Friday, July 25, 2014

David Turns 8!

David celebrated his 8th birthday yesterday! The morning began with presents and then breakfast at Bob Evans with Dad.

The rest of the morning was spent playing with his presents. :)

At lunch we headed to Eagle Creek for a hobo picnic lunch. Can you get over the clouds in this photo!!!! Look at the reflections in the puddle. This is summer at her best!

Christina and I have a memory of our mom creating hobo picnics for us when I was about 11 years old. It was actually in celebration of our mom's birthday that we had that original picnic and I think two of my dear childhood friends were with us. I think we might have even had a fire on which to roast hotdogs. All this took place in the foothills of Pennsylvania mountains with a sparkling mountain stream to play in afterward.

Here's the present-day gang with their lunches!

We settled down at the perfect place which will forever be called "Wild Duck Island".

Quite a number of tame, female ducks swim around this place and they immediately knew we had food. However, this provided the best entertainment ever since the kids could play "defend the island from the invading ducks" with no harm done to all.

Just an hour or so of time but these are the memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Here is precious Miss Polly.

And everyone turned their hobo lunch bags into pirate hats!

Should I dare mention that we felt like Swallows and Amazons?

 I told David he could invite four friends for dinner to celebrate. Michael and I practiced having 10 kids. We just waved at each other from either end of the table.

David chose cheesecake for dessert. It was good.

In fact it was really good. Finally a success with a cheesecake! Here is the recipe in case you are interested (I only used 1 1/2 cups sugar and I used GF graham crackers instead of gingersnaps.)

David's birthday begins the four-in-five-months string of birthdays. I should probably start getting organized for the next one!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Scotland: Wray Castle (England)

It's time to get back to my trip reports and this time we head to Wray Castle in the Lake District. Our visit to Hill Top Farm was in pouring rain and the day didn't look like it was going to improve so we decided to head to Wray Castle and spend some time indoors.

Since Lucy at Attic24 had posted just weeks before our trip about Wray Castle being such a great place for children I figured there had to be something to it. It turned out it to be the kids' favorite castle of our entire trip! Andrew loved it so much he made a donation on the way out!

The significance of Wray Castle for me lay in its connection to Beatrix Potter. This was the first place she and her family stayed when they began to come to the Lake District for their summer holidays. Beatrix would ever after have her heart tied to this countryside. You can read more about the history of the Castle here.

Today the castle is empty of all furniture and is a giant playhouse for children. Guests are invited to roam the entire building and they will find various activities in each room.

In the former dining room area there were foam blocks for building:

The entryway was perhaps its most impressive area.

Looking up:

And there was quite a grand staircase!

It was funny to think of four people renting this enormous house to live in for the summer. I suppose the Potter's had some wealth and perhaps they would have entertained friends. They did only take the Castle for one summer due to its cost.

Looking out the window one can see Lake Windermere.

Can you picture Beatrix walking these halls?

I enjoyed being able to go any which way I liked with no signs that said "off limits". I could run around and imagine the house teaming with servants and how each room functioned.

The kids loved all the activities. This was a Peter Rabbit room.

The tile floor in the entry hall:

And there was dress up and sword fighting:

And more windows to look out:

The Castle was only built in 1840, so it is a "fake" castle. But it still has some beautiful elements to it.

Dressing up:

And here are the royals:

Maps in one room. You can see "Hole House" where we were staying just to the left of the center. Wray Castle was about a 20 minute walk through the fields from Hole House.

Here's a picture of the Drawing Room at the time the Potters rented the house.

Here is the drawing room today. The National Trust would like to restore the room to its former glory.

The library has a mural on the wall to suggest what it looked like once. Beatrix painted a picture of this room as it looked when she stayed here.

I couldn't get enough of the entry hall.

And there was a craft room:

And a giant checkers room!

And a room with a beautiful ceiling that housed the gift shop!

And the view to the mountains outside was just gorgeous!!!

Up the drive was the Wray Church and the Wray Castle Gatehouse.

After Wray Castle we decided to head to Bowness on Windermere.

To get there we went back to Far Sawrey and caught the ferry across:

It was quite the tourist town on the other side!

We wandered the streets a bit, but most of the shops were closing since it was 5 p.m.

I never tire of these quaint streets!

Couldn't resist looking in the candy shop!

And we did run into this adorable dog:

And I imagined buying a plaid dress for Laura:

Another thing I can't resist is a red postbox.

You can see that on this side of the lake things are so much more built up and covered with tourists.

We found a cozy pub/restaurant for dinner:

It was an education in itself teaching everyone how eating out works! It just doesn't happen here in the States. Everyone had practice learning to read and choose from a menu and make wise choices.

I chose the traditional fare:

And here is the description:

It was a wonderful day and the children still talk about Wray Castle and the fun they had!! I'm so glad we decided to try it out! Next up will be James Heriot Country.