Independence Day 2007.
After arriving ‘home’ during the early hours of the morning, we all slept until some time before mid-morning. I awoke to a monster head cold sinus thing, no doubt from the lovely recirculated air on the plane, physical exhaustion and the fact that the last time I had slept it as in freezing cold Melbourne and now I was in 40 degree New Jersey. The kids were up and about so there was no time to rest, it was time to explore.
We had been invited to a 4th celebration with a colleague on the Jersey Shore but weren’t sure if we should go, if in fact it was a genuine invitation or more a pity invite. We weren’t sure of where to go and were all still pretty stuffed so we decided to have a look around the local area instead. We spent the 4th doing things that I had only seen on TV, things that are similar to what is normal here but dare I say it, oh-so American.
There wasn’t much in the house to eat so first stop was somewhere easy to get food. I think we ended up at an Applebees. The kids were rapt – being given paper and crayons upon entering won them over entirely, well that and the giant cups of fizzy drink that unexpectedly came with their meals. I was overwhelmed at the choice of salad dressings, that and the sheer size of the serves. I am sure that one meal could have fed the entire family. Unlike in Melbourne, the food we didn’t eat was automatically packed up for us to take home with us. That meant that we had an afternoon snack all sorted.
Next stop was a giant shopping mall. I knew that clothing prices were much better in the US than in Australia, but to be able to buy a complete outfit for both kids, including footwear for little more than $10 amazed me. It made me wish that we left all of our clothes in Australia and were forced to buy all new clothes. I could have spent all afternoon wandering the mall but the kids wanted to go out and explore and we still needed to stock up on some real food for the cupboards.
The remainder of the day was spent exploring neighbourhood parks, playing with all of the toys that were left there yet wondering where all of the kids were. We managed to find a supermarket and get some essential food to get us through that night and the next few days.
Eventually we headed back to our house to actually explore the place we would be calling home for the next few weeks, until our apartment was ready.
If I hadn’t already seen our house, seeing the gates to the property would make a person think that they were about to arrive at a mansion.
Seeing how beautiful the main house was made me wonder who lived here. Apparently no one actually lived here, it was used as a weekender only!
Our little cottage was less than majestic but very quaint.
I have no idea why the image is appearing so small here – maybe it is to emphasise just how small the house really was. That is our car parked out the front and it is actually longer than the house! OK, admittedly it is a huge car but a huge car doesn’t actually equal a huge house.
The house was tiny. Downstairs was literally an open area that fit a 4 person dining setting, a small couch and a tiny tv cabinet. There was a tiny kitchen and two steep narrow staircases, each leading up to a bedroom and bathroom. The bedrooms were connected by a small ‘secret’ door so that we didn’t have to go downstairs and back up again to check on the kids.
I took this photo pressed up against the wall in the kitchen, using no zoom. There is no way that any one remotely overweight could fit into this kitchen! I couldn’t imagine much cooking happening in this small space. As well as there being no space, the facilities were also limited – there was a fridge, sink cooktop and a toaster oven and that was it!
These are the steepest and slipperiest stair I have ever had the pleasure of falling down. Both staircases were narrow and well worn as you would expect in a building that is over 150 years old. What made them more difficult to climb was the humidity. It was so humid that condensation settled on the walls of the stairwell and on the stairs themselves. Now having moved from a 3 level house both kids were adept at climbing up and down stairs however after falling down myself the kids weren’t allowed to use the stairs themselves unless we were with them, or I wanted to take another photo!
The lounge and dining areas were both downstairs. For some reason the photos make both spaces look larger than they were, there was absolutely no storage areas anywhere.
The dining room had antique furniture in it, not exactly the furniture I would use for a messy family. To the right of the dining table was the front door and the other side of the door was the lounge.
Now I don’t know if you have noticed the yellow floral wallpaper? It really isn’t my style, but in this environment it worked. What didn’t work was the extra chair that was in the lounge.
Please, a red chair with dog print is wrong in any home!
Both bedrooms were upstairs. The master bedroom looked like it belonged in a country retreat somewhere, perhaps a bed and breakfast somewhere in the Yarra Valley. It was really quaint and quite beautiful.
The little secret door led through to the second bedroom. When we arrived the room was furnished with a double futon – not the most practical bedroom solution for two restless toddlers. For the first few days I ended up sleeping between the kids on the futon, trying to get them to stay asleep without kicking each other awake. Instead they kicked me awake repeatedly. By the end of night three we had a boys room and a girls room. My sleep was marginally better with only one child kicking me. Knowing that the single sex bedroom concept was less than ideal, we went out an purchased junior beds for the kids and we all had a better nights sleep.
Of course with junior beds comes junior bedding – so cute, the bedding and the kids sound asleep in their own beds.
And there you have it, our entire house. Did you notice the abundance of lamps in the photos? That would be because there were only 3 actual lights in the entire house – the kitchen and the bathrooms. Every other room was lit by lamps, that meant that there were lamp cords everywhere, the perfect tripping opportunity for all! The lamps and the antique furniture helped to make the cottage a kid-friendly environment – NOT! Despite that, and the fact that it was tiny, for a few weeks it was a place that we could call home.
The grounds to the main house were beautifully groomed. There was an undercover walkway from our cottage to the main house where the kids could play out of the sun. This space became home to a firetruck bed (sans bed) that we found in a carpark and decided it would make a great toy for the kids as we waited patiently for their toys to arrive.
Outside there were plenty of interesting places to explore;
We even had our own scare crow (it is no wonder they are called scare crows!)
So there you have it, you have seen the place that we called home for a month. It was beautiful but it was in the middle of nowhere and not the best place to meet new people and make friends. Going through all of these photos had made me realise that despite the madness of our time in the US, it was an enjoyable time overall.
Stay tuned for the next installment – the ‘bits that went wrong!’