Round the Kettle Ep. 32: A Few Big Weeks

How has it already been a couple weeks since my last round up? How is it already basically the middle of September??? Maybe it’s just the Labor Day travel, high holidays, first week of school, shifting of schedules that’s getting to me, but man it’s just really felt like the year is winding down. So, let’s touch on all of that?

What’s new with you?

I’m sitting here on a Friday afternoon (and probably a bit of a Saturday or Sunday morning too), in the peace and quiet of my own house with a cup of lady grey tea and some hot Cheetos to snack on. It’s been an absolute whirlwind week and while I’ve felt calm, I’ve also not felt calm, and I feel like I just need to breathe. 

Our week actually started the previous Friday when we headed out on a last summer hurrah trip. I’ll be talking about it not this week, but next week on the blog. It was basically a week of hiking and waterfalls, taking in everything mother nature has to offer and it was absolutely glorious. If I could spend every weekend like that I would. However, we didn’t have much “time to breathe” because the moment we came back it was school prep, Rosh Hashanah, and life amping up once again. 

This week Colton started Kindergarten. He rode the big yellow school bus, waved and went along his way. Happy as he could be, excited to see friends, meet his teacher, and learn everything he could. He has settled right in to going to school every day, though waking up so early (for him) has been a bit tough. I cried a little bit that first morning but have almost immediately reveled in the sheer quiet that only have one child at home can bring. Andrew is quickly going into his groove of Mommy/Andrew adventures, solo toy time, and being a little bit more independent. I will say though, all those goals and plans I had for Colton going to school and that free time I would get? They haven’t happened. I’ve spent most of that time mindlessly scrolling, potchke-ing around the house, and just unsure of what to do with myself. It sounds absurd, but that’s what a lot of parenthood is…a bunch of absurdities. 

Rosh Hashanah passed quietly, I lit the candles, said my prayers, tuned in to a virtual service and just overall quietly welcomed the New Year. 

In a completely random turn here, I’ve realized (as I’ve just re done some of my Autumn bits- more on that in a minute) that “quiet” is how I like to do things. I like subtlety, a quiet calmness to my spaces, to my things, to myself. Small things, small gestures, a subtle moment. That’s me. 

Ok, back to it…

With all that free time that I had plans for, but didn’t do anything with, I DID start doing the Autumn decorating. I’ve found that I a) don’t have much décor as it is (beyond the Christmas/Hannukah bits which is a lot) and b) what I had didn’t really fit with what I wanted for our space. So, I’ve been picking up little bits and pieces here and there…some pumpkins for our front porch, a new front door hanger, a couple throw pillows here and there, gourds and pumpkins on inside tables. Nothing big, but just subtle hints throughout the downstairs that Autumn is here. Our weather is starting to shift here and there, so it feels right. 

And with that, I’ve actually found a Starbucks Autumn beverage that I enjoy! It’s a shocker as I don’t like Pumpkin Spice and I’m not a caramel fan, but their apple crisp macchiato (hot not iced) is absolutely delightful and feels like Autumn in a cup. 

This weekend has been a homey one, trying to catch up on some reading, on some home things (like laundry and groceries) and trying to prep for the upcoming sports seasons. Both boys will be doing Soccer and Fall Tball so it’s about to be a busy time. I’m also taking on some local community roles and am looking forward to doing a little bit more with my time. Of course, I also have a really bad habit of loading up my calendar and trying to do all of the things…only to crash and burn halfway to the end. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but we shall see how it plays out. 

Otherwise, I think that’s all I’ve got this week! Short and simple as life has mostly just been calm and little bits and bobs here and there. Now I’m off to enjoy my tea and chips (the oddest, but best combo) and hopefully a good book. 

Rosh Hashanah 5782

Shanah Tovah U’metukah! Happy Jewish New Year!! Today is a big day across the board in our home with the Jewish New Year coinciding with our eldest’s first day of kindergarten (yes, I’m sobbing, but we’ll be ok), but this is going to specifically talk about the Jewish New Year. I’ve spoken before (quite a bit) about my relationship with Judaism (read all about it HERE and HERE), but last year I really took a firm step back in and didn’t look back. 

As I’ve said, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and kicks off the start of our High Holidays (or some of the most religious days of our year). Similar to the “standard New Year”, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection and of intentions. In fact, the whole month leading up to the New Year is a time of deeper reflection, of looking inward, looking at our past year, deepening our relationship with our spirituality/religion, and then, finally, looking forward to the new year. All comes to a head on Rosh Hashanah, which is a day on which we are called to account and our actions weighed for the Book of Life. It is both a solemn occasion AND a celebration as we “start all over again” with a fresh year. 

Tradition has us eating sweet food, wising one another a “Shanah Tovah U’metukah” or a Good and Sweet New Year, attending synagogue services and listening to the Shofar blasts (easily my favorite part- followed closely by the Apples & Honey). However, after the celebration we spend 10 days repenting, being judged by Adonai, and engaging of acts of repentance for our sins of the previous year. Those 10 days culminate in Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, our holiest of High Holidays. Yom Kippur is our day of atonement, and we spend the day observing a fast, spending time praying, attending synagogue. 

This year, I spent the month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish Calendar, doing some journaling prompts and trying to deepen my relationship with being Jewish. The prompts are from Rebekah Lowin, you can find them HERE, who I recommend if you want to see just how incredibly beautiful life and Judaism can be. I would also check out Ariel Loves on Instagram (HERE) and her Jewish Family Magic (HERE), for a wide variety of information about the various holidays, months, and life being Jewish. Anyways, I felt like over the past year I really deepened my religious connections, I found a community (of sorts), and found my way back to a part of myself that I had put in a box. I started on this journey just before Rosh Hashanah last year (I think a month or two prior- it’s in the “It All Rests on the Challah” post linked at the beginning of this post), so it felt fitting to continue deepening it over this past month and Rosh Hashanah 5782. 

I am treating this new year as THE new year, whatever intentions or words I set now, are the same words/intentions I’ll be setting come 2022 (although I’ll refresh those in a post then too) and I’ve found that the journaling that I’ve been doing over the past month has really helped with that. I want to share a couple of my thoughts from ALL that writing and reflecting and how I plan on incorporating those thoughts into this New Year. 

First up, on the first of Elul, I wrote about what “word” I wanted to mark my 5782 journey. Because there is nothing like starting with the hardest thing first. But, no worry, I did a little deep dive and figured out a word to a feeling to what I wanted. See, I’ve always said that I just want to be that happy spot, that light moment, that good thing that you experience in your day to day. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day). It is exactly what I want for my 5782, what I want to give off for my 5782, and where I want all my focus to be for 5782. On the things that give me/us/everyone LIFE. 

Another entry to share is from the Eight of Elul, where I wrote about habits for the year. Not the big goals, the massive, almost unachievable resolutions we are all guilty of making, but rather one small promise. One little achievable thing I could do every day that would make a difference in myself. That’s hard, especially for someone who…well goes big or goes home. It took a lot of thought, but I settled on “Getting out of bed when my alarm goes off”. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

On the 23rd of Elul there was a prompt regarding lending our life to those who need us. Now, you would think this is fairly obvious for me as a mom and a wife- I’ve got two little boys who rely on me 25/8 and a husband who relies on me to keep everything moving, BUT I want to make sure this coming year that I am looking forward and outward. I am stepping into a new community role that I’ve never done before, and I want to look further than my immediate family/friends/micro community to see further ways to help. I think there are always those that need help and I want to be able to help however I can. I look at it in a larger circle of “those who need us” I want to enlarge that circle a bit more for the upcoming year (and then continue that on).  

Finally, on 28 Elul there was an entry regarding what feeling we want to embody, to wake up to on the New Year and what we can do to make that happen. Honestly, I want to wake up feeling at peace, feeling positive, and seeing the beauty in our life. I want to kickstart new habits, which always transition a few weeks before the New Year. I always make small changes leading up to a bit “re set” (does this even make sense at this point?) and so, Erev Rosh Hashanah I’ll be doing all the little things- cutting off screen time early, reading, going to bed early, face wash, etc. Just to help kick my year off right.

To be honest, I’m really looking forward to this new year, to a chance to continue to deepen my relationship with my ethnicity and community, and to share a bit more about it along the way! So, Shanah Tovah U’metukah everyone! Have a happy and sweet New Year. 

Welcome to Our Home – Kitchen & Dining

It’s easily the most important room in the house and it’s historically the first room (and the hardest room and the one that changes the most) that we have set up every time we move…the Kitchen. I’ll say this much, when we accepted this house, the kitchen was easily the room that I was initially excited about. Not only is it spacious, with loads of counter space, it’s got a great center island, AND the cooktop/oven is gas! Yes, gas! I was so excited to be able to cook on gas again, although it’s been a little bit of a learning/reminding curve. 

The initial view into this half of the downstairs is the view of the three windows in the opposite walls. These provide some of the best natural light in the house and let us achieve that natural light all day (I do not care for overhead lighting as I’ve learned over the years). On the first wall we have our “command center” which as the calendar for appts and meal plans, the S was a wedding decoration, and any current photo or invitation to the clipboard. 

From there you open into the kitchen proper. I try to keep our island as clear and open as I can as we have the stools for seating for the boys or for friends. The stools are the Threshold Halifax Farmhouse Counter Stools from Target (linked HERE) and were mistakenly shipped to our old address…in Germany and ended up taking double the time to get to us (fail). Our dish rack tends to just live on the counter, though I try otherwise, unless we are baking or hosting (as we are normal people, not glamorous at all) and inevitably, things end up piled here despite my best efforts. Moving into the actual kitchen, we try to keep only the necessary kitchen gadgets on the counters, so the kitchen aid, toaster, cooking utensils, and recipe book tend to be the only regular things on the counter. The cabinets are topped with more memorabilia. We have a built-in pantry cabinet (which is SO NICE) that leads to the dining room. 

Across from the island and kitchen proper is our coffee station and deep freezer. We received the Ninja Coffee Maker (THIS one) as a gift a year ago and have absolutely loved it. I always make a rich coffee with the Ghirardelli chocolate syrup. We’ve also got our Almatrieb cowbell here to “ring for dinner” should the boys not hear us telling them. 

The dining room is the same as it always has been, with the addition of new seat covers (we got washable ones from Amazon to help save the chairs until the boys are out of the messiest of messy eating phase) and two small “café” style prints, the top from Rome, the bottom from Switzerland. Both large prints were taken in Fussen.  

There you have it, the next installation in the Welcome to Our Home: New York Edition. I hope you enjoyed seeing this little bit of our home. If you have any specific questions, please let me know in the comments below!

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2021

How is it already the end of August? How are we only 4-5 months away from 2022? How has this year quite literally flown by??? Minor crisis over, let’s talk about August in Books. I read a total of 11 books, with an average rating of 3.93 (whoa!). I will be honest; I ALMOST got a little slumpy there for a week. I read one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it might find its way on my most disappointed list for the year. It put me in quite the mood that took a bit of work to get out of. Any guesses on what book that was? Let’s get into it…

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton 3.5 Stars This needs to come with trigger warnings for abuse, school shooting, terror to children of all ages, and some pretty harsh words and content. This story is about a school shooting that seemingly melds the school shooting, family life, and diversity together in a way that just feels so real. 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson 5 Stars Honestly, at this point I’m just a sucker for anything Brandon Sanderson writes, and I need the third book in this series STAT. 

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams 4 Stars I really really enjoyed this novel. It’s a generational saga of sorts, following a single-family line as they go from a small shtetl in the USSR to America and the struggles that each generation faces in each space. Part of this reason I enjoyed this is because there are similarities between my own family and that of the Nesting Dolls family (it’s basically the same in so many ways), but I found it to be beautifully written and a great insight into a time that was complicated for so many. Honestly, I could do a whole standalone chat about this book…maybe I should?

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong NR I’ve added 10 minutes of poetry reading into my morning routine and loving it. This was the second book that I worked through a little at a time and it was just so beautifully, artfully written. You could feel the authors pain and longing to be in each and every poem, almost as he was writing himself into existence and into memory. 

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee 3 Stars Ah, the disappointment of disappointments. I had such high hopes- EVERYONE had talked about how good this was. And it wasn’t BAD, it just…well it wasn’t really sure what it wanted to be. It focused so heavily (and did so well) on the atmosphere, the school setting, the love of literature, that everything else (namely plot) kind of fell flat. I had read almost half of the book before I even took a look at genres and the fact that it was a thriller helped and hindered it. Honestly, this is another book that I could do a whole standalone chat on…so many thoughts.

They Never Learn by Layne Fargo 4 Stars  Man was this book a ride. I don’t know if part of my enjoyment of this was just because I read after the disappointment referenced above, or if it was actually that good, but this twist…man this twist. I read this in 24 hours- I could not stop. 

The Royal Art of Poisoning by Eleanor Herman NR This was my second Eleanor Herman novel, and I loved this one just as I loved the other that I read, Sex with Kings. She has this way of writing such detailed history but infusing it with dry humor that leaves you both dumbfounded and cackling. This book divides into three sections, the first about the general concept of poisoning in history, the second notable figures in history that were thought (at one time) to be poisoned, and the third the modern art of poisoning in the political/royal realm.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca NR This is a struggle. Honestly, I don’t even know what I actually read with this book, let alone how to talk about it. 

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong 4 Stars. I very much enjoyed this book, borderline loved it. If you like (but maybe not love) Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, this is a retelling that shakes up the initial narrative, introduces a sci-fi/supernatural hit, and sets it all in Shanghai. I found it to be a dynamic read that is just enjoyable from start to finish. And then I immediately pre ordered the second book. 

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix 4 Stars I really enjoyed this book. The entire book is a sort of satirical look into what life in the small-town south in the 80’s was like with a supernatural twist. It’s a fun one to read through and enjoy the ride. 

Know My Name by Chanel Miller NR This was easily the most incredible, powerful book that I’ve read this year. Beautifully written, incredibly powerful, and provides a massive insight into the court system and looks at various different things that we can work to change for the court system. 

And that was it! I’m currently reading For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing and enjoying it. What was your favorite book of the month? Any above interest you or have you read any of the above books?

Round the Kettle Ep. 31 Dipping MY Toes Back In

It’s that time again…it’s time for me to talk about how I’m bringing these posts back once again, but this time it’s for real (see last POST dated 4/21 :|). If you don’t know, or are new, Round the Kettle is a biweekly series that I do that I use as a bit of a brain dump of life. It wasn’t intended to stay in blog format, but rather transition into a podcast, but that quite obviously hasn’t happened yet. I keep talking about doing it, about getting the podcast going, but then I get these little thoughts in the back of my mind…what if it sucks, what if no one listens, what if I can’t do it. But then again, are you here? Are you reading this? Am I screaming into a void? Screaming into a void can be quite nice though…A thought for 2022 possibly.

I digress. That’s the beauty of Round the Kettle, you get my pure unfiltered, unadulterated thoughts on a wide variety of things. Quite honestly, I sit down at my desk with a small outline of what I’d like to cover from the previous two weeks, then I type a bunch of stuff, do a basic spell check and hit publish. It’s great. 

I originally had stopped these because we were moving, things were hectic and chaotic and, I finally found a routine with the blog and doing one post a week. That was manageable. Then somethings shifted in the world at large and I really needed to take a step back from everything and breathe in my own headspace. However, things are levelling out now (I say that- back to school is right around the corner and the world is still doing its thing) and I feel like I want to maybe…dip my toe back in. 

First things first, some lighter things to talk about…

Surprisingly, I’ve actually watched quite a bit of TV that I want to talk about. I’m not a massive TV watcher, mostly due to the fact that the TV tends to be monopolized by my husband and children, but also because I tend to prefer reading quite a bit more. However, Netflix has been doing a lot on the docuseries and reality shows that have been working for me and I’ve watched several. 

On the reality side of things, I obviously watched the After the Alter Love is Blind special and I’ve got a couple of quick thoughts: 1) STOP. Stop dragging these people through this, if we want anymore updates, we can see those on their social medias. I basically only watched to see Lauren and Cameron because they’re adorable, but the rest of the cast is full of such toxicity that it just turns into manufactured drama that doesn’t need to play out on a screen in front of us (especially that whole Damian and Gianina situ- so manufactured and edited my goodness). 2) If you want to keep the team of the Love is Blind “phenomenon” (which the first season and reunion WERE), then do a season two of all new people. Let the show continue to move on. Put this first season to bed. 

I also watched the second season of Too Hot to Handle and…oh my word was this next level compared to the first season. I mean, anything really went and they really went with anything. I don’t have much more to say on this one, except that I really rooted for a couple of people and I’m so happy with how it turned out and who is still together post show. 

Finally on the reality side of things, I’ve gotten about halfway through My Unorthodox Life and…I don’t know if I’ll go much further in it. Here’s the thing, I think the show is great at showing Julia’s life and how she has found “herself” and who she wants to be. I LOVE that she advocates that for everyone, that each person needs to find their own way and what they want out of life…BUT (and it’s a massive but) I feel like in some ways she doesn’t allow the same grace to others as she expects to be allowed her. Let me see if I can explain that better…Julia wants to be accepted and acknowledged as a woman who is no longer part of the Orthodox community, she wants to be free to be herself (which we can sit and debate the true realities of different parts of that statement- there are plenty of people already covering that), BUT she is disappointed or makes snide remarks that her children may hold a different view than her. Point in fact, she regularly referenced the fact that her older son still held some facets of orthodoxy (I think both her older daughter and son would be “modern orthodox”, but I’m not sure- I’m not a fan of labels) such as keeping Shabbos and Kosher as disappointing or confusing to her. If you want people to accept what you have decided for your own life, you need to accept what they have decided for their own lives, even if you don’t understand or agree all the time. It got to be a bit too much judgement and hypocrisy (especially with her older daughters marriage- my goodness) that I had to stop watching. And I don’t know if I’ll continue. 

We’ve also been watching Man with a Plan, The Heist, and I’ve watched an episode of Cooking with Paris as well as Shadow and Bone. I’ve been binging on a few YouTube videos and Podcasts- notable ones would be The Morning Toast & Not Skinny but Not Fat on Podcast, Observe, Morgan Long, The Book Leo, and Emmie on YouTube. It’s been kind of an eclectic time and I find myself being drawn mostly to aesthetic styles in my content consumption (outside of TV and Books) rather than specific topics. 

I referenced this earlier, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading. I talk about all of the books in my monthly wrap up, but I’m currently reading These Violent Delights, which is a Romeo and Juliet retelling taking place in Shanghai with a supernatural twist. I’m enjoying it quite a bit (I’m a bit of a sucker for a hate/despise to love romance) and while I think it’s good, so far it’s not GREAT, just good (like the difference between a 3 and a 4 star book). I recently finished both Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca (which I don’t even know what to rate or say about) and The Royal Art of Poisoning by Eleanor Herman (which I loved). It’s been a pretty stellar period for reading this August. 

In the real world, it’s been a lot of heartbreak hasn’t it? Devastation from Mother Nature in Haiti, heartbreak in Afghanistan, and a world still very much in flux and fighting over this pandemic situation. Sometimes it feels like we can’t do anything, we see all this destruction and pain and heartbreak and we get paralyzed with the sheer amount of it all. It sits heavy on our soul and we carry it forward with an additional feeling of “what can I even do about this?”. Sometimes its hard not to feel like a small ant in a very big colony, but we can each do SOMETHING. Whether that is sharing links to resources, sharing information with our community, writing our leaders, or simply being the ears and shoulders for someone to share their burden, it all matters. Everything matters, from everyone. I want to say, that while I don’t or can’t always share my personal opinion on certain topics publicly (for a couple reasons that I won’t bring up here), note that I am ALWAYS doing something behind the scenes, something in my community, something in my home. I will always fight for what I believe in and what I feel is right, even if that’s not always a public fight. 

And that wraps this super long, super rambly new episode…there is something just freeing about the fact that I am about to just press publish and walk away. So many of my blog posts are so well thought out, edited down, researched, and worked on over a period of time. And I LOVE them, but I also love this style too. 

Which is your favorite?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2021 – Portland ME

It’s time for our final stop on our Summer Holiday, a couple of nights up in Portland, Maine (you can see our other stops by clicking the following links: PLYMOUTH, BOSTON 1, BOSTON 2). We did make a stop in Salem on our way up from Boston, but I’m gonna save that post for a little bit closer to Halloween time ;). Anyways, I’m a big fan of Maine. This was our second time in the state, with the first being a cabin in the Rangely Lake are and this second one in Portland. I swear, I don’t know many prettier spots than upstate North East and Maine is certainly a dreamy spot no matter where you look. 

I”m going to start this post out by saying, that I think a trip to Portland can have a lot gained by simply going child free. Portland is the home of a lot of breweries and such and we could have done some tastings, hopping around from place to place had we gone without our children, but alas, we still had a fun time. The main shopping district is brimming with people and music and cute, quaint little shops, you are able to do just about anything you’d like on a boat, and you can get some incredibly fresh (and delicious) seafood. 

Portland is the biggest city in Maine (or the most populated at least). It has a good mixture of the older district and modern convenience. The region was originally called Machigonne by the local Native American tribes, however in 1623 the English moved in to settle the land. The first settlement attempt ended in failure and dissapearences of all those that went. In 1632 a fishing and trading village was settled called Casco, then it was “re settled” with the name of Falmouth, before finally being named Portland in 1786.  Historically, Portland has served as a…port city a hub for transportation and shipping. Nowadays it still serves that shipping and transport purpose, BUT it also is home to a thriving community. 

So, two things to note about our time in Portland…1) It was HOT. Like I think probably the hottest temps we had our entire trip. Not only hot, but sunny clear blue skies too. So no relief. 2) This was our last stop, so we were a bit tired, the kids were tired, and Portland is much…further spread apart than the previous stops we had made (and parking is a bit more expensive). Also, we had our kids, and this is very much a hipster town with breweries and nightlife, more so, so there was that to take into account. 

So, we got to Portland kind of mid day to early afternoon, We checked into our hotel and then headed in to town. We mostly spent that first chunk of time just walking through Old Port and the main streets of the “downtown district”. We got some dinner, local seafood, right on the water and then just walked up and down the streets. We also were able to watch the evening fog start to come in, as well as a couple of shipping boats and tug boats navigate the canal space. It was a relaxing nice way to spend the afternoon/evening.

The next morning we were up early (ish) and out the door to go explore some of the sights. We had started with a plan of seeing some trains for the kids, a mansion and lookout for us, and then a couple lighthouses to finish out the day. This quickly changed as we realized the weather and distances between attractions was going to make it a bit difficult for us to see everything we wanted. 

We started off the day at Hifi Donuts for a little donut and coffee moment. From their we headed over to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co & Museum. When Maine started its rail travel, they not only implemented regular railways, they also implemented what is known as a narrow gauge railroad. The rails on a narrow gauge are only 2 feet apart, as opposed to almost 5 feet apart. In its’ height there were a total of 5 narrow gauge railways that transported both freight and passengers. The benefit of narrow gauge is since it’s narrower than standard rail tracks, you are able to lay tracks in a wider amount of places, connecting rural spots that wouldn’t have been able to utilize a standard railway. 

When visiting, you are able to choose from a variety of seat options, we decided on first class just due to the outdoor seating options. I will say, that we visited this attraction mostly for the children and if they (or perhaps your own) were not as interested in trains, then I would honestly pass this along. The train ride is a total of about 40 minutes long, just taking you along the waterfront. Halfway through the train stops for a break and kids are allowed to go up to the engine and pull the whistle. Our train obsessed boys loved it, BUT if you/you’re kids are not as obsessed or interested in trains, I would give it a miss. 

From there we ended up deciding to skip on the two other sites that we had picked out for within Portland proper. We had intended on going to Victoria Mansion and the Overlook (as well as maybe the Botanical Gardens of the Longfellow House), but the heat and sun were very quickly getting to both kids, as well as us, so we did a quick pivot in our plans and headed straight for some lighthouses. 

Lighthouses are one of those things that I feel like the Maine Coastline is really known for and they are beatiful and well worthy of that. The first lighthouse we visited was the Spring Point Ledge Light. This is what’s known as a caisson-style lighthouse located on the grounds of Fort Preble, right next to the community college. The lighthouse itself sits at the end of a 950 foot breakwater (what the rock outcroppings are called- which I JUST learned). You are able to walk out on the breakwater over to the lighthouse and even tour the interior on certain weekends. Dating back to 1898, this lighthouse is still functioning and has become a landmark in its own right. 

The second lighthouse we went to is probably the most photographed lighthouse in Maine, definitely in Portland (whcih- rightfully so, there are just some spots that lend themselves to that). That would be the Portland Head Light. This is Maine’s oldest lighthouse, built in 1791, it is located right along Fort Williams Park and is still in use today (we heard the bell/horn), as it sits right at the entrance of the shipping channel into the bay. It was incredible, easily one of the highlights of our entire trip, just to stand there and listen to the sounds of the water and the punctuations of the lighthouse horn. 

And that pretty much sums up our time in Portland. In so many ways I wish that we had done more with our time in this gorgeous place, but I also recognize that there is usually one spot on our “multi city” trips that ends up being a bit less than the others and this just happened to be that spot on this trip. We still loved it (and it settled my love of the state of Maine) and I still think it’s a great spot to visit. 

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2021 – Boston, MA Pt.2

It is time for the second part of our few days in Boston (you can read the first part HERE). As much as I had thought that I wouldn’t write too much about the history, I found myself getting swept away in it all. So, here we are, a second post. Todays post is going to be all about The Freedom Trail located within Boston. We split the Freedom Trail into two days, doing half each day, but it is completely feasible to do it in one day if you’d like. I always appreciate when a city puts something like this together (and trust them when they do) as they usually have the best directions to hit everything you want to see- Luxembourg City did this very well too.

The Freedom Trail is a highlight of a trip to Boston as it is a 2.5 mile red line that wanders through the city, taking you to all the important spots in Boston history. Dating back to 1950, it allows you to view museums, meeting houses, churches, and other buildings that hold a special significance to the city. Anything from churches and cemeteries (with Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and others gravesites) to a plaque on the side of a building signifying the first book store, The Freedom Trail will give you a little bit of everything. The tour (or at least the direction we went with) starts you off in Boston Commons. 

Boston Common is America’s oldest public park, dating back to 1634. The Puritans purchased the grounds from William Blackstone, it was originally used as a common grazing land for local livestock. It also became a spot for public punishments (featuring everything from stocks and pillory for theft to the hanging of witches and others). During the Revolution it served as a training and camp ground for the British. Today it serves as a public park (the smaller park across the street is where you can find the famous ducks) and a place for rallies and marches, as well as live music and festivals. Towards the end of the park there is a monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment. This memorial honors and commemorates the first all-Black volunteer regiment during the Civil War. Most of them died during an assault in South Carolina, but they are forever memorialized here.** You also get a glimpse of the Massachusetts State House as you exit the Common. This has been the home of the state government since it was opened in 1798. 

The next stop on The Freedom Trail that we made was to the Park Street Church and Granary Burying Ground. The church dates to the early 1800’s, but the burying ground is the real attraction at this stop. This cemetery is the final resting place for some of the key players of the founding and fighting for the colonies of America. This is the final resting place for around 5,000 of Boston’s own, though there are only markers and knowledge of 2,300. Notably buried here are Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and a memorial for those massacred at the Boston Massacre. On these headstones you won’t find religious markers, rather these motifs of skulls with wings (to symbolize flying to heaven). Keep an eye out for grave markers- similar to those in Plymouth, there are metal markers signifying when the person participated in a momentous occasion, such as the Boston Tea Party. You are also able to go to another church and burying ground- the oldest in the city. We didn’t end up going in the church, but we did have a peak at the cemetery. Similar to Granary, this boasts several “big names”, the first woman off the Mayflower, Mary Chilton, William Dawes Jr, messenger sent to warn that the British were coming, as well as many others. 

The next few stops on the trail are “bunched” together in that you have the first public school of America (which boasts educating 5 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), a statue of Benjamin Franklin (who actually dropped out of the school just mentioned), and the Old Corner Bookstore, which is the oldest commercial building in the city (it’s now a Chipotle). 

From there we headed over to the Old South Meeting House (this deviates slightly from the trail, but as I said, we split this in half so there was some deviations here and there). The Old South Meeting House is “the room where it happened”. It was the center piece to debate, to sermons, to public meetings. The largest building in colonial Boston, this was originally built as a Puritan meeting house. The congregation boasted members such as Samuel Adams, William Otis, William Dawes, Benjamin Franklin, and Phillis Wheatley, the first women and enslaved women to publish a book. The building also served as THE site, where the Boston Tea Party was decided, with 5,000 men in attendance debating the tax and what to do about it.  It now is recognized as the first in what are now regular history conservation projects. But the road was not easy, the building was actually sold in the 1870’s and it took a group of 20 women to save the building from being demolished (which also makes it the first building to be saved due to historical significance- lots of history in just one building). It has been a museum since 1877 thanks to their efforts. 

We made a last stop on our first day of the Freedom Trail over to the site of the Boston Massacre and the Old State House. The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in the city, dating back to 1713. It now serves as a multi functional museum, documenting not only life in Boston, but the revolution, the Boston Massacre, and has a hands on second floor exhibit for kids to see what certain aspects of life were like. The boys especially loved this as they got to play “King” and “Governor” and dictate things. Right in front of the Old State House is a marker for the location of the Boston Massacre. Taking place on March 5, 1770 the Boston Massacre was a fight between the Redcoats and the people of Boston that ended with the death of 5 people. The tension between the two groups of people had finally boiled over and this tragedy became a turning point leading to the fight for independence. 

The next stops on the Freedom Trail are to Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market. I talked about Quincy Market in my previous Boston Post (HERE) and we didn’t actually get to properly go into Faneuil Hall during our time in Boston. Faneuil Hall served as a meeting place for public speech and commerce. You were able to protest, loudly, you could conduct various forms of business, you could swear an oath of allegiance. Basically it was a center of politics, conveniently located right next to the markets and commerce place. 

And that was the end of our first half of the Freedom Trail. I am noting this BECAUSE I feel like, if you want to split it into two days, that is a good place to split it. Most of the above attractions are within the same are of Boston, with convenient and easy walking distances. Then, the below would be the other half of The Freedom Trail. Again, you can do it in one day if you like (and public transport is actually decent if you need it), but this would also be a good stopping point for the day. 

**I also want to note, that there is an African American portion of The Freedom Trail. This trail takes you through the sections that the freed African Americans would have lived, their meeting house, the various monuments (including Phillis Wheatley) and other spots. You can find the trail right off of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial at the end of the Boston Common. 

The second half of the Freedom Trail gets a little bit more into the battles of the city. Starting at Paul Revere’s home, you are able to get a good glimpse into how folks of his stature, in his time, would have lived. Built sometime near 1680, his home is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston. It is also the only “home” listed as part of the Freedom Trail. You are able to walk through the home, see the kitchen, the sleeping areas, AND see quite a few of the artifacts from his life. You can also see the famous Revere Bell (as we always seem to forget the Paul Revere actually was a craftsman by trade). THis is a quick but easy stop to make and a great way to start off a second day of the trail. 

From the house, you then head over to your third and final church The North Church. This church plays an important role (maybe even more important than the other two) as it was THE church that the light was put up in to signal the midnight ride. Dating back to 1723, inside the church you are actually able to see one of the lanterns that was placed in the window for the ride. You are also able to see the bust of George Washington that Lafayette said was the best representation of him. Right around the corner from the church is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. This was, by and large, the burying site of many of the craftsmen and merchants that lived on the North side of Boston. A couple notable people buried are two of the ministers involved in the Salem Witch Trials, the founder of the Black Freemasonry, as well as the man who hung the lanterns on the night of Pau Revere’s ride, and a builder of the USS Constitution. This particular burying ground was also a marker for the British to aim at during the Battle of Bunker Hill (which we ARE getting to, I promise). 

Speaking of, the next stops that you can make are entirely up to you. You can either go up to Bunker Hill at this point (which is what we did), OR you can go down to the USS Constitution. We chose to go up first, then back down, and at the end we took the Ferry back to the “main” part of Boston. It is entirely up to you how you want to walk this part. 

The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first battle of the Revolutions, and while the British technically won (after three assaults) it did prove that the colonists were not going to go down without a fight. The order of “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” is believed to have originated in this very battle. The monument was started with the laying of the first stone by Lafayette (excuse me, The Marquis De Lafayette) in 1825. It was completed in 1842. 

The final stop (for us) on the trail was at the USS Constitution (and then the USS Cassin Young DD 793). The USS Constitution is the oldest, still afloat, commissioned warship. It was launched in 1797 as a three-masted heavy frigate, one of six authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. The ship is known for the War of 1812 and the defeat of 5 British Warships and where the nickname of “Old Ironsides” was given. The Constitution was retired in 1881and was designated a museum ship in 1907. It is still a fully commissioned Navy ship and is manned by active duty Navy personnel on special duty assignment. 

The USS Cassin Young is a destroyer from World War II. It was launched in 1943 and is only one of four of the Fletcher Class destroyers still afloat. The ship served in both World War II (where it was damaged in two kamikaze attacks) and the Korean War, being retired in 1960 and serving as a memorial ship ever since. The ship was intended to serve as an escort to the larger ships and defend them from attack. Unlike the USS Constitution, this ship has been permanently loaned to the National Park Service and it maintained and operated by them rather than The Navy. 

And that wrapped up our time in Boston! Boston was a definite highlight for our entire family. The boys loved the history, the boats, the endless exploring and my husband and I loved the pace of the city (and obviously the history). I don’t know that we’d ever be “city people” (most are just too crowded and busy for us), but Boston was such a nice surprise! 

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2021 – Boston, MA Pt. 1

The second stop on our Summer Holiday was undoubtedly our favorite and that was Boston. I think this is going to have to be divided up into two posts just due to the amount that I will actually blabber during this post. Again, I know that a good amount of people know a good amount of American History, so I’m just going to touch on basics or little tidbits as I talk about what we did/saw, but I really just love learning about the history and interesting facts about places we visit. Boston is the center of A LOT of the United States of America’s history and it has done a really good job and transitioning through history and coming into a more modern era, without losing any of the historic sites or feel to the city. So, a post today and a post on Friday (woop- a bonus post!) to cover everything I want to share and not overwhelm or bore you.

Before we start, I also want to note that for a “big city” Boston felt quite relaxed. In a lot of the “big cities” you get that big city rush feeling, where everyone is just go, go, go as fast as you can. Boston was refreshingly relaxed (or at least from what we saw and experienced). It was something that we actually really enjoyed about our time there. I’m not sure if this was a covid specific instance or if it’s always this way. Regardless Boston has definitely become a highlight for us. 

So, our time in Boston started where much of the history started (or at least the history of the start of the revolution), at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. I think a good amount of us know the history of the Boston Tea Party. In December 1773, disguised men from the “Sons of Liberty”, after immense planning, quietly boarded the Beaver Dartmouth, and Eleanor with the intention of destroying the tea. They destroyed 92,000 pounds of tea (in 340 chests), but only the tea. They did not steal tea, they did not steel or even so much as touch anything else aboard the ship. The statement they wanted to make was abundantly clear, which was “we will not take your leadership any longer”. The British Tea Party was but one step in a much larger fight, which was against the crown and the ability for someone so far away to hold governance in the colonies. Of course after the destruction the “Sons of Liberty” who participated had to flee Boston, and those who stayed would go out in boats to the harbor to continue to ensure that any tea or tea chests in the harbor were not able to be rescued or used. The Boston Tea Party was an incredible success, but it created hardship for the colonists as well, sparking more and more “rebellious talk” and ultimately (after several more edicts and back and forth with the King of England) sparked the American Revolution in April of 1775.

At The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, they do an excellent job of utilizing first person interpreters to put you right in the action of that fateful night in December. You are given character cards that tell you about a single person who lived in Boston at the time- these are then yours to keep as you continue along your tour. You start in the “state hall” with two actors taking you right up to those destructive lines uttered. Then you follow over to the boat where you can see what the Sons of Liberty would have seen, and throw your own tea overboard into the harbor. From there, you walk through the museum that talks about (with actual talking projectors and portraits) what followed the tea party. There is an original chest to see, along with a small vial of the tea that was tossed overboard (who rescued it remains a mystery). Finally, you can finish up at Abigail’s Tea Room, where you can sample the 5 tea blends that would have been on board the ship in the harbor (and subsequently enjoyed). It was the perfect start to our time in Boston and really put us in the revolutionary spirit. 

From there we mostly meandered around the area, letting the boys play at a playground (after being cooped up in a car and then on best behavior at the museum they were due to expend some energy) and trying to decide what we wanted to do. It was a bit later in the day, so we couldn’t do much more in terms of touristy bits. We ended up wandering over to Quincy Market (in a bid to see a museum which ended up being closed on that day anyways) and grabbing dinner at the food stalls located inside. I really loved Quincy Market. It reminded me of being at a farmers market of sorts and I had some of the best pizza since returning from Europe.

Quincy Market has quite the history. Dating back to 1826, the idea for the market came from Mayor Josiah Quincy. Shortly after being elected, Josiah realized just how much he disliked the chaotic, noisy, dirty view from his office in Faneuil Hall. This view was mostly due to the fact that the large marketplace was bursting at its’ seams. There was simply not enough space to cater the amount of stalls and sheds and the overall needs the city required. Not pleased with any ideas, he came up with his own development for a new marketplace. The only “thorn” in his side for this new market place was a landowner by the name of Nathan Spear, who refused to negotiate in regards to the property lines and deeds. No matter though, the construction went ahead with Josiah Quincy laying the first stone in April, 1825, with the market completed and opened in August of 1826. Officially named Faneuil Hall Market, it is more commonly known as Quincy Market. The market was enlarged throughout the following years (as it reached its initial capacity in 1850) and the market continued to serve the community. A restoration project was started in the 1970’s that not only including restoring parts of the market, but also additions to the rotunda and new dining areas. 

The next morning we were up bright and early to embark on one of my husbands most anticipated stops, Fenway Park (ok the kids and I were also very excited about this too). Where do I even begin with the history? I’m not going to go into the history of baseball (because oof), or of the actual Boston Red Sox (because, again oof), but rather the history of this particular ballpark. 

Some quick facts, Fenway Park is the oldest active ballpark in the MLB (109 years this year), it was actually rebuilt in 1934, and the location (within tight busy streets of Boston) lends itself to a unique set of features, the most popular being The Green Monster. It is the fifth smallest stadium within the MLB, only able to seat a little under 38,000. Finally, the first game ( a win for the Red Sox played in 11 innings) was actually overshadowed by the continued coverage of the tragic Titanic sinking. 

The Red Sox had been playing at the Huntington Avenue Grounds for 10 years, but Red Sox Owner John I. Taylor was looking for something different, something that would make a splash, something in Boston. He was also looking at potentially selling the team to a new owner, which played a massive role in the relocation. February of 1911 brought a group of real estate entrepreneurs together to become the “Fenway Improvement Association”. Subsequently one of the leaders, General Charles H. Taylor (yep- John’s father), acquired a large amount of land which the young John Taylor then announced his intention to use it to build a new home for the Red Sox. Ground broke for the ballpark, without the proper permits approved or assurances that they would be approved, on September 25, 1911 and by he end of the calendar year the foundations were in place, the roof framed, and plans in place to continue. Fenway Park hosted its first game April 9, 1912, with the first official game occurring 11 days later. Construction continued during Away Games, with the left and right field bleachers completed in time for the World Series. There were several renovations and additions given to the park over its long history, too many for me to actually get into and list, you can read the full history HERE, but it’s safe to say that this is a true landmark of the city and of the sport. 

The park has also been used for other sporting events, being home to matches of boxing, soccer, American football, Hurling, Gaelic Football, Hockey, Ice Skating, and Ski and Snowboard events. It also has hosted Concerts and Rallies/Public Addresses. 

There was one instance where the ballpark was in jeopardy, in 1999 the Red Sox CEO announced plans for a new Fenway Park. This, understandably, came under a lot of fire from all around, and led to a long round of talks, negotiations, and different plans. At the end of it all there was no resolution to be found and in 2005 it was announced that the Red Sox would stay at the current Fenway Park. This then led to a 10 year significant renovation of the park led by Janet Marie Smith (who is wholeheartedly credited with saving the park). 

One final note, which is the lone red seat. The lone red seat signifies the spot of the longest home run ever hit at Fenway Park. Ted Williams hit a home run June 9, 1946, which hit Joseph A Boucher right in the head (through his straw hat), then bounced several rows above. If it hadn’t hit Boucher, it could have reached a length of 520-535 feet, but rather it hit 502 feet. 

As part of the tour you are able to see the interior of the park (where two movies have been shot- including THAT scene from The Town), sit in the old wooden seats in the Grandstand section, head through the museum which contains collections of bats, balls, seating, jerseys, and more throughout the Red Sox history, head up to the top of the upper seating, go through the Press Box, and over to the Green Monster (which only added seats added to it in 2003 and they are the most expensive and contested seats in the park). All while being told the history of the stadium, a couple of dad jokes (maybe you want to hear one now? “The distance between all the bases is equal, however why does it take a runner longer to get from second to third? Because there’s a short stop” Ahahahahahaha- ok done now), and seeing some epic views from every spot in the park. It truly was an incredible tour and very well worth our time. If you are even the slightest baseball fan, this is a definite go to (but if you’re a baseball fan it’s probably already on your list to visit). 

And that wraps up this first part of my two part Boston posts. The second part (coming out this Friday!) will be focused exclusively on the Freedom Trail and the sights we saw as part of that. 

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2021 – Plymouth MA

It is time to talk about our annual summer holiday and travels! This year we decided to do a “USA history” tour of sorts, starting in Plymouth Massachusetts, then heading up to Boston, MA, a quick stop in Salem, MA and ending in Portland ME. Honestly, the trip was overall so relaxing and enjoyable. I don’t know if it was the amount of time in each stop, or if it was just the fact that the boys are older, we are more “travel experienced”, and that we haven’t traveled (thus the excitement is greater), whatever it was, this really worked for us. A quick overview of our trip, we did two nights in Plymouth, three in Boston, two in Portland. 

We arrived mid afternoon in Plymouth on our first day, prior to the check in time at our hotel, so we decided to just head over to a first stop. We started at Plimouth Patuxet. 

The Plimouth Patuxet or Plimouth Plantation (the original name) is what’s known as a living museum. Started in 1947 it features two central locations, plus the Mayflower II and the Grist Mill (in separate locations), one a replica of the village of Plymouth from 1627 with first person historical “actors” and the second is a replica of the Wampanoag village as it would have stood in the 17th century along with guides to help visitors understand life for them. It gives visitors an insight into not only what life would look like and be like, but a chance to learn about some of the people who would have lived in the Plymouth Colony.

Most of us know the history of America, the Colonies, etc., so I’m not going to focus too much on it, but I will say that there is a big difference between the colonies of Jamestown (the first) and Plymouth. Jamestown was founded by entrepreneurs who were seeking new land to develop, live and to expand fortunes. Plymouth was founded by a sect of Puritans (later as we all know as Pilgrims) who were fleeing religious persecution. They did not actually sale directly to the “America’s” though, they first went to The Netherlands to avoid the persecution. That didn’t end up working and they ended up making the journey towards the “America’s”. 

The Patuxet was really neat to walk through and I found it to actually be quite respectful to both the Wampanoag, the Patuxet, and the Colonists. The boys really appreciated the first person actors and being able to be involved in this living history (even though they truly couldn’t comprehend the entire grasp of it). 

We spent a couple hours at the Patuxet, then headed over to check in to our hotel. We stayed at the John Carver Inn for two reasons, one being its location right off the main street of town, and the other being the very cool pool that it offered. I will say, that while we loved the pool (which has a makeshift Plymouth rock holding the hot tub, and a slide within the “mayflower”), the hotel rooms were a bit dated. There isn’t anything wrong with that and we enjoyed our stay, just something to note. After checking in, we decided to just go venture out on the town.

Wandering along the main streets of downtown Plymouth offered a variety of breweries, small boutiques, and tourist shops. We ended up stopping at Tavern on the Wharf for dinner that first night, watching the sun light up the water as it started to set. From dinner, we continued to walk along the bay, watching the sun set slowly over the bay. Walking along the bay puts you right at the Plymouth Rock. This is when I would recommend seeing because a) you get to see the sunset on the water, and b) it tends to not be as crowded. 

So, Plymouth Rock. I want to start with the fact that there is no writing from the Pilgrims in regards to Plymouth Rock. It wasn’t recorded until ~1715 when it was used as part of the town boundaries and was simply a “great rock” and there wasn’t even a claim to it being the landing place until 1741 (~120 years later). Second, the rock itself (as it stands today) is quite small. It is not even the full size of the “original Plymouth Rock” due to its being moved around and pieces being taken, bought, and sold. Today it stands at about 1/3 of the size that it actually was. There is also a crack in the rock where it was broken in an attempt to place it in the town square, the two portions were put back together and the date was stamped in the 1770’s. So, it’s cool to see, but also a bit anticlimactic in a way. 

We finished out the evening with a  stop at Burial Hill, which was located right behind the John Carver Inn. Since there was still daylight (this cemetery sits much higher than the bay), we decided to take a little wander through the cemetery and see some of the oldest gravesites in our country (documented- there are much much older sites obviously from the indigenous peoples). Burial Hill was originally the site of the Pilgrims first meeting house and was first used as a burial spot in the 1620’s. There are Pilgrims and Mayflower passengers buried in the cemetery, as well as various revolutionaries and soldiers. Any person that has a history tied to a battle/war, the Mayflower, or the colonists has a medallion placed next to the grave marker (some of these still stand, some have been destroyed over time by the elements). 

The next morning we started out somewhat early, to get some breakfast from Munchies & Milkshakes. Robert had found this spot and read reviews about donuts and baked goodies, so we figured why not give it a try. I can tell you, it did not disappoint. We took our donuts to a bench overlooking the Mayflower II and the bay and had a lovely little picnic. Then it was off to tour the Mayflower II. 

As the same organization owns all three “Pilgrim”/Plymouth related attractions, you are able to purchase one ticket for all three locations, which is what we did. I can’t say that it was a cheaper option or a good bargain deal, but I can say that it was definitely easier when it came time to visit the other locations. We walked right into the Mayflower II and were able to get on the boat almost immediately. 

The Mayflower II is a reproduction of the original Mayflower. It was built in the 1950’s in partnership between an English builder and the Plimouth Patuxet. It was a partnership to honor the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom during World War 2. Considered a generic reproduction with modern additions (like electric lights and a ladder) it sailed from Plymouth, Devon recreating the historical journey of the Pilgrims, landing at Plymouth Massachusetts after about 2 months. It has journeyed through various ports and cities on the East Coast both for tours and for restorations, but in 2020 it made a permanent return to Plymouth in honor of the 400th anniversary (lucky for us!). 

I do think that this is a very worthwhile attraction to see. Not only does it put the voyage in perspective and the conditions and turmoil that the Pilgrims faced during their voyage, but it also is neat to check out. The “crew” on board is a mixture of modern day guides and first person interpreters and you are able to see just about every area of the ship, including the mooring boat that they would have used to send expeditions from the ship to the mainland to find a settlement space. 

From the Mayflower II we walked the opposite direction (away from Plymouth rock and towards the shipyard area) to walk the riverfront. The town has a rocky area that you are able to walk a bit out into the bay waters and see the town from the water (in a way). Now, you are walking on rocks that have been piled up and around coming out of the water to form a walkway. It’s not a “sidewalk” or anything of that nature, just a man made path. We walked about halfway out and decided to turn back (as it’s just an outcropping to see the view). 

At that point in the day we were reaching the peak of the sun and heat, so we decided to head back to the hotel and spend a bit of time at the pool. This is something we don’t often do, but we had partly booked this hotel for the pool, so we figured we should take advantage of it. It was a lot of fun and allowed some of that sun and heat to pass over us. 

After a brief lull, we headed back out, this time to the Plymouth Grist Mill. This Grist Mill is a working mill recreated on the site (and similar to) the Jenney Grist Mill, which was one of the first operating mills from the Pilgrims in Plymouth (built and operated by John Jenney who came over on the Little James in 1623). The Mill was originally built in 1636 and remained in operation, though passing through different hands as owners passed away or sold, until it burned down in 1840’s. The property stood as it was until the town went through some re devolopment and mill was rebuilt/reproduced in 1969. It is a fully functioning mill processing what, rye, barley, and corn (which is ground on the primary millstones). You are able to watch the mill at work if it is the time of year for it to run, otherwise you are able to tour the mill and the workers will show you how everything operates. A Very kind tour guide turned on the outside portion for the boys to watch. 

I will say, this was another neat stop to make, BUT if you can’t fit it in or you are wondering which of the three attractions you don’t need to visit- this can be cut from your itinerary. It’s a short visit (which worked out really well for us), but I wouldn’t say it provided much “first hand” insight. Cool to see, but not necessary.

The final stop we made in Plymouth was the National Monument to the Forefathers. Originally known as the Pilgrim Monument, this is thought to be the worlds largest solid granite monument standing at 81 feet tall. It is dedicated to and commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims and their ideals. The idea dates back to 1820, but the cornerstone was not laid until 1859 (after plans started almost 10 years earlier). It opened in 1889 and features a total of 5 figures. The top one is known as “Faith”, with the four buttresses featuring “Morality”, “Law”, “Education”, and “Liberty”. These are then broken down further on each buttress to give more ideals for each overarching concept. The front and rear panels both have quotes engraved, with the side panels containing the names of those on the original Mayflower. 

We wandered from the monument, which is tucked up on a hill back in a neighborhood, back down to the main street and stopped for dinner at the Waterfront Bar & Grill before heading back to the hotel to pack and leave the next morning. 

And that wraps up the first stop in our 2021 Summer Holiday. I will say, I’ve only ever been mildly interested in the Pilgrims tale (more so in a respectful manner of history), so while this was a cool spot and town was pretty, this wasn’t a highlight for me. It also wasn’t for the kids (minus the pool), but that’s because they much preferred the next stop on our destination…

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – July 2021

Happy August! I’ve just got a quick reading catch up post today as I’ve become quite a bit behind (due to summer holidays) on…well just everything. I don’t truly remember all of my thoughts for these books, but I’ll do my best to give some brief opinions. I ended up reading a total of 9 books and giving an average rating of 3.875, so a quite good month. I did also DNF (Did Not Finish) some books, so I’ll talk about those at the end. 

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston 4 Stars – I really enjoyed this contemporary novel, even if I found it to be a bit of wishful escapism. I’m kind of a sucker for royal family stories though.  

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo 4 Stars This was a beautiful and captivating story that just had me in a trance from start to finish. 

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert 4 Stars Yet another cute contemporary story that I really enjoyed. 

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto 4 Stars I think this might have been one of my favorites for the month, this was just such a great romantic comedy of errors. I will most definitely be reading the next one just to see the family antics once again. 

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher 4 Stars This is one of those horror books that I think will just live in my brain for a little bit, kind of like The Troop by Nick Cutter or maybe even The Hunger by Alma Katsu (I recommend the former, but maybe not the latter). I didn’t realize that it had truly gotten under my skin until we were on holiday and I saw something that was described in the book and it spooked me a bit haha. 

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo 4 Stars This is the second in what I think is just a companion grouping of stories following a “recorder of history”. Again, I found myself entranced in the story and swept away by the writing. 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 4 Stars This was my second Ishiguru novel and I did, once again, enjoy it. I liked Never Let Me Go a bit more, but it was a VERY different book to this. I found the conversation within our relationship to our work, to our employers, to our own morals and values and the relationship of those with our work and our employers. 

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides 3 Stars Ah, this was a bit of a disappointment and the more I think about it, the more I talk about it, the more upset I get about it. It wasn’t BAD, by any stretch, but I also felt like it…had a lot of far reaching stretches for our main character and the twist made ZERO sense. I also wasn’t a fan of the main character, but that could just be a me thing. 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West NR A memoir of sorts, this book talks about what it is actually like working in and running the White House, on the family side of things. He doesn’t speak badly about any of the families, instead highlighting the differences and similarities and personal relationships of each family. 

And finally, the books that I…gave up on: Reputation by Lex Croucher and The Binding by Bridget Collins. I have actually fully gotten rid of Reputation. It was a bit TOO spot on for what it was trying to be and the main character was obnoxious. The Binding I might try again another time as I didn’t feel strongly about it either way, which is why I stopped reading it. 

And that’s it for July! I’ve got big plans for the rest of the year for reading and I’m very excited.