Nathan Hale & The Week

The Saturday before last we went for a historical talk and walk at the Nathan Hale Homestead, we live right by the homestead in Coventry and it’s where they hold the Farmers Market each Sunday so we thought we’d check it out. The Nathan Hale Homestead is where the Connecticut state hero’s family had a big farm house and grew up and there’s the Nathan Hale State Forest on site.

Now I didn’t know much about Nathan Hale apart from that he was a spy for the revolution and he was captured by the British and hung. Turns out that’s not exactly true… our guide told us on his first ‘spy trip’ to New York his ‘disguise’ was that he told people he was Dutch (despite not knowing any Dutch when pressed… not very smart for a place originally called New Amsterdam) and that he went into a tavern, bumped into the head of British intelligence there who suspected something wasn’t quite right, he then bought Nathan drinks for at least 5 hours (yet no alarm bells were ringing?) and tricked Nathan into revealing he was a spy by pretending to be a spy himself (OMG me too!).

He then convinced Nathan to come to where he was staying (which was coincidentally full of English officers – still no alarm bells) because they were throwing a party in his honour. Then Hale preceded to tell all of the officers he was a spy whilst circulating round the party, our guide said the records say the English officers thought it was a shame they had to hang him the next day because he was so nice. And then the building was surrounded and they ‘captured’ him and hung him the next day. Sad yes… but what an idiot (despite going to Yale) and he never even passed one bit of information to the revolution. Why on earth he’s the state hero I have no idea. Someone on the tour asked before this story if Nathan Hale was a good spy and the guide looked awkward and said “errrrrrr….” so there you have it, the story of the state hero. It was a great tour though.

Later in the week we went to the Big E which I had to put in a separate post because I had so many photos. Then last Friday we went to see Swan Lake at the Bushnell in Hartford which was very good, there were lots of people leaping about with feathers etc.

So that was good, then we spent the weekend doing ‘yard work’, mooching about the garden center buying wheelbarrows and other boring things like that. I raked so many leaves up although I don’t know why I bothered because they’re all already back.

We tested out the heating too because it’s starting to get a little more chilly, luckily Kim’s mum bought us matching fleece PJs last Christmas so we were all set. In other exciting Christmas related news Santa has agreed to buy me a fish this year, only I said I didn’t want to clean the fish so Santa said that Santa would also clean the fish. Huzzah!

We just finished up a bit more gardening and Kim succeeded in locking us out of the house so I had to jimmy open a window with the garden spade (our windows need replacing anyway…) so I’ve also ordered a keysafe online… domestic bliss.

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The Big E

This week we visited the Big E, the New England fair held in Massachusetts each year.

It was HUGE, we did 15,000 steps walking around the grounds in the afternoon. It was really different to English fairs I’ve been to, in England they usually have farm animals to show but not more exotic animals .

Definitely no Elephant rides in England! We didn’t go for a ride, we felt a bit sorry for the Elephants. Animal welfare is quite different in the USA, circuses are still allowed to have animals and you can just walk into pet shops and they sell dogs and cats there which would be illegal in the UK. The elephants looked well cared for but I guess you just never know.

Each of the New England states had a building you could walk through that was themed to that state. We got a late lunch at the Maine building who are famed for their baked potatoes (all my colleagues mentioned them to me before I went) and they were very nice except the horrible American cheese.

I wasn’t so impressed with the Connecticut state building compared to the others (Vermont and New Hampshire were best I thought) but apparently they’re famous for the Pez factory.

And tobacco which I half knew because my Uncle Jim said he used to pick tobacco in the summer as a teenager when he and my mum lived in Enfield in CT as children but I didn’t know it was still a big grower of tobacco.

I did enjoy the taffy stretching machine, I don’t really like taffy all that much, it tastes like penny chews in England that have been left out in the sun but I was hypnotised by the machine.

Everyone was in a good mood and every now and then we saw a marching band walking round, it was 33 degree celcius so I was absolutely sweltering but these poor guys in full uniform must have been suffering.

A few things I saw at the fair I thought were pretty funny, like the turducken… which is a turkey stuffed in a duck stuffed in a chicken which… just sounds wrong to me haha.

Kimmy wanted to go on the ferris wheel, there were a lot of rides there and you had to get tokens to get on them.

There was a big farm theme at the fair and lots of “the biggest” contests like these massive pumpkins.

There was a ton of farm animals, some you could pet and some you weren’t supposed to, quite a few of them came up to us for a little pat.

I just fell in love with these piglets, I adore pigs I just think they’re so gorgeous.

They had a station where you could watch baby chicks hatching from their eggs in an incubator.

And a place for all the chicks that had already hatched.

Americans decorate their houses for each season and we picked up some cool indian corn to hang on our porch, it’s hard and dry not like regular corn so hopefully it’ll last quite a while in the outside elements.

We found a sheep that looked like Elvis.

We watched some of the sheep show because it was in a cool barn with lots of fans which was so nice in the hot weather, I did not know that sheep were so badly behaved – the people showing them had to practically wrestle the sheep.

There was a huge butter statue.

There was fried everything at the fair and Kim and I tried fried Oreos, I thought they’d be a bit dodgy but they were actually very nice… and um… slimming. Very slimming.

Another little parade they had doing laps of the fair ground were the Shriners which I didn’t really know anything about but apparently it’s a bit like the Freemasons.

And they all wore glittery sequined fez hats.

We also saw some massive Clydesdale horses, they were immensely huge.

Kim saw her enemies.  The queen bee is the one with the yellow dot on her.

There was a ton of stalls to buy different things at, one that I found pretty weird was a stall selling casts of peoples hands and people were buying them too – what on earth would you do with a cast of your own hand? It was bizarre.

There were also stalls that were kind of reminiscent of old fashioned ‘freak shows’ only they were with animals. Like see the world’s tiniest horse for a dollar. The funny thing was that they all said ‘ALIVE’ across them… yeeeaaah I presumed that people wouldn’t be paying a dollar to see a dead horse. Very odd.

Kim and I shared a hot dog for dinner (couldn’t manage a whole one after all of the fair food!).

They had a misting station I walked through about a billion times because it was so hot there.

Another rarity at the fair you wouldn’t see in England was a bear sanctuary that was raising money for the sanctuary by having people pay to go and see bears that they’d brought along to the fair! Which I guess is good but I can’t imagine the bears enjoyed waiting round at the fair all day.

Before we left we waited for one more parade round the fair which was the mardi gras parade, they had all these trucks with music and brass bands and everyone was throwing beads out to people watching.

And when I say throwing, I mean throwing, we had to dodge incoming beads! We got tons which Mr Barclay is modelling.

And that was the Big E, really fun.

Mrs Bridges And Mr Bar

We started last weekend with a trip to Mrs Bridges Tea Rooms for a bit of afternoon tea.

Sadly Mrs Bridges had run out of all the English stock in their shop, someone had come and cleared them out and they were awaiting a delivery – it was probably for the best as I discovered the English aisle in the Stop & Shop and there is only so much Marmite one can buy.

And the next week started off nicely, I’m settling in well at my new job and Kim went back to work after her vacation time, until Mr Barclay cat came into the house after having what we presume was a fight with another cat.

So I cleaned him off but there was a swelling underneath his ear – we assumed a hematoma so we kept an eye on it only Barclay had other ideas and kept scratching his ear and grooming all the antiseptic ointment off of it, poor old boy. So we kept an eye on him. I made a nice apple crumble this week and also a pumpkin pie using some baking kits we got. I’m glad we had the kits because apparently making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin is pretty time consuming (not pictured is the bit of pie I ruined by putting my oven glove in it accidentally!).

Bar’s wound wasn’t really healing very well as he kept scratching it and it was very weepy so we took him to the vets for what was meant to be a drop off appointment only Barcle didn’t behave very well so I had to drive back in early to attend his appointment so he’d let them shave around the area and give him a good clean and some antibiotics. As soon as I got there he switched from demon cat to little angel cat and the vet couldn’t believe it. The vet thinks he has a little abscess from his scrap.

So now he has a little baldy spot but hopefully he won’t have to go back to have the abscess drained.

Pumpkin anyone? pum…kin? Huh.

Renaissance Faire & Hartford Pride

The weekend before last we got tickets for the Renaissance Faire in Lebanon on Groupon.

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There were birds of prey and different animals about.

They also had jousting but the weather that day was terrible so they had to stop early because it was too wet for the horses.

I don’t know what I was expecting but the Americans went hard on the theming, Kim and I didn’t dress up and we were in the minority. Everyone kept putting on dodgy English accents too but no one could pronounce the place names they were supposedly from. I distinctly heard someone pronounce Norwich as ‘nor-wich’.

Kim got a ticket from the Sheriff.

And we went to a witch burning, but in the end the wet weather won out and we gave up.

The next day was Labor Day and Kim was working but I decided to do a little labour of my own and got round to some weeding in the garden.

I guess it would have looked more impressive with a before and after shot… never mind.

In other news, we saw some more wildlife this week. A lovely looking raccoon in our neighbours garden out in the day. Kim said this meant it had rabies but I googled it and that’s just an old wives tale. We also got brought a thoughtful gift from Barclay cat in the form of a northern short tailed shrew on our porch. I’ve never seen a shrew before but it was OK, just a bit shell shocked so I picked it up with some gardening gloves (apparently they’re venomous?) and put it in a box to have a rest before I let it out again in the forest by our house.

We bought a new bench to go in our upstairs bedroom which Bunny the cat has adopted as her own.

This weekend we went to Stop & Shop, a different grocery store and we discovered the British Aisle (as opposed to the British Isle?). Finally I can get marmite, squash, lemon curd etc.

They also sell candles with the pope on them, so… there’s that.

And slanderous magazines. I remember Kim had a magazine once that said it contained the Duchess of York’s baby scan photos… as if?! I honestly don’t know how they get away with the silly things they say unless it’s just that royal family doesn’t care and ignores them.

We got a lot of autumnal themed things and Kim planted the chrysanthemums.

This weekend we went to Pride in Hartford. It wasn’t a march but more of an event and they had stalls you could look round and a ton of free pens and stickers and tote bags etc. There was a stage with different acts, I wasn’t sold on the acts so I chose this view behind the massive red afro.

It was OK but I prefer a march I think.

Afterwards we went to Bushnell Park for a little walk.

Sunday we went to IKEA and spent about $2,000 on a ton of furniture for the house but on the plus side now Barclay can sit at the new table with us.

Shopping In America

Today is Labor Day in the good old US of A and Kimmy is at work so I thought I’d tell you about a subject I’ve been thinking about writing about since I got here and saw this on my first trip to the grocery store: a cup holder. A cup holder on the shopping trolley cart… is this necessary in life? I’ve since perused many a grocery store here and know that no, it is not necessary but why let that stop us? Now the important thing to remember is that you must never say ‘supermarket’ because there is nothing super about it, the grocery stores here are TINY compared to the ones I’m used to in the UK (I thought everything here was supposed to be bigger!). And the off licences (or package stores as they say in Connecticut) are thriving because the alcohol section in the grocery stores is extremely limited. Basically all the grocery stores are akin to shopping in a Tesco Metro.

There are Aldi stores still and they’re pretty similar to the ones in the UK but that’s the only brand I’ve found that’s the same. Our local shop (which we don’t usually do a big shop at) is called Highland Park Market and it’s a family owned small grocery chain (another thing you don’t see often in the UK). It’s a little more expensive but it’s quite sweet because after they pack your bags the staff insist on carrying your shopping out to your car. When I say ‘insist’, I mean insist – I tried to tell the guy last time that I could manage myself and he said “Oh no ma’am, we have to” and he even put my shopping trolley cart away afterwards, all whilst wearing a twee little old fashioned apron. So it isn’t all bad, just different. Also I now get to enjoy bizarre branding such as the seafood company ‘chicken of the sea’ (they sell no chicken). No one else finds this hilarious but me.

Fruit and vegetables are a lot cheaper however none of it ever has expiration dates on it so you have to eat it almost immediately because who knows if it’ll go off or not? I really miss expiration dates from the UK. Other things are more expensive, usually completely strange things like washing up sponges. I had to pay almost $3 for a pack of 3 washing up sponges to do the dishes with the other day, they’re about 17 pence in Asda! Why are sponges so expensive of all things? Some things like cereal there is way too much to choose from, whole aisles full of cereal yet only one type of sellotape and it isn’t sellotape it’s some shitty scotch tape that’s minute yet still inexplicably costs more than 6 rolls of sellotape does in the UK. Another thing is that Americans are curiously misinformed about things that are ‘English’, take this cheese for instance. My mother in law asked if I would pick her up some ‘old English cheddar’ from the store… since when is English cheddar cheese spreadable and in a jar??? There is something unnatural about this… I had to call Kim to make sure that this was definitely what her mom wanted because it does not look appetising.

In fact the cheese selection is completely different, I still have yet to find any Stilton sadly however I suppose this does allow to try new brands (so continues my obsession with Amish people). There is no Marmite or squash (the drink) either.

I have discovered some secrets whilst shopping though – you know these cups that people have for parties? In almost all American movies and tv shows where there is a party Americans always have red cups, always red. Why is this? Because I found out that they sell them in other colours! As I took this photo a frat boy came up and selected some red cups… it’s a conspiracy.

There’s other differences too like with the packaging, it’s more likely to contain helpful recipe suggestions than in England which is nice. The packaging often has advice on it too… I assume for idiots. This is from a packet of raw chicken breasts.

This warning came in the nick of time as I almost cooked my garlic bread in the plastic bag… phew. I like how they highlighted it in red… twice, just to be sure. Bless them. I enjoy pointing these things out to Kim but she doesn’t really think it’s funny, she just thinks I’m weird.

Other things that I’m not used to is tobacco adverts on signs like outside gas stations and they still have all the packs on display. It hasn’t been legal to advertise tobacco in the UK for my entire lifetime so that’s a little bit strange.

Also seeing guns on display to buy in a sports shop… a bit strange. They seem so lax with them, none of them were locked away, no one was even at this desk I could have just gone and picked one up off the shelf! Scary stuff.

Shopping in clothes stores etc is mostly the same except the sizes are slightly different and all the shop assistants look happy. I find this a little unnerving. They like to harrass you as soon as you step foot in the shop (Hey how are you, what are we looking for today?) but in fairness they do that a lot in the UK now too. Also getting money ready at the cash desk is impossible because all the prices displayed are displayed without tax added on so instead of being politely prepared to pay I have to faff about because all the money is bloody identical. A couple of times when change is required I just shove a fistful at the cashier for them to pick out and explain that I’m not used to their coins yet but no one seems to mind so far… or if they do they’re too busy pretending to be cheery to say. This sign confused me the other day when I went shopping for new work clothes and was trying to locate the ladies section. I saw the sign saying ‘chaps’ and just assumed they were trying to be trendy and that was the mens section, off I popped only to find another sign saying ‘chaps’ with women on it… what is this madness?!?

Anyways, that’s been my shopping adventures so far, sorry for boring you all!

 

 

Martha’s Vineyard Part 2

The next day we woke up for some breakfast and they had some tasty quiche, muffins, and fruit etc.

Then we went for a bus tour of the island, and a while after we set off we were passed by a limousine and several black SUVs on a small country road because President OBAMA was in them and was holidaying on the island. Excitingggggg. (Not photographed, President Obama… sob)

So that was cool, then we drove out to see the Gay Head Lighthouse, it almost got destroyed by erosion but it was picked up and moved back from the coast to save it.

There were some beautiful cliffs we could look out over.

We stayed this side of the beach because the other side was a nudist beach – even though it was Kim’s birthday she didn’t want to wear just her birthday suit.

Our bus tour guide was an extra in Jaws and we passed the ‘jaws bridge’ where kids like to jump off.

We stopped for a quick lunch.

And then we went to the oldest carousel in the USA.

As you go round you can collect rings from a little dispenser machine, if you collect the brass ring you get a free go (hence the phrase to ‘grab the brass ring’).

After the carousel we went to look round the original ‘gingerbread houses’ that started off as a Methodist summer camp and progressed from tents to cottages.

They all had different colour themes and names. There was also a tiny cottage museum we looked round for $2.

There were lots of artefacts from the original Methodist camps that were nice to look round.

Also we tipped over the scales for out gaying ourselves when we got chatting to a nice elderly lesbian couple in the gift shop who wore rainbow neckerchiefs (I swear) and Kim started exchanging cat photographs with them on her phone. This really happened. There was actually a very large portion of gay holiday makers there and a lot of English people, a lot of resist trump signs everywhere in shops and on car bumpers; I feel like I fulfilled my holiday stereotype by picking Martha’s Vineyard but I really didn’t know it was so popular with my people.

We spent quite a while looking at all the houses, it was like we had permission to be nosy although I think the people who owned the houses must not have minded it because they were all sat out on their porches. Some of them had clearly put things out on their porches to attract tourists like this cute little dove who had a sign next to her.

And activities for kids (or childish adults like myself and yes I did manage to find all 26 thank you very much).

Who knew that Methodists were such skilled craftsmen?

After that we walked back to the hotel for a change of clothes.

And stopped off for Mexican food.

A squashed penny to add to my collection (vital to my travels).

And then, THEN, the most exciting part of the whole trip other than seeing Obama (Kim vehemently disagrees), we saw not one but two real live skunks. And no they were not stinky, they only smell if they’re threatened or they get run over. I thought they’d be bigger but they were happily snouting about. Our bus tour guide said the island was over run with them since hippies brought them here as pets and they have no predators on the island. They were just so cute, Kim didn’t agree and screamed, when I went to take a photo she assured me that if I got sprayed I’d be sleeping outside. Hater.

So that was our lovely trip, I would really recommend a visit if you get the chance there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about Martha’s Vineyard. Back on the ferry we got.

And then it was time for my latest entry to the birthday cake construction contest, this year was tough because America just doesn’t seem to sell cake in packets. There is no Mr Kipling, no cherry madeira (my go-to crafting cake) so I had to buy cakes from the freshly baked section which is all very well but they lack the uniform shape of factory produced cakes for construction.

Kim requested a castle.

Martha’s Vineyard Part 1

Last weekend we took a trip through Rhode Island and Massachusetts to get to Martha’s Vineyard for Kimmy’s 27th birthday.

We had to park up and get a shuttle.

The shuttle took us to the ferry which took us over to Martha’s Vineyard. The ferry is the main way on and off the island and the only way to take a car on or off the island although you can fly. We made a buddy on the shuttle called Jaime and she was late to meet up with her friends for a hen party, we were all sailing to Vineyard Haven but we needed to get to Oak Bluffs so we shared an Uber. None of us had used Uber before but it was very cheap, very fast and we got delivered safely to Oak Bluffs by our friendly driver Slobodan.

We stayed at a hotel in Oak Bluffs called the Pequot and there was a mermaid theme there which was fun.

All the buildings in Martha’s Vineyard look very pretty and follow a ‘gingerbread cottage’ theme and the hotel was no different.

Luckily we were able to check in early which was handy so we could dump our things in our room which was very cutesy.

The staff at the hotel were very friendly, after we’d dropped our bags upstairs we had homemade lemonade and cookies on the porch in rocking chairs.

Opposite the hotel was my dream house if I was still a child, all in purple.

So after all that the hotel offered to lend us deck chairs, beach towels and an umbrella and we went 3 minutes down the road to Inkwell Beach. It was great weather and we had a good swim.

I like to shell hunt on the beach and I found part of a quahog shell which was used to make wampum. Wampum was used by the Indians as money.

I added to my weird foot tan that I’ve been cultivating this year from my sandals.

After the beach we went back to the hotel to change and then our hotel had a porch party with live music, wine and cheese. Then we were back out again for a little walk around the park.

There was a beautiful dock we found on our walk.

Then we went to a restaurant called 20byNine that serves food that is like tapas but gastropub dishes.

We had some artisanal ‘deconstructed’ smores (who thinks of these things?).

And then we had a beautiful walk back to the hotel through the houses in Oak Bluffs.

It wasn’t too late so we got to partake in my favourite tv channel – the home shopping network. Yes. Really.