Monday, 30 December 2013

Ballerinas and Gingerbread

The last few days before Christmas saw a flurry of Christmas activities for our family. We visited the Victorian Christmas fair in Nevada City, were dazzled by the Zoo Lights display at Oakland Zoo, were entertained by a production of the Nutcracker and checked out the giant gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel. Phew, what a lot of Christmas fun! Of course, on top of all that there was last minute shopping, wrapping and decorating. It's amazing we weren't all Christmased out by the big day.

We've already seen the Victorian Christmas fair and Zoo Lights so let's have a look at the Nutcracker and giant gingerbread house...

Looking very much like Christmas at the Fairmont Hotel

Zoo Lights at Oakland Zoo

Every December Oakland Zoo lights up the night in a festive way with its Zoo Lights display. We haven't made it there in the past but this year it happened to appear as an activity on our advent calendar. So one night last week we headed off to the zoo after dark and took in the spectacle of lights.

Lola loved the colorful lights

Friday, 27 December 2013

That Cheeky Elf: Week 4

Elfie Pokie Nokie has flown back to the North Pole to stay with Santa for another year.

Here's a look at his last few days in our home this Christmas...

On day twenty two we found Elfie playing a game of Uno with one of Ava's teddy bears. From the look of that hand I'd say that Elfie has picked up some of Ava's cheating techniques. The good old "shuffle the cards so that you get all the good ones" trick!

Looks like Elfie has been cheating at Uno

A Victorian Christmas

Last weekend we traveled back in time to the Victorian era.

Ok, night quite, but we did travel to the Victorian Christmas in Nevada City. Despite the name, Nevada City is actually a small town in California - not a city in Nevada! It is located in the Sierra Nevada about a two and a half hour drive north-east of San Francisco. Every December the town plays host to a Victorian Christmas fair. The setting could not be more perfect. Being an old Gold Rush town, Nevada City is full of beautiful Victorian architecture. Broad Street which forms the main thoroughfare of the Christmas fair is particularly pretty with views over the surrounding forest.

At 2,500 feet above sea level Nevada City sees much cooler Winter temperatures than the Bay Area. While it was quite a pleasant day when we visited it was clear from the piles of snow that we spotted around the place that it had recently been much colder. How beautiful would it have been had it snowed lightly while we were there? That would've been amazing.

The Christmas fair attracts huge numbers of visitors as you can see from my photos. The fair features many local vendors and old fashioned entertainment including musicians, carolers, jump rope and ring toss games for the kids, balloon artists and many people dressed in their finest Victorian attire - even Santa and Mrs Claus.

Ava receives a candy cane from some of the Victorian characters strolling the fair

The girls with Victorian Santa and Mrs Claus

Merry Christmas 2013

Christmas is now over for another year but I'm still a little behind with the Christmas posts - as usual!

So let's start the catch up with a look at our Christmas Day...

As soon as the girls woke up on Christmas morning they knew that they'd made Santa's nice list thanks to the trail of sparkly, snowy footprints he'd left in the hallway overnight. You can find out how Santa left these footprints here. The footprints lead all the way from our Christmas tree in the lounge room, down our entry hallway and out our apartment door. The girls followed the footprints and discovered that, just like previous years, the footprints lead all the way to our nearest fire stairwell which was obviously Santa's point of entry.

Looks like we've had a jolly visitor overnight

Sunday, 22 December 2013

That Cheeky Elf: Week 3

It has now been three weeks since Elfie Pokie Nokie made his appearance back in our home and it seems he's been having just as much this week as the last two.

Here's a look at what he's been up to...

On the fifteenth day Elfie was pleased to discover that we finally had a Christmas tree. We found him perched up near the top after a night of tree climbing. 

Elves and Christmas trees go hand in hand

Friday, 20 December 2013

Printstagram Calendar Giveaway

This give away is now closed.

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It's no secret. I take a LOT of photos. My trusty camera is almost always by my side and for those moments when it's not, my iPhone is always ready to snap a shot. Those iPhone shots inevitably end up on Instagram, then Facebook, then Twitter, then maybe my blog...

While those iPhone shots tend not to be as high quality as the photos taken with my real camera, they often end up becoming my favourites. They're usually more candid and capture brief moments in time when I wasn't actually planning on taking a photo. Plus the right Instagram filter can make a big difference.

While my photos may be everywhere digitally, I don't really have that many printed photos in my home. The era of digital photography has all but brought an end to that. There's no need for bulky photo albums filling up book shelves or shoe boxes of photos stashed away in cupboards. Whenever I want to see my photos I can just look on my computer, iPad or phone. While I love the convenience of digital photography and the easy, space saving storage I've got to admit that I do miss having printed photos around. Not albums and albums worth mind you, just the special photos that make me smile.

That's where Social Print Studio's Printstagram comes in handy. Printstagram offers various high quality printing options for your Instagram photos including archival quality prints, mini books, stickers, posters and greeting cards. The Social Print Shop has a great range of display options for your printed photos. I quite like the concrete photo block shown below.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Christmas tree... finally!

On our advent calendar there are always two activity vouchers that the girls just can't wait to get their hands on. The first is visiting Santa at Macy's which came up on the advent calendar a week back. The second is choosing a tree from a Christmas tree farm. They've been waiting so patiently for their second favourite voucher and it finally appeared yesterday.

The long awaited advent voucher

Saturday, 14 December 2013

That Cheeky Elf: Week 2

Elfie Pokie Nokie has now been back in our home for two weeks and just like last week this week has seen him getting into all sorts of things. He's been building, playing board games, reading books, hiding in various strange locations and even been fishing. Thankfully he didn't manage to catch any of our fish!

Here's a look at his antics for this week...

On Elfie's eighth day in our home he got into the Lego Duplo and built himself a little fort - and spread quite a few blocks all over the floor. Of course, this was right after the girls and I had picked up all of the Lego and Duplo blocks and packed them away for the evening! The girls didn't seem to mind though and were quite impressed with his building skills.

Elves like Lego too

Thursday, 12 December 2013

DIY Waterless Snow Globes

A recurring voucher throughout our advent calendar is one that entitles Ava and Lola to make Christmas crafts. We've worked on a few things so far (which I will be sharing soon) but today I wanted to share my favourite: waterless snow globes.

Home made waterless snow globes

I've been seeing homemade snow globes popping up all over Pinterest and I really love the look of them. They're simple to make and they look really effective, especially when grouped together.

Here's a look at how we made ours...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sugar Castle 2013

A Christmas activity that appears in our advent calendar every year is visiting the sugar castle at the Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco. After visiting Santa at Macy's last Friday we braved the rain and wind to make a detour on the way home and stop by the hotel for a look at the castle.

Each year in December the Westin St Francis on Union Square displays a beautifully made castle crafted entirely of sugar in their main lobby. Each year the castle is added to or modified slightly from the previous year. The fairy tale castle is always surrounded by a picture perfect little village and a (not made of sugar!) model train that chuffs its way around  and around. The castle itself also revolves so that all sides can be seen from any one spot.

The lobby of the Westin is rather dark which makes for a dramatic setting for the castle. The fact that it was a very gloomy night outside made it even more atmospheric, although a little hard to photograph without a tripod.

Ava and Lola watch the train go around the base of the castle

Monday, 9 December 2013

Snow in Berkeley

Ok, so that title could be a little misleading.

It has been really cold here lately, even technically cold enough at night that it could snow. But it hasn't. That would truly be amazing and would make this frosty cold weather we've been experiencing worthwhile.

So, while it hasn't actually been snowing here, we did get a chance to play in snow, right here in Berkeley, over the weekend. On Sunday the annual "Snow? In Berkeley?" event was held in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. A parking lot was transformed into a mini Winter wonderland complete with real snow for the kids (small and big alike) to play in.

Lola and her, umm... snowman!

Half way there...

I am now officially half way through my pregnancy!

I'm pleased to say that so far it's been pretty smooth sailing and that our little baby is doing well. My belly is rapidly growing and is much bigger than it was at 20 weeks in my last pregnancy. I'm feeling little kicks and those pesky (but not painful) braxton hicks contractions have started. I've had those from about 5 months on wards with each pregnancy so that's pretty normal for me.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Karate Kid

For the last few months Ava has been taking karate classes with a small group of kids in a nearby park. Yesterday was the day for her official white belt test. The rest of Ava's class actually had their test back when we were in New York so yesterday's test was just all for Ava.

It was a pretty cold day, probably no more than 6 degrees celcius, but the sun was out so it was quite pleasant in the park. Of course, when the wind blew it was pretty chilly but luckily the wind stayed at bay for most of Ava's test.

Ava takes herself pretty seriously when she does her activities, especially when she sees it as a competition so she was very focused during her test and put in a lot of effort. She even did a good job of ignoring Lola who was making a lot of noise trying to copy Ava off to the side. It all paid off in the end when she was awarded her white belt and a certificate. She's all about the certificates, our girl. Certificates and trophies. If there's a certificate or trophy on offer Ava is in!

Here's a look at Ava in action during her test with her teacher Sensei Julia...


Saturday, 7 December 2013

A visit to Santaland 2013

Yesterday's advent calendar activity was the one that the girls had been waiting for: visiting Santa at Macy's. They could not wait to go see the man in red and tell him in person that they'd like American Girl dolls for Christmas.

After school we headed to Macy's to visit Santa in Santaland. It may have been cold, windy and pouring with rain but that wasn't going to stop us in our quest to see Santa. The gloomy weather combined with the train ride did send Lola off to sleep though which meant that she was a little grumpy when we arrived.

Grumpy Lola ready to escape from Santa

That Cheeky Elf: Week 1

The Elf on the Shelf appeared in our home on the first day of December. Since then he's been flying back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa and coming back again in the early hours of the morning. Last year when he'd fly back to our home he'd find a comfy spot on a shelf, the Christmas tree or door handle to hang from. This year, however, he's been a little cheekier and has been getting into all sorts of things. 

Here's a look at the first week of the Elf on the Shelf in our home...

On the first day the Elf appeared in the advent calendar. This is the spot that he always appears on the first day and also the last place he appears before flying back to the North Pole after Christmas.

The advent calendar appeared overnight and so did Elfie Pokie Nokie

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Happy Hanukkah

Yesterday's activity on the advent calendar wasn't really related to Christmas. In fact, it was related to another holiday that falls this time of year: Hanukkah.

In the afternoon we caught up with friends for a little Hanukkah party. Ava has been learning about different cultures and traditions at school and this week's focus has been on Hanukkah, so she thinks herself quite the expert. She's been telling me all about how to light the candles on the menorah and how to play with a dreidel; two things she was looking forward to doing at the party.

Our delicious afternoon tea consisted of potato latkes with apple sauce, brisket, cinnamon buns, Hanukkah cookies, fruit and chocolate "gelt" coins.

Delicious cookies from a local diner

Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent Calendar: Day 1

It's the first day of December and that means it's the first day of the advent calendar. Ava and Lola have eagerly been waiting the arrival of the advent calendar so they were pretty excited this morning when they walked out of their bedroom and discovered it hanging in the hallway.

As usual I have filled our advent calendar with vouchers for Christmas themed activities rather than the traditional chocolates. And as usual first up in the advent calendar was a voucher to write and send letters to Santa, something which Ava has been very eager to do for weeks.

Letters to Santa

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thanksgiving Handprints

Thanksgiving is almost here again. In fact, Ava is already off school for the holiday.

We've been working on a few Thanksgiving crafts to decorate our apartment. Last year we made hand print turkeys and they were such a big hit with the kids. You can see them here. Both Ava and Lola were pretty keen to make hand print turkeys again. This year we decided to mix things up a little and rather than making just hand print turkeys we went for a whole Thanksgiving theme and made hand print pilgrims and hand print Native Americans as well.

Thanksgiving handprints on our front door

Sunday, 24 November 2013

My favourite Christmas Ornaments

Christmas is sneaking up on us yet again. Can you believe it's only a month away?

We've had so much going on lately that I really haven't had a chance to to start organising anything for Christmas: no presents purchased, no photos taken for our cards, advent calendar not organised... The one thing that I do have ready for this Christmas though is a set of gorgeous ornaments ready to adorn our tree - you know, for when I get around to organising that too!

One of my good friends here in Berkeley makes the most wonderful Christmas ornaments I have ever laid my eyes on and I'm so excited to share then with you all here. Karina handcrafts whimsical elves, wreaths, snow globes, and ornaments all of which you can find on her Etsy store Kaniko; http://www.etsy.com/shop/kaniko.

My favorites have to be the elves. Their long pointy hats are reminiscent of Scandinavian folklore and their bodies made from the tiniest of pinecones are just perfect. There's a little magic in each one of these whimsical little characters. The elves come in a range of sizes (from 2" to 8") and can be hung as ornaments or used as a tree topper. The larger elves have bases for if you wish to stand them on a mantle or table.  The tiniest elves are also available as a brooch. So cute.

Set of 3 elves

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Googleplex

Today we headed down to Silicon Valley, home of some of the world's largest and most influential tech companies. While down there we visited the headquarters of one such company: Google.

Google's corporate headquarters, known as the Googleplex, sprawls over a large area of land and features many low rise buildings. We had a bit of a drive around looking at the buildings, but the main attraction, especially for the girls, was the collection of Android lawn statues located in front of Building 44. The statues were a huge hit with the girls as they're all based on the deliciously sweet code names of Android mobile operating system versions: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean and Kit Kat. What kid wouldn't love statues of such delicious treats?

Here's a look at the girls with the Android statues. Oh, and that silly hat that they're wearing? That's a "Noogler" hat given to new Google staff, otherwise known as "Nooglers". Hats with propellors are always the best!

Lola in a "Noogler" hat with the statues

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Ava's Travel Journal

We've already had a look at all the fun we had on our recent trip to Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and New York but now I thought I'd show you our trip from Ava's perspective.

As Ava was away from school for almost two weeks she was given a pack of school work to keep her busy and to prevent her from getting behind in her work. Part of her work pack was keeping a travel journal. This was a great way for Ava to document her favourite parts of our trip and to practise her writing.

Here's a look at our trip through Ava's eyes...

"I went on an airplane. I flew to Ottawa. I watched 1 show then I went to sleep."

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Dr Lola's diagnosis... It's a baby!

"Dr Lola, there seems to be something up with my belly. Can you tell me what it is?"

"Hmm... Let me just check with my stethoscope, Patient Mummy."


"Just as I thought... It's a baby!"


Thanks to Dr Lola's diagnosis (along with that of actual real doctors!) I'm very happy to announce that the Mason family will have a new member joining us in late April 2014.

We're all very excited and can't wait for our little one to arrive. Ava and Lola can't wait to be big (and bigger) sisters.

So far I've been feeling pretty good and the baby is a healthy size and right on track for growth.

After all the bad luck the first half of the year had in store, it looks like the second half of 2013 has turned around for us. 2014 is looking pretty good from here too!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Claymation Fun at Children's Creativity Museum

Yesterday Ava had the day off school so we decided to head into the city.

We met up with some friends and headed to the Children's Creativity Museum. As we arrived kind of late in the day (the girls had medical check ups and flu shots in the morning) we didn't have much time to explore the whole museum. Instead we headed straight to the Animation Studio and created our very own claymation movies.

Now, the girls and I visited Children's Creativity Museum during the Summer vacation last year but for some reason I never got around to writing a post about it. Last time we visited we created a claymation movie as well so this time around Ava thought herself quite the little expert! In fact, she actually did make her claymation character without any help and filmed the entire thing on her own too. Might have to send her down the road to work at Pixar!

Here's a look at our claymation fun...

Ava makes her claymation penguin.
Start with the "guts" and cover it with a coloured "skin". 

New York City: Part 3

Our last full day in New York was a busy one. We certainly crammed a lot of fun into a short time!

We started the day with bagels and coffee (how else would a day in New York start?) and hopped on the subway to Brooklyn. Seeing Manhattan from across the water is always amazing and the girls were pretty excited that we were a little bit closer to the Statue of Liberty. They desperately wanted to  go visit their favourite green lady up close however we just didn't have the time on this quick trip. Our view of her from Brooklyn was a pretty good one and the girls were happy with that.

Ava's favourite green lady

What a view

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead

Today Ava's class at school decorated sugar skulls for their Day of the Dead altar.

The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a Latin American celebration honouring those who have passed away. The holiday is celebrated with candle lit processions and altars dedicated to the deceased. These altars are decorated with (among other things) candles, marigolds and sugar skulls. Ava's class has been learning about Day of the Dead and have created an altar outside their classroom. Today their altar was completed with the sugar skulls.

Sugar skulls were made in advance from a mould similar to the ones you can find here. The kids were then provided with bottles of royal icing in bright colours to decorate their skulls. Their teacher spoke to them about symmetry and the traditional patterns that are used on sugar skulls for Day of the Dead. Most of the kids tried to stick to making their skull decorations pretty symmetrical but quite a few of the skulls ended up completely covered in a mess of icing! 

Everyone had fun and the skulls look fantastic together on the altar.

Here's a look at Ava's class working on their sugar skulls...



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

New York City: Part 2

Our second full day in New York got off to an earlier start. Tonight we'd be staying with our friends Daniela and Sam so we packed up what we needed for the night and headed from the east side to the west side via Central Park. The girls were pretty happy to walk through the park after being surrounded by buildings for the last few days.

Ava in Central Park

Lola in Central Park

Sunday, 3 November 2013

New York City: Part 1

Back to the vacation posts...

After we collected our new visas in Ottawa we hopped on a plane (well, two planes) and headed to New York City for a quick visit with friends and to show the girls my most favourite city in the whole world.

We're very lucky to have good friends living in New York. And even luckier that they were happy to have us come stay a night or two - or three! Big thanks to Mylee & Richard and Daniela & Sam for putting us up and for showing us around the city they're all lucky enough to call home.

We arrived in New York late in the day and headed straight to Mylee and Richard's place for a catch up and a home cooked dinner. There's nothing better than a home cooked dinner when you're traveling. Don't get me wrong, I love going out for dinner but after a week of kid friendly restaurant food a home cooked dinner hits the spot.

We woke the next day to a beautiful morning; sunny with clear skies and just a hint of the approaching Winter weather in the air. I can't get enough of the views in New York. I would be happy to spend hours just looking out the window at the city. At home we have a good view over Berkeley, San Francisco and the Bay, but there's just something about the views in New York that takes my breath away. The colour changes over the buildings through the morning as the sun rose were stunning. My favourite thing about the view from Mylee and Richard's apartment was the fact that I could see the Time Warner Building which I like to pretend is my old home - I stayed there for three weeks back in 2006 setting up a condo for my then boss.

Golden glow as the sun rises

Just an hour later and everything's bright and sparkly

Friday, 1 November 2013

Boo! It's Halloween 2013

Well, Halloween is done and dusted for another year.

The girls had so much fun dressing up and going trick or treating with their friends. This year both of the girls decided to go for slightly scarier costumes than they have in the past. Ava dressed as a vampire and Lola was a bat; a vampire bat, of course!

Boo!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Two Years in America

Can you believe that it has now been over two years since the girls and I arrived in America?

Two years already! I can't believe it. I'm going to have to stop telling people that we just moved here from Australia as two years isn't really "just" anymore!

We celebrated the two year anniversary of our arrival in America in my all time favourite American city: New York. There'll be plenty of photos from our New York trip coming up.

Celebrating in New York


In the meantime here's a look at some of my favourite moments from over the last year.

Friday, 25 October 2013

31 Days of ABCs: Y is for Yoga

I'm excited to be taking part in a wonderful series which has been running throughout the month of October called 31 Days of ABCs. Each day a different blogger shares a project or activity related to a letter of the alphabet.

Today we're up to the letter Y. Y for yellow, yoghurt, yarn, yak, yam and, as you'll see below, Y for yoga.

Here in Berkeley, yoga is a pretty big thing. My girls love practising their yoga and are always showing me different positions that they've perfected - or think they've perfected! This got me thinking about how they could use their bodies to make the letters of the alphabet with yoga inspired positions.

Om


Some of the letters were pretty simple to make, think I, X, T and Y. Others were a little trickier and required a bit of balance and lots of concentration such as G, J, S and V. And then there were some letters that we just couldn't work out how to make with only one person such as B, D, N and U. These required cooperation and teamwork from the girls in order to make them work. Or in the case of the letter W, let's make that almost work!

So let's take a lot at our Yoga ABCs...

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Québec City

Our last stop on our Canadian trip was the picturesque city of Québec. 

Now, I'd thought that the Old Town of Montreal was beautiful with it's mixture of quaint row houses and stately buildings, but Québec took the whole "Old Town" thing to a new level. Montreal's Old Town  had quite a European feel to it, however somehow Québec's Old Town felt more European. Maybe it was the street layout. Maybe it was the style of buildings. I can't really put my finger on it, but as we walked around the Old Town I really felt as though we had been transported into a European town.

Maybe what made Québec feel more European was the fact that it rained almost the whole time we were there! Unfortunately it rained a little too much for us to get out and see everything that we had hoped to see. I'd planned to stroll through the narrow streets down by the port but instead we had to suffice with driving through them in the shelter of our rental car. We had also planned to visit the nearby Montmorency Falls but the rain but a dampener on that plan too. Kind of ironic that we skipped out on seeing a waterfall due to water falling! Unfortunately though it was just too wet and cold for us to do all that much for a lot of the time that we were in Québec. However we did see enough to appreciate what a beautiful little city it is. 

We spent most of our time in Québec visiting the Old Town where tourists are drawn in droves to the picturesque port area. One of the main tourist draw cards to the area is the imposing Château Frontenac which perches atop a hill above the port. Built in 1893, the Château is in fact a very grand hotel. While spending a night at the Château was a little out our reach, stopping by the (not so grand!) Starbucks on the ground floor was definitely within our price range! A nice warm latte (or hot chocolate for the girls) was just what we needed after braving the cold walking along the boardwalk in front of the Château.

Château Frontenac

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Bienvenue a Montreal

Welcome to Montreal, and the second part of our trip to Canada. 

While waiting for our visas to be be processed and ready to pick up we decided to head east to Quebec and visit the beautiful cities of Montreal and Quebec City for a few days. We spent the weekend in Montreal and we all fell in love with the place. Such a city of contrasts. North American, yet so European. A vibrant modern city with skyscrapers, heavy traffic and everything that goes along with a big city. Then there's the old town; Vieux Montreal. Cobblestone and paved streets lined with grand public buildings and quaint stone row houses dating from the 17th century onwards. Living in California we often forget just how long ago the East Coast of the USA and Canada was colonised by Europeans. Anything built in the 19th century is old by Californian standards (and similarly by our Australian standards back home) so being in such an old area without having to leave North America is such a treat. We really felt like we had suddenly appeared in a European city. The fact that everything is in French adds to the European feel too :)

Our hotel in Montreal was ideally located close to the old town which was our first stop for a spot of sightseeing. We walked the paved streets (which were super bumpy with a stroller - sorry Lola!) and took in the sights of the old buildings and the port. We had arrived a little later in the day that planned and it was quite a bit colder than we'd hoped so we weren't out for too long. After a few hours of exploring it was starting to get dark (and colder!) so we retreated into a restaurant for dinner then back to the hotel for an early night.

Montreal's old town

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Back in Canada: First stop, Ottawa

We're back in Canada again!

Nothing says Canada quite like a red maple leaf


Another visa trip, this time for all new visas to go with Kim's all new job. Even though we only just renewed our visas a few months back in Calgary they can't be transferred between jobs so that means another trip out of the USA to visit a consulate/embassy. This time we decided to head east and visit Ottawa. There were a few reasons for this. First of all, the visas are actually prepared in Ottawa (the main embassy is here) so the wait time can be a little shorter. Our appointment was yesterday and we received notification today that our visas are ready so that worked well. Secondly, we've already visited the cities closest to the west coast with consulates (Vancouver and Calgary) and we thought it would be nice to see a little more of Canada. And thirdly (and maybe most importantly), heading to the eastern side of the country means we're only a short trip away from New York and can drop by on the way home for a much promised visit with friends!

We arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday morning after taking the red eye flight from San Francisco, via Toronto. Ava and Kim slept relatively well on the flights however as Lola had slept the whole BART ride to SFO and all throughout our two hour wait in the airport she was wide awake in time for the flight. She didn't fall back to sleep until we were about one and a half hours away from Toronto. Of course, this meant that I didn't get to sleep until we were about one and a half hours away from Toronto. She didn't sleep at all on the connecting flight to Ottawa so neither could I. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived at our hotel in Ottawa. Somehow Lola was wide awake and full of beans.

After a little rest in the hotel we headed out to take a look around Ottawa. Our hotel is quite close to many of the tourist attractions; Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, Byward Market... All the things we wanted to see are within easy walking distance which is great. We headed to Byward Market for some lunch then onto Major's Hill Park which has beautiful views along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River. Of course, by now Lola had crashed and was fast asleep in her stroller, missing out on playing in the park with Ava.

Looking over Parliament Hill from Major's Hill Park

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Our Pumpkin Patch Visit 2013

I love Autumn here in America. It's definitely my favourite season. 

With all of the beautiful trees ablaze with colour at this time of year Autumn is much more of a distinct season in the US than it is in Australia. Even here in northern California where it doesn't get all that cold, Autumn has a definite feel to it. In fact, here in the Bay Area early Autumn is actually the warmest part of the year with clear, sunny days and less fog than Summer. Although the days are warm the nights are starting to get chilly and the mornings can be quite crisp.

One of the main things I love about Autumn is the holidays. We've fully embraced Halloween and Thanksgiving since we moved to the US and the girls love getting into the spirit. Over the weekend we got into the holiday spirit by visiting a pumpkin patch to choose pumpkins for our Halloween jack-o'lanterns. We jumped in a Zipcar and headed east to Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm.

Scary pumpkin!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Lola's 3rd Birthday Party

Yesterday we celebrated Lola's 3rd birthday with a bubbles and balloons party.

There were bubbles. There were balloons. There were lots of little friends. It was a perfect little party and we were blessed with perfect weather. The fog even lifted over the Bay early in the day to give us a beautiful backdrop for the party!

Here's a look at Lola's special day...



Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lola is turning 3!

My baby will be turning 3 next week. I can't believe she's such a big girl already.

To celebrate her birthday we'll be throwing a Bubbles & Balloons party for Lola this weekend.

Lola chose the theme of her party and has been super excited about it for weeks. Ok, maybe months!

I've been working hard on party preparations the last few weeks and thought I'd share the invitations with you today. I'm really happy with how they turned out and I think they look great, if I do say so myself!

Sticking with the Bubbles & Balloons theme I decided to make a little cut out Lola holding onto an oversized balloon. Here's little Lola and her balloon hanging on our fridge.

Lola's party invitation

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

International Walk & Roll to School Day

Today, October 9th was International Walk & Roll to School Day.

For us it's not really different to any other school day as Ava always either walks, rides her scooter or rides her bike. Definitely a benefit of living close to school and not owning a car!

For today Ava chose to ride her bike. She loves riding her bike to school but seeing as it requires a little extra time in the morning to get the bike ready we usually stick to walking or scooting most days.

Waiting for the traffic light to change

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Expatstudy

Today's post is a little different to my usual posts.

Today I'm reaching out to you, my readers, and asking for 15 minutes of your time to help out with a survey.

My good friend Hanna is working on her PhD and is undertaking a research project called Expatstudy which looks at the relationship between expatriation and career success.

If you have a few moments spare it would be truly appreciated if you could take the time to complete Hanna's survey. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes and your answers will be of great help to Hanna's research.

Even if you've never been on an expatriate assignment, your answers will still be of great value to the research outcomes.  

You can find more information and a link to the survey at www.expatstudy.com

You can also follow Expatstudy on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for your help!




Friday, 4 October 2013

The Wishing Tree

Today Lola and I walked home from pre-school along a different route, and I'm so glad we did.

Along our walk we came across a special lemon tree. But it wasn't the abundance of lemons that caught our eyes, it was something else. Hanging all over the tree were swing tags; each with something written on it.



On closer inspection I discovered that each tag contained a wish. There were wishes for the good health of loved ones, wishes for love, wishes for happiness, wishes for peace and, my favourite, a wish for a rainbow. But these wishes were not purely those of the tree's owner. They were wishes of  hundreds of strangers who had passed by.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Exploratorium

Last weekend we took the girls to visit the Exploratorium. This was actually our second trip to the Exploratorium, but our first to it's new location at Pier 15.


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Mission Murals: Clarion Alley

Yesterday we had a look at the amazing murals that decorate Balmy Alley in San Francisco's Mission District.

Today let's have a look at another mural adorned alley in the Mission District: Clarion Alley.

Clarion Alley is not as well known as Balmy Alley but it is just as colourful. Not being on the tourist map, it's a little more grimy and a tad stinkier than Balmy Alley, but it is a back alley way after all!

Ava and Lola both really liked Clarion Alley. In a few areas the murals spill off the walls and onto the street. The girls were pretty impressed by this and loved being able to walk on the murals, especially the  bright and happy Murakami inspired flowers. The Rolling Stones tongues were another big hit with the girls. Any excuse to stick their tongues out for the camera!

Here's a look at the colour and fun of Clarion Alley...


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mission Murals: Balmy Alley

San Francisco's Mission District is known for being a colourful neighbourhood. Talk a walk down Mission Street (and many of the surrounding streets) and it feels like you've just taken a trip south of the border to Mexico! The streets are lined with fruit and vegetable vendors selling exotic produce, travel agents advertise flights to Guadalajara, stores sell Mexican wrestling masks and much store signage is in Spanish.

But the streets of the Mission District are not just colourful in a cultural way, they are literally colourful. Murals abound and there's barely a street that isn't adorned with colour.

Two streets in particular are especially colourful and we recently headed to the Mission District to check them out: the famous Balmy Alley and the not as well known, but equally colourful, Clarion Alley.

Today let's have a look at Balmy Alley...


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Cooking with Kids: Hand Drawn Cookies

Today Ava and Lola celebrated their friend Solly's 3rd birthday with a party in a nearby park.

The girls wanted to give Solly something special that they had made themselves so we decided to bake some cookies. To make the cookies special the girls personalised them with drawings.

Here's a look at the hand drawn cookies we made and how you can make them yourself too...

Happy birthday cookies

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