The container arrives!

The end of September and our container from England finally arrives!

IMG_0353

This was our eighth move in our ten year marriage and in a lot of ways was the easiest one yet, even though it was across an ocean. We were lucky to have Dave’s work move us and so weren’t allowed to pack our own boxes in Durham and also had them unpacked and placed for us in California.

IMG_0355

Charlotte watches on as her dolls house is unwrapped. A sweet moment.

IMG_0357

Aside from Olive, (who was asleep in a borrowed travel cot tucked into my bathroom, so the ‘unpackers’ had access to the rest of the rooms in the house) Charlotte was the only child at home when our ‘stuff’ finally, finally arrived. She wouldn’t move from her little vantage point by the corner of the garage and took great joy in guessing which items were being unloaded. Needless to say, her dolls house was a priority!

IMG_0359

First things first, lets get those toys inside the house!

IMG_0361

Furniture at last. We’ve had great fun ‘glamping’ on airbeds and were very blessed to have had kind ward members lend us a folding table and chairs and a big beanbag, but there is nothing like being able to sit on our own settee and sleeping in our own bed – even if it is hard and lumpy!

IMG_0362

We celebrated the best way we know how, with ice-cream of course!

IMG_0332

 

Olive turns one!

A couple of days after we moved in to our house here in California, Olive turned 1! I knew it was coming and although I’d have liked time to have stood still for at least a little while (so we could be better prepared, like you know – have a car, some furniture – even some friends!) it didn’t. Before we knew it, the day was here and luckily for us Uncle Tom had just flown in to help us party.

This was also the day Olive got her biggest gift, new shoes!!! We got them in England, shortly before we moved and were waiting for her to try and stand a little more, before she could start wearing them. They are special shoes from the physiotherapist and are much more sturdy than the usual shoes you can buy in a store. Olive still needed to wear her boots and bar at night but could enjoy much more freedom during the day. Needless to say, she loved them!

IMG_9938

IMG_9934

IMG_9936

Olive is well and truly loved by all her siblings in our home!

IMG_9942

IMG_9948

IMG_9952

Since moving, we had been given hire cars to use by Dave’s company and Olive’s birthday was the only opportunity we had to try and buy a car, before we needed to give them back. Dave headed off to try and sort out that for us while I took Tom and the kids to Happy Hollow for the day. It was the perfect place to celebrate Olive’s birthday. Tom helped Olive take her first ride on the carousal, which she loved – even if her face seems to show otherwise in these photographs!

IMG_0043

IMG_0047

IMG_0052

IMG_0053

IMG_0056

IMG_0057

We then scoped out a few more rides and wandered around the ‘zoo’ before having some lunch. We then raced to watch a puppet show which all of us enjoyed. Look at those gorgeous chubby ankles and knees!!! (Olive’s, not mine!)

IMG_0075

IMG_0070

IMG_0088

IMG_0102

IMG_0073

IMG_0078

IMG_0086

IMG_0082

OliveBday

After much playing in the large park, we discovered a small roller coasted which the older children loved. Tom kindly looked after Olive so I could take them on it again, and again, and again.

The day went all too quickly and soon it was time to head home. Dave had successfully managed to get us a new car and we arranged to meet at the ward BBQ, held at the park next to our new house. We enjoyed meeting new friends at the BBQ all had a great time at the park. By the time we got home we were all worn out and ready for bed. For the first time ever, we had birthday cake, card and a few gifts two days later. There was no 2am cake decorating this year and although I was a little bit sad about that, I didn’t at all miss the stress of trying to get a cake finished so I could get to bed. There are definitely some advantages to being short of the usual things that make up a home – like, you know… cake tins, whisks, beds and sofas! However, we did have all our people and plenty of love and appreciation to go around for this little angel in our lives.

The children all enjoyed picking out a special cake (we went around the block a few times on that one!) and balloon for Olive. They settled on a red velvet cake which was delicious. It took a little while for us to be able to sit down together and celebrate because of Dave’s schedule. Charlotte obviously couldn’t wait that long, I noticed a nice chunk of icing had been spoilt. I can’t blame her though, it was very good!

IMG_0072

IMG_0068

IMG_0111

IMG_0114

IMG_0116

As is our tradition on every birthday, Olive got a special card detailing ‘all about Olive’ at 1 year old. I’m so glad we seemed to accidentally start this at Eve’s 1st birthday. It’s become a meaningful part of the celebration, to write and then to read what we love about that child at that stage in their life.

Olive, we love you and are so glad you have joined our family. You bring us so much happiness and joy!

Kefalonia: 10 years on

A few weeks before leaving the UK, Heather and I celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary with a trip to Kefalonia. My parents were good enough to look after the children so that we could make the trip. 10 years ago, we had our honeymoon in Kefalonia and loved it – the sunshine, beaches, food, culture and natural beauty of the area hit the spot for us. So when the opportunity arose, we jumped at the chance to go back.

A lot can happen in 10 years and it was a good opportunity to reflect on the past decade. We managed to have 5 children and live in 7 different homes. It’s been amazing. I married way above my station and fortunately, Heather still doesn’t seem to have noticed!

We stayed in the same hotel, ate at the same restaurants and visited many of the same spots that we remembered from the honeymoon.

Being in this sentimental mood, I insisted that we recreate some of the photographs from our first visit to Kefalonia. You’ll notice that Heather looks as stunning as ever, but the ravages of time have not been kind to my hairline…

In the hotel car park with the hire car, 2004 and 2014.

car1car2

Recreating the Captain Corelli’s Mandolin movie poster, Sami,  2004 and 2014.

Corelli_1Corelli_2

St George’s Castle, 2004 and 2014

Castle1Castle2

Beach panoramic, 2014

Antisamos

Petani beach, 2004

DSCF0286

Petani beach, 2014

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2014_07_08_18_12_50

Antisamos beach, 2014

IMG_1289

Greek salad, Lourdas, 2014

IMG_1161

‘Lamb country style’ – essentially a kleftiko cooked within pastry. We remembered this from 10 years ago and came back for more! Spires Restaurant, Lourdas, 2014.

IMG_1216

I love a hand-written sign and if it’s got some greek letterforms and a goat with a microphone, all the better. Lourdes, 2014.

BusStop

St George’s village/castle

IMG_1765yellowwindowDSCF0152IMG_1766Cat

View from the hotel balcony

IMG_1120

Sami, 2014

IMG_1262IMG_1250

Lourdas, 2014

IMG_1611  IMG_1149

Monastery visit, 2004

DSCF0194 DSCF0191

Assos, 2014

AssosIMG_1385IMG_1353_small

Trapezaki beach, 2014

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2014_07_08_18_32_02

Lourdas beach, 2014

Shadow

 

 

Rainbows

Fall is over. Winter is here and so is the rain! It has come down fast and furious this last week. It’s funny how a bit of rain and greyer skies can instantly transport my mind to thoughts of home. All of a sudden the landscape feels that bit more familiar to me, despite the palms and mountain ranges in view. I’ve been enjoying the novelty of the rain here – and for California it is a novelty. We are in a severe drought! This weather is good and nourishing for the earth and despite the recent downpours we have had much, much more is still needed. Check out this short video of the rain outside my house a few days ago.

The best thing about the rain we’ve been having here though, is that it is always followed by the sun. Lucy (our little nature baby) likes to tell me that rain + sun = RAINBOWS and she is right! I have lost count of the number of rainbows I have seen recently (several, daily) but they never get old. There is something thrilling to me (and Lucy) about rainbows. I love them. They are beautiful, colourful and slightly mysterious to me.

IMG_0652

A promise in the sky, I associate rainbows with sacred things. There have been moments when I have looked heavenward with a heavy heart to see a colourful bow smiling down on me, and have felt those colourful rays of light pierce my soul and lighten my spirit. Being LDS, I can’t talk of rainbows without thinking of this quote from President Uchtdorf:

Uchtdorf Rainbow Quote

 

 

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,

On Saturday afternoon, once all the guests had headed home from Lucy’s party, the place was cleaned up and children fed, we headed to the Santa Cruz mountains to choose and cut our Christmas tree. This was our fist experience of chopping down our own tree and whilst I was the driving force behind this little adventure, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to pan out. Dave and I aren’t exactly handy with tools, you see! Of course Dave scoffed at my lack of confidence, in his ability to cut down a tree and was up for the challenge.

IMG_0220

We headed out on a bit of a whim (mine) and worried about the time (me), so scuttled out of the door without paying due attention to our attire. I mean, this was the worst weather we’d had yet – but still, it’s California right? How cold is it going to be? Turns out, pretty cold. Especially in the mountains. And wet. Very wet.

IMG_0560

Here is Lucy sporting her fancy party dress, trainers, hoodie and no coat. Complete with party rings and candy!

The drive up the mountains was gorgeous. We passed many lovely looking Christmas tree farms, yet i insisted on driving further and further up those treacherous roads, to get to the place where I knew FOR CERTAIN had a saw we could use – and the obligatory free hot chocolate. Still, the further we went, the more thrilling it was and more spectacular the views.

IMG_0566 IMG_0298 IMG_0565 IMG_0564 IMG_0256

After scoping out the best contenders we settled for the first tree Eve had spotted when she got out of the car. She is very pleased with that little fact.

IMG_0273

Our Christmas tree in all its natural splendour.

And she was right, it was a beauty.

IMG_0235 IMG_0233

Then the work began, we all took turns cutting down the tree. It felt a little bit sad to me but I was reassured by the knowledge that if we cut it in the right place, another tree would grown in its place. How about that?

IMG_0297

IMG_0253 IMG_0248 IMG_0240 IMG_0251 IMG_0263 IMG_0269 IMG_0264

IMG_0258

The just like that, the job was done…TIMBER!

IMG_0286 unnamed-1

Perhaps Dave could make a lumberjack after all!

IMG_0222 IMG_0224

We warmed up by the fire while collecting our hot chocolate.

IMG_0293 IMG_0546 IMG_0547

IMG_0548 IMG_0551

While we sipped on our warm drinks, Dave secured the tree to our car.

IMG_0539 unnamed IMG_0559

We stopped on the way home to buy some new lights and a stand at home depot. They were also giving out free hot chocolate to customers so the kids got their second cup of the day.

Miraculously we made it home with our Christmas tree in one piece and found the right spot for it. It was the perfect height.

IMG_0302

IMG_0304

Then the decorating began in earnest with the comforting, familiar sounds of Christmas carols playing in the background.

IMG_0308 IMG_0312 IMG_0319 IMG_0309 IMG_0331

It was wonderful to unpack our very special Christmas ornaments, which had made it over the ocean with us. The last time we decorated our tree was in Durham, England. Our ornaments aren’t fancy but they are beautiful. Many are handmade by the children, well used and well loved. Some are from special places and others hold special memories. Below, Olive finds an ornament which holds at it’s heart the gifts each member of our family committed to give to our Saviour, last Christmas. It was fun to read them and reflect on that time and how we did with our little goals. We do this every year and have all done pretty well at keeping our commitments.

IMG_0327 IMG_0326 IMG_0310

After all the work was done, it was time for left over birthday cake, (pumpkin pie for Josh!) ice cream, and lots of Christmas stories before being tucked up in bed. I’m pretty sure after all that sugar, the children really will have had sugar plums dancing in their heads!

unnamed-2

What a great, wonderful and happy day it was. I think this will become a new tradition for our family and a perfect way to usher in the Christmas season. I hope that through all the magic, excitement and wonder of Christmas; and amongst all the fun traditions, parties and food, we can maintain a steady and simple focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

Please enjoy this short video: He is the Gift.

discover_gift

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer’s here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidds’t us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Monterey bay aquarium

This Thanksgiving week, Dave was given the week off work (save a couple meetings strategically placed in the middle of two different days!). We contemplated visiting a new area of the states but decided there was still so much for us to see close to home. Monterey is about 1 hour 20 minute drive from our house. We’d heard great things about the aquarium and Josh’s recent library visit brought a book all about the ocean into our home (Who knew Jellyfish were no longer known as Jellyfish, but as Jellies?). Perfect. They asked for a visit somewhere they could see some fish and we agreed. Little did they know we’d already planned it. Win-win!

Armed with our new found knowledge about the ocean, we made the beautiful journey to Monterey. The drive was so scenic and Dave and I couldn’t get over the weather. Every now and then I’d blurt out ‘but it’s NOVEMBER!!!’ I wish I could adequately capture the way the light falls on everything around us here. It is truly mesmerising and ever changing. The evening sun is my favourite!

The children kept us entertained in the car, as usual. Click here for a short clip of them singing.

Jellies were the first things we encountered when we entered the aquarium and I admit to feeling a little smug about my new found knowledge of the subject (OK so I still don’t actually know THAT much about them…). We were all mesmerised by their movements. I could have stood in the same spot and watched them for hours. And you can too, just click here, here and here!

We seem to have lost the photo’s we took on our good camera, but luckily captured plenty of moments with our trusty iPhones.

IMG_1250

IMG_1254

IMG_0456

IMG_0445

IMG_0456

IMG_0458

IMG_0442

IMG_0459

Of course there was the requisite excitement at seeing the hammerhead shark. We dutifully stood and gazed on in wonder, at the huge open ocean view for quite some time.

IMG_1323

IMG_1377

IMG_1344

IMG_1259

It was about then that I noticed Olive was creating another small ocean in her pants. She spent the rest of the visit stripped from the waist down in her nappy. Yes, we are that kind of clientele.

IMG_0466

IMG_1275

IMG_1378

IMG_0515

IMG_0519

IMG_0526

Once the hunger hit, we dined al fresco across the street from the aquarium. My clam chowder in a bread bowl was a huge hit!

unnamed

IMG_0478 IMG_0482

I took Eve, Josh, Lucy and Charlotte for a look around the seashell shop. Eve and Lucy are loved this seat outside of it and sat here while they begged for the most expensive sea shells in the shop (it didn’t work).

IMG_0484

Enjoying the fantastic view over the bay and soaking up the sunshine.

IMG_0485

IMG_0505 IMG_0511

 

Napa

Way back in August, I was invited to a girls retreat in Napa for a 30th birthday. I was pretty chuffed to be invited seen as it was only my second week or so in the ward. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know the girls a little bit more. I was right! It was such a fun trip and I am so glad I was invited.

We have lucked out with our ward here, I love it. People have been so welcoming to us and there is a lot of other young families, like us. When we got our home here, we were without all of our furniture for about two months. Without really knowing who we were, we were given tables, chairs, bean bags, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, bedding,  a travel crib, toys and even treats to use until our container arrived. We’ve been invited for meals, playdates, days out etc. Stephanie (whose birthday we were celebrating) was one of the first people I met and she has gone out of her way to help our family feel welcome.

Here is the general itinerary we followed that Brittany put together:

Friday Night
· Check-in @ Hotel/drop bags off and freshen up 🙂

· Oxbow Public Market: Olive oil and vinegar tasting (free). Grab dinner as we explore all the yumminess around (lots of gourmet foods ~oyster bar, salads, chocolate sampling, etc.) Closes at 9 pm.

· That night at the hotel: Hot-tub, card games, and CHAT! Probably should go to sleep by midnight.

Saturday 6th of September:
· Grab breakfast at hotel and leave by 9:00 am!

· Scenic drive with vineyard stops along the Silverado Trail

-Silverado Winery (walk around grounds)

-Sattui (vineyard and awesome cheese deli) Grand picnic style lunch

-Visit Yountville (bakery)? –depending on time

-Castle Tour in Calistoga (May need to pay for this -1hr. and can sample grape juice –probably close to $10-$20 per person)

-Sterling Winery (self-tour and supposed to be gorgeous!)? –depending on time.

· 6:30 pm St. Helena: Visit boutiques and art galleries in downtown area.

· 8:30 pm Birthday Dinner and Gift Giving: Reservation for 12 at the Tra Vigne in St. Helena.

· Drive Home

I thought it was pretty funny that a group of Mormons were in Napa Valley visiting wineries and something I may not have really thought about doing myself, but it was a lot of fun and interesting too. We tasted grape juice and chocolate instead of wine, so that was fine by me! Of course, the scenery was beautiful and reminded me of Italy; there was even a ‘castle’ that we visited. The food we ate was delicious and what’s not to like about an evening spent in the hot tub chatting to new friends?

Below are some photo’s I took while the battery held out. Imagine how many more photo’s there would have been if it had lasted longer!

IMG_9992 IMG_9993 IMG_9994 IMG_9996 IMG_9997 IMG_9998 IMG_0001 IMG_0010 IMG_0007 IMG_0005 IMG_0002 IMG_0013 IMG_0016 IMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0023 IMG_0024 IMG_0025 IMG_0029 IMG_0031 IMG_0035 IMG_0036 IMG_0037 IMG_0038 IMG_0039 IMG_0041 IMG_0042 IMG_0043 IMG_0044 IMG_0048 IMG_0046 IMG_0049 IMG_0050 IMG_0054 IMG_0056 IMG_0057 IMG_0059 IMG_0060

Princesses, Pirates & Pumpkins

Yesterday, we visited the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. Halloween is a big deal over here – we first saw Halloween decorations and items in the shops back in August. What better way to build up to Halloween than a visit to Half Moon Bay – the pumpkin capital of the world! Once we battled the traffic and managed to get parked, we walked down Main Street, where there were all kinds of stalls to peruse – crafts, food, art etc – many of it pumpkin-themed. We saw pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice-cream, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin roll, glass pumpkins and even pumpkin masala. Farmer Mike, a ‘world class pumpkin carver’ was on Main Street, working away on an enormous pumpkin. We visited a pumpkin patch, where the kids were able to choose their own pumpkin and load it onto a wheelbarrow to take home and place on the porch. The pumpkins came in all shapes and sizes from the classic orange variety familiar from home to turquoise, white, odd-shaped and lumpy pumpkins. They also had a big haunted house, bouncy castles, train/tractor rides, pony rides etc.

IMG_0213

World's best pumpkin pie, apparently

World’s best pumpkin pie, apparently

IMG_0214

Josh enjoying a root beer float

Josh enjoying a root beer float

IMG_0243 IMG_0262 IMG_0254 IMG_0255 IMG_0272 IMG_0275 IMG_0277 IMG_0284 IMG_0287 IMG_0296 IMG_0300 IMG_0302 IMG_0306 IMG_0307 IMG_0244 IMG_0309 IMG_0312 IMG_0316 IMG_0318 IMG_0321

Weezer

I have no idea why, but for some reason, Microsoft included the music video for Weezer’s Buddy Holly single on their Windows 95 installation disc in a folder called ‘Fun Stuff’.

The Windows 95 installation disc

The Windows 95 installation disc

Weezer's Buddy Holly video in the 'Fun Stuff' folder

Weezer’s Buddy Holly video in the ‘Fun Stuff’ folder

This is the only time you will hear me praise Microsoft, but that was  surely the coolest thing the company has ever done. It was through this disc that at the age of 12 or 13, I discovered a band that would be a regular feature on my cassette tapes, then CD collection, then mp3 player and now Spotify and iTunes playlists. I guess that means I’ve been listening to Weezer for around 20 years, a sobering thought! There was something about their crunching, grungy guitars, paired not with the usual long hair and head-banging, but instead with thick-rimmed glasses and cardigans that appealed to me.

A short time thereafter, I was speaking with a friend, Ben Hall, who was 4 or 5 years older than me and into music. It turns out he was a big Weezer fan and had their first album. A couple of weeks later, without warning, a padded envelope arrived at my home addressed to me. I opened it to discover an appropriately blue audio cassette with Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ recorded onto it. Listening to music on recorded audio cassettes was pretty great, especially when you hit the end of the tape mid-song and had to turn the cassette over in order to continue listening – something my children will never experience!

cassettes_1_0

That tape saw some serious usage and my admiration for Weezer carried on from there and their music is part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, with my band Reptar (we were pretty bad) even covering Buddy Holly.

Fast-forward now to the present day and our new life in California. One of the great things about being here is that so many bands pass through. I wanted to make the most of this and downloaded an app called Songkick, that scans your iTunes and Spotify playlists and tells you which bands are playing in your area. In September and October alone, I was delighted to learn that The Gaslight Anthem, Bob Dylan, Better Than Ezra, Young Rebel Set, Kasabian and, yes, Weezer, were playing in the bay area. While going to several concerts in the space of a few weeks wasn’t really an option(!), Weezer was one that I didn’t want to miss – as far as I had been aware, they had not toured in North East England and I’d never seen them play live.

I sent an email around the team at Apple and five other Weezer fans said they would like to come along to the show in San Jose. The show was great – Weezer performed well and I loved it.

A photo taken on my phone at the concert on Thursday

A snap from my phone

If I were to be critical, I’d say that you could tell that they had been playing some of those songs for 20 years! Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer is now 44 years old. This whole thing had me feeling old. Some of the energy and feeling that had no doubt surrounded the songs at the time of writing must have been drained out over the course of endless gigs spanning decades. Also, they played for just over an hour. The last concert I went to was Bruce Springsteen in Sunderland and he played for three hours, so perhaps I went in with unrealistic expectations! Nevertheless, Weezer will continue to be on my playlists long after iTunes and Spotify have run their course and we’re experiencing music via osmosis or something. Or maybe we’ll go back to those cassette tapes?! The End.

The Boss, still going strong at 65 years old

The Boss, still going strong at 65 years old

This morning, our landlord called and said he wanted to call by as he had a surprise for the kids. Already, you will have determined that we don’t have the average landlord. Jarrod & Lara are great people. They are from Hawaii and it is a move back to Hawaii for their family that resulted in their home being put on the market for rent. While viewing houses, we were usually a little bit hesitant about bringing the children along in case they pulled out flowers, smashed a vase or generally frightened our prospective landlords. When we viewed this home, however, Jarrod and Lara insisted that all of the kids come inside for a look around and then play on the swing and slide in the back garden. They love children and although they had other applications for the property, kindly offered the house to us to rent, largely because they wanted a family with children to enjoy their home.

Anyway, I didn’t know what the surprise was going to be until Jarrod knocked on our door and I saw a fire engine parked outside our house. He and his team had come to take the kids for a ride in the fire engine. Jarrod had promised to do this when he first showed us around the house and this had been his first chance to do so.

His team were all so nice, answering the children’s questions – they even brought them little San Jose Fire Service stickers and tattoos! We all went for a ride around the block and the put the siren on, then Josh got dressed in the uniform.

The kids were raving about it – a lot of excitement for a Sunday morning!

The Fire Service arrive and ask if we want to go for a ride!

The Fire Service arrive and ask if we want to go for a ride!

Charlotte and the fire engine

Charlotte and the fire engine

Fireman Joshua buckles up

Fireman Joshua buckles up

Charlotte and Eve wearing the helmet

Charlotte and Eve wearing the helmet

Lucy and Mummy to the rescue

Lucy and Mummy to the rescue

IMG_0400

Josh suits up

Josh suits up

IMG_0424

San Jose's finest

San Jose’s finest

Jarrod shows Josh the oxygen pack

Jarrod shows Josh the oxygen pack

IMG_0441

Oh – and Olive slept though the whole thing! Sorry Olive!!