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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Visiting Boulder's Iris Farm

The first official week of Summer Break and we had our first official outing of the season - and our first time out exploring in god only knows how long!

Now that the weather has warmed up, things are looking very much like Spring (or Summer) here in the Boulder Valley. Trees that were bare just a month ago are green, lawns and grass areas are lush, and every second garden in our neighborhood is filled with colorful flowers. The two most common flowers here seem to be irises in a range of colors, and vivid orange poppies. And when I say these flowers are common, I mean they are everywhere.

I've never lived in a place where everyone seems to plant the same flowers in their garden so it got me wondering about just why these two flowers are everywhere. Sure, they're pretty, but there are lots of other pretty flowers out there too. They obviously grow well here, but that still wasn't really the answer I was looking for. After digging a little deeper I learned about Boulder's history with irises and a small flower farm right in the city.

Long's Gardens is a small flower farm located on Broadway in a neighborhood full of houses, recreation centers and parks. Not really where you'd expect to find a farm, but it has been there ever since 1905. For much of that time Long's Gardens has been growing a variety of irises, providing beautiful blooming plants to the Boulder Valley.

Long's Gardens is a private property, but they open their farm up to the public during the flowering season, from April to June. Most years, they offer "u-dig" sales during this time, with customers able to choose their own iris plants from the field, dig them up to purchase, and grow them at home. Kind of like the flower equivalent of apple picking! This year, due to COVID, Long's Gardens is not offering their "u-dig" or direct sales from their office. Their iris fields are still open to the public for viewing only, and that's what we did yesterday.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Four Days in Austin, Texas


Don't they feel like such a long time away now that we've been sheltering at home for almost two months? Instead of pining for the missed vacations that we were supposed to take during this time (a family trip to Chicago, weekend trips around Colorado, and a school trip to Washington DC for Ava) I've decided to take a look back at some of our past vacations and share them here on the blog. As inspiration for when we can start travelling again - and also because I've been meaning to share them for such a long time!

Today I'm starting with a trip that was exactly one year ago. This time last year we were on vacation in Austin, Texas. It was our first visit to Texas and we had a blast. Austin is a great city to visit with or without kids. There are sprawling parks, stunning architecture, plenty of interesting wildlife, lots of great shops and restaurants, interesting historical sites, natural wonders, and my favorite, lots of street art. You know I'm a sucker for a good mural! Sure, it was hot, humid and there were bugs and pollen everywhere, but Austin's charm and quirkiness made up for that. Well, for four days. I'm not sure I could handle the weather much longer than that!

I'll be sharing some more detailed posts about the places we visited, but for now, here's a look at our four days in Austin...

Last April I attended the Mom 2.0 conference in Austin. Seeing as it was a city (and state) we were yet to visit we decided to tack a family vacation onto the end of the conference. Kim and the girls flew to join me on the Friday evening and we made an extra long weekend out of it, flying home the following Tuesday evening.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Pikachu Marshmallows

At Mathilde's little Pokémon birthday party last weekend we made Pikachu marshmallows. They're super easy to make, taste yummy, and the kids really enjoyed making them. 

I had originally planned to make the Pikachu marshmallows in advance to serve up as a party food (as I had done for Ava's Pokémon themed 10th birthday party years ago) but then I figured that seeing as we were at home with access to a kitchen, it would be fun to make them as a party activity. And I was right! It was fun!

These little Pikachus are super simple to make and only need a few ingredients.

Here's how we made them...

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Mathilde's 6th Birthday

Last Friday Mathilde turned six. 

Given that we're all sheltering at home, a party with her classmates and friends was unfortunately out of the picture. But that didn't mean that there was no party at all. Originally I didn't think we'd do anything right now and save the party for over Summer when (fingers crossed) we can start seeing friends again. But a few days before her birthday Mathilde started talking about all the fun things she was looking forward to doing at her party. It occurred to me that there was no reason to cancel or postpone her party at all. Instead of celebrating with friends, we celebrated with just the five of us. 

Because we were busy with school at home on Friday we celebrated Mathilde's birthday with a small party on Saturday. It worked out quite well as Friday was rainy on and off, but Saturday had glorious weather.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

National Parks Week

This past week has been National Parks Week here in the US.

While we haven't been able to get out and about to explore any of our favorite parks, they have been on my mind. So today I thought I'd share the National Parks that we have visited so far. Some of these have been sprawling parks filled with majestic landscapes while others have been historic parks showcasing important moments from America's past.

Here's a look at the National Parks we have visited by state...

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Environmentally Friendly Products for Earth Day - and Every Day!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you shop through these links, however it will not cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!

Today is Earth Day!

Mathilde has been learning about helping the environment in her school work today and that's got me thinking about the things we do around our home (and out and about) to help mother nature. Recycling, shopping with reusable bags, using refillable water bottles, cleaning with environmentally friendly products, walking or biking instead of driving, getting our milk delivered in reusable glass bottles direct from the dairy... There are so many easy actions that we can take to do our part to protect the earth.

Today I'm sharing some of my favorite products that we use (or have used in the past) to do our part in helping the environment. As always, click the product name to shop!

Here's a look...

Around the home

There are so many small changes you can make at home to be more environmentally friendly. Planting a water wise garden, turning lights off when you leave a room, hang washing out to dry, turning the water off while you brush teeth, installing water saving shower roses and toilets, recycling and composting, switching over to energy efficient light bulbs, washing laundry with cold water...

Below are some products that we use around the home to lower our carbon footprint. I hang most of our washing out to dry rather than putting it in the dryer, and this handy clothes line holds a surprising large amount of washing. It also folds up quite compact for storage. When it comes to cleaning I like to use products that are available in refill packs to cut down on waste. Reusable paper towels and dishcloths are handy too. Reusable silicone bags are a great alternative to single use plastics when it comes to storing food. When it's not possible to bring a reusable lunch bag home I like to use compostable paper bags to cut down on waste. Speaking of waste, we've cut down on soda bottles by using a soda stream machine at home. It also encourages us to drink more water.

🌳 Leifheit Pegasus Clothes Drying Rack
🌳 If You Care Compostable Food Waste Bags
🌳 Stasher Half Gallon Size Reusable Silicone Bag
🌳 Method Dish Soap Refill
🌳 General Electric LED Light Bulb
🌳 Seedling by Grove Reusable paper Towel
🌳 Lunchskins Compostable/Recyclable Paper Sandwich Bags
🌳 If You Care Reusable Paper Towels
🌳 Seventh Generation All Purpose Cleaning Spray
🌳 Soda Stream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker

Out and About

Doing your part for the environment can be just as easy when you're out and about as when you're at home. Pack a refillable water bottle so you won't need to purchase bottled water. Ditch the wasteful ziplock bags and pack snacks in washable silicone or fabric snack bags. These are great for dog treats when you're out walking your pup too. Speaking of walking dogs, don't forget the compostable pet waste bags! Much better for the environment than regular plastic bags. The dog snacks I've shared here are environmentally friendly too as they're made from food that would otherwise go to waste. The best way to do your part for Mother Earth when out and about is to ditch the car! If you're going too far to walk think about riding a scooter (it cuts our walk to school in half!) or riding a bike. A cargo bike is a great idea for lugging kids, shopping and other cargo. I had the older version of the bike pictured below and it was a great way to get around town with the kids.

🌳 Baggu Reusable Shopping Bag
🌳 Hydroflask 32oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle
🌳 Hydroflask 12oz Kids' Wide Mouth Water Bottle
🌳 Micro Kickboard Scooter
🌳 Lunchskins Zipper Set
🌳 Shameless Pets Dog Treats
🌳 Stasher Snack Size Reusable Silicone Bag
🌳 Yuba Mundo Lux Cargo Bike
🌳 Earth Rated Compostable Pet Waste Bag

Personal Care Items

Caring for the environment and caring for our bodies can go hand in hand. There are lots of great health and beauty products that are environmentally friendly, from products that cut down on wasteful packaging, products made from organic and sustainable ingredients, and products that replace single use alternatives. When it comes to washing hair, shampoo and conditioner bars are a great choice as they avoid wasteful packaging. You can store them in a soap holder and they're handy for travel too as they take up little space. Washing hair less regularly cuts down on water use, which is a plus for the environment, but it can lead to oily hair. Dry shampoo is a great option here but make sure to avoid an aerosol product. Removing makeup can be quite wasteful if you're using make up remover wipes or even cotton balls. I like to use the Make Up Eraser wash cloth to cut down on waste. I have no idea how it works, but it successfully removes even water proof mascara with just water! Periods can be pretty tough on the environment (and your wallet) when it comes to buying pads and tampons regularly. Period pants and menstrual cups are reusable options that create far less waste, save money in the long run, and can be a healthier choice with less risk of toxic shock syndrome than tampons. If you've got a baby in your family, or one on the way, consider switching to cloths diapers. They're a much better choice for the environment and they're substantially cheaper in the long term than buying disposable diapers. I used BumGenius diapers for both Lola and Mathilde, and they even went on to be used by a friend's baby after Mathilde no longer needed them. If you're not up for the extra washing, there are cloth diaper services available in most cities. They do all the dirty work for you and deliver clean diapers. To be honest though, I really didn't find cloth diapers to be much more work than disposables. Speaking of diapers, ditch the wasteful single use wipes and get yourself some snuggly soft bamboo or cotton wipes. I used the same ones for both Lola and Mathilde, and years later they still get used as face washers. You can simply use them with warm water to clean little bottoms or with a gentle cleansing spray. I used Tubby Todd Baby Fresh Spray for Mathilde. If you're nursing, consider using washable nursing pads instead of disposable. I found Bamboobies to be both comfortable and absorbent.

🌳 Acure Dry Shampoo
🌳 Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads
🌳 Thinx Period Underwear
🌳 Make Up Eraser
🌳 Sustain Menstrual Cup
🌳 Soapbox Shampoo Bar
🌳 Thinx (BTWN) Period Underwear for Teens & Tweens
🌳 Lush Solid Shampoos
🌳 Lush Solid Conditioner
🌳 Lush Bubble Bath Bar
🌳 Charlie Banana Reusable Organic Cotton Wipes
🌳 Tubby Todd Baby Fresh Spray
🌳 BumGenius Cloth Diaper

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Easter 2020

Did you celebrate Easter this past weekend? Was it very different from your usual Easter celebrations?

Our Easter certainly was very different for us, and not because of the Coronavirus. As I shared in my previous post, we always celebrate Easter at home by ourselves, so there was no difference in that respect. What was different, however, was that we had a white Easter! Yep - it snowed here in Colorado! It was quite a lot of snow too and it continued all through Sunday and most of Monday.

The snow didn't stop us from celebrating though. In fact, an Easter egg hunt in the snow was much more entertaining than our usual Easter egg hunts. The kids loved it and I have to say that I did too.

Here's a look at our Easter Sunday...

Thursday, 9 April 2020

How we Celebrate Easter at Home

Easter is coming up this Sunday. Are you ready for it?

I've been seeing a lot of discussion on social media about how to celebrate this holiday while sheltering in place. Parents wondering if the Easter Bunny should still visit. How can they make the holiday special for their kids while staying home. Maybe, Easter should just be cancelled altogether.

I have to admit that these discussions have left me a little confused. Sure, we can't meet up with other people, but apart from that how is Easter any different this year? As expats with no extended family in the same country (or hemisphere) our Easters are always celebrated at home with just our immediate family. To me, this is our normal, so Easter this year will be no different than any other year. In fact, this is also how I remember my family celebrating Easter growing up - although my Grandma did come and stay with us for Easter each year. Given that "normal" is different for everyone, I did a little digging and discovered that for many people Easter is celebrated with extended family and friends, as well as with community events. Without these events and the ability to visit family a lot of people are stumped on what to do to make Easter special.

Seeing as Easter at home is normal for us, I thought I'd share some of the ways that we make it a special day for the kid. As we're not religious most of what we do revolves around the Easter bunny and chocolate.

Here's a look at what we usually do for Easter Sunday...

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Quick & Easy Meals: Tuna Mornay

With so many people looking for economical meals that can be made from pantry staples at the moment, I thought today would be a good day to share one of my go to meals for the family: Tuna Mornay. Now, if you're Australian, you're probably pretty familiar with tuna mornay. It's one of those meals that you rarely see on a menu, but every family has their own recipe.

Tuna mornay was a regular meal growing up and it is a regular meal for my family too. My kids love it and would happily eat it several times a week - which they usually end up doing as there are always left overs. If you're not Australian, there's a good chance that you have no idea what tuna mornay is. I just presumed it was a recipe known around the world until I moved to the US and discovered that my American friends had no idea what it was. I then figured it must be a commonwealth thing, but unlike most Australian foods that are actually really British, it turns out that my British friends aren't familiar with tuna mornay either. Nor are my German, Italian and Russian friends. Only my Australian friends seem to be familiar with it, and they all claim that their family's recipe is the best. But they're lying, because my Mum's recipe is the best!

You're in luck, because today I'm sharing my Mum's tuna mornay recipe with you. It's a recipe that I've thought about sharing here many times over the years, but never have for two reasons. First of all, it's one of those recipes that I've been making for so long that I actually don't have a recipe. The ingredients always stay the same, but I just wing it when it comes to the amounts. My Mum has always done the same, so when she gave me the recipe years ago, it was just a list of ingredients. Sharing my recipe here meant paying attention to the amounts I use, and I never think of that until after I've made it! The other reason I've never shared my tuna mornay recipe is that as delicious as it tastes, it's not a particularly photogenic food! You'll see! It's definitely one of those "tastes much better than it looks" meals!

Here's what you'll need:
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
2 9oz tins chunk tuna in water (in brine is better if you can find it)
1 tin corn (drained) or 1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar works best but I used a Mexican blend here)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups pasta (I like penne or spriali)

Friday, 27 March 2020

25 Kid Friendly San Francisco Bay Area Hikes

Ever since we moved from California to Colorado I've been dreaming of going back. I miss our life in the San Francisco Bay Area so much, but right now I'm grateful that here in Colorado we have a house and a yard, with plenty of space to spread out. In the Bay Area we'd be finding ourselves on lock down in a two bedroom apartment with no outdoor space of our own, which, as much as I want to move back, isn't particularly appealing right now.

For those of you who find yourself in that same position I'm sharing my favorite hikes in and around San Francisco. They're all kid friendly and area great way to get out and get a little exercise without traveling too far from home. As always, click the bold and underlined title for more information.

Please make sure to follow any and all Shelter in Place orders before heading out for a hike. Keep at least 6 feet away from other hikers and don't forget to pack the hand sanitzer. While parks are currently open this may change, so make sure to check online first.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Snow Cream

How's the social distancing going for you? We had a snow storm at the end of last week which made staying inside all day and away from other people much easier! 

It also meant that the kids got to have a little snow fun in the backyard. While Mathilde threw snowballs at Yetta, Lola and I made snow cream for the first time. I can't believe it's taken us this long to make snow cream before, but judging by how much the kids (and I) loved it, it won't be the last time.

Have you ever had snow cream before? Are you wondering what it is? If, like me, you grew up somewhere with no snow then it's probably something you're not familiar with, but trust me you'll want to try it!

As you can probably guess from the name, and the pictures below, snow cream is ice cream made from fresh snow. It tastes so good and its super easy to make.

Got snow and want to make snow cream for yourself? It's super easy and it only requires three ingredient - two of which you can find in your pantry and one in your backyard! 

Friday, 20 March 2020

Fun Crafts for Kids while Stuck Inside

Stuck at home with kids right now?

If your family is anything like mine then there's probably an awful lot of screen time happening at the moment. I know, I know... it's not the best, but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do.

If you're looking for ways to keep the kids busy and away from their screens, then I have a ton of craft ideas for you here on the blog. Today I'm sharing some of my favorites in one post to make them easier to find. Many of these craft activities use materials that you probably already have at home - even in your recycling bin! Others may require you to do a little online shopping so I've included links.

For further instructions for each craft simply click on the bold and underlined title.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Irish Potato Candies

Yesterday was St Patrick's Day.

Unlike previous years, there was no celebrating with a big parade, there was no catching up with friends and there were no celebrations at school. The kids did wear green though and insisted on pinching me every chance they got - until I outsmarted them by changing into a green dress they didn't know I owned! Ha!

Mathilde got into the spirit by making lots of drawings of leprechauns, rainbows and four leaf clovers - which then became five, six, seven and even eleven leaf clovers. Extra luck, right?

Usually I'd make some sort of Irish inspired meal for dinner, but with supermarkets kind of crazy at the moment, getting the ingredients for shepherd's pie or corned beef was a little tricky. What I did have the ingredients for in my pantry, however, was Irish Potato Candy.

"What's Irish Potato Candy?" I hear you ask. Delicious, that's what!

Do you remember the potato themed birthday party that I threw for Lola back in October? A potato party? Yep, she's weird! Anyway, for her birthday party I made all sorts of potato themed foods, but the problem was that as much as she likes potatoes as an item, she doesn't like eating them. Not even as fries! Remember, I said she's weird! While trying to come up with non-potato potato themed foods I remembered a candy that my grandma used to make when I was a kid. Small misshapen balls of coconut fudge covered in cocoa that looked like mini potatoes. I hadn't eaten one of these Irish Potatoes, as we called them, since I was a kid, but I knew right away that they would be perfect. And they were!

They were also perfect for St Patrick's Day so yesterday I raided the pantry for all the ingredients and got to work making them. And this time I took photos so I could share the recipe here with you.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Tips for Staying Healthy While Travelling

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

With the news and social media filled with talk of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) at the moment, hygiene and staying healthy has been on pretty much everyone's minds. Just take a look at your local supermarket and you'll see the hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes and hand wash flying off the shelves. And of course, the toilet paper, but let's not go there...

Anyway, all this talk of staying healthy and trying to avoid the Cornonavirus has got me thinking about how we stay healthy when we're travelling. In our day to day lives at home it can be a little easier. We have more control over how clean our immediate environment is, we have access to known doctors and medical care, we have brand familiarity when it comes to buying health and hygiene products, and most of us have more of a support network at home than we do on the road. There's also no language barrier at home. Trust me, I've been there. Trying to buy Sudafed through a series of hand gestures in an Italian pharmacy was an interesting experience!

So, today I'm sharing my top tips for staying healthy while travelling. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and these tips should not be taken as medical advice. These are simply things that my family does to stay as healthy as possible when travelling. Most of these tips are commonsense, but when you're planning a trip there are so many things to think of that it's easy for the little things to be overlooked.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs

This weekend I'll be travelling to Palm Springs to attend the blogging conference Alt Summit. This will be my third time attending Alt Summit in Palm Springs and I can't wait. While the conference itself is jam packed full of fun activities and workshops, and amazing keynotes and panels, there is always plenty of time available for a little exploring around Palm Springs.

In past years I've headed out with friends on a colorful door tour (Palm Springs has the BEST mid-century architecture and loads of colorful doors), a hike through a slot canyon, and most recently a visit to the Moorten Botanical Garden - which I'm sharing here today.

If you're a nature lover, gardener or even just intrigued by desert life, Moorten Botanical Garden is a must see in Palm Springs. This iconic garden may be tiny, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the sheer number of stunning cacti and desert plants on display. I've never visited a spikier garden!

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