I'm sorry I haven't been updating as often as I would have liked but we've had cousins staying - or rather I had cousins staying because Tom was back in London. What with the awful weather and all, I seemed to do nothing but wash clothes, chuck children in the bath and feed them. By the time my sister arrived on Thursday I was knackered and still feeling unsettled being back. What a weird week. Anyway, on to part two of our fabulous trip:
After a whistle-stop tour of Target and Old Navy in Holyoak Mall we arrived in Northampton where I was meeting Lee. We were so hot and bothered by the time we got there that we made straight for Herrell's and their superb ice-creams. Tom took the children for a look around the town while I went in search of a lady with a long plait and crazy socks. She in turn was looking for me with a pink top and mauve culottes and somehow we found each other .
Lee took me to Valley Fabrics, which is such a lovely shop. There was a great choice of fabric and I was only tempted to buy a little (huge mistake in retrospect) as I thought I would be going to Purl Soho the week after. The ladies in Valley were lovely and very friendly. Everyone was intrigued to hear about how we were making our way across New England, staying with people met through my blog.
then we went to Webs, where I'm afraid I walked around like a child in a sweet shop. I was so overwhelmed with all the choice that I couldn't choose anything. What a great shop though - if you live in the vicinity of either of these shops you're very lucky. There was a huge range of wool, needles, spinning supplies and books. I really could have spent ALL day in there.
Now here's a bit of 'random act of kindness' for you. As we were chatting outside Webbs, Lee showed me her Sat Nav or GPS and how to use it and then out of the blue asked if I wanted to borrow it. We were complete strangers as we had only started leaving comments on each others blogs a few weeks ago. How incredibly kind and trusting is that? Tom and I couldn't believe it. Thank you so much Lee and thanks to your husband too - it was really useful and we're so touched by your kindness.
So GPS jabbering away to us, we headed off to Shelburne Falls to find Tonya who we were staying with that night. First it took us off the beaten track onto a private road that said CLOSED and deeper and deeper into an increasingly spooky forest. Then when we were told we'd got to our destination it looked remarkably like the middle of nowhere (although we were only a few hundred yards away actuallly). So we pulled up outside another house and I went for help, opening the screen door and calling out in my best British accent:
"Hello, I wonder if you could help me please, we're lost"
"I'm sorry but I haven't got any clothes on" said a reedy voice from inside.
"Oh! It's just that we're lost and we're trying to find number ... on this road".
"You can come in but I haven't got any clothes on," added the ancient voice, which became half a wizened face peering at me from around a corner.
She looked worryingly like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
"Oh hello" I said. "I'm so sorry to trouble you but we're lost and we need to find ......."
"I haven't lived here long" she said "I used to be a Professor at Amherst. Youshould ask Marion so-and-so down the road - she knows everyone".
"OK. Thank you so much and I'm so sorry to have troubled you," I gabbled.
"It's alright. I'm sorry I haven't got any clothes on. I got hot and took off my outer garments....." - at which point I ran.
It was so surreal and so funny .........
I did, however, finally meet Tonya and her beautiful daughter Zoe (we got there in the end). Tonya and I discovered that we had a lot in common being raised my immigrant parents in England although she's miles younger than me. That night we all sat in her garden and chatted and the next day Tonya took us to the best place for brunch in New England - the children are still talking about Elmers in Ashfield:
Pancakes, waffles, home fries, eggs, sausages and lovely hot chocolate. This is where we discovered the "American Portion". Diet, what diet? I didn't even get to swim it off in Ashfield lake, unlike Tom and the children, but I did have a lovely chat on the beach with Tonya. How civilised, having a lake in your town to swim in. Ashfield is the most beautiful little town. Elmers is worth a stop too not only for the food but for the gifts and things they sell in the back but I think you have to be a resident to swim in the lake I'm afraid. Don't miss the ironmongers or hardware store either. It's great as is the pizza place next door.
Next stop a quick dip in the glacial potholes at Shelburne Falls to cool down again:
and then it was off to Vermont to spend the evening with Sarah and Nelson before they dashed off to PEI the next morning. It was so lovely to arrive and slump in their gorgeous home - it was still very hot at this point, perhaps about 30C, and we certainly weren't used to it:
Sarah and Nelson's house is truly stunning. They built and designed it themselves following the guidelines in a book called something like the Not So Big House or some such. I think the idea is that every room in the house should be used every day, a kind of antidote to the McMansion. It was lovely. I particularly liked the three sided bookcase where the fireplace is the fourth side. It's all open plan downstairs with an enclosed verandah (porch as I learned to call it) where we sat and ate as dusk fell. We all discovered that we had masses in common as we are both Waldorf families and I was eager to hear about Sarah's job as an Historian. Tom grilled poor Nelson about the house and he got very excited by the cellar - particularly the plumbing down there. The children all played Skip-Bo which was new to us and I discovered that Helen, aged 11 makes lovely earrings. I rather greedily snapped up about six pairs - some for Amber and some for me and we've been wearing them off and on since. Thanks so much Helen - I really think you ought to sell some at the school fair this year.
The evening ended far too soon and we naughtily tried to persuade Sarah and Nelson to not rush off in the morning so that we could spend more time together. I know they were tempted but they had reservations and a long drive so they got off at 9, but not before giving us a delicious breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Then that was it we waved them off and went back inside their house which felt decidedly odd I can tell you. Another act of faith and trust though to let us stay on in their house for which we were so grateful. It was just nice to stop, relax, get some washing done and to slow down a bit.
So that day we visited Woodstock which is such a pretty town and then onto Killington. We were hoping to take in a Sugar House on the way back but had left it too late so we went and ate out instead. On Saturday we went to the excellent Norwich Farmer's Market:
What a great market with such wonderful produce for sale. There were fruits and vegetables, maple syrup, pottery, wool and delicious pastries by these two people:
Again well worth a visit if you're ever up there. Then the rest of the day we visited Queechee Gorge, ate at the Farmer's Diner:
and then we went back down to New Hampshire to Long Ridge Farm where I was to meet Nancy Zellor as I wanted to buy some Earthues plant dyes from her. Sadly, another hurried visit but we managed a quick chat and I bought some dyes before we went for another swim at Westmoreland. I'm hoping to get some colours like these in the future with the dyes:
Then Sunday morning came all to soon and we were suddenly in a dilemna as to what to do as our friend in Boston couldn't put us up that night. We had three days before going down to Long Island and we decided that we didn't want to spend them in a hotel in a city. I voted to go back to western Massachusetts as we'd come through it too quickly but where to stay and which bit to go to .......... then the phone rang and I tell you someone heard my prayers. Part three next time ...............