Monday, 25 August 2014

It's A Special Day - My Littlest Starts School

My little buddy Matilda, who has kept me company at home whilst her big sister has been off at school has finally, at last, started school today and it has seemed ages coming.

She's been excited all summer knowing she was starting Kindergarten and finally at "big" school with her sister, Matilda nearly 6, missed starting school last year by just 29 days, but I am glad of that as she is so ready this year to take it all in and learn.

So today was the big day, the reality finally came true and although very excited, she was also very apprehensive and shy, it's such a big day the first day of school, all grades went back today, lots of parents around bringing school supplies in and seeing their kids off for another exciting school year, had the new kindergartens a bit overwhelmed.

In the last 6 years my little girl has gone from this  

To this, in what seems like a blink of the eye

We had no tears - phew from either of us in the playground anyway, it was a happy moment, we got to school early (which is a miracle in itself) so we could soak up the rather crazy first day atmosphere.

And it didn't seem long before the school bell rang and the kids lined up ready to go - they really did look a little nervous. I could tell Tilly was putting on a brave face.

And off she went into school to start her first day in kindergarten, being the brave little girl I know so well.

I am so going to miss my little cheeky, spirited, funny, gorgeous buddy Tilly being around all day, but I know she is going to have so much fun at school. 

And today Ruby was back at school, entering 2nd grade, she was so excited about being back at school, she is a little social butterfly and couldn't wait to see and be with all of her friends.

And keeping to our first day of school tradition - we ask the girls what they would like to be when they grow up - Ruby choose working in a pet store and Tilly, well, only Tilly could pick being a rock star - world watch this space.

And what am I going to do with all this extra free time I have now woo hoo, dancing around the house woo hoo - we shall see, but first I was back at school as a lunch helper (it was also an excuse to see how my littlest was doing on her first day) today,  I am also on the schools Evening for the Arts committee, new families & social committee, school lunch helper and no doubt I will sign up for room parent too, this will keep me busy to some degree, but my goal would be to find work and maybe go back to school myself.

oh and of course I'll keep myself busy with my sewing and knitting too.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Annual Chaplin Family Road Trip - Day 6

Day 6 - Cades Cove Horse Riding - 17th July

We started the day again much like the day before, breakfasting with gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains and catching up with Grannie & Grandad about their day yesterday.

Today we were taking the girls horse riding and en route up to Cades Cove, we stopped at the Smoky Mountains Visitor Centre to get the paperwork so the girls could complete their Junior Ranger Badges.

The National Park Service run fantastic Junior Ranger Programs to get children of all ages interested in their National Parks and learning how they can protect them now and in the future. It's a great program, where in each of the parks, kids interview Rangers, complete games, and answer questions about the park and the National Park Service. At the end of their experience in the park, they are sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a special certificate and official Junior Ranger badge.

We love this program, Ruby completed her first one last year in the Grand Tetons, so she was very keen to get one for the Smoky Mountains.

They both began completing the booklets on their way to horse riding.

We arrived at Cades Coves riding stables and put our names down for a horse ride, we were all going to ride, even me, who isn't too keen on horses, Grannie was the only one not to ride, she opted for the horse and carriage ride instead, I was very close to joining her on this.

Grannie got called on her carriage ride, long before our horse ride was ready and on her way back we were finally called for our turn (it is a come on first basis)

So we all lined up, the girls eager to mount their horses, me not so, Ruby's horse was called Rose, Tilly had Domino, Mr C had Skye , I had Mindy and Grandad had Kallie.

Once we were all on our horses, we were off for our trail, this was the first horse ride the girls have had on big horses without being lead, they were on their own and loving it.

We all thoroughly enjoyed it, we didn't see any bears or deer, but it was just wonderful meandering through the woods on horseback. The girls said it was the best ride ever.

After the horse ride and a quick bite for lunch, we headed off to do the Cades Cove 11 mile one-way Loop, scattered along the loop are historic eighteenth & nineteenth century buildings such as churches, a working mill, barns, log houses as the first Europeans settled in the cove in 1818.Plus there is beautiful scenery of the Smoky mountains and the chance you may spot a bear or two. We didn't however.

But on our way back to Buckberry lodge the road followed a gorgeous meandering stream/river an as we drove along side of it, we noticed lots of people veering to the bank with cameras in hand, since our trip last year, we have found out this can mean only one thing, something worth stopping for so we did and much to our surprise and delight it was a bear.

It was the highlight of the day seeing a wild bear.

Instead of going back to the Lodge we decided to go straight into Gatlingburg and met up with Grannie & Grandad for an early dinner, after dinner we explored Gatlingburg some more and found the original moonshine shop - Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery.

It certainly had been a wonderful day and evening, and tomorrow we were moving on again, travelling through the Smoky Mountains to North Carolina to travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But first we had some Junior Ranger things to do.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Annual Chaplin Family Road Trip - Day 5

Day 5 - DollyWood, Pigeon Forge, TN - 16th July

Waking up to beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains was fabulous, breakfasting on the Lodge veranda overlooking those fabulous Mountains, was just what the soul needed to start another wonderful day.

Fooling around after breakfast was fun, until you meet a bear, yes we were in bear country too, I prefer the stuffed type.

So after a lovely breakfast we said goodbye to Grannie & Grandad, for today they were visiting a minister friend and we were hitting Dollywood, Dolly Partons Theme Park.

I have to say it would not have been my choice to visit Dollywood, but Mr C really wanted to go, friends had told him it was great and he loves theme parks, and surprisingly we had a great time.

We went on the cars, got splashed, or rather Tilly & I got soaked on the rapid rides.

Tilly & Mr C went on the Mountain Slidewinder - Ruby is not a theme park kinda of girl - Tilly however loves the thrill.

Next stop lunch, we went to a 1950's style diner, and we were treated to a little show whilst we ate lunch.

After lunch I decided I wanted to take the girls on the Dollywood Express and to the more kiddy theme park area, so Mr C got a pass to go and explore all the big rides he wanted to ride, that the girls were too small for.

The Dollywood Express was a coal-fired steam engine that took us on a five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It was fun and we saw the big rides Mr C had gone on.

After our little train adventure, I took the girls into Country Fair, an area of rides for the kids, the girls first stop of course was the carousel and while on it, the girls made friends with 2 lovely girls called Ally & Abby and that was it for the next few hours, we went and did everything with Ally & Abby it was lovely. Abby was the same age, size and grade as Ruby. Ally her sister was slightly older.

We rode the scrambler, the girls had their faces painted together, they rode the junior roller coaster together, they wanted to do everything together. The girls were wonderful and were with their Grandparents so I had a lovely time chatting to them whilst the girls became best friends.

Ruby & Tilly with Ally & Abby
Ruby & Abby

It wasn't long before Mr C caught back up with us, having been on all the big rides and had thoroughly enjoyed himself, and all of us stayed together to have a bit more fun before the day ended.

On our way to more rides, we saw the eagle enclosure and it wasn't long before we came across the Firechaser Express - a new rollar coaster recently added - straightaway Tilly and Abby (the younger one) wanted to go on it, so luckily for Nancy & I, the men took the girls on and we waited.

Then to finish off the day, I offered to take the girls on a water ride (silly me) called River Battle, where we had to shoot water at people not on the ride and they shot back at us, lets just say I got soaked for the 2nd time that day, even though I was using Tilly for cover. It was fun

As it was now getting late and dark, we dried off and it was time to say goodbye to Ally & Abby, having enjoyed their company for the best part of afternoon and evening, it was a sad farewell.

We hadn't planned on staying for the fireworks, but having fun all day long, time had crept away from us, so we stayed for the fireworks and found one more ride on our way out the girls enjoyed and we headed home, damp and tired.

We didn't even see Grannie & Grandad that night to see how their day had been. It was cup of tea time and bed.

Horse riding in the Smoky Mountains coming up next.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Annual Chaplin Family Road Trip - Day 3 & 4

Day 3 - Nashville Tennessee - 14th July

As much as we were very tempted to stay and have a relaxing day at the hotel, Nashville beckoned, so after a swim in the outdoor pool we headed into Nashville in time for lunch at the famous Jack's BBQ which was fabulous, after lunch, and completely on the spur of the moment we popped inside a bar to see a country music band and have a quick beer. The band and music was great, near the end they took requests and rather humbly sang a Taylor Swift song for our girls.

After our little music adventure, Mr C wanted to visit the shop of the American Pickers, a TV show we enjoy here, only 8 blocks walk he said, in heat of 100f, 8 blocks soon turned into a few miles of walking in no shade, but we finally made it, in need of a drink.

The American Pickers shop was great, it was a wonderful collection of American history not all things were for sale but it was good to visit and was very interesting.

We certainly weren't going to walk back so we took a taxi back into Nashville to visit Hatch Show Print - a letterpress printing making company who started their business creating show posters in the late 1800's and they have been famous ever since.

Not only a retail shop, but you can see into the print side of the company and see them printing up posters, each one unique.

And afterwards we couldn't resist a quick visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame retail shop - where the girls tried out the (fake) guitars - I think Tilly may be born for stardom.

After a long but great afternoon in Nashville we headed back to the hotel for a lovely dinner at Cascades, a restaurant in the hotel.

We retreated back to our rooms for a night cap of Jim Beam Fire whilst watching the lovely water/light show from our balcony.

Day 4 - Nashville, TN to Gatlingburg TN - 15th July

After a quick breakfast and swim we hit the road as we had quite a drive to Gatlingburg, 215 miles, our next stop for our Smoky Mountains adventure.

Our journey to Gatlingburg was rather uninteresting, we stopped a Cracker Barrel for lunch, then I saw a big sign on the freeway for a Yarn shop and made Mr C drive off to it, it was a lovely yarn shop too and I purchased some wool for a project.

On our way into Gatlingburg we passed through Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, passing through Pigeon Forge was an eye opener, full of attractions, on both sides of the road, such as Ripley's Believe it or not, Hollywood Wax Museum, carnival rides, lots of car racing rides, the girls couldn't get enough.

Once through Pigeon Forge, it wasn't long before we hit Gatlingburg, the gateway into the Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountains are America's most popular and visited National Park, more so than Yellowstone Park and The Grand Canyon put together.

After a short but winding trip into the Mountains, we reached our destination for the next 3 nights, the elegant Buckberry Lodge.

After settling in, and checking out the views of the Smoky Mountains from our room, we headed back down the mountain, for dinner in Gatlingburg and a wander around the shops, stopping to see laffy taffy being made, and sampling Moonshine.

Our visit to Dollywood coming up next.