It’s funny over here. America loves a Holiday. Halloween, as we have previously posted, is mental. At Christmas, our little corner of suburbia is creaking under the weight of lights and decorations. On Valentines Day, the kids take cards and gifts for every member of their class at school. St Patricks Day sees everyone wearing green hats and clothing, building leprechaun traps and generally celebrating in a way that probably outdoes the Irish.
Easter however, isn’t as big of a deal here in the US of A as it is back home in England. Of course there’s a lot of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks kicking around in the shops, but the Holiday isn’t recognized by employers – we work Good Friday and Easter Monday, whereas in blighty, of course, those days are beloved Bank Holidays.
The other downer is the Easter Eggs. They don’t really do them here. OK, they do have the smaller ones, including “Cadbury” creme eggs (manufactured by Hersheys in Pennsylvania), but the big, hollow eggs with a bag of Dairy Milk Buttons inside are sadly nowhere to be found.
We made the best of the situation by carrying on a few good British traditions, starting with decorating hard boiled and blown eggs.
We took the boiled eggs to a local park and did a bit of egg rolling. Heather was the victor, with her flower-decorated egg going a good 30 metres without cracking.
On Sunday morning, the kids donned their bunny ears and had an egg hunt in the back garden…
We like to take a photo of the kids with their bunny ears and baskets – mainly to cause some embarrassment for them in years to come – here’s a few from the past few years…
We had bunny pancakes for breakfast, made by Charlotte (Shout out to Pinterest). We went to Church, where the kids sang ‘Gethsemane’, which was lovely. Heather rounded off the day with an amazing dinner.
Happy Easter to our friends and family wherever you may be!
We decided to make the most of Martin Luther King weekend and headed down to Los Angeles for a few days. We eventually set off on Friday evening after I finished work and arrived at our hotel around 2am!
The next morning, we got up early, had breakfast and headed into Disneyland, which was just over the road from where we were staying.
We had thought that having just one day in Disneyland wouldn’t be enough, but we found that we got to do quite a lot of the things we wanted to.
Here we are on the first ride of the day ‘It’s a Small World’.
We had beignets and listened to live music in the New Orleans quarter…
…blasted some aliens…
…met some Disney characters…
…took a few selfies…
…and rode on Splash Mountain.
There were a lot of Star Wars themed events following the release of The Force Awakens. This pleased Joshua in particular who had concerns about too many princesses etc!
Eve, Joshua and Lucy enrolled in the ‘Trials of the Temple’ Jedi Academy. They were trained in the ways of The Force and the use of a lightsaber, then they put on a live show in which they raised the Jedi Temple using The Force and battled with Darth Vader, Darth Maul and the Seventh Sister.
I’d like to introduce you to the latest graduates of the Jedi Academy:
Qui Gon Josh
We saw this parked by the Jedi Temple…
We finished the day off by watching the evening parade and firework/light show.
Heather is a bit of a genius and a fantastic mother, so she had this idea to write her phone number on each of the kids’ arms, so that if they got lost in madding crowds, we would get a phone call. Well, we put the kids straight to bed on the evening and it seems that Josh must have slept resting on his arm, because the next morning, he looked like this…
The road trip also involved lots of swimming…
…a visit to the LA Temple…
…a picnic in Lake Hollywood Park…
…and a stop in foggy Santa Barbara…
We finally hit the road from Santa Barbara back up to San Jose, having had a brilliant long weekend.
Now in Portland, we took a trip to Mount Hood, an inactive volcano that looks over Portland. Heather and the kids hadn’t seen snow since moving to the States, so the excitement began to mount as we approached Mount Hood and saw miles of pine trees dusted with snow. The snow became deeper the closer we got to the mountain and we stopped off a side road in a small clearing. We got wrapped up and played in the snow – snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels etc.
We all loved it and stayed until it got dark.
Thanksgiving dinner with the Thatchers was fantastic – they were great hosts and it was cool for us to see such a nice family with children a little older than ours. We had lots of questions about how they managed to raise their kids into such well turned out teenagers! We learned about the first Thanksgiving and enjoyed a delicious meal.
While in Portland, we visited the OMSI (Oregon Museum for Science and Innovation), where the kids learned about earthquakes, played with a van de graaf generator and Dave enjoyed the guitar exhibition which included the world’s largest electric guitar!
Our friend Jared works in central Portland and was kind enough to take us along to his work Thanksgiving party where we were able to watch the city’s Christmas tree light being turned on from the 25th floor.
We also visited the Portland Apple Store, where the Holiday campaign that I’d been a part of was in Store.
We then visited the ‘Zoo Lights’ exhibition at Portland Zoo. It’s a great idea – they install festive light displays all around the zoo so that visitors can wander around, have a hot drink and a pretzel and enjoy the atmosphere.
After a fantastic few days in Portland with the Thatchers, we set off for home. We didn’t make as many stops on the way home, but one stop we did make was Crater Lake; another extinct volcano – this one now has a lake within its crater (if you hadn’t already guessed from the name!) – the deepest lake in the USA, in fact!
We drove up to the rim of the crater and had a look around. And another snowball fight.
And that brings us to the conclusion of our road trip! Hope to do this one again!
The next stop on our road trip was Florence, Oregon. The journey offered some particularly impressive coastal views, so we’d stop every now and then to take a photo.
We made our way to the Sea Lion Cave, a coastal tourist attraction where you take a lift down into a cave where scores of sea lions can often be seen. During our visit, we only saw one solitary sea lion riding the waves as they crashed into the cave, but the visit was still worthwhile for the dramatic views of the coast.
The visit also yielded what is probably my favorite photograph from the road trip; a cute moment between Heather and a bobble-hatted Olive:
Next was a dune buggy ride. The Oregon Dunes is a 40 mile-long stretch of sand dunes along the coast – the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America (thanks Wikipedia). We all went for an hour-long ride on a large dune buggy that took us on a bumpy journey over and through the dunes, down onto the beach (which can only really be accessed in this way), then back again.
Despite the very bumpy ride, Olive fell asleep halfway through.
As the ride was coming to an end, it started to rain, then hail. There was nowhere to shelter, so we just put our hoods up and dealt with it. The kids were all good sports and for the most part, kept smiling. When we arrived back at the car, we were drenched and freezing and grateful to take off our coats and put the heating on.
After the buggy ride, we completed the last stretch of the journey to Portland, arriving at our friends’ house in the evening. It was great to see the Thatchers again, catch up with them and see how their kids had grown. The next day, the Thatchers took us out to visit Multnomah Falls, a huge waterfall just outside of Portland. We got some great views of Mount Hood and other scenery on the way…
Multnomah Falls is a 189 meter year-round waterfall. We took some photos at the bottom, then made our way up the path to the bridge. The older kids (Eve Lucy and Josh) went with me, Jared and his boys to the very top, while Charlotte and Olive waited half-way up with Heather and Anna. There were some spectacular views on the way up the narrow, steep path. I was really proud of the kids for getting as far as they did, as it was hard work.
We stayed the first night in Fort Bragg, where we attended Church in a small local congregation the following morning. We then headed to ‘Glass Beach’, where the sand is mixed with sea glass – a result of glass being dumped into the ocean many years ago. Today, the beach is covered with small smooth pieces of glass in whites, greens, red and blue.
The kids loved collecting pieces of sea glass, putting it into a bag to take homes a reminder of the trip.
We climbed over some rocks and discovered a neighbouring beach that didn’t have any sea glass, but looked amazing with cool rock formations and fog, so we explored and took a few shots there.
The next morning, we set off on the road and saw a sign for a ‘prehistoric garden in Oregon’s rain forest’ with full size dinosaur models. We decided to make a stop and have a look around.
It was cool to see so much greenery, moss and moisture, having been in California where the drought continues and areas that once were green are brown. We enjoyed finding the dinosaurs and learning about them as we walked around the trail.
Here’s Lucy giving a little video tour of the gardens:
Next up was the West Coast Game Park in Bandon, where we were able to stroke goats, llamas and even a Lynx. The kids absolutely loved it here – especially playing with their ‘friends’, the young goats.
The kids each had an ice cream cornet filled with animal feed and as we arrived, the older children went on ahead while we got through the gate with Olive. As we entered the farmyard, we saw Charlotte running, holding her ice cream cone out in front of her, squealing, as she was chased by around 10 goats, 4 deer and 2 llamas!
Here, ‘Charlotte News’ gives a report on the incident:
Here’s Olive with her cornet:
Having worked up an appetite, we headed for Bandon old town/seafront for fish and chips. While not authentically British in style, we weren’t complaining and all enjoyed the meal.
Afterwards, we went over the road to a fudge shop. The kids were full and happy and a little bit hyper (as can be seen in the group picture above) and crossed the road in the style of the congo:
A good night’s rest at the Motel and we were ready for another day.
Some good friends from our Edinburgh days kindly invites us to spend Thanksgiving with them in their home near Portland, Oregon. We decided to make a road trip out of the occasion, taking a couple of days to travel, seeing some sights and staying in Motels along the way.
Having 5 young children sit in a small confined space, such as a car for any length of time can be pretty challenging – in anticipation of such challenges and for the sake of our own sanity, we invested in some DVD players for the back of the car seats so that the time on the road (around 35 hours over 9 days) would be entertaining for the children and tolerable for us!
Our first stop was Napa, which for those who haven’t visited the area, is part of California’s ‘wine country’; miles and miles of vineyards, wineries and Italian-inspired landscapes and architecture.
We stopped at a winery where we had lunch followed by some gelato.
Our next stop was another winery, this one was designed to look like an old castle (the closest we’re likely to get to a real castle over here in the U S of A!). We had a walk around, stretched our legs and enjoyed the surroundings.
Next, we visited Old Faithful, a famous geyser in the area. The geyser was going off every 20 minutes, so we didn’t have long to wait.
On the site of the geyser, there were a few animals to feed and the children enjoyed looking at the goats, especially the newborn kids.
As we were leaving, Old Faithful blew again so we had a few final photos and headed up the road.