Bittersweet Ending

It is official. Six months, seven books, and two road trips later we have finished reading the Harry Potter series. We began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a family at the very beginning of our Route 1 road trip. Originally our intention was to read the younger Fives one Harry Potter book a year so that they would grow with the series. Of course as parents often are, we were completely naive in our thinking. Once Five of Hearts got a few chapters into the first book she would not let it go for anything and it soon became clear that we would have no choice but to read her the entire series straight through.

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As the boys lost interest and Five String was often called away to play a game of ball I became the sole reader. Sitting around the campsite, at night in a tent, cabin or hotel room, and even on a few of our longer car rides Five of Hearts spurred me to keep on reading. It was such an amazing experience to watch her fall in love with a book series that I had so thoroughly enjoyed myself. Witnessing her develop her own favorite characters and truly appreciate what a wonderful story J.K. Rowling has presented to the world was such a joy. I couldn’t wait to read her the funny or heroic parts but I so dreaded being the bearer of bad news during the intense and sad parts of the books. However, as she always does Five of Hearts made her way through like a champion and always found a bright light to any of Harry’s unfortunate situations.

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Although there were a few times when I would have preferred sleep to staying awake long into the night to reach the end of a book I am definitely sad that our journey has come to an end. There are few better things in life then cuddling up with your child and sharing one of the best stories ever written. Harry Potter is not only a fantastic foray into a magical world but it brings up an abundance of moral, spiritual, and ethical discussions that as a parent I welcome to have with my children. Conversations about discrimination, bullying, right and wrong, the afterlife and of course the power of love flowed easily as we discussed the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends and foes. Of course Five of Hearts and I will share many more books together (we have already started the Kane Chronicles) but as Five of Hearts said the other day “there will never be another Harry Potter”.

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From Maine to Montana

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To the Fives, Montana holds a special place in our hearts. Granted, we’ve never seen Big Sky Country in person or been anywhere near it. However, today on Peaks Island off the coast of Portland, Maine, we filled the quiet November afternoon with cries of joy and triumph as we spotted the final license plate left on our license plate bingo, Montana. Six months in the making, our bingo ongoing game started in Baxter State Park in Maine, took us the entire length of Route 1 to Key West, and returned us back to our off-season rental on the Maine coast.

When we set out this morning we never would have guessed that this would be the day we finished. We’ve had some memorable license plate spottings over the past several months, from spying Hawaii outside Jacksonville, Florida to getting down to one final plate after finding Wyoming outside of Philadelphia. None can compare, though, to seeing the Montana pickup truck parked in the grass on our way to the public beach at Peaks Island. Big Sky Country, we thank you for making this one heck of a ride!

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All 50 states found!

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Compost on the Fly

One drawback of being on the road this summer was not having access to environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of trash and food scraps. At home in Maine we were used to recycling and composting almost all of our household waste. However, there were many areas that we passed through this summer where little to no recycling was available. There were stretches of the trip where we carried around a large bag of cardboard and plastic in the hope that the next campground would have a recycling bin. As for food scrapes we never came across the opportunity to compost. More often than not we were double bagging our food waste and rushing it to the nearest dumpster to keep it out of the claws of the local campground squirrels.

Now that we are settled in a longer term rental we are excited to have the opportunity to make up for this summer’s bad recycling/composting karma. We are super lucky to be living in an area that offers curb-side single-sort recycling. Honestly after years of schlepping our recycling across town (or to bigger cities that would actual recycle junk mail and box board) we feel truly blessed. However, our rental house did not come equipped with a compost bin so one of the first orders of business this fall was to find a composter that would work for our situation.

At our last house we had a permanent style compost bin that we made out of old wood pallets. Obviously not something that our landlords probably want us to construct this time around. So, after some Internet research we found a great collapsible compost bin that packs up small for people with a more mobile lifestyle. We were excited to find the Fiskars 75-Gallon Eco Bin Collapsible Composter online and even more excited when it took less than five minutes to set up. The bin is completely collapsible with heavy mesh sides for ventilation. It kind of resembles a collapsible lawn or garden container except that it comes with a heavy duty lid and stakes to secure it to the ground. So far our kitchen scrapes seem to be acclimating to their new environment and hopefully we will have a pile of rich soil before we leave in June.

National Estuaries Day

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In the spirit of National Estuaries Day today, we’re sharing a recent excursion to a place where salt and freshwater meet.  We have driven past the Scarborough marshes many times, and last Thursday we decided to spot some Nature on the Fly at high tide.

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We set out from the parking area for a half-mile hike along the Eastern Trail, a 65 mile section of trails that is part of a larger network connecting Maine to Key West, Florida. The Scarborough portion is entirely off-road, so we only had to share the path with bikers and other pedestrians.  Many herons were wading out for a high-tide meal, and we also spotted lots of milkweed and monarch butterflies.

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For us no trip into the great outdoors is complete without a good tree climb, so we were not going to pass up the inviting oak tree hanging over the trail at the end of our hike. A nearby cormorant must have liked the spot as well, and it treated us to a display of its diving and fishing skills just feet  away in the water. Though we could see the tiny blur of cars on Route 1 a mile in the distance, we felt grateful for this protected spot a world away.

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Found Money

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As we began our adventure down Route 1 this past summer the younger Fives demonstrated a talent for discovering dropped coins in the various campsites, hotel rooms, or grocery store parking lots that we visited. Eventually we pulled out a canning jar from the back of the van and christened it the “Found Money Jar”. Soon the whole family was keeping our eyes peeled for dropped coins to add to the jar. We decided that when we returned to Maine the kids could count up the money that we had found and use it to buy a treat.

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Last week we finally sat down at the table and totaled up our jar of found coins. It was a great math lesson for the kids as we sorted out the coins into their respective piles and discussed how much they were worth.

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The next time that we visted Whole Foods the kids brought along the whopping $4.06 in coins that they had found and purchased two bags of Yummy Earth Organic Pops for the family to share. Since then we have started adding more found money to our jar in anticipation a future yummy treat.

Do you or your family members ever pick up spare change? Do you save it for something special or use it right away?