Three Things Thursday – April 28, 2016

Three Things Thursday is a day to look back at three things that have made you smile and/or grateful over the past week. Hosted by Nerd In The Brain, it’s a great weekly thankfulness reflection.


It’s late…. but I started this post this morning and it’s been quite the day so I think, even more, I need to reflect on three things I’m grateful for!


Midnight has started taking to perching on the back of my desk chair. It’s adorable, and allows him to be “involved” in my work without being in my way.:)


Monday I met up with a new friend, in a place I hadn’t been in a part of the city I really haven’t gotten to spend much time.  It was all-together a pretty awesome time!imageAnd finally, Newsies… I got to see the touring broadway cast of Newsies!  It was pretty awesome:)


What are you grateful for today?

X is for Town X


Eclectic Express is going to spend some time moving today — so it’s time to gather around and share some stories.   Like this one, from our guest-poster of the day, Josh!  Josh is a long-time contributor to this blog.

There once was a little family that lives in a town called X. This family had never left town before, and knew everyone in their town. Then one day, their son, Sam, got a plane ticket as a reward for a raffle. Sam’s take it allowed the entire family to go to a place called Maine. They were all very nervous, but they packed their bags, and took the ticket and went to Maine. When they were in Maine they had lots of fun, picking blueberries, going to L.L. Bean, visiting different harbors, and seeing all of the moose. They loved it so much that when they went back to their town, they wrote a big adventure story about someone who got lost in the forest in Maine. The family loved writing a story together, so they went to a bunch of other places like Russia, Maryland, and even Washington DC to write stories about the trip. That ended up becoming well known authors and they use the money they earned from books to do even more travel.


W is for Waldo Lake

wWe’re approaching the end of the journey on the Eclectic Express and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride!  We’ve gone all over the place, so today I want to take a trip today to a place that followers of this blog will be familiar with.

Waldo Lake.

We’ve visited the lake before, it’s an important place to me.  I invite you to stroll along the shore, follow the trail that wanders around the lake or just meander a few of the trails nearby. You could sit at the beach, play in (or on) the water, and just enjoy a day of relaxation.

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Having fun?


V is for Vumba


We’re nearing the end of our Eclectic Journey — today’s destination (and story to go with it) is presented to us by Eloise.   Eloise has written over ten books over the past four years and lives in sunny Berkshire in southern England.  Her four children, four cats and one dog keep her entertained and inspire many of her children’s stories.  Eloise enjoys writing romance and suspense novels, capturing readers and transporting them to worlds filled with adventure, danger, love and romance.  You can follow her on her blog, facebook and twitter.

Ever sit at your computer and think back to a time when you were young enough to enjoy that heart-thumping joy of the unknown?  I am.  Right now. I’m travelling back to a place that I have earmarked as my final destination before I join whatever afterlife exists.  This place has magic in it.  How do I know?  Well, I was there in ’97 and I have to say, nothing has beaten it since.  Let me start at the beginning…

It was the Christmas holidays of ’97.  Parties were still in full swing and weekends were booked solid with friends and family. I had to get away.

Broken hearts have a way of solidifying your need to escape the norm, to find a place where you can just be, without thinking of the past.  Lost kisses and warm embraces; the scent of love, are all the things that tie us to dead relationships long after their expiration date. That was me – trying to find an escape from my ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend (one of my  so-called ‘good’ friends).  Bumping into them everywhere I went during the Christmas period had taken its toll. I rallied up a few of my crazy, close friends to find a solution.

“Let’s go to the Vumba!” was the over-enthusiastic suggestion from Murtle. “Come on.  What do you have to lose?  We can ask Charles to drive us there.  He won’t mind spending time with you, that’s for sure!”

I grimaced.  Charles was a good friend, but going away with him might encourage his enamour.  On the other hand, this town was way too small for my ex and me.  And Vumba sounded mysterious and exciting. So what was there to lose?

msasa trees nyanga

We left in the early hours of the morning, before the sun kissed the horizon. By the time the crickets had warmed up their hind legs to start their daily musical serenade, we had passed Marondera. Travelling along the dusty road, I watched the balancing granite rocks fly by,  interspersed between tiny villages  with young running in the dirt chasing tyres or pushing wire cars.  Tinny music drifted through our open windows and faded away as the open road swallowed us into breathtaking views of the Msasa trees.

Far ahead, as the road climbed higher into the hills, I could see fantastic displays of colour and small pathways cut like ant trails into the valleys below.

“This is so beautiful,” I gasped, trying to take in every detail as we sped past.

“Wait.  The best is yet to come,” laughed Charles, cranking up the radio which blared out REM’s Losing My Religion.

bunga forest reserve vumba

Suddenly, the view opened up again, exposing the inner clefts of the road etched into the sides of the hill. Trees sprouted dangerously out of the rocky sides, overhanging and stunning as we drove under. This was known as the Burma Valley, according to Charles.

It took a steady stomach to look down as the road twisted and turned through the granite hills, cutting and weaving, making it rather interesting when oncoming traffic bruised purposefully close to our side of the road, avoiding the death drop of the valley below on their side.

“Cloud Castle Inn, here were come!” laughed Murtle. I grinned, sprawling on the back seat, enjoying the space all to myself. As I lay there watching the blue sky flicker into view between the leaves,  I drank in the serenity, thinking how lucky I was to escape to such a beautiful place.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor of the car as it bumped over a dirt road.  Quickly pulling myself back up onto the back seat, my first sight of Cloud Castle Inn took my breath away.  The house was set up among the clouds, high in the Vumba Hills, watching over the National Park filled with weird and wonderful species of plants and trees.  As I looked around, I caught sight of the eucalyptus trees.  Their slim, grey bodies bent and twisted in synchronized harmony as their silvery-green leaves swished and whispered in the brisk wind.

It didn’t take us long to dump our back-packs and sleeping bags in our hired room for the weekend.  The owner of the large back-packers lodge pointed us in the right direction and we set off to explore the park.  Dirt tracks led us deeper into the undergrowth and the sound of birds singing and insects buzzing accompanied our hot trek through the forest.  The humidity was off the scales and my hair was ready to give Diana Ross a run for her money!  Persevering, we stumbled on following a faint path that led deeper into the undergrowth.

“Listen!” whispered Charles.  “Can you hear that?”

Murtle and I stopped to listen.  The heat sent off waves and the incessant buzzing drowned out the birdsong.  I stepped closer to an overhanging twisted branch covered lichen.  It looked so soft and tempting to touch.  As my hand reached out to feel the texture, my ears caught the sound of falling water.  I turned to Murtle who grabbed my outstretched hand and pulled me down the path with Charles in tow.  The path turned rocky and damp, covering in mossy outcrops and before long we were standing next to a stunning waterfall cut through dark red rock. Giggles erupted from me like the bubbles of water at the base of the waterfall and I carefully stepped onto the flat rock receiving the onslaught of cool, fresh water from above.  It was an exquisite experience.

With no-one around to see us, the three of us danced like pixies under the waterfall and sang (very badly I might add) to the sun hidden behind the towering trees and the delicious water raining down on our heads.  We were children again, wild and free. My words can’t capture the happiness of that moment: the pure joy and freedom of just being.  Even now, I crave that feeling again.

Soaked and exhausted from our tomfoolery, we made our way back up the lonely path to the rest of the forest, hoping to find the right way back to the house.  By the time an hour had passed, we were relatively dry and very tired.  Our feet hurt, but we were still in high spirits and completely lost!  As a last ditch attempt, we turned back the way we had come and after another fifteen minutes of walking, stumbled upon a caravan park.  The holiday-makers soon set us on the right path home and we returned to home for the weekend, Cloud Castle, their indulgent hot showers and a shared kitchen overloaded with the smell of a dozen different dinners being prepared by fellow back-packers.

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The next day we awoke early thanks to the annoying singing of the birds.  Aching and sluggish from the previous day’s exertions, we decided to have breakfast at the top of the hill overlooking the famous Leopard Rock Hotel. Our fellow travellers had been kind enough to share hot spots to visit the night before, over our rather unsuccessful attempt at making dinner.  Let’s just say, I am not very good at making Smash (instant mashed potato)!

We were so high up, the clouds drifted below us, blocking the view of the tiny golf carts below and the pink regal buildings with bright windows watching the golf course further down the valley.  In unison, we sighed.  The measly breakfast we had brought with us was consumed as we imagined the lucky patrons of such a posh hotel.  We promised ourselves that one day, we would return to stay. Clouds were rolling in fast and we had to get back down before we were lost in the clouds forever.

The rest of the day was spent driving around the area, discovering old colonial houses set within the granite hills with gardens holding very British flora and fauna.  Some had been converted into tea gardens whilst others were used as up-market B&Bs.  As the last day drew to a close, I knew that this was the place I would love my ashes to rest.

The evening was spent in front of a roaring fire.  The rain was pelting down outside, as it had throughout the rest of the day, keeping the surrounding forests luscious green and thick with foliage and humidity.  I curled up on the wicker chair with plumpy cushions and stroked the friendly border collie who lay next to me, the resident dog at this friendly lodge.  The fire crackled and spit as I watched the flames dancing and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.  Time stood still.  I watched my friends play cards over a small wooden table next to my chair and half-listened to their banter.  I was content.  Vumba had made a home in my heart which I knew would last forever.

Now, nearly twenty years later, I have the opportunity to return there, without the heartbreak and immaturity of youth.  When I think of it, my heart starts to beat fast and butterflies batter their wings in my tummy.  It is my chance to show my new life a part of my old: to show my children where I want my weary bones to rest.  I can’t contain my excitement and maybe, just maybe, I will take you with me too!


U is for Unusual Collections Museum


Today Diana again takes over as our tour guide!  Diana is a nerd, a bookworm, a feminist, and a social media junkie. She is a freelance writer and researcher and the administrator of the blog Part-Time Monster. You can follow her on Twitter @parttimemonster or find her on Facebook at She lives in New Orleans with her son, her husband, and one very energetic terrier.

I love a museum. Of any sort. Art, natural history, science, war, maritime…It doesn’t matter much to me. I love walking through a collection, looking at curiosities and learning about their histories. But the museums I love the most are, much like the people I love the most, the odd ones. The ones that make me ask questions. The ones that invite speculation. There are quite a few of those sorts of museums in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, as you might imagine. But perhaps my favorite little roadside museum (shh, don’t tell the others!) is the Abita Mystery House.

 You’ll find the Mystery House in Abita Springs, which is a short trip–about an hour of driving time–from New Orleans, though you’ll have to travel over the Causeway, a 20+ mile-long bridge that crosses Lake Pontchartrain. (Worth nothing: There seems to be some controversy about it, but I’m told this is the world’s longest continuous stretch of bridge-over-water. Also worth noting: the southbound part of the causeway is a toll-bridge, and you’ll need cash for the return!) Even from a bridge-phobic like me, the drive and the $3 admission fee to the museum are well worth the trouble.
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The Abita Mystery House–also known as the Unusual Collections Museum–is run by John Preble, a local artist who was inspired by the Tinkertown Museum in New Mexico. The little museum has thousands of objects inside, collections of collections–found objects, home-made inventions, and folk art. The Mystery House is actually not just one building but several, including an exhibition hall full of interactive dioramas and quarter-operated machines (so bring some change!); an old trailer fashioned into a UFO crash site; a vintage gas station; and the House of Shards, named for the colorful tile pieces that make up its mosaic-style walls.
There’s just so much to look at!
But perhaps my favorite parts of the UCM are the gaffs and taxidermy—especially Darrell the Dogigator.

If We Were Having Coffee – “Seize The Day!”

If we were having coffee I’d meet with you by the Keller Fountain. There’s a slight drizzle, but it’s a refreshing sort of day to be outside.


I’d want to meet here because, shortly, I’ll be heading into the theater behind us to see Newsies!!


I’m pretty excited!  When I was younger I just adored the movie, and am looking forward to seeing how it’s been translated to the stage. I know they’ve changed the story a bit (have listened to the soundtrack a few time), but am so looking forward to seeing the story play out on stage!!!
I’m sure I’ll be talking more about the show in the weeks to come, so would try not to go on too much just now.
I’d tell you I’ve got a few other projects up my sleeve, as always, and am excited about spending the rest of this month getting myself set up to hit the ground running come May.
It’s almost time to head in, so I’d want to check in with you before I do. What have you been up to lately? Any exciting weekend plans?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted every weekend by Part Time Monster – it’s a great change to check in with one another, take a break from whatever is going on in our lives and check in with one another. Check out her page to join in the fun and be sure to pay visits to other participants to check in!


T is for Tent Trailer Travels

tAs we make the long journey back from the sun, let’s take some time to listen to stories of other modes of travel.  Rebecca (my mom!) told stories last year of Being Yoder.  Today she shares some Tent Trailer Travels!

With five children and two adults. Hitting the road was a tricky challenge.  A tent trailer seemed the perfect solution – easily stored, but ready to go quickly, with essentials already inside necessitating only fresh food and clothes to get underway.


One  early trip to Canada, we went  down a one lane Provincial Park road that  ended abruptly.  The only way out was to detach…. move the van up to where we could do a multi point turn and return to the trailer in reverse.  Then we had to manually turn the tent trailer, thankful for the many bodies to help.  Reconnect and we were back on our way, minus the several hour detour.

A similar situation on our cross country trip was resolved by the entire parade being driven directly across a lawn and back to the road.

Ahh the cross country trip!  The plan was to save money but we made up for it in time.  We allowed two weeks to travel from Beaverton, OR to Connecticut where family lived.


It meant getting a later stop because it took time to take everything down and we had to stop early to get set up and claim a site!   However, when our van broke an axle causing an unplanned lengthy stay in Custer State Park, having home on wheels with us came in very handy.

On this trip, our original plans of a set location changed and we ended up driving the east coast, going  from relative to relative and setting up in their yards.   The tent trailer was a blessing as it allowed us to visit but be less of a burden.


It also provided entertainment as our chore  was a novelty to whoever’s home we were at. We could usually enlist help in setting up.   Sometimes the kids all WANTED to sleep in the fancy tent, or could hang out inside it.


Every summer we’d go to Waldo Lake in the Oregon Cascades.  Our tent trailer proved a wonderful home for me, with books and craft supplies while the kids set up their own little tent village.  In the event of rain (or snow) we could cram inside and play games or eat, or get warm, but mostly it was just an adjunct to the great outdoors.


I did love the stove, which worked inside or attached to the outside which made feeding five kids much easier.  Camp fire was nice, but the propane burners were more reliable.  Having a fridge and occasionally a heater, made our two week stay easily doable.

It was a great way to travel and we used it to see much of the country.  And off season, it was a great place to hide holiday gifts from prying eyes!



A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.


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