On the Road in the U.S – Las Vegas, Nevada


The drive from Williams, Arizona towards Las Vegas took us through more areas of red soil and rock and a forested area, but after Kingman, Arizona, the landscape became progressively more sandy with low dry brush.


We stopped off en route at the Hoover Dam.


After passing through a security checkpoint, we drove over the Dam (car parking is $10, a Dam tour is $30 for 8 yrs and up or a 30 minute power plant visit is $15 for adults, $12 for children) and in so doing crossed over from Arizona to Nevada.

As our children were tired and it was very hot (104 F), we decided not to stop for long. Luckily we managed to find a free parking space where we could stop for a few minutes to view the Dam and take photos.


When we stepped out of our airconditioned vehicle, the dry heat hit us like a wall, but we still managed to take in the impressive view and were so glad we came.


Hoover Dam was built over a period of five years (1931-6) during the Depression, when thousands of families descended on the area in search of work, camping along the river until the Government initiative to build semi permanent housing in Boulder City, Nevada.


This Concrete Arch-Gravity Dam measures 726.5m high and spans the Colorado river between Nevada and Arizona. The work must have been extremely gruelling with the oppressive heat and the sheer size of the project. Even before dam construction could begin, the men needed to divert the mighty Colorado river through four 50-foot-diameter tunnels, two drilled through the canyon walls on either side, with a combined length of around three miles. What an achievement in Civil Engineering terms and a testament to the American spirit of progress and “can do” attitude.


The dam was built to irrigate the low lying desert plains, for flood control and to provide hydroelectric power to municipalities and industry.  Lake Mead Reservoir supplies millions of people and farms with water in Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, as well as being a beautiful all year round recreational area.

From here, it was only 24 miles to Las Vegas – in the heart of Nevada’s desert.

We very soon started to notice signs for casinos and also lots of signs for injury lawyers (!) all the way into Henderson and onto Las Vegas, which was rather disconcerting. The roads got busier and more disorientating as we drove into Las Vegas, where there is a five lane highway on either side! Eek!


We were staying at the Stratosphere hotel which is quite far down on the Las Vegas Strip but from our 24th floor room (!) we could enjoy a view of the Strip lit up in the evening.


We were mainly in Las Vegas because it was on our route, but my husband and I visited in 2003 and remember rather enjoying looking around the amazing hotels on the Strip and we thought our daughters might find it fun too, which they did. It was super hot there (106 F), so we were in and out of air conditioned hotels and spent a lot of time in the rooftop swimming pool in our hotel

The mood of Las Vegas is pure hedonism, decadence, extravagance and gluttony. There is the seedy side, which my daughters luckily did not notice (the signs for girls to your door, the gambling, the debauchery), but there is something very appealing about the place (in small doses).

Massive hotels like the The Bellaggio,  The Venetian,  Paris and Caesar’s Palace are incredible – truely they are more like cities, than hotels…



When you enter one of these vast hotels, it as if you have entered a new dimension: the heat and crowds from the street melt away and you are immersed in something quite special. There are shops, boutiques, eateries and much more (casinos, hotel rooms, spectacular shows…). Each hotel has a theme and the hoteliers have spared no expense to recreate Italian cities or Parisian boulevards. It is really very impressive. There are blue skies with light fluffy clouds that seem to stretch to the heavens. It is all quite extraordinary and we were all quite captivated by it. One could spend all day and night in these places, not knowing what time of day it is. Crazy!


We only really had a day and night to explore the area, but we felt we saw enough. Of course there are a lot of amazing hotels on the Strip that we didn’t see, but I think we got the impression….

We strolled down a Parisian boulevard and visited a traditional French patisserie,


ate Italian gelato by a Venetian canal,



saw Roman statues and took in the grandeur of Caesar’s Palace,

and  admired the artistic beauty and vibrant colour in the  Bellaggio village

and of course there were the crazy all day buffets


Las Vegas really came alive in the evenings. Although it was still hot, it was easier to walk around and we really enjoyed seeing the Strip all lit up and spotting men dressed up as Elvis and dancing girls with all their feathers.


The Bellaggio does a spectacular water show at 15 minute intervals throughout the evenings which we enjoyed watching, accompanied by the sweet tones of Billie Jean.

Last time we visited Las Vegas, we approached it from the other side and after a long time driving through the desert, we suddenly saw this mirage. It is so incongruous to this desert area – maybe that’s what makes it so appealing: An oasis in an otherwise barren landscape?

I have mixed feelings about the City. It provides thousands of people with jobs  and there is definitely a spirit of camaraderie between the workers but the excess, gluttony and the heavy load on the environment can be hard to stomach. But all in all it was a good experience. It’s always best to find the good in everything, I find.🙂

Next stop Yosemite National Park….back to Nature 🙂

On the Road in the U.S – Grand Canyon, Arizona


Travelling west from Dolores, we were met with great expanses of desert and heat (thank goodness for the aircon and the cool box!). This area (which includes the Mesa Verde National Park) is known as the Four Corners region because it is the only place in the U.S. where four States meet – these being Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. There were the occasional interesting rock formations on the way


but generally the land was quite flat and so vast.


At one point we stopped off for gas at the only gas station around that also happened to be a historic Trading Post selling traditional American Indian wares amongst other things with wonderfully clean restrooms (it isn’t always thus and we have checked out plenty!) That was a pleasant surprise 🙂


This area we drove through is Apache country. There was very little in the way of settlements on the drive, except for a couple of areas like the Red Mesa, Arizona (presumably called this because of the red rock in this territory)



These couple of communities seemed to be well set up with housing, a school and a medical centre and some signs of industry. I believe the majority of the people living there are of American Indian origins. The area feels so inhospitable to someone not indigenous to the region.


What I noticed and impressed me whilst driving through the “Wild West” was the endless pylons stretching across the deserted areas, connecting people across the country to the source and the never-ending roads built through an inhospitable and arid landscape.



This work must have taken decades of hard graft in intense heat. It is incredible how much has been acheived in the way of connecting and taming this great vast country since the original pioneers headed West in the 1800’s. I must say I admire this indomitable spirit of progress, a true pioneering spirit and a “can do” attitude that gets things done. Of course we have only covered a small portion of the U.S but these were my impressions at this point.

The landscape changed every so often to low growing bushes and some trees and more lush vegetation, but it was still sparsely populated.


At the Grand Canyon Junction we noticed how the clouds cast a shadow over the plains, giving the impression of a lunar landscape (difficult to capture on camera).


By the time we arrived in Williams, it had started to rain heavily with thunder and lightning 😦


This is a colour photo!

My eldest spent most of the time hiding under her cosy cover in the back of the car as she really hated it…such a shame there were a series of thunderstorms on our arrival at each of our destinations in the first weeks…


We were pleased to arrive at our cosy holiday home and take refuge from the rain. It had such a homely feel, which is just what we needed. There was even a reading nook for the girls


and plenty of cupboards to play in – very important! 🙂

Just as well as it rained the entire first day with occasional heavy thunderstorms. We were happy to stay in and catch up on our crafting. including finishing our pom pom chain. There were a lot of sweet vintage features in the house including this phone, which reminded us of the phone Ike Godsey has in The Waltons 🙂


nostalgic – who me? 

The girls got very involved in a fantasy game of Pooh and Piglet  and made good use of all the tupperware on offer (for honey and haycorns of course!), laundry baskets (great for haycorn gathering) and the coloured paper that I brought with us 🙂


There was a lovely porch to sit out on, where we could enjoy watching the rain when it wasn’t so heavy.

The place was full of character and we really appreciated the attention to detail. It was real home from home.


We were staying in a residential area, only a short walk from the main street.

Williams is on the historic Route 66 a route popular with bikers and travellers.



so there are plenty of motels and diners carrying the Route 66 plaques and shops selling memorabilia. There is also a local brewery and quite a few shops selling American jewellery, pots and artisan crafts.


My favourite thing was the sound of the train whistling in town – it made me smile and launch into a certain Johnny Cash song several times a day 😉

There is a daily train leaving Williams at 9.30am and returning from the Grand Canyon National Park at 3.30pm. It’s a long two and a quarter hour journey compared with an hours drive, but it looked like fun. Although I fancied the experience, we didn’t want to be tied to set times.


So on our second day in Williams, we visited the Grand Canyon National Park . The main attraction is of course the Grand Canyon itself which is a 277 mile long gorge, carved out by the Colorado River and geological activity over the past six million years. Tourists either visit the North or the South Rim, depending on where they are approaching it from. As we were coming from the South side of the Colorado river, we went to the South Rim. The Canyon is from 4 miles up to 18 miles wide and 1 mile in depth. Looking down to the river, your eyes find it hard to comprehend this depth: it really is unfathomable and quite astounding.



The last time my husband and I visited in May 2003, we were camping near the North Rim and awoke to a snow storm! We went to the observation point hoping to catch a glimpse of this geological marvel, but couldn’t see anything at all! It was very disappointing, having journeyed all the way there, but we quickly moved down to New Mexico as the weather wasn’t set to improve.


This time we were fortunate to have lovely weather – a little too hot for my daughters’ tastes but a nice break from the rainstorms! The altitude is 7000ft so we were a little out of breath at times, but the view made up for all that. WOW!


The Canyon is one or the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and surely one of America’s biggest tourist attractions. There were tourists from all around the world, something we did not notice so much at any other National Park we visited. The South Rim is well served by several free shuttle buses which is helpful when you need a break. The bus drivers are really fun. One pretended he was a cowboy and there was lots of “saddle up” and “yee haw’s” that we had to join in with!

Of course you can hike the Canyon, but we were told this is not for the faint hearted. A back country permit must be purchased and a hiker would need to be prepared for every eventuality as the distances are great and there is no access to water. As we could only spend half a day at the Canyon, we stayed on the Rim and still enjoyed fantastic views and plenty of walking!


After a brief look around the Visitor Centre, we walked over to Mather Point, which is only a 5 minute walk. It was busy, but the views were well worth it – just stunning. We then walked along the South Rim to the Yavapai Geology Museum where we had a look around. Our daughters weren’t as interested as they were at Mesa Verde as Geology is a bit too abstract for them at the moment.

We walked a part of the Bright Angel Trail, which is luckily on the Shuttle Bus route, so when the girls tired after a mile or two of walking in the heat, we were able to  take a bus to the furthest point Hermit’s Rest (where there was a snack bar and gift shop and more amazing views!) and treat ourselves to a much needed ice lolly. 🙂

As for wildlife, we spotted several Albert’s Squirrels – so sweet!


and enjoyed watching the ravens in making the most of the big wide open spaces.


We even spotted a blue jay much to our delight (but he was too fast to take a photo of – something I also found with Steller’s Jays later in our trip).


I would highly recommend a visit to the Grand Canyon National Park. The Canyon is just so vast and unfathomable with incredible depth and colour – the photos don’t do it justice. I would have loved to have visited at sunrise or sunset but that will have to wait for another visit. 🙂

My daughters weren’t as awestruck as we were as they had seen pictures of the Arches National Park, Utah in a book and I think they were hoping they would be able to walk amongst the rock formations, which isn’t the case here, but I am sure they will remember thDSC00074e majesty of this natural wonder.

On our drive back, we stopped off at a gas station to use the restroom and this time the gas station doubled as a cavernous crystal shop with a Western theme outside!

Such fun! And such a beautiful shop with all that lovely crystal energy. The big amethyst geodes were just stunning (but way too heavy to fly back with!!)


Well, that’s my round up of our time in Arizona. Next Stop Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, Nevada.



In Sickness and in Health…


As I sit here writing, the warm sweet smell of cinammon and apples is wafting across from the kitchen. I am making a fourth batch of apple sauce 🙂

My daughters have just returned to school after a week of sickness (colds/viruses) and the house is quiet once more and I have some much needed head space.

I went for a walk in our local park this morning, where I delighted in all the seasonal changes.

I haven’t been on a solo walk for quite some time. Autumn is definitely in the air now. I picked a few more blackberries (to add to our porridge when the days get cooler) and some rose hips (to dry for tea making). Foraging wild food on my walks is always an added bonus. 🙂


Before my daughters became sick, I had a couple of days to myself in which to sort the house out and I started to do some home sewing. I have all kinds of plans for making things for our home. September is like that for me: I feel the need to nest a bit and make things cosy and colourful for the colder months ahead when we shall be spending much more time indoors. I suffer from SAD  as I explained in a previous post and this time of year is very challenging for me emotionally, so I like to surround myself in uplifting colours and sights.

To that end, I have started to make some log cabin style cushion covers for our dining chairs. Our dining chair cushions have been ragged for quite some time but as they are tucked under the table I keep forgetting about them (out of sight, out of mind and all that)…Anyway I am pleased to finally have some time in which to update them.

I have a big box of colourful fabrics that I have saved for patchwork purposes (leftover from old projects) and am pleased to finally use some of them. I have chosen to do two distinct blocks of colour: one block in pinks, reds and purples and the other in greens and blues, which are all colours that are in our dining room/family room (we like things colourful here!)


I managed to make four cushion fronts before my daughters became ill and later, when they were feeling up to it, I sat down with them individually so they could choose the fabrics for their own cushions.


So I have made six fronts and now need to buy some batting to back them with before I can continue. That will involve a trip to town later this week I imagine. I have plenty of left over fabric for the back of the cushions, so I am mainly recycling fabrics we already have, which is always a good feeling! 🙂

I took some photos whilst making them and may write up a tutorial if I get a chance. They are easy to make once you get going and I love the cheery look of them :-). Let’s see… I still need to catch up on my Road Trip posts!!!….

Eventually I would like to make some more for our sofa and for the girls’ “little house”, but first I need to make two pairs of curtains for our long back doors. I have had the material a while but the project had to go on the back burner. Now that the nights are drawing in, I really feel the need for some curtains so we can retreat from the darkness. The fabric is a pretty floral fabric that I found in a local store at a reduced price. More on that next time hopefully.


I have started work on a short sleeved pullover for my eldest (for her October Birthday). My daughter chose purple yarn for it – it will be the fourth item I have knitted in a purple shade this year! 🙂 I am at the point where it’s just knitting all the way down. I shouldn’t think it will take too long. I would like to make her a patchwork skirt too with some of the fabrics we have. Let’s see.


My daughters spent most of last week resting (and coughing and sneezing..) In a way it was nice that they were ill at the same time as they were good company for each other, cuddling on the sofa, doing a bit of beading, watching cosy films and when they were feeling a bit better – on and off – playing together. They continued work on the bead curtains they are making for their “little house” in the garden. We now have seven beaded strings and probably another two will suffice. It’s been a great way to use up all those random beads we have accrued over the years.


Later in the week when they were feeling a little better, my eldest did a bit of reading aloud of this book that she is enjoying. Her reading has really come along which is encouraging.


and we looked at Alphabet Cards with my youngest which we all enjoyed.



She is just at the stage of learning three letter words, like cat, hop, mug etc. My eldest enjoyed teaching her and it kept them happily entertained for a little while.

We love these cards – they are so beautifully vibrant. As there are not many letters included in the pack, I photocopied the front of the cards (several at a time), stuck coloured card to the back and cut them out to add to our selection.They are more muted in colour, but it is good to have a lot more letters to make words from.


We also have the Grimms Number Cards. I think I may need to do some more photocopying of those too at some point.


We got ourselves a puzzle of the U.S.A. and have been enjoying finding where all the individual States are and looking at the States we travelled to.

I imagine we will know the position of all the States by heart at some point!!! 🙂

Another thing we do when the girls aren’t feeling good is drawing silly pictures for us to laugh about. We make up animal pictures, using bits of all kinds of animals

This pig has a cow body, horses tail, ducks bill, leopard’s neck, meerkat’s ears, the front legs of a chicken and the back legs of a guinea pig! 🙂

As for all those apples I mentioned in my last post, I have been making a few things with them including apple cake, which I made as a treat for my daughters to enjoy with some mulled apple juice, hoping to raise their spirits.

They also love fruit leathers so I made some with our dehydrator. They are really easy to make, either in a dehydrator or at a very low oven temperature:


  • Puree your fruit – I used apple sauce and very soft pear for one of them (with a squeeze of lemon to preserve the lighter colour) and applesauce and cinnamon with a couple of blueberries for the other.


  • Pour the pureed liquid onto special non stick drying sheets (or if dehydrating in  the oven or on a hot summer’s day, pour the puree onto a flat non-stick baking tray used solely for this purpose or a flat baking tray covered with cling film)


  • Dehydrate at 57 F for approximately 4-5 hours. Check after four hours.
  • When it is dry to touch all over, pull gently at the sides  and slowly roll it off the tray as shown below:


  • Cut the fruit leather into strips and roll up into individual portions


Enjoy – yummy! 

NB: Make sure the outside edges are thicker than the inside as the outside dries quicker.

Last but not least I made spiced apple chutney, which is a favourite of ours. I am planning to go round with a jar to our neighbour who kindly gifts her windfall apples.


Because I love to share all that is good 🙂 the recipe is as follows:

  • 1 kg cooking apples
  • 3 red chillies
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 heaped tbl chopped fresh ginger
  • 500g demerera sugar
  • 700ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • grinding of black pepper
  1. Peel and chop the apples and finely chop the onions.
  2. Remove the seeds from the chillies and chop finely.
  3. Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil.
  4. Cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Spoon into cleaned sterilised jars and place a sterilised lid on top. I sterilise my jars by washing them in warm soapy water and then placing them on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 160C for 15 mins. I wash the lids and cover them with boiling water before they are used. 
  6. Place a small greaseproof paper circle on top of the well filled jar and turn upside down. Allow to cool. Label.

          Makes 6-8 small jars 

Well, that’s a round up of what we’ve been up last week. The girls are back to good health now, so hopefully I will get around to more of that home sewing 🙂

Sharing with the crafty folks at the Frontier Dreams Crafting On


On the Road in the U.S. – Colorado Part 2


I have a slight obsession with big American Trucks….

Our travels took us to the South West of Colorado, driving over mountain passes – as high as 10,000ft at one point, past isolated ranches with a couple of horses and a few cattle, past an alpaca farm (we fell in love on the spot!) and past endless sunflower fields.


After being surrounded by pine trees for the first week, we really noticed when the trees suddenly disappeared and a relatively barren landscape opened up before us.


We stopped off in Ridgway for lunch at the True Grit Cafe, named after the John Wayne film that was made in the area. It is decked out in cowboy paraphenalia with a cowboy outfitters next door. We sat out front and ordered the bean soup, which was surprisingly delicious and satisfying. I would recommend a stop there if you are in the area. The staff were super friendly too.


As we drove further on, the scenery changed again to rocky cliffs. This is something I really noticed on our travels. A four hour journey would always take us through very varied landscapes, which made the journeys so fascinating.


The second property we stayed at was in the small town Dolores. Colorado. I believe the area is popular for river sports and hunting and as a base for exploring the Mesa Verde National Park  (along with Cortez and Durango).


Our animal loving, vegetarian daughters felt very at home in the property, despite the stuffed lynx with a bird its mouth on the entrance wall and all the Elk hunting magazines. There was a lot of outside space to play their fantasy games and there was even a hammock to lounge around in by the river.

Inside was also spacious, which was just as well as it rained and thundered on our arrival and the morning of our first day there (to my eldest daughters dismay). We spent the first day at home, as mentioned in my previous post, playing board games and working on crafts. By the time the weather had brightened up, the girls were fully absorbed in a game of Pippi Longstocking, having ‘devised’ a car on one of the beds,


They continued their game outside once the weather improved. They had a fantastic time and it was lovely to see them playing so well together.

Pippi Longstocking is such a great story – it really captures childrens’ imaginations – oh how amazing it would be to be your own boss, in control of your own life, doing all kinds of unsensible things, being superstrong and independent and having so much money that you can spend it on any extravagance! A child’s fantasy! 🙂

All children love the idea of the free range childhood of days gone by, when it was safe to go out all day long without your parents knowing what you had been up to (before cars and health and safety!). I am so glad my children at least have our quiet road to roam in and the local park when they feel braver.

Anway back to Dolores!…

The girls made friends with the neighbours dog ‘Butter’- we think she is a Chihuahua- Jack Russell cross. She was delightful and came to visit us several times a day – By the end of it, I think we had all fallen in love with her sweet friendly nature.

On our first night, my husband and I just happened to go out to get something from the car and were awestruck by the night sky. The sky was ablaze with stars. As there is no light pollution in this area, the stars felt so radiant and close and there were just so many of them twinkling brightly above us. It was a special moment, one we would never experience at home. A real blessing.

Dolores has a small but exceptionally well stocked Food Market  (with plenty of organic options) and a friendly cafe The Pony Expresso (with wifi), which I would both recommend if you are in the area.


On our second day, we travelled to the Mesa Verde National Park (20 minutes drive from Dolores), home to the ancestral Pueblan tribe from around 550AD to 1300AD. The site was re- discovered in 1889 by the rancher Richard Wetherill whilst searching for stray cattle and was made a National Park in 1906 to preserve its archeological heritage – which includes 5000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings.

Our first stop was the relatively new Visitor Centre (which only opened in 2012 – the last time we visited was in 2003), where you can buy tickets for tours to visit the Cliff Dwellings, see various exhibits and generally orientate yourself before entering the Park. The entrance fee to the Park in the summer months is $20 for a car and is valid for 7 days.

There are two Mesas – the Chapin and the Wetherill Mesas. I would recommend visiting the Mesas on separate days as there is a lot to see. We all wished we had stayed longer as we loved immersing ourselves in the history of the area and imagining how the Pueblans lived there.


Our friends had suggested a tour of the Cliff Dwellings as you only get a real feel for their size and position when you are in them, but my youngest didn’t like the idea of climbing the long 10ft ladders or crawling through tunnels on her hands and knees (!), so we chose to drive the Top Loop on the Chapin Mesa instead, which was actually great. We got to see the earliest pit houses and also to view the later Cliff Dwellings from afar. It is a good option if you are only there for the day or if you have mobility issues.

It took around half an hour to get to Chapin Mesa from the Visitor Centre. Our first stop was the Archeological Museum. We really enjoyed exploring the museum and watching the short video about the ancestral Pueblan people, their life and why they eventually left the Mesa around 1300.

In short:

  • They started as “Basketmakers” around 550AD, using their weaving skills to make baskets to carry water, store grains and even to cook with. They farmed beans, squash and corn and were mainly hunter/gatherers, using stone, wood and bone to hunt with. They lived in pit houses, clustered into small villages on the mesa tops and cliff alcoves.
  • In 750AD, “The Pueblo period”, the tribe started building their homes above ground,  constructing them from poles and adobe, and building the houses one against the other in curving rows. There were still some pit houses which were later used as kivas (ceremonial rooms). With time, the ancestral Pueblans perfected the bow and arrow and became better hunters and the women became skilled pottery makers, creating all sorts of pots to store food and water in, as well as cups, bowls, ladles and cooking pots. The pottery was also traded for other items that they needed.
  • In 1000AD, stonemasonry took over from the adobe constructions: instead they built houses with thick walls two to three story high that were joined into units of 50 or so rooms. In this period the Pueblans started farming the Mesa top land.
  • By 1150 thousands of people were living on the Mesa Verde. Many lived in small villages in close proximity to each other with kivas and courtyards as an integral part of the village.  The walls of the homes were plastered and all the work had become more refined in this period including the pottery work, which typically included intricate black and white designs. These beautiful pots were used for ceremonial puposes as well as being traded.
  • In 1225, many people moved into Cliff Dwellings in the cliff alcoves. They ranged from one room houses to 150 room community centres, including Cliff House. 
  • By 1300, after 24 years of drought, the whole tribe had left the area. It is unclear why, but they are known to have moved South to New Mexico and Arizona.

After our interesting museum visit, we walked over to view Spruce Tree House, which is usually accessible on foot, but was closed due to safety issues 😦


The Top Loop road took us to several pit houses and remnants of early villages,




We enjoyed finding out about the underground Kivas (ceremonial places), which were entered by a ladder through a hole in the centre of the roof.


Kivas were orientated to the south and were used for various social gatherings including ceremonies. Each had a fire pit with a ventilator and an air deflector and an entry point for the spirit world. We noticed how they became better made and larger with time to accommodate, we imagined, more villagers.


The Top Loop also took in a vista of the Navajo Canyon

and a view of Square Tower House, one of the Cliff Dwellings, where we saw an archeologist at work.



We were told that archeologists can only access the area using the hand and foot holds that the Ancestral Pueblans carved into the cliff face!

We also enjoyed distant views of the Cliff Palace and Balcony House,






There was also a Sun Temple on the Loop, but that was closed to visitors.

The Top Loop is 6 miles long, so is very manageable in an afternoon. There is plenty of information on the history of the area and we felt that we got a real feel for how the Ancestral Pueblans would have lived.  I highly recommend a visit as it is such an fascinating place. I would love to enter the Cliff Dwellings next time. 🙂

I will stop now as these travel posts are rather lengthy. Next stop is Williams, Arizona and a visit to the Grand Canyon 🙂

These last weeks back home…


I am half way through writing my next travel post, but as I was browsing through my photos today, I felt I wanted to write about our last couple of weeks at home instead.

The first week or so after getting back was very low key. Jet lag and general transitioning back to life at home kept us close to home. We slowly unpacked, did homely activities, played and took our time to land gently back into our life.

The garden was looking very wild after five weeks without attention, plus a lot of rain with sunny intervals (!)  Many of our vegetable plants had gone to seed, like this giant sunflower,


or just shrivelled up, but despite the neglect, we still have quite a bit of fruit and veg to enjoy, including the yummy purple, yellow and green beans that my daughters like to pick and eat straight off the plant.

We have apples on a couple of our espalier trees for the first time which is lovely

and there are some tomatoes in the greenhouse (with more to come).

The courgettes are doing well, the beetroots are huge (!)  and there is plenty of chard for us and the hens 🙂 so we are feeling grateful.

Our flower/herb bed is wild but beautiful and we have been bringing flowers into the house regularly to enjoy.


One of our neighbours puts her windfall apples out on the street everyday, so we have been helping ourselves to those and using them to make apple sauce. I followed Brandy’s advice to just cut the apples in half or into big pieces (no peeling and coring as I usually do), place them in a big pot with some water, let them soften and then use a food mill (that I rediscovered in our garage – I bought it in a flea market years ago to make jam and totally forgot about it!) to remove the pips, peel etc. It worked a treat (thanks Brandy!). I added cinammon as we like it that way.


I froze the bulk of it and left some in the fridge for the children to snack on.  Just when I thought I was on top of all the apples, my husband came back with a huge trug of apples for me!


 what to do with them….apple cake, apple chutney, fruit leathers, more dried apple….hmmn..let’s see….:-)

We have also been trying out our new exciting dehydrator!  I have wanted one for years and thanks to a kind gift, we could finally treat ourselves to one. Hurrah!


The girls were so excited to try dehydrated fruits and were very helpful in preparing them. We had a little production line going for the apples 🙂


The fruit is going down really well as you can see! We are on our second batch 🙂 Bananas and pineapples are particularly decadent.

I have also had a go at drying herbs in the dehydrator on a very low temperature, but I do think hanging them up is easy enough and pretty and fragrant to boot  🙂


My husband dried courgette slices with a bit of chilli too. They were delicious, but took a loooong time. We are still experimenting and enjoying exploring the possibilities. 🙂

The girls have had fun rediscovering their toys and played happily for hours. I think they are  glad to be back home. Here they are in a game of Pippi Longstocking 🙂

My husband worked in our garden for a few days when we got back to ease himself back to work. It was lovely to still have him around. He laid a patio under the new pergola.

We decided to add a few little sections of colour using these glass nuggets,  My husband raised the area with a mortar base. When that was dry he laid the nuggets on tile adhesive and filled it all in with grey grout the next day.  They will blend in better with time, but they already look so pretty and it adds a lovely element of colour and texture to the area. We are planning to do something similar with the risers of the steps leading up the garden when we get a chance, this time involving the children more.

He also laid some astroturf in the children’s play area.


We had bark chip down, but the neighbourhood cats were using the area as a toilet and it was putting the children off, not to mention their shoes coming into the house covered in not so fragrant poo! 😦 So we bought a green ‘carpet’ for that area instead. Personally I wouldn’t use astroturf for a lawn, but for this area it is perfect. The girls are really enjoying using the area now.


Here is my youngest giving her toys some fresh air 🙂


By our second weekend, we felt ready to venture out. We spent a nice afternoon just the four of us at a favourite local National Trust place, playing pooh sticks,

running around and following a trail that also involved a bit of dressing up 🙂

That evening, there just happened to be a free firework display and fun fair a short walk from where we live, so we thought we would go along and have a look.

My eldest daughter is getting more adventurous with age and has never got dizzy (as a little one, she used to spin around looking at books or singing to herself for long swathes of time!) so she was very game to try a few rides. My youngest found it rather busy and noisy, but after watching her sister and daddy on the rides, she decided to be brave and have a go and she really loved it.

The firework display was too loud for her, so while my eldest and Daddy went forward to have a look, we had to move as far back as possible. She is very sensitive to outside impressions and noises (like her sister is in other ways).


As we walked back home, we marvelled at the almost full moon reflecting on the water. A surprisingly fun spontaneous evening was had 🙂

We saw a few friends in the last couple of days before school began, including going on a blackberry picking trip. The original plan was to find elderberries, but the trees had been stripped bare already 😦 and besides the children were much more interested in the ripe and ready fruit on offer, eating it straight from the bush.:-)

We did manage to take a little punnetful home with some encouragement (!) We returned home with cuts on our hands and legs (from the brambles), purple stained lips and fingers and a healthy glow.  It was lovely to be out in nature with friends, enjoying nature’s gifts.

Going back to school was rather tricky as we hadn’t managed to wake up at 7am before then. I had tried to wake us up a little earlier every day, but 7am seemed too much of a shock to the system. I didn’t manage to take a first day back photo (as is our tradition) as we were rather late. Ho hum….

I am sure we will get in the rhythm again. It is difficult to let the longer, easy, more leisurely days of summertime go…..

On Friday we attended a party for one of my youngest daughter’s classmates. It was really enjoyable and they played some unusual games, including devising a box/invention to house an egg, so that it wouldn’t break when thrown from a considerable height! The children had such fun doing it and were really engaged. Amazingly only a few eggs broke. My eldest daughter didn’t go to the party, but wanted to have a go inventing something similar. She dug a few things out of our recycling and succeeded in making a cardboard contraption that protected the egg from breaking. Great Fun!

 Soon after she decided to make a shower for her mouse 🙂


We had a rather busy weekend for us. On Saturday we went to a local festival with friends (I left my camera at home). It was forest based, with arts and crafts, storytelling and various other activities. Unfortunately we got there rather late and it started raining, so we spent most of the time in the craft tent, making flower crowns and decorating little wooden figures with foam clay which was a nice idea and produced a good effect.


On Sunday we hosted a party for friends who are going to travel the world for a year with their eight year old daughter and who have recently married. They have given up their home to be rented, so we offered to have a celebration and goodbye party at ours, inviting other friends from our craft group (which has evolved over time) and their families. It was a lovely gathering – really warm and supportive.

My daughters helped with the party preparations including putting these pretty fruit skewers together.

My husband was keen to do a bbq, despite the British weather (ie rain!) It’s only our second bbq this summer….

Everyone brought a dish and something for the BBQ or to drink and we had a lovely spread.DSC01521

The children had a fine time – there were nine in total ranging from 7 to 13 years – all sweet children – and they all seemed to get on well. They enjoyed playing outside, having adventures and lots of hide and seek went on too.

There was dressing up in the evening, music making and a very harmonious atmosphere.

After a couple of s’mores each (we had to toast the marshmallows in the oven due to the rain outside, but it worked just fine), the children (and adults!) had chocolate smeared faces and were slightly high on sugar! (it is rare moment in our family – I think my youngest was almost drunk on the stuff!)

They wound down with some quiet time with Daddy at the end of the evening on the sofa.


So that’s the round up of our weeks. It’s been full and lovely to be back.

On the Road in the U.S. – Colorado Part 1


I am finally getting round to writing about our travels. It will no doubt be a several-part affair as our weeks were full and there are tales to tell 🙂  Yes, it’s going to take me a little while, but I am really looking forward to revisiting our trip now we are back home in the UK.

For the most part, we really enjoyed the trip, but there were certainly challenges with changing accommodation every three days (I would recommend a minimum of 4 days per location if possible) and the long (4-6 hour) drives. We invested in a dual in-car DVD player  before our trip, which took the edge off the long journeys for the children. They enjoyed watching a couple of DVD’s from our own selection on each journey and it helped pass the time. Our children rarely watch films, so they were rather pleased with this arrangement 😉 We could think of no better alternative, so we set the car up accordingly and they were happier for it. As there were no car seats, we bought a couple of cheap cushions from Walmart for the girls to sit on and they had their blankets (and cuddly toys) to cuddle up with in the back.

By the end of the five week trip, I do think they might have been tired of watching the same DVD’s again….yet another repeat episode of the Waltons, Bewitched, Pollyanna, Calamity Jane, High Society, Winnie the Pooh…!

As an incentive for the girls to stay positive on the long journeys (ie no bickering, complaining etc) – and because we wanted to reward them for their patience – we gave them a $1 each per successful long journey. By the end of the trip, they had managed to earn a nice couple treats, which they appreciated 🙂

The car journeys were the only time my husband and I really got to talk freely, without the children listening in or interrupting (we all went to sleep at the same time, which was always rather late and slept in separate rooms, each alternating sleeping with one of our two daughters as they were having fears and it was all so unfamiliar to them). I really appreciated the long drives for this opportunity to talk with my husband, discuss life and share our thoughts and dreams and of course for the time to knit and to stare with wonder at the endless yet varied scenery.  I do love to drive in the States – the distances, the expanses of land, the differing scenery- it is all so awe-inspiring (for this girl from a small island!).

We hired a very comfortable car to help make the journeying easy and it was a good base in-between accommodation 🙂


Anyway back to the beginning….

The flight went really well  – after my eldest daughter’s months of anxiety about the flight, it was a real relief to actually be on the flight! We upgraded to Premium Economy to make it a more comfortable experience and it was well worth the extra money. We had really good service, spacious leg room, room to move around and a better rapport with the flight attendants. Both my daughters delighted in discovering the ‘goodie’ bag on their seat before the flight (ear plugs, sleep mask, headphones, small cushion, blanket, toothbrush, toothpaste…) 


For the flight, I packed a couple of soft fleecy blankets that my daughters use for camping, so they had something cosy and familiar to snuggle into. I also packed each of them a drawstring bag of ‘tricks’.


These included their favorite snacks, writing materials, stationery, activity books, a few small toys and some soft cuddly socks. 

They were delighted to discover these new treats. I would definitely recommend packing something similar for long haul flights to keep your children entertained. 

It took us almost a week to fully acclimatize to being in the US: to the different foods (it was incredibly tricky to find good vegetarian options that the children would eat  –  they are creatures of habit. On travel days we often let them have ice cream, crisps or a muffin for lunch as there was nothing else they would eat!!! Eek!);  the higher prices; the different currency; getting used to tipping; the bigger cars and roads and even the language differences (you say tomato I say tomato….). The jet lag and a change in altitude to over 8,300ft (when we live at sea level!) didn’t help : we were waking and sleeping early for the first week and were often light headed and out of breath and my eldest felt quite nauseated by the change in altitude with daily nosebleeds 😦 , but we still tried to make the most of where we were (since we were only ever anywhere for a maximum of four nights) and the scenery is just so stunning. 

Our first stop was Grand Lake, Colorado, a summer and winter playground.


We stayed in an A-frame house in the midst of a pine forest (booked through VRBO) .


It was situated a short walk from  tranquil Columbine Lake



and was a lovely cosy start to our holiday.

We spent the first couple of days taking in our surroundings, exploring the area a little and enjoyed a daily ritual of a morning coffee and snack at the Blue Water Bakery. For old times sake, we visited Lemmon Lodge, where my youngest was conceived – she’s an American girl :-).

It has a sweet waterfront beach area and jetty, where we spent some time playing, splashing and enjoying the view.

What we were particularly looking forward to on our trip was seeing the different wildlife and even in those first few days, we weren’t disappointed. On our arrival at our holiday home,  we came face to face with two lady moose wandering about our property 🙂

And on our second day, we also spotted a large male moose down our road with huge beautiful velvety antlers (when I didn’t have my camera with me – sob!).

We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the tiny cute chipmunks scampering around the area 

and about the town. 


and coo-ed over the delicate little hummingbirds paying an evening visit to the many feeders hanging up in the town. They are so so tiny, graceful and just so perfect. 🙂


We enjoyed discovering many new beautiful wild flowers including these pretty Columbines 🙂


As I explained in my previous post, we settled into a rhythm of sorts, spending our first day in a new property (and location) finding our feet and staying close to home. On our second day we typically went exploring.


On our second day in Grand Lake, we visited the Rocky Mountain National Park. The entry fee for a car is $20 (valid for seven days). Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side and by the time we reached the top of Trail Ridge Road on the west side, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm! We later realised we should have left earlier in the day, as the thunderstorms tend to be in the afternoon. We did spot an extended family of deer and enjoyed the staggeringly beautiful scenery on our drive up, but as my eldest is petrified of thunderstorms, we did not do any exploring.


Yes it was pretty cold up there!! The road is only open from May-October.


here my youngest is comforting my eldest during the storm – it made her smile! 

We took shelter in the Alpine Visitor Centre and were delighted to spot a solitary marmot at 11,796 ft.


When we drove down again, the weather had improved, so we went for a short walk along a trail. 

and took these photos.

We visited the Rocky Mountain National Park with my eldest in 2008 and took a very sweet photo of her with a Michaelmas daisy when she was just a year and a half old – it is such a precious innocent photo. We tried to recreate it – the daisy looks so much smaller with our now ten year old! Her sister also wanted a photo of her own 🙂

We noticed a lot of the pine trees were stripped bare and looked a very sorry sight. We were informed that pine beetle was doing all the damage and there was an aerial spraying campaign to eradicate the beetle and protect the trees. We found the same problem across the country. Those beautiful trees looked such a sorry sight 😦

Back on the road…..


Our next stop was staying with my friend Katharine and her two teenage children  in Carbondale, Colorado. We have visited twice before and really love the liberal vibe of the town. Everything is easily accessible and it is a very friendly place. The main street has plenty of cafe’s, thrift shops, a couple of small brewery pubs and the whole area is very bikeable.
On our first dayy there, we spent quite a bit of time ducking in and out of cafe’s, playing cards, as our friend was working from home and it was thundering outside again. 😦


here we are playing one of our current favourite card games Sleeping Queens

On Saturday we went for a hike with our friends up the Avalanche Creek Trail which we all really enjoyed. We had to ford a river on our way there (thank goodness for our sturdy car) and hop across another on our hike (my youngest got very wet feet!). 

We discovered a wild raspberry patch much to everyone’s delight.

and enjoyed spotting the native flowers, including wild rudbeckia (a very popular garden plant back in the UK).


Just because…. 🙂

At the end of our hike we had a very refreshing (icy!) dip in the mountain stream.

The views and the scenery were breathtaking and it was so great to get moving physically after feeling so out of breath for a while.

We also visited a yoga/wellness centre near town with my friend Katharine

where we walked a great reflexology path and a meditative maze.

I must say it was so good to spend those four days with friends and to fully acclimatize to being away in a cosy home environment. Our friend Katharine also gave us a big cool box to use for our journeying, which was such a great gift (we had planned to buy one anyway). It meant we could transport things from one property to another without spoiling.

I will stop writing now as I feel this post is long enough today! Next stop Dolores, Colorado where we visited the fascinating Mesa Verde National Park. 🙂