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Friday 30 August 2013

Punch Buggy Field Guide

Ava and Lola love to play Punch Buggy when we're out and about. You know that game where the first person to call out "Punch Buggy" when a Volksgwagen Beetle goes past gets to punch the other one? Needless to say I'm usually the recipient of said punches! Little, gentle punches of course.

Well, even though they love to play it, my girls aren't too good at recognising just what is a Punch Buggy and what isn't. Oh, they never miss the opportunity when a VW Beetle does go past, but they have trouble when it comes to similar looking cars. This results in a lot of extra punches! Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, Smart Car, Toyota Prius... Pretty much any small, roundish looking car that goes past is greeted with a cry of "Punch Buggy". And trust me, hardly a moment goes by when we don't see a Mini Cooper or Toyota Prius in Berkeley! Especially the Prius.

To combat the onslaught of gentle (yet numerous) punches I've been receiving, I decided to make the girls a Punch Buggy Field Guide to help them accurately identify Volkswagen Beetles.

Punch Buggy Field Guide

With their new Punch Buggy Field Guide in hand it was time for the girls to test it out.

Thursday 29 August 2013

First Day of First Grade

After ten weeks of Summer vacation Ava is back at school.

As of today she is my big first grader.

Her school day goes an hour longer than last year, she spends her recess in the "big yard" and she now has homework every night.

Just like a big kid.

Here's a look at her first day of first grade...

Arriving at school this morning - it was very sunny

Sunday 25 August 2013

Aquatic Park in Berkeley

It's no secret... Kids love playgrounds. 

And it's no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area has some pretty fantastic playgrounds.

During the long Summer vacation I'm always looking for ways to keep the girls occupied. While they're pretty happy being at home working on arts and crafts (or playing with electronic gadgets) there's nothing they enjoy more than getting outside and having fun at the playground. Seeing as we live in a relatively small apartment with no outdoor space of our own, a trip to a playground is a treat that we try to squeeze in most days.

One of our favourite playgrounds here in Berkeley is Aquatic Park down by the Bay. Being made almost entirely of wood, it offers a different feel to the other playgrounds that we frequent. The playground is filled with wooden forts, bridges, monkey bars, a zip line, swings, slides and a multitude of things to climb on. The playground also boasts a butterfly garden with a variety of flowering plants for when little ones need a break from all that climbing. Nearby there is a large grassy area, picnic tables, clean public toilets and, on weekends, a small cafe. We always visit Aquatic Park on weekdays so we're yet to make use of the cafe.

Here's a look at some of the fun the girls have when we visit Aquatic park...  

Big smiles for Aquatic Park

Friday 23 August 2013

Bead Art Glasses

Last Summer vacation the girls and I worked on quite a few crafty projects. One of our favourites was our bead art projects using Perler beads (or Pyssla beads if they come from Ikea like ours!). We made pendants, 3-D ornaments, portraits and landscapes.

This year we have had so many big things happening over Summer (moving, our Canada trip, visitors from Australia...) that we haven't really had much chance to work on any crafty projects. Yesterday we were stuck at home for much of the day while I tried to deal with medical bills and an iPhone that decided to give up the ghost, so I dug out the big bucket o'beads and the girls started working on some creative projects. Ava made a heart pendant, a portrait, a separate top hat for her portrait to wear and little birds, bees and butterflies. Lola made much more simple shapes which I've decided can be coasters!

Between phone calls and scouring the internet for a way to fix my phone I decided to make a few things myself. I got an idea in my head that glasses made out of the beads would be pretty fantastic, so without telling the girls what I was making I set about creating a few pairs for them.

Colourful specs

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

One last post from our recent trip to Canada...

On our last full day in Canada we visited Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, a short drive north of Vancouver's Downtown. 

Family in the forest

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has many attractions to keep visitors busy, but the highlight is, you guessed it, the suspension bridge! 

Monday 19 August 2013

Home Made Hearts for San Francisco

Ever since the day we first arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area from Australia my two little girls have been in love. In love with the city. And in particular, in love with the hearts that dot the corners of Union Square.

The hearts on display in San Francisco's Union Square (among other locations) are made by local artists as part of a fundraising program for San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Every year a new batch of 5 foot high, 400 pound hearts are made, put on display around the city and auctioned off to raise funds for the hospital. It's a great fundraiser and brings a nice dash of colour to the streets San Francisco.

My girls love visiting the hearts in Union Square. They love to give the hearts a hug and are always excited when we discover a new one. You can see some of their heart love here and a few cards that I've made using the hearts here and here.

Seeing as my girls love the hearts in Union Square so much I decided to help them make their own and take them to Union Square. Here's a look...

Ava with her Golden Gate Bridge heart

Thursday 15 August 2013

Out and about in Vancouver

Our move into our new apartment is all done and dusted so it's time to get back to writing a few more posts about our recent trip to Canada.

This time let's have a look at a day we spent out and about exploring the beautiful city of Vancouver...

We spent out third day in Vancouver wandering around various places. We did a little shopping, visited Canada Place, took in the views from high above the city at Vancouver Lookout, walked across the bridge to Granville Island where the kids played in the water park, tasted a few local brews at Granville Island Brewing Company, caught a water taxi and walked along the beach watching the sun set over the harbour.

Vancouver Lookout

Monday 12 August 2013

Moving Day

It's moving day!

Well, to be precise it's moving weekend.

After one and a half years of living in a small two bedroom apartment our family of four is moving to... another small two bedroom apartment! And it's even in the same building!

Our search for a new home started back in March. At that time we had planned to find a house, townhouse or duplex to move into. Something a little bigger and preferably with some private outdoor space for the girls to play in and grow a little veggie garden.

We gave notice that we'd be moving out at the end of our lease in August and started our search for a new home in Berkeley.

Several months passed and our search was not going so well. I was spending every day scouring through Craigslist and various other sites, calling and emailing landlords and agents, and attending open houses. What we had first thought would be relatively easy turned out to be an absolute nightmare.

Houses were either too small, too expensive or a combination of both. Now when I say "too small" I really mean it. It's surprising just how many two bedroom homes under 700 square foot there are in Berkeley. Our apartment was just under 1000 square foot and was already a little squishy for our family of four. At the time we were expecting another baby so the thought of moving into something so much smaller was one that we did not want to entertain.

There were also plenty of fantastic places that were in our price range and a good size for our family. Unfortunately we discovered that being foreigners with small children tends to push you straight to the bottom of most landlords' preferred list of tenants. Between March and May we applied for seven houses/townhouses/apartments. We were knocked back seven times.

As you can imagine all this rejection was starting to get us down.

And then disaster struck in late May when we found out that our unborn baby was not well. I was put on bed rest and our search for a new home ground to a halt. We decided to give in and stay put. We had been hesitant to do so as the rent in our building was about to skyrocket. Our apartment's rent was to increase by over 12% and many others in the building were increasing by 17%. I got in touch with the building management and asked if we could renew our lease.  Too late - they'd already rented it out!

We were stuck. I was unable to continue searching for a new home and we couldn't stay put.

The management staff of our building were fantastic and stepped in to help. There were a few other two bedroom apartments coming up for lease in our building and they offered to give us first dibs on any that would be suitable for our family. One such apartment was perfect. And I'm sitting in it right now, surrounded by boxes, typing away and watching the twinkling lights of San Francisco out of my dining room window.

Our new apartment is technically a little smaller than our old apartment. However the layout is such that it feels much more house like with distinct separate living areas and a hallway between the living areas and bedrooms. Our old apartment had two bathrooms and walk in closets. Our new apartment has one bathroom and regular closets with mirrored sliding doors. The loss of that extra bathroom and the standing room in the closets accounts for the smaller square footage of our new apartment. In fact, with our furniture now in place we've realised that the rooms in our new apartment are actually more spacious.

The best part of our new apartment is the natural light. We can't get enough of the sunlight shining through our windows. Our old apartment was located on the lowest floor of our building and faced an internal courtyard filled with lush gardens of ferns and bamboo. While it was nice to look out and see a little nature, it was unfortunately all we could see. The girls' bedroom window faced onto the bamboo garden. The bamboo (which reaches up to the fourth floor!) blocked all the sunlight. Even in the middle of the sunniest day with the blinds open the girls' bedroom was dark. Our new apartment is located on the fourth floor of the building and faces out onto the street. There's so much natural light. It's fantastic. And on top of all that sunlight, there's a view of the bay! The Bay Bridge, the cranes of Oakland's port, Treasure Island, and San Francisco are all there when I look out of our lounge room, dining room and bedroom windows. Unless of course it's foggy - then it's all hidden! Our roof top garden has a better version of the same view, but there's something nice about being able to see it without having to leave home.

I'd best get back to moving the last of our belongings from downstairs but before I do here are a few photos of the girls enjoying their new home...

Ava opens the door to our new home for the first time

Saturday 10 August 2013

Vancouver Aquarium

One of the girls' favourite places that we visited in Canada was Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. Both Ava and Lola are pretty obsessed with sea creatures so I knew that the aquarium would be a big hit with them.

There were plenty of familiar sea creatures to see and a few that we hadn't seen before, including our new favourite, the beluga whale. Beluga. I love that word!

First up for the day was the beluga whale show. The keepers demonstrated how they interact with these majestic creatures on a regular basis, explained how these whales came to be at the aquarium and taught us a little about their environment, the perils they face in the wild and the research that is being done to learn more about them. 

The beluga whale show

Thursday 8 August 2013

Please Vote for Little Hiccups...

You may have noticed a pink icon appearing on the right hand side of my blog recently.

Go on, have a look, it's right underneath the "Follow Little Hiccups" tabs.

See what it says? Circle of Moms Top 25 Vote for Me.

That's right... Little Hiccups is in the running for Circle of Moms Top 25 NorCal Moms.

Circle of Moms by Popsugar is a great online resource for parenting information, tips and ideas. Members can join communities relevant to themselves, ask and answer questions on forums, keep up to date with the latest trends and products, find events in their area and much more.

Each year Circle of Moms holds a Top 25 competition for mom bloggers in various locations. This is the first year that Little Hiccups has been in the running and it would be such a great honour to make the top 25 list for Northern California.

Right now Little Hiccups is sitting at number 30 but with your help I'm hoping to make it into the top 25.

You can vote for Little Hiccups by clicking on the pink Circle of Moms icon on the right or by clicking here.

You can vote once every 24 hours up until August 13th (4pm PST).

Thanks for your help and stay tuned to find out if I made the list!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

LEGO® KidsFest Give Away

UPDATE: This give away is now closed.

Do you live in the Bay Area? 

Do your kids love LEGO®? Let's face it, who doesn't love LEGO!

If you answered "Yes" to both of those questions then keep on reading because do I have a treat for you...

LEGO KidsFest is coming to the San Jose Convention Center Friday August 30th through to Sunday September 1st. 
This fun event is filled with interactive, creative and educational activities for the whole family. There will be hands on fun for all ages with LEGO and DUPLO® Construction Zones, LEGO games, dozens of large scale and miniature LEGO models and displays, group builds, LEGO Master Builders and much more! 

I have two (2) tickets to give away to one lucky reader. The winner will receive two (2) tickets to the opening night session on Friday, August 30th 2013 (4pm - 8:30pm).

To enter simply click HERE and you'll be taken through to the entry form. How easy is that?

The winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday August 14th and announced here on Little Hiccups (and by email) so stay tuned.

This amazing event is extremely popular and has sold out quickly in other cities. The Bay Area event is likely to sell out too so to avoid disappointment it's best to purchase your tickets in advance online.
You can purchase tickets here: http://legokidsfest.com/sanjose/index.html

In the meantime make sure to like LEGO KidsFest on Facebook and follow on Twitter and Instagram for all the latest info.

Good luck!

Tuesday 6 August 2013

A day in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Stanley Park in Vancouver is gigantic.

This wooded piece of land at the end of Downtown Vancouver is roughly 400 hectares. That's pretty much equal to the size of our very own Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco and approximately 10% larger than New York's Central Park.

Our hotel in Vancouver was located close to the entrance of Stanley Park so it was the logical place to visit on our first day in this beautiful city. We had planned to just spend the morning going for a short walk in Stanley Park before heading on to another location. Quite a few hours and 10kms later we found ourselves walking the entire length of the seawall around Stanley Park. Ava was pretty proud of the fact that she walked the entire way. No mean feat for a six year old.

Vancouver Rowing Club at the start of our walk 

Along our walk around Stanley Park we took in the beautiful views over the city and stopped at various landmarks and attractions.

Enjoying the sun

Sunday 4 August 2013

A day in the Canadian Rockies

Back to the Canada trip posts...

One of the highlights of our trip to Canada was our day in the mountains. We spent two days driving from Drumheller and Calgary to Vancouver and the vast majority of this trip (especially on the first day) seemed to be driving through the awe inspiring Canadian Rockies.

So exciting when those majestic mountains start to appear

I could get used to having this view out the windscreen 

Thursday 1 August 2013

Pedalfest 2013

Time for a little break from the Canada trip posts - trust me, there are loads more to come!

Before we headed off on our trip to Canada we enjoyed a day of two (and three and four...) wheeled fun at Pedalfest in Oakland's Jack London Square. We had taken the girls to Pedalfest last year and they absolutely loved it so we knew that they'd be keen to go back. 

We jumped on our bikes and set off on the 11km ride from our place in Berkeley. This was the first time I'd ridden the bike in months (I didn't ride while I was pregnant) so I was a little worried that I'd be out of breath half way into the ride. I'm pleased to say that I made it there and back with no problem - although of course, I did make Kim ride the big bike with both girls on the back while I rode on my own!

Our first stop at Pedalfest was to check out the crazy handmade up-cycled bikes. Some of these we'd seen at last year's Pedalfest, some we'd seen at Maker Faire and some were completely new to us. The girls loved riding on what we called the "Bomb Bike". The girls and I sat on the bomb part of the bike which swung around as we took corners. They also rode the bomb bike with Kim. You can hear Lola's reaction to the back swinging around in the Vine clip below. 

Riding the bomb bike

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