Disneyland & LA

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…


Dave & Charlotte clearly taking things very seriously


Josh and Eve


Team Burdon taking on Emperor Zurg

…met some Disney characters…


…took a few selfies…

…and rode on Splash Mountain.


Greatest facial expressions ever

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:

Eve Windu


Qui Gon Josh


Lucy Skywalker


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.


Jared brings in the turkey


Thanksgiving dinner


An Armenian speciality


Dave schools the boys in Star Wars Risk

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.

IMG_9579We 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!


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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.


Heather’s excitement mounts


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.

IMG_4619IMG_4627IMG_4613IMG_4631After 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.


Josh at the top of the waterfall


Josh at the top of the waterfall


Family photo on the bridge


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!


Setting off on the road to Oregon

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.


Waiting for Old Faithful…


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.



Halloween 2015

This year’s Halloween was great – we carved pumpkins, went to a Trunk or Treat/Chilli Cook-Off, had a party at the School and went Trick or Treating in our Neighbourhood.

Vampire, Fairy, Gruffalo, Rock Star and Ninja

Vampire, Fairy, Gruffalo, Rock Star and Ninja

Trick or Treating our next-door neighbours

Trick or Treating our next-door neighbours

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins


Stabilisers & Skateboards

Here’s a short video of Lucy in her PJ’s, having just rode her bike for the first time without stabilisers!


…and here’s Joshua – he was asked to share a talent with his class at School, so we made this skateboard video…


During the Summer, Heather has made sure that along with all of the fun and freedom, the children have been involved in positive and productive things daily. She came up with a Summer 2015 board that hangs in our dining room and includes a ‘bucket list’ of things that we wanted to do in the Summer, ‘Chef of the week'(the kids take turns in preparing meals), scriptures/articles of faith to learn and a daily checklist. Each day, the children are invited to read, write, do a chore, do some exercise and carry out an act of kindness. They record their progress by ticking boxes. For every day that they complete their tasks, they earn a little bit of pocket money. It’s been a really great way to help the kids learn to manage their time, teach the value of work and keep their skills sharp. Heather is amazing.


We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to spend some their pocket money and reap the rewards of their hard work, so we took them to $1 night at Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park (thankyou Wikipedia) and it has a good old-fashioned vibe. The Big Dipper roller-Coaster, air lift, log flume, fairground-stye games. What’s nice about it is that it is full of families, even into the evening and on a Monday and Tuesday night, all rides, hot dogs and candy floss are only $1!

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Heather and I had our first Californian date at the Boardwalk around a year ago and loved it, so we were excited to take the kids.

It was a great night – the older kids rode on flying cars, while Charlotte and Olive went on the more tame equivalent. Swing rides, shooting baskets, root beer, candy floss. Olive won a Hello Kitty-in-a-leopardprint-onesie toy (what more could any child want?) in a water-squirting game with a little bit of help from Dad. Good old-fashioned, not-so-healthy, well-deserved fun.

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The photograph from the plunge at the end of the log flume is a keeper.

Expressions of pure terror.

Expressions of pure terror.

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The beautiful Heather Burdon celebrated her birthday last week and her birthday wish was a trip to Point Lobos. It’s a State Park, near Carmel, about 1hr 40 mins South from where we are. We had never been that far South and were excited to explore.

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At the start of the trail, we saw some sea Lions lying on the rocks down below.

Sea lions on the rocks

Sea lions on the rocks

We walked a little further along the coast and came to an area with interesting rock formations with rock pools that were great for climbing on and exploring.

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Lucy's sandy bottom

Lucy’s sandy bottom

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A crab!

A crab!

We went a little further along the coast, looking for China Cove, a beautiful cove that we had seen images of online before we even moved to California. We found it and it was suitably breathtaking.

China Cove

China Cove

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Sadly, China Cove is inaccessible, as restoration is taking place. It’s also fenced off because seals are on the beach and are birthing!

Seals on the beach

Seals on the beach



We walked around China Cove and came out on the other side to more breathtaking views.

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Happily, just around the corner was Gibson Beach – and we were able to go down there and splash in the ocean for a while before heading home feeling more than content.

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