We recently had a brilliant visit from my Mam and Dad – it was their first time in California and the first time we’ve seen them in person since we moved here last year. It was so great to see them and to show them a lot of the places we go and things we do over here. The kids were incredibly excited and loved having them here. Olive took a little warming up, but before long she was clinging on to my Mam and calling Dad “Dada”. We had around 9 days together and managed to squeeze a lot in – some of the highlights are below. I’m lucky to have amazing parents who I look up to and admire massively.

We visited one of our favourite spots – Henry Cowell Redwoods and Roaring Camp Railroad. There’s a trail with some giant redwoods, as well as wild west style village where you can pan for gold, watch old films in a cinema, visit a printshop etc. They have a steam train that goes right down to the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

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Mam in the Redwoods

Mam in the Redwoods

Dad has horns

Dad has horns

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Lady Lucy

Lady Lucy

Olive in jail

Olive in jail

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Olive in the visitor centre

Olive in the visitor centre

After a morning in the Redwoods, we headed to Natural Bridges, one of our favourites beaches in Santa Cruz for a bit of paddling, frisbee and sandcastle-building. The kids made a ‘swimming pool’ by digging a big hole and sending us back and forth to the sea to fill their pool with buckets of water.

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On another day, we visited San Francisco, starting with a walk along the coast from Sutro Baths. Heather and I did this walk with Eve and Josh the first time we visited San Francisco together for my interview with Apple. It’s a lovely walk and halfway through you get a great view of the Golden Gate bridge.

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We then headed into the city for a boat tour of the bay, a walk along pier 39 and some clam chowder. Josh had been telling Mam and Dad about the boat tour in advance, as he’s done it a few times before. He explained how we go around an island with a famous prison on it – the prison is called ‘Alcohol’.

Alcatraz aka 'Alcohol'

Alcatraz aka ‘Alcohol’

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Sea Lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions at Pier 39

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Charlotte busting some moves to the street artist's music

Charlotte busting some moves to the street artist’s music

One day we went to Apple HQ in Cupertino for breakfast at Caffe Macs.

Breakfast at Caffe Macs, Apple

Breakfast at Caffe Macs, Apple

Eating apples at Apple

Eating apples at Apple

Apple HQ, 1 Infinite Loop

Apple HQ, 1 Infinite Loop

The visit was over Easter weekend, so we made Easter baskets for the kids and had a hunt in the garden.

Easter baskets

Easter baskets

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A visit to the San Jose Discovery museum where the kids painted their own faces(!) and did role-playing in fire engines and ambulances.

Riding in a fire engine

Riding in a fire engine

Charlotte on the stretcher

Charlotte on the stretcher

The ambulance crew treat Charlotte

The ambulance crew treat Charlotte

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Eve made this doll at the discovery museum

Eve made this doll at the discovery museum

Another day included a visit to Hidden Villa farm.

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Olive was saying

Olive was saying “duddle! duddle!” (cuddle) to the chickens

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…a visit to Shoreline Park in Mountain View…

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…NASA…

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…a Sunday walk at Rancho San Antonio…

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Eve finds the Geocache

Eve finds the Geocache

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…and ‘Home’ at the Drive-In!

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Thanks for coming Poppy and Grandma – please come back soon!

I came across this while digging around in an old hard drive recently. A lovely record of a particular point in time. Only a few years on, we’ve already been through a lot of changes!

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Family Photos

We’ve moved around a fair bit since Heather and I got married. From a flat in South Shields to a flat in Edinburgh, to another flat, a third flat and a house in Edinburgh, to Mam and Dad’s place in Billingham, to a house in Durham, to temporary accommodation in Cupertino and now to our current place in San Jose. 8 or 9 homes in just under 11 years.

Partly due to this constant moving around, one thing we’ve never managed to do is put some pictures up on the walls of our home. We always wanted to, but it just never seemed to happen. Recently, we determined to get it done. We read something about how it builds self awareness and self-esteem in children and I can understand that. We want the children to know that there’s nothing we’d rather have on our walls than their little faces – that they are the centre of our universe. We also want them to see the pictures and remember a lot of happy times. So, with a visit from my parents approaching, we determined to get the pictures up before Mam and Dad arrived.

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Costco. We’ve got a big family, so the massive boxes of cereal, nappies and everything else work out pretty well for us. It’s an awful place to be though. It’s got the kind of vibe experienced at the NEXT sale, with elbows flying around etc, but this is all year round. Every Saturday the place is heaving and while the traffic on the roads around the Bay Area is pretty bad, its nothing compared to the shopping cart traffic at Costco, San Jose.

For all my deeply-seated Coscto issues, I’ve got to give their photo-printing service some respect. Upload online. Collect with your shopping 2 hours later. Glossy or lustre (lustre, obviously). Couple of dollars per print. Living the dream.

So, we did this and got phase 1 of the pictures on the walls. Phase 1 is living room and dining room and it’s me Heather and the kids. Phase 2 is the wider family. This is equally important, particularly as we are so far away – keeping family and friends in sight and fresh in the kids’ minds is what we want.

Since the pictures went up, the place feels different – more a home than a house now. I’ve posted the pictures that went up below…

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Providence & Boston

A few weeks back, I travelled to Rhode Island and Boston for work. Myself and a colleague were interviewing students and graduates for possible design opportunities. I’d never been to Rhode Island or anywhere else in New England, so I was excited to have a look around. Looking at the map, I noticed that New England lives up to its name with Cumberland, Lincoln, Bristol, Greenwich and Warwick all nearby.

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Like my New York visit, the first thing to hit me was the cold. Although I know it to be the case, it continues to surprise me just how different the weather can be in different parts of the States. I guess it’s understandable – coming from the UK where differences are relatively modest (although Southerners will tell you it’s always beautiful down there and freezing up north!), to a much bigger country where it’s hot in San Jose and Snowing in Providence.

Providence was nice – big stone buildings and a fair bit of commissioned street art. Because it’s by the water, there’s a lot of sea food. We returned via Boston and I had fish and chips in the hotel restaurant – eager to judge their authenticity.

Tasty, but where's my buttered bread wrapped in cling film?

Tasty, but where’s my buttered bread wrapped in cling film?

While it was tasty, it was more ‘French fries and Captain Birdseye battered Cod’ than ‘Magpie Cafe, Whitby’ or even better, ‘Barnacles, Billingham/Middlesbrough town centre’ (which is of course, the real deal – slice of buttered bread wrapped in cling film or a lolly with your nosh box? Answers in the comments below).

Home of the Nosh Box

Home of the Nosh Box

Although we were there to work, I got one or two hours to wander around and take a few photos…

Leaving San Jose

Leaving San Jose

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View of Providence from the hotel

View of Providence from the hotel

Light in the hotel

Light in the hotel

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A bit of hand-painted Didot

A bit of hand-painted Didot

Kurt Cobain at the Heartbreak Hotel, Providence

Kurt Cobain at the Heartbreak Hotel, Providence

Lonely shed

Lonely shed

Strange white stuff

Strange white stuff

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Power station on the water, Providence

Power station on the water, Providence

Brutalist car park, Providence

Brutalist car park, Providence

Street art

Street art

Shepard Fairey street art

Shepard Fairey street art

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Boston harbor from the hotel

Boston harbor from the hotel

Boston from the hotel restaurant

Boston from the hotel restaurant

Last week, Heather and I went out on our third date since moving to California! Heather’s sister Kate  is visiting and was kind enough to look after the kids while we heading up to San Francisco to watch Brandon Flowers play. It was a great show – the venue, which plays mainly Britpop, Madchester, mod and 60’s soul was very small – fitting maybe 200 people in. Brandon was on form – his new material sounds great and he threw in a good few Killers songs as well.

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Brandon

Heather forgot her ID so had to wear an X on her hand, meaning that she wasn't allowed to buy alcohol! "Errr, we don't drink"...

Heather forgot her ID so had to wear an X on her hand, meaning that she wasn’t allowed to buy alcohol! “Errr, we don’t drink”…

Selfie

Brandon Flowers photo by Torey Mundkowsky

Brandon Flowers photo by Torey Mundkowsky

Courage and Clubfoot: Part 2

Here we go again…

Our beautiful Olive has recently turned 17 months. She is a happy, calm, delightful baby. She has been walking whilst holding on to the tip of my little finger for some time now, but on New Years Eve took her very first steps. Four of them! Since then, we have all enjoyed counting how many she can do. I think the record so far is 11.

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Our many attempts to catch her walking on film have failed miserably, but here are a few shots where you can kind of get the idea…

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Enjoying her new ride-on, on Christmas morning.

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This new found freedom has been wonderful for Olive.

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She especially loved playing at the park on boxing day and being able to independently climb up the steps to the slide, then slide down the slide and repeat, and repeat, and repeat (you get the picture right?)

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I loved how Josh took care of her for me and that I could look on and watch the pure joy on her little face, from one, very still and very sunny spot. Big brothers are wonderful!

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In early December we visited a specialist doctor here, whose office was conveniently situated just a couple of blocks from our house, to check Olive’s feet. I was concerned about her left foot floating back out of position (Olive was born with bilateral talipes, or ‘clubfoot‘) and I thought she might need more surgery. The doctor we took her too told us that her right foot was perfect, but the left did need some surgery. He said it was unusual to see one foot regress but the other not. He described the operation to me and said he could do it before or after Christmas. We opted for after, so she could enjoy the Christmas season first. Olive also needed new shoes. When I asked the doctor about this he told me to just buy normal shoes for her now, and told me that after her operation she wouldn’t even need to wear her boots and bar again! Since her shoes were getting too small for her, we picked up some new ones at a Clarks shoe shop we found, at the outlets. She was thrilled with them! I was also excited to be able to get her, her first ‘proper’ or ‘normal’ shoes.

Olive enjoying her new shoes:

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Once the initial excitement of this news settled down, I began to feel somewhat uneasy about the doctors visit. It just felt too good to be true, and I had a nagging feeling inside that we needed to find another specialist to take a look at her. We found another doctor, this time about an hours drive away, longer in traffic, but he seemed to be just what we were looking for. We made an appointment with Dr Colburn, who we found through a list of worldwide practitioners that we have, of specialists in the Ponseti method, which is used to correct clubfoot.

As soon as we to to the Doctors office, I felt reassured about our choice to look around further afield for a doctor. He asked Dave and I lots of questions about Olive’s treatment in England and examined her feet and legs. He explained everything clearly and well to us, using a model of a foot. He has lots of experience and is semi-retired now, but was trained by Dr Ponseti himself. We listened carefully to him, then my heart sank and I had to blink away tears as he explained to us that he didn’t think Olive’s feet had ever been fully corrected. It was his opinion that her treatment in England hadn’t been carried out properly. Olive needed to start over with her treatment. This meant going back to the casting process again.

I shared with him my concern that Olive had one leg slightly longer than the other. It turns out that she does have a significant difference in the length of her legs. I’m glad someone finally listened to me and took the time to explain what that meant and how it can be treated in the future… and it can be very successfully treated when she is around 10-14, but it will involve a couple of months of nuts and bolts through her bone and daily twisting of them to lengthen the shorter leg. My poor baby!!!

We started the process off again, then and there. Her first of probably four weekly casts. Then we’ll see whether or not another operation will be needed on her tendons. She will need to wear the boots and bar again. Dr Colburn said that ideally she’d wear them all of the time, but with her age that is just impractical so she will probably be allowed around 4 hours off. She’ll also have to wear them at night until she is around 5 years old. (What a joker that other doctor was, eh?)

Here is Olive feeling sorry for herself after her first casting session. She wouldn’t let me stop holding her for about two days straight (and those casts are heavy!) Her desperate cuddles pull at the heartstrings.

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I can’t get used to hearing her feet or leg being described as ‘deformed’, but I suppose that is what they are. To me though, Olive is perfect. She is an absolute joy and I love her. She fills up my heart and our home completely. I am so grateful for modern medicine and technology that I know will completely correct her feet and legs. I feel blessed that we’ve found Dr Colburn. Despite the bad news we got, we came away feeling so happy that we’d found someone we trusted. I know there are much worse things we could be dealing with. Her treatment will probably last a couple of months this time around, and about the same when she’s older for her leg. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t much trouble for lifelong correction and the joy that will bring our little peach.

Her misery didn’t last long either, here she is a few days after her first casting enjoying the sun on Daddy’s shoulders as we wander around the farm. And she can hurtle up our stairs like nobody’s business, not to mention all the cool sliding she can do across our wooden floors!

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An Englishman in New York

I just visited New York for the first time. It was a flying visit – arriving on Thursday then leaving on Friday, which meant I had just a few hours to explore – that was enough, though, to get a taste of this amazing city. I was there to attend an event at the Soho Apple Store –  the event is part of my first major campaign with Apple and I was really keen to be part of the evening, as well as see what I could of the city while I was there.

The first thing to note was that the weather was proper freezing. And I mean PROPER freezing. This week in California, the sun has been shining and I’ve been wearing shirts and sunglasses, sometimes with a jacket. The past 5 months must have softened up this rock ‘ard (said with a Teeside accent) Northerner, because when I stepped off the plane, felt the wind and saw a lake completely frozen over, I was struggling. I no longer own a pair of gloves or a warm hat, so I was totally unprepared.

The frozen lake that welcomed me to New York

The frozen lake that welcomed me to New York

The hotel was lovely – great city views and an ice rink by the entrance! They like to display their logo upside down. I quizzed the receptionist as to why this would be and he gave an unsatisfactory rationale about turning things on their head. We’ll forgive them, because everything else was great.

The ice rink and hotel entrance - note the upside-down logo

The ice rink and hotel entrance – note the upside-down logo

The great glass elevators

The great glass elevators

Manhattan from the hotel room

Manhattan from the hotel room

The event was fantastic – we commissioned a number of artists to create work on Apple devices and 4 of the artists were speaking on a panel and answering questions. It was the first time that I saw our work in the ‘real world’, actually in-store. Up until this point, the campaign for me has really been confined to the studio in Cupertino, so it was amazing to see it out there and meet some of the artists I’d been working with in person.

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After the event, I went out for dinner with some work colleagues. We stopped by their hotel on the way while one of them made a phone call. I waited in the rooftop bar, which had a [freezing] balcony with stunning 360 views of the city skyline. The balcony has a plunge pool, which was also frozen over, but looked incredible.

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Take the High Line

The High Line is a stretch of former railway that has been made into a park. It’s a mile and a half long and has plants, seating, signage, points of interest and art pieces along the way. It’s also a good way to explore part of the city, as the line is raised 40 or 50 feet above street level. The High Line runs through the hotel I was staying at and a few of the folk at work recommended taking a stroll along the line. I set out at 7am with camera in hand, but sadly no gloves on fingers. I spent around 40 minutes walking along the line, with the snow falling. The garden areas were covered in snow and looking a bit worse for wear following a tough winter. The sun loungers were understandably empty and topped with a layer of snow. A few brave joggers passed by as well as a couple of staff members with shovels. It made for a fascinating space – it felt like something that belongs in Summer but it had a really cool (literally) abandoned feel in Winter.

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Coolest vending machine ever.

Coolest vending machine ever.

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Complimentary ice water

Complimentary ice water

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Do you know the way to San Jose?

Do you know the way to San Jose?

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I was amazed hat no-one was using the sun loungers...

I was amazed that no-one was using the sun loungers…

I then left the High Line and walked back to the hotel on street level to have a quick look around.

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What’s the Crack?

One of the artists from the campaign – an impressive and super-nice travel photographer, had suggested we meet up for breakfast, so I headed over to meet him just off Central Park. On the way, I dropped by the well-known Milk Bar and picked up a Crack Pie.

It's where the Crack's at.

It’s where the Crack’s at.

I have no idea how, but a number of years ago, I must have read online somewhere about Crack Pie. It was all the rage in New York City, a kind of cheesecake thing – don’t really know as we haven’t eaten it yet, but apparently the New Yorkers were queueing right down the street for it (people seem much more willing to queue here – how does waiting for 2 hours in the cold sound for a Cronut – hybrid donut-croissant? Thought not.) Anyway, Crack Pie, named such for its addictive qualities, had lodged itself in my consciousness and owned a special little place in my heart, but not yet my stomach, so I decided to suspend my long-term* Gluten-free status and grab a slice of the action. I actually grabbed several slices because Heather was also keen to get involved in the Crack Pie revolution.

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*Approximately three days.

 

Eats, shops and leaves

Breakfast was great – my photographer friend has travelled a lot with his work and had some good stories to tell. The scran was pretty decent, too.

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We then both went 50 yards down the street to 5th Avenue, where New York’s most prominent Apple Store is located. We went inside and took some photos of the space and chatted to a few of the employees.

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I then headed down 5th avenue to buy treats for the kids and the beautiful Heather, who has been getting five lively children up, dressed, fed, to school on time, picked up, cleaned up, fed again, home-worked, fed again, cleaned again, dressed and put to bed single-handedly so that I could make this trip.

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I hailed an iconic yellow cab and headed back home, getting a few last glimpses of the city along the way.

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I love that tiger. So does the construction worker it seems.

I love that leopard. So does the construction worker it seems.

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Protected: Hidden Villa Farm

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