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.

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