Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crystal Spring Farmers' Market

This farmers’ market sunflower is my first photo with my new Nikon D80 SLR camera. The rest of the shots were taken with my small point-and-shoot Canon Elph SD800, which was a better fit for a bike ride to a local farm. Our panniers were overflowing on the way home with vegetables, scallops, turkey, bread, eggs, goat cheese, flowers and . . . hey, who ate all the brownies?

During the summer and fall, Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick hosts the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. It’s a mile and a half outside of town with just one steep hill. I call it family fun, but I think my kids only peddle along for the fresh baked brownies and blueberry bars. A return to blue skies called us to venture out after a boring week of unpacking boxes from our sabbatical in England.

The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust preserves the antebellum farm, all 322 acres of it. The Kroeck family farms organic vegetables and sheep using sustainable methods. The 1860’s farmhouse was recently renovated by volunteers, including my friend Mark Wild. Mark also did a lovely job remodeling our house. He’s great with period details.


Brunswick has many 1920’s homes and some that are older. There has also been a fair bit of suburban development. A few years ago Brunswick passed a Smart Growth Ordinance that protects open spaces while encouraging development in the town growth areas. I spent Election Day gathering signatures at the voting polls and also helped organize support for it.

Brunswick’s protection of rural and wild spaces is part of what makes this town so special. Suburban sprawl is changing the face of Maine like much of America. Brunswick still holds onto its classic New England charm even beneath the surface.

One of my favorite parts of Crystal Spring Farm is the maple-lined drive. The farmers request that visitors stick to the miles of public trails and not enter the farm. There are live electric fences and other hazards. Because it’s a working farm, dogs aren’t allowed except at the market. That’s a big difference from England where dogs are welcome almost everywhere. Dogs, however, can be shot if they trouble the sheep in England.

Crystal Spring farmers’ markets is surprisingly diverse. You can get Chinese food as well as fresh seafood.













Farmers set up tents to sell their produce. The organic competition is fierce. Buckwheat Blossom Farm won’t even use tractors. Go horse power!

The produce varies in presentation too.
Some farmers like things neat and tidy:

Others allow the vegetables to look recently uprooted.
Everything is so fresh.

In past years a trebuchet was reconstructed from medieval diagrams to launch leftover pumpkins at targets for a hunger relief fund-raiser. I set a scene there in my novel S.A.D.. Coming home has brought my words back to life. Even when I’m not writing, I feel like I’m walking through the pages. My plot and characters are fictional, but the story is set in a real place that I know well. It would be hard to improve upon Brunswick and Harpswell.

Bath Municipal Band photo by Angel Franco, NYT

On Tuesdays and Fridays the farmers’ market is at the Brunswick town green, called the mall. The green is the thumping heart of a small town. A brass band that plays in the village greens of Brunswick and Bath was featured in Monday’s New York Times. You can click hear (that’s a pun not a typo!) for the music. Dan Berry’s column focuses on “obscure and well-known corners of the U.S.” Guess I’m not in NYC or Oxford anymore!

How about a feature on obscure but skilled chefs? Here’s what my husband, Henry, crafted on Saturday night from farmers’ market ingredients. Even the kids liked it.

HENRY'S CILANTRO AND LIME SCALLOPS RECIPE:

1 lb fresh scallops
1 red pepper chopped

Marinade:
Juice of 1 lime
3-4 tbs soy sauce
1-2 tbs mirin (sweet rice vinegar)
1 tsp grated ginger
Handful of chopped cilantro (coriander)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Marinate for about an hour, then drain
Heat oil and a few drops of sesame oil in a wok or heavy skillet
Stir-fry, adding fresh chopped red pepper for about 3-4 minutes max.
You can serve over noodles with dipping sauce (below)

Noodles in Dipping Sauce

1 pkt noodles: soba, udon or capellini or whatever

Sauce:
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbs brown sugar
Optional: About 1 tbs grated daikon or radish

Garnishes (All optional)
Grated ginger
Scallions, cut finely on the diagonal
Nori (dried sushi seaweed) cut finely into strips (use scissors)
Shiso leaves, cut fine

Heat sauce ingredients (except daikon) together slowly till simmering.
Cook noodles and put in bowls
Add the daikon to the sauce and ladle some over the noodles
Add garnishes

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome to Maine

My eyes watered up as the plane flew over the ocean, dotted with islands. Inland was rich pine green with distant mountains. Lightening snaked down under grey clouds. Of course we’d brought the rain back with us, but everyone is grateful due to near drought conditions. It’s too ironic.

As we approached the runway, our plane angled away and circled. There was a moose on the runway! What a homecoming for the author of Moose Crossing. Was it an omen? Or just the storm?

As soon as we got in the car, the rain lashed down with a force I’ve never seen outside of Maine. The road became a river. Lightening flashed. Thunder cracked. Henry was just getting used to driving on the American side of the road.

We decided to ride out the storm in Portland at our favorite Japanese restaurant. Sapporo has the freshest sushi at a great value. Tuna is caught right off the coast. On a cold day, we often order the nabeyaki udon, a chicken-vegetable-noodle soup. Even my Japanese sister-in-law was impressed last time she visited.

Storms in Maine tend to be violent but short lasting. They blow out to sea, clearing the heat and humidity. A typical summer day is in the upper 70’s with cooler nights. It felt refreshing after the 90 plus muggy heat of NYC.

Back on the highway our happy smiles were short lived. Our tire blew out on a nail! Luckily the spare was okay as we haven’t gotten cell phones yet. Vacation traffic was zooming by. Off the shoulder was a swamp and islands. The air smelled fresh in the light rain.

We pulled off the highway and wound back home slowly on Rt. 1. Hay was rolled on the golden fields. Cattle and sheep were grazing. It was farm country, but still so different from the hedged green English fields.


Excited cries came from the kids as we drove into town. On our garage door was a damp welcome home sign from my friend Charlotte Agell. It’s a bit of a joke. Charlotte’s first young adult novel was called Welcome Home or Someplace Like It. It’s a fabulous story about a family returning home to coastal Maine. How appropriate.

It felt so odd walking back into our old life as if we had never left. My children didn’t dwell on it and ran off through the woods to visit their buddies. No need to call first. My daughter came home in war paint with a big grin. My son’s friend had walked back with him to see our dog. We’re friends with their parents too.

Our hometown is friendly. People have been stopping by to say hi. We’ve run into others on dog walks, at the farmers’ market or shopping in town. You have to factor an extra 10 minutes into going anywhere for time to chat.

On Sunday we went to Popham Beach with friends who could well understand our dazed confusion at being back home. The Bradley-Webbs had moved to Paris but had kept their home in Maine as a summer house, much to our delight. They had visited us in England, and we had stayed with them twice in France. Our 11-year-old daughters picked up as if no time had passed, giggling away.

Elizabeth and I went for a long walk on the 3 mile beach and passed other friends. In one direction Popham is a nature reserve and on the other end summer houses overlook small islands.

Not exactly beach weather, but isn’t Popham gorgeous in the mist? That’s Seguin lighthouse in the photo below and in my new header image. It's funny: doesn't the photo look more like a watercolor than my painting does? You can see why I chose that medium.

Once I’ve unpacked, I will be painting again this summer. I write novels during the rest of the year. My two vocations work well with the climate. I’ve missed the change of seasons while living in England, the land of eternal spring. There is nothing nicer than a Maine summer, especially when the rain stops!

I’m taking time to relax in the midst of unpacking. The kids’ first request was to go to Cote’s for the best homemade ice cream in Maine. It’s served from an unassuming shack on Brunswick’s Maine Street (love that pun!) Usually the line is long. The rumbles of thunder must have scared off the less intrepid. The ice cream was even better than we remembered, and we beat the rain home.

We need sweet treats, as there are still boxes and suitcases to unpack from England. To make room for our tenants, we stored even more boxes in my daughter’s room. They were shoulder high, now knee high. Despite all the upheaval, or maybe because of it, we are all sleeping so well in our own beds.

It’s a delight to be back in our house where the furniture is comfortable with good reading lights, and there is room to stretch out. I stop and admire every painting as if seeing it for the first time. Our house at under 3,000 square feet isn’t large by American standards, but it’s more than twice the size of what we had in England. We have a mini forest for a backyard.

The lilies are cheerful even if the weeds are not. I’ve pruned the burning bushes back into trees already. I’ve fixed the refrigerator, a stuck drawer and plugged shower heads. The clothes are unpacked but not my office. I’m trying to reorganize as I unpack, to regain the sparse order we had in England with so much less clutter.

That sabbatical seems to have given me peace with my life. I’m so much more appreciative of our home after missing it. There’s a true sense of belonging one gets in a small town although sometimes the perspective can be too narrow. The time spent abroad has widened my vision and stimulated my imagination.

I’m eager to get back to work and to see what happens. I can’t wait to try out my new SLR camera. First I need to settle in and catch up with friends. I didn't realize how happy I was to be home until I took a break from unpacking to have a pint and crisps (Uh, I mean a beer and potato chips) with Henry on our deck. The sun was setting in a cool blue sky casting gold on the tall pines. Can you see why I love it here?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

NYC Limbo

Hello from NYC! The kids and I are visiting friends and family here on our way home to Maine. I can’t believe I’m back in the USA. As for culture shock, Manhattan couldn’t be more different than Oxford. My son summed it up as we walked through Times Square, “Nothing’s older than 400 years.”













We stopped and stared up at the sky-scrapers. The sun was shining. Traffic was honking. Lights were flashing, and people were shouting. If I hadn’t grown up in NYC, it would have been an assault upon my senses. This is home, and yet it feels foreign.

Why are strangers saying “hi!” to me and smiling? When people bump into to me, they don’t apologize. Cars and buildings are super-sized. Food comes in portions too large to finish. I needed the ice cubes in the drinking water. The temperature is in the 90’s today.

Yesterday I met my old school friends for lunch at Cipriani Dolci in Grand Central Station. The food was good if not great. The train station setting was fun. The iced cappuccinos were perfect as was the company. I felt very welcomed home. The prices only made me smile when I converted the dollars into pounds.

Perhaps that was how I managed to overcome my sticker shock and buy a digital SLR camera. I have a backlog of paintings to add to my website, but my circa 1985 Nikon SLR isn’t working. I miss the manual control of an SLR. I like to pick my aperture and even prefer focusing myself. Scanning slides for my portfolio costs money too.

My son and I headed to the photography mecca. B&H Photo is near the Empire State Building. It’s enormous and quite the New York experience. Many of the salespeople are Hasidic Jews, and they all know from cameras. You can research and buy a camera on line, but at that price I wanted a test drive and expert advice.

I had originally planned to buy the Canon Rebel XSi as it gets top reviews, but the NikonD80 can take my old Nikon lenses (in manual,) and it’s more of a professional grade camera. You couldn’t go wrong with either camera, assuming you would really use the manual features of an SLR.

For most people, I’d recommend my point-and-shoot Canon Elph. It’s small, versatile and affordable. The image stabilizer allows for nice indoor shots without flash or a tripod. I’ve taken all my blog photos to date with it, and I’m sure I’ll continue to use it for every day blogging. I won’t have my new SLR camera until I get back to Maine Friday as I shipped it to avoid sales tax.

To reach B&H Photo, my son and I walked downtown through Central Park. It was our first day in NYC. There was a light breeze and low humidity with temperatures in the mid 80’s. Summer at long last!

Back in England, people still had the heat turned on, and the rain was relentless. Everyone said it was the worst summer ever. I reminded them of last summer with all the flooding, to which the reply was that was very unusual. Yeah, right. We did at least have a gorgeous last day in England. We took the dogs for a favorite walk “between the fields.”

The landscape was bucolic English, but the wheat against the bright blue sky made me think of the American Midwest and the novel I’m reading now.



Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres is set on a farm in Iowa. The story is Shakespeare’s King Lear. Many have called this Pulitzer Prize winner a “Great American Novel.” I loved Smiley’s Moo, which poked fun at academia.

A Thousand Acres is more serious and beautifully written. The characters are quintessentially American. They are ambitious, hard working and tied to their land and family. The farmers might be parochial, but they are far from simple.

I’m enjoying the novel so much, I bought another copy for my parents as a visiting gift (I’m staying with them in NYC .) I also bought them Ellis Avery’s The Teahouse Fire set in 19th century Japan which I reviewed in April.

On my mother’s recommendation, my son and I went to see the Louise Bourgeois exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. Bourgeois’s installations worked so well in that space. I preferred her earlier work, especially the skinny sculptures. Giacometti worked in a similar way only he got the recognition that would never go to a woman. Understandably much of Bourgeois’s work challenged the notion that women were only housewives and sexual objects. She’s still working now in her 90’s. NYC has such amazing art.

It is wonderful to be back home, but I’m already missing England. Somehow we didn’t realize that we had grown roots until it was time to yank them out. My children had been counting the weeks but then felt sad to go, just when they’d finally been accepted into their new schools and made new friends.

Even our dog, Stella, was anxious about the move. She crawled into suitcases, terrified we’d leave her behind. Rest assured, we even remembered her lamby. Her crate had more legroom than we had on the plane.

Henry flew to Boston with Stella Tuesday and then drove to Maine. American Airlines only charges $90 to fly a dog to the USA, but you need to produce a vet certified well-pet certificate (NOT mentioned on the AA website.) It’s odd to think of them home without us.


Our last few days in Oxford were full of ups and downs. Literally, ups and downs. I let Stella out into the garden one night and left the door open while I ran my bath. Henry came home later that night to find the house hopping with baby frogs. He caught and released 20 of them. I wasn't much help because I was laughing too hard. Henry was very good natured about the whole debacle.

On our second to last night, we stayed with my in-laws in their wisteria covered home. The cousins raced around and had a brilliant time. We donned thick fleeces to have a barbecue outside until it rained. At least we got to see a double rainbow. Our parting was bitter sweet.

For our last night in England, we stayed with friends in Cambridge to be near Stansted Airport. My father called from NYC. He couldn’t find our flight number on line. When he called American Airlines, they told him that AA no longer flew out of Stansted. We had printed out our flight info the day before without problem. I called to reconfirm.

AA had cancelled our flight, and said they had called our home phone in the USA! Can you believe it? Our last flight change in May, they had e-mailed, so why not this time? We had to wake up before 4am to drive back to Heathrow. Still, it was worth it to say goodbye to our friends. Talk about a stressful departure.

I’ve needed the time in NYC to recover. Jet lag is much worse when you’ve lived abroad for a year, and the transition back to “normal” life isn’t easy. It’s a relief to be looked after by my parents in a familiar setting.

Plus I’ve had some comic relief. Here’s an oxymoron my son noticed on the West Side:

Only in NYC would you need to insult the customer to sell produce:

Actually the Turkish shop owners were very friendly and the fruit was excellent. Perhaps something was lost in translation.

This morning I relaxed, taking a walk along the East River. Do you recognize the bridges from my opening shot? Tomorrow we’ll cross back over the Triborough Bridge on our way to the airport.

Poor Henry is already back in Maine unpacking boxes and getting us connected to the internet so I can keep blogging. You may have noticed that I posted twice today. If not, check out Oxford Index for a trip down memory lane. Once I resume work on my novel NOT CRICKET, I’ll need to refer back to my Oxford sabbatical posts, and the archives are hard to navigate.

Another expat American blogger, Just A Plane Ride Away, came up with the best solution to my dilemma. She created a blog page to index her vacation to Germany and Austria. JAPRA, I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed your brilliant idea. Check out her blog and other expat bloggers on my sidebar. I guess I’m not an expat blogger anymore….

It’s only been 3 days since I left England, and already it feels like a dream. Henry just e-mailed to say our boxes arrived (in 6 days!) and the internet is reconnected. We’re meeting friends at the beach on Sunday. Home!

Oxford Sabbatical Index

To research my novel A MATCH FOR EVE (original working title: NOT CRICKET), I moved with my family to England for a year (2007-8) In 2017 I returned for a second sabbatical to update the manuscript as a contemporary young adult novel. Click on titles to view the posts.

U.K. Sabbatical #1: 2007-2008

Uprooting to England
The Holy Internet Grail
Wolvercote
Black Tie at Oriel College
Quince Tree
A Wall of Inequity
Public School Dayboy
Horses in the Mist
Shaping a Novel (S.A.D.)
Savoring Paris (vacation)
Lord & Lady Krebs at Jesus College
Happy Hallowgiving
Philip Pullman on Writing Myth & Religion
The Wizard Earl
Fine Dining in Oxford
Unusual Holiday Lights
Novels About Schools
An English Christmas
Port Meadow Frost
Set on Magdalen College
Hampstead Fairies and Asian Restaurants
Port Meadow Flood
Americans in Oxford
Best Lunch and Tea in Oxford
February Frost
Tanzania Safari (vacation)
Bodleian Library Rules
What is Women's Fiction?
London Art and Gardens
Rousham: a secret garden
Lads in Scotland (vacation)
Oxford Literary Festival 2008
Japanese Influence on French Gardens (vacation)
Best Pubs in Oxford
May Day in Oxford
Down Farm Devon
Port Meadow in Spring
Merton College Stories
Oxford Eights Week
Cornwall Vacation Reading
Shakespeare's Rose
Oxford High Table and Imps
Oxford Rituals
Expat Tips for Sabbatical in England
Oxford Highlights: favorite places and best restaurants

My blog will continue in the USA with occasional flashbacks to England as I write A MATCH FOR EVE. I'm posting twice today. See NYC Limbo.

U.K. Sabbatical #2: January - May 2017

10 Year Blog Anniversary & Sabbatical in England
My Favorite Country Walk to a Pub: The Bell Inn at Aldworth
Winter Walks in Maine vs. England
Literary Highlights of Christ Church College, Oxford University
High Table at Magdalen College, Oxford
Goodbye to Bluebell Season and England
Carew Castle & Coastal Cliffs in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Oxford Highlights: favorite places and best restaurants

Time is suspended on sabbatical. Exploration and discovery replace the normal routines of life. I find it difficult to mark time, to remember that this new life is not my own but borrowed like a library book. I am renewed.

Going on sabbatical is quite similar to creating a novel. I speak to strangers and walk down unknown lanes. The first days were intimidating. I felt lost, homesick and lonely. A year abroad seemed like a very long time, but there were benefits too.

A sabbatical, free of life’s commitments, offered time to focus without distraction. I’m usually very involved in my community. On a different time zone, e-mails didn’t ping until the end of my workday. The phone rarely rang. No one passed by to chat. I could start fresh in a new setting. England was a year-long writer’s retreat.

As I waited for my readers to comment on S.A.D., I set out to research NOT CRICKET (renamed A MATCH FOR EVE) and to gather material for my blog. The 2 book projects were perfect complements: one of introversion and revision and the other of extroversion and sensation.

After counting down the months to weeks and now to days, nostalgia has overtaken my longing to return home. Reading a good book, you race through the pages, wanting to find out what will happen, only to realize that there are so few pages left. Do you slow down to savor every word? Reread favorite passages that you skimmed?

I am in the final chapter of Oxford. Here are some earmarked pages, but to experience Oxford in its full complexity takes a sabbatical. It is a book in itself, the one I will write back in Maine.

In the past couple of weeks my family came to visit in 4(!) lots. We showed them round the most beautifully grand colleges, Christ Church (above) and Magdalen College. We also visited my husband Henry’s alma mater, Oriel College (the window shots above.) Another favorite was Merton College, which claims to be the oldest. Many colleges are open in the afternoon to visitors; some charge a fee.

My two favorite Oxford museums are The Museum of Natural History (above) and The Museum of the History of Science. The first one is especially good for kids and features the Dodo bird from Alice and Wonderland. The Divinity School and Bodleian Library are definitely worth visiting too. Great for rainy days.

When the sun shines, the Oxford waterways are a delight. These cygnets hatched at the end of May.

There are ducklings hatching now.


The City of Oxford is situated between 2 rivers: the Cherwell and the Isis. The River Thames is called the Isis only when it runs through Oxford. The Celtic name for river is tamasas which became Tamasis in Latin. Say it aloud, and you’ll hear both Thames and Isis. The city’s name is less grand: it was where oxen could ford the rivers. The ancient trading village predates the university, given its ideal setting on the rivers.

In later centuries a canal was also dug stretching 78 miles from Oxford to Coventry. The Oxford Canal is a pleasant hour walk from Jericho to Wolvercote. You pass many funky canal boats and back gardens of posh North Oxford homes. The Burgess Field Nature Park is most peaceful, and if you get thirsty, you can cross the first bridge in Wolvercote to The Plough for a pint. Dogs are welcome outside.

The best place for an off-lead (off-leash) dog walk is Port Meadow along the Isis, but you should hold onto your dog around the cattle and horses grazing free. Several ponies have dropped foals recently. Since the mares know me from my daily walks, they let me and my visitors approach. In my teenaged years I was a bit of a horse whisperer.

Whenever I’m feeling low, the foals cheer me up. They’re so friendly and funny.

My kids and I take advantage of the long days of summer to visit the herd after dinner. Our best buddy is a colt we call George (above and below) because he’s so curious. He likes to nibble on my son’s shoelaces. My daughter thinks the shy grey filly might be a unicorn.












The swans are NOT friendly, but they are beautiful to watch.

The best way to enjoy the water in Oxford is from a punt. You can rent them under the Magdalen Bridge or at the Cherwell Boathouse. We prefer the latter as it’s more rural, especially if you head upstream.


Henry gave our 13-year-old son a punting lesson. Within minutes, he got the hang of it. Of course he’d love punting as it involves sticking a giant pole into the mud and pushing off. The skill is using the pole to steer like a rudder and letting go if it gets stuck so as not to fall in! Our son proved to be a natural like his old dad. I’m now slightly less nervous about him learning to drive in 2 years time.

My parents were visiting from NYC and enjoyed their first punt. We had one of the best lunches I’ve had in Oxford at the Cherwell Boathouse. The food was gourmet and excellent value at only £12.50 for the 2 course set lunch menu on weekdays. The dockside setting couldn’t be better on a nice day.

When it’s not raining, England is pleasantly 60’s or low 70’s at this time of year. You appreciate the sun that much more when it shines, and it's never too hot. The gardens thrive in this climate. Ideal boating weather.

Despite my son’s facility, punting is not easy. We tried our best not to laugh watching these Spanish girls try to figure it out on their own. It was more like bumper cars as the punts bounced from bank to bank. By the time our food came, the plucky girls had set off down river and had returned just as we were tucking into pudding. Book ahead to get a table but just show up for punting.

On a rainy day, you’d be better off having a gourmet lunch at Jamie’s Italian. It just opened in Oxford center. Usually I’d advise avoiding Italian food in the UK at all costs, but this is one of the rare exceptions. Jamie Oliver is a young celebrity chef and cookbook author.

We enjoyed the ciabatta with its assortment of toppings even though they were served too cold and took forever to come. Henry’s lamb was excellent but the basil sauce was odd. My fresh-made pasta arrabiatta was excellent as were the homemade sorbets. The lunch menu was quite affordable. The only downside is they don’t accept reservations, and it was noisy.

Jamie’s serves the best gourmet lunch option available in the heart of Oxford Center. For more casual recommendations read my Best Lunch and Tea in Oxford post. I’ve also reviewed some other restaurants in Fine Dining in Oxford.

Since my parents were in town, we went to the two best gourmet restaurants in Oxford. The Old Parsonage and Gee’s are under the same ownership, but are quite different in feel. The best dinner I’ve had in Oxford was at The Old Parsonage, and it was so good that we are going back on Friday for our last meal here. The setting is charmingly Old World without being stuffy. The marinated tuna sashimi was sublime and the duck delicious. Everything we ordered was excellent as was the service. It a short walk up Banburry Road away from the City Center.

The food was not as good at Gee’s, but perhaps that is my taste as it is more traditionally English. The ingredients were fresh and local when possible. We had an excellent turkey dinner around Christmas that couldn’t have been better, but the two other times we dined there were not as good. Still, my family was happy with our meals, and we are picky eaters when it comes to quality dining, especially at that price. The only disappointing dish was the lobster risotto – remember the avoid Italian food in England rule? We'll have the best lobster back home in Maine anyway.

The Victorian glass conservatory setting at Gee’s is just lovely and quite unique. It’s worth going for the atmosphere and top quality service for a special date. The ambiance, however, was ruined by the live jazz music on Sunday nights. It was so loud that we couldn’t talk.

And there was so much to say about how much I’ve loved this sabbatical in Oxford. It's going to be very hard to leave in 4 days. Still I’m eager to head home to be closer to family and friends. Tomorrow I’m meeting a friend from home, Scott Sehon, for a pint and dinner. These visitors help ease the transition. It was hard to say goodbye to my English friends, though.

I’m an emotional yoyo about leaving. All the work of packing is ahead of me in these next few days. Even the weather is reflecting my mood. Yesterday I got soaked in a downpour, and then it hailed so hard I couldn’t see out the window. A rainbow appeared for only minutes. A gazillion frog babies are hopping down the sidewalk and through our garden to Port Meadow. That’s an English pound coin and an American penny by the frog for cross-cultural size reference. I’m not sticking around for the plague of locusts.

We’re not going directly home but spending a night with Henry’s family and then with friends in Cambridge, UK. Henry is flying with our dog to Boston and then driving to Maine. The kids and I are flying via NYC to catch up with family and friends. Next week I plan to blog from Manhattan on Thursday. Any tips, world travelers, on adjusting back to life in the USA? How's Maine?

Yes, the blog will continue on my usual Wednesdays in Maine. It’s a special place too if very different. As much as I enjoyed Oxford, I love my home most of all. Stay tuned to find out why.