Tag Archives: snow

No mouse poo here – we’re in hot tub heaven!


Now this log cabin is on a whole new scale. Sure we enjoyed the rustic charm of the cabin in the woods but lets be honest, a hot tub, roaring fire and clean, well stocked cabin is far preferable, even for the Deans!

We’re at Harman’s Luxury Log Cabins in the Monongahela National Forest and it is stunning here. Rugged rocks and vertical forests tower over the Potomac River, which runs right outside our cabin. We were heading for Shenandoah National Park but found this place and decided to stay put.


Snow fun!


Boys by the river. Patrick, of course, got his trousers wet in the water and by the time we went back in the bottom of his jeans had frozen solid!

It snowed heavily yesterday and we spent most of the day snuggled up around the fire inside the cabin and hoping in and out of the steamy hot tub on the porch. We did of course get outside for a snowball fight and to build a snow man but little kids chill quick. Plans are afoot for creamy chicken on the campfire today and possibly a visit to local caves.


Snow ball fights 🙂

Enroute here we also stopped at the Beverly Heritage Center which teaches about the Civil War and history of the region. One piece of information really stuck out to Alfie and I and captured our attention. The Native Americans who lived here for 12,000 years before Europeans (ehhm) “arrived”, used to follow animal tracks in order to find the best and easiest routes around the terrain, through the woods, across rivers and so on. Over millennia these tracks were worn and became, relatively, permanent paths so that when the Europeans arrived they used the same tracks but now with horses therefore making the paths even more distinct and permanent… they then became the tarmacked mountain roads we are using today in our cars. So the roads we are driving on here were once, no that long ago, animal tracks… how cool is that! The same can’t really be said in the UK because there were so many stages between hunter-gatherers, following animal tracks, and roads. Farming settlements presumably shaped the networks across Britain and of course the Roman roads.

The Hertiage Centre is in the regions old Court Rooms and here is Patrick being the judge, probably sentencing someone to death or something.


Dancing Cats and Bald Eagles



The Deans have landed… On their feet! A great nights sleep (albeit with a shockingly early start at 05.30am again) followed by a true American breakfast, cooked up expertly by our host at Lazy Pond B&B, Matt. Pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, sausages, French toast, potato hash, coffee… You name it, we had it!

Breakfast was followed swiftly by playtime in the snow…


Alfie and Patrick in the snow at Lazy Pond B&B


She looks so sweet here but was literally SCREAMING “Cheese” at me whenever I pointed the camera away from her!


The snow is deep!!!

Snow play was followed by a trip to The Dancing Cat Saloon for yet more food, some jazz and some whiskey. If you visit Sullivan County in the Catskills you absolutely must visit this saloon. The mouthwatering menu lived up to its description and more… Fresh home made raspberry jam like I’ve never known and zabaglione, which is like a sort of cross between clotted cream and custard, amazing! They also have a distillery on site and we got a personal tour by the distiller himself, Monte. The kit looks like something out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and is used to make a host of interesting whiskeys, vodkas and gins of all sort of amazing ingredients from local farms.


Catskill Distilling Company

Obviously we couldn’t leave without a bottle for the road.


Most Righteous Bourbon by the Catskill Distilling Company

It just so happened that the co-owner of the saloon, Stacey, happens to be an avid eagle watcher and pointed us in the direction of the best eagle viewing area in the county… Which I’m sorry but I’m not posting publicly online… You’ll have to visit Dancing Cats and ask Stacey for yourself. If you’re not into Eagles then visit them for the music, food and the mermaid on the piano.


The mermaid on the piano at the Dancing Cat Saloon

So it turns out our experiences of less friendly people in the city were very much limited to there. People out here in the Catskills could not be more friendly, more welcoming or helpful. We mentioned our slight nervousness at the snowy roads that we are not use to and were instantly provided with Monte’s mobile phone number in case we should run into trouble.

On leaving the Saloon we headed off to spot us some eagles. But not before stopping to check out the monument making the regions most famous event… Woodstock. It was kind of snowy so we couldn’t really see much but, dear readers, if you could have seen me wading through the snow that came right up to my bum just so I could get this picture to share with you… Well you would have been proud of me!


Monument at Woodstock site… somewhat buried in snow!

And so to the eagles. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, despite my navigating prowess, we have taken quite a number of wrong turns between New York City and here and we have turned around more times then I care to remember (or confess). We keep reassuring ourselves that we’ll get used to the signs and junctions but honestly, they come out of nowhere and every road has about 4 different numbers and names! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I’ve successfully navigated in many a European country without issue or error and yet am utterly flummoxed right now. However, I have absolutely no intention of getting a Sat Nav so I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon (or end up in Peru?).

Eventually we found the place and Orla woke up right on que. The snow was starting again and we really don’t want to get stuck so we didn’t spend long… but… We saw a Bald Eagle. And it was magnificent. It was also brief so I don’t have a photo to share with you. But I will, I am sure, over the next few weeks and months.

Eagles weren’t the only wildlife we saw. I spotted a couple of deer and we saw a Blue Jay and a Common Merganser (google it if you’re interested).

To be fair to kids (and Rob and I need reminding “to be fair” as we moan between ourselves quite a lot about them) we were pretty impressed by how long they were in the car and the boys really got into the bird watching. They are getting pretty good with the binoculars now too.

Back to beautiful cosy and warm Lazy Pond we headed. Warm was what was needed, boy is it cold out. We have spent the evening watching Home Alone with the kids, snuggled up on the sofa.

I’m a little worried that we have been so spoiled at Lazy Pond that no where else will live up to it. But more about that tomorrow and until then, stay warm.


Getting to the Catskills


This morning was kind of mental. I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed by friendliness so far, although I think partly that’s due to central Manhattan not really being the place for kids. Unfortunately the epitome of unfriendliness presented this morning in the form of the man at the Avis car rental desk at JFK Airport. There appeared to be a problem with our booking via an agent and the way it had been set up for the 6 months. The man wanted us to return every month to JFK Airport to sign a piece of paper in person. Clearly that’s not really an option and apparently there is no way round it and nothing would break his stony, almost cruel, attitude towards us. The agent in the UK on the other hand was very helpful and although the problem isn’t exactly sorted, it will be and in the meantime we’ve hired a car from New York to Buffalo where we’ll pick up the long term one (hopefully!)

So we headed on out in the temporary car and took a number of wrong turns as we navigated the crazy road networks around the city and finally got on route 17 out to the mountains, sighing a big breath of relief… When child #2 had a major diarrhoea incident in his pants and it got everywhere, hands and all. So we pulled over in the snow, cleared it all up and set off again wondering at the incredible ability for our children’s toileting requirements to control our entire lives.

The snow was falling faster and heavier now and the roads were increasingly treacherous. As we passed more and more accidents Rob’s nerves started increasing as the driving got more challenging. So
our relief when we finally pulled up at our first stop in the beautiful little town of Livingston Manor was great. Although literally covered in snow, quite a few feet deep, you can still see what a charming small American town it is. We were there to visit Morgan Outdoors to buy kit for our onward journey. You’ll be relieved to know I now have suitable waterproof footwear! We also have kit for cooking our own food to keep our cost down, a snow shovel and gloves for Alf and Orla who have lost their original pairs already. Our welcome to Sullivan County, by the shop proprietor Lisa, couldn’t have been nicer and better timed so our morning stress seemed to melt away and the fresh mountain air was exactly what we needed.

By the time we headed out of town towards Lazy Pond B&B in the next town along called Liberty our moods had lifted and we were feeling positive and excited. And boy, was that quadrupled as we pulled up at Lazy Pond… Now this place is what we are about! The kids have never seen proper icicles or snow as deep and pristine and they finally got to start a snowman (to be finished tomorrow). Matt, the owner’s son, who welcomed us, had baked cookies for the kids and told us how they have been shovelling snow all day and night for days now.

We’re off to hopefully see some bald eagles tomorrow and find some slopes for the kids to sled down, we’ve got a snowman to finish and hot chocolate to drink. I’m super sleepy now and looking forward to a decent nights sleep now the kids have adjusted to the time zone and there’s no street traffic noise out here in the open country. To top it off the pillows here are perfect which my stiff shoulder and I are excessively excited about. Lots more pictures to follow tomorrow. Good night!

New York, New York


Tentatively we boarded the plane. So far the morning had gone well. The timings with the trains and checking in had worked out. The luggage situation worked perfectly so we were free from our coats and travelling light with our hand luggage. We had a nice birthday breakfast for Rob. This was the bit we were dreading… 7.5 hours in a confined space with three bored children. It wasn’t the boys we were worried about, they would happily watch films and do their activity books for hours on end… it was Orla that filled us with dread! Nicknamed “the dragon” a couple of days before by friends watching her being confined whilst tired, we knew it was a nickname that suited her. She recently learned to run… and now she runs, a lot, and fast. She is also a bit “hitty” these days and incredibility LOUD!

Set your expectations low and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised… and we were… she fell asleep as we took off… heaven! The next two hours where blissful. I even got a chance to read my book, a pleasure I haven’t experienced in months.


I reckon we would have got another hour or even two out of her except that Alfie kicked a whole glass of water over her and it all went downhill from there really. But we survived to tell the tale and on the whole it was alright. She spend a large proportion of the remaining flight stood at the window shouting “Airplane”.

And so we arrived in New York. Immigration was fine and we got the full six months stamped in our passports. Our bags went through customs without issue despite our extensive bushcraft kit which could be tricky to explain to city folk. The drive into the city met with all my expectations and more. I’ve seen so many pictures and film footage of the New York skyline yet I was utterly unprepared for how impressive it is in real life. The way the skyscrapers, compacted onto a small peninsula seem to pop up out of nowhere, demonstrating some of the most impressive feats of human architecture and engineering with their spiky wonderfulness. The whole city looks as though it’s been designed by a great artist to be viewed from the outside rather than having evolved building by building. And yet when you get into the centre of it all you realise it is just as beautiful viewed from inside, on the ground.

But we were tired… boy were we tired! I haven’t felt that tired since my kids were new born babies! With a few hours to kill we walked up to Central Park in the hope of finding suitable snowball making snow and to gauge the distances on the map. It was further than we thought and it was cold! We found a corner of Central Park with a café and bought hot chocolates then wrapped back up and headed home. We managed to defer passing out for the night until 6pm (11pm UK time) before collapsing into deep sleeps, which considering we’d been up since 4.40am UK time I thought was impressive.

The time difference meant that the kids (and therefore we) were wide awake at 3.30 am. Although that sounds quite hideous, and in many ways was, it also led to quite possibly what will be one of the most special memories of my life… At 4.30 am my 6 year old son, Alfie, and I headed out into the cold and snowy New York morning to find tea, cookies and, more bizzarely, Chicken McNuggets… The snow was getting heavier as we slipped and slid our way back with our bags of junk seeing the night shift workers clearing the snow off the sidewalks, mini John Deeres with snow ploughs and hand held gritters being pushed behind. It was a truly magical experience made special mainly by Alfie’s pure joy and excitement about the snow and Macdonalds, as well as a sort of weird surrealness that comes from being an adult wide awake in a city at 4.30 am, yet neither exhausted with a newborn nor drunk.

We got back to the hungry pack and had a floor picnic with our funny supplies and by 7 am we were all ready for a nap.

Rising again at 8 am the day seemed somewhat more civilized and on opening the curtains to a full blown snow storm the delight from the children set us off in a happy snowy mood. We had planned to do a bus tour of the city but they were unlikely to be running in the heavy snow and are really expensive so we opted for playing in the snow and a couple of chores.

We bought American SIM cards so we’re back online and we bought an Orla sized car seat for when we pick up the hire car on Saturday. The boys loved the snow and strangers happily engaged in snow ball fights as they struggled down the Avenues burdened with the biggest snowballs they could manage.

By lunch time the snow had turned to rain and at every road crossing there were ankle deep puddles to jump through at each side of the road… sounds horrendous, stepping into pools of ice water in completely non-waterproof boots every 100 or so yards. But to be honest, once your feet are soaked through then it’s much like wearing wetsuit booties – the water warms up around your feet and although they are pretty squelchy with every step, they’re not too cold… as long as you keep walking anyway.

The ironic thing is that wellies have been my predominant footwear, year round, for the last seven or so years. I’ve been mocked for wearing them to cities, in supermarkets and on hot summer days. Now for the first time I’m without my trusty wellies, thinking they’d be utterly ridiculous in New York City I’ve come in pretty leather knee high boots, yet I need them more than ever! I don’t think I’ve ever stepped in such deep puddles or had such wet feet. So here is a little word of wisdom to pass on to any readers out there considering visiting New York in February… bring welly boots… they’re all the rage here and super practical… everyone bar the Deans are wearing them!

Once we pick up the hire car on Saturday we’ll be buying ourselves some wellies for sure but until then we are drying our boots out best we can on the room heater in the hotel and will dine in our socks in the hotel restaurant. Hopefully they’ll be dry by tomorrow when we go to explore Down Town New York and see the Statue of Liberty. To be honest we are grateful for the excuse to hole up in the hotel as the wind has picked up to the point of painful and I wanted time to write this post and take stock of the journey so far. Sorry for the lack of pictures… we’ve been concentrating on keeping the kids safe in the City and it’s been kind of tricky to get the camera out but hopefully once we have the hire car it will be more accessible.