into the van... This shipment was the bare necessities intended to get us through until our furniture arrives: winter clothes, towels, dishes and spices, etc.

That afternoon, before we even got home, we got a call from Mom that Bob's VA benefits package had arrived in the mail. He has dr appointments on 5 different days, back in Oklahoma, and about 40 pages of questions to fill out. We asked Mom to forward it to us.

We unloaded all our stuff into the living room, along with the pile of things we'd bought at Lowe's the day before (a new toilet, sandpaper, gloves, a rosemary bush, you know - the basic home improvement stuff), and the goodies we'd brought home the day before that from our storage building at Mom and Dad's (Christmas ornaments, StepSon's stuffed animal collection, the capice lamp...). And then we went out to eat.

The following day - Friday - we got busy putting stuff away, believing that "people" were coming over Saturday to clean up more of Grandma's stuff.

Saturday morning we called MIL to find that she wasn't coming, and somewhere we learned that next-door-uncle wasn't coming either, so we puttered around a while and then went to town to check prices at Sam's club (warehouse store). Sam's is interesting, but we didn't buy a membership right away.

Sunday (today) we went to church down the road (Riah wanted to go there). They were very glad to see us there (Bob knew one lady who used to work at Grandma's favorite restaurant) and the preaching was fair. The music part is lacking, as they sing one congregational song and then everybody sits there while 1/2 the room takes turns singing "specials." We had lunch at Subway, and then met MIL and FIL at the house where they took home a truck load of their stuff. (Yay!) We puttered a bit more, and then went back to town to check a local grocery and get things for a few meals.

Sorry I've not been writing much. We're still working out a bedtime routine for Elijah, and I never get much time online in the day.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

true enough

To quote the brilliant songwriter Amy Grant,

"We believe in God
And we all need Jesus
'Cause life is hard
And it might not get easier"

Ain't that the truth!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

catch up

Wow! What a trip. My apologies to my vast audience, who have been waiting with bated breath to hear of my latest adventures. (yeah, I know.)

Just to give a backdrop, we’ve been virtually house-hunting for several months. Three times we found a house that we were ready to purchase, and each time it was already sold or our offer was not accepted. We have joked that a sure way for a house to sell was for my MIL to express interest in it. She should offer her services to local realtors.

Anyway, we arrived Stateside with high hopes of finding a van and a house, in that order. We had some trouble finding a van, but ended up with a 94 Suburban that doesn’t quite fit all of us. Then up to Arkansas to visit Bob’s family and house-hunt some more. We couldn’t help noticing that the scenery is more “pretty” up here. Though I also notice that the Oklahoma landscape has a greater effect on me; I feel wild and free and happily lonesome there. Can’t describe it very well… Back to the story. The day after we got to Bob’s mom’s house, we were awakened to the phone ringing. Bob’s Grandma had a stroke and was in the hospital. The next week was a bit different from our expectations. Bob spent most of his time at the hospital, while I drove the family back and forth from MIL’s house. MIL has 3 Golden Retrievers and at least one of them lives in the house. I’ve never had a problem with house dogs before, but having been without one for 3 years, and going into that… it will be a LONG time before I have a dog in the house.
Grandma died on Sunday and we stuck around until the funeral on Wednesday. There was a bit of a ruckus about cleaning out her house/dividing the stuff, but that eventually cleared out. Bob’s ex-wife came to the funeral, and sat in the family section of the parlor, even though Bob had requested that she not do that. MIL apologized to Bob for her being there, but then told her that she was glad she came. So I’m having a hard time with that appearance of duplicity. I’m sure MIL was “just being polite” but I don’t know to whom. When all was said and done, there were 3 flowers that no one else wanted to keep, so we got them. Does your family do this? It surprised me at Bob’s grandpa’s funeral, that the flowers sent by any one person’s friend or relative “belong” to that person rather than to the service itself, or the nearest survivor.

We went back to Oklahoma at some point (sorry I’m losing track of the days) so Bob could go see the VA rep at Tinker AFB, and I could have a nice birthday at home. Saturday we went to a home auction; a nice-size but run down house on 16 acres that went for $30k. As the auctioneer begged for a better price, Bob admitted that if it was in Arkansas he would probably pay that much. So from that point we stopped looking for houses in Oklahoma, knowing it was a lost cause. Monday he went to the VA, only to find out it isn’t a “one stop shop” like it is in Germany. The man basically went over Bob’s records, pulling out various ailments that he can file for (like I had done 3 months ago). He will get a package in the mail in 2 weeks or so, with doctors’ appointments (plural). You bet we are excited about that. Tuesday was the 3-3 birthday. Mom made stuffed fried wontons for me (like nothing you’ll ever get at a Chinese takeaway) as well as chocolate cake and various fillers. I went to bed happy that night!

Thursday we came back to Arkansas. We stayed 2 nights with MIL, and then came over to Grandma’s. In that time we talked to MIL about buying Grandma’s house (it was left to MIL in the will). She had planned to sell it, but liked to idea of keeping it in the family and we agreed to work things out. So, it was settled – we would buy Grandma’s house, and live in the place Bob has always considered “home.”
Saturday we came out to the house to help the family with the sorting. Most of the family was there, and people talked about what items they wanted, came to agreement quickly, and started packing things up. Some had to go home, but some came back on Sunday afternoon to clean out more. Monday we were on our own. We went into town and got the utilities switched over to our name, and ordered internet. They don’t have wireless routers, so for now we are on one at a time, but it is plenty fast for most uses. We went on into the city to take 7 large garbage bags of Grandma’s clothes to Goodwill, and then shopped a little. I’m looking for a new washer and dryer (my birthday present). Bob bought a chainsaw, and we looked at toilets. Grandma’s toilets are short and small, and it is hard to get the business done properly.

Tuesday we finished cleaning out the house. There is a carport stall full of trash, a garage full of stuff to sell, and the furniture is still in the house! This, after everyone took home what things they wanted! An Aunt reported that all the loose change found in the house added up to over $200. There were photos in every drawer, shelf, and cabinet… I also washed all the curtains, and Bob, Taryn, and I vacuumed all the carpets, walls, ceilings, and furniture. The cleaning dirtied my bed, so we washed the sheets and blankets, too. Things had gotten a bit dusty and cobweb-y, and I was so stuffed up yesterday that I couldn’t swallow.
Today (Wednesday), we finished up the vacuuming, cleaned out the deep freeze (beef from 1987! Grandpa’s dentures! Things so dried out we couldn’t identify!), made a compost heap, and dug a trench around one side of the house to keep water out of the garage. We also checked on filing for compensation for the Mini being damaged, and how to get our stuff from storage from Texas. (We need a scanner and a helpful mechanic). MIL came over after work to talk about payments on the house, and stayed to have dinner with us (tacos). I was breathing a lot better today, with everything finally clean. The house looks pretty nice with all the clutter gone.
Tomorrow we go back to Oklahoma, because Friday there is an auto auction with several vans listed. Sunday is Elijah’s birthday, and we have some more business at Tinker.

So now we are all caught up, however poorly. :-)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

checking in

Just a note to let you all know what is up.

My brother's wife had a baby! She was 7 weeks early, but doing very well. He's blogged all about it - I think I link to him on the side.

We had a good time at the zoo, and a late dinner with stepson, and made it to mother in law's at 10pm - she was already n bed. We awoke the next morning to the phone ringing. Bob's grandma had a stroke and was in the hospital. Bob woke his stepdad and they rushed to the hospital, where they have been spending most of the week. I stay home a few hours, take the children to visit, and then go to lunch with Bob, maybe shop a little, and come back home. Grandma isn't expected to last very long, as things are deteriorating, and she had an advance directive at the hospital for no feeding tubes and "do not resuscitate." So no househunting, but seeing more family than expected (Uncle up from Florida, etc, etc).

The children have had to be quiet all day, so tonight instead of going to bed after a late snack, I told them to run around and be noisy. I think they are starting to get tired of it.

Bob has rescinded all statements about England not having customer service. We are making a list of places to not go eat. McDonald's by the mall - no. KFC - no. Dairy Queen Bella Vista - yes. Golden Corral - yes if we can afford it. :-) Who knew ordering 4 Happy Meals all the same would be so complicated? I don't even order "no pickles" to make it easy for them... Oh well, water under the bridge. And the big difference between there and here is that there is always some other place to go to here.

All righty, bedtime.

Monday, 11 October 2010

one week later

Well, it's been a full week since we left England "forever." (In quotes because I've left "forever" twice before now.) So I guess I should blog something. :-)

The trip over was about as expected. Hassle, hurry, and wait in the airports; mostly behaving but restless in the plane; smooth flights; just squeaked through on our flight change in Chicago; met by more family than expected in OKC; nice ride home where we stayed awake until Oklahoma bedtime (22 hours awake for Bob and I; slightly less for the children). And yes, each of those phases has a story to tell, but I'd never get caught up if I told them all.

One that was pretty funny (and short) is that Cedwryck ended up next to a stranger on the long flight. She was very kind. After a little while of visiting, she turned on a movie and settled back. Not long after that, Cedwryck was asking her a question. I leaned forward and told him to leave her alone to watch her movie, and he replied, "She wasn't watching it - she was asleep."

We adjusted to the time change pretty easily, though I did get silly tired a few evenings. The weather is a little warm, but what's weird is the heat and a/c running everywhere. In England we'd just open the windows. Bob and I borrowed my dad's truck and went van shopping 2 1/2 days. It was a frustrating search. We ended up with a cheap old Suburban that is simply a stop-gap measure. It's nice for the age, but only 8 official seats.

My brother Wil came up to visit Saturday night, so all my nuclear family was together for the first time in a few years. He called last night with a prayer request, but as he has his own blog I won't go into detail. Just lift him up.

We looked at 4 houses for sale in the area. One was on a hill with sand-burrs and mesquite trees - may as well be in Texas! Plus it needed siding, fascia, a septic tank, and probably foundation work, as an Elm tree was sending roots under the house. One was in rough shape, as the roof had leaked and the ceiling had molded and was falling down in several places. Two were trailers (double-wide): one of those was right on the highway, with no yard to speak of, no foundation, no price posted (and they won't answer the phone). The other shows some promise, but we haven't been inside yet. It's on a foundation, on 10 acres off the beaten path, and is a newer, large house. Next week we may go back with a real estate agent and look closer.

Today we are going to Tulsa to meet my step son at the zoo. After dinner we will go on to Arkansas to my mother in law's house. We plan to spend a week up there looking at houses and visiting family, and then come back here for Bob's appointments on base in OKC, and my birthday.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

done - ish

Well, we are out of our house and surprised to find internet available in the TLF (on base hotel thingy).

This morning was a little tense, as the final bit of stuff (that went in a separate shipment directly to my parents' house) was to be packed "between 8 and 5" but we had our house inspection scheduled for 1pm and had to have it all out by then. At 12 we called to reschedule the inspection for tomorrow, but they said to go ahead with it and try to work a deal with the inspector when he arrived. As it turned out, I took the children out to lunch and the movers and the inspector arrived at the same time. So Bob vaguely watched the packing while following the inspector around and wiping up any stray dust that was found. He said the inspector really checked everything, but was pleased with what we'd done. That's never happened before. It's either they don't really check, or they find millions of things wrong. But since I was out, I had my house keys with me, so the man had to come back by to get the keys. Oops. They didn't mind too much.

So we got our old room at TLF - the one we moved into when the heat quit in our first room, way back almost 3 years ago. They have ONE baking sheet, and it doesn't fit in the oven! Yikes. I bought a disposable pan, and Taryn made biscuits, Bob made eggs, and I made chocolate gravy for our supper tonight. It was nice to not be eating out for a change. For breakfast I got some Eggo waffles - I never get those things, but somehow I had a craving for them yesterday.

Anyway, we're here now and on our way. Bittersweet.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Link for new or used mothers who need a laugh, or dose of indignation or gratitude or memory lane.

Day one of packing was just 1 guy who packed the bedroom stuff (not beds) and part of the den. We volunteered to pack books, so he brought in some boxes and went home.

Day two was guy 1 plus another guy who has 5 young children so felt quite at home. They finished up the den and most of the living room and dining room. 3 other guys showed up and they loaded two crates and went home.

Now we have Sat and Sun to clean the house (around the boxes) and get ready for...

Monday they all come back to pack the outside stuff, kitchen, beds, and whatever else got left; put it all in the crates.

Tuesday they come pack our "fast" shipment which should arrive in 4-6 weeks and is currently stored in my bedroom closet. We hope they come early because our house inspection and turning over of the keys is Tuesday at 1:30. Yeah. Military won't give us a single day to actually clean the house, and we don't want to give them a day either.

Then we will be in TLF - a hotel - for 3 days while Bob does any remaining paperwork, and then we head for London for 2 days before flying home.

Bob lost a pair of jeans yesterday, so today we went and bought another pair. We wonder if I actually packed clothes for everybody, so we will re-do all the suitcases to make sure. Cause planning only works if you don't have Swiss cheese for brains.

Speaking of cheese, a couple from church had us to dinner Tuesday and served cheese and fig tart which was very good. She said she'll come by tomorrow and help clean. IT was a great visit and the children behaved very well and Elijah was comfortable with them and I know my writing has gone bad but there you go. :-)
Don't know when I'll blog next so trying to shove it all in. And now it's bed time.

Monday, 13 September 2010


sorry for the lapse in blog posts lately. I expect y'all to assume I'm busy getting the house ready to move. ahem.

We had the housing inspector out last week, and he was gracious. Of all the fiddly bits, we are only being charged for one set of miniblinds, which cost about $100. He asked us to clean the walls in preparation for re-painting, but told us not to worry about patching holes or cleaning the carpet. He was impressed that I'd done my own inventory when we moved in, as most people don't bother. I'm glad, too, as it saved us having to replace the kitchen cabinet that was broken when we moved in.

We've sorted and cleaned and packed; shopped, planned, and searched. We exchanged anniversary presents on the 11th, the day of our legal marriage, as it was a Saturday. We both got the other a Celtic cross on slate. :-D

There have been some interesting stories, but right now I can't think of them. Today I'm making croissants for dinner. If they turn out well I may start making my own chocolate ones, as outside sources are unreliable.

I drove the Mini the other day. It kept freaking me out to not have to shift.
So, yeah. Not blogging so much. :-)

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Just found a blog in my favorites list and took a gander. Ran into the following and it sums up quite a bit of how I felt after reading the New Testament through in 5 days.

The kingdom of God is not and has never been about political activism. It is not about restoring America to the good old days that never were. Jesus was not interested in overthrowing the Roman government when he walked among men, and He isn’t interested in overthrowing the democrats in November, 2010.

You know it pains me to admit that given my well documented and deep-seated aversion for liberalism and the Democratic party agenda which I believe stands in violent opposition to God’s word and godly principles. But the truth is the truth.

The best thing Christians can do is fall on our faces before our Merciful Heavenly Father, repent for our materialistic, selfish, watered down gospel, and be about our Father’s business in our own house, on our own streets and in our own churches if we want to see change on a national level.

the blog is here

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Customer service

Just to change things up a bit, I thought I’d share some positive experiences. :-D
Remember Bob bought an ’84 Austin Mini a while back. He’s driven it a few times, but was noticing it tended to die rather than idle. So recently he took it to Cooper’s Garage in Mildenhall. (Funnily enough, Cooper is the owner’s name, but over time he has become a specialist in the Mini Cooper.) He had an appointment, and they started work right away. Bob watched for awhile, and they found several little things which really needed repairing, but then it came to something that would take awhile so Bob left the car there overnight. The next day the work was done and they had a nice detailed invoice of parts and labor. Then they (not Bob) suggested he could have it VAT free if he took the invoice up to the base and played the VAT office games. So we did that, saving 50GBP; they were happy to wait several days to get paid.

Bob drove it for a couple of days and decided that the carburetor really did need to be replaced, so he took it back up there. At the same time, to take full advantage of tax free, he ordered all the extra parts he’d need in the foreseeable future. They took time and made phone calls to get our list right, and when the carburetor came in they put it on for free. Again they had to wait a couple of days to get paid. When Bob took the money back to them he noticed the car acting funny again, so asked for the mechanic. He dropped what he was doing, looked at Bob’s car, made an adjustment and took a drive with him to check it out. Bob remembered another part he needed, and the man got that for him. When Bob started to get out of his car to go pay for the last part, the man said there was no charge for that, or this day’s work. They’d “taken too long” to get it fixed. All this, knowing we are fixing to leave the country and couldn’t do any thing if they didn’t get it right. So there is an honest mechanic still in the world! Anybody looking for a good mechanic in Mildenhall or Lakenheath, Cooper’s Garage is the place to go.

Another experience we had started off not so great. Tuesday the BXtra hosted a family Bingo, and the children wanted to go, so we did. It is free to play, so we don’t consider it gambling, plus we learned a lot about the odds of winning. Anyway, we ate there, too. Burger King was behind (as usual), but this time they actually lost our order. Bob took the receipt up there and they tried again. Then when we got the food, Bob got a single instead of the double. He took it back up to the counter, and the man slapped another meat patty on top. Ooo, Bob was furious! He went back AGAIN, told the whole story to the manager (general manager of the whole facility, I think). This time they made it right, and to make up for it he gave Bob a free meal card. A few minutes later another employee came out to our table and gave Bob another free meal card. And then after we’d eaten the shift supervisor came over to me (Bob was out with Elijah) and apologized, saying she knew we were regulars, and were always nice, and she was really sorry.

As for the Bingo, we had a sheet of “cards” for each family member, and played 10 rounds (a total of 90 games, y’all!) and didn’t win once. Can you imagine if we were playing for even $1 per game? I hope the children remember this and don’t ever try to gamble. But the family next to us won twice, and one of their prizes was a game “Don’t Break the Ice” which they already had. Instead of trying to exchange it, they offered it to our family for free. We were very grateful and prayed blessings on them for their kindness. We also learned to be glad for others and enjoy the game for the sake of playing. Lots of good things happening there.

Monday, 6 September 2010

oh, yeah pt 2 and Friday

Another thing I forgot to mention about the big vacation is that I kept track of expenses for about 10 days, and we averaged 84GBP per day for all our eating, driving, shopping, and sightseeing. That doesn’t include the cottages, which were about that much again, and I think it’s a good figure for 8 people living it up. There were things we didn’t do because of the cost (such as a ride on a narrow gauge railway, that would have been over 50GBP for 1 hour), but we never lacked for a good time.

Back to the present.
Friday, Bob had an appointment at the sleep center in London, to check on his sleeping habits since he got the CPAP machine. We all went along for a nice day out. The weather Thursday was iffy, and Friday started off pretty chill, so we took our jackets. We left about 7am, stopped at Burger King for breakfast on the road, and headed to Epping. We arrived at the Tube station there at 8, but the parking lot was already full, so we found the long term parking in town. It was nearly empty, and cost 2.80 for all day. Some people needed a toilet, and there was one there, but it was locked. SO we headed over to the grocery store in hopes that they had facilities, but half-way around Bob realized there was a new pay toilet in the parking lot. Turns out the “smart” toilets aren’t that bright either, and we all got in for 10p. As it didn’t have toilet tissue and the sink didn’t work, I don’t feel like we were stealing from them. (Thankfully, I carry toilet paper with me in lieu of tissues, so we were able to remain sanitary.)

We walked down the hill to the station, and hopped aboard a train. This time we did things differently. We didn’t take a stroller. Or lunch, or even the camera bag. I had Elijah in my “pouch,” Taryn had the diaper bag, Cedwryck carried one bottle of water, and Bob just had his camera and extra battery. It’s been so long since we’ve been down that William thought the Tube was very exciting, and watched the rails and the passing trains with great interest.

Since we didn’t have the stroller, we managed to pick stations where we didn’t have to go up and down stairs much. Epping, of course, has no stairs; we changed at Mile End where the next train departed from the same level platform; we got off at Westminster, which has an elevator. Typical.

At Westminster we walked past Big Ben and turned up Whitehall, past 10 Downing Street, and to the horse guards. I’ve seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham, but hadn’t seen the horse guards, and as they do it every day I thought it’d be nice to see. Well. We were there early (about 10:30), and crowds started to build up as we played in the gravel. The show started at 11, and consisted of 7 horses with black-coated riders walking in, lining up, and waving their swords around (uh, the riders waved swords, not the horses). Then 7 horses and red-coated riders came in, lined up facing the others, waved their swords, and half of each company walked away. Then they stood there for 30 minutes. And then the old guard came out, joined with the ones standing there, and they all left together. That was it.

With that excitement over, and all the children well-coated in gravel and dirt, we walked up to Trafalgar Square. The lions are fenced off (apparently they do concerts there in the summer), but there are fountains there now (I don’t remember fountains in ’94), and feeding the pigeons is illegal. So we looked around, used the toilets, Azariah got lost… hehehe. Riah had gone into the toilet with Cedwryck, and I told them to stay together. Bob came out and walked 5 steps away from where we had been while I went in. When I came out I saw Bob with the children, and then, 10 feet away, Azariah was crying. My first thought was that Bob had got onto him for climbing on the fountain, but no; Riah came out of the toilets and didn’t see anybody. Ced had come out just a minute before, and HE saw Bob just fine, but the boys didn’t stay together like I said and Riah thought he was left behind. His grief was short-lived.

We went into the National Gallery for lunch at the National Café. It was expensive and messy (they use crumbled cheese on their sandwiches instead of sliced cheese). But we felt better for having food. From there it was a short walk up to Charing Cross station, where we took the tube up to Regent’s Park station. We still had lots of time so we went on to the park and let the children play at the playground for awhile. Bob left to go to his appointment, and was back before we got bored.

We walked on through the park, to Queen Mary’s garden, which was really lovely, and I wish we had made it up there with Mom and Dad as we’d talked about doing before we went to the Eye last year, and Dad got ill and had to go back to his hotel. Bob took some nice pictures there, we used toilets again, and started back towards home. Tube, change, Tube, and we were back in Epping. We talked about going to Old Orleans restaurant, which I’ve been talking about visiting to celebrate our 14th anniversary, but considering our excited, tired, and dirty state, we decided to just go to McDonald’s. This is the one McDonald’s in the UK with a playplace, and Bob says their quarter pounders are the best. We didn’t play too long; just enough to have a break.

Saw a lovely sunset on the way home, and in all we were satisfied with our day. We did what we’d set out to do, had a nice balance of walking and riding, and oh yeah, the weather… Naysha and Cedwryck took their jackets with them, but those of us who bet on the sun were right. I’ve never seen such lovely weather in London. Fluffy white clouds here and there, but never a hint of rain. Warm, but not hot at all (except in the subway tunnels). Just perfect, really.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Oh, yeah

Last week we also went on a little trip. Bob had Friday off, so we went up to King’s Lynn, about an hour from here, to Caithness Crystal. It is a glass making/blowing factory with a big shop and free demonstrations M-F. I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but Bob works M-F, too. We didn’t make an early start, and just had time to watch him make 2 complete pieces – a drinking glass and an elephant – before he ran out of glass. It was very interesting and I’m glad we went.

Today I took Ella to the dentist. I’d noticed a cavity in July, and called to get it filled then. But they didn’t have any appointments until we were on vacation, and then they had none last week, so this was the first chance to go. Except they scheduled for a cleaning, because the dentist has to verify the cavity first. So there we were. As last time, they asked for Ella’s Social Security Number, but I was onto them this time and said up front, “I don’t know it, and I don’t want you to look it up.” So the dentist came in and asked me to write on the record that I refused it. I wrote the same as last time, “Dental clinic is NOT authorized to use child’s SSN for ANY reason.” SO she read it and said I needed to put something about they couldn’t treat the child without it. So I wrote “I understand that you will not give an X-Ray without child’s SSN, which violates child’s right to privacy and free military family health care. That’s your choice. I will leave here soon and take child to a real dentist where I will pay for an X-Ray if they think she needs one.”
She didn’t read that one until after she was done. Ella was a pill. She didn’t want to open her mouth, and cried all through the exam. Whaddyaknow? She has a cavity. But, with the dentist’s bionic eye out of commission, she doesn’t know if there are any more cavities, or how deep it is, yadda yadda. So we discussed how to get the cavity filled with Ella being uncooperative, and then she looked at the paper before leaving. Oh, she didn’t like what I wrote. Because it’s my choice to not give them the SSN (as if that negates their choice to not do the X-Ray?), and she wanted me to re-write it, but I wouldn’t. She went around the block with me about the personal vs the collective “you,” and finally declared that she cannot treat my child, and went to get someone else to “deal” with me. Whatever. No way they would have an appointment open within the next month anyway, so I took my coat and Ella and her toothbrush, and we just left.

For the record, ALL military records are kept through Bob’s SSN; each child has a “prefix” assigned to his number, and that’s how they keep track. But for some reason, the dental clinic (only Pediatrics, as far as I know) has decided to keep the X-Rays separate from the other records, and the only way they can possibly store the records is with the child’s SSN on it. There is no billing or insurance as we are on base, so that doesn’t even come into it. For my non-American friends, a SSN is a sort of tax-payer ID that every American is issued at birth. It’s primary purpose is to keep track of how much a person has earned throughout their life, so the government can calculate how much they ought to get when they are old. Sort of a nation-wide retirement scheme. Because of its close connection with jobs and finances, it is also used for taxes and credit scores. The cards used to say on them that they were not to be used for identification, but now they simply say to be cautious.

I went to the proper website and filled out a comment card.

Bob has been working on invitations to his retirement ceremony on Sept 20.

The house we offered on had already accepted a verbal offer, so I don’t think ours will get anywhere. Who knows? We’d already been accepted at the last place when they took another offer, but we thought that was crooked. I submit myself to God’s will for us. But I liked this place! Boo hoo. My theme song is now Kim Hill’s “There’s a place for us.”

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A full week at home

Well, I finally got caught up posting about the vacation. So now we are back to real life.

We did go to Fairford for lunch, gas, and a stop in the commissary. Poor base is closing down one day at a time; the commissary is now open 4 days per week. Then we took a moderately cross-country route until we hit the A14 just west of Cambridge, and then on home. The clouds started breaking up on the way home, and we actually got hot. Must have been 70*F! (LOL at those back home who are over 100*). Everything was normal at home.

Sunday we went to church where Bob showed off his beard.

Monday we hit the ground running.
A few things we’ve done in the one week since we got home:
Got plane tickets for our flight home
Ammended Bob’s orders (the children weren’t on it!)
Sent in the VA application (Veteran’s Administration – they will pay Bob some of his retirement, based on how “disabled” they decide he is). Turns out they won’t be able to see him in Germany before we leave here, so he will do his exam and get his verdict from Oklahoma.
Sold the minivan
Sold my sofa
Got the Mini tuned up
Made a menu and went shopping
Wrapped and packed Christmas presents
Made an offer on another house
Took Taryn to the dentist and agreed to have surgery to remove her extra tooth (it is horizontal, between her two front teeth)
Took apart the playhouse
Packed one suitcase
Sorted and packed 4 tubs of outgrown clothes
Alternated between running the fans and the heater.

I know there’s more than that, but that’s all I can remember right now.

5 weeks to go.

Vacation Blog Day 21

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our last full day of vacation. Tomorrow I can begin to worry about the rest of my life – 6 weeks until Bob out processes from the Air Force and we leave England for good. I like England; they pronounce my name just by seeing it in print. I’ve NEVER had an American stranger say it right. Anyway.

We decided to pack up first, and go out later if we got our work done, so we worked all morning folding clothes, packing presents, jumping on the mattress to get the water out, cleaning out the van… We finished in time for me to wash my hair before leaving for lunch at McDonald’s (with free ketchup). After lunch we made the short drive to St. Fagan’s museum of Welsh Life. This place has a nice gift shop, about 100 buildings of various ages moved in from all over Wales, including a working farm. Admission is free, but you have to pay 3GBP to park. The thing about this museum is it employs grumpy people and has a lot of rules. No strollers in the old buildings. No touching, running, feeding the animals, reading the books in the shop, etc. It seems set up to ensure children continue to think History is dull. Another gripe I have is that the information signs for each building are across the path, or down the path from the building. Sometimes it isn’t clear to which building they refer. I suppose in very crowded times this would help each person have an opportunity to both read the sign and see the building, but it is a little inconvenient.

We were about tired of it anyway when the rain set in for good, about 4pm, so we headed back home. I had “Janice’s Chicken” in the crockpot, so all that was needed was to heat up the corn and set the table. It was a good supper, followed by “Simon Says” and more laundry.

Now Bob and I need to figure out which road to take home. We plan to pop up to Fairford for gas, but do we go back to the M4, to London’s M25, or try to cut across country? We may never know. ;-)

Vacation Blog Day 20

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today we celebrated Ella’s birthday. She was actually born on the 20th, but she wanted to celebrate at a castle, and the 7 day pass we bought last week expires today. Also we need to pack and stuff on Friday.

She woke up to a room full of balloons, presents on the table, and chocolate chip coffee cake in the oven. After a lovely breakfast Ella opened her presents and played house with the other children. She wanted to have lunch at the castle, so we left for Castle Coch (I heard one person pronounce it “cork”) about 11:30, arriving about noon. There is a larger castle nearby, Caerphilly, but it doesn’t have a tea room. The weather was hit and miss with the rain, but it wasn’t a big deal because Castle Coch was built in the 1850’s and still has a roof on.

We went to the tea room and set about ordering. The children each got a ham sandwich with yogurt, apple, and orange juice. Bob got a Huntsman’s pie and I got Welsh Rarebit, with bacon. Bob liked his pie, but it was served cold, so I’m glad I got the rarebit. It seemed fitting to have it at least once while in Wales, and anyway it was really good. After lunch we walked around the castle, and found out that there was a castle on the site that was a ruin by the 1500s, and the present castle was built on the old foundation and was externally as authentic as possible. There was a wedding at the castle, and they had a bagpiper. She started up once right as we were walking by, and Elijah just burst into tears. She apologized and went away a little bit. The girls were all thrilled to see the bride entering and leaving.

The children were quite excitable all day, and Bob and I were having a hard time dealing with it. We were also out of water in the car. We headed on over to Caerphilly, stopping at a grocery store for water. I also saw some interesting cereal, and bought it to try. It is chocolate “pillows” with a hazelnut cream filling. Tastes like Nutella on toast. We found the castle, but at this point it was pouring rain and it would have been torture to go in. Ella agreed that one castle was enough, and we turned toward home.

We arrived at the Tesco Extra about 4pm, and went in to buy a cake for Ella and breakfast for the next 2 days. She picked out a chocolate cake with smarties (like M&M’s), Rolo, and another candy on top. After that we crossed the road to Pizza Hut for supper. This one had pizza! They told us that the “children eat free” deal was any order off the regular menu generated a free child’s menu order. So we talked and mulled it over, and finally agreed to get 2 large pizzas, and take the 2 free kid’s meals. But when we went to order she said that a large gets 2 free meals, and that would have been too much. So we got one large, with “cheese bite” crust – oh, it was good! I could eat just a plate of the cheese bites – a lasagna, and three free children’s meals. It turned out just right. Bob wasn’t crazy about the lasagna, but he got full and Elijah inhaled the rest of it (after having nibbled on pizza throughout the meal).

When we got home I sent Naysha upstairs to put some clean socks away, and when she came down she said something kind of offhand about she and Taryn would both have to sleep on the floor tonight. I asked why this was, and she informed me that one bed was a little wet. Why? Taryn had opened the window, which is actually a SKYLIGHT, that morning before we left. Remember the rain all day? Straight down on the bed. The blankets, mattress pad, mattress, and floor were all soppy wet. So we spent the next hour soaking up water, taking the bed apart, and sending linens through the dryer. Slight panic prevailed. Once we got as far as we could, we broke for cake, and then made pallets on the boys’ room floor for the girls.
I really hope it dries up. There are no fans, nor even a hairdryer, in this house. And this is the house we booked directly with the owners, so there is no vacation insurance.

Vacation Blog Day 19

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We woke up to rain again this morning, but as we already knew what we had planned we just went ahead with it. After breakfast, showers, and some laundry, we got in the bus and headed east. Er, we went outside where the owner was working with her horses. So we stopped and talked about the horses for a minute, petted the cat, learned everyone’s name… and then got in the bus.

Our destination was Cheddar, England. Google maps gave the travel time at 1 ½ hours, and in spite of all our misgivings, that was about right (as always). We arrived at 11:30, so our first priority was toilets and then lunch. The toilets were clearly visible from the main road, so after we got parked (in the “coaches” parking area, with the blessing of the attendant) we trotted down the hill into town. We settled on a little tea shop for our lunch, as it had signs out front describing today’s special as Cornish pasties (said with a short “a” sound) 2 for 3GBP to take away. I went in and ordered 8 of them, hot please. I took the bag and we all walked down a wide footpath to a bench under a tree, where we sat and ate. The pasties were quite good and filling. Our cheapest meal out so far!

Next, we wanted to visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Factory, where (for 4 GBP total) we were allowed to watch a man make cheese. There was a 25 minute video that showed all the steps to authentic cheddar, and a few antique implements on display. In all, there was less to the show than at the Chocolate factory in Yorkshire, and that was free. After that we exited into the shop for free samples (this area was open to the public). Unlike the Wensleydale cheese room, Cheddar’s samples were administered by an attendant, and while they did their best, it still took longer and I felt like we shouldn’t try every single one. I did buy a wedge of cave-ripened cheddar, and a jar of onion and ginger relish. That relish is something else! One bite and I didn’t want to eat for hours.

We walked around town until 5pm, checking out the candy-making shop, the fudge shop, the other toilets, an antique shop, and a couple of gift shops. I had hoped to be able to get a small cheese for each of my family members, but it is all (even the waxed or still-wrapped) marked “keep refrigerated” and I don’t want to risk food poisoning. We drove on up to the top of the gorge, where Bob took a few pictures, and we saw “mountain goats” and heard a peregrine falcon that RSPB was out looking for. We were almost out of gas, but the two places in Cheddar were 1.19 and 1.20GBP per litre, and Bob thought we could make it a little ways.

On the way back to the motorway we took a detour through the town (village?) of Axbridge (Hi, HoJo’s!). It is a pretty place, home of King John’s hunting lodge, but has no gas stations. I had planned to go back the way we came, but Bob took a “wrong” turn, and it’s a good thing he did, as there was a BP station just down the road. It was still 1.18per litre, so he just got a half tank. We followed that road to the M5, and then after 1 ½ miles we stopped at a services area (I keep trying to think of an American equivalent; I guess it is similar to a truck stop, with convenience store and toilets. Some are more like small malls, some just have a gas station, and some have several separate buildings, often including a hotel). We had supper at Burger King. I got the Cheddar bacon Angus burger, and it was SOOOO good! After supper we bought 2 Magnum Ecuador Dark ice cream bars, which we thought weren’t being made anymore (can’t find them anywhere in East Anglia), but are everywhere out here, and shared them around. Gas there was 1.22. HaHaHa.

Where the M4 crosses the Severn Estuary, from England to Wales, you have to pay a toll. No toll coming into England, just going into Wales. We got charged as a bus – 10.90GBP!! Oh well, what are you gonna do? The trip home was a bit longer than the one out, as the M4 was closed around Newport, so all traffic was diverted to an A road, with a half-dozen roundabouts and stop lights. Then when we got to our exit we both had a brain fart and forgot which way to turn. We took a trip around the roundabout, and decided we may as well check their gas prices. 1.16 per litre, so we stopped and filled up, and then back around to our road home.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Vacation Blog Day 18

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today started off rather rainy, with a cloud blanket that looked like it would never end. But I encouraged Bob to go for it, so eventually we left the house. He wanted to go west – the ultimate goal to reach the end of this peninsula – and visit some beaches, and maybe go up to the Aberdulais waterfall. Several sources say people surf on these beaches, and we thought some big waves might be nice to look at.

Our first stop was in Port Talbot, where we followed the signs through a very circuitous route to the seaside. Once there we realized that we should eat first, so we worked our way back to what we thought was the road we came in on, but somehow the McDonald’s we’d seen had turned into a KFC. No matter, we can eat chicken, too. They had everything we ordered in stock, and though the accents were unbelievably thick, we managed to order and get our food.

Across the road was a large grocery store, so Bob dropped me off there and I got some water and some candy. And we were off to the beach. By now the clouds were starting to break up. We got parked and unloaded the children, the stroller, diaper bag, water bottles, and sand toys (I bought a set at Poundland the other day, and it just happened to have one toy for each child – how cool is that?). We changed into our flip-flops and walked down to the beach. It was so nice there. The sand by the steps (giant concrete steps all along the length of the beach) was very fluffy and clean, and down closer to the water it was firm enough to push the stroller. The children rolled up their pants and skirts and went wading. The water was pretty cold, so I didn’t stay in. They splashed around for quite a while, and then we went back up to the steps where we sat down and they built castles. Just a few inches below the surface the sand was the perfect consistency for molding into shapes. We did see some people try to surf (it looked like lessons), but the waves weren’t big enough to do anything with.

That was great fun, but Bob had spotted a lighthouse across the bay and wanted to get closer. So we drove past Swansea and through Mumbles, which was very crowded but not as nice as Llandudno, and out to Mumbles point (or is it head? I don’t want to bother looking it up). That spot was apparently unfashionable, because the parking was free and plenteous, the playground wasn’t overcrowded, and there was no queue at the toilet. Perfect. Except, we’d overshot the lighthouse a little bit. Anyway, Bob climbed a little hill there and took pictures of a sailboat going around the lighthouse. The children played and Elijah tried to eat woodchips.

It was after 4, and I’d heard a lady talking about traffic getting bad (it was bad enough coming down!), so we talked it over, and Bob really did want to get out to the western end, so we decided to go for it. The only problem with this idea is that Wales is behind England in the modernizing of road signs, and they still have signs that point towards a town (with the name in Welch) instead of giving the road number. And half of the towns (villages, really) on the peninsula aren’t on the map at all. So we managed to turn off our A road and ended up in a parking lot. Seems like Dad and I did that once in Salisbury, back in ’94. Anyway, we persevered, and made it down to Worm’s Head after the shop and visitor’s center had closed. We paid a pound to park, and went for a walk. There was an ice cream truck there, so we each got one, even as we put on our coats because it was so chilly and windy. William dropped his ice cream, so Ella shared with him, which somehow got it all over her own back as well both of their faces and hands.
It was pretty there, and the sun was starting to set, so we dallied as long as we could stand it, and then tore ourselves away in search of food. (Being about 7pm). There were a couple of pubs down there, but I thought we’d save time by eating at McDonald’s, and we’d seen a few in Swansea. So we found our way back to Swansea, missing a turn to the bypass (again with the bad signs here!), but traffic wasn’t unbearable even through the town center.

We arrived at McDonald’s after 8pm (the children are usually in bed by this time). We ordered our food, and the guy asked if we wanted any sauces. We said “just ketchup” and he said “Ketchup mumble mumble. Do you want any sauces?” Clearly putting ketchup in a different category than ‘sauce.’ I asked for sweet and sour (great with the fries), and he rang them up at 5p each. Whatever; it IS good. So we got our food after about 10 minutes, during which I managed to get online and found it to be a good connection, but no ketchup on the tray or out on a counter where we could get it. We sorted the food and waited for the rush to die down; I took a bite of my quarter pounder and found it kinda yucky, so ate some fries and sauce while waiting. Taryn went up to ask for ketchup, and came back saying she thought he said you had to pay for it. What?! So I jumped up, waited 5 minutes to get anybody’s attention – it happened to be the manager – and asked for ketchup. He said it was 5p each. I tried to talk him out of it, being McDonald’s and all, but he wasn’t buying it. I asked if I could get my money back on my burger, because I couldn’t eat it without ketchup, and he refused that, too. He was sorry, but wouldn’t do anything to fix it because it was franchise policy to sell bad burgers and not fix it. All the McDonald’s in Swansea are owned by the same franchise. I got so upset I was trembling all over, and crying to nearly throwing up, so of course I couldn’t eat anything anyway. The children proved they don’t have to have piles of ketchup as they always claim, by eating their food dry. I got back online and posted a review of McDonald’s on Google maps, and here on the blog. It was 9:30 by the time we left.

Okay, restaurant people, (HoJo’s, Wil, ?) if a customer came to you with food that was too gross to eat, would you not offer a refund or a fix? I understand this cuts profit immediately, but how can you keep customers otherwise? And if you lose money because you are a bad restaurant, shouldn’t that inspire you to be a better one?

Anyway, in retrospect, if I’d chosen the way of peace, I could have just enjoyed my fries and soda, and been full and happy without the burger. We’d all have been better off. I think the burgers really were bad, as Bob had to stop on the way home to throw up.

On that pleasant note, I’ll end. It is high time for bed.

Vacation Blog Day 17

Monday, August 16, 2010
I didn’t wake up until 7:30 this morning! (Well, thereabouts; there are 6 clocks in this house and they cover quite a range of time.) After breakfast of Tesco cereal, Bob unleashed his plan. He wanted to take me up to Hay-on-Wye, a village known for its book stores. I was cool with that!

We left the house at 9:30, and went to Raglan Castle. We had lunch there and explored the ruins. It was really nice, and I made it up to a tower with not too much trouble. The stairs were nice and deep. :- ) We spent about 2 hours there, and then went on North-East.

At Hay-on-Wye, Bob let me out at the TIC, and he took the children to the nearby playground. He had a full time job keeping Elijah from eating everything he found. I walked up and down and shopped. Bought 3 Hentys, 2 Ballantynes, and 1 A. Conan Doyle, as well as a book on Mull and Iona. The plan was for us to call each other when we were ready to go, but the village doesn’t have cell phone reception. I was heading back to the TIC when Bob found me, and we started home about 5pm.

We stopped for dinner at a shopping center, and our first choice was Pizza Hut, but when we were finally greeted it was to be told that they only had large pizzas left. Huh? Don’t they make it on site? How can you have stuff for a large, but not a small? We started to go ahead, but Bob asked about the “kids eat free” sign, and she responded that yes, they do, but they don’t have the pizza, so it would have to be pasta. Nevermind, we went over to McDonald’s. We are getting a nice collection of glasses by now. (Free with a combo meal.)

Sorry my posts are getting shorter and shorter. There’s more I want to say about the cuteness of the children, etc, but I just don’t have the time or energy to get it out there.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Vacation Blog Day 16

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I’ll admit I’m writing this one on Monday. Any rate…

First thing Sunday morning, we regretted staying up until midnight to watch Casino Royale. So to make up for it, we stayed up Sunday night until midnight, watching The Pianist. It’s a movie about Poland in WW2, and I can’t recommend it because of the graphic violence, but one part made me laugh. The hero, a Polish Jew, managed to survive the years of German occupation, only to be shot at by the Russians because he had on a German officer’s coat. As he ran for cover he yelled “I’m Polish!” and they stopped firing. He came out with hands up, and they said, “Why the (expletive) coat?” He answered, “I’m cold.”

So between first thing in the morning and midnight, we did laundry (this place has both a tumble dryer and a clothesline), took a walk down the lane, went up to the junction for lunch at McDonald’s and shopping at Tesco. This was a Tesco Extra, and even had an upstairs. It looked HUGE to us, but I know we’ve been in WalMarts that are bigger. We got groceries, a pop-up tent, and some classic outdoor games (we’re thinking Christmas presents). Came home and cooked the lasagna for dinner, along with a most excellent cantaloupe.

While we were out, the owner mowed the grass, and my allergies kicked into high gear. My nose was running constantly, my ears even felt funny. Today I’m breathing hard and coughing. But today is another post.

Vacation Blog Day 15

Saturday, August 14, 2010
What a day! We left our cottage in Trefriw at 9:15am, and arrived at our cottage near Barry 12 hours later. How did that happen? We decided to not go to Stoke-on-Trent and look for china. I didn’t want the pressure of having to buy something after going that way on purpose, and I’d heard that the best shops are defunct now anyway. So we took the scenic route – A470 all the way from Betws-y-Coed to Cardiff, and then the short jaunt over to the cottage (including, of course, 3 miles on a single lane road).

We didn’t have any breakfast, so we stopped in Betws (which I learned is pronounced betoos) for bacon and cheese things and chocolate things at the bakery. We didn’t fill up with gas there, thinking prices might be better off the tourist route. About 2 hours down the road we were in serious need of toilets, so stopped at a place called Machinations – a sort of toy museum/gift shop/café. We checked out the animated wooden toys, the menu (pricey!) and the books, and got back in the car. Just a little further down the road we stopped at a Spar grocery/convenience store to get lunch meat to put on the bread I had. We ate in the parking lot. Just after that we stopped and filled up with gas at 1 or 2 pennies more per litre than that at Betws.

The next stop was Devil’s Bridge. It was only 30 minutes off our road. There is an old story about an old woman losing her cow across the gorge, and the devil appeared and offered to build a bridge if he could have the first living thing across it. The next morning a bridge was there, but the old woman outsmarted the devil by sending her dog across the bridge. So the devil was too embarrassed to ever return to Wales, and the woman got her dog back. At any rate, there are three bridges there now, one on top of the other, and the bottom (oldest) bridge is probably about 900 years old. We hiked, climbed, and scrambled first down the side of the mountain, across a foot bridge, and back up the other side. We got muddy all over, my knees popped with each step, and William nearly fell asleep standing up, but we made it. Elijah really enjoyed the walk, laughing all the way and getting down in the mud whenever I let him (there were a couple of safe landing spots).

We were just away from there when the torrential downpour began. That lasted about 45 minutes and had just cleared up when we took a wrong turn that took us back north and around through the road construction again… We were fairly back on our road when we arrived at Brecon, so we stopped there for dinner. That town isn’t very user-friendly and doesn’t appear to have public toilets. We found a burger/kebab place and ordered when my mom called me (hi, Mom!). She wondered if I wanted anything of Meemaw’s. Was it Donkey, Donkey that we always read there? Too late now, I guess. After dinner we asked the cook if there was a Tesco or something nearby. He said Aldi’s and Morrison’s, just down this road. SO we fetched the car, found the road again, and there was Aldi’s – closed. On down was the Morrison’s – a gas station. We used the toilets and bought a jug of water, a jug of milk, and a loaf of bread for breakfast tomorrow.

It wasn’t too much longer now. Maybe we weren’t ready to arrive yet – we took another wrong turn and were headed for downtown Cardiff on a road with no U-turns allowed. We managed to get back in the right direction, and in spite of my sudden fear that I’d written down the directions wrong, we made it to our house.

This place is looking to be the best so far, with actual soft beds, toys, rock walls, and horses. I’ll keep you informed.

Today we started counting and realized it is 7 weeks until Bob’s final out processing from work. I’m trying to not think about that, as it gives me a stomach ache.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Hey, y'all go check the illustrations to the story at You don't have to be signed in to view the pictures, only to comment. Bob would love to have you look, plus you'll get a better understanding of what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Vacation Blog Day 14

Friday, August 13, 2010

Knowing that we are moving tomorrow, we planned a short day for today.
We left the house by 9:15 and went up to Conwy. We did have a little delay on starting, because Bob thought the bus sounded funny; we stopped in at the hotel where we turn around and he put in a quart of oil.

We arrived in Conwy just in time to get a prime parking space in the shadow of the castle. A man was changing his tire, and we noticed he didn’t seem to know what he was doing, so as Bob went to pay for a parking ticket he asked the man if he needed help, which he declined. But on Bob’s way back to the bus the man called to him. He couldn’t get his jack to work at all. So Bob expertly set it up for him and helped him get the spare on. The man was very grateful, but Bob explained he was practically born a mechanic and it was no trouble for him.

Then we went over to the castle, where we deliberated in the gift shop just long enough for a whole busload of American tourists to come in and clog up the checkout lines. So we looked around a bit more, and finally made it in. Admission for just the castle was 14GBP, but a 7 day pass to any CADW property was 36GBP, so we went ahead with the 7 day pass. Conwy castle was interesting; several unique features; lots of stairs. We went up into one tower, but on the way down I nearly had a panic attack. I was on the verge of calling for Bob to come back and help me, but talked myself through it and William and I made it down safely. At any rate, I refused to go up any more stairs, so I sat on a bench with the 3 little ones while Bob and the big ones finished exploring. To explain further about the stairs: this tower is at least 5 stories high, all on a single ascent in a tight spiral staircase where the wide end of the steps is about 8 inches deep (my foot being about 12 inches), and the rope that acts as a handrail is on the inside (narrow end). I had on Bob’s camera backpack (he was carrying Elijah) and holding William’s hand. At first I had William to the inside, so I had a chance of standing on the steps, but that gave me no handhold, and with the backpack on I couldn’t lean against the wall. So after my near-panic, I made William go on the outside and I held onto the rope, and that was bearable.

We left the castle with over an hour left on the parking ticket, so we went looking for lunch. I was eager to revisit the kebab place, but Bob was less so. He found a cute little bakery/deli and after we tore our eyes away from the sweets we ordered some meat pies, sandwiches, baps, and back to the sweets. Bob picked out a slice of chocolate chip sponge cake, covered in chocolate. I got a chocolate cake with cream filling; the children wanted cream filled éclairs. It was all good, but Bob’s treat was the best.

Back to the car, where we decided to just come on home. We had laundry, packing, and baths to do; it’s 9:30 now and I’m still not done. Tomorrow we head south, if we can decide on a road to take. :- )

Vacation Blog Day 13

Thursday, August 12, 2010
This morning we took a break from vacationing. Bob fell asleep in his chair, and the children played pretend upstairs until lunch. We got things together and left the house about 12. First we went to Conwy, thinking of those yummy kebabs and the impressive castle, but we found no parking space in the whole town. So we moved on to Llandudno.

We had lunch at McDonald’s (had to wait for a table), and then went downtown. Got a parking space and started walking. We arrived in the town center at 2pm, and walked up and down the main drag until 6pm. We bought some souvenirs and some famous ice cream. We had KFC for supper, eaten in the grass in front of a church. After supper we went back to the bus and drove over to the seafront, where we got out and built sandcastles until sunset (8:45).

So that was our day. Elijah’s spots have turned rash-y looking (front and back). We remember having seen this on one of the children before, but don’t remember how it turned out.
We forgot to check email at McDonald’s.
We’ve decided the Welsh are much more reserved than the English. And they like to say “probably.” In the last couple of days we have seen “Probably the best fish and chips you’ll ever eat,” “probably the best gift shop in Wales,” and on a brochure “Wales has more castle per square mile than probably any other country.” Are they afraid of being sued for false advertising?

Vacation Blog Day 12

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Bob sleeping on the floor didn’t work out so well. His blanket was too short, his CPAP woke him, and it was hard. He eventually gave up and went downstairs to the sofa. It didn’t work great for me either, as I tried to spread out on the bed and thus got out of the one semi-comfortable groove. At least Elijah only woke up once, so he was well rested. When he woke me up in the morning, not knowing what time it was, I just brought him downstairs to nurse him. It was only 6, and as he ate he fell asleep. So I took him back upstairs, but as I reached the top step he woke up. So I took him in the bathroom with me, and then we went into my room where I read a Hardy Boys mystery and Elijah sat beside me, looking in the mirror, until he fell asleep just sitting there. I laid him down and went out into the hall to intercept the other children as they woke up. They all played quietly in the boys’ room until Bob woke up, and then we went downstairs.

Elijah didn’t wake up until 8, but somehow we made it out of the house before 10, for the first time since moving to this house. We finally made up our minds to go south to the big waterfall, named Pistyll Rhaeadr. We stopped in Bala at Tegid lake, which has its own breed of fish, not found anywhere else. It’s also Wales’ largest natural lake. We eventually found a picnic area, and ate, threw rocks in the lake, and climbed trees. Taryn and Naysha now know how to skip rocks.
After lunch we went on to the waterfall, which was quite a harrowing drive down 4 miles of single lane road, but we made it. As we were unloading the car a bird with terrific aim dropped one right on Bob’s camera lens. No splatter onto Bob, or the camera body. As it was fresh, it wiped up rather easily. Then on to the fall, which was just a little climb. It was very pretty, and as it was on a public footpath there were no railings or rules. Bob got a few good pictures before his battery went dead and it started to rain. Back to the car!

On the way home we stopped at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is a canal way up in the air. There is a nice walk along the canal from town to the aqueduct, and we walked it, but didn’t get our jackets and so were quite chilled. We picked the wrong side of the canal to walk down, as when we got to the aqueduct we found that our path ended, but the path on the other side went out on the bridge thing. But there was a trail down under the bridge and up the other side, so Bob was able to go out on the bridge with the older children. I was sensible enough to stay on firm ground. But as we were deliberating and taking pictures, Ella began to climb through the railings on the edge of the cliff. Some Italians on the other side of the water (about 5 feet wide) yelled to her to get back, and we looked up and called her back, where she began crying. They exclaimed “Mama Mia!” and we thanked them for being bold enough to interfere. Phew. On the way back to the bus we picked a few blackberries, which are just coming into season. Refreshing, but a little sour.

Just down the road was the town of LLangollen, where we decided to park and look for dinner. The shops were just closing as we arrived, so we didn’t buy any fudge, mugs, or lovespoons. We settled on a hotel/restaurant/pub. We were greeted right away, and they had tables for 8 and high chairs, so we settled in easily. The large TV was on Sports, so that was okay, too. Our waitress/barista was attentive, but the food was a LOOOOONG time coming. And it was less than impressive. The “garlic bread” was buttered and garlic-ed toasted hamburger buns. Riah’s fish sticks had 2 actual pieces of fish. And though 4 of us had large plates of chips, when we asked for ketchup we were given 4 little packets total. When we asked for more, we got 2. So anyway, we ate and almost got full. After dinner we went over to Spar grocery store (more like a convenience store in this town) and got some fruit and crisps. When we stopped to change diapers before buckling up, we noticed that Elijah’s belly was covered with red spots. Right. We’ll keep an eye on that. (By the way, Saturday when he had a fever, he cut a tooth. His fever was hit and miss through Sunday and Monday, and then went away completely.)

We finally made it home at almost 9pm, and crashed hard.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Vacation Blog Day 11

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Having decided the night before to go south to the big waterfall if the weather was nice, being surprised by sunshine this morning, having a good early breakfast, and being ready to go by 8am, we of course piddled around and didn’t leave the house until after lunch. Big grin. Taryn played the piano; Bob played Twister with the children; they went up the hill and visited the sheep. I even shaved my legs. Elijah fell asleep on my lap just before 10, and slept all through lunch (until about 11:30).

Since the time was half gone we decided to stay local. First we went just into the village to the Trefriw Woolen Mills and museum. It was interesting, but the people weren’t very … outgoing. The main entrance is to the big store, and there is nothing there about the museum part – we found it just by poking around. But when we got there it was interesting. We followed the wool from the sheep to the bedspreads. In some places the machines were working and we watched awhile; in other places it was still and quiet, but we were able to read the signs.
There was a small shop out back, where a woman was spinning on a wheel, and her friend was using a hand spindle. The actual employee never said a word to us, but the woman who was just there because she likes to spin and visit her friend told the children a little about it. There was a sign on the door about trying your hand at the loom, but when Riah asked the talkative woman about trying her spindle she said no (very kindly), and no offer was made on the loom or anything else. Shortly after that they realized that they were late for their lunch break and needed to close the shop for a while. So that was quite frustrating, but the rest of it was nice.
Elijah was very fussy, so Bob took him and the others outside (they spotted a playground across the street) while I shopped in the big store. I thought they were having fun, so took my time, but it turns out the park was closed, so they were sitting in the bus. Anyway, I bought some genuine sheepskin gloves, a natural wool tie for Bob, a set of woven woolen coasters, and a lambswool duster. And maybe a couple of soft cuddly sheepdogs for the children, who have been wanting one since Yorkshire, but these were the cheapest and softest I’ve seen.

After that we headed just past Betws-y-Coed to Swallow Falls, which we’d passed at least twice before but were unable to stop at because the sign is past the parking lot. Knowing where it was this time, we pulled in and went for a walk. The area is fenced off, and there’s an old man in a booth at the gate collecting entrance fees. 1.50 per adult and .50 for children. He laughed as we walked up and Bob started counting, but gave us a deal by only charging for 4 children. There were way too many steps down and up to see the waterfall, which was very pretty and worth the fee. However, in a couple of key places the trees were growing up and blocking the view.

When we were done with the waterfall we headed toward Llandudno, as Bob had borrowed a Yellow Pages and found that this town had both a Jessops (camera store) and a McDonald’s (free internet). We passed the McDonald’s on the way into town, but Jessops was right downtown. There was an empty parking space just around the corner, so we parked and got out. Jessops was an important stop because Bob’s shoulder strap was falling apart and he was afraid of dropping his camera. We all trooped into the store only to discover they were out of straps. Well, we were in town, so went on down the street a bit. I saw a Boots (pharmacy/photo developer/drugstore) and thought it was worth a look. By the time we worked our way through the mall to Boots, the toilets, and back, we were done with being in town. Llandudno is a bustling seaside resort town. There are many Victorian style buildings, lots of shops and cafes, and many people walking up and down. It could be a lot of fun to wander around in, but we wanted a camera strap. Plus the children were quite excitable.

We had a recommendation for Cambrian Photo in Colwyn Bay, so I called and they were open until 5:30. It was 4:45 and the towns are about 10 miles apart. Piece of cake. Except that there were also lots of people trying to drive around the area, and traffic was moving very slowly. But we did make it to Colwyn Bay, and eventually (after another phone call and a couple of U-turns) found the store. They DID have camera straps – nice, if a little short – and Bob even bought one for me, since I had the old, stiff, kit strap.

Then we went back to Llandundo to eat at the McDonald’s. It was crowded inside so we snagged a table outside in the sun. Yes, sun! Today was the first day of our vacation that it hasn’t rained on us once all day. This was the best internet connection we’d had yet, and Bob even uploaded one picture to Flickr. We checked email and bank account, and I saw that in my parent’s home town the high today was 101*F. And my fingers were cold, sitting in the sun.

Back home, we all climbed the hill again and saw the sheep and the view (looked right down on our roof), and then came in to find that Taryn’s Bubble Tape had found its way into the washing machine. We double checked the clothes and didn’t see any gum residue, so hopefully that will work out.

Tonight Bob is going to try sleeping on the floor, as the bed is so bad.

I almost forgot! Once as we were driving past a lay-by (oh, you don’t know what a lay-by is? Well, periodically along almost all roads in the country there is a wide spot marked for parking, and no matter how lonely and deserted you think the road is, there is usually at least one car parked there. This parking area is called a lay-by) there was a little grey-haired lady standing at the rear of her car (on the pavement, fully visible from the road), just coming up from a squat, pulling her underwear up under her dress. Oh, yeah! As Bob says, men at least usually go on the grass side of their car, so you don’t see too much as you drive by.

Vacation Blog Day 10

Monday, August 09, 2010
Today we had “planned” to go south to a big waterfall, maybe stopping at a lake on the way, but when we got up this morning it was raining. So we hum-hawed around, and finally just left.

We went first to Betws-y-coed, which I still don’t know how to pronounce, so I call it “Betsy co-ed.” We found a parking spot at the church, and started out in search of a bakery we’d seen the day before. It wasn’t too far until we began to wonder if the bakery had de-materialized, and so stopped at a café and had bacon and egg sandwiches for lunch. Feeling somewhat refreshed, we walked on through town. Sure enough, there was the bakery. Bob went in and picked up a treat, and then we went on to the waterfall at the bridge.

When we were done there we went back to the bus and headed North West to the National Slate Museum. I’d been told parking was free there, but it cost 3GBP. Entrance to the museum was free, and it was interesting if not awe-inspiring. We left there about 4:30, and took the north route home, through Conwy. On the way to and from we saw some great scenery: waterfalls, slate mountains, sheep, clouds…

We stopped in Conwy to look for dinner, which we got at a Burger, Pizza, and Kebab place. My chicken kebab was delicious. I hope we go up there again for dinner. Afterwards we walked down to the bay and looked at the castle and boats and Britain’s smallest house. I also popped into a little grocery and got some breakfast and lunch food.

That’s about all I remember; I’ve been a little sleepy today.

Vacation Blog day 9

Sunday, August 08, 2010
Last night Elijah woke up at least 4 times. He was warm but didn’t feel too feverish, so I just fed him and put him back to bed each time.
This morning I woke up about 6, and was puttering around the house when my cell phone rang. It was my mom, calling to tell me that my Meemaw (my maternal grandmother) had passed away that night. It has been expected for some time – over a year, in fact. She was almost 94, and had suffered many things the last few years, from colon cancer to stroke. What is especially interesting in our personal view is that the day before in our family Bible Time, we’d read in the Old Testament about Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead, and in the New Testament (purely by “coincidence” – we aren’t following any reading plan) we read about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And then, this morning for church we put in a DVD that I’d selected 2 weeks ago titled “The Person of Christ” and it was a breakdown of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul was proving that there is indeed a resurrection from the dead. So we took the news better than you might think.

“Better” or not, what with the news, the lack of sleep, and concern with Elijah not feeling well, I wasn’t feeling very happy this morning. It took a while for us to pull it together, but after lunch we went for a drive.

We had no real destination in mind, just to check out the local area and get a feel for the roads. We drove through Betws-y-Coed, but they were having both a classic car show and a Ferret Derby, so it was packed out and we just went on through. We ended up in Porthmadog and found a lovely beach where we parked right out on the sand and played and waded as long as we could stand it, watching the tide come in. We took different road home, made a wrong turn, and ended up on the beach at Colwyn Bay. We got dinner at a fish-n-chips/ice cream stand on the beach, and it was quite good (plus cheap, filling, and friendly). We then walked down to the water, and watched the tide come in again.

It was an easy drive home, where we showered all the children and got them in bed.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Vacation Blog day 8

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Today we moved. I woke up at 5:30 and continued the packing I’d started the night before. As we didn’t have a dependable dryer, I didn’t want to do any laundry with less than 2 days there, so we had 2 suitcases full of dirty clothes and one of clean clothes. We used up a box worth of food, but bought a box worth of stuff, so we had about the same amount of stuff as we had coming up.

We finally got it all together and swept the house and were out the door at 9am. I had found out that Morecambe Bay, not far out of our way, was unique in its fast tides and large salt marshes and quicksand. The children were of course VERY interested in quicksand, having seen it on The Lone Ranger once, so we planned to stop there. However, my research was incomplete, and where we stopped only had mud. We did go out quite a ways by walking on rocks, and then sea shells, but we stopped at the mud and went back to the car. Disappointing.

We pressed on to our new location- Trefriw, Wales. We did stop not far from the house at a services and filled up with gas and used the toilets and ran around in the grass. Elijah had been fussy all day, and at this point I took his temperature, which was 102.8. I didn’t have Infant Tylenol, so I broke up a children’s Meltaway and fed it to him a quarter at a time. He started to feel better soon.

We pulled up to the house about 5pm, and the owner, who lives in a travel trailer next door, was outside and met us as we disembarked. She was a bit put out at our having 7 children when we’d reserved for 5 (it was the only way to do it! Those silly automated forms won’t let you put in all the children. They are small; if the house can hold 6 adults it can hold 10 children!), but overcame it and showed us briefly through the house. This place is much bigger than the last one, and has a tumble dryer and dishwasher. But it is more “homey” than resort-y. There is a piano in the living room, books and toys in the bedrooms, and lots of mis-matched dishes. But the beds are all hard and worn out – big divots where people sit on them all the time. Yuck. It is on a 20 acre working farm, and supposedly the owners let children get up close with the animals, but we’ll have to overcome our cool welcome in order for that to happen. It is also on the side of a steep hill, so there isn’t any yard to speak of, and the advertised “parking for three cars” doesn’t exist. Parking for ONE car, and please make sure to pull up far enough to be out of the way. This is my opinion of Bryn Pyll farm cottage so far.

Anyway, after settling down a bit we went in search of food. We’d been told there are 3 pubs within 5-15 minute walk, so we started walking down the very narrow lane that leads to our cottage. At the main road is a hotel and restaurant, but it looked pretty snazzy and didn’t have a children’s menu posted, so we went on into the village. We had about decided there wasn’t a village when we came upon The Old Ship. They allowed children, and had a menu for them. I saw a large table so we went in. There was no greeting at the door, no offer of menu or instructions to order at the bar. We about decided the Welsh just aren’t very friendly. Anyway, we got our meal ordered and when it finally came it was very good, and – get this – we ALL GOT FULL. Our family motto is “I’m still hungry” so this was quite a shock.

On our way back to the house (where the lane is several feet lower than the houses on it), we were accosted by a loud snarling sound rushing towards us from a garden above our heads. I thought “German Shepherd” – the children guessed lion or bear – but Bob knew what it was. A pig. Yep, a big red and black spotted pig was bravely guarding his turf.

Vacation Blog day 7

Friday, August 6, 2010

Today we had a big day planned. We knew we wanted to fill up again at Menwith Hill, so we found some other things in that area that we wanted to see – both on my list. We planned to get an early start so we could pack up when we got home, and make a sort of loop around to Bolton Abbey, Menwith Hill, and then Brimham Rocks, taking the scenic route home.

But somehow we didn’t get out early, though it was earlier than it felt like, so we decided to take the scenic route down and skip the Abbey. As we headed to the car, Naysha began to wail. She couldn’t find her camera. So Bob looked through the house and I looked through the bus, and it wasn’t there. We talked it over and decided she must have set it down while taking off her costume the day before, at Castle Bolton. We took a little detour to go by the castle in the hopes that it would be there. They hadn’t opened yet, but opened the door when I knocked. I asked about the camera, and we looked around, and it was there, under the counter. We went on south with great relief. It was raining. We didn’t see much of the scenery because we were pretty much driving in the clouds. We debated going to the rocks first, but I was hungry and so we went to the base first. We went right past the Abbey, but didn’t stop.

We finally made it to the front gate, where we were told they still used a vehicle pass system, and the guy was trying to figure out where to tell us to park when I said they just let us in Wednesday. So he asked if we were just down to get gas, and we said yes, and he let us in. :- ) We got gas first, then went to the BX/Burger King/Shoppette. Bob made a wrong turn, and William burst into tears. Because he remembered where to turn from our trip Wednesday, and thought we weren’t going to Burger King. Stop and think about that for a minute; as a 2 year old, he went somewhere one time and knew which road it was 2 days later.

Anyway, we ate and bought Bob a new shirt since one he packed had shrunk in the wash and wasn’t quite decent anymore. We shopped around a bit but didn’t find anything else. Then we went over to the commissary for snacks and diapers. The absolute friendliness of the place began to really hit there, as someone was waiting to get into their car while we unloaded, and we took about 5 minutes to get out and they just stood there and smiled and said not to worry about it. Never would have happened at Lakenheath. Then we went in, and were picking out some Gala apples when the produce guy came over and asked if we’d tried Jazz apples before. No, we hadn’t. So he told us they were from New Zealand, and were a cross between – oh, I forget – and he cut up two apples so we could each have a quarter to try. He said they start getting the local apples in before long, and in October they get Russets, which aren’t pretty but sure taste good. After way too long shopping in that little store we checked out, and the cashier handed each child a sticker. If we weren’t getting out, I’d want to get transferred up here.

So we finished up there and it started raining again, and we headed to the rocks. It wasn’t far, but the road wasn’t straight. We got there about 12:40 (I thought! Maybe it was later than that), decided to pay for minibus parking, and hit the trails. It took about 2 minutes for the children to decide it was worth the drive and the cost. There are great rocks just sitting around in the weeds, and you can climb them and go through the caves and run and play. The rain was more of a drizzle, so we slowly made our way to the visitor center and the children climbed. At the center we bought two books – one on beekeeping and one on the history of Yorkshire. Upstairs was a free exhibition, and with the rain now pouring down we decided to check it out. Bob and I sat while the children did puzzles and read books, and Elijah crawled around and made a big stinky diaper. So I changed him, and we noticed the rain had stopped, so we went back out. We were surprised to see a “closed” sign at the bottom of the stairs, but didn’t think too much of it until we got outside and saw that the snack shack was also closing. Bob checked his cell phone, and it was 5pm!! Were we really there that long? Wow, time flies. We headed back down the trail, and it wasn’t long before we saw the shop keeper leaving in her car. We climbed some more, and finally made it back to the bus.

This time we headed for the A1 to take the fast road home. Having seen the McDonald’s in Richmond, we decided to stop there instead of the one at Bedale services. They have credit card signs all over, and have the standard McDonald swipe of chip card readers, and we even swiped and got an “approved” message on it, but the till gave another message, and the manager came over to say they don’t take swipe cards – only the “chip and pin” cards. Bob took this rather well, and headed outside to the cash machine. But it only takes Visa. So we confabbed, and he walked across to Tesco where we hoped to find an ATM. I sat down with the children and got online for a minute. Was able to check email, but unable to post a blog or get on Facebook. Bob came back with money, but by then they’d cleared our order so we had to do it all over (and I was feeding Elijah, so Bob had to remember on his own). Then they brought out the food, minus one happy meal and Bob’s fries. And some meals were fries instead of fruit, but that might have been Bob’s memory. Anyway, we were glad that we’d been to the other place on other occasions, as this one left somewhat to be desired.
While I finished up feeding the boys, Bob went back to Tesco for milk. And then we were on our way home.

I glossed over for the sake of the storyline, but this was our worst day out so far. We made about a zillion turnarounds, it rained most of the day (instead of the little showers we’ve had every day so far), and we were just on the edge of frustration all day long. But the Rocks were definitely worth a visit, and we did get cheap gas and were able to check emails.