Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry & bright

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

We had a pretty relaxed day - opening presents, eating yummy food and just enjoying each others company :-) Mr Oliver was in a great mood all day; I think the present Santa delivered was a huge success...






By the time this goes to post, we will (hopefully) be part way across the country - yup, it's road trip time! About a week ago I randomly suggested to the husband that we drive to the grand canyon for the heck of it and well... we kinda ran with the idea! It's gonna be cold outside and we'll be cooped up in the car with an active 16 month old, are we crazy? Only time will tell. So this space will be a little quiet until we return in the new year - until then, enjoy the holiday season :-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

'twas the night before Christmas...

It's Christmas Eve it's Christmas Eve it's CHRISTMAS EVE!!! I feel like a kid again. I really do love Christmas and I can't wait to see Mr Oliver's reaction to all the presents under the tree in the morning! No doubt he'll be more interested in the paper then the gift but hey, I'm excited still :-)

It does feel a little strange to be away from my family, to not be swimming in the pool and watching carols on tv and to be having a winter Christmas but not a white Christmas though :-( But anyway - we embraced the season on the weekend, deciding to go and see some lights a little further north that were meant to be really good.

Well... It ended up being an all night mammoth effort. For the first time, our GPS failed us. Big time. It took us to a same name street up in some random neighbourhood that it thought was the same suburb in an unlit forest with no lights in sight. We drove around and around and couldn't figure it out.

We were both feeling pretty frustrated, wondering if it was worth all the effort but given that we'd already driven an hour I was determined to see some Christmas lights. So we eventually found a servo and bought a map. Good old, old fashioned map - it worked a treat! I'm so glad we didn't just call it a night and head home because this little community put one of the most impressive displays I have ever seen. It was super busy - the cul-de-sac was closed to vehicles and street parking was full a km in advance. The home owners were all out in their yards, roasting marshmallows over fires, drinking wine, playing guitar... It was gorgeous!






Mr Oliver was super excited - pointing everything out to us and running around madly...




Sometimes he seemed a little stunned... I know I was. The lights can be a little overwhelming!!!




One of the most impressive parts of the display was this enormous Christmas tree - Mitch reckoned it looked like it belonged in a Dr Seuss book?



Happy Christmas Eve all!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas lights tradition - Vasona County Park

I've mentioned before that looking at Christmas lights is a big tradition in our family. It's a little different doing it over here because it's cold and wintery as opposed to incredibly humid and summery. So, instead of driving to different houses and getting ourselves in and out of the car to have a look like we do in Australia, we decided to go to the festival of lights at Vasona Country Park. Basically you pay admission and drive around in your car looking at the displays in this large lakeside park. I loved the idea of not having to get Mr Oliver in and out of his carseat and being able to stay nice and warm, however... It took 45 MINUTES to get in. We saw signs way back saying the wait time was long but I laughed it off, thinking no way would people be crazy enough to line up for almost an hour to see some lights. Well, I was wrong. And we became those crazy people also, waiting waiting waiting in the long line to get into the park.


It was definitely pretty - but also kinda painful. We didn't hear a peep out of Ollie until we finally entered the display and then he decided he would scream for the next half an hour as we drove around at a crawl. There was no way to get out, no way to speed up and nowhere to stop. I spent most of the night hanging over the seat patting his head but he just wanted out of the car, poor kid (makes me nervous about our big road trip next week!).








4 more sleeps til Christmas, eeeek!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas past

Christmas really does hold a lot of special memories for me. Each year has been different, some full of surprises, and I love looking back at Christmas past. Some more memorable ones include...

2011 - telling our parents we were spending Christmas in Switzerland and then turning up unannounced on their doorstep a few days before Christmas. To add to the excitement, this was the first time both sets of grandparents had met Mr Oliver :-)


2010 - hiring a chalet with a group of friends on the side of a ski run in France... Morning sickness was a downer, spilling the news of the pregnancy to our families was a highlight but making this candle lit snow tree on Christmas Eve and setting fireworks off on it while listening to carols and drinking hot Milo - AWESOME!


2008 - Christmas in my favourite Aussie destination, Noosa. My parents hired a couple of apartments in a resort at the river for everyone, we had a pretty awesome vintage theme going on that year...


2007 - Our first European Christmas! Exploring the Christmas markets in our little French town was a great introduction to a winter holiday season and then we took off to Switzerland for a week - ice skating under the Matterhorn, skiing the alps on Christmas Eve and leisurely hiking the mountains on Christmas day, stopping in at mountainside cafes to sample their hot wine... Some good memories :-)


What are your favourite Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Month 9

Yesterday marked nine whole months since we said our farewells in Holland and moved to the USA! Three quarters of the way to a year already, my how time has flown.

The good...

- You don't have to ask for the bill (check) at restaurants. It just gets dropped off at your table - this is awesome when you have a cranky toddler who is ready to leave because it's more then likely the bill was delivered long ago and you don't have to spend half an hour waving down a waiter and waiting for them to deliver the bill while said child bangs his head on the table!

- Most restaurants seem to be pretty child friendly. There definitely are some around that I wouldn't walk into with Mr Oliver, but on the whole there are always high chairs available and kids menus. Oh and they tend to always bring out the kids meal asap - awesome!

- Again, about eating about - every restaurant we've been to allows you to split the bill! You can hand over multiple credit cards without them blinking an eye. I LOVE this - in Europe and Australia, most restaurants have a 1 bill per table policy which can make things messy when you're eating out in a group.

- The holiday spirit is kinda awesome. Yes, it's very commercial but I love walking through Target and seeing all the seasonal candy available, the decorations everywhere, the number of Christmas events in the local community...

- Drive through atms, drive through library return, drive through food, drive through Starbucks... Need I say any more :-)

The bad...

- There's not only no ring pull cans (this still annoys me), but spray deodorant doesn't exist either. They don't even have traditional roll on - you can only get deodorant in stick form. It's strange, I don't like it and I'm thinking I need to get our next visitors to bring me a stash of Rexona.

- Prices are deceiving and frustrating to figure out how much you actually owe on certain things. Prices exclude tax (which differs between states) and then you have to tip on top of that for certain things. I hate with a passion trying to figure out when tipping is appropriate, how much I should tip and then how much that percentage is of my bill and what it all adds up to. Me & maths just don't mix.

- Although the holiday spirit is awesome, from October onwards it's also rather overwhelming. It felt like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas just mushed into one enormous, over commercialized event. I love it, but at the same time I find it exhausting. I know it's not possible but it'd be nice if they were spread out over the year a little more.

- Ok, so for the most part the weather here in the bay area is awesome. Sunshine, mild temperatures, clear blue skies... But when it rains, it pours. And it sets in for days. And I begin to wonder what the sun looked like and how on earth I survived those two overcast years in Holland :-)

The hmmmmm moments...

- Ads on tv... Where do I start?!?! They have these CRAZY medical ads here. I'm calling them crazy because it seems that you have to verbalize each and every possible side effect for medications to advertise them. So you're looking at images of happy, smiling, well people and all you can hear is blah blah medication has been known to cause cancer, fatal heart defects, liver disease, paranoia, severe depression and hair loss. I like to be well informed but I'd prefer to read about it on the packet, thanks. 

- Everywhere else in the world I've been, Starbucks is the lowest of the low when it comes to quality coffee. Mitch loves nothing better then to 'pay it out' as we Aussies would say :-) In the USA however, where coffee comes poured out of a jug at cafes (imagine all those American movies & tv shows you watched growing up where the characters are at a diner and the waitress pours coffee constantly out of a glass jug on the counter - it's not a myth) 99% of time rather then being individually made. So, Starbucks is pretty fancy pants. I'm just thankful I don't drink coffee anymore :-)

- We live in Silicon Valley. The area of emerging technologies. Yet I feel like banking here is wayyyy behind the rest of the world. Cheques (aka checks) are used EVERYWHERE. For the first time in my life, we have a cheque book. Even when we do an online transfer with our bank account, it sends a check to the payee rather then a direct deposit. Frustrating much!?!?

- So I know to tip wait staff at a restaurant. A taxi driver. But do I tip when ordering take out? What about a babysitter? A hairdresser? Some I've been to have the tipping option on the card machine, others just put through my payment without even asking if I want to give a tip. I hate this tipping thing - it drives me nuts trying to figure out who I should be tipping!!!!

- The local weather channel cracks me up. It flashes big headlines - STORMS! BAD STORMS hitting the bay area!!!! Watch further and you'll see that these 'storms' they are referring to are actually just rain. Nothing serious, just some water coming down but it makes big news here apparently.

- I have been thinking for the past couple of months that I had developed some kind of super strength since having Ollie because the weights I have been pushing at the gym are so much heavier then what I used to be able to do. Yesterday I realised that the machines are in pounds, not kilos... :-(

- Apparently whingey isn't a word here (when referring to my whingey toddler). Whine yes, but whinge no...

Nine months in - it feels like we've been here forever, yet some days I still feel like such a newcomer...


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weekend goodness

Yet another weekend has flown by which means Christmas is really only a week away now!!! It was a miserable rainy weekend here in northern California. Just as soon as I think we have the sunshine back, it's hello grey skies and gumboots again. Ugh. Anyway - somehow we did manage to get motivated and brave the weather this past weekend.

On Saturday night we visited our first Christmas markets of the season with some friends. I didn't have high expectations - I knew it wasn't quite going to be like the French & German Christmas markets we've been spoiled with the past couple of years and I was right. Still, it was fun to go see even if the hot wine was lacking :-)


There was a pretty, giant Christmas tree among the stalls & carnival rides...


Ice skating between the palm trees...


And there was even some 'snow'!!!


Yesterday we went into the city to celebrate a friends special little man turning ONE! We'd been planning on heading in earlier in the day to make the most of it and do some more touristy stuff (we've been here 9 months but I still feel like we've barely seen San Francisco!) but the rain was a bit discouraging. Luckily the party was indoors!!!


There were lots of babies...


Cake...


A pinata...


And a very cute birthday boy!!!


Only one more weekend until Christmas... Where has December gone already???

On a side note: tomorrow is a day of silence in the blogging world to remember the innocent lives lost in the horrific tragedy last Friday. I honestly don't know what to say, I just can't quite get the right words out. I feel like that since becoming a Mum, these things hit a little closer to home. Mitch walked in the door on Friday night, not having heard any news all day (sometimes he does live under a rock) and I cried telling him. I think about what those parents must be going through and I can't fight the tears. I can't watch the news anymore. My heart is sad. I'm praying for those affected. I'm realising that life is all too short. That we need to tell the people we care about that we love them. Regularly. I'm hugging my sweet baby boy extra tight. Life is precious.

Monday, December 17, 2012

16...

Somehow another month has disappeared - time for the little mans 16 month update! This month, Mr Oliver...

... has too many new words for me to count. Even the doctor commented on how vocal Ollie is when he had his checkup last week. New words this month include cheese, again, done, toast, bath, choo choo, key, tree. Oh, and poire - when referring to pear. It seems our kid speaks better French then we do :P

... has found a real love for tickling. He creeps up to us, arms outstretched, saying dickle dickle dickle and proceeds to tickle wherever he can. It's so darn cute!

... started pointing to our eyes, nose and mouth (and saying the word - well, except mouth) when asked. He hasn't figured personal pronouns yet though. If you ask him to point to his own nose, he'll still grab mine.

... has become a real little helper. He has started responding to commands - he'll go and get his shoes when it's time to go out and will even help pick up his toys at the end of the day. He loves dropping them in the toy basket although sometimes he'll go and get extra items from the tupperware cupboard to pack away.

... blows on his food to cool it down. Even if it's a piece of cheese. I think he's mimicking what we do - it's really cute :-)

... has developed an obsession with the mailbox key. He loves checking the mail every afternoon and carrying it inside for Mumma but won't hand over the mailbox key until Dadda gets home and he's so distracted he finally drops it.

... loves putting rubbish in the bin when asked, especially his wet nappy before bath time. Sometimes though he does a bit of a lucky dip - he doesn't just drop rubbish in the bin, he pulls something back out and proudly shows it to me, ugh!

... is fast becoming king of the tantrum again. But more to come on that another time *sigh* my tired Mumma brain can't quite handle the thought of a tantrum while there is currently peace and quiet around :-)

... can find Roald Dahl's The Witches on the bookshelf, no matter where I put it. He is fascinated with it (perhaps it's the cover?) and pulls it off the shelf on a daily basis and sits it on his little table. I move it around every day to test him - hiding it behind or between other books but he never fails to pull it out of my massive piles of books!

... thinks the toilet roll holder is his toy. He doesn't really care about the toilet paper itself, but the toilet roll holder - oh my. And the bathroom is no longer off limits now that he can open doors. He loves pulling it off the wall and running around with it. A couple of weeks ago he hid it - we couldn't find it for an entire week. One day I discovered he had stashed it inside a pair of my jeans?!?!

... has begun the frantic head shaking action to indicate NO! (usually NO I don't want my nappy changed, NO I don't want my face wiped, NO I don't want my broccoli)

... has a word of the month - baby. He says it whenever he sees my screen saver photo of him, or a photo of a baby anywhere actually. The other day at the library he was carrying around a doll saying baby baby baby. Think he's dropping a hint???

... demonstrated that 'Safety' 1st baby proofing locks are not necessarily safe - the one on our dinnerware cabinet has been snapped in half. This toddler seized the day, promptly building a precarious plate tower and claiming the cupboard as his new cubby :-)


Happy 16 months big boy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Currently

Loving: Sunshine!!! All the rain we've been having lately was doing my head in. Rainy days used to be appealing when I could lay in bed under the doona and read a book... Now with a toddler that goes stir crazy at the first sighting of a grey cloud, rainy days are my worst nightmare. I'm happy to be back to park days (especially now that I'm feeling better - flu seasons sucks!) and leisurely strolls in the sunshine. Oh and the temperatures - loving that it's almost Christmas and I can walk outside in jeans and a cardi without freezing :-)

Reading: I just finished 1906 by James Dalessandro, about the earthquake & subsequent fires in San Francisco. It wasn't a bad read, I wouldn't rave about it though. Now I can't decide what to read next... Suggestions?

Watching: We just finished the Amazing Race on Sunday night. Gotta love it when the underdogs win :-) Otherwise, I actually haven't been watching anything else. With Mitch being away, I decided to wait til he was home to watch our favourite shows together because I know I won't be bothered to watch them twice!

Listening to: The sound of my own voice (ugh). We've had a lot of repetitions of the wheels on the bus in this house the last week... It seems to calm a cranky boy!

Creating: I just finished off another custom order, a cuddly little polar bear. Now I'm planning on making up some similar softies to what I've just completed recently to re-stock the shop. Then the next thing on my creating list is Christmas stockings!

Thinking about: Blog stuff. I am a little embarrassed to admit that after almost three years of blogging, I only discovered this week that replying to comments directly on my blog doesn't actually notify the commenter... Woops! And here I was thinking that it was sending out a lovely little email each time. I've now figured out that I can directly reply via email - which in turn means I'm discovering the frustration of the no-reply blogger profiles! I love replying to each and every comment and so if you don't get a reply, please check your blogger profile and make sure it has a reply email address set :-)

Making me happy: Having Mitch home again. He was in Florida earlier this week for work and although it was only three nights this trip, it still dragged on. It's amazing how long the days are when you know the husband isn't going to be walking in the door, thus ending cranky hour...

Looking forward to: Christmas... Bling bling bling! Ok, so I know what my present is but I'm totally fine with that because I designed it. We had agreed a few years ago that the birth of our first child would be a special time to get my eternity ring... Well that child is almost one and a half years old and still no ring! Last week we finally got organised and *fingers crossed* it should be made by Christmas!

Happy Friday!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Hello, fussy toddler

How did we get from this - my will-eat-anything-and-everything, plate licking, AWESOME eater...



To this...


It seems the fussy stage has well and truly set in. Mr Oliver takes great delight in 'accidentally' ditching his meals over the edge of the table. Unless of course, he's eating Special K or banana. He actually cries if he really does accidentally drop his banana lol. The problem is that I find his cheeky, proud smile so amusing that I struggle to keep a straight face - and he knows I'm laughing behind my fake serious parent face so he thinks he's being rewarded!

Ah, the toddler stage is FUN!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crockpot assistance required!

So... I recently purchased a crockpot. It's actually not my first one - Mitch's grandparents gave us a slow cooker they didn't have use for on a trip to Tasmania a few years back. I lugged it home (no easy feat - you know how heavy those things are) and used it twice, both times rather unsuccessfully before it found its new home at the op shop. I swore I'd never buy one, that it was a waste of space but ahem... Here I go again :-)

This time it wasn't the lure of a free crockpot but Pinterest that sucked me in. All these easy sounding winter recipes that kept popping up on my feed - I wanted some of that! Then, a friend made some pulled pork for dinner one night and I was sold on that meal alone.

I'm no chef but I'm not a beginner either - I love to cook and bake and love trying new things. But, I'm a little scared of crockpot cooking. I don't really know where to start. So far I've made pulled pork - the leftovers of which made an awesome pizza, and a tomato/basil/parmesan soup. The soup is something I could've done on the stove but not having to check it constantly and the smell that filled the house from it simmering away all day was pretty awesome.

So I need some crockpot assistance - do you have one & has it been useful? What are your favourite recipes? I'd love some inspiration!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday traditions

This time of year is full of different traditions for everyone. I've experienced Christmas while living not only in my homeland; Australia but also in France, the Netherlands and now the USA. Each country has its own traditions and experiencing these has been the highlight of expat life during the holiday season. From the marche de noel in France, to the arrival of Sinterklaas by barge in Holland (and the complete absence of Christmas decorations until after the 5 December) and watching how everyone's trees here go up the day after Thanksgiving - well, it's been interesting seeing how much it differs between countries!

A couple of years ago, I posted about Christmas traditions - now that we are a family of three, these traditions are evolving. We are trying to find our feet in a new country and figure out how we want to celebrate such an important holiday within our own little family unit. There are some traditions from my childhood that I want to continue, some that we've developed since being married and some new ones that I want to start as a family.

Food plays a pretty important role in the holiday season for me - I love to cook, I love to eat and I love how a good meal can bring people together. Gingerbread, aberdeen sausage, apricot balls, white Christmas, hot wine... I could go on. Yum yum!


Looking at Christmas lights - this was a big one for us in Australia. Both as a child and an adult, I've always loved driving around to see the Christmas lights each year. In Europe this didn't seem to be a done thing - however from what I can tell, it's just as big in the USA as it is in Australia - YAY!!! It's going to feel a bit strange going light looking on a cool winters evening rather then a balmy summers night, but I can deal with that. We've got a list of places we want to go visit this year but it seems that in the past few weeks one or two of us have always been sick so it just hasn't happened yet - luckily there's still a couple of weeks til Christmas!


Christmas carols - not just listening to a CD, but going to carols by candlelight (or watching it on TV) is one of my favourite traditions! I'm feeling like this is an Australian tradition though? We asked some friends about it recently and they had never heard of these organised events - it can be a small community event run by a church or a large event with performances by stars. Do they exist anywhere in this country? I think I need someone to record my tacky Lord Mayors Christmas carols and send it over to me. I'm going to be missing this one and I'm sad Mr Oliver won't get to experience it either!


The advent calendar - I had one growing up that was a beauty. It was old, it was glittery, it had cute pictures and well worn cardboard windows that I could open with excitement each morning. I picked a similar one up in France a couple of years back and Mr Oliver has been enjoying helping us open it this year.


Decorations are important! I don't have the same pizzazz as my Mum or sisters when it comes to Christmas decorating (seriously - they are awesome! I wish I could share all our past Christmas layouts because some of them are magazine worthy) but I do love getting into the festive spirit around the house. A new tradition we have started this year is decorating the exterior of the house. Now, it's only very simple - this is our very first year buying outdoor Christmas lights and although it doesn't quite compare to some of the extreme inflatable festive craziness going on in our neighborhood, I am a simple person - some icicle lights, a reindeer and a fresh wreath adorned with a red bow did our porch well this year :-)


That's just a few of our traditions, past and present. What are your Christmas traditions?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rainy days

We've had a few rainy days lately - not just a light sprinkle where I can stick on a coat and rain boots and head outside, but a constant downpour. And apparently this is just the beginning of the rainy season here :-(

Both Mr Oliver and I tend to go a little stir crazy on days where we don't go out. It's why I always make sure we have something to do, even if it's just a trip to Target. But when the weather outside really is frightful, it just can't happen and so I decided I need to figure out a few more rainy day activities...

Hello, makeshift ball pit :-)


I wasn't sure what he'd think but the entertainment value was high! He flung them everywhere (just what I need - MORE toys under the couch)...


Ate them (of course)...


Bashed them...


And smiled his way through what is normally cranky hour!!!


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