Roadtrip ’16: Chincoteague

After our stint in Charleston, we had a long but beautiful drive up to Chincoteague, VA. Our reason for visiting was because we had recently listened to Misty of Chincoteague on audio and loved the story, and seeing that it was sort of on our way home, thought it would be cool to stop and see the area. We stayed only one night — I wish it could have been longer! — but managed to see some of the things we learned about in the book: some memorabilia of the real Misty at the local museum, and we took a trip over to Assateague Island where the ponies roam wild. We even saw a licence plate of the Chincoteague Fire Department, who own the wild ponies and hold a Pony Penning day once a year near the end of July.

We had a lovely lunch at a little taco stand, and then followed that with ice cream at the Island Creamery, which apparently has the best ice cream in all of the US! It was very good, but we’ll have to go on an ice cream tasting mission around the US to verify whether this is true. Does anyone know how we could do this as a family and get paid for it?

On our drive inland we drove past the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, where we stopped to have a quick look at their visitor’s center. We had the treat to see two fighter planes take off right next to the road where we were standing. They were super loud! I think the Wallops Flight Facility is the second largest NASA rocket launch site (The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral being the largest).

Then it was on to our last stop of the trip: Six Flags. Next time. :-)

Roadtrip ’16: Charleston, SC

It was with heavy hearts that we said our goodbyes after the Hoyt reunion, but it was time to start making our way home. Because Ben was in between jobs at that point, he could take off some extra time and we decided to take the trip back up a little more slowly to stop at a few places we were interested in.

Our first stop was in Charleston, SC, and it so happened that we were there over the 4th of July, which was pretty neat. We stayed downtown in the historic district and shamelessly did touristy things like perusing the craft markets and taking a horse carriage tour. The tour was very interesting and was mainly about the different buildings and architecture around town. I loved the planter boxes all over and got to take lots of photos of pretty houses. Charleston has a real charm about it (at least the parts we saw), and I just wish we could have stayed longer and seen more.

In the afternoon, Marica and I went for a walk through the market and had a quick coffee stop — it was nice to have a little one-on-one time as well as getting to peruse the crafts without a bored crowd trailing us!

For the evening on 4th of July, had a nice dinner of (supposedly) southern food–I had chicken and waffles–and then we walked down to where we could view the fireworks. We were pretty early, so we walked around a bit and took the kids to the playground. I looked up and saw some ominous-looking clouds and was kind of pushing to go back to the motel, but Ben was pretty positive it would pass over. Well, it did pass over leaving us rather wet, but was gone in time for fireworks! (I always forget how long that wait is for it to get dark enough for the fireworks to start… always feels like an eternity!) There weren’t any fireworks really close, but we could enjoy several shows in the distance across the harbor. I will not share my attempts at taking firework photos for your benefit, but there are some photos of us all hot and sticky and tired during the fireworks.

Charleston is so rich in history, I wish we could have stayed longer and done some historic tours like visiting Fort Sumter and a plantation or something. Maybe next time…

Roadtrip ’16: Hoyt Reunion

After our great camping experience, we drove down to Columbia, SC, to spend the night and visit Ben’s parents’ old church where we got to meet people who knew them 40 years ago, which was pretty neat. Apparently Dad was a bit of a rebel back then, growing long hair. I’d love to see a photo of that! We drove past their old house, which was brand new when they bought it and looks a little bit different now.


After church and a lovely lunch put on by some of the church folks for Mum and Dad, we drove west to Georgia for the long-awaited Hoyt reunion.

People came and went as they could; we were thankful we could be there a full week. Somewhere in the middle of the week we had around 70 people there! What a wonderful time visiting, talking, playing, eating Aunt Nora’s great food, swimming, dancing, and just generally loving being together. Pretty much everyone I talked to wished we could hang out longer and spend more time together. This reunion we had loads of little kiddies, which can make it tricky to visit in the evenings and which is probably why a bunch of us felt like it was all over too quickly.

Disclaimer: some of the photos on here are pilfered from Bryan, who managed to get shots of some things I didn’t.

During the day we met at Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora’s church hall for activities, meals, games, and more.

We went out for trips to a nature reserve one time, played baseball another day, and went swimming most days.

In the evenings we did a bit of a house-hop for visiting and endless games of Mafia. We also had people over to our cabin one night for a bonfire and s’mores, which was one of the highlights of the week for me, but somehow I didn’t get any photos of that.

We had the traditional evening of folk dancing, which is always riotous fun, twirling and hoping like crazy you remember the right steps and don’t break someone’s toes or something.

We got to do some swing dancing on the Friday night, which was great — another highlight for me.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Hoyt reunion without a talent show! We ended up having two of them — one more casual one on the Thursday afternoon and a more formal one at a beautiful church in the evening. So much amazing talent in one family is almost criminal.

It was great to see all the different licence plates from all over the States in the church parking lot. People traveled long distances!

There were a couple of trips to a nice restaurant in town called Grits (which, being the south, sounds like ‘gree-uhts’. Had it been the deep south it would have graduated to ‘guh-ree-uhts’). This was delightfully a kids-free event for me and Ben thanks to some kind cousins and grandma who babysat.

Our next few butterflies hatched while at the reunion. Man, they were pretty.

We were hosted by friends of Uncle Stan and Aunt Nora in a cabin on their beautiful tree-filled property that they use for guests and an office. Dan and Beth were such gracious and kind hosts. Beth has done a fantastic job of decorating in a really neat country-folk-meets-artsy style. That, coupled with the beautiful wood in the cabin, gave the cabin a really nice homey feel.



With our hosts and their grandson on the cabin porch.


So, as wonderful and fun as these events are, there is a huge downside to them… they only happen once every 3 or 4 years. So, as a solution, I propose lots of little mini-reunions in the in between times! Not the same, but it helps with the withdraw symptoms. Come on round!


Roadtrip ’16: Camping in TN

After our visit to Monticello we started the drive down to Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee where we planned on camping for a couple of nights. We started off in the rain and the rain just got heavier and heavier, and there were predictions for a huge storm to pass over where we were going to camp that night. So on the drive down I’m frantically searching for an Airbnb place or something similar and nothing affordable pops up. I’m texting Lillian and she just takes it in her stride and says we’ll be okay, and all I can think is that I don’t want to set up camp in the rain. Well, Lillian won, because when we got to our campsite it was dry and sunny (the storm was on its way, but not there yet) and I got to cook dinner and the tent got all set up, and we even managed to get all the clean up done and kids in bed before the storm broke loose. Moral of the story: always listen to Lillian. :-)

The campsite was beautiful. Lots of big trees and the most beautiful and calm (and warm!) lake, perfect for swimming. Other than it being really muggy when we first arrived, and then the storm that first night, we had near perfect weather too. I wish we could have stayed there longer. We spent our time taking walks, swimming (lots), playing with fire, collecting firewood, roasting marshmallows, and all those wonderful camping things. We also kept an ear out for local accents — quite a treat to our East Coast ears, heh!

(The kids usually swim in their swimsuits, it’s just that on the first morning when they went to check out the lake with Ben, it was so irresistible that they just had to get in!)

Before we left home, we found some black swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in our veggie garden, so being typical homeschoolers, we decided to bring them inside in a jar and study them. Except that when it came time to leave on our roadtip, we weren’t going to just leave them at home, or give them to friends to look after, so we took them along! The first one hatched while we were camping and everyone was fascinated. They are so beautiful!

Roadtrip ’16: Monticello

This year was the happy year where a US Hoyt reunion took place. This time was again in Georgia, so back in June we took a two and a half week long roadtrip down south. It worked out well that Ben happened to be between jobs at that point so he took 3 weeks off, which was so great.

For the trip down to GA, Ben’s parents traveled with us (we had hosted them for a few days before we left) and although we didn’t drive together we joined Jeremy and Lillian on most of the stops. The first of these was at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was a bit of a rainy day, but thankfully the rain had mostly stopped by the time we were done with our house tour.

We took a tour of the house, which was pretty impressive, especially as it was obvious how much thought went into planning it and making it a practical space.

We looked around the grounds and gardens which were beautiful. I especially enjoyed the veggie gardens.

We also joined in on a tour about slavery on the Monticello plantation. Even though Thomas Jefferson opposed slavery, he still owned them which is a difficult thing to wrap your head around.

After a look around the gift shop (I bought a couple of packets of seeds from their veggie gardens to try growing in mine next year), and a nice picnic lunch, we headed down to Tennessee for camping — which I’ll tell you about next time!

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He was tall! I’m even standing on my tippy toes.

MeRF Getaway

Back in June, some folks in our church (MeRF = Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship) headed out to Pennsylvania for a getaway at Kirby House, a beautiful old house that was once used by the Kirby family as their summer home in the mountains.

It was really great to spend some decent time with church folks. Our church is a commuter church so most of our fellowship times happen on Sundays because it is so difficult to get together during the week. So, having a weekend to spend time together was great. I didn’t take many photos, which is a shame because the grounds are gorgeous, but I was spending time with people instead.

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I handed my camera off to someone else to take the real photo — this one was me getting the settings right — but the ‘real’ photo didn’t turn out, so this is the best I’ve got!

We had some good talks led by Pastor Murphy, time for swimming and walks, and just hanging out enjoying each other’s company. We also had a talent evening, which was fun!

Looking forward to the next one!

Laurelin’s 3rd birthday

In all the bustle of the end of the school year and then summer vacation, I’ve neglected to post photos of Laurelin’s 3rd birthday.

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Laurelin is now a full-blown 3-year-old and no push-over, in every sense of the word. She’s feisty, not afraid to push and shove people 2 or 3 times her size (we’re working on that…) and is learning to use her words to say what she means instead of whining or squealing. (On that note, check out her Twitter page, which we’ve started for her like for the other two girls. Some days when I need a laugh I reread their funny sayings on Twitter and that perks me right up!)

The other day at the playground I watched her run next to the merry-go-round, pushing it faster and then swinging herself onto it despite it going quite fast and the platform being about chest height for her. Despite her reckless feistiness, she is very funny, she’s caring, and she can play quietly for extended periods of time making up the most hilarious little stories if you just quietly sit and observe. She gives wonderful cuddles and I’m so thankful she hasn’t lost all her baby squishiness and smell. And yet… she’s turning into a little big girl before my very eyes, and I can’t help feeling just a little bit sad.

During our visit to New Zealand over Christmas, Laurelin was introduced to the wonders of Peppa Pig and has been watching it since then (such a cute show!). So it would be no surprise, then, that she wanted a Peppa Pig themed birthday party — which she got. Well, it was really just a glorified play-date with some decorations and a cake, but if you don’t tell, I won’t!