Harry Potter Festival 2017

On Saturday we went along to Chestnut Hill’s annual Harry Potter Festival.  This was a make-or-break year for us: we had loved the first two years that we had gone but last year the crowds were just far too intense for us to enjoy the experience.  We had decided then that we would give it one more go to see if the organisers could make the required adaptations to accommodate the growing popularity of the festival and, if not, then it would be our last time going.  I do very much feel for the organisers.  They had come up with the brilliant idea of a themed local festival but its popularity had evidently snowballed faster than their ability to creatively problem solve.  I am, therefore, happy to report that they had done a sterling job of resolving last year’s aggravating problems.  There were far more portapotties than last year (though happily none of us ever had to use them); they had extended the stretch of Germantown Avenue that was pedestrianised;  there were more police officers on duty to enforce the road closures; there was pre-paid wristband entry to specified activities; and there were designated parking lots around the area, including some with shuttle buses.  As a result, it was a much smoother and pleasant experience than last year.


We parked on the campus of a church and from there it was just a gentle stroll to the centre of Chestnut Hill and all of the Harry Potter themed activities.  We decided to start at the top of the Festival, the furthest point from where we had parked, and then work our way back down Germantown Avenue.  We arrived there just as Professor Dumbledore took the stage to officially open the day’s event though we could not get close enough for anyone other than Mr Pict to be able to see over the heads of the crowd gathered around the stage.  We did, however, bump into Lupin, Tonks, and Sirius Black who happily posed with my kids for photos.  That is one of the things we enjoy most about the Festival, seeing all the cosplayers, the visitors dressed in costumes, or the Potterphiles wearing themed clothing.  We saw even more dogs in costume than last year, including one dressed up as an acromantula and one dressed up as a golden snitch.  The common nerdiness generates a warm family friendly atmosphere and a feeling of camaraderie.



We had decided not to buy the wristbands that would have given us access to certain activities.  Partly it was down to expense but it was also because my kids had “been there and done that” in previous festivals.  That did free up funds for indulging in butterbeer, chocolate frogs, and every flavour beans.  Mostly, however, we just enjoyed absorbing the atmosphere, browsing fun stalls full of Potterphile wares – my 10 year old was sorely tempted by pocket watches – looking at displays in shop windows, and enjoying all of the costumes.  The three younger boys did participate in some free activities too and came away with some goodie bags filled with freebies.  My 14 year old was accompanying us under an Imperius Curse so was refusing to engage with any activity beyond strolling and inadvertent people watching.







There were on-street performances to watch too.  We arrived too late to get within eyeballing distance of some of them but we did stop to watch a man carve a block of ice into Dobby the House Elf, we watched some great breakdancers (the Potter connection being unclear), and an acrobat performing in Hogwarts uniform.  There was ample to see and do and this year we were not fighting through crowds or feeling like we were drowning in a sea of people.  After a few hours of ambling, perusing, and taking photographs, however, it was time to return to the car.  Aside from anything else, the younger boys were getting a bit crotchety from the heat and we needed a break from the glare of the sun.  Once we got back to the church campus, however, the younger boys got a second wind and decided to play in the shade of the trees.  They decided that the buildings could be Hogwarts and a wooden platform on the grass could be used as a stage for wizard dueling.  It was a chilled way to end a day of Harry Pottering.  The whole event passed our litmus test.  They had made enough changes to make the growth of the Festival function effectively again and we are very pleased as it means we can return again next year.



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Harry Potter Festival – Our Year Three

On Saturday we visited the Harry Potter Festival held in Chestnut Hill, another suburb of Philadelphia.  This was our third year of visiting and it has become a family tradition to attend.  We almost did not go this year as we had a three way schedule clash to contend with, I have a pretty debilitating chest cold, and the weather was cold and rainy.  My Potterphile kids were aghast at the idea that we might not go along to the Festival this year, bottom lips pouting out like open drawers, so when our schedule clashes were cancelled because of the weather we decided to head on over to Chestnut Hill.

The first year we went to the Festival, it was a delightful experience.  There was lots of space to wander around and really absorb the magical atmosphere and observe the efforts the people of the town had gone to in order to turn their town into Hogsmeade.  There were also very few long queues so the kids could get involved in all sorts of activities and really make the most of the day.  Last year when we went, it was evident that the organisers were struggling to manage the vastly swollen number of visitors.  Longer queues and more crowds meant we had to get the kids to prioritise what they wanted to do because there was no way we could complete their wish list.  This year, I would estimate that the number of people attending had increased tenfold.  It was unbelievably busy for what, in essence, is a local fete – albeit one with a theme that has massive appeal.



We were very lucky to secure a parking spot a few streets back from the town centre so that our walk was not too long, especially given it was cold and raining.  As soon as we hit Germantown Avenue, however, we were met with a wall of people.  I will state that the atmosphere was still brilliant.  A large proportion of those visiting were either in full costume or were wearing clothes related to Harry Potter.  My own children were wearing Harry Potter themed t-shirts but did not have them on display since they were wearing two layers on top.  We had a great time seeing people all dressed up, including a baby in a front carrier dressed as a mandrake and a dog with a harness that turned him into Fluffy the three headed dog.


The crowds, however, were just intense.  There is no other way to describe it.  They got so thick at the train station end of town that it was impossible to move other than be carried along by the crowd.  I spoke to two cops who were being pushed along beside me and one commented that it was a bit crazy thinking about how challenging it would be for them to move quickly towards an incident.  I do not do well in crowds at all.  It makes my anxiety spike and makes me feel aggravated and, with the kids, a little panicky.  Everyone was being completely lovely about being squashed together and were being very accommodating and understanding but it was still pretty stressful.  The numbers of people also meant that the queues for every activity, stall, and shop were staggeringly long.  I overheard a whole lot of people complaining about the dearth of portapotties in town and that queues were often an hour or more long for those that were available.  We were lucky that none of us ever needed a comfort break.



We did manage to squeeze into a couple of activities.  Two of the kids bought potions in the grounds of the Jenks Elementary School and the other two snagged the last two bottles of butterbeer.  They also got to have a go on some manual typewriters which they loved.  It was peculiar to me to think that a machine that saw me through my undergraduate degree was now being considered something antiquated and alien to kids.  They had no idea how to operate them, tapping the keys way too lightly as they would a computer keyboard.  Furthermore, the children (not just mine) seemed to have no idea what to do when they reached the end of the line.  I could  see mine searching the keys for a return button.  I showed them how to push the lever and move the roll along.  And then I realised that a mother standing next to me also had no idea how to operate a manual typewriter.  That made me feel very old.






As Potterphiles, we will definitely return to the Festival next year.  Hopefully lessons will be learned and adaptations made but I wonder if anything can be done (beyond more portapotties and perhaps pedestrianising a larger stretch of road) to really accommodate the massive crowds in attendance.  But we will give it another go next year and see if things have improved so that we can enjoy the Festival again as much as we did in our first two years.

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World War 2 at Graeme Park

This past weekend we visited a World War 2 history festival at Graeme Park.  The park is a historic site in Horsham, to the north of Philadelphia and, therefore, not too far from where we live.  It was the summer residence of Sir William Keith, an 18th Century Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware.  While the mansion is still called Keith House, the park is named for the next generation of residents to live there.  Our visit, however, was not about the eighteenth century but was all about the Second World War.  We will have to return some other time to learn the history of the property and park.


Mr Pict and I are history fanatics and we, therefore, grab every opportunity we can to engage the children in history.  Military history is not especially my thing but I accept that most history events and festivals will be dominated by major conflicts from across the centuries.  Indeed, the Chalke Valley History Festival that we attended last year on our trip back to the UK was themed around different periods of military history with some social history tacked on for good measure.

First up was a small aeroplane, minus its tail and wings, that the kids were permitted to climb inside.  They enjoyed taking turns pretending to be pilots.  Then we arrived at some stalls where genuine artifacts and memorabilia were being sold alongside replicas and war themed toys.  The kids always enjoy things like flea markets, boot fairs, and jumble sails so they had a great time rooting around.  Mr Pict and I were amused to see that toys from our childhoods, such as little plastic soldier figures and Action Men (GI Joes in the US) were being sold as “vintage”.  My oldest son and I also had a wee tour of some military vehicles and classic cars from the 1940s.  He chose a cream Chrysler as his favourite whereas I liked a sapphire blue Lincoln best.




Then it was time to watch a reenactment of American infantry troops moving across a field towards SS and Wehrmacht troops who were occupying a farm house and adjacent land.  It was interesting to watch the maneuvres and the strategic use of the limited land forms but I think the kids would have engaged more had there been an MC commentating and explaining what was happening.  They did like all the gunfire and explosions, however, and liked trying to predict which soldiers were going to “die” next.


Next up was an Abbot and Costello tribute act.  I grew up watching Abbot and Costello movies so I introduced my boys to them a few years ago.  They love the movies that crossover with the Universal monsters.  The tribute duo were skilled impersonators and were great at the rat-a-tat-tat high speed repartee but, as you might expect, the jokes were a bit dated for the kids to always “get” the punch line.  They did enjoy the puns, however, and my oldest found an elaborate, extended pun about a baseball game amusing.


We then wandered around the encampment while the boys munched on pretzels (of course, because we cannot go on any outing without them consuming pretzels).  We saw reenacters depicting woodland defences and firing from foxholes, a few more military vehicles, and “soldiers” sitting outside their tents to eat their lunches.  We also did some dancing to Glen Miller music.







After all the formal activities, we let the boys spend some time climbing some large fallen trees.  They always love scrabbling around on trees and this one had some great long branches for them to balance on plus a little “cave” formed by its exposed root system.  We also found a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.  I assume it was injured in some way as it did not fly off when we approached it and even allowed the kids to gently handle it.  We moved it to a more secluded spot so that it could hopefully recover and then fly off.  Then, on the walk back to the car, the kid and I encountered a few snakes.  Most slithered a speedy retreat but one large Eastern Gartersnake stayed on the spot which enabled us to get up close and study it.  It soon became apparent that it too had been injured, probably by a car, so I picked it up and moved it to a grassy spot, safely away from tires.  It thanked me with a farewell hiss.








Pottering at the Harry Potter Festival

We had such a hoot at Chestnut Hill’s Harry Potter Festival last year that we have been counting down the days until it returned.  It was held this past weekend and on Saturday Mr Pict and I took our four boys plus our 10 year old’s friend along to join in the fun and experience the magic.

The first thing that was immediately apparent was how much the Festival has taken off: we thought the place was absolutely packed last year but it was bursting at the seams this year.  It was great to see that the Festival was being so enthusiastically supported and all of the wizards, witches and muggles milling around certainly added to the buzz of the place; however, it was a little too crowded for me.  I don’t do well in crowds anyway but I also don’t do well herding five kids through swarms of people or dealing with the moans of five kids in long queues.  This year they had closed off some cross streets in order to have more space for stalls, activities and events.  I think they would benefit from extending this idea and pedestrianising a section of the street.


We enjoyed seeing the town all decorated so that Chestnut Hill was transformed into Hogsmeade.  There were dementors floating around – including three on a construction site – and owls hiding in trees and giant spiders crawling across the fronts of buildings.  Shops had been transformed into locations from the books, most with some sort of connection such as the sweet shop that had been turned into Honeydukes.  It was even fun just to wander around, look at the people – and pets! – dressed up in costumes and look at window displays.  We were particularly wowed by a trio of cakes in a bakery window: a sorting hat, a wedding cake decorated with golden snitches and a monster book of monsters.



As with last year, the boys enjoyed taking part in lots of the free events.  The grounds of the Elementary School had again been given over to lots of craft activities.  The boys had great fun making wands using all sorts of materials and then they visited the potions stall to buy some bottles of butterbeer and popcorn.  We also visited the Franklin Institute’s stall where they were each given crackers from a cauldron of liquid nitrogen so that they could breathe steaming dragon breath.  We went along to an open air theatre performance of a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson.  It looked to be fun – and the actor being Harry Potter even had a passing resemblance to Daniel Radcliffe – but there were just too many people in too small a space.  Furthermore, my kids are not very pushy-shovey so could not get anywhere near the front when it came to the interactive elements.  The kids were getting frustrated and hungry so we left part way through and scuttled off to warm up with butterbeer and muffins.






We were too late to go and spectate at the quidditch matches again so we will need to make that a priority next year – because we will definitely return for more magical fun next year.


Back to Blighty #1 – Chalke Valley History Festival

Greetings readers, followers, visitors!  I am back from my break.  I hope you have all had a lovely July.

Among the reasons why I was compelled to take a break from blogging was the fact that we six Picts went back to Britain for almost a month.  I am, therefore, going to be bombarding you with lots of posts and pictures from our time in England and Scotland.  Brace yourselves!

We arrived at Heathrow at the very tail-end of a Thursday evening, exhausted and frazzzled, but on Saturday morning we were off on our very first venture of the trip: a day at the Chalke Valley History Festival.  We had been to the Festival a few years before (I think it was in its second year of existence) and had been very impressed so we were keen to return and see how it had developed.

Set in farmland in Broad Chalke, Wiltshire, the Festival had certainly had room to expand and it now covered a vastly larger site than it had on our previous visit.  Encampments for reenactors from diverse eras of history stretched to the horizon while the central arena was covered in marquees which hosted a massive variety of events.  Military history still very much dominated the festival programme which in some ways is a pity – since it is my least favourite branch of history – but there was plenty to see and do just among the free activities and events let alone the wealth of ticketed events.


The number of historic aeroplanes and vehicles on site was impressive.  As well as seeing a Spitfire and a Blenheim in flight, my kids also got to touch a Spitfire and a Hurricane.  Such museum pieces are usually off limits at other venues so to be able to get up close to such iconic planes was a great opportunity.  They also enjoyed all the Second World War era tanks, armoured vehicles and cars.  My boys are not stereotypical boys in respect of having an interest in vehicles but somehow in this context, and in being able to get up close to them, they were quite taken with all the vehicles on show.





We attended a few ticketed events.  The previous evening, Mr Pict, his father and our oldest son went along to hear Tom Holland discuss his forthcoming book about the Roman Emperors.  Holland did not skimp on salacious tittle-tattle so our poor 12 year old was subjected to a squirmy talk on Roman perversions.  Much more age appropriate was the talk he and his 8 year old brother attended with their grandmother on the Saturday, a talk by one of the researcher-writers of the ‘Horrible Histories’ TV series.  My mother-in-law was not impressed by the lack of interactivity or structure of that talk but the boys loved all the gross details and came away having absorbed quite a bit of information so it was still a success.  The final thing Mr Pict and I did at the festival was attend a talk by Sebastian Faulks and Alex Preston about writing fiction set in the World Wars, the research and ethics involved, the balance between fact and creativity.  The two authors had an easy-going, friendly rapport with each other that then extended to the audience and both were accomplished at delivering anecdotes so it made for a very engaging talk.


My highlight of the day, however, was a more informal talk by one of the Roman reenactors.  He was a chap fulfilling the role of an army field doctor.  As we gathered around his tent, he talked us through the equipment used and the knowledge possessed by Roman field surgeons.  Despite Mr Pict being a Roman nerd, we came away from that talk having learned a great deal about the extent of ancient knowledge and understanding of anatomy and healing methods.  The kids loved it for the gore, including amputated limbs liberally scattered on the grass.



The reenactments generally were fun.  Aside from it being quite amusing to wander around and see a Viking deep in conversation with an SS officer or a Roman, a Saxon and some Georgian gents dining on bacon butties together, their encampments and reenactment events were great fun.  We watched a battle between Napoleonic troops complete with smoking guns and banging canon, saw a troop of Roman legionaries march into camp past serried rows of portaloos, saw American WW2 troops relaxing beside their vehicles, saw Russian soldiers cooking lunch and American colonial troops munching theirs.  Maybe it is because I am a nerd too but there is a definite charm to anyone who is so fully committed to their geeky obsession and the degree of their knowledge was impressive and admirable.  A small band of faux German soldiers – surely not the most popular gig – talked to my husband and sons about the authentic (though obviously deactivated) weapons they had out on display and even let them handle them.  Best of all, some British army reenactors put my kids through an army training course which they enjoyed so much that two of them did it twice.  They had to scramble across an assault course, learn how to use a (wooden) gun to charge at their enemy, learn how to activate and throw grenades, translate and send Morse Code messages, hone their observational skills and handle a rifle.  At the end of this series of training exercises, each was presented with a certificate.  They were so chuffed with themselves.









We had a fantastic time at the Chalke Valley History Festival.  Should you ever find yourself in Wiltshire or Dorset in late June, I highly recommend checking it out.  We certainly hope to return some time – and hopefully there will be more social history incorporated into the programme by then.

Mingling with Magic and Muggles

The Pictlings and I are all Potterphiles.  I read the books when I was teaching High School English because my students were reading them but was then surprised by how engaging they were.  I really liked them.  I only, however, learned to love them when my kids came along and also started getting into Harry Potter first through the movies and then the novels.  When it comes to geekery, they were very much Daddy’s Boys.  Any geeky thing Mr Pict tends to be into, the boys also end up being into.  Harry Potter is one of the few geeky things I share with my kids (the other main one being classic monster movies) so I have become more of a Harry Potterphile as a result of being able to indulge in it with them.

A couple of years ago, the three older boys and I went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour on the outskirts of London.  It.  Was.  Amazing.  It was crazily expensive but it was one of the best value for money things I have ever done.  We had an amazing time.  Wandering around the sets, seeing the props and the costumes was entirely magical.  We also loved learning about all the technical aspects of film-making, from the animatronic creatures to the skilfully crafted props that I would have sworn were CGI had I not seen them on that tour.  We drank butterbeer, we boarded the Knight Bus, we stood outside 4 Privet Drive.  My Father-in-Law accompanied us and even as someone who had not seen the movies or read the book he was engaged all the way through just because of the quality of the film craft involved.  The whole tour was completely enchanting and it has a spectacular conclusion which I won’t relate so that, if you have not been, I don’t spoil the surprise.

On Saturday, therefore, we were excited to head off to a Harry Potter festival which was being held in Chestnut Hill, another suburb of Philadelphia.  In preparation, my children went armed with their Harry Potter wands and I drew a zigzag scar on one and Dark Marks on the other three.  The youngest two also took their cuddly Phoenix and Buckbeak toys with them to join in the fun.

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We had a tough time finding a place to park and the centre of the town was absolutely hoaching (a good Scottish word for “very busy indeed”).  I would estimate that at least 30% of people milling around were in costume.  There were loads of kids wearing Hogwarts uniforms and lots of adult witches and wizards.  Some of the adults had very professional looking costumes.  Lots of other people had nods to Harry Potter in their dress but had not gone the whole hog into costume.  The whole town was also decorated to add to the magic and sparkle of the event.  There were Dementors dangling from trees, lots of elements of set design and Potter props in the store windows and everything had been renamed to accord with the world of Harry Potter – even the portaloos.  The whole place was just buzzing with imagination, creativity and fun.

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In the grounds of the Elementary School, there were a whole load of crafting tables set up.  My kids elected to make their own wands and had a load of fun selecting just which embellishments to use to make the wand the one that would choose them in Ollivander’s shop.  They then ran around wizard duelling with other kids.  In the same place, there was also a live game of wizard chess going on, with umpteen children undertaking the role of the chess pieces and being directed into position by a Professor Snape and a Professor McGonagall.  They also took the opportunity to refuel so Mr Pict bought them each a poke of popcorn and they each got to order a potion from a table full of bottled potions.  The oldest chose flesh-eating slug repellant, the youngest chose love potion (and promptly declared that it was me he loved) and the middle two chose polyjuice potion.  They plucked a strand of each other’s hair to add to the liquid ingredients.  Little horrors.


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The kids got Harry Potter tattoos, poked around in antique shops, ate British style sausage rolls for the first time in over a year, had wizard battles on a lawn, bought butterbeer (which turned out to be a delicious concoction of hot scrumpy and butterscotch, not like the butterbeer at the Studio but still yummy), found owls and broomsticks and wands for sale, and had ballooon animals made for them.

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We all had a blast – including Mr Pict who is lukewarm about all things Harry Potter – and thoroughly enjoyed the festival.  The festival has been running for a couple of years and we hope it will run for many years as we would certainly love to go back again.


Redneck Festival

Something Mr Pict and I have always loved during our travels around America, on our various road trips when we lived in England and Scotland, is happening upon some example of “Roadside America”.  It’s serendipity of the bizarre, kitsch, random and weird.  Often those unexpected, chance discoveries became the highlights of our holiday.  For example, driving the wrong way through the drive-through liquor store owned by the sister of Jerry Lee Lewis and then ordering soft drinks has seared itself into our consciousnesses than our tour of a plantation house in Natchez on the same trip.

This past weekend, we decided to take a break from all the house moving chaos and take Mr Pict’s parents on a day trip to see the Poconos.  We did our traditional jaunt around Country Junction (the “world’s largest general store”) which never fails to delight the boys and then we headed off in the direction of Jim Thorpe as we had yet to do anything other than drive through that town.  However, on the way we drove through a town named Weissport which was holding a Redneck Festival.  Well forget Jim Thorpe!  We had other times when we could visit Jim Thorpe.  We had to stop and visit the Redneck Festival with its promise of some “Roadside America” fun.

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I don’t know whether this is a compliment or an insult but it was actually very difficult to tell the “fancy dress” rednecks apart from the genuine article.  No matter whether authentic, faux or randomly visiting, as we were, everyone was having some good-natured (if not politcally correct) fun.  There was a monster truck  but there was also a flotilla of racing portaloos.  I dread to imagine what those chariots use as fuel!  There were raffles stalls and auctions.  There were people selling redneck memorabilia and items every redneck needs.  There was a hick version of a “Mr & Mrs” quiz taking place on a roughly hewn stage while the audience watched on while perching on hay bales.  The participating couples were trying to win an overnight stay in a hotel.  One of the questions was where they had first met each other.  Two of the answers, held up on placards to see if each member of the couple responded the same way, were “At the Court House” and “In the line at Walmart”.  You probably could not script this stuff if you tried.

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Rather randomly, there was a whole tent dedicated to zombies.  It appeared to be a promotion for a forthcoming event.  People were paying to have their faces painted up as zombies and I must say that the face painters were doing an incredible job with their special effects.  Some folks leaving that tent looked genuinely undead.  Once made-over as a zombie, the people were posing for photographs using various gruesome props.  My kids, of course, being the ghoulish children of this zombie loving mother, were drawn like moths to the flame to all the grotesque props, some of which were genuinely disturbing.

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Of course, we had to sample the funnel cake because you cannot go to a fair or festival without eating funnel cake.  However, Mr Pict also decided to purchase some deep-fired Oreos.  Yes.  Oreo cookies that have been battered and deep-fried.  Of course, we all had to sample them just to see what this “delicacy” was all about.  I may be Scottish but I have never eaten any deep-fried confectionery.  This, therefore, was m very first deep-fried cookie (or biscuit for my UK chums).  It was surprisingly un-nasty.  An unfried Oreo still takes the win by a country mile but I had expected the deep-fried version to be rank.  It was actually OK.  Not something I feel the need to repeat but certainly not in the range of horrible.  What was rather appealing about it was the warmth of the interior of the cookie.  If I can find a way to gently warm Oreos, they could become a worrying addiction.  I might have found something to dunk in my tea!

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Next time you pass a celebration of all things Redneck, I do recommend that you pull over and join in the fun.

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Blueberries and Bluegrass

A couple of weeks ago, I won a set of tickets for Shady Brook Farm’s bluberry festival.  So on Sunday, I went there with my parents and two youngest children to claim use my prize for a fun day in the sun.  We had been to Shady Brook Farm for events twice before, to pick pumpkins at Halloween and to see the Christmas Light Show, so we knew to expect some fun activities for the kids, fairground food and fruit-picking.  We were not disappointed.

My 5 and 7 year olds had lots of fun trampolining on the giant pillows, clambering up and sliding down the inflatable chute and making their way through an inflatable maze and again scooting down a slope.  They also had fun playing on some newly installed wooden play equipment.  My Dad, as indulgent grandparents do, also paid the additional fee for each boy to fill an alien shaped bottle with coloured sand, which they thought was great fun and a cool memento of the day to display in their bedroom.  We also stopped to snack on some funnel cake, which was something my parents had not experienced before.  They thought it was delicious.  It was all devoured while still steaming hot.


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Blueberry picking was something that none of us had ever done before.  My parents and I are veteran pick-your-own fruit gatherers and Fife – where I originally hail from – is an area that grows a lot of soft fruit but, of all the tons of fruit we had ever picked, we had never before picked a blueberry.  Varieties of blueberries can be grown in Scotland and I have known a few people who have grown the shrubs in their gardens but we had never seen them growing on fruit farms so had never had the opportunity to pick them.  So we hopped on the rough wooden charabanc and were towed by tractor to the netted area where the bluberry bushes were growing.  Punnets in hand, we walked the rows plucking ripe berries, purplish and plump, and popping them in our pots.  The little ones were rather good at spotting juicy berries at the bottom of the bushes that had been missed by taller pickers.  I rather liked the mauve hues of the unripe berries.  Punnets filled, we returned to the main area of the farm, paid for the berries and brought them home.  They are currently in a ziploc bag in my freezer waiting to be transformed into a blueberry buckle once we have eaten our way, like Very Hungry Caterpillars, through all of the other dessert options in the house.  I am sure they will be a delicious memento of the day.

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That evening, after a barbecue dinner, we headed out to attend a free concert.  The performance was by a Pennsylvanian Bluegrass troupe by the name of Raven Hill.  My father-in-law is a devotee of bluegrass music so I was more familiar than I perhaps care to be with the music of the Stanley Brothers, Earl Scruggs.  I do love the harmony created by the stringed instruments and especially like the sound of the banjo but must confess that, despite rare exceptions, I find that one tune tends to just meld into another creating a monotonous marathon of music, as pleasing as the instrumentation and vocals might be.  Regardless, the band had presence and played some original compositions as well as old covers and the whole event was fun.  There are more free concerts to come this summer and we will certainly aim to attend a few more.

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