Friday, 3 July 2015

52 Weeks: Week 26

Week 26: Cousins

One of the best things about being back home in Australia is that the kids have been able to spend time with their cousins. I grew up with most of my cousins living in the same country town as me so it feels a little surreal that my own kids don't get to see their cousins regularly. Of course, with us living in California and all of our family here in Australia cousin reunions don't happen much. In fact, in the whole time we've been away from Australia Ava and Lola have seen their cousins Grace and Davis once when they came to visit, but haven't seen any of their other cousins. They even have a new cousin who they didn't meet until this week, and of course, Mathilde hadn't met any of her cousins at all until we arrived in Australia.

Over the last week the girls have had the chance to see (and meet for the first time) all of their cousins. We spent a few days in Brisbane with Kim's sister and her family who we last saw when they visited us in California in 2013. The girls loved playing with Grace and Davis as well as their dog Tess. Ava and Davis bonded over Minecraft, and the kids all enjoyed playing at the park and they had fun with the hands on exhibits at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).

On Monday evening we flew south to our home city of Adelaide. We arrived around 9:30pm and were greeted by friends and family who came to the airport to see us. The girls' oldest cousin Ashleigh was among those there to see us, and Ava and Lola were excited to see her after almost four years. Unfortunately as our arrival was so late the girls were all tired (and a little grumpy at being woken after sleeping on the plane) so I didn't take any photos in the airport.

Right now we're staying with my parents. My brother's family came over for dinner with us on Tuesday night and the girls got to see more of their cousins - including a new cousin who was born after we moved to California. The girls loved playing with their cousins Malachi, Lily and Charlie. They all got a little silly after Mama (my Mum) gave them all one too many sugary treats!

Today we're having a big party with friends and family for Fourth of July so there will be lots more fun with cousins - and friends that the girls haven't seen for almost four years.

Lots of fun and lots of photos coming soon!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

52 Week Project: Week 25

Week 25: Sydney

I am so, so behind with my weekly post this time. You've probably also noticed that I haven't posted anything at all in almost two weeks. Slack, I know, but I promise I have a good excuse.

If you're following Little Hiccups on Facebook or Instagram you'll now why I've been quiet. If not, here's why...

...we're in Australia!

For the first time in almost four years we're back home visiting family and friends. It's been lovely to catch up with everyone and in many ways it doesn't really feel like we ever left. Right now we're in our home city of Adelaide (which doesn't  feel like it's changed since we left!) but we've also spent time in both Sydney and Brisbane.

For last week's very late 52 Week Project post I'm sharing some of the highlights from our time in Sydney (which fell during last week's time slot). I had hoped to share some pictures with you earlier but our hotel in Sydney charged a gazillion dollars for internet access and well, we've been really busy and oh so tired.

So let's play catch up and have a look at some of the things we got up to during our stay in Sydney...

We arrived in Sydney on the Monday morning after leaving San Francisco on the Saturday. A day magically disappears when you fly from America to Australia thanks to the International Date Line. So that means that Kim didn't get Father's Day this year - which is ok as we always celebrate Australian Father's Day in September anyway (and the girls did give him cards and a present when we arrived). After checking into our hotel and showering etc we headed out to The Rocks for some lunch. Proper fish and chips (no fries, please) and schnitzels were on the menu for our first meal in Australia. Ava, having forgotten many Australian food staples, asked what my schnitzel was and replied with "I thought a schnitzel was a dog"! Best dog name ever!

Walking through The Rocks we came across a couple of rainbow lorikeets eating sugar from sachets on a cafe table. The waiter gave Ava a sugar sachet to hold and one of the birds hopped onto her hand to eat the sugar. The girls were pretty impressed.

Unfortunately Lola was feeling a little under the weather with a stomach bug so our afternoon out in The Rocks was cut short and we headed back to our hotel room where the kids and Kim crashed around 4pm. Mathilde and I went out for a stroll around the city and I was amazed at how quickly the layout of Sydney's street and the familiar locations came back to me. Kim and I lived in Sydney for five years before the kids were born and within no time the city felt like home again. Home, but different as I'd never really seen the city through the eyes of a tourist.

On the Tuesday morning we headed down to Circular Quay and took a stroll through The Rocks again. We checked out the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and strolled through the little streets lined with historic housing.

Ava had a wobbly tooth which happened to fall out as we walked through The Rocks. She had been worried about the exchange rate for the Tooth Fairy seeing as the Australian dollar isn't worth as much as the American dollar and had hoped that she'd lose the tooth before we left home! The Tooth Fairy had to make sure to add in a little extra to make up for the low dollar when she visited later that night!

On this particular morning we'd all woken jet-lagged around 3am and couldn't go back to sleep. We filled our bellies as soon as the hotel breakfast buffet opened at 6:30am but by 11am we were all absolutely starving again. The pubs, cafes and restaurants in The Rocks didn't start serving food until noon so by the time we got yet more fish and chips at one of our favourite Sydney pubs we were famished.

Sydney has seen a lot of development since we lived there and one of the biggest to go ahead in the city is the redevelopment of the Barangaroo shipping yard. Still under development, the site provided entertainment for digger and truck obsessed Mathilde who was content to watch construction work from above on the cliff.

From The Rocks we headed to Darling Harbour where we spent a few hours at the Sydney Aquarium. The girls loved checking out the rays, starfish and sharks, but the biggest drawcard was the dugongs.

On the Wednesday we hopped on a ferry and headed across the harbour to Taronga Zoo in Mosman. Ava and Lola enjoyed the ferry ride which afforded us amazing views of the harbour. We took the sky safari ride from the ferry dock up to the entrance of the zoo. Much like the sky safari ride at Oakland Zoo this ride took us over many of the animal enclosures and provided great views of the city and water.

We stayed at Taronga Zoo until closing time and then made our way back to Circular Quay by ferry. We took a little walk around near the Opera House before heading out for a sushi train dinner. It was time for a change from fish and chips!

I'll have many more photos from Australia coming soon but for now this brings me up to the end of week 25.

Stay tuned for Week 26 which is also due today. Oops!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bodie: An Old West Ghost Town

Ok, I've mentioned quite a few times now that we visited a real life Old West ghost town over the Memorial Day weekend back in May, so I think it's finally time I shared some of the photos with you all.

I have loved the idea of visiting an Old West ghost town ever since we moved to California, and I'm happy to say that Bodie, in the Sierra Nevadas, lived up to all of my expectations. The town, which is a designated State Historic Park, has been kept in a state of arrested decay since the last residents moved on to greener pastures in the early 20th Century. Everything is just as it was back then; a declining gold mining town filled with run down houses.

Here's a little history about Bodie...

Bodie's life as an inhabited town was relatively short lived. Gold was found in the area in 1859 and by 1879 the town boasted a population of about 10,000. By this time the town also boasted a reputation as one of the wildest in the wild west. Bar fights, robberies, stage holdups, street fights, and killings were common. In fact, they were almost daily occurrences. In its hey day more than 60 saloons and dance halls lined the streets of Bodie. 

By 1881 Bodie was in decline. The rich mines were depleted and mining companies went bankrupt as miners and business people left for more lucrative areas. By 1886 the population of Bodie had dwindled to approximately 1,500 people. 

In 1892 a large fire destroyed many of the homes and businesses left in the once thriving community. 

The mines picked back up again during the 1890s with the introduction of the cyanide process for gold mining but the new boom was short lived. 

In 1932 another large fire destroyed all but 10% of the town's buildings. During the 1940s Bodie faded into a ghost town with the remaining residents leaving.

In 1962 the remaining part of the town was designated a State Historic Park and a National Historic Landmark. 

So now you know a little about the history behind this amazing little town. Time to have a look around...

As I mentioned earlier, Bodie has been left exactly as it was when the last residents moved away. Houses are still furnished, stores still have products on their shelves, the school blackboards are still covered in chalk, and those buildings that were left a little worse for wear are still a little worse for wear. Most buildings are structurally sound (even if some of them, like the one below, don't quite look like it!) but to preserve them as is, visitors are not allowed inside. Instead the interiors can be viewed through windows. Most of Bodie's buildings are made of wood, but there is the occasional brick building too.

The school house was a favourite with Ava and Lola. Although at first Ava didn't believe me that it was a school. "Where are the whiteboards?" she asked! Ha! I had to explain to her that back in the olden days (and the not so olden days when I was a kid) there were blackboards rather than whiteboards. She didn't seem convinced at first but finally believed me when I pointed out a few more features of the classroom.

I really enjoyed taking a peek inside the houses and catching a glimpse at what life must've been like in Bodie. Some houses are still set up as their owners left them. Others are in not so good shape. Every now and then we'd come across a house that seemed pretty livable even today. I asked the girls if they'd like to move there, saying that they would have a big back yard and could get a dog. Ava thought about it for a while then said "A backyard and a dog would be pretty cool, but living here would suck"! So true. I mean, there's no internet!

Bodie lies at 8,400 feet above sea level and sees some incredibly harsh, and constantly changing weather. High winds, heavy rains, scorching summers, extreme snowfall and blizzards were all a part of life. In fact, Bodie boasts the most days per year below freezing in the lower 48 states. Each month of the year the temperature drops below freezing at some point, even in Summer. In fact, while we were at Bodie the weather was constantly changing. The sun would come out and we'd all be warm. Then it would start raining. Then sun. Then hail. Then wind. Then sun again. Preparing for all types of weather when visiting Bodie is definitely a must, especially seeing as you can't go inside the buildings for shelter (apart from the visitor center and one house).

Mathilde is quite obsessed with cars, trucks and things that go so she was pretty excited to see a vintage truck on display as well as the fire carts in the fire station. Ava and Lola also found a rusted out car body that they had fun pretending to drive.

The stores and businesses along the main street are still filled with products which provides an amazing insight into the types of foods that the locals ate and the technology of the day. Offices are also still set up with everything in place.

One of the nicest houses in town, the J.S. Cain Residence, looks to be in better shape than a lot of the older houses here in Berkeley! In fact, there are quite a few derelict Victorians here in Berkeley that could be transported to Bodie and no one would know the difference! Don't get me started on the number of rundown houses sitting empty in the Bay Area when we have a major housing shortage...

Around the corner from the J.S. Cain residence is the sawmill. The girls had fun checking out the machinery and finding little items on the ground. Lola was pretty pleased that she found an old nail in the shape of an L. She was pretty keen to keep it but I managed to convince her that a photo would be just as good. I did make sure to check her pockets before we left though as I had a sneaking suspicion that she might try to sneak it out!

Nearby is the church which is also in pretty good nick. The church is closed off to visitors but just inside the door (past the barrier) is a collection dish that visitors throw coins into. Not everyone has the best aim!

Bodie has one house that visitors can actually go inside of. We were able to visit the dining and living area of this house, although the bedroom and kitchen were blocked off. This particular house has had quite a few different floor coverings over the years. I counted at least three different linoleum patterns on the floor. The linoleum patterns wouldn't look out of place in a home today, although the wallpapers were all pretty dated.

As Bodie is a state park, the girls were able to take part in a Junior Ranger program and add another badge to their ever growing collection. Ranger Lola was pretty happy to show off her badge.

Perched on top of the hill overlooking Bodie is the town cemetery. We didn't make it up there as we were all getting pretty hungry and Mathilde was ready for a nap. There is no food available at Bodie so packing snacks or lunch with you is a must. After a few days on the road though we had all tired of sandwiches and granola bars and were ready to go find a proper meal! So instead of visiting the cemetery we took a few more cheesy photos and headed on our way.

Bodie is an amazing place and I highly recommend visiting if you're at all interested in history. The kids enjoyed being outside and checking out the old buildings but admittedly they did tire of looking inside old houses before Kim and I did. They definitely had fun though.

If you plan to visit Bodie, keep in mind that the weather is incredibly changeable. The museum/visitor center is open from mid-May through mid-October only due to the harsh Winters. Winter visits require snow transportation and there are no towing facilities should you get stuck. Best to stick to Summer visits if you ask me!

For more information about visiting Bodie visit or